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Here are the boys in their "space ships" talking long-distance about all those things boys talk about.

Last night I took Aidan and Ricky to the community center where they have a Christmas shop for kids-all items priced at less than $5-the kids are taken into the shop by a helper (parents not allowed) and buy for the people on their list.  They come out with a bag of wrapped and tagged presents.  It's the best.  They were both really excited by their purchases.

The community center also had Santa Claus waiting upstairs to hear kids' wishes and give them a candy cane.  He was a really good Santa.  Ricky sat on his lap and chatted a little, but Aidan knew it wasn't the "real" Santa because he is busy getting ready for Christmas, so he just watched.

During the day Aidan and I put up our first fake tree.  G has been bugging me for years to get a fake one and I refuse, but I did agree to a fake one upstairs.  So about three years ago I bought the bows; two years ago the lights (purple too, though you can't tell in these shots); and last year Aidan picked out the star.  Little Baby won't let him put the star on the big tree because we have always had an angel there.  I have to admit that I like the look of it when we got done.
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In the afternoon I started addressing Christmas cards.  Normally we buy cards that are personalized, but after Christmas was over last year I bought a few boxes on sale and have decided to use them this time.
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Little Baby moved to college this week.  This is the view from her dorm:
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This is the view of her dorm:
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This is the most important room in any college-the library-and Little Baby is a library dweller, so she feels that way too!  She is an English major who hopes to be an editor, preferably of videogames, but an editor for sure.
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Brody turned two this week but had his birthday last weekend; Ricky turned four this week and had his birthday this weekend.  Here are all four boys playing on the trampoline before the party began:
After the party I took Brody and Aidan to a farm days celebration since Brody loves animals, but it was mostly tractors and tools and demonstrations about old-time methods and crafts.  So we stopped on the way back at a farm in town where he saw a rabbit and chickens, then stopped at my mother's field to see her cows.  And the best part?  Before we left, he and Aidan got to drive the tractor with my fifth brother, who was haying in the meadow.  Sometimes you just don't have to leave town to have a good time.

Waiting for the Tractor; Are You Sure There's a Tractor out There?  Trust Me, There's a Tractor

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Two Year Old and Six Year Old Drivers

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This week I will actually be on vacation.  The grandsons will return to daycare full-time and Aidan and I will have five days, more or less, for the two of us, before I go back to work next Monday.
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I will miss the brothers, of course, especially since the younger one has just learned to enjoy coming to our house and being away from his mumma.  He is a true outdoor guy and would spend every minute, except for lunch and freeze-pop breaks, outside.  Outside, outside, outside is, in fact, his favorite refrain.
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He and Aidan really enjoyed one another's company on the days that it was just the two of them.  Here they are, just like grown men, hanging out in their comfy chairs in the garage, having a drink and listening to music.
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Ricky and Aidan, meanwhile, are just like brothers/cousins/uncles and nephews are when they are close in age.  Every day they have an argument and a crying jag.  Then every day they are the best of buddies for the remainder of the day.
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And then there is their handsome little cousin, who comes once a week.  He and Ricky are actually great playmates.  They are alike in most of the ways that count-smart, quiet, sweet-and different enough that they usually don't pose a threat to one another in terms of affection or toys.
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This past week Mom went to the oncologist to say that she does not want any more chemotherapy.  She did two rounds of 21 days at 50% dose and didn't like it.  She felt that it stole some summer days from her because of the restrictions on exposure and activities and this just after she had recovered some strength following the placement of a stint in her intestine.  She had never wanted chemo anyway; she only tried it because some of us asked her to give it a try.  So she won't be doing it any longer.  Seven of us siblings and a nephew went to her appointment with her so that the doctor would know that we support whatever she chooses and so that we could ask questions.  The time left to her is uncertain, as it always is with cancer, but she probably won't be enjoying next summer with us.  Here is a picture of her enjoying her annual birthday hike to the top of the mountain, back in 1987:
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There is no news on the adoption front.  G's medical has been sent to China to have them pre-approve it and we are waiting for the response to that.  We have been waiting three weeks; I contact the agency each Monday to ask if there is any word yet, so I will ask again tomorrow.
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Our elementary school has a tradition of holding prize speaking night early every new year. I won in sixth grade; Golden Baby, Pretty Baby, Little Baby, and both of my younger sisters won. One of those sisters teaches kindergarten and the other teaches 8th grade, both at K-8 schools, so they have taken the tradition with them.  I think my brother two up from me won as well.  So, the point is, it really is a tradition and one that I wanted Aidan to participate in.  At kindergarten they don't compete; rather, they practice reciting before a crowd.  On the night of the competition between the finalists, the kindergarten students are invited to recite their poem if they wish to.  Here are shots of Aidan and his buddies on the night of their first stage adventure.
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In the above shot, his teacher is talking to the kids from the left and G is looking on from the right.  Below, Aidan is on stage with his principal.
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Golden Baby turned 28 this week, and his birthday was on the same weekday on which he was born.  I don't know how often that happens, given leap years, but it brought back a lot of memories.  Here he is in the shirt I gave him, which goes well with his ref uniform, and here are some other photos of the week.
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My sister organized a housewarming party for two women in our family who are not yet in their homes, but close.  The first was for her daughter in-law, who got not only a surprise batch of gifts (she thought we were meeting at Mom's house to get ready for the other party) but also a job!  She and my nephew are buying a house from my brother, who bought a house to restore and resell.  It is up the road from us about 1/2 mile.  My nephew's wife is from France  and just got a job teaching French at a local prep school, beginning in January.  Here she is receiving her gifts while my brother in-law and niece look on (my nephew is actually in France so he wasn't here for the party):
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The second surprise was for my brother's girlfriend.  This is our second brother, and after all the decades of living that he has done (ha-ha), he has probably at last found what we always wanted for him-a practical woman.  They bought a house that was once the Settlement House, then became my great uncle's house, and had been through all types of changes-a fire, a renovation, additions galore.  Anyway, they pretty much gutted it and started over.  It sits on the hill above my mother's house and looks out over the pond.  Here she is getting her gifts:
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Here is  Aidan, first at the party and then playing outside with his Craftsman tools.
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And we got in a lot of playtime this week.  Wednesday was a snow day.  RB came over for the day but when Pretty Baby came to get him, her driveway wasn't plowed, so both he and MB came back to play some more.  Then last night she had her Christmas party at work so they came back again.
 
 

Our first son, GB, is getting married in September, so yesterday was JC's bridal shower.  Unlike the average bride-to-be, all she wanted was appliances for the house.  She got everything from a waffle iron to a washing machine.

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Here she is wearing her "hat" of gift ribbons.

Here are the boys, enjoying the big lawn.
 
 

Today we celebrated Aidan's fifth birthday, though that date (estimated) is still three days away.  The party was early-10:30 to 12:30-to accomodate all of the guests' naptimes.  The kids played outside in our unseasonably beautiful weather, had lunch, played some more, opened presents, then had cake and ice cream.  Since it was time for our social worker to make her six month visit, she came to the party as well.  This gave her a chance to meet Aidan's friends, see him with his whole family (big brother and big sister and their families), and meet his daycare director (her daughter was a guest) as well as some of his playmates' parents.

After our nap, we did it all again.  LB turns eighteen tomorrow, so the evening party was a cook-out but I cooked in.  She doesn't like hot dogs or hamburgers so I roasted a pork loin and we had that with the usual salads, chips, watermelon, etc.

Some of the pictures are here, some are under LB's page (click on her name on the home page for that link), and some are under photos.

Here he is with his favorite playmates from daycare.  One highlight of the day for me, though, was when it was time to eat lunch and he insisted that he sit beside RB to eat.

Below he is sitting on "the bike" that he wanted.  He loves Diego, and wanted a bike, so fortunately they came together.  Then he is blowing out the candles on the cake I made-notice the Spider Man theme to everything.


Here is a short video of Aidan, between parties and before his nap, playing with the party favors from his sistr's party-we broke them out early.

 
 

We had three days off which was good, since G and I both had flu bugs of different sorts, and Aidan enjoyed the rest.  LB is the only one who wasn't really hit over the last couple of weeks with anything.  Running the wood stove probably didn't help us any, but you can't beat the price of our wood (free).

We weren't too sick to be contagious, so on Sunday I watched BB while our son went to sign papers for a new (newer used, that is) car, and on Monday RB spent the day with us since his mother did have to work.

I am working on hooking videos up to my site, but here are some photos for now:

 
 

Returning to work was great for me.  Aidan did just as I expected-fine the first day, not so fine the second, and very unhappy the third.  On the fourth he stayed with G, and on the fifth he was with me since we lost power and I didn't work.

Here are some random photos from our week:

Aidan decides that he loves turkey, after all.  He came out into the kitchen, sniffed it, said yum-yum and rubbed his belly, then spent a good twenty minutes with the baster.  He also decided that he loves cranberry sauce.

Entertaining in the dark-Aidan loves to operate the camera-forgive our grimy appearance (no showers or baths until the electricity came back on)

We went shopping both to get it done and also to get warm.  Here are the boys, both smiling at the same time, with Santa Claus.

Getting into the Christmas spirit now that the lights are back on.  LB was playing carols in the background (driving me crazy-I can either listen to music or have conversations, but not do both at the same time).  Aidan was trying to be ever so helpful with his first tree.  Mangus was trying to check everything out and also get out of the way (not too successful there).  But we finally got the thing up and lit.