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AUGUST 2005
(Hold your mouse over a picture for its caption.)


August 1, 2005

The kids had a fabulous first day of school!  They're old veterans at this now.  Alex already had homework - to read for 30 minutes - which he does everyday anyway, so he got off easy.  The only glitch in the day was when their bus got home 45 minutes late.  Turns out their bus needed repairs and the replacement bus was too small to hold all the kids, so they had to wait for another bus to finish its route and then go back to the school and do our route.  We had called the school so there were no worries, but it was blistering hot standing out there in 100% weather waiting.

Lined up for the bus in the morning


August 2, 2005

I'm starting to remember why my website slowed down so much this time last year.  With the kids in school all day, there really isn't that much to say and aren't many photo opportunities.  Although, with just two days of them in school, I've managed to get my house cleaner than it was all summer!  That'll end soon enough, though - tomorrow is my first day back at the school volunteering.  Here we go!


August 3, 2005

We were invaded by workers this morning.  The porch is finally getting screened in and the bathroom is getting tile.  I'm so excited - things are happening!

The kids are doing great in school.  Alex has a notebook to organize his homework assignments, and it's working like a dream.  I don't have to bug him at all - he knows exactly what he needs to do and does it.  I'm not too sure that it's really him, but he looks a lot like my Alex!

The framework for the screen went up today Mark and Patch discussing chess strategy


August 5, 2005

We've survived the first week of school.  Alex already had a spelling test today and aced it - actually, he got 3 extra credit points, for a 103%.  Dat's my boy!


August 7, 2005

The porch is finally finished!!!  I can't wait to get porch furniture and plants! 

The bathroom is also completely tiled and looks AWESOME.  Now we're just waiting for the countertop and the mirror.  The scary part is, once that's done, the big construction starts on our bedroom and bathroom.  It suddenly hit me that it is going to be a nightmare.  Yikes!

Ain't it purty?


August 8, 2005

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MOM!

Each child in Alex's class has a goal of reading 100 minutes a week.  Alex has been doing his normal bedtime reading and we've been writing down the time each day - he hasn't done anything extra.  Last week he read 285 minutes, which was the most in his class!  I'm so proud that he loves reading so much and has already developed such a wonderful habit.

Patch had his first day of homework, much to Alex's delight.  It was killing Alex that Patrick could come right home and play while he did his homework.  Patrick settled right down and got his work done without complaint.  Although we aren't keeping track, he reads just as much as Alex each night, so he'll be ready when third grade rolls around!


August 10, 2005

Patch had gymnastics today, and Alex had to come with us since Mark's out of town.  He brought his Game Boy with him to keep him occupied.  When we got to the gym, of course it was mayhem with one set of classes letting out and another set starting up and when I turned around to check on Alex, he was gone.  Last week he'd stuck to me like glue since he didn't know the lay of the land, so I was a bit surprised he'd disappeared, to say the least.  I finally found him, sitting on the floor in the hallway with four other boys with Game Boys.  It's like Game Boys have homing devices so their operators can find each other!

Patch did some work on a spring board in gymnastics.  When we were in the car on the way home, he said, "I don't know why they call it a spring board.  There isn't any water coming out of it."  ROFL!

Mom has been in Seattle for the past week visiting with my brother and she came home last night.  Since she was gone for her birthday, we had a little dinner celebration tonight at our house.  Aunt Jin (mom's sister) pitched in for some balloons, and Patch was very excited to help me make and decorate her cake.  Except for the letters, Patch frosted and decorated it himself.  It's so nice to have her back home, and for she and Dad to be over tonight.

future Emeril Patrick's work of art - with love to Grandma


{Editor's note:  Mark's grandfather is known as Papa, Great Papa, and Grandpa to the various family members, so bear with me if I change from name to name.  Also, his grandmother is known as Nana, which is what my boys call Mark's mother, so forgive me if I confuse you.  This was a challenge to write.}


August 12, 2005

We received the very sad news that Mark's Grandfather died today.  He was a fabulous man who created the incredible Finster clan that I have been so privileged to be a part of.  He will be greatly missed, although he lived a wonderful, full life of 93 years.

Great Papa at Lake George


August 13, 2005

Papa's funeral is scheduled for Tuesday, so we spent half the morning going over various travel scenarios.  One possibility was for the boys and me to stay home while Mark went up alone for the funeral.  We really didn't know what to do, so we decided to ask the kids what they thought.  We asked them one-on-one, and Alex said he absolutely wanted to go.  I asked him why, and he said, "Even though I didn't get to see him very much, I really liked him."  Patch wasn't so sure he wanted to go, because he honed in very quickly on the fact that there wouldn't be much kid stuff going on.  (Hey, at least he's honest.)  When I asked him if he understood why he might need to go anyway, he said, "Because it's Daddy's Papa and we need to be there."  What sweet little guys. 

The thought of trying to coordinate flight schedules and rental cars was overwhelming, so we tossed everything in the van and hit the road for New Jersey.  Mark set up the xBox in the car for the boys, and they were happy as clams.  After we'd been on the road for all of 20 minutes, Patch piped up from the back with "Are we there yet?"  I looked back at him warily, only to see him grinning from ear to ear.  Little smarty pants!  In the afternoon, he asked where we were going to eat dinner.  I explained that we were looking for a spot that has something better than fast food.  Again, my little smarty pants said, "That's a long name for a restaurant."  We stopped half-way for the night, and I shared a bed with Patch.  It was like sleeping with an octopus with ants in his pants!  I don't know how the boy actually gets any rest through the night!

Oh, by the way, today is our 17th anniversary.  We're still goin' strong!

At Denny's they gave the boys packets of colored powder to change the color of their Sprite.  Patch loved it! Mark hopped in back to play golf on the xBox with the boys.  Not a bad picture, considering I took it over my shoulder while driving down the highway!


August 14, 2005

After a very long day dealing with nasty traffic from Washington, D.C. on up, we finally arrived at Mark's Grandparents' house at about 8:30.  Dorothy (Mark's cousin) and James (her husband) greeted us, and soon Mark's Uncle Tom and Nana joined us.  Nana is doing wonderfully.  We were all pretty tuckered out so after a short visit, we headed to the hotel to settle in.  We learned our lesson last night and got a roll-away bed so octopus-boy could sleep alone.


August 15, 2005

Mark's parents picked up KC and Stacy at the airport last night.  The flight was supposed to be a 6:00 p.m. arrival, but between flight delays and horrible traffic, they didn't make it to the hotel until 2:00 a.m.  After two days in the car, I've been wondering what ever possessed us to make the drive.  After hearing about their ordeal, I now know why.  LOL  Mark's dad wanted to take us to breakfast at a place he knows in town, but there was a horrible thunderstorm last night, and the restaurant had no power.  Turns out half the town is without power, including parts of our hotel.  Fortunately, it's still overcast and not too, too hot, because one thing lacking power is the air conditioning.  And the elevator, and oddly enough, only half the lights and outlets in our room.

There were two visitations at the funeral home today, one in the afternoon and one in the evening.  It was so wonderful to see all of the relatives - that's always the silver lining to a funeral.  Patch wanted to go up to the casket to see Papa, so I went with him and we discussed what was going on.  He handled it very well - I was really proud of him.  Alex didn't want to go up, and I was proud of him for realizing that. 

Between visitations we invaded a local restaurant who had set aside a room for us for dinner.  There were seven children in our group and they finally had a chance to get goofy.  It was a typical Finster meal, with people talking and laughing and enjoying being together.

Patch entertained himself on Mark's Palm at the funeral home I'm not sure who everone is, but in the middle is Mark's dad, and Mark's uncle is on the left

KC, Stacey and Jay Nana is lively as ever

Tom and Dorothy get caught up over dinner Alex and Patch being silly while Jonah joins in

Faith and Alex thumb wrestle at the second visitation


August 16, 2005

Papa's funeral was this morning.  This may sound strange, but it was the sweetest funeral I've ever attended.  Nana and Papa have lived in the same town their entire adult lives and have attended the same church, so the priest knew Papa well.  He came down to the pews and just started talking about Nana and Papa and the wonderful life and family they built.  He described Papa as a beautiful man.  That he was.  The great-grandchildren brought the bread and wine up to the altar, and the priest had them all stop and pray.  It was such a sweet moment.  Mark discretely took a picture with his cell phone, and while the quality of the photo is poor, the memory is precious.  It's a very sad day, but also a very joyous day, to remember the incredible life of a man who made such a difference in all our lives. 

That's Patch on the near end with Alex beside him praying

After the funeral, we gathered at Nana and Papa's house.  The kids had a blast finally letting it all hang out, and we all had a terrific visit.  With the days of missed school and work ticking away, we loaded back into the van and started the long trek home this afternoon.  Once again, as soon as we were on the road, the boys started in with "Are we there yet?" over and over again.  This time they were laughing their heads off, and when I looked back, Patch said, "Uncle John told us to do that!"  Ha ha, very funny, John!

Nana was enjoying visiting

Uncle John's "claw" captured Kelsey! Ah, Kelsey's safe in her Poppy's arms (Mark's Uncle Jim)

Sydney, Maggie, Kelsey and Alex doing artwork outside Patch discovered sticks will "write" on the walkway

Nana and Papa's house Ready to hit the road again


August 17, 2005

We woke up bright and early and after a 13-hour day on the road, we finally made it home at about 9:30 tonight.  It's hard to believe we only left here five days ago - what a whirlwind trip!  Our thanks go out to Mom, Dave and Sonja, and Jenny from our contractor, who took care of the house, the critters, and the construction on such short notice.


August 18, 2005

I let the boys sleep in this morning, but they were still bleary-eyed when I drove them to school.  I half expected to get a call from the school today, but they managed to survive the day.  Back in the saddle again.


August 20, 2005

John and Becca had a party to go to this evening, so we watch their four kids.  I had really been looking forward to playing with Emily, who is now seven months old and absolutely adorable.  Her three boys and my boys disappeared into the playroom or one of the bedrooms and were hardly even there.  But I don't know who that baby is that they dropped off.  She certainly wasn't the happy cutie pie that I'm used to seeing with Becca!  The poor thing cried - or rather screamed - the ENTIRE time they were gone.  Mark was able to calm her down for a few moments, and of course, I snapped pictures.  I felt so bad for her.  As soon as Becca came back (five hours later, mind you), she turned right back into that adorable little girl.  At least the transformation reversed itself!  LOL

Maybe this Mark guy isn't so bad after all Patch, Carter and Nathan playing Yu-Gi-Oh

Emily enjoying Patrick's stuffed animals


August 21, 2005

Patch was having his first IM (instant message) conversation on the computer with his friend, Anthony.

He doesn't hunt and peck too bad for a 6-year-old


August 24, 2005

Mark left for the Ft. Lauderdale office this morning and was planning to stay until Friday.  We've been watching Tropical Storm Katrina, and it looks like he might have to cut his trip short.  I still have a near-panic reaction when I see the state of Florida in the same frame as a big white spinning blob on radar!


August 25, 2005

This morning, Katrina was heading straight for Ft. Lauderdale, so Mark came home early.  It's a good thing, because it hit sooner than anyone thought and he probably would have been stranded there without power or gas.  Fortunately, Mark has spoken with his coworkers and everyone seems to be doing pretty well.  Yikes!

We've gotten some showers and very mild wind gusts from the outer bands of the storm.  When the boys and I went outside between rain storms, the tree frogs were out in force.  They had a blast chasing them around and watching me jump out of my skin when a frog would suddenly jump at me.

Checking out a little hopper


August 26, 2005

I had a closing this evening a good distance away that ended up falling apart, so I bought myself a consolation cake on the way home.  When I drove into the driveway, a bunch of the neighbors were hanging out, so we invited them in for cake.  As usual, all of the children raced to the snake cage and asked me to show them the eggs.  When I took the lid off the nesting box, there was a little head emerging from an egg!!!!!  It turned out to be a big neighborhood event with everyone there to watch, which added to the excitement.  It looks like it's an albino, just like Zeke!

Witnessing a miracle!

We've been keeping a close eye on the weather to see what Katrina is up to, and not only are we breaking weather records with the tropical systems, but we've also broken another weather record - 47 consecutive days with temperatures over 90 degrees.  Isn't that just peachy.

Alex jumped off the bus this afternoon bursting with the news that he is now a "book buddy" at school.  Both boys had their own book buddies in the past, where an older student comes and reads with them, and now Alex is one of those older students.  He was so proud, as he should be!


 August 27, 2005

That poor little snake hadn't emerged any further this morning, so I called my favorite reptile pet shop and they told me that's completely normal - they actually rest for about 24 hours after they've cut through the egg.  Sure enough, this afternoon he crawled out into the world!  And another egg has a little head poking out as well.  This is so exciting!  If you're wondering why the eggs look so gross, keep in mind they've been sitting in moist sphagnum moss for the past 10 weeks or so, and 10 of them didn't develop, but they're all attached so we had to keep the bad ones to keep the good ones.  You can see the head emerging from the egg in the bottom left corner.  That one looks like a regular red and brown coloration.

He's (she's?) so skinny!

Dave and Sonja let the boys stir their pool this afternoon.  They're so confident in the water now!

Alex showing off the dive rings he retrieved Patch was kickin' back while Alex rowed him around the pool


August 28, 2005

Our second little baby hatched today, and a third is working on it.  The third egg was looking pretty disgusting as the cut appeared, and I was grossing out over it.  Alex looked at me and said (in a "duh" tone of voice), "Mom, it's birth."  Like he's such an expert!

Our prayers and hearts go out to all of those in Katrina's path.  Such a scary time.


August 31, 2005

We now have three gorgeous itsy bitsy baby snakes.  It's so cool that we had eggs to begin with, but that they actually hatched is incredible!  At only one day old, we've already had an escapee.  One of the babies discovered a broken slat in the cage and found a nice cozy spot in my mouse supplies under a table.  Fortunately we found him quickly, but we're gonna have to watch that guy!  I didn't have time to deal with a broken cage this morning, so I just put the whole baby cage inside the big snake cage for safekeeping, and they seem quite content with this arrangement.

Mama Cassy checking on her babies