Tuesday, December 28, 2010

This Is Merry Christmas!

As much as I hate perpetuating the "Gi-Me" theme of Christmas I can't help being thrilled by giving someone exactly what they wanted.

Like when Zander saw the L-Draco BeyBlade peeking from his stocking and opened a new Wii game.

Or when Liam opened his "Denerwol Dweavis" (his BFF as previously established).

And when Noa opened her Rapunzel Barbie.

These are the moments that capture the reason behind the giving.  Their faces.  Their excitement.  That rare instant where everyone is happy and thankful and not fighting and the sun's barely up and the whole house smells like coffee and waffles...







Yes. 

This is
Merry Christmas.

Zander's Snail Saga


 It begins in the grocery aisle of our friendly neighborhood Wal-Mart.  Carols are piped from the overheads, shoppers are grumpy and pushy, each department is wildly understaffed - typical yuletide consumerism bliss - and here comes the Rusnak troop of five, taking up too much space, taking too much time, kids singing an endless chorus of "I want - I want," mom and dad singing along to "Let It Snow" while adjacent patrons roll their eyes and mutter a frustrated curt, "thanks," when we pull our kids out of the way of their flustered shopping carts.  And despite it all I enjoy Christmas shopping - I pride myself on my thick retail skin and boundless marketplace patience.

once again...WHY???


So, we're on a mission for waterchestnuts (a requirement for my yearly Austin Family Christmas contribution of Rummaki).  We search high and low but there are none to be found.  We do, however, find a can of Escargots on the top shelf.  I pull it down to show Zander.  "Can we get it?" he asks.
"Why?"  Because....why?
"I wanna try it.  Can't we try it?"
So into the cart it goes.

Of course, we own nothing like a snail platter, so we cook them up on a disposable foil pie plate - high class, yes.  Zander stands over me the whole time.  He watches me drain them at the sink.  "They don't smell so good," he says as we watches grey water glub-glub down the drain.  He watches me dump them on the pie plate.  Spread them out - an evenly dispersed arrangement of black-grey boogers.  Load up the plate with garlic butter.  Stick them in a 350° oven until the butter bubbles...

"They're ready, Zander!"
"Ugh!"
He serves himself one.  Stabs it with his fork.  Stares at it.  Takes some deep breaths.  Then...down the hatch!!!

"How was it?"
He sticks out his tongue.  "Ugh!  Bad after-taste."
So we all have a laugh, clap him on the back for trying new things and let Uncle Colin eat the rest.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Happiness in a Red Suit

The children are gathered at the edge of the living room carpet.  All ten of them.  Their high cadenced  voices clashing and meshing awkwardly beneath the white lights of the Christmas tree.  The adults join in.  They can't resist.  How could they?  It's magic.  We're on our second time through the song.  Surely the neighbors can hear us by now.  A cacophony choir of good cheer.  "You'd better not cry, I'm telling you why...Santa Clause is coming to town..."  And the door flies open.  Snow swirls about the foyer and wind whistles around the banister, rustling the garland and stockings hung there in hopes of Saint Nick.

And there HE is.  Fresh from storybook pages.  Velvet suit and snow-white beard.  Surprise.  Excitement.  Joy.  Terror. The wash of emotion through the sea of children is vast.  He rings his bells.  He ho-ho-ho's and shakes his round, red belly.  From his mighty sack he delivers a special toy to each shinny girl and boy. He is Yuletide magic.  He is happiness in a red suit.  He is Father Christmas and he is REAL!

And just like he came, in the wink of an eye, he is gone back into the storm, the wind carrying a lingering, "Merry Christmas!" as he is lost from our sight.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

I Always Wondered Who Used to Live Here

"I used to live in your house."
He's gazing at me over wire-framed glasses like he's 100 instead of 11.  He's nondescript.  He's normal.
"Really?" I say.
"Yeah...I lived there before you guys.  Weird, eh?"
I've often wondered about the little boys who came before us.  The little boys who were locked in the upstairs bedroom.  The little boys who tried to kick down the door to get out.  The little boys who played on the urine stained carpet.  Part of me wants to invite him over to see what a nice home we've made of his bad memories.
"Is there still blood on the stairs?" he asks.
I am at once horrified and fascinated.  "What?  No.  No blood."
"Oh," he's nodding, like he expected as much.  "That's where my brother broke his head open.  See ya!"  And he runs off across the school parking lot, awkwardly waving, laughing with friends and throwing dirty snow balls.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Growing Up?

The Pokéwalker came with his Pokémon DS game.  It's a pedometer.  Apparently it's a big deal.  It counts his steps.  More steps mean more points and more points mean something totally awesome gets transferred to his game.  That's all I know.  I don't try to understand this weird Pokémon existence.  It makes me dizzy.  He tries to tell me about Chumchar and Pikachu and Ash.  I smile and nod and throw in an appropriate, "Oh really?" or, "that's cool!"  Just enough to make him think I'm an attentive parent and that I actually care that What's-His-Face evolved into a Who's-A-What.

So.  The Pokéwalker.  He wore it everywhere.  He researched cheats so he could up his points.  He asked if he could attach it to the ceiling fan because that would rack up the points and he'd just have to sit on his butt.  "No, Zander, you can't duct-tape your Pokéwalker to the ceiling fan.  Go outside and run around the house three times."

"Empty your pockets before you put your jeans in the laundry hamper!"  This is a recurring rhetoric.  As the Rusnak-Family-Laundry-Genie I will wash, dry and fold.  That is all.  I do not check pockets.  If you put your pants in my basket it is strictly on an At Your Own Risk basis.  I take no responsibility for shrinking, colour-bleeding, missing socks or pockets full of treasure.  If you leave change in your pants I collect it from the bottom of the washer, put it in my tip jar and buy myself a cup of coffee at the end of the week.

"Have you seen my Pokéwalker?"
"No, Zander.  When did you have it last?"
"Yesterday."
"I'll let you know if I find it."
"Okay."

I'm emptying the washing machine into the dryer.  Guess what's at the bottom?

"Zander!"
He comes running.  "Did you find it?"
I hold it out to him.  "Do you know where it was?"  We're standing in the laundry room.
"My pants?"  He asks.
"Your pants," I say.  "Your pants in the washing machine."
"Oh."
He tries to turn it on.  Nothing.  I'm bracing for something.
"I guess I should have kept it somewhere safe."
"It sucks, Zander.  It's a hard lesson."
He's still hardly reacting and I'm strangely disappointed.  I kind of like an I-told-you-so moment.
"Do you know what kind of battery it takes?" he asks me.
"A watch battery, I think."
"Oh...well, those are only a couple bucks at WalMart.  I'll get another one."

And that's it.  No melt-down.  No Mom blaming.  No nothing.  Is he growing up?  Has he matured enough to just let something like this roll off his back?  To immediately recognize that there is usually a simple solution?  To accept his own guilt instead of pass it off as someone else's responsibility?

And I'm proud.

"Good for you, Zander," I say as we make our way into the kitchen.  "You have a really good attitude."
He grins.
"You're really growing up."
He beams.
Liam walks by.
Zander body-checks him into the wainscoting.

Right.

One thing at a time.

Friday, December 3, 2010

From the Bottom Up


My first time was in the front seat of Dr. Neal Stretch's silver Austin Mini Cooper.  I'm pretty sure I squealed.  My naïveté amused him.  I hadn't known such a thing existed.

Sweet, golden coils, nestled beneath my denim-clad bottom like a beautifully unfolding mystery; a flirtation of modern comfort and luxury radiating out like contagion - like some communicable disease every part of my body wanted desperately.

I was Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman.  And the heated leather seat upon which I rested mon derriere was my delicious new designer wardrobe.


And now, some six years later, I have my own.  And every time I slide onto that bucket seat and feel the sweet embrace of warmth I think, "This is it.  I have arrived.  Check me out with my hot caboose!"

My bum is toasted therefore I am at peace with the universe.

And sometimes I turn it all the way up to 5 and it's so hot that I'm squirming and sweating but it's a beautiful thing and I can't turn it down because that would make me spoiled...

Monday, November 29, 2010

Get Tangled

I'm a sucker for Disney.  It melts my heart and reaffirms my belief in the goodness of humanity.

So there I was, sitting in the Owen Sound theatre, my two year old daughter propped up in a booster seat beside me, holding my hand, gazing through black rimmed 3D glasses, tears leaking out my left eye and dripping of my chin while I pretended to yawn and wipe them away.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A Welcoming Sentiment

"Wee-am Wusnak!  I'm so happy to see you!  I weally missed you when you was gone for such a wong many times!"  

Her voice is shrill - not yet four years old - like one of Walt Disney's Cinderella mice.  She's a tiny wee thing, just a baby really, with bouncy blond ringlets that are pulled back into a purple elastic with plastic rainbow hearts.  Her blue, saucer eyes never seem to blink and her red apple cheeks glow when she smiles.  A cherub that sounds like a mouse.

We're late.  Liam decided that a melt-down over the missing water bottle was appropriate as we were heading out the door.  He'd been sick with cough and cold so he hadn't been to school since last Wednesday.  Only two school days for him.  A lifetime, apparently, for the classmates that missed him.

She follows us all the way back to the cubbies.  "Wee-am Wusnak!  Wee-am Wusnak is hewre.  Nowlan, wook, Wee-am Wusnak is hewre!"

I help him undo his coat.  She peeks around my side and reaches out to touch his shoulder, "Hi, Wee-am Wusnak.  I weally missed you."

He shoves his boots and hat into his LIAM cubby.  "Hi, Skylar," and he sits on the floor to do up his shoes.

"Missus McCombeeeeee...Wee-am Wusnak is hewre!"  and she's practically bouncing with excitement.

"Yes, Skylar, isn't that lovely?"  Mrs. McCombie says, welcoming Liam and seconding Skylar's sentiment.

....

Liam's tired when I pick him up.  Maybe he should have stayed home another day.  He's dragging.  I get him in the car and we head for home.  "Skylar really likes you, doesn't she?" I ask him.

He just shrugs.

"Do you play with her at school?"

"No."

"Is she your friend?"

"No."

"Don't you like her?"

Shrug.  Eye roll.  "Mommy, I'm not weady to get mayoweed."

Monday, November 22, 2010

Lost in Translation

 I have beautiful children.  I'm not asking for affirmation.  I'm stating a fact.

So would someone please tell me who infiltrated their bodies and produced school pictures so painfully awkward and weird that I don't even know who got captured - my boys or two don't-know-how-to-smile-like-a-human aliens.


Rusnak Retreat

Noa & Bailey
I wasn't sure what to expect.  One house.  One weekend.  One dog.  Fifteen Rusnak's.  We had decided a few days together was more appropriate than giving gifts this year, so we pooh-poohed consumerism for forty-eight hours in a rented Chalet a few minutes walk from the charming Blue Mountain Village and smack dab at the base of naked ski hills.


Hot tubbing with Aunt Steph & Aunt Patty
The website didn't do the place justice.  I was not excited about being crammed into a tight yellow house with the in-laws.  Turns out, 3000 square feet is a whole lot of space.  Everyone got their own room.  The cousins all camped out on a king-sized bed.  (Aunt Salina warned them that the first time she had to come in to tell them to be quiet and go to sleep they would be separated.  I had pulled Zander aside earlier and told him that as long as they whispered they could stay up as late as they wanted.  This was a vacation.  This was not about school night bedtimes.  So he glanced at me as she dictated her warning.  I winked.  He grinned.)

We battled it out on a Wii American Idol game.  (It wasn't until the second verse of "I Kissed A Girl," when my eight-year-old nephew starting singing along with me, that I thought maybe that hadn't been the best song choice.)  Poker.  Settlers of Catan.  That Mexican Train game which has got to be the stupidest game ever invented.  Hot tub.  Sauna.  Cranium.  Pool.  Table hockey.  Walks in the cold.  Hot chocolate and more snacks than a frat house with the munchies could consume.  I don't think we stopped eating the whole time.

Zander & the Pool Table


We split up the meal responsibility.  Each couple    
cooked, served and cleaned up two meals.  It was nice to work in the kitchen beside Scott.  Nice to have to squeeze by each other around the kitchen island.  Nice to set a table together and nice to clean it off together.  That doesn't happen at home.  I relished it.

We had fun.  I would do it again.  It was definitely worth giving up the yearly Christmas gifts that never fit and end up being returned anyway.


Fred loved warming his feet up by the fire


playing the Wii










Liam & Logan playing table hockey

our pretty bedroom

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Inspired By A Windshield

The frost was thick and I had to put some muscle behind the scraper.  I did a poor job - just clearing it from where I absolutely needed to see in order to make it to the school on time.

"Why'd you do dat?" Liam asked when I finally slid into the drivers seat and settled against the deliciously heated leather.  "Why'd you do dat scwape-scwape-scwape ting to da windows?"

I sent a shot of wiper fluid across the windshield and let the wipers work away at the remaining frost.  The defrosting fan was turned all the way to four and I had to raise my voice to answer him.  "I can't see through the frost, Liam.  I have to clean it off before we can leave."

But he didn't care about my answer.  He was watching the wipers.  "Why'd you squirt dat stuff evwywhere?"  and then, "why'd you put on dhose wiper thingys?"

"The squirt stuff helps to melt the ice and the wipers clean it all away," I told him.

"Huh?....Dat - is - so - AWESOME!!!!!!  Mommy?"

"Yes, Liam?"

"When I dwow up I'm gonna be a windsealed wiper!"

Friday, November 5, 2010

Colours by Noa

Me:  What colour are you?
Noa:  YeoYeo!
Me:  What colour is Mommy?
Noa:  Boo!
Me:  What colour would we be if you mixed us together?
Noa:  Appul!

Yup, she's brilliant!


YeoYeo (yellow |ˈyelō|)
Boo (blue |bloō|)
Appul (apple |ˈapəl|)

Monday, November 1, 2010

"Twick Owar Tweet"

the front door
in the hallway

I love Halloween.  I love the colours and the pumpkins and the garden mums and the crunch of leaves and the squeals of excited children.

 The boys had been counting down since October 1st which was when I hung the pumpkin garland and the orange twinkle lights.  I'm big into decorating for the season.  It makes it that much more exciting.

pumpkins in the laundry room


I told them we could go out at 6:00.  Any later and there might have been a mutiny.  It was still light but they didn't care.  It meant that the scary houses weren't actually that scary.  And all the good candy wasn't gone yet.

Liam was Batman - his heavy sweatshirt underneath the costume giving him some nice lumpy Batman muscles.  Zander was a pirate and Noa was his parrot - though she didn't quite get the connection - she just flapped her arms and cock-a-doodle-dooed while Zander did his best ARGH.



















Noa didn't want to go up to the doors.  Jack-o-lanterns scare her.  Mostly she just watched the boys.  They actually say, "Trick or Treat" at every door which I think is adorable (or, in Liam's case, "Twick owar Tweet" which is a step forward from last years "Pick ol' Pete").  Zander's wonderful at saying thank you.  Liam is not.  "I dust keep fordetting!" he kept telling us.  Until we told him if he forgot again he'd have to skip the next house.  Funny how his memory suddenly worked perfectly.

We just do our own street and it's quite enough.  Zander begged to go further but they each had bags that they were struggling to carry.  There is such thing as too much candy no matter what they think.  I had just dumped a tub of last years left-over Halloween spoils before we left.  Yeah - gross.  

So it was home for one treat, baths, the scrubbing of the pirate beard that just wouldn't come off - he went to school with a five o'clock shadow today - pajamas and bed.  And today I'll have to take down the pumpkin garland and it makes me sad.  Things are always so bare afterwards.  Oh well.  Only 30 days until we put up the Christmas tree!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Girded Loins [American Standard Style]

I probably should have checked out the translation before the group started BUT I was running late and I was grumpy and I didn't even want to be there in the first place...

Let me back up.

It had been one of those weeks.  A million projects.  A million roadblocks.  A $1500 video camera that doesn't work nicely like the $400 one.  A photocopier that spits your paper out off-centre when it's not jamming (the little elf inside giggling incessantly with every groan).  So I was in a mood.  And I had to run youth.  And it was the last place in the world I wanted to be.  My parents were keeping the kids overnight. Just imagine: a house - EMPTY, QUIET...what a beautiful thing.  All I wanted was to curl up in bed, watch a movie as loud as I wanted to and eat chocolate until my tummy hurt.  But, no.  I had to run youth.

I drove back to Hanover.  I turned off the radio and sang some worship songs really loud to try and bounce myself out of my funk.  I powered through the leaders meeting.  Decided to totally mix the order up just to see how it went.  Called all the kids in just to dismiss them to Life Groups right off the bat - radical, I know!  And we were short leaders, so I had to lead one of the groups.

I ended up in a Sunday School classroom with three girls, some bristle board, markers and an American Standard Bible.  Our assignment was to read Ephesians 6:10-18 and then draw our interpretation of The Armor of God.  I got to verse 14:  "Stand firm therefore, HAVING GIRDED YOUR LOINS WITH TRUTH..."  These are teenage girls.  Much giggling ensued.  The "Belt of Truth" became a jock strap on our very muscular armored man drawing.  And I laughed with them and kept them on task and tried to direct conversation around why we need this armor and how we can get it and whether or not we actually have it.  And somewhere in the middle of that hour I realized that I was having a good time.  My mood had shifted and I was actually happy to be there.  

I had fantasized about being "too sick" to go, knowing that my sister would have stepped up and taken my place in running things but what a blessing that I followed through on my commitment instead.  I actually learned some things, listening to Heidi's lesson.  I was moved by the alternative worship that was simply a group prayer time in which kids spoke their praises out loud - no music - no band.  And what an amazing thing to hear Janneke share about the freedom she experienced at Acquire the Fire the week before!  There could have been no better cure to a hard week.

And my empty, quiet house was still waiting for me at the end of it all and I got to enjoy it with a full, happy heart, a sharpened sword, peaceful feet, a righteous helmet, a strong shield, a shiny breastplate and , of course, girded loins.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Lucky 'Cause He Has You

He climbed onto the bed beside Scott who was hiding out from all the birthday party kids.  He sat there for a while.  A little weird.  But he's practically our own.  Zander's BF since first grade.  As welcome here as family.

"Zander's real lucky, you know," he says.

"Yeah, why's that?"

"Cause he has you."

And he goes on to say that his dad just moved out and he hasn't seen him for a week and he misses him so much.


And all I want to do is hug him and tell him how sorry I am and that he's welcome here any time he wants or needs to get away.


But he's almost eleven.  Hugs aren't cool.  So he accepts a pat on the back and a Saturday night sleep-over invitation and my promise to always let him in when he knocks on the door.


And he looses his cloudy mood in party mix and birthday cake and proclaims loudly to the room full of boys, "Zander's mom's cool.  She says fart!"

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Zander's Ninth Birthday

The birthday waffles

He came bouncing down the stairs at 7:25 chanting, "Happy Birthday, Happy Birthday, Happy Birthday," with each step until he could see into the living room and then he said, "OOOOOOO, balloons!"  It's nice to know that nine years old isn't too old to appreciate my efforts.

When I tucked him into bed the night before he told me firmly that "just because it's a school day tomorrow doesn't mean that we can skip birthday waffles!"  So I set my alarm half an hour earlier and set a steaming pile of our Rusnak tradition, fresh-off-the-iron waffles, topped with melted butter, maple syrup, raspberry jam, whipped cream, rainbow sprinkles and a candle before him at the breakfast bar beneath his sleepy-eyed grin.

His party was after school.  I created a big scavenger hunt that would take two teams all over town.  Questions like: What costs $50 at Strands Hair & Aethsetics on Main Street? (nose piercing) or What is the metal container called to the right of the red mailbox outside the Post Office?  (butt stop)  Each letter from their answers was assigned a number which they used to decipher a code message full of trivia about Zander and the day he was born.  I worried that they might think it was too much like school but they were beyond excited.


Working on the code...


So there we were.  Two teams.  Scott led Zander, Nathanial, Jarett and Logan.  I led Simon, Tyson, Carter and Liam.  Racing through town.  Ignoring rain and cold because everyone was too busy yelling and bouncing and screeching and pointing to care.  Learning what the old train used to carry and what strange creatures live under the benches behind the Art Gallery.

We got back to the house with wet hair, numb fingers, red noses and high spirits.  My team was first back but Zander's team was first to decipher the trivia - Nathaniel singing their answers along to Owl City's Fireflies - and they won coupons for a free ice cream cone at McDonalds.

I served pizza and hotdogs for supper.  A cake shaped like a Nintendo mushroom.  Party mix.  Cream Soda.  (My apologies, Canada Food Guide.)  When it was all over, Zander hugged me and thanked me and said it was, "the best!"  I told him it was my pleasure.  And it really, really was!







Thursday, October 21, 2010

Anyone for Tuna?

It's 10:45 pm and I'm tidying the living room while the cake bakes because it's the only moment I've found to get ready for Zander's party all week.

And this is what I find behind the book shelf:


The picture doesn't really capture it.  This is tuna casserole.  Three week old tuna casserole.  Practically petrified.  A nice, furry little cloud of mould spreading towards in the middle...

The rule in our house is No Dessert Until Your Supper Is Gone!  The question is, which kid owes me a dessert and how in the world were they able to sneak away from the table and hide it before I knew what was going on and what does this say about my house-keeping?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Only Human

Zander's birthday party is on Friday.  I put minimal effort into his invitation.  But he loved it.  And that's what matters.  He took them to school on Monday.  Handed them out.  Waited for R.S.V.P.'s...

*ring-ring*

"Hello?"
"Hi, is this Zander's mom?"
"Yes."
"This is Jared's mom.  Do you know you put your mother's phone number on the invitation?"

And I was mortified.  Yes, Ma'am, please leave your child in my brain-farting, mostly capable care.

I called my mom.

She answers: "Hello, Austin's Party Planning Services, how can I help you?"

At least she has a sense of humor about it.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Twelve Years

                                                        October 17, 1998
It was raining when I woke.  I don't remember caring and I don't remember eating breakfast.  The dining room was packed with giggles and hot-rollers and pretty make-up bags and bottles of hairspray.

After much deliberation I settled on Claire Danes (in Romeo and Juliet) hair.  We tucked little sprigs of babies breath into the braided crown.  I had never been prettier.  I wore my mothers dress.  I had tried on many and loved none.  The moment we found her dress hidden in the musty closet of her childhood home the decision was made.  It was exactly the dress I was supposed to wear: simple, short train, square neck and bell sleeves - very Princess Bride. ("My dear, sweet, Wesley!!!!")  I floated through the day in a bubble of eighteen-year-old bliss.  And through the eyes of a child-bride, everything was perfect.






I refused to hold the ceremony in my home church because it was orange and had no center aisle and I had spent too many hours as a little girl pouring over our hard cover Royal Family wedding album to compromise on something so important.  The church I chose was regal and gorgeous and stiff.  The ceremony was not.  It took much negotiation to earn permission for our very non-traditional whims but we gained it, he with his persuasive personality, me with my "oh, please make my dreams come true" sweetness.
My roses : )

We began with Bon Jovi's If I Was Your Mother filling the sanctuary while the guys danced down the aisle to their places at the front.  This set the mood.  And my Great Aunt Carol did not have a heart-attack at our sacrilege.  We laughed.  A lot.  We sang a song we wrote together for our parents.  We joined in the snickers as we watched the look of horror spread across the best man's face and the whisper down the line of groomsmen and the panicked dash out and back and the obvious hand-to-hand pass of the forgotten rings.  We shared a shameless kiss to cheers and applause and skipped down the aisle when it was all over to We Go Together (because, like I could get married without a nod to Grease and my forever crush, J.T.).

Twelve years.  It feels like a blink.  It feels like forever.  He gave me roses.  He never gives me roses.  We have so much behind us:  three children, four homes, five cars.  It has never been easy but it has always been worth it and I can't wait to see what the next twelve years will bring.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

One More Run

It was his third and final race of the season and it actually felt like fall this time.  The wind had enough bite to make the tips of our noses red but the sun was working hard at breaking through the clouds and it's efforts kept the temperature bearable.  We froze last year so, this time, we came prepared.  Mitts, hats, coats, sweaters.  Perfect.

The meet was hosted by the Meaford Tank Range.  We had to sign our lives away to enter the property.  No sir, I will not hold Her Royal Majesty responsible to any harm done to myself or my personal property. Yes, sir, you may quote me on that.  Yes, sir, I will do my upmost to treat properties under the mighty reign of Her Royal Highness with the respect and grace that only she deserves.  Yes, sir, I understand that you have the right to search my person for contraband without probable cause or to escort me off the Queen's land at my own expense if I fail in any one of these capacities. Yes, sir.  Fine, sir.  Good day, sir.  And there were uniformed soldiers stationed all around to make sure I did just that.  I was even escorted to an "army sanctioned port-a-potty" by a chivalrous man in green.  Yes, today was a good day, indeed!

235 tyke boys.  You should have seen them; a mass of jersey-donning third and fourth graders in a blue, green and yellow rainbow of chaos, hopping and stretching and getting impatient along the painted white line, waiting for the gun shot that finally sent them off in an undulating wave of bobbing heads and brightly coloured shoe-laces.

This was an easier track than the other races.  All basically flat.  Mostly dry.  Zander's goal was to beat at least 30 kids.  He had no delusions of gold.  His expectations are realistic and attainable and it makes me proud.

He gave a good push at the end.  Passed a few more on his way to the finish.  He came in at #189.  Out of 235.  He surpassed his goal and was very pleased.  His coaches congratulated him, Mr.Klein checking his clip board and saying, "You're better every time, Zander.  Great job!" and Mrs. Napper-Sharpe telling him that he's a veteran now - two full seasons under his belt.  He beamed beneath their praise and then drank his complimentary chocolate milk in two big gulps .

We spent some time checking out the tanks on display, smiling at soldiers and attempting some of the obstacle course.  And we got away without offending Her Majesty or any of her hired guns!