I declared yesterday to be pajama day at our house. Pajama days are the best because it means we do not have to fight over what outfits we will wear or fight over whether or not the brush has actually hurt us before it has even touched our hair. Pajama days contain no responsibilities, no errands, no schedule.

On this particular pajama day, we started off by watching Kronk's New Groove while eating breakfast in the living room. Then I meandered into the kitchen to do some dishes while the girls danced to some Kid's Praise tunes. We ate pumpkin pancakes for lunch and watched tornado-wind pound rain into the glass patio doors.

After the rain stopped and the sun came out, the girls went out in their pajamas and came back covered head to toe in mud. They took their time in the shower, playing with multitudes of plastic dishes and some ducks and frogs, while I sat back with a cup of hot chocolate.

They dried off and came to me for new pajamas; then we all cuddled up together and read library books until nap time.

What a lovely day!
The builder told me this morning: November 17th!

Can it really be true?

My brain is packing up our apartment belongings, fitting boxes into our van, driving them over to our new house and arranging things in just the right spots.

And while my brain does all that work, my children are leaping from the kitchen counters.

Back to reality.
Normally, I wait until the girls are in bed at night before I take a shower, but I was lazy last night, so ended up choosing to risk a shower after the girls woke up this morning.

"Mommy, what are you doing?"
"I'm taking a shower, Mercy Jane."
Accusingly: "You got me wet!"
Dryly: "You're not supposed to open the curtain, little girl."

Voice DRIPPING with sweetness: "Mommy, I'm going to close your bathroom door for you."
"Because I want you to have some privacy."
"Hmm, thank you, Liberty, but I'd like you to keep it open."
"But Mo-om, I want to close it."
"No, I want it to stay open."
"Why, Mommy?"
"So that I can hear what you and your sister are up to while I take my shower."
"No, I think that's a bad idea, Mommy. You might get us into trouble."
(I'm such a bad influence.)

"Mommy! I hurt my finger!"
"Oh, that's sad, MJ."
"I want you to kiss it."
"Uh, can Liberty kiss it for you?"
"No. I want you to kiss it."
Accusingly: "Mommy! You got soap on my finger!"

"Why do you have a crack on your tummy, Mommy?" (referring to my c-section scar)
"Liberty Grace! Close that curtain!"
"Okay, but Mommy, why don't I have a crack on my tummy?"
"Um, because God made everybody different, HoneyBunny."
"Could I ask Him for a crack for my tummy?"
"Why don't you go play in your doghouse?"
"Okay. Mercy Jane! Let's be doggies together!"
The sound of uncontrolled laughter bubbling out of children's mouths is one of my all-time favorite sounds, and I've been listening to more than my normal allotment of it the past two days! Our neighbor's great nephews have been visiting her because their mom is in the hospital, so the two boys have spent quite a bit of time in our apartment.

The four kids - Kaleb, Kameron, Liberty and Mercy - have had a blast creating mountains out of cushions and sledding down from the top, forming landing pads out of blankets and pillows and catapulting themselves off of chairs onto the bouncy softness, and turning back flips and somersaults until their brains spin about inside their heads. And the laughing! Oh, the laughing!

Today we took a short non-stop-action break to paint pumpkins and the inside of a paper sack. I cut the sack so that it would lie flat on the table, and it formed a long line of brown paper that the kids loved. They each claimed a section and painted away, completely absorbed in their creativity.

Then back to the lure of cushions!
As we checked out our groceries in Walmart tonight, an older couple at the next register caught my attention. The woman had been grinning at Liberty and Mercy and enjoying their smiles back at her. After a few minutes, the lady said to her husband who was operating the self-checkout machine, "Those are apples."

The man grunted, "Huh?" in that gravelly voice that older men have. He had been holding a two-liter of Coke.

"Don't get snippy with me!" she raised her voice at him.

He stopped and looked at her. "What? I didn't say anything to you but 'Huh?'"

"I heard good and well what you said!" And she quoted what she thought he had said to her. It was a long sentence full of meanness, and I wondered how she could have possibly misunderstood his single syllable for a complete sentence.

"Woman! I didn't say anything but 'Huh?'" he shouted back.

"Huh!" she responded.

And that was the end. He continued checking out in silence. She continued smiling at my daughters.

Is it just me, or did Walmart just play the Twilight Zone theme song over the speaker system?
We went to see our new house today. (Just like every other day.)

It was hard to leave it tonight, though.

Since the lights have not yet been installed, we always rush to get there after supper but before the sun goes down, and this time, we stayed even after night fell. We just couldn't tear ourselves away. It felt so good to be there.

Just for fun - and because if I didn't do this, I would cry - I played Pretend Day In Our New House with Liberty and Mercy. We started in their bedroom "sleeping." Then we woke up and rushed to the kitchen to cook breakfast. We took our pretend plates to the dining room table to eat, then cleared our plates and ran with them over to the sink. Then it was back to the bedroom closet to change our clothes. We quickly took our dirty clothes across the house to the laundry room, and then ran to the bathroom to brush our teeth. Then we headed to the toy room and remembered to exclaim "Thank you!" to Nonna and PopPop for the abundance we found there. After a short play time, we decided to do some crafts, so we pulled our pretend craft supplies out of the toy room closet (I wonder if I will be brave enough to store them there when we really move in) and accomplished some imaginary crafts.

Poor Jeremy had finally had enough of our nonsense; he'd been shaking his head bemusedly at me the entire time, and he announced it was time to go back to the apartment. The fact that it was pitch black in the house probably helped him determine our timeline. So I called to the girls, "Clean up your craft supplies, Girls! It's Library Time!"

"Hooray!" "Yay!" they shouted and very quickly picked up their fuzzy balls and glue sticks and glitter and paint and shoved them all into the closet. Of course, I had to make them pick their supplies up off the floor and put them away on the shelves they imaginarily came from. Then they ran to get pretend coats out of their bedroom closet and raced to the (real) car.

Once in the car, Liberty complained, "Mommy, I thought we were going to get into our 'tend car so we could go to the library."

Stopping her imaginary life and living the real one was not fun. About as much fun as stopping mine was.


They say we've only a month left!
Part One

I looked for an opportunity to address the shorter, gray-haired woman when we reached our evening stopping point, a wayside inn, and at last found her out of hearing distance of her younger companion just before our small group entered the dining room for dinner. "I apologize for...earlier. I do not mean any harm," I quietly said at her side.

She turned to face me, and her eyes boldly searched my facial features, looking for I'm not sure what, but I must have passed inspection. She nodded curtly and her features softened somewhat. I noticed that her full cheeks matched that of The Green-Cloaked-Lady (as I had taken to calling the young woman in my mind).

I surmised that they were relations, possibly mother and daughter, and I also amused myself by deciding the nose must have been passed down to the daughter from her absent father as it certainly was not present on the mother's face. With these new observations tucked into my mind, I strode across the wooden boards into the dining room and towards my dinner.

In satisfaction, I took note of the ten people seated on benches flanking the long table, only four of them familiar: the mother and daughter (as I had decided they were), the fidgety school teacher (as I had dubbed the young lady who'd been seated beside me during the ride) and "The Kid" the young boy about twelve-ish (whose role I still puzzled over) - these four had ridden in the stage coach with me all day. The other five came from a second stage coach driving Northward in tandem with ours which supplied for my pleasure new faces to observe, new personalities to enjoy. An aristocratic older woman with head held properly erect and silver hair immaculately pinned atop sat proudly at the wooden table awaiting her turn to be served. I decided the middle-aged woman with a quiet face, plainly gowned and seated beside the lady must be her maid-servant. Three men also traveled in that carriage. One full-bodied in every aspect - a head full of disheveled dark hair, face full of disheveled dark beard, deep, boisterously-toned voice, thick, muscular body. Amused, I noted that even the clothing he wore appeared thicker than the average man's. Made of home-woven cloth, the ensemble appeared to be designed to outlast the man's energetic activity level. The second man gave the impression of honesty and nose-to-the-books attention to detail. I immediately decided he worked with numbers, most likely a financier or accountant. His acorn brown hair slicked back from a thin face on which thin glasses spanned the bridge of his impossibly thin nose. I unintentionally breathed a low laugh as I compared the two men, Thick and Thin. The third male had chosen the seat next to mine, so my observations of him could not be as thorough, but he apparently had heard my chuckle.

He turned to me with an easy grin on his slightly freckled face, "Share the joke, Chap?"

I hesitated to share, for the joke would be at the expense of our table-mates, but something in his open, ready-to laugh expression eased my caution. I nodded towards the two men across the table, "I've named them Thick and Thin." I left it at that, thinking to myself, If I have to explain, he's not as humorously astute as I thought him.

The auburn-haired young man grinned knowingly, "You didn't ride with them. I've named them Flam and Clam." At my wrinkled brow he elaborated, "Flamboyant and Clammed Up."

I easily guessed which was which and smothered a short guffaw. I stuck out a hand, "I'm Matt." The grinning man next to me gripped my hand in his and shook quickly, "Jedidiah." Just over my new friend's shoulder I could see The Kid's face in profile. While his head bent towards his plate, his eyes had flicked upward to view Flam and Clam, a fleeting grin pulled at his full lips, and I was certain he had overheard our conversation.

Although I had tried earlier that day with poor results, I leaned over Jedidiah and addressed The Kid, "Son, I like your sense of humor." My outstretched hand was ignored, but I did receive a brief nod to acknowledge my words. Instead of his face, I could view only the top of his hat. After a second or two, I shrugged at Jedidiah and put my body back in its ready to eat position.

"Young man, remove your hat as befits a proper gentleman at the table." The high-pitched, authoritative voice belonged to the silver-haired woman across from me. Her stern gray eyes fixed on the top of The Kid's hat as she waited for his acquiescence. The clatter of knives and forks against stoneware continued all around, and Flam's rollicking tale of a friend's recent fishing adventure boomed over us. I kept my eyes on my newly filled plate, not wanting to risk glancing up and seeing Jedidiah grin.

I felt for The Kid. No boy trusted with journeying on his own wants to be bossed and reminded of etiquette by a stranger in front of strangers, but his next action surprised me. With a muttered "Excuse me," he quickly and quietly stepped backward over the bench and slipped out of the room. His exit was so smooth, I believe only Jedidiah, Lady Silver and myself even noticed it. I considered going after him, but on second thought realized how embarrassed I might have felt at his age. Twelve-ish is hard for a boy, I remembered. Better to let him work it out on his own.

Besides, the roast in front of me had reached the perfect temperature and tenderness, and it wouldn't stay that way for long. I hungrily shoved a forkful into my mouth.

Part 3
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At first glance, I classified the woman across the aisle as beautiful, gorgeous even.

Not wanting to seem rude, I avoided a full-on stare, but the glimpses I snuck whilst appearing to examine the landscape passing the carriage window translated to my brain bits and pieces of her countenance. I fitted the pieces together mentally to receive a complete picture of her and recanted my initial classification. Strictly speaking, she may not pass for gorgeous: in profile, her nose rested a bit on the masculine side if one were being completely truthful. Her cheeks appeared slightly too round for her facial proportions. A bump on the right side of her face suggested a recent encounter with possibly a mosquito or an insect of some sort.

The dark green hooded cloak covering her form hid the shape of her body and all but a few strands of her lightly colored hair. I hesitated to name the hair color. Was it brown? No, too light. But certainly not blond. Dishwater blond. I have heard others use the term, and it fit in this case. She seemed lost in thought, her barely pink lips a non-committal line turning slightly down in repose. Because her gaze remained focused out the window, I was unable to determine her eye color, but her pale lashes caught a gleam of sunlight and glowed golden.

Too late, I realized her traveling companion had noticed my interest. Our eyes met, mine attempting to convey boredom with the journey and the monotonous clopping of the horses hooves, hers flashing a warning akin to what I imagine a she-bear's eyes would posses just before rearing up on its hind legs and walloping a man. I dropped my gaze to my lap and examined my trouser legs while the horses clopped ever northward.

Part Two
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A snippet of conversation from our restaurant lunch table today:

MJ: "Nooo! Gace! Mommy, Gace is kicking me!"

Me: "Grace, stop kicking your sister."

LG: "I'm not kicking her. I'm just touching her with my foot."

Me: "Then don't touch her."

MJ: "Mommy! Gace is touching me!"

Me: "Liberty Grace!"

LG: "But, Mom, I'm not touching her."

Me: "Liberty, don't lie to me. I can see your foot."

LG: "I'm not lying, Mom! I'm not touching her! I'm touching her shoe."

Yes, stretched as far out as she could get and still be in her own chair, Grace's shoe could just barely reach Mercy's shoe. Sigh. I remember those days, and now it's payback time. Why, oh WHY did I torture my poor parents this way?