Worth Doing

Bob and I have this sort of unofficial algorithm we work through every time we consider taking our three children out in public. It looks something like this:

Does the destination offer room for the kids to run around without disturbing others? And, when that fails (which it will), can it accommodate a stroller?

+

What decibel level can the baby’s shrieking reach before other people become visibly uncomfortable?

+

Does it offer anything for the kids to climb on? (Extra points if it’s some kind of artillery.)

+

Can we go there and not lose even one of our children? (And, lest you think I’m being dramatic, there was a visit to a very crowded Amish market earlier this month that tested this in earnest.)

=   All factors weighed, we end up with a score on the official How Tired Are We? scale that we use to determine if whatever it is we want to do is worth doing.

Using the above equation means we’ve been hanging out at a lot of battlefields since we moved to the Richmond area. The good news is, there is no shortage of Revolutionary and Civil War heritage sites to tour around here. The bad news? We feel we may be instilling a zest for war in Charlie.

Eager to spotlight something other than cannons, we headed through the mountains this weekend to the Frontier Culture Museum in Staunton, Virginia where we found something most definitely worth doing.

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The museum consists of a series of working farms representing different countries and time periods throughout history. It could not have been more fun. We traipsed through 17th century England, 18th century Ireland and 19th century Virginia. Most of the buildings are original and have been painstakingly transported great distances to be reassembled onsite at the museum.

I'm not going to lie. Ireland in the 1700's didn't smell very good.

I’m not going to lie. Ireland in the 1700s didn’t smell very good.

Each farm has docents working in period costumes doing period things. Like blacksmithing, baking, weaving and sweating. Henry had lots of thoughtful questions for them and managed to stump a couple of “colonists” when he asked where the firefighters and police officers lived (because: safety!). The kids really had a great time with loads of room to run and so many things to hold their attention. Millie only had one meltdown and it was mostly because she was cornered by an alarmingly large number of chickens in 18th century Germany’s barnyard.

I tried to convince Bob we should take this home.

I tried to convince Bob we should take this home. I mean, we have a minivan!

I think the best part of the whole outing was seeing Charlie with 1850s Virginia farm lady. In the spirit of the times, she announced there was work to be done! Down at the barn! Charlie offered to help feed the pig and the chickens and by the time we caught up, she had hoisted him over the fence and was carrying him all around the pasture feeding the sheep as well. Charlie can be… hard to resist.

This woman could not have been nicer. Or sweatier. Just look at those layers!

This woman could not have been nicer. Or sweatier. Just look at those layers!

In summary, you should go here. If not for the history, then do it for the golf carts you can rent and drive from farm to farm. I’m pretty sure that’s the only part the boys are going to remember from this adventure, anyway.

Afternoon Tea

It’s been hot here. Really hot. I’m pretty sure it’s been hot near you, too. When the heat index broke 100, I started craving something extra thirst-quenchy (possibly not a word). Plus, when the afternoon rolls around and I’ve been dealing with an entire morning of this, a beverage with a caffeine boost is appealing.

I have very fond memories as a kid of my mom making a kind of sweet tea during the summer and I texted her for the recipe. It’s not like The South kind of sweet tea which, since I live here now, seems to be super sugary and strong. More like a modified and dignified Midwest kind of sweet tea. It’s very refreshing and light.

I definitely don’t remember my Mom making this tea available often. I think, as with all things containing sugar, she doled it out sparingly. That and the caffeine. Always wise to keep kids you have to hang out with all day long away from the caffeine.

(Makes sense now that I’m thinking about it since I’m writing this wide awake at midnight. So, you know, make this decaf if regular sleep is more your thing.)

ANYWAY, here is the recipe for my Mom’s Slightly Sweet Tea. Which, as it turns out she tells me, came from one of her friends from Ohio. So, here is the recipe for my Mom’s Friend’s Slightly Sweet Tea (possibly not punctuated correctly).

Bring 4 teabags* in 2 and 1/2 cups cold water to a boil

Turn to low and steep for a few minutes

Add 2/3 cup sugar and stir until dissolved

Cool and then add 2 quarts water and the juice of 1 lemon

Served in a mason jar for extra hipster-ness but ironically not hipster at all because it was purchased at the Pottery Barn outlet.

Served in a mason jar for extra hipster-ness but ironically not hipster at all because it was purchased at the Pottery Barn outlet.

* My sister says this is better with green tea but she’s older than me and probably just trying to be bossy so I’m sticking with regular tea.

**My other sister (still older than me/no blog) would find a way to add spirits to this and that’s why she’s a really good sister to have.

Getting Along

I remember thinking when Labor Day arrived last year that the summer had not been nearly as awful as I had imagined it would be. I had fully expected the months of school-less-ness to drag on interminably, full of bickering and hollering between the boys fueled by a boredom that an entire playroom’s worth of toys couldn’t extinguish.

As it turned out, Charlie, at just over three-years-old, was game for anything Henry wanted to do. He held a lot of admiration for his big brother. And, Henry was happy to lead the charge. They played and laughed and managed to get along rather famously.

Sticks! Sticks are always fun!

Seen here in better times. Also, playing with spare lumber from the shed.

This summer is just like last summer but only totally different. Turns out, Henry and Charlie actually disagree about everything! Charlie turned four, realized he was entitled to an opinion and uses it to contradict Henry at every turn. Just because he can. Henry, for his part, has matured to the point where tolerating little brother antics is less entertaining than it used to be. He’s busy. Those Lego cities don’t build themselves.

They are fighting constantly these days. They fight over what to play. What not to play. Who should be cleaning up. Who cleaned up the least. Who simply pretended to clean up. Who is taking up the most room on the sofa. Whose foot came within three feet of someone else’s eye. Who got the fuzzy blanket. Who was left to shiver in the air conditioning like a dog.

Even though I knew the day was coming, I still find myself surprisingly unprepared for just how MUCH they argue. There are times when they are arguing about something so incredibly ridiculous that I can’t even parent my way out of it. I just stand there, my brain firing error codes, unable to form a cogent directive that will diffuse the situation. Because, honestly, if you bait your brother into wrestling with you and then take an elbow to the back, who is the victim here?

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Present day. You can just SEE Charlie dripping with animosity.

The worst part is, I know it’s only going to get worse. Especially with Millie now old enough to stir the pot. She delights in terrorizing the boys by destroying what they’ve created, “telling” on them by simply pointing in their direction and crying at the same time or just grabbing toys directly from their hands and making a run for it. My days are now filled with the sing-songy chorus of the boys yelling, “MILLIE SERTH! NO!” Followed quickly by her maniacal laughter. I guess she at least unites them in their righteous indignation, silver linings and all.

So, I guess my point here is, is this why people only have one kid?