I woke up this morning with a tingling burst of schoolgirl excitement.
Today is the beginning of my “birthday octave” – the eight days before and the eight days after my birthday. The two week period where I get special treatment and goodies from my family – little things like breakfast in bed, dishes being done with having to ask anyone and delightful little trinkets at the most unexpected times.
We love to celebrate and entertain in my family. A LOT. And with so much celebrating, I cook. A LOT. The kitchen to me is such a passionate room, a magical place where bright colors and delicious smells, heavenly taste and animated conversations take place. Where promises are made, secrets are told and the bonds of friendships are strengthened – over good food and drink. Where individuality expresses itself in all sorts of flavors.
And where messes made by five kids are the easiest to clean up.
This morning’s mess came compliments of some science experiments (I am hoping it was NOT a breakfast-in-bed attempt for me) gone slightly askew…complete with cooked rice, raw eggs, Hershey’s chocolate syrup and shampoo. It dripped off my table and landed in odd lumps on my kitchen floor. And five little girls pointed to one another, halos perfectly in place – no one accepting blame, but no one tattling, either.
Randi’s quest for our perfect house continues. One that she found for us in Myrtle Beach seemed absolutely perfect. Situated right on a lake, all five bedrooms in the house had views of the water – and spacious rooms with cathedral ceilings and delightful attention to detail everywhere. Everywhere, that is, except for the kitchen – which was slightly larger than a galley kitchen. And no matter how much Randi tried to convince me that once I saw this house, the kitchen wouldn’t matter. I respectfully had to disagree – it made all the difference in the world.
“It’s got an enormous dining room,” she tried reasoning with me, “and you have five daughters to bring the food out and clean-up afterward for you. Or… maybe “Mr.Muscles” will help you out.”
She was referring to the handsome guy I frequently saw jogging on the Myrtle Beach Boardwalk webcam. He was usually dressed in blue and white and his sighting was what prompted me to Skype Randi so early in the first place.
“He’s out there again!” I practically screamed at her as she answered my call, “but this time, he’s all in black. GET YOUR WEBCAM ON!!” We watched him run down the boardwalk and then, for a while down the beach, close to the water. Eventually we lost sight of him.
“Are you insinuating I’ll make him Sausage Cheese Grits?” I asked in feigned shock as I threw away the last of the dirty paper towels from my sticky mess.
“Just don’t make him – don’t make anyone - your meatloaf.” She was right…I make a really awful meatloaf.
I was looking through an old photo album – I am having a hard time packing those up. As I say good-bye to the places I have known for most of my life, memories are pirouetting through my mind like perfect ballerinas, and I want to honor each an every one of them. This particular album had some pictures from summer camp in the Catskills.
For two weeks almost every summer, I went to Latvian camp (Nometne Katskili). All my days there were really fun, and one of the things I remember best were the scavenger hunts through the forests. Mostly we had to search for rocks – spray-painted gold – and scattered cleverly among the fragrant pine needled path, or tucked slyly into a tiny crevice at the base of birch trees. The boys would hide in the bushes watching us, and we would pretend not to notice. The winning team of the hunt would get a special treat or dispensation from camp duties for a day.
And then came the Friday night dances. We would dress up in the pretty dresses we had kept meticulously hung up and far away from our smelly footlockers filled with the ripe sports clothes from the previous week – and we did our hair in curls – before nervously going to the decorated hall where the boys were already waiting.
There, they noticed us and we noticed them.
Some years, we had it outside and those years were especially magical. The stars up in the mountains seemed so close, so vibrant and we reached for them as we giggled and whispered all sorts of wishes to each other, our fingers trying to touch the twinkling through the velvet blackness. And time seemed to stand still.
I have carried over the tradition of scavenger hunts into my children’s lives – a LOT. We do them for birthdays, name days, special occasions, rainy days and even as part of their school lessons. Except mine come with clues – sometimes rhyming ones, sometimes riddles, sometimes in Polish, sometimes in Latvian, a lot of times in mathematical code and occasionally, when I’m really feeling ambitious, I draw out them out.
Right on cue, as I sat crossed-legged on the sleigh bed in my guest room, with the photographs in the album seducing me back into my past from their shiny sleeves, my three-year old’s screams dragged me back to reality.
“Mommy?? Mommy!!?? MOMMY!!??? Why do we have baby monstews in ouw ‘fwigewatow??!!!!! Get them out, Mommy. Mommy?? MOMMY?? Get them out!!!”
At this point in the game, I’m pretty much prepared for anything, and I could only assume she was referring to the four-pack of Monster energy drink I have for emergency use – like pulling an all-nighter – to get work done. I am, however, positive that if that was indeed the case, which I knew it was, I knew exactly which older sister played a role in scaring her like that.
What I was NOT prepared for was the subsequent scream from my eight-year old, Daughter#3, coming from the third floor before I could even go near the ‘fwigewatow.
“MOMMY!!! WHY does she have an earbud stuck up her nose?”
I ran up yet another flight stairs and bounded into Daughter #1’s bedroom, where everyone was pointing. And sure enough, there sat my lovely thirteen year old, one earbud protruding from her left nostril, the other earbud in her ear.
OK, I did not have an answer for this one. And I just stood there, feeling my face taking on a quizzical look. I was speechless. I really, really, really hoped there was a reasonable explanation.
“Oh my God, Mommy!” my oldest child looked at me in disbelief, “it says here that if you put one of these in your nose, the music will come out your mouth!” (Phew. At least there was a “reasonable” explanation.) “It has to be legit! I read it online!”
By the time I was done explaining to her that it was probably not a good idea to be doing things like that (and reminding her what happened when her younger sister had stuck a bead way up her nose and we had to go to the doctor), I heard a “pop” and then the sound of liquid pouring. And then I heard the same pattern of sounds repeated.
At this point, I think I need a broomstick to fly from floor to floor to handle all the emergencies. Getting to the kitchen, my littlest was making all the “baby monsters” go away. She did not want them in the ‘fwigewatow near her chocolate milk. So, she was dumping them down the drain. Rather sloppily, too – making puddles around the legs of the chair she was kneeling on so she could reach the sink.
Wow…and it’s my birthday octave. Is it time for my scavenger hunt and presents yet??