Thursday, July 30, 2009

I was watching "America's Funniest Home Videos" last night for a little dose of humor, and they showed this video of a terrified kid on one of those giant swing rides where they strap you in and you bounce way up high...he was clutching the seat for dear life with his eyes closed and shouting to himself, "I'm okay I'm okay I'm okay I'm okay!" as he bounced up and down.

I was thinking about that in the car today and it made me laugh all over again, because I feel like every time I check in here at my blog I'm reassuring myself in a way, "I'm okay, I'm okay!" Right now this blog is more for my own comfort than anything else.

I felt a little tiny bit like I was on that swing ride as I rushed around this morning--going to the doctor (he says I'm healing up great) and trying desperately to find bras that pinch my sutures as little as possible (not possible) and looking for a tiny wheelie bag that I can carry on or check, whichever seems easiest, and oh yes, meeting Todd at the body shop to drop off the car on his lunch hour because we're having car repair issues in the midst of everything. And it's about 180 degrees outside this week, and humid. And of course, I'm thinking abut my grandma and my mom and my aunts and hoping they're all doing okay.

None of it is a big deal at all, except the sad stuff, but when it happens all at once, it feels a little overwhelming. But I'm okay!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Well, I've given it some thought and decided to fly home for Grandpa's funeral. I think it's something I will be sorry to miss out on if I don't go.

So I'm flying out Saturday morning and coming back Monday night. (The funeral is on Sunday.) Shouldn't be too difficult, and I have a few more days to heal up between now and then. The doctor says it's fine to go, so I will.

Here's the link to Grandpa's obituary in today's paper.

Ira Eber Martin, 91, of Columbiana passed away at 12:22 p.m. Tuesday, July 28, 2009, at the Ivy Woods Care Center in North Lima, where he had resided for the last three months. Prior to that he had resided on Renkenberger Road, Columbiana.

Ira was born March 1, 1918 in Wayne County, Ohio, the son of the late William and Anna (Lehman) Martin.

In earlier years Mr. Martin raised laying hens and sold eggs on a retail route in Youngstown. He later owned and operated Martin's Auto Body Shop from his home for 25 years and also worked at G.M. Lordstown plant from where he retired in 1979.

He was a member of the Midway Mennonite Church in Columbiana.

Ira enjoyed walking in the woods, hunting, fishing and observing nature. He also liked reading, traveling, classical and sacred music as well.

Ira is survived by his wife, Martha (Weaver) Martin whom he married on Jan. 21, 1943. He is also survived by daughters, Naomi "Molly" (John) Hostetler of Columbiana, Lucille (John) Clark of Washingtonville, Charlotte (William) Beck of Berlin Center, Kathy (Bill) Schroedel of Silver Lake, Carol Moser of Austintown; sons, Lowell (Doris) Martin of Strasburg, Colo., Ronald (Patty) Martin of Warren, Lawrence (Lucia) Martin of Leavittsburg; 16 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.

Mr. Martin was preceded in death by one sister, Mary Martin, and two brothers, Daniel and Harvey Martin.

Services will be held at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 2, at the Midway Mennonite Church in Columbiana, Ohio.

Friends may call 6-8 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 1, at the Seederly-Mong & Beck Funeral Home, Columbiana, and also one hour prior to the service Sunday, Aug. 2, at the church.

Family suggests material contributions be made to Midway Mennonite Church, 13376 Columbiana-Canfield Road, Columbiana, OH 44408.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Sad news.

I got a call today that wasn't unexpected but still made me cry. My Grandpa Martin passed away this morning.

He was 91 years old and lived a very long and full life. And the past three or four years, his health, his mental health in particular, had greatly deteriorated. I know that now his mind and his spirit are at peace.

When we were home a few weeks ago, he was living in a mental hospital and was rapidly going downhill. I chose not to visit him then because I wanted to remember him the way he was when we were home the year before, when he had just moved into an assisted living facility and was in one of his "good" periods.

He was whizzing down the hall on his motorized scooter and telling everyone he passed, "This is my granddaughter and her husband, from Virginia!" He had shown us all the birds at the feeder outside his window, too. It was a moment of good spirits for him, in a time of what had become increasing anger, anxiety, and irrationality. I am really glad to be able to remember him in that moment of time.

I'm sad that he is gone, but also very sad because I don't think I am going to be able to make it home for the funeral. I am feeling okay for being a week post-surgery, but not okay enough, I think, for a plane flight home. I've been sitting here trying to think it through for a few hours now. I want to be there very much.

Monday, July 27, 2009

One week with new boobage.

So one week ago at this time, I was sitting in the recovery room at the hospital feeling very grumpy and dazed.

I weigh seven pounds less than I did a week ago, four pounds of that being breast tissue and the other three from not having much of an appetite most of the time.

I discovered that Wal-Mart is THE place to go for soft squishy bras--and that Todd is an awfully good sport to go there and come home with an armload of them for me to try. I hope he didn't get weird looks from the checkout girl.

Actually, Todd is an awfully good sport in general...he has hosed me down in the tub, washed my hair for me, helped me try on bras, checked to make sure things were looking okay when I was too grossed/freaked out to check for myself.

Right now I still have dissolvable stitches inside me, and a whole train track of incisions being held together with steri-strips all around and over the place. Hence the need for very soft bras. My job now is just to wait for everything to heal and for the steri-strips to fall off, which could take anywhere from 2-4 weeks.

I am really glad to have this first week over with! I'm feeling very unusually sore today for some reason...I don't know if I overdid it yesterday (but how can you overdo it when you're sitting on the couch?) or if I slept weird last night but I stretched something that didn't want to be stretched, that's for sure.

It's a little bit hard to be patient with the soreness and the tiredness, and with not being able to do everything I want or even need to do, and with being generally quite bored, as I still seem to be unable to concentrate on a book for any length of time.

On the other hand, I am just so grateful that everything has gone so smoothly, the surgery, the recovery, everything has been better and easier than I dared to hope it would be.

Off to find some lunch!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Out in the world.

My friend Cheryl took me in to get my stitches taken out today and then took me for lunch at Red Robin--aah! Sunshine! People! Activity! Conversation! And salad! What a pleasure!

Now all I have to do is sit back and relax until my check-up next Thursday. And try not to itch. And maybe go out and search for a bra that fits right. And getting a decent night's sleep would also really help.

I keep having these very long, involved, intense dreams with lots and lots of detail and storyline...I'd blame the pain pills, but I seem to have them no matter whether I've taken a pill or not. So my nights generally run like this:

Sleep for an hour or two, get up to pee, look at the clock and heave a sigh, lay back down. Wake up after a dream that feels like a Cecil B. DeMille movie (hours long with a cast of thousands,) get up to pee, look at the clock and blink in disbelief because it's only an hour since the last time I got up. Go downstairs, put in a movie, lay down on the couch and repeat the process for the rest of the night. Urgh, it's tiresome.

And a couple of the dreams have been really upsetting--there was one about the death of someone I love very much, which seemed to go on FOREVER and was so real, I still feel like maybe it happened, in the back of my mind.

So it would be great to lay down on my tummy and sleep hard the whole night through with no dreams, and wake up feeling rested. But other than that, and the itching, I am doing awesome. The sore throat's mostly gone, and everything is as it should be with the girls. Thanks, Cheryl, for getting me out of the house today, I really needed it!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Drains are OUT, what a relief! I am not one to use exclamation points all willy-nilly, but I'm going to throw in a few more to show how much better it feels to have those things gone--!!!!!!!!!!

Tomorrow I go to get my stitches out, too.

I have a bad sore throat. I think it's from having the tube down my throat while I was out, and also from sleeping on my back with my mouth hanging open in the air-conditioned house...if y'all could cross your fingers that it will go away fast and not develop into something unpleasant...? I would so appreciate it! I'm going to ask at the doctor's tomorrow about it, too, maybe it's one of those common things. No fever, it just hurts when I swallow. I'm drinking lots of fluids, so I'm swallowing a lot.

The girls are getting itchy as all get out, which is a good sign, from what I've read.
The doctor barely gave them a glance today, so I assume that means they're okay. At least he didn't recoil and gasp in horror, right?

I'm still tired and sleeping every chance I get--and very bored in between. Lots of crosswords getting done here, and not much else. I seem to have just about enough brain capacity to fill in letters on a crossword puzzle, but not enough to read anything more demanding than a magazine or a book I've already read before.

I can't say enough how grateful I am for all the love and concern I've gotten by way of Facebook, the phone, the U.S. mail, and face-to-face, too...thank you all so, so, SO much. I am really doing great and still feeling amazingly good.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Doing good, just very tired today and the drains are still giving me a lot of pain and discomfort. But I get to go in tomorrow to have them taken out, rather than Friday, so I'm pretty happy about that.

I pulled out all the extra padding and gauze from my bra today and got a look at the girls for the first time--yeesh. My out-loud pep talk to myself went something like this: "Okay, slowly, slowly, there we go, oh ick ick ick, don't look at that, oh yuck that's nasty, ow ow ow, okay now hold that and now pull that and here we go and close it back up. Whew!"

They can only get better looking from here, let's just put it that way!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Still doing well.

Everything's still good here. The only real pain/bother I'm having is with these stupid drains. When they start to hurt too much, I just take a Percocet and have a nice little nap, and then awake feeling quite good and alert. It's nice to have the alertness between the naps, rather than feeling drugged up all the time.

I've got a frozen dinner in the oven and Todd will be home from work soon and maybe we'll watch a little "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" tonight. Things are good.

Monday, July 20, 2009


I am home and not doing too bad at all. I was feeling pretty awful when I came out of surgery, and in recovery, and on the drive home, and for about an hour after I got home. Then the Percocet kicked in and I have been having a series of nice naps, broken only when my snores wake me up.

I hate sleeping on my back, because of the snoring, and because I never feel like I get into the deep, good sleep, but I'll be having to put up with that for a while.

I'm not sure what I did in Acute Recovery when I was waking up, but when the nurse wheeled me into regular Recovery, she announced, "Here's Ms. Clark, the wildcat!" She was laughing, but yikes! She told me I pulled off my oxygen mask and threw it at her. I can also remember repeatedly trying to sit up and people pushing me back down. I always seem to wake up from anesthesia in a bit of a panic, I'm not sure why.

They were really good to me, though, fetched me my mints from my purse and made sure I had plenty of water and ginger ale to drink and Saltines to eat. I was feeling extremely queasy and terrified that I would throw up and/or dry heave, which would have been painful, to say the least.

The only part that really distressed me was how uncomfortable the post-op bra was, and the fact that I have (avert your eyes if you're sensitive) these drains inserted with crazy long tubes that run to these squeeze bulb thingys that we're supposed to uncork and drain off a couple times a day, measuring the fluid each time. They are super unwieldy--I got my hand caught on one of the tubes and almost pulled it out by accident--and I have to walk around with them sticking out of me till Friday. Not real happy about that.

But once we'd gotten home and I'd had my first Percocet nap, I looked at the bra and realized they'd gotten it onto me completely crooked, plus the straps were twisted. So we unfastened it and got it moved into place, and then rearranged the drains and taped the tubes down to the bra. Much better and much more comfortable.

This is probably way more detail than anyone wants! But it feels so good to be sitting upright and thinking lucid thoughts!

Now, I really can't tell how much "smallening" has taken place yet. I'm padded with gauze and swollen up and draining off fluid. (Yucko.) Todd says there's a big difference. My neck feels better than it has in years, though, so that's encouraging!

Thanks for the phone calls and the good thoughts...I really appreciate it. If anyone catches me during a lucid moment, I may be ready to have a phone conversation, otherwise Todd will field them. Right now my wish is for Friday to come fast. I look like I'm ready to get hooked up to some demented milking machine...with really horrible-looking milk. (Yucko again.)

See y'all later.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Only half a cup, please.

I'm signing in to say I'll be away for a few days at least. Very, very early Monday morning I'll be heading in for what the hospital calls "bilateral breast reduction mammoplasty" but which I am referring to as my "boob-smallening" surgery.

I'm nervous. I've been thinking seriously about this procedure for two years, and I feel very strongly that it's the right thing to do and the right time to do it, but I'm still nervous. Hospitals are really not a place I ever like to go. When you're generally an anxious person anyway, having something to legitimately feel anxious about (as opposed to all the improbable ridiculous things you normally feel anxious about) is unpleasant.

However, my word for 2009 is "pursue," and that's what I've been trying to do, so right now I am pursuing a life with less pain and hopefully better health, too. And smaller, cuter bras!

This past week, I cooked and froze a ton of meals so that I don't have to cook for at least a week after the surgery. I washed every piece of clothing in the house so I'll have plenty of clean things to wear. Today my goal is to pull as many weeds as I can so that the flowerbeds don't revert completely to jungle while I'm recovering, and give all the rooms a fast de-cluttering and polishing and wiping-down.

I don't know how long it will take me to feel better after the surgery, but I'm figuring on at least a week before I can do the general household stuff again, and probably longer before I can get out and garden or walk in the park. Not sure what to expect, really. But I wanted to be prepared with food and laundry!

So I will check in when I can type again--whenever that will be! Probably not too long. Wish me luck!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Auction madness.

"When you come along to auctions with me, it's always fun. Because I never know exactly what you're going to do."

Thus spoke my husband this afternoon. And he's right. Strange things often happen to me at auctions. I bid on weird things, or get carried away and bid on everything in sight. Or both.

This one seemed very straightforward. It was an estate auction at a home on Lynnhaven Inlet in Virginia Beach. There was nothing there I was very interested in; I was just going along so I could spend the day with Todd. There was an anvil there that he wanted, and some old hand planes, which he collects.

Once I got there and walked through the house, I was even less interested. The house was about 40 years old, and it looked (and smelled) like an incontinent elderly person, and possibly one or two incontinent elderly dogs, had lived there without any type of housecleaning service for a very long time. It also smelled like it had possibly been flooded during Hurricane Isabel and never fully dried out. And apart from a few very nice old pieces of furniture that I couldn't have gotten because I have no room for them, I didn't see anything that floated my boat.

After Todd missed out on the anvil (thus ensuring a continuation of the Great Anvil Quest he's been on for about fifteen years) and picked up a small hand plane and a very heavy vise (which was spelled "vice" several times in the auction catalog, which prompted me to ask Todd whether he had bought Lust, Gluttony, or Sloth), we decided to run out for some breakfast and then come back once they got to the house items, because Todd had found two more large hand planes buried in a wooden box in the attic.

When we got back, we stood around in the house and watched various things get sold. The furniture all went for dirt cheap, which was painful to watch. Auctions always make me wish I had a bigger house so I could scoop up the bargains!

I was standing in the living room, looking through the passway into the kitchen, when I saw that someone had left the cabinet doors above the stove open, and there I saw this large bowl:

I hadn't seen it before when I peeked through the kitchen cupboards, probably because it was up so high and I am freakishly short, as I believe I've mentioned before. I couldn't see it too well, but I could tell it had Christmas trees on it, and I figured it was probably Pyrex.

And right at that moment, the auctioneer hollered that everything in the kitchen cupboards would be sold as one lot. In a flash, I threw up my card and got the contents of the kitchen for $7.50. Todd just looked at me for a moment, and then said, " We're going to need a lot of boxes."

Well, that didn't turn out to be too much of a problem, because I only ended up taking about 25% of what was there. It was like a very dirty, musty treasure hunt, opening each cupboard and drawer to see what was inside. And it could be--and was--absolutely anything.

I got a sail for a boat. I got a fire extinguisher. I got about 15 rolls of toilet paper and a bunch of light bulbs. I got an ancient and filthy Oster blender. I got an R-rated Virginia Beach mug that Todd is going to take to the office as a prize for their ongoing "Where's Waldo?" game. I got a replacement part for a toilet, and a Sylvania "sun gun" for movie filming, both in their original boxes.

I got a package of napkins and two packages of Puffs tissue (all sealed.) I got six bars of Zest soap. I got a crystal bud vase. I rummaged through a dark bottom cupboard crammed with Tupperware until I got queasy from the smell of the carpet and jumpy from the fear of what might jump out at me from the depths. So I just took a small aqua Tupperware bowl with a lid and a cool green Tupperware colander.

I stood on a stool and dug to the dark corners of each cupboard, cringing every time I touched something. I quietly gagged at the insect remnants in the depths of drinking glasses. I tried to hold things between my thumb and forefinger so my germ exposure would be as minimal as possible.

When Todd pulled down the Christmas tree bowl from the top cupboard, I was delighted to find these inside:

I already have two punch cups just like these, from some long-ago flea market trip. And they're Anchor Hocking, not Pyrex. I guess we'll be drinking eggnog this Christmas.

A few more finds dripping dry after a painfully hot scrubbing: a Lu-Ray platter, four small cracked and chipped Lu-Ray bowls, a flowered Knowles china platter, four Pyrex custard cups (I collect these), and six highball glasses etched with a Gothic C:

Blurry, sorry:

Since my last initial is C, and since I love this size of glass, I took them. There were also some tall thin tumblers and a couple juice-sized glasses with the C as well, but since those were some of the glasses that had the insect parts in them, and since they were too narrow for me to get my hand down to the bottom and scrub them thoroughly, I left them behind.

In the very back corner of an upper cupboard, I spotted this gem:

It was filthy and still had about a cup of ancient coffee grounds in it. At least I hope those were coffee grounds.

I got this huge glass vase and a saltine tin, which is so dirty I can't decide whether I want to take the time to scrub it the way it needs to be scrubbed. I already have one just like it.

And I got this tiny, badly crazed Lu-Ray sugar bowl without a lid. It's so darling! I think it would look very cute with a tiny succulent planted in it, don't you?

I also got a huge sterling silver ladle that Todd thinks might pay for everything both he and I bought at the auction. How much is silver worth right now, I wonder?

Plus carpet tape, masking tape, a small espresso percolator, a plastic cover for microwaving food, two Christmas candles with fake greenery around them, and a giant lazy Susan with wooden wedge-shaped bowls that fill the whole thing, and a cup for the center to hold dip, I suppose. I have absolutely no idea what I am going to do with that, but it was too cool to pass up.

But I did pass up a lot--a LOT--of stuff...a wok, a Cuisinart, a cast-iron pot, coffee pots, baking pans, Tupperware, glasses and mugs and plates, most of which was rather disgustingly dirty and sticky. Some people came along behind me and took a bunch of the things I left behind.

Todd missed out on the lot that held his hand planes, but then was able to buy the planes from the bidder, because the bidder only wanted the wooden toolbox and a couple of the other things inside.

A dealer bought most of the contents of the attic as one lot and mentioned that people could dig through it after he'd taken what he wanted. I went upstairs and picked up:

A couple of booklets about crocheting doilies, not that I know how to do such a thing, but as you can see, now I can "Learn How!"
Leaflets with instructions for crocheting a "Jolly Santa" and a "Perky Poodle" bottle cover. I do not know why someone would want to make such things, nor what their purpose might be. Maybe to decorate Aunt Myrna's annual Christmas present of peppermint schnapps?

Some cool vintage wrapping paper and a kid's science book.

A children's dictionary and a Reader's Digest condensed book (1961), which caught my eye because the cover is Christmassy and very pretty. Might look nice in a Christmas display, no?

And a small stationery box with a few old cards and tidbits--I'll flip through them later on.

I didn't expect to come home with three boxes of...well, let's be honest...junk, but that's what I like about auctions. You never know what I'm going to do!

Nephew and nieces love.

The last evening that we were in Ohio visiting, my family got together to have a family portrait taken. The last time we had a formal picture taken was seven years ago, and we have two more family members now, so it was time for an update.

I don't have the pictures we had taken that evening yet, but here are a few Todd took of me and the kiddies.

And finally, one of me and my sweetie:

Friday, July 17, 2009


On our last day at home, I got to spend a gorgeous day outside with Tanner and Kylie, and my brother Jeremy, and Todd. Jeremy and the kids and I looked for a few geocaches at the lake where Todd's folks live.

It's hard to explain how a small man-made lake in southern Ohio could have such a hold on my heart, but it is one of my very favorite places in the world.

Then in the afternoon we headed to Beaver Creek State Park, which is a gorgeous hilly spot along Little Beaver Creek. You can canoe, hike, fish, and also see remnants of the old Sandy and Beaver Canal from pioneer days. I hadn't been there since high school, and we didn't have a whole lot of time, but it was really idyllic.

Kylie has a dragonfly captured in her hands here.

We practiced skipping stones.

It wasn't super hot, but it still felt great to take off the shoes and socks and do a little wading in the cool water.

Wish I'd had time to get a few more pictures, but no photo can capture a perfect summer day, the wind blowing in the trees, the sound of the creek flowing, the sight of puffed white clouds floating past in the blue sky...aaah. I want to go back!

Building bears.

While we were home, I took my niece Kylie to Build-A-Bear Workshop. We always try to do something special with my sister's kids while we're home, since we only get to see them once or twice a year, so while Tanner went to the flea market with Uncle Todd, Kylie and I headed for the mall.

I have to confess that I've always wanted to go to Build-A-Bear. I first saw one 8 or 10 years ago at a brand-new shopping center in Columbus, and I was so envious of all those kids and their stuffed animals!

Kylie and I had a blast. First you pick out what kind of animal you want to make, and get a limp "pelt" from one of the bins, then you take it to the fluff machine and have it stuffed. You can also insert a special heart that you wish on. Here's Kylie with her bunny...I made a bear.

Then you get to dress your stuffed animal--and boy oh boy, there are a million options. Sports uniforms, jeans, halter tops, Disney princess costumes, pajamas, you name it.

We had SUCH a fantastic time trying all sort of clothes on our bear and bunny. The store was empty for most of the time we were there, so we had lots of room to pile up outfits and tiny shoes. And the employees were really sweet and helpful to us.

We decided on play clothes for them, and then decided to get party dresses...and then pajamas. I couldn't resist the cuteness.

Here we are with our dressed animals. Kylie's is named Valery and mine is named Lizzy. You get to print out a birth certificate for them and everything.

Then that night we had a sleep-over and the animals wore their matching nighties and robes.

It was so cute to listen to Kylie talking to them like a little mom, and watching her take care of them. I don't think I could have come up with anything more perfect to do with an 8-year-old girl!

The only problem is, now I want to go back and make some more animals! They have a cute turtle, and they just came out with an owl...I can see where this could be addictive.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

More Fourth of July pics.

The kids in Todd's family are all growing up fast...which is a little sad, but also great fun. This year they are five, six, seven, and eight years old--perfect ages to play card games, have interesting conversations, do jigsaw puzzles, and make very funny jokes. I adore the baby and toddler stages, but there's something even more satisfying about seeing them grow into very interesting people.

My niece Gianna, the seven-year-old, asked to borrow my camera one afternoon, and I let her take it. I'm definitely going to have to remember that trick--she got more interesting pictures than I ever would have and all I had to do was sit back and relax!

And grown-ups give much better smiles when it's a cute kid pointing the camera at them.

Of course she had to get a shot of herself in there, too.

The neighbors gave my mother-in-law some bubbles for the kids, and that was not only fun for the kids, but also for Roscoe the dog, who apparently loves to chase--and eat--bubbles.

Anna, being the smallest, often gets left out of the older three's plans and schemes, but she's good at finding a willing adult to play with her.

I don't seem to have any pictures of the endless games I played with the kids--Big Fish, Little Fish, Go Fish, Uno, Slamwich, Twister...I was too busy playing to run my camera, I guess. But we had a really great time together. And the grown-ups played cornhole, and took out the kayaks, and fished. I played a couple of cornhole games, but spent most of my time hanging out with the kids.

At night we had fireworks, which I never bother trying to get pictures of--but I almost wish I had tried, because it was by far the best fireworks display we've ever seen at the lake. We take our chairs down to the water and see various people setting them off all around the lake, and this year, five or six groups really outdid themselves. We had fireworks of our own for the first time, too, courtesy of Andrew, Julie's boyfriend, who brough a nice stash to set off. My family never bought fireworks when I was a kid, not even sparklers or bottle rockets, so I was thrilled to have some of our own to light.

So it was just about a perfect Fourth. Great weather (maybe a little too cold at night, but I'm not complaining!), great company, lots of laughs.

I'll share the other things we did later on.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Fourth of July pics.

I just went back through my memory card for the first time since we got home and wow! I'm so happy I got some good shots this year.

We spend every Fourth of July weekend at Guilford Lake State Park at Todd's parents' house, with all the family. This Fourth of July was about as perfect as it gets.

The residents have a boat parade every year, where they decorate their pontoon boats. The entries were pretty good this year.

Since the parade always comes to our side of the lake last, we let the kids swim while we wait. The highlight is the pirate boat, with "real" pirates who throw candy to all the kids along shore. This is very highly anticipated by the four kids in our family.

There go the pirates!

One of them told me later that they've been doing the pirate thing for eight years. I hope they never stop...we've enjoyed it every year since we started our Fourth of July get-togethers.

I thought it would be fun to do a little holiday activity with the kids, so I baked a big sheet cake the day before, and we decorated it like a flag with berries.

I gave a tub of frosting to each pair, and a knife for each and let them go to it. (I smoothed it out a little after they were done.)

Angelo and Anna's job was the blueberries in the corner; Evelyn and Gianna took care of the raspberry stripes.

When we got it all done, I squeezed fifty "stars" onto the blueberries with a tube of white icing, while everybody counted to make sure we had the right amount (and nibbled on extra blueberries--the raspberries were deemed "too sour.")

I used a Barefoot Contessa recipe for the flag cake and it made more batter than I needed (my sheet pan was smaller than hers), so I used the leftover batter to make some cupcakes, and let each kid decorate two, with the leftover berries and some red, white, and blue sprinkles. The cake recipe was quite good--sturdy enough to hold up to all the knife-poking as the kids frosted it, but tasty as well. I cheated and used canned Betty Crocker icing--my Contessa-hood only goes so far, especially on vacation.

What a bunch of fun that was! And the clean-up wasn't bad at all.

More later.