Sunday, June 25, 2006

Gregory Theodore Joseph

...that's how Gram used to call him whenever he was being, well, obnoxious, similar to the way parents use "the middle name" when their children are in trouble. Gregory Theodore Joseph Dryz, 9/14/15 - 6/22/06, father of 8, grandfather to 16, great grandfather to 18, was one of the most interesting men I ever met.

I thought he was the smartest man alive, maybe even smarter than God. He used these HUGE words in conversation with me, grandchild #5 ( I think), and WOW did that make me feel like I was smarter than the average bear - why? Because I was too floored by the enormity of the words, to realize that I was supposed to be puzzled by their meanings. I smiled and nodded and smiled some more. I'm drawing a blank on the words he used, but let's just say my grandfather could do the New York Times crossword puzzle, pretty much in one sitting. I swear he memorized the dictionary and was a personal friend of Roget and helped write the thesaurus with him.

<>Gramp could build and fix ANYTHING. He was always tinkering with something, always had some project on the workbench in the basement. He built beautiful dollhouses for my cousins, my sister, and me. The really neat thing was that they were mansions in our eyes. No one else was lucky enough to have a "Grampa Dollhouse", no way. He made those for us. For all we knew, he cut down the tree himself, whittled, carved, crafted, sanded, painted, and decorated each and every house with all of the love and care that he had.

Riding in the car with Grampa was always a treat. He had a "candy machine" in his car. Well, it was more like a tupperware that he kept stashed in the armrest, but he called it a candy machine, and dammit, we sure thought that's what it was. It was always full of Brach's anise candy - the little square red ones in red wrapper. If we weren't in the mood for anise, there were always a few butterscotch candies that he kept in there for Gram. I don't ever remember a time when the candy machine was empty. Gramp also had one of those bobbling compasses on his dash. It was many many years before I actually knew what it was and what purpose it served. I just thought it was a part of the car (especially since it would reappear in each new car). I would sit in the backseat listening to the music, WFMT, WBEZ, and watch the the letters change from E to N to W to S....and just thought it was something special Gramp's car did.

We always thought we were richer than anyone else - when we were riding in Gramp's car, that is. It was always a Lincoln...each new car was always a Lincoln (of course, the car dealer was his next door neighbor). The car was big and cushy, plenty of room, and to us, it was a limo and he was our driver.

I know that my grandfather worked, but as a child, if he wasn't at home, he was at church. My family helped to start the parish, sending a letter and petition to the archdiocese with 1000 signatures asking for a church, Gramp was a permanent fixture at St. Louise where he was an usher for - I think - 50+ years, head usher for 33. We always sat in one of the back pews when we went to church, I never understood why, I just thought we had the "special seats". Really, it was so because thoe were the pews reserved for the ushers, and so that we could all go to communion together after Gramp had finished sending each row before us. We got to stay "after church" and lock up. We got to see all of the "hiding places" in the church, the usher's closet, the broom closet - hey, when you're a kid that stuff's pretty neat. After mass, Gram & I would stand around and chat with all of the parishioners. She would tell them which granddaughter I was, and to which daughter ("This is Robbi's daugher") I belonged and I would be so proud...I felt like I was something extra special. My grandparents were both highly involved in the workings of their church, but right now, I'm totally drawing a blank, so I'll come back to that another day.

I remember sitting in Gramp's chair, when he wasn't in it, of course, holding the newspaper (which I couldn't read yet) and pretending to snore....yep, just like Gramp. The chair, which has sat at my mother's for a few years, used to seem enormous. Sitting in it, one would feel engulfed, wrapped up in it's warmth and comfort. It has been reupholstered many times. I can remember at least three shades of the chair, yellow, bright orange, and a burnt orange - with the bright orange, of course, being my favorite. It had a coordinating ottoman which could be adjusted to each person's comfort. Well, THAT was one of our favorite things to play with. We would turn it upside down and play with the metal bar, thinking that we were tinkering with something and creating something.

So many times we would get started talking to Gramp and it seemed like there was never going to be a way out of the conversation. He could talk forever about anything. I swear, the man had so much knowledge locked up in his head that he needed to share all of it with everyone before he left us....probably starting well before the grandchildren came to be. Boy, we'll all be missing those conversations. He knew everything there was to know about everything.

I have so much more to say, but my mind is running through everything that I have to get done in the next hour and half before trying to squeeze in a gig with the band before spending the day- and most of the evening - at the wake. Trying to get all of the kids clothes found (huge piece here), pressed, ready (including finding the shoes and socks!), practicing the music for the service tomorrow - yep, I'm singing just like I did for Gram's (if you think about it tomorrow around 9:30 CST, throw a little thought, vibe, or prayer my way so I make it through the music without bawling my eyes out -maybe I just won't put my contacts in so I can't see anyone)...ok, I'm babbling.

Gregory Theodore Joseph Dryz was a truly amazing man who touched SO many people. He lived a long and full life, raised 7 wise and wonderful daughters, buried a son, loved and cherished his wife for as long as she graced us, 62 years of marriage, buried her, and kept on for almost six more years before she finally called him..."Gregory Theodore Joseph, don't you think you've more than made sure those girls will be just fine without us there? Let's go. It's time."

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Nothin' Like a Little Stress... make you think of silly things to post...ok, at least silly pictures. This week has been full of stress: work, time, family, friends, know, the usual. Work: My job totally kicked into high gear this week and it's absolutely crazy - it's a good kind of crazy, but stressful. Time: Well, who DOESN'T stress about time? Family: My 91 y/o grandfather, Grampa G (the "G" stands for "Great" so they don't have to call him Great Grampa) had a heart attack, has internal bleeding, a failed kidney, and lots of other yucky things, my li'l sis has been gone for too long, and it's only Thursday (she left on Monday), Ex still refuses to take SmallBoy and this weekend they are celebrating TheBaby's 1st Birthday (think he can still get infected from SmallBoy looking at him the wrong way?). Friends: Ever try to plan something that you think everyone has finally agreed upon, confirmed it, and then had one of them bite you in the ass about it? Yeah, I thought so. Money: The usual, but also part of the friends stress - no no no, nothing like loaning money to friends, hell, I don't have any to pay the bills, let alone loan out to friends, and the ever-popular not making NEAR enough money for what I do for a living.

BUT, we have silly things like this to help us remember who we are and where we come from. Things like this to remind us about what really matters. People like this to send those hugs, those smiles, those laughs that will, despite all of the above stress and all of the rest of it, make us, in turn, laugh, smile, and temporarily forget our troubles - or at least let them seem a little less troublesome. These are what make us exhale when the pile of stress seems higher than Mt. Everest, and the air around us seem thinner than that on Everest, making it feel like we are suffocating at every gasp we make for air. And with that exhalation, comes a feeling of relief, release, catharsis, happiness, perhaps even temporary insanity (the good kind). Goofiness, sometimes just downright stupid fun (sometimes even the kind we'd get in trouble for as children) can be just the treatment that we need when the diagnosis is stress, stress, and more stress, and the prognosis is bleak.

How could a picture of a father (ET) teaching his, barely 7 (going on 30) year old daughter, how to cook: brown, saute, garnish, make sauce...and not the way we'd think....being extra safe and making sure she stands far enough away so she doesn't get burned or cut, but with the respect she deserves as an eager little learner, constantly absorbing knowledge like a sponge.....How could THAT picture NOT cheer us up? This little girl has learned so much from her Daddy, because he treats her with respect. Absolutely, he makes sure she understands that he's the boss, but she has a lot of respect for others because of the respect he shows her. It's so apparent in this picture. And yes, it does make us happy. Sure wish SmallBoy's father showed him even the littlest respect of acknowledging his existence (except when it comes to $$$$ of course). Oh, that's making me stress again...I'd best insert the picture.

Tomorrow promises to be another stressful day. Girl has a softball tournament, SmallBoy has to face another weekend watching his brother and sister leave him behind, Gramp is still in the hospital, it's Friday at work (stressful in itself) and NOT payday, my friends are being a little unreasonable - ok a LOT unreasonable, and time - well, there's not enough, yet I'm running out of it today. On that note, here are some sillies to make you smile for Friday. Oh, and KH, I'll be kicking you in the WHATEVER if you don't take that job!

Monday, June 19, 2006

H-O-S-E Limbo Time, Father's Day, and Good Bye Li'l Sis

My littlest sister, KR, just left to go back home to Kentucky this morning :-( . She was in town visiting for a month, so my sister, Chica, and I kidnapped her for the weekend to get some quality sister time. She spent Friday night with Chica, so we went over on Saturday and hung out, grilled, and dealt with the heat. How? Just take a peek over at the pictures.

It was HOT. We stayed in the air conditioning as long as we could, but SmallBoy was starting to get some major cabin fever. He had gone outside to run around and play in the yard a few times, but it was just too hot. SmallBoy had asked us quite a few times to go out and play the game he had invented - hose limbo. We were ready, but didn't quite comprehend exactly what his plans were for the game. We pictured one person on one end of the hose, and another holding another section, while a third person did the limbo under the hose. SmallBoy's was quite a bit different.

His game set up only required one person holding the hose. That person had the incredibly fun task of squeezing the trigger on the hose and holding the stream, at a heavy spray, while the rest of us traveled under the water. My mom, GR, was the first "holder, and SmallBoy the first participant. He was easily declared the champion of H-O-S-E Limbo (yes, we made up a song by spelling out the word "H-O-S-E Limbo time,")...of course, we sort of adjusted the rules because none of us are really flexible enough to properly limbo. Look at how much fun we had!!!!! GR limbo-ed, too, but she'd probably ground me if I put her limbo pictures up, although, she did get great joy out of squirting me in the face on my turn. Girl was at a softball tourney, so she didn't get a chance to play, but there's always next time. After LargeBoy's turn, he did what most teenage boys would do on a hot day with a hose....he soaked us all. He and SmallBoy had the largest water battle - with SmallBoy as the target, but he managed to chase all of us, culminating in a battle royale with SmallBoy and GR. It was great fun.

That night, KR came home with us and got to experience our little world. We had some friends over to make music and generally have fun. We all sat out on the porch, talked, laughed, played music, and sang. I was worried at first that she would tire of this, but my worry was certainly not validated. She had a blast (hopefully, she doesn't think her old sis is too goofy, now). The next morning, we hung out, after sending Girl off to the last day of her tournament - back in the far away John Hughes movie suburb (this time to play another team from OUR town). We were heading over to Dad's for Father's Day, so we didn't want to eat too much - a holiday, or any gathering, with an Italian family means FOOD, and, "you're too skinny - eat more!" To prepare for this, we ate a very modest breakfast - tortilla know the really salty ones in the green bag, not one of the "ito's" brands, but a good Mexican brand.

We took our own sweet time getting ready and then headed off to feast. Sadly, heading to Dad's meant returning KR. She won't be in again until Christmas, so we made sure to spend as much time together as we could. Tons of food at Dad's, and then....the box of old pictures. Thank GOD that they're not digital and that I'm too technologically challenged to make my scanner do what everyone else knows how to do. It was a memorable day.

Ultimately, we had to leave. We still hadn't been over to see PC's dad yet, and the day was running away from us. We said our goodbyes and hugged and pouted. We plotted and planned and schemed. Hopefully we can find a way to get her back to Chicago some time soon. Planes, trains, automobiles...we'll make this work. It was SO nice to have had more than a few hours to spend together. It was wonderful to have my sister at my house, to see how weird her big sis is, to have the kids get to spend time with her, and for her to see how much fun we are. I hope we can do this again while it's still nice enough to go outside and have more, "H-O-S-E Limbo time!!!!" If not, we'll just have to have, "S-N-O-ball Flinging time!!!!!" I think between all of our homes, cars, and peoples, we can definitely find a way to do this again, even if it's just for a long weekend. Please, oh Please, oh Please, oh PLEEEEEEEEEEEASE!!!!!!!!!!!!

Friday, June 16, 2006

Poor, Poor Neglected Girl

My Girl has been going non-stop since well before school ended. Sports, music, babysitting, movie-making for class, campaigning....Campaigning? Yes, yes. My Girl, the Planner of All Things Teenage & Social, ran for Student Council Activities Director for the '06-'07 school year. The other opponents knew they didn't have a rat's chance in a boa constrictor's cage at beating her, so they dropped out and she, fabulous Girl that she is, won unopposed. Of course, she still campaigned, made posters, gave her speech, passed out buttons - she worked HARD.

I am so very proud of her. I knew that she would win. It was just a big head slapping DUH. Ever since she was a LittleGirl she's always been the one to round up the troops, plan the activities, dole out the responsibilities, and ensure that EVERYONE had a great time. When plans involved one "group," she always made it a point to try and include the other "group," if possible. She's a very diplomatic leader - trying to please all of the people all of the time, but understanding that she'll probably satisfy MOST of the people MOST of the time.

Today, she's off to some ridiculous north John Hughes movie suburb - I believe the one where Home Alone was filmed - to begin a softball tournament. Game's at 3:30 or something like that, which puts endtime near 5 - I wouldn't want to have to drive home in a Chicago rush hour from a suburb that far way, no how. Big thanks to her chauffeur this weekend (that would be whomever I paid enough to drive so I don't have to...teee heee).

Girl, I'm SO proud of you. And yes, I chose this picture because it's not one of the best (cuz those are just toooooooo good - wait til I post the hair dryer picture!!!!)

Thursday, June 15, 2006

The Haircut Experience

In our quest to be "bad" while PC & LargeBoy were in Michigan, we did the haircut thing. When Ex was still admitting he had another son, he used to do the buzz cut thing on SmallBoy's hair. Surprisingly, the buzzer never freaked him out. Since that whole situation has changed, and shown no signs of improvement, SmallBoy's hair has gotten longer - MUCH longer. He has taken the shears to it once or twice and I made some pathetic attempts to clean it up. Well, it was time to venture to a pro this time.

I had geared him up for it, letting him know that it was up to him if he got a "handsome cut" (nice and layered and handsome), or a "cool cut" (the standard buzz which he is used to). I told him that this was a new place we were going, and on the way back from our dinner out the other night, showed him exactly where the shop was. He thought it looked cool enough and wasn't nervous or anxious at all. Still, you never can tell, and I had no idea what to expect from him once he got INTO the shop.

I had scheduled 3 simultaneous appointments so that none of us would have to wait too long for the others. Girl & I, since we have more hair and would take longer, went first, and the woman who would cut SmallBoy's hair was finishing up a perm on someone. He started out sitting in a chair about 5 feet from where I was, and then started spinning on the floor and doing his "moves", as he calls them. I knew he was either getting impatient or anxious - or even a bit of both. I told him he could come and stand by me as long as he stayed out of the stylist's way - which he did. Soon enough, L. called him to come and hop in the chair.

She asked him how he wanted his hair and he told her "a cooooool cut". I reminded him that sometimes people who aren't in the initial conversation don't know what our words translated to, so, he promptly explained to her that he wanted a buzz cut. I was very proud of him. Next, I waited for him to jump at the buzzers, cuz it had been a LONG time. Nope, totally cool. He sat still, she buzzed, they chatted. He talked to her about his siblings, his mom's band, what his summer plans were, video games (of course), his upcoming sleepover (he's having a friend over at OUR house!!! WOO-HOO!!!), and on and on and on. HE kept the conversation going - and that's just it - it was a CONVERSATION. He paused, let her respond, and then responded to her response! I was like, WOW - (ok, Dad, I was REALLY WOW! - tee hee).

She let him decide if he wanted it all really really short or just a tad longer on top, she let him decide if he wanted her to spike it up a little or leave it just like it was. I think the only time I ever saw any trait of "Aspieness" was when the hair would fall on his face or his neck. That bothered him a bit, total sensory stuff - BUT, he never freaked. He waited, carried on conversation, until she stopped to do something else, did the shake off, and kept on talking. He was amazing. Having the shortest hair, he, of course, was done first - a fact in which he relished. That was rather convenient, as it left the door open for a teaching moment - as to why he didn't go first, because his hair was the shortest and would take only a little bit of time to cut.

Of course, we had to keep up our badness. We walked over and relished in our Frozen Dairy Delicacies at the custard stand...Heh Heh Heh

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Oh! We've Been BAD!!! (and a Father's Day tidbit)

I mentioned in yesterday's post (can you believe I've posted 2days in a row???) that PC, LargeBoy, ET & SIL were up at my in-law's summer home doing some maintenance work overnight. We can assume, of course, that they are also relaxing and finding some peace & harmony with nature while they're visiting. The kids and I, left behind because time off from my job in the summer comes very rarely (it is FORBIDDEN - but we're learning to work around it slowly), have had some time to do some real Mom, Girl & SmallBoy bonding. It's been nice. But we've been BAD. Oh, yes yes, we've been bad.

The guys left before the crack of dawn yesterday for Michigan, I went to work, and SmallBoy and Girl had a day to hang out and do their own stuff. There was no time for making dinner last night, since we had to be OT 15 minutes after I got home. Now, SmallBoy's OT is located right around the corner from a restaurant in town that makes some of the best hamburgers. Each and every time we leave OT, we can almost taste the grilling burgers as the smell floats through the air to tickle and tease and torment our olfactory senses! SmallBoy and I were hungry. I knew I didn't want to have to make dinner. Heh Heh Heh. I smell a plan in the works.

We went home, talked about what to have for dinner, fed the critters, looked in the fridge at the leftovers and decided that we'd wait for Girl to come home from softball practice to make any decisions. In my mind, I'd already decided, but wanted to feel the kids out first. SmallBoy and I grabbed our books and headed out to the porch to read until Girl arrived. She hadn't even made it up the front stairs when we both pounced on her about her ideas for dinner. Well, it didn't take long for us to decide to head back to this hamburger joint. Ok, so it's actually a nice sit-down restaurant, but you get the idea. I went to my wallet to see what it held (usually nothing), and lo and behold, I found a miracle $20 bill stuck to a receipt WAAAAAAAYYYYy in the back. SCORE!

So off we went, tummies grumbling and mouths drooling. The restaurant had a kids' menu, so SmallBoy got a cheeseburger, waffle fries, and an orange juice (he HATES carbonated drinks), I got the grown-up sized burger with provolone cheese (are you drooling yet), and Girl, well, she was sort-of controlling herself with a grilled chicken caesar salad. Girl and I were very careful to only eat half our our plates to not get overfull, and then swapped doggy bags. She already ate the rest of my burger and fries for her lunch, and I'm patiently waiting until my lunch hour to go and eat the rest of her salad....of course, we have ice cream in the freezer here, AND I caved this morning and got a chocolate and caramel muffin. Oops.

Tonight, we will behave and have leftover chicken tetrazzini. It's delicious, we just weren't in the mood for it last night (plus I'd had it for lunch yesterday). Then it's off to get haircuts (see, for us, THIS is splurging and being bad), and father's day gifts. No clue what to get my dad, we've got a real good idea for PC, but here's the kicker: for some reason, SmallBoy feels the need, the urge, the pull (not the obligation) to get something for his father. Yep, the man who has turned his back on him and only remembers he exists when his family has a party. I told him not to worry, that New Wife, I'm certain would take care of getting a gift for them. Ex never once took the kids shopping for Mother's day, Christmas, or my birthday, just expected them to have gifts appear out of thin air because God forbid he spend HIS money on me (even for the kids). For years, I always made certain the kids had a gift for their father. Last year New Wife took over that responsibility. One of the few good things she's done. But I am baffled about SmallBoy's need to make sure he has a gift for his father....I bet it's the Asperger's thing .... the "rules" say that you have a gift...ya think? It certainly isn't loyalty or love, or even respect. Hmm.... Guess we'll never know.

Oh, and to add to the badness tonight, I think we might stop at the local custard stand if we have time to kill between shopping and haircuts...oh yes...very very bad!

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

School's Out For Summer!!!!

And so far, so good! SmallBoy had a rough transition OUT of school, total lack of organization at school due to cleaning out, field trips to the park, assemblies, mass scheduled in, etc....He knew the end of school was drawing near and was already anxious about the lack of organization that comes with summer. He was having to take more time outs at school and would get angered more easily at incorrect answers, etc, much faster - BUT he also was able to tell me about them, tell me about what he did to calm down, tell me how long his time outs lasted, and tell me what he would do to keep that particular thing from happening again. WOW!!!

School ended at 10am on Thursday and by Friday, he was lost. We sat down Friday afternoon and made up a pseudo-schedule for the weekend, stressing which things we knew for certain would happen and when, and which things were still uncertain. That helped tremendously, even if it was just for the weekend, to give him a sense of structure and temporary organization. I've decided that for summer, I'm going to try to give him a schedule of {time} - not necessarily, what he should do during that time - but some suggestions, but more of a block type of schedule - 10-12, outside time (ride your bike, trampoline, roller blade, etc).

Yesterday I gave him two chores in his room: put away the clean laundry in his basket, and then refill it with the dirty clothes that were decorating his floor. I knew, however, that if I put these tasks to him in the form of jobs or chores, that I would be asking for opposition. Instead, I made them into a game. I told him that I had a great game for him to play, but that he would need to use his laundry basket for it, therefore, it needed to be emptied (granted there were only 5 or 6 things IN the basket...). The game - Laundry Basketball, simple in concept, I'm sure that without any explanation, you can visualize exactly what I mean. For SmallBoy, I explained that he would have to grab a piece of dirty laundry off the floor and shoot at the laundry basket from wherever he found the piece of laundry. He was allowed two shots- if he made it in on the first shot, he scored 5pts, the second shot was worth 3pts. If he missed both times and had to walk it into the basket, he scored 1pt. I left him a sheet of paper where he could keep score. I was excited when I talked to PC in the morning and he told me that SmallBoy had gotten up in the morning, taken his allergy medicine (without prompting), ate breakfast (without prompting), AND did his chores WITHOUT PROMPTING - and was excited about it!

I wasn't quite so organized for today, since I crashed out on the living room chair for a good two hours and then all night, heavy ZZZzzzzzz's (I've been quite exhausted - more than usual lately). I talked to Girl this morning, since she is with SmallBoy today to see if we couldn't work out something between she and I, that would keep him organized and not strictly on the computer or outside or in front of a movie all day, but would shorten that into smaller blocks, which would include a chore. She said she would come up with something and let me know. She's very good at these kinds of things!

PC, LargeBoy, ET, & SIL are up in Michigan for the next day or two doing some maintenance work on my in-law's cottage, so SmallBoy, Girl, and I are home alone - we'll have some good bonding time. Tonight starts our summer OT schedule, so I think maybe SmallBoy and I will be bad and stop for ice cream (before dinner - EGADS!) on the way home. Perhaps we'll be really really bad and order Pizza for dinner - I'm not real good at making dinner in a pinch, especially not a healthy one - I'd much prefer to spend hours on a weekend preparing a big yummo meal, but since tonight's a special night without the big guys, I think we'll be bad. Tomorrow, hopefully, much for stucture when I'm playing it all by ear like this, huh?

Monday, June 05, 2006


The last Cub Scout meeting was yesterday afternoon, finishing up an incredibly busy busy weekend. Girl had a softball tournament all weekend and had to be at the field at 7:00am both Saturday and Sunday - the field was an hour away, so imagine when we had to leave - the upside being that there was hardly any traffic. After we were finally settling into our Sunday afternoon, we remembered the Scout meeting. Exhausted, we set out. The troop went back to a forest preserve that we had met at earlier in the year when it was much colder. At that meeting, the boys became familiar with a map compass and how to read it, use the directional degree markings, and took a nice long hike. This meeting was marking the end of the year, so our Scoutmaster, Mr. G, promised the boys a hot dog grill-out if they all passed their orienteering "test" and then did one last hike for the season before going home for the summer to their video game systems. The boys were more than ready to comply and showed up with their compasses, packs, waterbottles, pencils, and orienteering skills sharpened. SmallBoy had done pretty well last time when this skill was taught, and I was hoping that the Aspie in him would remember everything. In this picture, the boys were testing their memories of the instructions as Mr. G would give them a degree reading on the compass and tell the boys to find that location and then go to it. SmallBoy did pretty well - he found his mark, but because there was a tree in that spot (where he was supposed to go), he went around the tree and continued on that course until he could go no further - see, this is the "literal" thing about Asperger's in action. We reeled him in and carried on with the meeting.

After working on the flat ground, Mr. G. took the boys up to the top of the hill and gave them two pictures with particular landmarks (the Sears Tower, a local hospital, a radio tower, and a water tower) of which they had to find the correct degree reading (called shooting an azimuth) - this was their test. He gave them a five degree margin of error because not everyone was staning in the same exact spot. I never asked SmallBoy if he needed help because I didn't want him to think that I might have thought he couldn't do it, plus, I wanted him to do it all by himself. I was fully prepared, though, for a meltdown if his answers were not within that margin of error - or worse, not exactly what Mr. G had. He took his own sweet time, and, while the others asked for help, he was determined to do it himself. He had every answer correct - most of them were exact, and one was within two degrees. He was one very happy SmallBoy - and we, PC & I, were very proud of him - because, well, we knew he could do it.

After each boy had successfully passed the test - as if any of them wouldn't have - we walked down the other side of the hill and proceed to take a nice hike through the forest preserve. A couple of the boys, SmallBoy included, heard the call of nature and went in search of the perfect tree while the rest of us waited. Mr. G took this opportunity, after the boys had rejoined us, to teach the group about how to detect poison oak, ivy, and sumac. Of course, from that point on through the end of the hike, the most popular question was, "Mr. G., is THIS poison ivy?" Thankfully that subject got changed when we found some animal tracks and they all speculated as to the animal the prints came from - AND when we were walking along the river and the boys saw trees down and limbs in the river and asked, because it was fun to say the word without getting in trouble, "Is that a dam?" We saw some more deer, which was surprising, because we were not exactly being quiet. The really great thing about seeing the deer is that the grown-ups were just as much in awe as the boys were. There's just something about seeing a wild animal up close....

After our hike, the boys ran immediately to the broken water pump, convinced they could get water from it, gave up and then went to the field and played baseball while Mr. G got the camping stove up and running and the hot dogs a-boilin'. I was a bit worried about what was going to happen when it was SmallBoy's turn at bat, gross motor skills are NOT his finest skill, and the boys were playing pitch ball. He played T-ball until last year, but this year he would have had to move up to pitch ball and this town is SO baseball crazy that if you're not "good", it's not really a pretty picture. I thought it best to wait until a sport that he would full successful at came into season. Nonetheless, his first time at bat was kind of ugly. Whiff, Whiff, Whiff, Whiff...then he got a little piece of the ball and fouled it backwards. SmallBoy ran, the boys protested foul ball, SmallBoy argued, "hey, I hit the ball." It wasn't pretty, but they all solved it themselves and none of us had to go in and intervene. His next at bat, he nailed it - hit a double. The diamond, such as it was, had a very off-kilter design: 5ft to first base, 6ft to second, 3ft to third and 4ft to was very cute. I was very very proud of my SmallBoy.

It was after 7:00 by the time we finally piled into the car. Though he was experiencing a major case of the Sunday night blues, as were the grown-ups, you can tell by his face that he had just ended this beautiful weekend on a great note and was happy as a clam. I LOVE YOU SMALLBOY.