Last night was pretty quiet for a Friday night. Well, as quiet as any night can be that includes teenagers playing the drums, bass, and electric guitar. It was a small crowd this week, just my own three boys and three extras. What we call extras are kids who spend so much time here that we consider them part of the family: I don't hesitate, for instance, to assign them chores.
FirstExtra is a kid we've know since first grade: he's an only child so he spends a lot of time here. He's an avid golfer (a sport I think is peculiar) and has tried to introduce my kids to the sport. Last year, he and Boy-in-Black were hitting golf balls around in the back yard and he sent one flying through the sliding glass door in our kitchen.
SkaterBoy, one of our 13-year-olds, used to live next door to us. When he was little, he was a quiet serious boy with big blue eyes. Whenever I'd tell all the kids that we had to clean the house, he'd say, "My chore is petting the cats" and he'd sit cross-legged on the floor with a cat on his lap. We moved away from him five years ago but I still pick him up every Friday afternoon so that he can spend the weekend with us. He describes himself now as "a short kid with an attitude."
Blonde Niece is another of our 13-year-olds. Her older sisters are in college and her parents both work on weekends, so it makes sense for her to spend weekends here. She's beautiful in a very unself-conscious way and all of our extra boys seem to have crushes on her, which for some reason annoys her male cousins, who don't get that at all.
Temperatures here are still hovering way below zero, so it was good night to stay in by the fire. I think I've built a fire in the fireplace every single day since Thanksgiving. I love how a crackling fire can transform a dark cold room into a cosy place where the family just automatically gathers. The downstairs of our house is one big room, living room and kitchen combined, with my little office as the only thing that is separate. So the fireplace is the center of our home, and on cold nights we fight for spots on the long comfy couch or the big chair. We've got millions of pillows too, and most of the kids sleep here on the floor, since we don't have much bedroom space. The living room is where the music happens too - we've got Boy-in-Black's drum set in one corner and the piano against the inside wall. And all kinds of amps and guitars strewn about, with black cords snaking about the lamps and furniture.
For those of you who picture me as the traditional Mom making some kind of big meal and serving it loving to all the kids: I'm not. Friday nights, we order pizza from the one place in town that will deliver to us (we had to bribe them originally but we are regular customers and now they love us). And we get French fries with hot sauce, the vegetarian substitute for chicken wings. Last night we were a small enough group that we could all fit around the big wooden table; usually, every just grabs food and finds a place to sit on the floor. My favorite spot to sit is on the raised hearth in front of the fire. I've burned holes in fleece doing this, but oh, the heat on my back feels so good.
So that was how I spent the evening: I took the most comfy spot, on the end of the couch nearest the fire, and worked on a piece of writing I was editing. With-a-Why snuggled next to me with a book. Spouse was at the big wooden table doing some kind of work on his laptop. Boy-in-Black on the drums and FirstExtra on the bass were working out some kind of song. The 13-year-old crowd were on the floor in front of the fire, playing a game. Occasionally, I'd look up to yell at someone to take their dirty cups to the kitchen counter or I'd make a quick trip into the cold garage in my socks to grab some more firewood. When I'd look out the window, I could see the white drifts of snow, the dark woods beyond, and all the light spilling from our windows.