In 12 short weeks, our family of five will board a plane bound for northern California to spend some time with my husband's family out in the redwoods. We've taken this trip many times, but the only difference between this trip and others we have been on is that from there, we're flying halfway around the world to live for a year.
Now, I'm all about to-do lists, but there's so much stuff to do to prepare that even the to-do list seems daunting to manage. We're not just leaving our home, but the Australian family we're exchanging with will be living in it as well.
We've been tackling some house projects, because our 106-year old home has some, shall we say, quirks. I love character, and our house has plenty of it, but does a leaky faucet add character? How about a rotting windowsill in the upstairs bathroom shower? Ummmm...looking around the house and glancing down at my WWTAFT (What Would The Australian Family Think?) bracelet, I knew we had our work cut out for us.
I'm happy to report that we performed some amateur surgery and gave the house a mini-facelift. The trim had always been primer-white, so we toned it down with a cream color with plum and green accents. I think the plum on the floor of the porch looks great, and the porch ceiling is a lighter purple. I thought this would be a quick project, but I conveniently forgot that sanding peeling paint, taping, and priming the billions of posts in the railing had to happen before the actual application of the new color. It was endless. Before and after pictures don't look too drastically different, but the in-person experience is waaaaaay enhanced. Phase 2, which includes the trim around the windows and soffits, will happen AA (After Australia).
porch showing the column detail and ceiling
We also took care of the leaky faucet, continued work on the tree fort outside, and have been making strides to get rid of clutter. Our youngest child will be nearing 5 years old when we return, so we're purging little kid toys, books, and equipment. The rotting windowsill has been rebuilt and repainted, a relatively quick fix that should last at least until our return. I painted the bathroom trim to match the window, so while I had the painting vibe I just went ahead and painted the rest of upstairs bathroom last night because I'm a crazy person I had nothing better to do.
The house is whipping itself into shape. But a spiffy house doesn't get a family of five to Australia for a year. Sam is incapable of handling any sort of paperwork, so I dutifully filled out our visa application, made sure we had additional passport photos and attached the requisite proof that these children are actually ours, that Sam and I are actually bound for life by marriage, etc.
Cross your fingers that the visas will be approved on time, because they supposedly take about 12 weeks and I sent mine out just 2 weeks ago. That's not much wiggle room for dealing with the snail's pace of the US federal government...
As the youngest brother, Kenyon keeps a keen eye on the older two. As with many youngest siblings, we're seeing that this place in the family is producing a 3 and a half year old with some advanced skills. Now, many of these skills aren't necessarily the ones you think about when you fondly picture older siblings bestowing their knowledge upon their younger counterparts. One such recent skill--farting on demand--has had disastrous results of which I'll spare you the details. But--some very delightful skills are passed along as well. Kenyon has the benefit of having his brothers model their curiosity for the world and love of learning; in particular, a love of reading.
Jackson, at 8 years old, is a self-proclaimed Harry Potter expert, having read the series backwards and forwards. He is now immersed in the tales of Percy Jackson. Alex, at 6 years old, is just shy of finishing the 4th Harry Potter book. Our dinner table conversation is often sprinkled with Harry Potter trivia challenges shot back and forth between these two, each one trying to best the other. It's also sprinkled with us saying that knees should not be visible at the table, that bubbles shouldn't be blown into milk, and that food should stay on their plates, but I digress....
Our Friday afternoons unfailingly include a trip to the Park Hill library to stock up on fresh supplies to start our weekend. Each of us leave with armfuls of books and books on tape, arrive home, and I watch from a safe distance while they pounce on the stack like wolves.
If Kenyon is anything like the readers that his brothers are, I'd be thrilled (and I may begrudgingly accept the less-tolerable skills they've handed down.............Okay, it's doubtful, but I don't know if I have any choice.).
side note--if you have very young children and haven't yet heard of BOB books, trust me--just go ahead and buy them. I typically heavily favor library rental, but in this case it's worth the purchase. Here--I've made it easy for you. The link to the first series (currently on sale!) on Amazon is here (and I have not been compensated by anyone for writing this). Be forewarned--no thrilling plot lines or witty characters grace these pages, but they are the ideal very first books for kids to gain confidence in their ability to read.
Last month, I set off on a hunt for the elusive BOB book series that was rumored to be hiding in the wily depths of our basement storage space. I happy to report that I completed the mission, narrowly escaping an untimely death by teetering stack of paint cans. I dusted off the trusty Set 1 of the BOB books which helped my other sons identify themselves as readers and gauged Kenyon's interest in reading. He got through a couple of pages but he didn't really have the stamina for more than that, so I didn't push it and they sat for a while, untouched on the living room bookshelf.
Shortly after we woke up on a recent Sunday morning, Kenyon randomly asked me if he should read a BOB book. I responded that it was a great idea, and we cozied up on the couch. The first book contains just four letters and short vowel sounds, but still, he read the whole book (and the second one as well) and was so proud! A brief video of Kenyon's first real attempt at reading a page is below for your viewing pleasure...
Now that our family has upped the number of non-training wheel bike riders to four, we decided to participate in this year's Tour de Fat. Although this awesome yearly event was created by a competing brewery *cough cough* New Belgium *cough cough*, and to be honest I'm not a fan of their beer at all, I have to say they put on one hell of a fun event, right in our beloved City Park. What could be better than a costumed bike parade through the beautiful city streets of Denver with friends, followed by a fun festival in the park?
the start of the parade (Alex is in the lower right hand corner with the yellow t-shirt and lucha libre mask)
The 5.8 mile bike was the boys' longest, and they had a blast. Thankfully, Kenyon was tucked into the Burley attached to Sam's bike, because keeping an eye on three boys on wheels amongst the costumed frenzy would have been an impossible feat.
Here are some glimpses of the day, in pictures…
We wove our way through City Park, Uptown, Cheeseman Park, and downtown, passing some of my favorite buildings. I really love Denver…
Back at the park, there was an area set up where daring festivalgoers could try out all sorts of oddball bike contraptions…
The boys and their friends, dressed for the occasion.
For any of you out there who live in San Francisco, San Diego, LA, Tempe, or Austin--a Tour de Fat is still coming your way, so check out the upcoming tour dates.
This morning on NPR I heard a quote from Cormac McCarthy's book, The Road, that stuck with me. "You forget the things you want to remember and you remember the things you want to forget." Jackson, Alex, and Kenyon--it's the little things about daily life with you that are so wonderfully rich, and often I am so busy experiencing those things with that I don't take the time to record them. I'm going to make an effort to start more regularly posting some of these recent memorable moments so we can look back and laugh, and so you can know your younger selves.
Jackson, on the way home from school I was telling you how I want us to visit the Bellinger River while we're traveling in Australia, and how I read that we could see platypuses there. I thought it sounded so neat, but you immediately cautioned me that male platypuses have poisonous spurs on their back legs. You recently told me that you want to be a park ranger when you grow up. With all your knowledge of the outdoors that you've amassed already, sweetheart, I think you'd be a great ranger.
Alex, I went on your fall camping trip with your 1st grade crew. I was battling a cold and it rained the whole time, but you were so sweet to check in with me about how I was feeling, and you and all your friends were so positive despite the wet weather. As we hiked, the adventure coordinator told you and your classmates to find an interesting rock to share. During the sharing, kids said things like, "I liked this rock because it was really shiny," and "This rock was so smooth." The adventure coordinator compared his to an Oreo cookie because it had two layers of black with white in between. When it was your turn, you said matter-of-factly, "This is a rose quartz. It's a semi-precious stone." You, Alex, are so, so precious to me.
Kenyon, the other day you came up to me while I was standing and you hugged your body close to mine, burying your head in my legs. You looked up at me sweetly and said, "I'm nestling my head in your balls." I didn't know whether to be proud of the fact that you used the word 'nestled' or dismayed at my parenting because you thought I actually had balls. The worst part is, I didn't correct you. I sincerely apologize for any confusion this may cause you in the future.