I do love Sister Outlaw - with every aching muscle in my body.
She and Favourite Cousin arrived after school on Friday. They came bearing gifts and chocolate.
We had coffee. Her eyes surveyed her surrounds. I know she was looking for dirt and grime, checking out the smudges on the windows, counting up the cobwebs on my ceiling.
Its not because she is judging me, which is a mercy because I have had coffee with folk like that and the coffee never tastes as good as it does with the Outlaws.
She was sizing up, planning her attack, assessing the foe and assembling resources in her mind.
The kids played in the back yard while I pegged and she pondered.
"Do you have meths? Scourers? Vacuum? Rags? Bicarb? Disinfectant?" She rattles off the requests.
"Some holiday you are having, SO." I said to her.
"Ah mate, we can have a holiday next time I come to visit. You guys have got a wedding next week. What sort of rags have you got? I only like 100% cotton." She was only 80% joking.
Once she had put together a list of requirements and we had bathed and fed the kids and put up with a few whines and put them into bed, we all relaxed with a few wines.
That is one of the best things about Sister Outlaw. I may never have chosen her as a friend as the odds on our paths meeting without my having met her brother first are astronomical.
However, we did meet and she is the only girl in a family of five kids - and the chances of her two brothers over here finding a stable girlfriend are extremely slim while the brother in Croatia is as dodgy as a goat on goatweed. So I am it - her one shot at a sister.
And even though she lived through my breakup with P. her brother, we all went through his illness and burial, and there are moments when we do not gel - all in all, I am the closest thing to her having a sister and she is a pretty handy person to have as an outlaw.
And when we get together, we can talk. In fact, on the first night we did - time was called (when it was finally noticed) at 1am.
Saturday morning, and V and I took the kids to softball.
"Have a sleep-in" I advised her. Sister Outlaw is known for appreciating a good sleep-in.
"Nah, mate." she replies. "I didn't come up here to sleep. Get me up before you leave."
'Salina took a catch at shortstop in the first innings - her first catch! It was a reflex, and she was blown away because she didn't even know she had caught it.
It was a tight game - first innings was 7-6, their favour. Second innings was 11-10 to us. It was a timed game, so they had room for another innings of 5 minutes each. They scored 4 more - and we just got our 4th when the game closed - so we won by 1 run.
Then I dragged the kids around the shops looking for shoes for 'Salina - which we are going back in to buy with the dress as the chosen cloppers came in 2 colours.
We got home around lunchtime and I had yet to get the groceries.
Sister Outlaw had got a start. The thing about Sister Outlaw's cleaning method is she is extremely thorough. You do not realise how truly slack a housekeeper you are until a Sister Outlaw comes into your house and does a thorough job. The downside of being thorough, of course, is time becomes elastic.
The kids by this stage had gone past the "I am so excited to see you, I have wanted to play with you for months" stage and were into trying to impress one another.
I honestly don't know why 8 and 9 year old kids do this - because the suck at it big time. Every time another bignote is issued, it seems to either require trumping or sulking.
I promised the kids I would take them to the beach if they stayed out of Sister Outlaw and V's hair while I got groceries.
The wind was howling, so the promised barbeque was postponed and a roast was prepared before we went to get sandblasted.
Sister Outlaw said "I can go to the beach another time, mate. I just like to keep going once I get started."
V and I galloped them up and down the beach and then to the playground. We left the playground to the tunes of "its not fair, he got to" and "why is she whinging so much".
While I prepared the veg and Sister Outlaw cleaned, V watched the kids play kid games in the backyard. Then there was an almighty blowout and 'Salina was crying in her cupboard (oh yes, not woth being a drama queen unless you can be really dramatic) and V got to be all blokey with Favourite Cousin in rolling their eyes and saying "girls."
They got washed and we all got fed and then bedtime again had "how come he gets to stay up later than me" because we enforce a fairly strict bedtime for 'Salina - not out of cruelty but because we do know how she reacts to overtiredness. It is not pretty for anyone.
All the grownups called it a night at about 10.00. The room Sister Outlaw had cleaned - from ceiling to skirting board, every window and fiddly crevice - looked amazing.
"Should I do the bathroom tomorrow?" I asked because when you sit at the feet of the mistress, you want to be able to take orders.
"Nah, mate, I don't like anyone working beside me because I just feel I have to redo what they do - no offence."
She also refused money. "This is my wedding present. None of the family can come and we can't afford a big present for you guys."
Sunday, and there was no way I was going to let my guest work so hard without getting a sweat up myself, so I found a corner of the house well away from her after asking her instruction on technique.
The kids alternated playing games and bickering like siblings and Sister Outlaw cleaned the other entrance room - again with the cobwebs, the dust, the dead flies and the windows.
Well, the whole downstairs is not pristine - but the main areas to attract people during the barbeque on Sunday after the wedding are now glowing with the efforts of sugar soap, elbow, bleach and disinfectant, even if I do say so myself.
After the chil'ens had expended some energy on computer games (another excuse to argue) and room tidying (ditto) V had girded his loins to take them to the beach for a swim (where apparently they argued about the boogie board).
I hooked in. The area with the fridge where the food will no doubt be prepared and guests will no doubt be herded in case of rain is good, so long as you don't start comparing the walls of that section with the walls next to them past a certain point (that would be the brick pillar neatly marking "clean" from "unclean").
That is the problem with doing a thorough clean, though - you can really tell the difference.
We don't have shed, so the closest thing V gets to a "zone" is the downstairs toilet. Its curtains got washed, the toilet (which was actually pretty clean-within -the-bowl-wise) reverted to some former glory (or as glorious as a downstairs toilet can be), the walls denuded of goodness knows what and several hundred daddy-long legs were made homeless, the window can now be seen through (so you can see the clean curtains clearer) and the deck got swabbed.
Sister Outlaw finally headed to the beach in the afternoon, taking the kids for another round and I did another acre or so of wall and doors so from one angle (so long as none of those pesky guests look sideways) it looks like a new downstairs.
A storm was threatening, so our barbeque was cooked on the stove and the kids were cleaned, fed and poured into bed - and then Sister Outlaw headed back for a bit more bathroom activity while I did the laundry.
And my muscles also had a certain glow up last night as I tried to sleep.
3am this morning, and with a little assistance from Eddie my half-wake state moved into full and I did a mental to-do list before I went to sleep.
Today, once people are awake, I have to pack them up, drop 'Salina off at school, drop them off at the station, collect a script from the chemist, see if there are any camcorders still on special we saw in a catalog (and while Sister Outlaw will not take money, she wants a video of the day) get one of them, get home for an hour's work before going in to see 'Salina perform in a concert, come back home for as much work as possible before collecting her from After School Care. I also have to call the cake lady, the cleaners (to finish up the floors that we didn't get around to), and lawnmowing dude (because bad weather meant it didn't happen for us on the weekend).
For your enjoyment, here is a private concert with 'Salina from a few months ago - she was pretty good then - now she is awesome. I hear her practice nearly every day, but she put on a show (which I didn't tape) for us on Friday and it was excellent. I would say that even if she was someone else's daughter!
Well - I was, but the 32M of it was just too much for me to wait for - and no doubt would have affected your download too.