We got back here to Colorado from Chicago just in time for the first snows. And while it snows like hell outside my window, I sit here in an interior fog, recuperating from a typical post-Chicago-trip headcold. I'm starting to climb out of it, but if you haven't heard from me lately that's mostly why.
The trip itself was short as such trips go, and was mostly concerned with getting Carol's mom moved back home from the nursing facility where she'd been for some time. We also spent four days babysitting our nieces Katie and Julie while their parents took a much-needed break from parenting to attend the Ohio Valley Filk Fest in Columbus.
Tending small children is aerobic, to say the least. We ran around the back yard with them and the dogs, took them to several parks and playgrounds, and (finally) got a kite into the air in the big field behind their house. The kite was a nondescript 20" ripstop Nylon diamond item from Wal-Mart, and it flew beautifully without any tail at all, thanks to a relatively light and steady wind. Katie (who is not quite four) flew it carefully and well, though whether she listened to my uncle-ish lectures on staying away from the power lines is unclear.
Carol and the girls blew soap bubbles and chased them, assisted by Dash. QBit watched dourly from the sidelines after he touched a biggish bubble with his nose and popped it all over his face. We retrieved any number of things (including Julie's Hello Kitty boots) from The Window Well Where Balls Go To Die. Kick a ball around the yard long enough and it will end up there, though how the boots got in remains a mystery:
"Julie, did you drop your boots in the window well?"
Well. I guess that's that.
Of all the Pack, Dash clearly had the most fun. We deliberately had the neighbor girl come by regularly to play with Dash and his littermates when we first had them (and their mother) so that they would know what kids are and enjoy their company. And wherever there were kids, that was where Dash wanted to be. We watched him watching through the slats in the back fence while a group of local gradeschoolers played touch football in the field. His tail was wagging so hard I thought his butt would fall off. A few minutes later, I heard Dash's distinctive yaps from a distance, and realized that he was out in the field with the kids, having somehow finessed the fence. When I went out the gate to fetch him I saw how he did it: There was a loose slat that wasn't fastened to the bottom horizontal board, and he had just shoved it aside and pushed through the gap.
Fixing the fence was easy enough. The nails were still in the board, and I whacked them back into place with a handy half of a brick. We then watched Dash go back and forth along the fence for the rest of the afternoon, stopping at each slat and nudging it sidewise with his nose, clearly searching for The Board Into Summer.
We watched a lot of what passes for kid TV these days, including Phineas and Ferb (brilliant) Dora the Explorer (craftsmanlike) Wonder Pets (eh) and Fish Hooks (ghastly.) The cartoons provided a clue to an otherwise puzzling occurrance: We ordered in supper one evening from Mr. Beef and Pizza, including a styro container of chicken noodle soup. Julie grabbed the soup container and handed it to Gretchen, exclaiming loudly: "Arbor Day! Arbor Day!"
Arbor Day? I was puzzled until Katie followed up with "Por favor!" Ahh. Abrade! Open it! This was one of a number of Spanish words used in Dora the Explorer, which may be the girls' current favorite cartoon. (Gretchen made Dora and Boots costumes for the girls for Halloween, though Julie refused to wear her Boots tail.)
On the last day we babysat, I came down a little oddly on my left leg running around on Gretchen's uneven hillside, and, once I stopped writhing in pain, had to go to urgent care for an X-ray. Nothing was broken, but my knee swelled up something wonderful, and I was on a crutch for two days and visibly limping for the rest of the trip. Anaprox helped.
So we're back, and I can now confront the huge wobbling pile of things I need to catch up on, making sure that all of the detonators go off. If one misses, well, the rest of the block will be toast.