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Monday, July 06, 2009

Fourth of July, Texas style

On Saturday morning, I woke up at 6:30 and went to Mass with Mom, but I was so tired after Mass that I just had to stay up and play Starcraft. The kids came over at about noon or so and they were all cranky. Mary wanted to be the boss (again), Timmy wanted someone to hold him and Mikey wanted some attention too, since Mary and Timmy were crying. Mom put all three down for naps, so AJ and Anya were the only two up, but even they crashed after a little bit. We decided that it would be better to leave around 3PM, and since I had foolishly played away my nap time, I decided that a power nap was better than none at all, so I laid down on the couch -- just in time for AJ and Anya and Mary to all get up and show me all the fireworks that Jimmy had brought over. I got about 5 minutes of skim sleep -- it may have been 2%, but it certainly wasn't whole, and therefore not real.

So we stopped at Sonic on the way out the door and picked up a Route 44 mango soda drink for me and a couple small slushies for AJ and Anya (I'm yawning thinking about this). The drive took an hour and a half, but the kids swear it was longer. I got AJ interested in directions. I told him we were going north on 75, so if we turned left when we exited onto highway 380, then we weren't going north anymore. He was really clever and announced that we were now going west. Anya was also awake, so Mom was pointing out this and that and the kids were oohing and aahing, but the fireworks hadn't even started yet. It was only cornfields and livestock. AJ decided that he was going to live in the country when he grows up.

When we arrived at Emma's family's house, we walked down to where the party was. Sarah had just cut her foot wide open and so Mrs. F was driving her back to get stitches, so everything was pretty well normal. Emma and Mr. F were cleaning up and setting up decorations. I helped for a few minutes, and then the kids discovered the outside toys: slides and tire swings and whatnot. Excitement ensued as they pleaded with Mom, "Grandma please push us on the swings!", "Grandma, watch me slide down the slide!", and other such requests, so she did for a while. I chased Michael around, especially when he discovered the lake. He wanted to run and explore but mean old Uncle Anthony and Grandma wouldn't let him play in the water, so he figured out other methods of getting dirty: cow patties.

Soon enough, AJ and Anya had found that the tire swings weren't much fun when Grandma was watching Mikey and Mary on the slide, so they cajoled (read: begged) their uncle into pushing them. This is where Anthony is the sucker of the Smitha family. "You want me to push you? OK." So, excitedly, they chose their tire swings and I pushed them for a while. AJ wanted the regular tire swing, so he climbed in with a bit of help, and Anya wanted one of the horse tire swings, so I picked her up and put her on it. I was watching the tree branches carefully, so I pushed them slowly at first, but that soon disintegrated into "FASTER!" and "HIGHER!". Caution was thrown to the wind (as far as they were concerned) and they were soon going about 70 degrees from their starting points from the axis of the branch. They were having a blast. Then AJ saw that Anya was having a blast on her horse swing, so he wanted to get on the other one. With a bit of help, he climbed right up, but this was the weakest of the branches (or so it looked), so I couldn't push him as high.

After about 20 minutes on the swings, Mary wanted to get on the now-vacant tire swing. She was just barely big enough to sit in the tire and grab hold on top, so I pushed her gently and she was enjoying herself immensely. So at this point, I had all three of the eldest going on their respective swings, with AJ getting the short end of the stick, because he was a bit too heavy to be pushed high. I was push Anya high, then push Mary gently, then push AJ as high as I dared, and then run back to Anya, because her trajectory had diminished. I was getting quite the run around, because these swing were about 30 feet apart, so my heart rate and breathing rate were almost at treadmill levels. My sweat and smell levels were past the unpleasant stage, I'm sure.

There were more guests around, including the McD family from St. Louis (Mr. and Mrs. McD, Allison, Lindi, Micah and Will), so I managed to talk to them for a little while. AJ started playing with several of the other boys. One of them saw me running between Anya and Mary and offered to help, so he took over pushing Anya. She said, "My uncle is better than you are." Ouch. That's some thanks. So he took over pushed Mary very gently, and I pushed Anya again. Eventually, the swinging ended, but not for long. Mary wanted to ride on the horse swing when Anya got off, so I pushed her there. She felt much more safe that way, as did I. After a few minutes of this, Anya came back and wanted more horse swing time, so she and Mary rode together. It was a little cramped, so Anya got off again, and Mary just wanted to keep swinging. I'll give her credit: she knows English well enough to know that I was trying to get her to stop, so she answered all of my "Do you want to get off/Do you want to stay on" questions very adeptly.

Dinner was chicken and corn on the cob and potato salad and pasta salad and all sorts of yummy stuff. Michael got his hands on some chicken that we got for him, and devoured it just in time for me to get a plate. But when I sat down to eat, after a bite or so, he was through and took off. So I ran after him. We explored the area next to the lake and around the lake, and in the tall grass, and all that stuff, and he wasn't interested in food until dessert rolled around. Emma was nice enough to keep the dogs away from my food (maybe they licked it a little) but when I got to it, I had just enough time to grab a couple bites and then run after Michael again. He had his dessert and was wired to go again. This time, Mom took over pretty quickly, and she eventually put him on the bench between Mr. F and me. It didn't take him long to figure out a means of escape, but he did so again, only to be reigned in my Mom for more food. This time he discovered corn on the cob, and went through a couple pieces of it.

By this point, fireworks were beginning to be set off. This was just the crackers and other noisemakers, so all the kids were exploring. AJ and Anya loved beign up close. Mary thought she did until she heard one of the explosions at 10 feet away. "GRAMMA!" came the cry and she came stumbling back, tears in her eyes, arms outstretched for the protective embrace. The people around all laughed at the pitiful sight, and I giggled as well. So Mom, who had been holding Mikey, gave him to me and picked up Mary.

I should say that we also brought Timmy. He was in estrogen heaven -- all the girls held him at some point, so he was totally happy up until he wanted food. Then the fireworks scared him, so Mom took him and Mary back to the house.

I held Mikey and Emma sat down next to me, and we lead the National Anthem and "America the Beautiful". After that, she started the soprano lien to If Ye Love Me, so I asked her to start again and I joined her with the bass line. Mrs. McD liked it. After that, there was a lot of oohing and aahing at the fireworks show. Lindi came and sat down next to us as well, and we had a small conversation about how hot I was. OK, so you saw through that one -- we talked about what a bad uncle I was.

After wrapping everything up, we drove back to the house and Mom and I and the kids left around 10PM. When we got onto 380, we stopped at a Sonic -- Mom wanted a tea and I wanted something to keep me going, so I ordered a Route 44 Coke. When that stopped working, Mary started fussing. No reason, she was just tired. But it got me going, and all of a sudden, I was becoming the Anthony you don't like. I told Mom that it makes absolutely no sense to me why anyone, baby or not, wouldn't have the sense to go to sleep when exhausted. Mom then told me that it never happened with me and Elizabeth because we were never out so late to let it happen, and she always put us to bed at a decent hour. That shed rays of hopefulness upon my future, because if she could do it, so can I.

A little over half-way back, Mary was just crying for Gramma -- don't know why, but instead of fussing, she was full-blown crying. We stopped the van to give her a blanket (Liz's shawl), and that settled her down for all of about 30 seconds, just enough time to let Timmy wake up. Then he joined the chorus, so I was getting mad at her, because she woke up Timmy. But I managed to keep it more-or-less under wraps, until Mikey heard the choirs of "angels" singing and added the tenor line. So, Mom managed to give Timmy his bottle and he settled down. Hearing the boy soprano quit whining, the tenor decided that he didn't want to sing with just the alto, so he left off, and Mary decided that he solo wasn't loud enough, and voiced her disapproval that Grandma was taking care of anyone else but not her. I love that little girl, but she can be soooo trying on my patience.

When we made it home, all the kids swore up and down that they weren't tired and the 3-part dissonant harmony we heard in the car turned into a 5-part Britten opera, but not even 2 minutes after AJ, Anya, Mary and Mikey's heads hit their respective pillows did the dirge end. I had begun the process of feeding Timmy, but he didn't want his bottle, so I just held him and he threw his head around, attempting to get comfortable, and smashing up my head (and comfort) in the process. Mom then discovered that the formula in his bottle had gone bad -- which would be why he didn't care for it. So she fixed him a new bottle and he chowed with the greatest eaters of history. Then he also went to bed and all choirs were silent for 8 hours.

I think that's the first time that Mom has gotten a full night's sleep in some time when all 5 kids are here.
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