- Grace winning the Best (Home-made) Jersey at her soccer camp, with a really quite striking design for the South African team, which she and Haley decided to support because they had made the first goal of this year's World Cup.
- Haley and Grace's anticipation building as we read our way toward the conclusion of Laura Ingalls Wilder's By the Shores of Silver Lake: Would Pa successfully make the claim for their homestead or not? After I had explained what a claim and what 19th century homesteading were, tensions ran high at bedtime reading time!
- Sophie grabbing me to play games that she told me she really loved playing, even when she was clearly making them up on the spot.
- Babysitting Sophie on Tuesday (or was it Wednesday?) while Grace and Haley played at their friend Megan's after soccer practice so that Leslie could take the afternoon off and "cash in" Jim's birthday present for her of a spa day. I love being able to give Jim and Leslie just some kind of gift of time for themselves and for each other when I visit.
- Attending the Fifth Annual Dual Birthday Party for Grace and Haley (since Haley's first birthday party was Leslie's traditional big First Birthday party as a social debut for the extended family).
- Haley the Artist flushed with satisfaction at taking a particularly charming and successful portrait of Sophie and me at Grace's baseball game on Thursday.
- Giving Grace an officially final ride on my shoulders, as I'm not supposed to do that kind of lifting, even though she thinks that rides of that sort are her right as my niece.
- Seeing Jim's brother John, his wife Natalie, and the three "niece-cousins," who moved off to Michigan a few years ago: I miss seeing all six girls together in a swarm, and that lot are fun in their own right.
- Talking down at the basement bar with John before the Saturday dual birthday party about medical infomatics, iPads and Kindles and pads in general, and the advantages and disadvantages of electronic books, until he and Natalie left after the party for the CSO's performance of Beethoven's 9th, which I still haven't seen performed live.
- Sophie having a Hawkgirl renaissance on Monday that lasted for several days following: I was under instructions to draw Hawkgirls for her to colour, berated for not bringing "superhero comics" for her to read (or have read to her), and firmly told on Wednesday while playing soccer in the backyard that I should not be addressing her as "Sophie" because she was Hawkgirl. I, I was told, was Doctor Fate, who I had confessed to her the day before was a particular favourite of mine, although she wavered on calling me Green Lantern instead, because I was wearing a Green Lantern t-shirt. Having seen and apparently been impressed by Doctor Fate's distinctive mystical helmet, she pushed a box down over her head and announced that, while wearing it, she was Doctor Fate. Except for when she wanted the box to be Hawkgirl's helmet. When I asked her on Monday if she would like me to buy her a Hawkgirl costume, she nodded and then, with all the oddity and earnestness of a three year-old, took me aside, and showing a certain caution to make sure her parents couldn't hear because she clearly knew she was Up To Something, asked me, "Can you buy me a mace?" I'm sure my sister loves me all the more for doing this to her daughter.
- Babysitting the girls with Dad on Saturday so that Jim and Leslie could take in the Cubs game and dinner by themselves. Too bad the game was a poor one and they missed the Stanley Cup and Blackhawks showing up the next day.
- Taking a walk around the block Saturday or Sunday night with Grace and Haley as Leslie was putting Sophia down for the night. With the ground so moist from the rain that had recently fallen, there were lots of mushrooms growing in the lawn. We picked a few varieties, and then put them on paper for the night to get spore prints, and I explained how that was a significant part of identifying them. We then perused www.mushroomexpert.com for some time, amazed together at how much variety there was, and how difficult such identification could be. I was a bit overwhelmed, too, and my impromptu "science lesson" got immediately quite scaled back, to where actually completing an identification of the species we found was no longer so important. This worked out, as their attention spans seemed to be giving out anyway, when we talked about it the next day.
- Haley continuing to give me grief if I even appeared to be considering taking a picture or video of her, but nevertheless glowing with pleasure when I said how much pictures of them meant to me when I was far away from them.
- All the girls decided to give me grief after seeing the older pictures I had sent to Grace as part of her email "birthday card" last week. Because I had had long hair, I was a hippie, and no nuancing I could offer on longer hair styles and what constituted being a hippie were accepted. "You're a hippie!" Haley yelled in response.
- Sophie was unaccountably excited about my spelunking days, and for a few days made me return more than once to look at my online photo album for pics from caving trips I led for LOMC back in 1989 with Juli and in 1990 with Diane and with Cheryl. These were all mostly of Lone Hill Onyx Cave in Missouri, and the pics got better as I figured out more each trip about shooting in those conditions. I then found a YouTube video from January 2010 of a trip into the heavily-vandalized cave (I had used it as a lesson in cave conservation) which Sophie and I then watched together, with her enduring it despite her odd distaste or pseudo-fear of video, and me enduring the bad music selections this kid had put onto the footage. It was strange to recognize parts again that I didn't have in my own photo collection.
- Talking Everwood characters and storylines with Mom as she had just finished watching the second season DVDs.
- Sophie was also quite interested in "lightning bolts" after looking at one in an I Spy book (of which we read/played through many this week), and so we talked storms some, with me hoping I could help her get on to the Midwesterner stage of thinking our huge thunderstorms were more fun to watch than scary (providing no one gets hurt): just like a natural fireworks display. So when the huge storm cell came through on Friday night, knocking out power for over 300,000 in the Chicago area, I was hoping she was getting a kick out of actually seeing a lightning bolt for real out one of the windows. No such luck: the girls were scared and Leslie was distracting them with play in the basement. Someday.... At least I had a cool time watching it with Mum.
Personal: Notes on Visiting the Nieces; Bob's Sudden Arrival
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