Thursday, March 31, 2011

Glastonbury Thorn Tree

There is a thorn tree in Glastonbury, England. Legend has it that Joseph of Arimethea traveled to England 2,000 years ago, and planted the thorns of this tree, on Wearyall Hill or therabouts. Each year for as long as anyone can remember, a sprig is cut from the tree and sent to the Queen where she places it on the dining table for Christmas.The tree blooms twice a year at Christmas and Easter. Events like these are important.They may seem small or even insignificant to some, but really they are the fabric that help us hold societies together.

I will share a bit of the story:

According to legend, Saint Joseph travelled to the spot after Christ was crucified, taking with him the Holy Grail of Arthurian folklore.He is said to have stuck his wooden staff – which had belonged to Jesus – into the ground on Wearyall Hill before he went to sleep.When he awoke it had sprouted into a thorn tree, which became a shrine for Christians across Europe.

I am not simply speaking of customs in England obviously, but everywhere. Families and towns and cities and states have traditions and customs to mark who we are and what we are. They keep us mindful that we are not the only occupants of this Earth. We walk in the footsteps of so many others who struggled with life in  days past, in many of the same ways we do today, even if we face new and different challenges.

I was saddened to read last December that this beautiful tree, alive with meaning and symbolism, was vandalized terribly.The news made it into several papers. A once beautiful tree now gnarled and hacked down- to what end? Sometimes, these small incidents are harder for me to bear then greater ones, like a Tsunami or an earthquake. Terrible news and destruction on that scale hurts us all, as we view human frailty.Yet so often in these enormous tragedies we read headlines which show the beauty of the human spirit and its willingness to rise above itself for a noble cause. The goodness that comes from tragedy, washes over me and makes life tolerable even amid deep suffering- From a headline story today:

Workers at the disaster-stricken Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan say they expect to die from radiation sickness as a result of their efforts to bring the reactors under control
The so-called Fukushima 50, the team of brave plant workers struggling to prevent a meltdown to four reactors critically damaged by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, are being repeatedly exposed to dangerously high radioactive levels as they attempt to bring vital cooling systems back online.
Speaking tearfully through an interpreter by phone, the mother of a 32-year-old worker said: “My son and his colleagues have discussed it at length and they have committed themselves to die if necessary to save the nation."

Truly, these are brave souls willing to lay down their lives for others. Everything in that sacrifice tells me of the nobility of hearts.

But what of the vandalized tree? This tells a story of human  wickedness doesn't it? Or perhaps just human stupidity. Let us hope it is the latter. I despise hearing that someone young or old would behave in this awful way. I want us to be better than that and these incidents remind me how often we fall short of it. I do not exempt myself in any way from this behavior. Though I had nothing to do with this particular vandalism, there have been countless times I have committed equally as awful acts. I may have cut down no trees, but too often I have cut down a  person with words or thoughts, pushed away a friend in need, or ignored the stranger I pass who only wanted a smile.

I wish we all were better. 

I wish I was better. 

Lent has me thinking on this matter quite a bit. It is designed to.But after Lent there is Easter.

Today I read this headline:

A historic tree in Glastonbury that was vandalised last year has begun showing signs of new life.

The Glastonbury tree, thought to be dead, has sprouted!A small shoot has made its way and is beginning to grow. Isn't that wonderful? After a long cold Winter, a reason to hope. And so close to Easter.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Unlikely Friends

"Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art... It has no survival value; rather is one of those things that give value to survival."
- C. S. Lewis

We spent Sunday evening with another family whom we really love. Josh and Paige and their crew of 4 came for supper. Their visits are almost as good as a whole weeks worth of vacation for me. Conversation is always so good and so easy when our families are together. They are a blessing to us in  many ways. I would tell you they are our BFF's but I don't think either of them would even know what that means. In fact if I said something to them like "I am so happy we are friends" they would likely answer "we are unworthy of it" ( while Fred and I would do a quick glance over our shoulders to see who they were speaking to, oh , it was us? We were confused by the 'unworthy' part.) 

What is ironic is that we are such good friends and yet I find it an unlikely match in so many ways. In fact I am certain if you turned Fred and I inside out as a couple you would come up with Josh and Paige.  You see Josh and Paige are both professional thinkers. They are employed at the Mount to think, and they help other young people learn how to think ( as opposed to just telling them what to think). I hear   ( though not ever from either of them) that they do so quite well, and I would expect nothing less. They have often taught me to think about all sorts of things I had no intention of doing so before we began speaking.

If I have a question, they are usually the first people I pester for an answer; though maddeningly if I ask Josh his thoughts on ANY subject matter he turns the tables on me by responding "What a good question, why don't you tell me what you think of it first?" Forcing me to do many more mental push-ups when he could have just answered for me and I would've trusted him. That should tell you that he has integrity, and I am lazy. I do pester poor Josh quite a lot. He also introduced me to port. I  do not really drink, but wow, port is just wonderful. 

Paige on the other hand is just as interesting, if not a tad bit quieter. I have a picture of her that stays in my mind. It was after she lost her grandmother this past October. Josh was away at the time and we took the children to a farm stand with an outdoor area to get some fresh air. I knew she was thinking a good deal about this woman she loved so dearly, but she doesn't talk much, especially in those moments, and I have learned to love that.There was a patch of cut your own flowers and they caught her eye. And while the children played she- for a few beautiful minutes in that deep grief- was swallowed up in a field of vibrant fall colors, and swam and swayed  there as pretty as the prettiest among them. There was something so right about her in that field of flowers. She looked as if she belonged there, as if she had grown there along side them. I hated to see them parted.

 She also likes to cook. This summer she brought by a jar of home-made Damson plum jam.It's the kind without pectin that takes literally hours to cook over a stove. I opened the jar and entered heaven. The next week found us both at a local orchard picking the plums off the trees as if they were liquid gold. We made lots of it. In fact I am almost at the end of my supply and am relishing the last bits still stored away in my cupboard. Every time I open it, I think of her and that wonderful trip from last Summer.

We run our lives so differently too. My house is well - a mess- most days, with kids scrambling in every direction, toys out, noise and technology in every direction. Josh and Paige run one of the most orderly houses I have ever been in. It is a carefully constructed environment that suits them just beautifully. It is quiet, and peaceful, children read and play games, good music floats through the air.

 Yet they are never troubled by the chaotic atmosphere around here. They say they like it. This would be hard for me to believe if I didn't know them to be so honest.

I am not sure how it is possible for the four of us to get along so famously when we have such strikingly different lives, and interests, and skills, but we do. Fred talks about the races and building, and I talk about babies, and they talk about classes and books, and somehow the friendship is light and fun and easy. 

God has been so good to us in this friendship. I am grateful.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Parenting Mishaps

When the boys were little Fred and I made a point of telling them we would strongly prefer that when they did become teenagers they were careful in exercising how they expressed their 'uniqueness'. We asked if they wouldn't mind doing so in a way sure not to embarrass us immediately, and themselves in hindsight. We were speaking of course about things like wearing pants below your underwear, or coloring your hair purple, or piercing some body part so they looked more like an Aborigine than an American.

The boys easily agreed, and so far have never even hinted at a desire to do anything out of the ordinary. I for one have always been glad that at least at first glance, my children appear to be typical in dress and style. Occassionally when Fred and I go over our parental score cards, he too will mention that he  is happy that clothing and appearance has never been an area of difficulty.  We often hear from other parents of teenagers that for them, dress and appearance is universally, a big issue.

Last evening, when we were saying goodnight to the boys we found out at least part of the reason our campaign has been so very successful.

Peter mentioned a vivid memory from age 6.

We were in Wal-Mart going up and down aisles trying to find some item. Peter old enough to want to explore a bit,  went meandering  off on his own. In the next aisle he encountered a teenage boy, with tattoos and piercings covering a large percentage of his body. Earrings, nose rings,lip ring, you name it- this kid had all of them. His hair was also colored an interesting shade of green. His pants hanging out to expose his boxers.

Peter being so little was utterly stunned by this encounter and stood there staring in awe. When I came around the corner of the aisle,apparently I hissed :

"Come on Pete, lets go!" 

 Peter desperate to figure out what he just saw asked as he moved just out of earshot:

 "Mommy, what is wrong with that boy?" 

He tells me ( and I believe him) that I replied in sharp, annoyed tone of voice as I picked him up and whispered before whisking him off :

"He is trying to find Jesus." 

He tells me the lesson he learned that day was lasting. He decided in one felt swoop that he never, ever, ever, wanted to lose Jesus. And he reasoned- if he did, he would certainly know it just by looking in the mirror!

So much for the Baltimore Catechism.

 We're already planning Sophia's trip to the local tattoo parlor...

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Blessed Virgin Mary

I think I would be remiss to give my readers, glimpses of my daily life, vacations, household, how I raise my children, my husband’s building styles and not mention  a pretty important person in our life like Our Lady. If you think I am now going to explain in some theological fashion why you should have devotion to Our Lady, you are wrong.Neither will I urge you to buy a set of rosaries, or memorize some quick Marian prayers and devotions. That would seem rather silly. You have your own free will, please use it. There are far holier and more eloquent speakers, writers, and apologists who can do Mary far more justice than I will ever be able to here.

I will simply offer you this, Mary means something to me.  

I know that for those of you with protestant roots she can be a real problematic figure. You might think for a moment I have lost my ability to discern between God and Man, which I assure you- I have not. I am perfectly aware Mary is not God, or even a goddess. She is completely, and wholly human. Though I do believe all the church teaches on this mother of mine and so I hold that she is sinless. This sinlessness (aka Immaculate) is a belief held by Catholics not gained through any merit of her own, but rather by God,in order to be the proper vessel for her divine Son. This has always made sense to me in a very simplistic way, but be patient with me as I offer my own clumsy analogy. It makes sense to me that Mary would be purified ahead of time so Jesus was able to enter humanity without being stained by the very original sin He was trying to redeem mankind from. Could He have done this in another way than to be born of an Immaculate Virgin? I’m sure. After all He is God. But this is the form He decided on, and it seems an acceptable and reasonable teaching to me.

You might wonder why I bother to talk to Mary at all if I could instead speak directly to Our Lord in ALL my prayers? You’re right, I could. But of course any one I have ever found worth knowing, and speaking to,  and have really loved is always made more visible to me by those who also know and love them too. For instance, while it is true you might want to know something about Fred that you could ask him yourself- you might just find you get quite a different angle if you asked me, his wife, the same question since I am more likely to observe him from a different  perspective.The truth is both answers will yield a wealth of information.They needn't be separated. Since Mary knows Our Lord better then us, I find I have grown to trust her perspective on her Son, and also to value it.But like all relationships in life, they don't happen by osmosis, you have to work on them.This is one I have found worthy of the effort. It's the world's best two-fer. You don't just get to know Mary by talking to her, she also helps you to get to know Jesus.Not a bad deal.

I also think she is the only human who can be trusted to give an accurate self-description in the whole  history of humanity. If I am not mistaken the only thing she ever claimed about herself was that on her own merits, she was lowly. She then describes what being in synch with God has done for her. She doesn’t even seem disappointed that she is lowly! Just honest about it. Gosh, most days I think I am just terrific,  but when I actually assess the damage I have inflicted in my thoughts, and in my words, in what I have done, and what I have failed to do- I am likely to be devastated by what a rat I am.

I also love that she is a woman. She is a perfect woman with womanly thoughts, feelings, and inspirations. How nice of God to even the playing field just a bit after that original sin debacle, and let us know he does not consider us second class citizens after all! I could tell you a whole lot of interesting stories about how she has influenced my life, but maybe it is best to simply say she does influence my life, regularly. She is a part of it, just as surely as Fred and the kids are.

And I am better for knowing her.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Reworking Mother Goose

There was an old woman who lived in a shoe,
She had so many children she didn't know what to do!
So she gave them some broth without any bread,
And she whipped them all soundly and sent them to bed!

There was an  old  ( aspiring and energetic, at times naive, but always passionate ) woman 

who lived in a shoe  (house that started out as a ranch but was morphed by her carpenter husband into actual living space that will one day  be usable - but probably not before the kids move out.)

She had so many children she didn't know what to do!(that she became a specialist in her field.)

So she gave them some broth without any bread, (Wow, her economic problems seem worse than ours. We're still managing to get by on Mac and cheese!)

And she whipped them all soundly  (obviously Mother Goose had no social services in her day and was able to say that out loud. )

And sent them to bed! ( Let's not fix what ain't broke.)

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Do Run, Run

So, I think I mentioned at some point this week I took up running. Isn’t that cool? I think so. I have never been a runner before and in one months time I already feel like I am in the club. About a month ago life was getting a little crazy around here. It was still cold outside, spring had not quite shown up yet, Schoolwork was looming large, and about 20 other personal and not so personal things were pressing in on all sides.

A good friend told me once that we all have dumpsters, some large and some small but once they are full- they are FULL and there is no other place for ‘junk’ to go . If we don’t empty it out, it’ll just spill over the top. I quite agree.

That’s about where I was one month ago. Some of the junk had come spilling over the top of my dumpster but thankfully a faithful husband, a wonderful friend, and some cooperative children helped me go forward. I was also battling the flu at the same time. And trying to lose those last 11 pounds ( now 9!!!!! But whose counting, oh right – I AM!) So when my dear friend said I should go lie down in bed and sleep I did exactly the opposite. Lacing on a pair of sneakers I grabbed my oldest son and headed  outdoors to the nearest track.

My game plan was this: For years every time I had been stressed out and experienced that fight or flight feeling, I stood up and fought. This time I decided to take the other option of flight instead and run like hell. All that nervous energy had to go somewhere I argued with myself- right? Might as well come out through my feet so it didn’t keep racing around in my head.

And so my goal was to begin running. Well let’s be totally honest here, I just started walking initially. I walked a few laps and then ran half a lap, and then walked again, and ran a quarter lap until I had completed one full mile. I was panting like a dehydrated St. Bernard when I finished, but remarkably I felt better. The next day I returned and did the same, only I ran one full lap (a quarter mile) and then walked. And so it went for one whole sick week. I ran while I coughed, and felt nauseous, and achy, and sore. The second week I added a quarter mile to my distance. By the end of the second week I also added an unlikely running partner- Fred.
This actually follows a marriage pattern for us. Here’s what it looks like:

  • I have a baby
  • Nurse the baby for 6-9 months,
  • Turn into a misshapen blob of a woman
  • Look into the mirror one day and gasp
  • Decide I have to diet
  • Begin losing weight
  • Start exercising
  • Have Fred watch me exercise for a whole week to make sure I am serious about it
  • He then joins me in this new healthy routine
  • We lose a truck load of weight
  • We get pleasing to the eyes once more
  • Soon after comes another baby

I am pretty positive the first and last pieces here are connected somehow, but Fred and I have never been able to figure that part out? Oh well. I am sure one of these days we’ll make the connection.

-At least lots of people always ask us those types of questions while we’re out. They’ll see us with all these kids and say “Are they all yours?” and we nod and smile and say “Yes” politely and they’ll say “You know how that happens don’t you?” and I keep my mouth closed and purse my lips tighter, nodding my head and grinning the whole time while I think to myself “Lady,are you for real? I have ten children and you’re asking me if I know how this happens? DO YOU? ARE YOU SURE??? Because, personally I cannot believe anyone would be as foolish and ill bred as to make a comment like that:
  1. out loud
  2.  in public 
  3. to a perfect stranger
  4. With little ones all around her
 Unless- they were a complete fool, and really didn't get how this happens,in which case you seem to not only have missed Biology 101, but also etiquette 102- and so maybe I do need to explain the birds and the bees to you M'am,- but I assure you Friendly’s is not the forum for it even if I am an obviously homeschooling Mom.



So I am up to 2 miles now! We have been heading to the gym and running 5 nights a week. I can run a full mile and a half now and walk the other half a mile as a cool down. I am absolutely loving it. I look forward to it all day. I am sleeping better, feeling better, thinking better and just plain ole happy. In fact I do my best writing while I run. I start a blog post in my head as I begin and the words follow. I arrange and rearrange as the miles tick off. Then when I get home I simply sit down and type it out. Voila! I kill 2 birds with one stone. ( did I ever mention that my mother in law - born and raised in Jamaica- still cannot grasp the meaning of sayings like these and usually butchers that one by saying she’s killed one bird with 2 stones, what a waste! Dear, Dear Angela...sigh.)

There is a small race next month in town its a 5k. If I continue to increase at this rate ( a quarter mile each week) I should be able to handle the distance just in time for it. I’ve never done that before so it might be a good challenge for me. Wish me luck!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Melinda Wettles

Melinda Wettles is a nickname my wonderful husband ( see above -age 8 ) has for me. It says a whole lot without saying much of anything at all. It is a secret code word for Fred who is too Christian of a man to say nasty things out loud, so he cloaks them instead in the strange form of insult going by the name of 'Melinda Wettles'.

Who in the world is Melinda Wettles you ask? Let me try to paint a picture for you. When Fred was a young boy in school he had a group of friends. The cool kids, he tells me. They’d hang out together, play games,enjoy life, and apparently goof off a whole lot. If there was a paper to be done, they’d all ignore it. A project to be turned in, they’d wait until the last possible moment and then throw something haphazardly together, a test to be taken and no one would study- you get the picture.

In this ‘group think’ atmosphere questions like “did you get your report done?” were answered ( and supposed to be answered) with a belly laugh, and a  hardy-har- har! Goodness, do schoolwork? Why heavens NO came the expected reply. The sun is shining, the day has hours and hours left in it, and there must be better things to do than learn and work.  Once the laughter began they were all comforted by one another since they wouldn’t be the only one who had failed miserably, thus pointing not to their own lack of ambition, but obviously the teachers inability to rouse them into curiosity and academia.

There was only one problem in this dynamic, and her name was Melinda Wettles.

You see Melinda was very much accepted into this circle of ‘cool’ kids. She played as hard, and had just as much fun, and when she was supposed to, she also laughed and scoffed at the idea of turning in work. But  when it was time for the actual papers to be graded and those grades were subsuquently dispensed, Fred would whisper looking down at his own C- 

“Hey Melinda, wudja get?" 

and Melinda would quietly flash an A+ before sliding it into her own desk; turning all Fred’s hopes of being able to blame the teacher, or be comforted by the group mentality of failure, on end . Time and again Melinda somehow managed to get it all done, despite the group’s efforts to keep her suspended in the lazy kingdom they all lived so happily in.

It also told him that Melinda must be working really hard when no one else was looking to be able to keep up with all the cool kids, AND still get A’s and he could never quite figure out how she could do both.

It irked him.


It still does.

The figure of Melinda Wettles haunted Fred for his entire school career and continues to. She threw off grade curves, dashed his hopes, and yet was still so much fun to be around that he didn’t want to get rid of her entirely.

So, on a regular old day around here Fred and I may call each other about 5 or 6 times and speak for 20 seconds or so just to check in. I’ll ask him if there is anything new. He’ll say things like “ Nah-so and so called, and I am supposed to meet him on Thursday morning at 5:30am with an estimate. That’s all. Anything new with you?” And I’ll tell him about schooling for the day, and then update him on banking, and bills, 4 errands I need to run, what dinner will look like, how his parents are, and 5 varying appointments, and then we hang up.

Flash forward to Wednesday evening when we will climb into bed and he’ll say “Oh thank God I can sleep a few minutes late tomorrow” and I’ll whisper from dreamland “No you need to set the alarm for 5 to meet so ‘and so’ upon which he’ll gasp loudly and then thank God just as loudly for the reminder, as he reluctantly sets the alarm. And at 5 am the next morning he will wake up frantically and after praying his morning prayers,   he’ll walk back into the bedroom and say “I hate to wake you but I never wrote up that estimate, could you help me?” and I’ll mutter back, “Its sitting on top of the microwave with the directions to the job.” And he’ll heave a sigh of relief, and then start fumbling for his baseball cap and I’ll say “It’s on top of the dresser." And he’ll grow silent. And then I’ll hear him in the kitchen opening drawers and closing them and I’ll call out “You left the keys on the seat of your truck” and He’ll say “If Gary calls…” and I’ll cut him off with “ I already spoke with him yesterday and placed the order.” And then I’ll hear it from under his breath - as if he was still 12 years old in the class room asking “wudja get?”. Escaping his lips next will come the disparaging and contemptuous words “Melinda Wettles” as he slams the door in frustration. It is almost a cuss word for Fred. The weight it carries can be felt in the air.

And he kind of has me pegged. I was no genius in school but I held my own and actually have always liked learning. I also am mentally organized and rarely need to write things down to remember them. What Fred doesn’t see while he is hard at work building is that the second we hang up that phone and I realize he has an estimate that needs to get done, I’ll stop what I am doing and take the ten minutes to type it up before moving onto the next project. My house is generally messy, but that’s not the same as being disorganized. He also doesn’t always quite realize just how much I loathe showing up unprepared. I not only hate that feeling for myself, and Fred, and my children, I hate it for everyone around me. That embarrassing feeling of being ‘unprepared’ or ‘tardy’ is a fate worse than death to me. So I’d rather take the extra time late at night, or early in the morning, or as soon as I possibly can, to prepare myself for whatever life calls for, so I don’t have to undergo that terrible dreadful feeling of being unprepared.

This mentality is born from the realization that I have always believed I had enough inadequacies and shortcomings that were very obvious to the outsider that I didn’t need to display the ones I could actually do something about. You may fault me for not being able to 'do' Math, or my inability to find my way  across town without the help of a GPS, but you can pretty much count on me to be on time, know the subject matter, and have what you asked me to prepare- ready and waiting.

What Fred also misses is that because he is so naturally talented, it is EASY for people to excuse some of his minor imperfections. He may forget a conversation you had with him 30 seconds ago, or not remember your name 10 minutes after you meet, but if you ask him to build, or fix, or remodel, or design something, he is a master carpenter and it not only shows, it absolutely shines through. The rest of us have to at least give the impression we are paying attention to the teacher, lest we fail at life pretty miserably.So when Fred 's grimace is screaming "goody-two-shoes" at me, he fails to recognize I lack the raw talent he has been blessed with, and am making up for it by hitting all my check points along the way. So God bless me,and all the Melinda Wettles who keep the talented humans among us, slightly more humble.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


I am almost done telling you all about our trip to North Carolina. On Saturday Sarah briefly escaped the room while chasing after her brothers. They of course didn't know she was following so went blindly on. Mary turned and said "Mom, where's Sarah?" and on quick scan mode I knew she was gone. Luckily stepping outside the room and hollering "Sarah" I heard her just beginning to cry and honed in on her signal.It was coming from below. In all of about 3 seconds I was down the next flight of stairs. whoever says humans have no super powers has not met ANY mother in search of her child. Trust me we CAN leap tall buildings ( and long staircases) in a single bound. In any case she was on the next floor down trying desperately to get into what she mistook for our room. The length of the episode from start to finish lasted about 45 seconds total so there was only slight trauma ( for me of course). When Fred emerged from the shower I informed him of what he had missed . Not wanting to give away my secret identity, we decided to split before someone recognized me.

So we headed for the local museums. This time the Science Museum at the older boys request. Again we struck gold. Not only was this a wonderful museum, but we managed to sneak in a nature show at just the right time, view wonderful exhibits, and keep all of the crew young and old quite content. We spent a few hours touring the four floors. 

When our stomachs began rumbling we decided to picnic in the cool park across the street from the museums. It was a magnificent day in the sun. Afterwards we made a quick stop in the History museum as Matthew just had to see some of the Revolutionary War displays. As luck would have it there was an entire exhibit on cabinet and furniture making that Fred really wanted to check out. 

That evening we met up with Patrick and Scarlett and their 2 sons Matteo and Brian ( our godson!). Patrick brilliantly  suggested we go to Chuck'e'Cheese. We had never been ( surprising isn't it?). After plenty of play time and winning tickets, we ate and then went back to their apartment. I was unsure if this was a good idea and told Patrick it might prove difficult. He said  having us over would be sort of like a family tsunami, but he wanted to so we did. It was a wonderful evening!

On Sunday we spent the afternoon at a lake nearby, after mass. In the afternoon Brian was baptized along with another little girl. It was such a lovely visit and so nice to see a new family growing and flourishing. We are so happy to be a witness to that love.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


So, I'm going to tell you a few more details about the trip to North Carolina. I already informed you of our exceptional weather and how well the kids traveled, and even about the lodgings which help to make any trip so much more fun. Imagine for a moment being me and walking out of a room with an unmade bed, dishes in the sink, and crumbs on the floor, and then returning hours later to a clean place with beds made, dishes clean, fresh towels, and a vaccuumed rug. Tell me if you think I need much more then that to feel like I am on vacation? I don't. Housekeeping is a big part of my pampering .( I have tried to make the same magic work since I got home but much to my chagrin I find am simply behind in my housework.)

On Friday we decided to check things out around town. The first thing that caught our eye was a playground with a track. Have I mentioned I took up running? Well, I did. I will run on a treadmill if I have to, but I prefer to be soaking in the sunshine, so this little spot had my name all over it. We pulled over and Fred took the kids to the playground while Andy and I went for a run.

When I got back to the park a friendly southern woman gave me a tip that a good place to visit is Marbles. Marbles, huh,sounded interesting. Its a kids museum she said. Maybe not for the teenagers but 12 and under would have fun. We headed over. They gave us a group rate.

Then we were in a child's wonderland. In every direction there was something safe, fun, interesting, and entertaining. Peter hung with Fred and I, while Andy and JP decided to tour the building. I have not seen my little ones so enchanted as they were in ages. The smiles, laughter and giggles were wonderful as they pirated, doctored, and put out fires all afternoon.

Aquariums were plentiful, games, stuffed animals, and toys of all sorts abounded. The children's imaginations were free to roam wild, and roam they did. After some time we still hadn't seen the older boys and wondered where they could be hiding out. Peter went to find them. He came back and told us to follow him upstairs. We found the older boys deep in Lego construction and as happy as clams. They built a castle for a bunch of little ones who were hanging around watching them.

Upstairs presented a whole new sensory experience. An indoor hockey rink, race-car building area, a ball room, cheerleading squad uniforms, and an area to build with real tools for eager young carpenters.

Needless to say  we left exhausted and ready to have a late lunch/early dinner as we walked down cobblestone streets to a local pizzeria. Then we headed back to a clean hotel for a short rest before we hit the movies for the evening. What a wonderful day!