Monday, June 27, 2011

Unexpected Worry, Unexpected Announcement

I woke with less than normal patience for Toby's screams this morning. I was tired, achy, and grumpy. While serving the kids' breakfast I was suddenly stabbed with a pain in my lower abdomen. I froze and waited for it to pass, ten seconds, twenty seconds, and finally the pain subsided. I tried to ignore the incident and went on tending to the kids. A persistent lower backache followed, then intermittent abdominal cramping. Both are classic signs of pre-term labor after 20 weeks, or what would be termed "late miscarriage" at this point since I am 16 weeks along.

I have a history of an "irritable uterus" and plenty of preterm contractions with all my other babies, but it had never happened this early in pregnancy, or felt quite this way. After 45 minutes, I could no longer ignore it. Thankfully, it was Matt's day off today, so I left the kids in his hands, drank a big glass of water, and laid down in bed. The cramping only grew worse and closer together. I could feel my uterus tightening under my hand, and I decided it was time to call the OB. The nurse promptly instructed me to head to the ER, and my mother-in-law drove over quickly to watch the kids.

I tried not to worry, knowing that I've rushed in to the hospital with preterm contractions before, and they have always died down uneventfully within a few hours. But the nagging thought that I hadn't felt this previously active baby move for two days now kept pushing its way forward in my mind. The contractions did slowly grow less intense and farther apart as Matt and I drove to the hospital. By the time the doctor saw me I was beginning to feel silly for being there, and I rehearsed a speech to myself about how I need to stop worrying about preterm contractions.

I held my breath a little as the ultrasound tech put the wand to my belly. We saw the baby's head, and then an abdomen, and then a beating heart, and I breathed a huge sigh of relief. The tech went about measuring various body parts, but when I expressed concern that the baby wasn't moving, he jiggled my belly with the wand, and the baby startled and kicked. Feeling much relieved, I asked about the kidneys, but the tech replied that it was still too early to see them. The thought occurred to me then that the gender can sometimes be seen by 16 weeks, so I cautiously asked the tech if he could show us the gender. He obliged, and Matt and I had no trouble at all discerning that we indeed had a second son.

It was a wonderful moment, to go from such concern, to such joy in a matter of minutes. After another hour of waiting the doctor informed me that the baby was fine, but that a swab of my cervix had indicated there was a bacterial infection, and that that was likely what had caused my pain and cramping. These infections can cause late miscarriage, preterm labor, or preterm rupture of the membranes if left untreated, so I left with a prescription for antibiotics and the reassurance that I had made the right decision to seek treatment this morning.

The girls were thrilled with the announcement that another boy was joining our family. I smiled as I watched Toby straining to pick Hannah up tonight. "Oh! So high! So heavy!" he grunted as he attempted to carry her around the living room. It is good to know that boy has a brother on the way. I am still tired and a little crampy, but I don't know that I could feel more blessed.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Toby vs. Daddy Wrestling Match

Toby rode on Hannah's back today. He chased Emma mercilessly around the house, hoping to find a good tussle. But the girls wore out too easily and he actually cried when they grew annoyed and gave up the fight. I consoled Toby with the assurance that he could wrestle Daddy tonight when Daddy came home from work. He didn't forget my promise.

Matt and Toby had a good tussle before I picked up the camera. Then Matt laid down for a short nap on the couch, but Toby wasn't through with him yet. In case you've ever wondered if I exaggerate Toby's aggressive nature a little, or in case you're one of my family members who have only seen Toby when he's sick: here's the last five minutes of a Toby-Daddy wrestling match. You decide the winner.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Fast-Track to Bedtime

While pregnancy nausea has vanished, pregnancy fatigue still plagues me. The nurse at my OB appointment yesterday assured me that that was normal for "older moms." Older moms?! Good grief, I just turned 30. But I know that she has a point. I remember the surge of energy I felt carrying Naomi during the second trimester when I was 22 years old. And when I popped out of bed and strolled the hospital halls two hours after giving birth, my OB just shook his head and said, "Youth was made to give birth." Apparently I don't qualify as youth anymore.

Toby's nap time used to be my prime homeschooling and housework time. Now I've decided that school is on summer vacation and the couch is my best friend. It probably doesn't help that this tiny baby acts more like a hamster on a wheel inside me. I swear this kid is burning energy faster than I can produce it. The OB had a hard time catching the baby still enough to listen to the heartbeat yesterday.

Emma also had another recheck with the neurologist yesterday. Thankfully, Matt's mom was able to watch the other kids, which lightened my load considerably. The neurologist reported that all of the blood work for the scary brain-wasting diseases had come back normal and that we were probably dealing with a one-time brain injury that happened sometime in the past, possibly birth, and that needs to be supported with appropriate therapies to help the brain compensate. She did order a 24 hour EEG on Emma to get a better idea of just how slow Emma's brain waves are, and under what circumstances. Apparently, they will hook Emma up at the hospital with all the wires on her brain, then put a cap over it and have her carry the computer around with her that records her brain waves for 24 hours. That insane fun is coming our way this August.

Today Emma had a recheck with the ENT who put the tubes in her ears last month. He had sampled some of her nasal tissues then and felt that they showed she had allergies. So her recheck today included 40 pin-prick allergy tests on her back for various environmental allergens. Thankfully, today was Matt's day off so I was able to devote my full attention to little Emma. She amazed the technician by not fighting or shedding a single tear through it all. She hardly made a peep, but to those who know Emma, this comes as no surprise. The tests showed that she is allergic to two kinds of mold and oak tree pollen, of all the weird things.  I was just relieved that is wasn't dust and grass or something that would make me feel guilty for not vacuuming everyday. I think I can handle avoiding oak tree pollen.

Matt watched the three girls while I enjoyed a glorious two-hour nap this afternoon. Toby took a three hour nap, but wore himself out wrestling with his daddy this evening. He finished the evening by frantically running from room to room yelling, "I need my kiki! I need my sippy cup! I need milk! Oh, I'm so tired! Hurry! Hurry!" I shook my head and filled his cup and told him to go to bed if he was that tired. Instead, he ran full-force into the living room, flopped himself down on the carpet and shrieked out, "Help me! Help me! Oh, I'm so tired! Help me!" When he saw me laughing he grinned at my approval and continued to scream in terror as I helped him to his bed. The next time I want to drop over on my feet maybe I should flop on the floor and scream for someone to carry me to bed. It worked for Toby.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Those Bad Influences

Tonight at dinner my family sat together eating taco salad and watching the neighbor kids climb the magnolia tree six feet from our kitchen window. The kids looked in and waved to my kids, who were much too amused to eat their taco salad. I don't mind the neighbors climbing the trees, it seems our yard belongs to the whole neighborhood, but I was tempted to draw the blinds on them at dinner time.

"I really do like the neighbor kids," I explained to Matt after the three girls had run out to join them. Toby stood on a chair at the kitchen window and sulked at having been kept inside. "They are nice to our kids. They take the time to include them in their games. They look out for their safety. It's just that sometimes they can be pretty rude to each other, and they use language that, while not necessarily foul, isn't something I want my kids picking up. Like when they were playing baseball and they told Hannah to kick the boys' butt."

"Kick boys' butt!" Toby chirped up from his window seat. "Kick boys' butt! Kick boys' butt!"

By the time I got the courage to look Matt in the eye he was nearly in tears from laughter. "You don't want the neighbor kids to teach them that language?" he asked, "I guess you don't need them too. Oh," he sighed, "the irony."

One Mom's Trash, Three Girls' Treasure

When I laid Toby down for a nap on Saturday I noticed a pea-sized hole in his threadbare crib sheet. Apparently, after four-toddler's-worth of wear the T-shirt soft sheet couldn't hold its threads together any longer. When I retrieved Toby from his nap the hole was large enough to swallow the child. I suspect he had something to do with hastening its demise.

Today I nearly tossed the sheet in the garbage, but then I reconsidered. Three little girls eagerly set to work snipping the sheet to bits of cloth useful for jewelry, doll-clothes, and old-fashioned head-gear. My girls can spend day after day on craft projects now. Almost all of the toys are kept in the kids' bedroom, but we have an entire room downstairs devoted to homeschooling and crafts. Lately my girls have seen craft material in just about anything I try to put in the garbage. Empty toilet paper rolls, food wrappers, cereal boxes, and egg cartons now go into a giant craft-supply box, and I do my best to keep the girls supplied with construction paper, glue, and scotch tape. Last week Naomi spent three days creating an elaborate ship (the "Dawn Treader" from C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia) from two egg cartons, a few cereal boxes, and some yarn. They are their mother's girls. I seem to remember keeping a craft supply box myself and spending many good hours in creative play.

Today, after an hour of snipping and taping, Emma came to me proudly holding a mangled mass of old-sheet, elastic edging, and cardboard pieces scotched taped together. She held it up, grinning, and waited for my approving words. "Wow, Emma," I began, searching for the right praise, "you sure worked hard on that!......What is it?"

"I goh yo, (I don't know)" she answered pensively, "buh I in ih migh gur ouh goo be a gor-ay-oh! (but I think it might turn out to be a tor-na-do!"

"A tornado?!" I laughed. "You're making a tornado?"

She giggled and I giggled, and then we just laughed together. And to think, I almost put that sheet in the garbage.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Approaching Crossroads

I'm fifteen weeks pregnant today, and I've been feeling this little one flutter and kick for about a week now already. Of course it is faint, but this is certainly earlier than I've felt movement for any of my other pregnancies. If I had to place my bets, I would bet that this one is a boy, and that he's going to be a pretty good match for his big brother Toby.

Of course we won't know until the 20 week ultrasound, which is scheduled for July 19th. As the date moves closer I feel the same mix of excitement and apprehension that I felt before my ultrasound with Toby. So much is revealed at that appointment. It is like peering into the crystal ball and suddenly gaining visions of the future. In one word, "girl" or "boy," the future suddenly clarifies with pink dresses and fairy tales, or blue baseball caps and toy tractors. This is the moment so many parents can't wait for.

But for us, three out of four ultrasounds have revealed far scarier visions of the future. The most dreaded words, "echogenic kidneys" gave us a foggy glimpse of the endless blood draws, doctors appointments, strange neurological symptoms, and searching for answers we have lived out so far. And those words gesture to the hazy future still before us, filled with shadowy specters of racing to the hospital while a daughter vomits blood, months on dialysis while we search for a kidney donor, transplants, anti-rejection therapies, and early death.

At Toby's ultrasound my apprehension proved founded when the technician couldn't find his right kidney, and the fear that welled-up in me completely eclipsed what should have been a joyful moment: the announcement of our first son. So, as much as I long to know whether Toby's newest sibling will share his love of power tools or encourage his fetish with girls' shoes, I grow nervous as that date approaches. Not exceedingly so, I'm not much of a worrier by nature. I have repeatedly laid my children's lives and health in the hands of their creator, and I am at peace now with whatever he chooses to do with their lives. It is just that in that moment we stand at the divide between the sun-filled path of normal childhood, long-life, and grandchildren to come; and the shadowy, brier-lined path of disease. We are willing to hold the hand of our guide and travel either, but the heart does begin to pound as we strain to see which path he is stepping out on.

We'll reach that fork in the road in just under five weeks, and we'll walk that path when we come to it.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Remembering and Celebrating

I spent this morning looking back through some of my previous entries that spoke of our journey raising Naomi like Willing to Try, When it Rains, Be Still My Soul, and Love Without Boundaries. I wanted to remember the journey so I could celebrate our progress to the fullest. It is strange how we can cry out to God in so much pain, but when his relief comes slowly and incrementally we can so easily forget to thank him. At first we don't thank him because the relief is so little, and by the end we don't thank him because we've forgotten the pain we were once in. Today I am setting up some stones of remembrance because I do not want to forget his deliverance.

Naomi was a fearful, angry baby, unable to sleep for more than twenty minutes at a time, and utterly unable to calm herself down once a fit had begun. She was a brilliant, but withdrawn toddler. She rarely made eye contact, refused to interact with others, and stuttered severely for two years as she struggled to get out long, complex, adult-like sentences. She was thrown into wild, uncontrollable tantrums at little things like her blankets not laying perfectly straight on her bed. She was unresponsive to discipline; it did nothing to curb her compulsions or end her tantrums. She could only function in the most structured and routine environment--the exact same activities in the exact same manner at the exact same time of day. Any deviation from the norm required extensive coaching beforehand on what Naomi should expect to happen and how we expected her to behave. Routine so ruled her world that after receiving a spanking for getting out of bed several nights in a row, she began to get out of bed each night and request her spanking. It actually upset her more if we didn't spank her.

When she was one and a half she tested at the cognitive level of a three year old, and when she was two she memorized the entirety of Psalm 1 with an elementary church program, but she refused to recite a word of it with her class. At two and a half she could sing her English, Greek, and Hebrew alphabets, would listen intently as we read to her for hours, but flew into a rage at the feeling of dry rice between her fingers.

When she was three we moved to a small Christian boarding school in Iowa. The other two children her age on campus would try repeatedly to get Naomi to play with them and Naomi would refuse to answer them or acknowledge their existence. She would spin incessantly in circles whenever music started playing, and Matt would have to carry her out of the church service screaming when we asked her to stop spinning in the aisles. One time she was spinning to a favorite CD in our kitchen when I left for a campus duty, and I found her still spinning when I returned an hour and a half later. Matt said she'd been there the whole time. Every day was one discipline battle after another. Some days I wondered if I would ever enjoy my daughter or if she would forever be locked in her own, defiant world.

Light began to shine on Naomi when she was four. I think the very predictable routine of campus life along with the limited number of people she interacted with day-in and day-out began to help her. Eventually those two other kids won their way into Naomi's life and she began to talk to them, and then to play near them, and eventually to play with them. She was happy that she finally had friends. She attended an elementary level art class once a week with a very understanding teacher and began to learn the rules of classroom interaction. She learned she could help with chores like folding laundry and emptying the dishwasher, and she began to spend hours working in kindergarten and first-grade workbooks. These accomplishments brought her great satisfaction and pride, and brought a great measure of relief to us. But then she would have episodes of being utterly irrational, unreasonable, and defiant no matter the cost to her. Nothing we did could break into that world, something held her mind captive.

Naomi had just turned five when the economy nose-dived, the boarding school enrollment dropped by two-thirds, our dormitory was closed, and we moved to live with Matt's parents. This sent her spiraling backwards. We decided to enroll her in kindergarten at the nearby public school knowing that being thrown into the ocean of social interaction would either sink her farther down or teach her to swim. Naomi was sent to the Principal's office only a few days into the school year because she refused to count buttons for the teacher. Whether the buttons were an offensive shape or size, or whether the activity just seemed too pejorative to Naomi we'll never know. We met with the teacher then, and gave her some tips for working with Naomi, and the two of them "clicked" after that. By the end of kindergarten Naomi was participating in group activities (most of the time), performing in class shows, and talking to other kids in the class freely. I held my breath that spring as Naomi was approached by a new child at a playground and asked to play. Naomi looked up at the boy, said, "Sure," and ran off happily to the slide with him. I could have cried at that milestone.

Then last summer she again spiraled downward. Her joints began to hurt, her frequent stomach aches intensified, and her tantrums grew more frequent and more violent. She was getting too big for me to physically control. She broke three support boards in her toddler bed from pounding her body down on it in rage. We learned quickly to confiscate her glasses at the beginning of a tantrum. When we got bunk beds for the girls Naomi would lay on the top bunk and kick the ceiling, screaming with all her might for over an hour. We would sit helplessly upstairs and wait for it to pass. Sometimes Matt tried holding her locked in his arms as she screamed and shook and kicked and foamed at the mouth just to keep her from hurting herself or others or property. She would burst blood vessels all over her face from her intense screaming. The tantrums became almost daily, especially if the routine changed or other children were around. I became convinced that we were dealing with far more than a "strong-willed" child or a discipline issue. I pushed Naomi's doctor for more tests and that is where my blog entries pick up last September with the diagnosis of Celiac disease, the introduction of a gluten-free and casein-free diet, and the beginning of improvement for Naomi.

The blog doesn't tell it all though. I didn't really mention that the tantrums grew far worse after the first week of diet change, or that her school teachers didn't have a clue what to do with her. She was far too academically advanced for special education, but she was causing enormous disruptions in the classroom and refusing to heed discipline. The tantrums finally made their way to school, something I had dreaded happening. Once, after she had refused to pack her backpack at the end of the day, Naomi's teacher left her alone in the classroom while she escorted the other children to the bus. When she returned she found Naomi had overturned desks and tables leaving the room an enormous mess. We had to discuss signing a waiver for a special education teacher to restrain Naomi if needed.

About this time we had to admit that Naomi was no longer thriving in the public school system, Matt was able to finally find a new job, we were able to move into our own home again, and things started to fall into place for Naomi. Having our own, calm, structured environment again; letting Naomi set the pace for her learning in home school; and making a few more dietary changes have made all the world of difference for Naomi. I want to tip my hat to a friend, Marlene, who sent me some gfcf cookbooks awhile back. One of the books on special diets for Autism and ADHD treatment helped me to understand Naomi better. It talked about how children who don't improve on gluten-free, casein-free diets likely have even more foods they are reacting too. It gave the analogy of a child sitting on six tacks, and how removing two of them wouldn't lessen their pain very much. From that point I've been searching for the remaining tacks. Amazing improvements came when I removed most soy, and finally all artificial food-dyes from Naomi's diet.

I've been hesitant to announce our success too publicly, for fear that Naomi will regress again, and I will have to admit I was wrong, but at this point the evidence is indisputable in my mind. As long as the diet is followed Naomi is engaged with her surroundings, capable of thinking logically, and generally well-behaved with a sweet disposition and a big heart. When I've let Naomi have dairy she now develops dark purple shiners under her eyes and has about 24 hours of low responsiveness, irrational thinking, and defiance. When Naomi consumes food dyes she has extremely aggressive behaviors, headaches, and joint pain within one to two hours that last for a few hours to a few days depending on the amount of dye consumed.

This is what I needed to remember in order to appreciate yesterday. Yesterday Naomi and her sisters enjoyed watching me make my own food dye from mashed, strained, boiled-down cherry juice. They helped me top the gluten-free, casein-free, artificial-dye-free birthday cake with fresh cherry and kiwi slices. Naomi offered to unload the dishwasher for me as we cleaned up the kitchen together. And then we attended the first family birthday party ever that included no temper tantrums, no headaches, and no joint pain. Naomi played well with her cousins. When they irritated her she let it slide instead of launching World War III. She even played happily with a neighbor girl who came to join the party. She went to bed tired and fulfilled. There were days last year when I wondered if this day would ever come. I went to bed quietly thanking God.

...they were at their wits’ end.
28 Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble, and he brought them out of their distress.
29 He stilled the storm to a whisper;
the waves of the sea were hushed.
30 They were glad when it grew calm,
and he guided them to their desired haven.
31 Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind.
32 Let them exalt him in the assembly of the people
and praise him in the council of the elders.

--Psalm 107:27-32

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Pint-sized and In Charge

Toby's verbal skills have exploded with the gusto of Mt. Saint Helens, and his mushroom-cloud ego is threatening to fill this house. He's got his eye on being crowned "chattiest and sassiest of the Eby house," a title Hannah has held unchallenged for five years now, but she may soon have to relinquish.

"Get up, Mommy!" Toby yells from his crib in the morning, "Get up and change my diaper! I'm all wet!" I drag myself from bed to greet him and his sisters, and turn off the white noise machine in their room. "Don't turn off noise 'chine!" Toby scowls at me. "Don't wipe my bottom!" he argues as I clean him up.

After spilling a bowl of Cinnamon Chex on the kitchen floor at breakfast, he looks at the floor, disgusted, and orders, "That's a big mess! Get a broom for the floor, Mommy!" When I sweep up the crumbs, he asserts that his judgement was correct with, "See?"

He no longer watches inquisitively as I make lunch; he tells me how to do it. "Get a can opener for that can! Don't cut the strawberries! Don't put ketchup on my plate!" I know it's time to curb his little bossy tendencies, but the truth is that I still find them more amusing than annoying, especially when his commands come out a little mixed up. This morning he ordered Hannah to come to breakfast with, "Hannah! It's dinner time for breakfast, Hannah!" When we all chuckled at that he grinned with pride and yelled it again, just a little louder for effect. Glancing at me for approval he added, "I funny."

At times he loses his in-control attitude. He's developed a new fear of the roaring garbage truck that picks up the dumpster outside our back door. He actually screamed and tried to run from the truck that had quietly fascinated him just last week. And sometimes his vocabulary still hits a weak spot, like when he tripped over Emma and cried, "I fell of Emma."

Yesterday, when Matt came home from work and caught him wearing Hannah's dress shoes again, Matt sighed, "Toby, are you a girl or a boy?"

"I a pretty girl!" Toby replied, then, seeing our
laughter he corrected himself, "a...a...a pretty boy!" Next word to add to his vocabulary: handsome.

Sometimes it's hard to take him seriously, like when he pulls my socks over his hands up to his elbows and yells out, "Bye! See ooh yater! I gonna get some potatoes!" And occasionally his jargon is so cryptic I haven't a clue what he's talking about, like when I caught him with a bag of cookies and he explained, "This is my message for January." Perhaps it was his plan just to befuddle me, because I clearly couldn't punish him after such an explanation.

He knows he's got us in the palm of his hand. It's all a part of his plan to win our hearts, and he has been overwhelmingly victorious.

Summer Chop Shop

Once a year, in May or early June, the time comes to rid our house of the extra hair that has accumulated over the winter. I love my girls' long hair, but their fussing at brushing time grows with each inch on their head, and it's just too hot and impractical in the summer. I find myself dreading swimming because of all the work that goes with it and the hair combing afterward. So yesterday I put Toby down for a nap, washed three heads of hair, and started chopping.

I was quite pleased with this year's results, considering my only training is studying how the girls at Great Clips or Cost Cutters cut my hair each year. And while Matt was tucking the kids in bed last night I rewarded myself with a trip to a Great Clips $5 hair cut sale. After I buzz-cut Toby's hair today we'll be all ready for summer fun.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Nature Hike

We haven't yet gotten any window air conditioners for this house. It actually stays quite cool with all the shade around us if we can get the house cool at night. But it didn't cool down Monday night, and Tuesday it was over 90 with choking humidity. That was enough of a spur in my side for me to dig out the old, broken screen door from the basement. Someone had apparently ripped the bottom of the screen back in order to climb into a locked house. I spent a good half-hour stretching the screen and re-tacking it down properly. Then I vacuumed the cobwebs and wiped the door clean and hung it on our back door. After the addtion of a few duct-tape patches, the fresh air came in while the bugs stayed out.

We managed to live through Tuesday with the help of six fans, as long as I didn't wash any dishes, run any laundry, or cook any food. When the cool, fresh air came in my bedroom window yesteday morning, I sprang to life. I had a lot of dishes, laundry, and cooking to do! After the house was clean, I set to work baking some gf rhubarb muffins, preheating the oven, of course, while I mixed them up. After a good fifteen minutes of preheat I opened the oven and set the muffins on a cold oven shelf, then was suddenly overwhelmed by the smell of gas. The fan I had pointed on me in the kitchen had blown out the pilot light that our ancient oven depends on. I closed the oven quickly, turned it off and waited a few minutes for that round of gas to dissipate, then left the door open to let the gas out. Within a few minutes the gas smell had blown out the open windows. I called my landlady who agreed to send her husband out to light the pilot that evening (I figured I'd probably blow up the house if I tried). Then I trecked down the hill to our nearest neighbors who were kind enough to let me bake the muffins in their oven.

Seeing that my work was done, and the day was still gorgeous I announced to the kids that we'd be going on a nature hike that evening if they got all their school work done and picked up their things. School and cleanup has never gone so smoothly! We packed a picinic dinner and a bottle of bug spray, then headed out as soon as Matt got home from work.

Naomi and Hannah rode scooters while the path was paved, then folded the scooters, put them in the stroller, and walked, ran, and skipped alongside Emma and Toby riding in the red wagon. "Mommy, what's that good smell?!" Hannah asked, taking as deep a breath as her little lungs could hold.

"That's fresh air, Hannah," I chuckled, "It's trees, and flowers, and grass, and wind."

"Mmmm, it smells good!" she glowed, then skipped happily away. But her mood quickly dipped when we didn't immediately find the perfect picnic spot. "I'm so tired!" she whined. "I want to stop now. This is too much walking. Oh, oh, ohhhhh," she moaned, "I can't walk any more."

"See bicycle!" Toby announced cheefully as a rider whizzed by us, "Go fast!"

Matt agreed with Hannah that it was time to eat, so we stopped at a bench along the trail and enjoyed our dinner while we watched the other people pass by. And as soon as a little sugar hit her brain, Hannah was again basking in the glory of nature. "It's sooo pretty out here, Mommy," she swooned, "this is just the kind of dinner I like! I like to eat outside and see the flowers! Oh, thank you, Mommy for taking us on a nature hike!"

"I thought you were too tired," I probed.

"Well," she thought out loud, "I was...but now I'm happy again."

After returning to the trail head, the kids played awhile at a playground until the sun sank behind the trees, and the air turned cool. We stayed out entirely too late, and then had to bathe all the kids to rid them of bug spray. It was after 10:00 when they were finally tucked in bed, but I guess that's what summers are made of: cool evenings outside, picnics, bug spray, late bedtimes, and priceless memories.