7:30 am and there is chaos in the Cook house when the Vandercars pull in the driveway. “I get to go get Reese!” calls Lorraine, and she runs outside before anyone can argue. She carries him on her hip, then plops him on the couch next to Peter. He has a huge scratch on his forehead, like always, and he's smiling, like always. Whitney comes in with a girl on each hip. They are not sure they want to be awake yet. They are plopped on the other side of Peter, and he laughs, “Is this ALL the Vandercars?”
I run outside to tackle the big kids with a final before-school hug (Seth tries to skip this part of our morning routine but I never let him. Aggie has already given me four.) I'm about to tell Whitney that Lorraine will just have to walk because she's running late, but she comes out at the last second. I hug her goodbye.
The Vander-girls are curled up under blankets, pancakes in hand, and it doesn't look like they will ever move. “Hey girls, do you want to go say hi to our tadpoles from yesterday?” They shake off the tiredness instantly. I reach for the bag for their clothes, but “Mommy said we could have a PJ day,” Deandra insists. True or not, it sounds like a good idea to me, so they give a PJ hello to the “baby frogs AND the tadpoles.” (Peter thinks we have both.)
It's still cool, but not cold. I intend to stay outside until it's too hot. They climb on the swing and I push them all, and the morning is absolutely lovely. “Does anyone know any Jesus songs we can sing?” I ask, and Enola starts right in singing about little baby Jesus. We sing “Jesus loves me,” and “I was Baptized.” Copper is wet already and he brushes by their legs. The girls squirm and squeal. “When dogs get up in the morning they always say good day!” I sing.
Eldon replies, “Who let the dogs out?” and everybody Woof Woof Woofs.
I drink my second cup of coffee while they bounce on the trampoline. “Can we play the high-five game?” Eldon begs, and they all run in a circle while I hold out my hand. Reese gets too close to the edge, and as I rescue him I spill my coffee, and Peter falls, and Eldon calls him “coffee butt.” Fighting ensues, and both boys run laps around the house. Reese stays on my hip for a bit, and Canadian geese fly over he notices. “Birdie!” he points, and we all cheer for that little voice.
Next, we venture to the treehouse. The girls insist it in an Ice Castle, and they ask me to come play in their Ice Castle. They permit the boys to bring their dump trucks. Deandra hates the grass on her feet, but I promise we will clean it all off later.
I need a third cup of coffee so I head to the house and I return with popcorn. Enola looks down at me from the treehouse gratefully and says, “Emily, here's an imaginary flower for you!” Eldon says, “Mom I caught a spider! Here's a spider for you!"
Then, they're back to the trampoline, and I sneak in some garden weeding. When they notice, they come to “help,” and Eldon begs to pick a leaf of spinach so he can eat it. I act like it's a huge sacrifice, “Well... I suppose... if you're sure you will eat it all.” He scarfs it down, and soon all the kids are eating spinach and cheering about it like it's the best treat ever.
“It's time to the pond,” I say. “our tadpoles need some fresh algae.” They cheer, and we navigate carefully across the road.
Reese on my hip, and little monkeys following me- a farmer drives by and smiles at our cuteness. Bull frogs fuss and hop in the water when they see us. Eldon almost catches one but they are just “really really fast!” Enola sees a big hole, and Eldon is sure it is a “snake hole.” I tell them maybe a crawdad or a chipmunk lives there. De spots another big hole: a turtle nest! The eggs hatched and it is empty, and we imagine all the babies swimming in the pond. Enola is sad. She “really really wanted to see one of the cute cute babies.”
Wait- what's that?! Baby ducks across the pond! Enola squeals. “They are so tiny! They are so small I can't even see their little bitty eyes!” We smell the honeysuckle and find another empty turtle nest. Deandra asks me to put a flower in her ponytail, and Peter puts flowers behind his ears. I hope nobody teases him.
Eldon doesn't notice: he's too busy throwing sticks for Copper. They all scream when she comes back because they know she will shake. The girls hate it- Reese invites it, and laughs when he gets wet. I save him from falling in the pond a few times.
Another hole- Eldon is sure this one is the home of a snake.
Enola grabs my hand. “Eldon, don't say the word 'snake.' That makes me... think about snakes.”
It's time to go back, so we scoop some green water in a bucket, bringing back algae for the tadpoles. The kids watch me pour it in the tadpole pool, and they spend a few minutes poking at them. Except Reese: he's climbing the pool ladder, the one under the climbing tree. He's at the top when I arrive behind him. He sees me, and laughs as he lets go.
It's time for more snacks. I give them suckers, then spend time stating the obvious:
“No touching tadpoles when you have a sucker.”
“Peter! Don't rub the sucker on the bottom of your foot!”
Aggie donated the suckers to the cause, saying "Mom, if the kids get fussy for you today, give them these." I take a picture so she can see them enjoying their treats:
Reese abandons his sucker so he can climb on the overturned wheelbarrow as if it is a slide. He gets stuck and squawks for help. I take him down, and he gets on again.
It is starting to get warmer, and they want to go to the park for recess. Is it really only 9:45? I bribe myself- find the shoes, then make more coffee. The process of finding and putting on shoes always seems to take an hour, so we'd better get started if we want to make it back before lunch. Enola notices the pretty pink flowers in the front yard. “Those are snap dragons, aren't they pretty?” I say.
Her eyes widen and she backs away, “What do strap drabbins DO?”
I run inside to fetch shoes, and I return to a friend delivering asparagus. As she hands it to Eldon, I notice the smelly wet dog behind her, and then I notice Deandra with her panties down, getting ready to pee in the yard. I redirect her inside as if it's totally normal.
We toddle over to the school, but halfway there I realize Copper is following us. They wait in Miss Schneider's back yard while I run her home and tie her up. They move so slowly, and I am grateful for that (for once) when I return, panting. They want to see the big kids at the playground, so we head up the hill.
Bummer. Due to construction, recess is inside today. But the girls really really want to see mommy, so we head inside. In the gym: mayhem, screaming, chaos. They love it, but Reese stays on my hip. We leave after little-kid recess and stop to see mommy in the office. We bring mayhem there, and pastor adds chocolate to the mix. I finally clap my hands- “Out! Time to go everyone!”
We toddle back to the house and head to the nice, cool basement. As the big kids head down, I notice Reese is in the kitchen. He opened a cupboard and has his hand deep in a box of Cheerios. I put a small pile of them on the table, and I eat a few myself. Did I eat breakfast?
It's Bible study day, so I tidy up while they play. They are content: between the music, and the disco light, and the couches for “beds” while they play house. Deandra and Enola both want to be mommy, and things get a little tense for a moment, but eventually they consent to making two families. Meanwhile, the boys have been sent to run several more laps for name calling. (Butt Peter and Smelldon are their current favorties.)
Next, lunchtime. We have a round-the-table meal while they watch their favorite show (this month): Sherrif Callie. As for me, I finally remember to ingest something other than coffee. I eat a big salad while they scarf and dump apples and ham and biscuits on my carpet.
The boys run several more laps.
Eldon “earns” early naptime. Finally, all stomachs are filled, and everyone sleeps. Peter sleeps on “daddy's pillow” and giggles about it, sure he will get in trouble if dad finds out. Enola checks under the bed in the girls room for cats. Deandra sings for awhile and finally falls asleep. Reese snuggles right down in the playpen.
And then, all is quiet.
Thank you God, for little days like this.