As usual, my nieces were adorable. That is, of course, when Grace wasn't whining and Haley wasn't screaming in pain after having knocked her head against a door, or the like. I consider myself a pretty patient fellow, but I realize that I'm patient in those things I am used to being patient with: taking care of my nieces by myself, even for twenty-four hours, is like being pushed into the deep end of the pool.
Still, it was largely great fun. I didn't get as much time to hang with my sister as I'd hoped, but I did have a charming moment when the girls pulled up her shirt to inspect her tummy and to see how the baby was doing. Since for all I knew, they thought she'd give birth to Barney or to Dora the Explorer within the minute, I was a bit cautious in believing them, but that was in fact the official announcement that she was pregnant. It's still very early in the first trimester, but we'll all hold our breath and pray that the baby makes it through those first weeks. So there was a big grin on Leslie's face with that, especially as I knew they were thinking of going for another child soon, and that she had explicitly denied being pregnant when I brought it up on the phone a week earlier. She's never one to pass up a well-staged announcement, and it was quite worth it.
So I hunted buried treasure in the backyard with Grace, tried to keep Haley from climbing anything particularly reckless, and even refrained from telling them that all their [baby] teeth were going to fall out anyway during the cute moment when they took it upon themselves to teach me how to floss as I was getting them ready for bed. While I'm kind of all eager to have them grow up enough so that we can really talk about things, Haley in particular still has an absolutely killer smile and laugh – the kind you will do anything to see again – and so I'm half-inclined to wish we could keep her just like she is, forever. This hysterical breakfast where they decided they needed to tell me how funny I was was a great moment:
I came home to a fun surprise from Julie Riederer, who had dropped me a line that we'd hang out when I got back, and that she had some fun mystery activity in mind. Since we were going to compare notes about our recent Italy experiences, I had thought that she might have had some Italian restaurant in mind or hanging out at the Villa Terrace, or something similarly Italian-themed. As it turned out, she carted me off to a huge Half Priced Books (and CDs, DVDs, etc) up in the northern suburbs that I'd never heard of before. We just chattered as we browsed and picked up things, telling childhood stories of favourite books and the like, and then ended up wandering the aisles of a nearby pet store, looking at kittens, ferrets, fish, birds, lizards and the like. I don't think I'd gone into a pet store in a decade. It turned out to be just the thing to unwind after the unusual responsibilities of taking care of the nieces. I came back with L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time, Rahner's The Need and the Blessing of Prayer, and Merton's Peace in the Post-Christian Era for books, and Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith by John Williams, Huey Lewis and the News' Sports, Lyle Lovett's Joshua Judges Ruth, R.E.M.'s Out Of Time, and U2's Zooropa to fill in gaps in my music collection. I even found near-mint copies of the first two issues of the new Green Lantern which my advisor has asked me to track down and pick up for him.
Now I've got to write up my travel account. I put my digital recorder through the wash – with my 3 1/2 hours of Europe journals on it – at Leslie's Friday night, but miraculously the thing still worked after it was left to dry out for the day. I'd already downloaded and copied my journals, but still....