There's Going to Be Some Grass in This 

Most of my family lives out toward Shenandoah, Virginia (west and then farther west and south of Washington D.C.). Today I went out to my Uncles' (on The Grizz's side) to see their newish house and hang out.

My cousin Wes has a huge pitbull, and to wear her out he hops on an ATV and rips around the hills while she gallops alongside like a friggin' horse until she's gasping for air and tired enough to be brought in for the night. This is an excellent idea if you don't want, or are unable, to run miles a day with your dog. I hadn't done the ATV thing in a few years. Wind in my hair and such. Not quite as good as horseback riding, mostly because of the pollution ATVs cause, but it is freeing. Especially when you do it irresponsible-style, sans helmet.

Meanwhile I heard further news that my other Uncle, who lives farther out, has been congregating with my older male cousins over a Jeep or two he has rigged for mudding. Unsurprisingly (for Stovers) he pushes it to the rebel-edge and may or may not drink beers whilst doing. Forget whatever movie premiere is next: This is the sort of creek-side event that I need to procure an invitation to.

I hadn't seen four of my littler cousins (Have I mentioned that I have thirty-some or so cousins? I should count how many. Or ask my Grandma.) in a few years because, as exceptions to the VA rule, they now live in NC. It's rare that we are both in Virginia at the same time, especially since two are now school-aged and I'm usually in California.

I made up for lost time today by teaching them backflips, magic hour photography and videography, and, finally, destroying the Kindergartener at foosball. (Life lessons, people, life lessons.)

For example here is a video taken by the first-grader:

At one point, while we were talking when I first arrived and she was failing to recall any memory of me, the first-grader, who loves science and was explaining how excited she is to be studying different kinds of rocks in school, paused, and then said softly, "I don't know how god made flowers in eyes--but you have blue flowers in your eyes... ."

Ah geezus. That's not just cute, it's soulful! It was so sweet that I was too stunned to explain the genetics of eye color. And then the 3-year-old is equally cute as the rest. He constantly says a tiny "Hey!" because he wants your attention, but it sounds like a martial arts "hihh(!)". At the same time, when he speaks, he sounds a little like a Jawa. So he follows me around and it's like a Jawa is perpetually challenging me to a duel. Cute overload.

My Aunt told me a story about teen Grizz. I didn't realize that she went to the same high school as my Dad and his many siblings (including her husband, my Uncle). Since she was the love interest of his older brother, one day upper-classman The Grizz did his bro a favor and gave my future-aunt a lift to school. As she hopped out of his red, suped-up Camaro in her Freshman cheerleading uniform, she was all, "Well gosh, thanks!" And The Grizz was like, "Don't mention it." She smiles, and just as she's about to say goodbye, he says, "No really, don't mention it," in a straight faced (but joking), don't-tell-anyone-I-associated-with-you way as he speeds off with a "Zing! Too cool for you!" expression on his face.

Haha--OK, but really, my dad had a red Camaro that he worked on when he was a teenager?

I only hear these stories when the Aunts and Uncles are together: Especially the brothers Stover. Also my Dad had a motorcycle. I knew that, but M.Sto was telling a story about how cold it was to ride on the motorcycle in the winter and punctuated the anecdote with, "Oh yeah, he was a wildman."

And I was all, "Yeah. Grizz. with your secret teenage red Camaro and your van with a bed in the back."

He looked at me sideways, "That's right, punk." And just as I went to say something to that, he flips his hand up and says, "Silence, King o' the Freaks."

I'm certain that if he could have exited the car at that time on that line, he would have.

Apparently that is my new nickname.

Anyway, as you can see from family day it turns out the 1st-grader was the photag of the bunch. She took these:

She was thoughtful about where she stood when capturing images. In my experience, kids her age don't innately take steps to get a better angle.

Being on camera suited the Kindergartener, so she wins the performance award. And my little Jawa wins most likely to be sad when I forget him inside and go to the trampoline with the girls. (For the record I did call out to him, but he was entranced by SpongeBob.) You can't see or hear the toddler-cousin in this entry: Imagine the award she wins for best matching cap and coat on an adorable little person with a tiny, rosy nose from the chill air.

There are loads of other little Sto cousins, and more just born or on the way, so if you are thinking about breeding: Don't worry about it.

A related NYT editorial, Stacking the Deck Against Kids: "The U.S. should be a paradise for young people."

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