Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Peace on Earth, Good will to men

We made a giant snowman out of plastic cups today. The head looks kind of deformed, because we wanted it to be smaller than the body, but the cups don't really fit properly then. So he's slightly misshapen, but still cute. His name is Oatmeal.

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Most of the year, when i'm driving, i listen almost exclusively to NPR. I like to know what's going on in the world. But during the month between Thanksgiving and Christmas, i listen to nothing but Christmas music. The world is exhausting, and honestly, i just want to feel some peace and joy.

As i was driving home this morning, "I Heard The Bells" was playing, and it got to the third verse, and i was like, "THIS. This is how i feel right now." The lyrics are:

And in despair I bowed my head:
"There is no peace on earth," I said,
For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men."

I know that the next verse, about God being not dead or sleeping, and wrong failing and right prevailing, is all true, but it just doesn't feel like that right now. 

This year, even without NPR or any other news source, there's no escaping the constant barrage of terrorism and racism and Donald Trump and hate. It seems like the world is going crazy. I long for peace on earth, and it just feels like hate is winning right now. 

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Mostly Advent, but also a little bit of Downton Abbey

A few years ago we went to a "live nativity" at a church in town, and afterwards our entire family was all, "Okay. So that was...kind of lame." And so i was a little bit nervous when i had this "Evening at Bethlehem" on the schedule this year. But it was at a different church, and i was feeling optimistic. 

The first 5 minutes were a little video with still pictures and a voice over reading the King James Version of the Christmas story, and Katrina, who was sitting next to me, started giving me a look that clearly said, "Um. This is kind of boring, Mom." But as soon as the video was finished, it all got better. This guy who clearly loved his role as a shepherd came out dragging an adorable sheep, and then we all got to walk through "Bethlehem," where a money lender gave us "shekles" and then later a tax collector (who took all of the shekles we had). There were people making pottery and people "selling" jewelry and flowers and bread and cloth. The "streets" were totally crowded with people, which my kids later said they really liked because it made it seem more realistic. The actors were all adorable and committed to their roles, and it was kind of awesome.

So that's definitely something that we'd all be happy to do again. Yay!

Yesterday's Advent activity was Christmas Mad Libs. This is our fourth year, i think, and since we do it in the same book every year, the kids think it's hilarious to read back over previous years' stories as well. We always do three pages, and we counted ahead to see how many years remained in the book - three, which i thought was pretty good, but the kids all cried, "Nooooo!" It's weird that this is a tradition that they all love.

Today we made cards for teachers and leaders. Houston just ignored the actual card and made snowflakes, which he then wrote notes on. Katrina made beautiful Christmas trees with lots of glitter. Zane wrote a note in pen and glued a small snowflake to the inside. So they all did pretty much what i could have predicted. Except Houston. I can never predict what he's going to do with crafts.

Tonight Juanito and i went with Beth, Stephanie, and another friend to see the final season premier of Downton Abbey. The movie theater gives away tickets to see it about a month before it comes out on TV, and it's always so much fun to watch with a huge crowd of people. Everyone sighs and giggles and claps and makes angry noises, and it's this feeling of solidarity. Beth and i even managed to get interviewed by a TV station before the movie, and ... i kind of hope that that doesn't actually make it onto TV ever. I'm such a dork.

Afterwards we went for frozen yogurt and sat on the floor in the hallway (because the place was completely packed) and talked and giggled and just generally had fun. Friends are awesome.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Advent, field trips, and a 5K

For Advent this year, i've been trying to actually do whatever the planned activity is for each day, which doesn't sound all that impressive, but is still not as impressive as it sounds. I was pretty careful to not put things on the calendar that we'd never do, like "Go caroling!" or "Bake and decorate cookies, and then bring them to people!" Those are things that i always want to do, until the day they're scheduled, and them i'm like, "Okay! We have half an hour before we need to leave for Zumba! about a cup of hot chocolate instead?" I aimed a lot lower this year, putting on things that we'd enjoy but would be completely doable. And so we're succeeding, which is good because we're doing whatever it is, and also because it always feels good to succeed.

So on Thursday we made snowflakes. (I love making snowflakes.)

Yesterday we went downtown, where the Gay Men's Choir was singing Christmas carols outside on the steps of the opera house. I kind of expected that they'd just be singing to us, but instead they basically led a carol-sing, so we all got to sing along. It was really fun. Also really cold after an hour. Zane wasn't with us, because he had a sleepover at his friend's house, and as much as i adore was probably the best thing he could have missed. I really don't think he'd have enjoyed it, what with the standing in one place for an hour in the cold, singing Christmas carols. The rest of us totally enjoyed it, though.

Today the kids put out their shoes for Sinterklaas. I figure that since my kids are more than half Dutch, they should get to enjoy at least one of the traditions.

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On Friday, Zane had a field trip to the Kid's Food Basket, an organization that provides sack dinners for kids who might otherwise not get any meal in the evening. This is my fourth time going with one of the kids' classes, and every time i go, i'm totally impressed by how incredibly quickly the kids work. What's awesome is that they always seem to spontaneously organize themselves into assembly lines. A group of 3-4 will figure out, "So...if i open the boxes and you snap the puddings apart and she puts them into the crate, that's faster than all of us doing all three things." And then they just fly along faster than we parents can keep up with the breaking down of boxes and restocking of crates.

Afterwards, we got back to the classroom, and the teacher tried to open the door and realized that someone had stuck a staple into the lock. (Who does that?!) And so another mom and i took the kids outside for half and hour while she found someone who could get the door open somehow. So the kids got a field trip plus a long extra recess. Best! Day! Ever! (And then Zane got to go on a sleepover, so he was pretty much the happiest boy ever.)

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Katrina had her 5K for Heart and Soul today. She loved it. It was cold, but not totally freezing, and honestly, it was so much better than i had kind of expected. When i first heard that their run was going to be in December, i imagined them having to run through deep snow and over snow drifts. Instead, it was hovering right around freezing, and there was no snow to be seen. Yay!

The best part about running in the cold is that when you finish, they give you hot chocolate. (And chili, which seems a little bit odd at 10:00 in the morning.)

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Long, long post to make up for missing two weeks

Yep. It's been weeks. Important weeks, at that. Days when i actually had stuff to say, rather than just, "So. It was a day." It's the Christmas season! We're doing fun things!

But it's the Christmas season! When the kids aren't surrounding me (and even sometimes when they are), i'm busy making presents until late into the night, and then all i want to do is fall into bed and sleep. So i'll try to do better! But....

So. To recap:
On November 19th, the final movie for the Hunger Games came out, and it was the Ladies Night movie, which meant that we had a huge group of people who all came with us to go have fun and watch Mockingjay. Beth, who is amazing, put together little gift bags for everyone, along with Keren, who totally made stuff for it too. Cookies and a bookmark and a necklace and a little painting, all wrapped up in a silver parachute. Fun!

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Thanksgiving was at my aunt and uncle's house this year, which was either very fortuitous or just very well-planned-out on my mom's part, because she was still very unable to host a ton of people at her house, what with still recovering from her knee surgery. There was delicious food, and i always like my family, extended and immediate, so it was a really good day. After dinner we had the traditional Thanksgiving craft, which is almost always some kind of  Christmas decoration. This year we made fancy snowflakes and cute paint-chip Christmas trees.

Thanksgiving evening, our family (Juanito, the kids, and i) played a game of Catchphrase. Sort of. Initially it was just the kids and me, and i set teams with Zane on my team, assuming that, as the youngest, he'd be the obvious weak link. And then i just ... didn't get out the board to keep score, and since it's been a while since we played that game, the kids didn't notice. So we just played with the timer, and when the timer ran out we'd pause, and then either just start going again or pass the turn and start with the next person, whatever the person holding the thingy felt like doing. It was completely not competitive, which meant that eventually Juanito wandered over and joined in.

The thing is...Zane was amazing. He was better than some adults i've played with. I mean, Houston and Katrina were good too, but Zane is just really good at it. It's a good thing we weren't keeping score, because it totally would have looked like i was stacking the deck in my favor, choosing him for my team.

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The day after Thanksgiving, we always go get a tree. Usually we go with my parents, but my mom isn't quite up to stomping through rough terrain to haul a tree out yet, so this year we were on our own.  We picked out a super-cute tree. The kids actually made the decision. They wanted this one because it was "all bright green and happy-looking!" And it is! It's also the pokiest tree in the history of trees. Everyone was hanging ornaments, going, "Ow. Ow. Ow." Poor Juanito, who's always in charge of putting the lights on, got his hands all poked up even through his work gloves.

While Juanito was struggling with the lights, the kids and i decorated the rest of the house. It's always so much fun to see the house all pretty and Christmasy, and i on-purpose don't even think about the fact that, in a month, it's not nearly as much fun to put away. Because, if nothing else, it's a fun way to clean and possibly put different nick-knacks out! Yay!

We have so many traditions in our family, and a lot of them were entirely accidental on my part, but they started when the kids were little, and the kids just want to do them every single year. And that's totally fine! Except that it's things like putting the star on the top of the tree or ringing in Christmas with a special bell ornament, and they want to take turns and be fair...except nobody ever remembers FOR SURE from year to year who did each thing last year. So last year, the kids were smart and wrote down the schedule for the next three years and put it into the box with the ornaments. They are brilliant.

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Katrina bought herself a knitting loom. I don't know what it's actually called, but it's a circle with little pegs, and you loop the yarn around the pegs, and it magically makes a knit hat. (Years and years ago, my grandpa got into knitting the same way and made everyone the best scarves in the world. I still have mine, and it's still used regularly by me or my kids, because it's insanely warm.) Katrina bought it on Saturday night, and then spent all day Sunday teaching herself to use it and then knitting and knitting, and by Sunday night, she had an adorable hat which she has not taken off since. That was four days ago.

Meanwhile, Houston decided that he wanted to learn how to crochet, so i sat down and taught him using a big hook and thick yarn, because that way things go faster. He worked at it for a while and got incredibly frustrated, so i switched him to regular yarn and a normal hook, and he immediately threw himself into it whole-heartedly and has been crocheting every spare moment since. He is nearly finished with his first scarf, and i'm pretty sure that three minutes after he finishes that one, he'll start on a new one.

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Emma has been in our family for about a year now - almost exactly - and she's just a really good dog. We still put her in her crate at night and if we're gone for longer than half an hour, but i leave her out when i drive the kids to school in the mornings. Usually i come home and she's curled up on the couch, completely happy.

Today i came home and she met me at the front door, which i initially thought was a nice change. Turns out, she had a party while i was gone. She somehow pulled my basket of yarn balls to the floor and then proceeded to play with them like a cat. Approximately 10 balls of yarn, all completely tangled together. Good yarn, too, that i didn't want to just throw away. So i spent the first two and a half hours of my morning untangling and re-winding balls of yarn. SIGH.

Guess who's going to be going in her crate when i bring the kids to school from now on....

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Possibly my favorite moment of today: Katrina, Houston, and i were in the car. Katrina was explaining what she wants for Christmas. 
Katrina: "I want glitter, because i really like to use it for projects." (She talked about the glitter for a while.)
Me: "Wait. Do you want glitter? Or glitter glue?"
Katrina: "Oh! Glitter glue. I really like pink glitter! It's so pretty!"
Me: "Pink glitter? Or pink glitter glue?"
Her: "Glitter glue. I mean glitter glue when i say glitter."
Me: "It's kind of an important distinction, though. They're totally different things, if you're asking for them for Christmas...."
Houston: "Yeah! Like, if i wanted a flower pot, but i just said, 'I want a pot,' then that's not the same thing at all!" 
Katrina: "And then on Christmas, people would be all like, 'Here's your pot!'"

I managed to not laugh until later, when i was recounting the conversation for Juanito.

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So it's Advent season, and we always have a several different Advent calendars going. This year we've got one that has jokes, one that has activities, and one that has the Christmas story, one verse at a time, for everyone to memorize. Also one that has candy.

Yesterday's activity was to start doing Secret Santa. We went to the dollar store and each got the same number of presents, and then came home and wrapped them with printed-up name tags so that the giver could be properly secret. It's day 2, and i'm pretty sure i already know who everyone has. Because i'm obnoxious.

Today's activity was looking up funny Christmas videos on Youtube. Easy, fast, and able get finished between Katrina's Heart and Soul practice and Juanito and Houston's needing to leave for Zumba. 

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Twitter (and Facebook) updates: Late May through mid-November

Houston, home sick: "I was wiggling my tooth and it started bleeding." Me: "Why were you wiggling it?" Him: "There was nothing else to do."

Houston fell in the river at school. Me: "You...fell in the river." The office ladies: "With your kids, if it's not one thing, it's another!"

(Playing Electric Avenue for the kids)
Me: "This is the first rock song i ever heard!" They seem less than impressed. Losers.

The kids and i were reading. Juanito just walked in with his hand covered in blood and announced, "I cut myself. Just letting you know."

I just told Houston that a strawberry isn't a berry, but a banana is, and i BLEW HIS MIND.

We just spent the past hour and a half watching a house down the street change into a pile of rubble.

My neighbor repeatedly called it "chicken pops," and i ... kind of wish that was the actual name.

I just opened a jar for Zane, and he exclaimed, "WOW! You are IMPRESSIVE! I was struggling with that!" I am stronger than a 3rd grader!

OMG. There is a construction truck that has been beeping for half an hour. Is it driving backwards in circles around the block??

10-year-old neighbor: "Do you got a girlfriend?" 4-year-old neighbor: "No." 10-year-old: "Is that because you're gay?"

Houston just burned his fingers by holding a metal bowl and pouring boiling water into it. Him: "Remind me never to get metal walls."

Houston just said, "Wow! I'm closer to being 20 than to my birth." Me: "You're not allowed to talk anymore."

We wanted to stand by the Bear Butte sign, so we parked and started walking, thinking, "Meh. We haven't seen almost any buffalo at all, so what are the chances of one being RIGHT HERE?" And then a GIANT buffalo suddenly stood up just off the road from us. We all made a dash back to the car and DROVE closer to the sign.

Middle of the afternoon, Katrina randomly decided to take a nap in our bed. Seems like a good plan to me.

We decorated cupcakes for Harry Potter's birthday. Because we're nerds.

Zane got a free icee because he was smashed in the face with a ball. I think he probably thinks it was worth it.

Age 11: Katrina finally decided that she wants a door on her room. So we bought a door, and Juanito's been working on getting so it'll fit.

Blueberry picking! Juanito's haul: 1 blueberry. My haul: 2 pounds. I win. (Mostly because i don't like blueberries.)

There's a gigantic moth in the room, and i'm doing my best to ignore it, but it starting to circle my head, and i might wake everyone up by screaming if it tries to land on me.

Katrina: "The new Dork Diaries book is going to be HOT PINK! I really want to get it, because it will look so cute on my shelf!"

Juanito, trying to set his new watch: "What does this mean? Oooo. What does this mean? Wait...what does this mean?" Katrina: Hands him the instruction book. Girls for the win!

First there was the wind, and that knocked out our power. And then the rain started, and the thunder and lightning. This storm is kind of impressive. (Thankfully our power just came back on.)

Juanito calls our kids weird nicknames, and just today i've heard Houston call Katrina "Trinsel" and Zane call Houston "Hoosely-boosely." I never imagined these nicknames when we named our kids.

With construction in our neighborhood, we can no longer go north, east, OR west from our house. South it is!

Juanito and Zane are camping. Zane's wearing camouflage so that the wolves and bears can't find him.

When Juanito was all, "Hey! Want to go out and do something with me?!" lifting 200 pound pallets was not what i had in mind.

Me: "It's the first day of fall!" Houston: "Thanks a lot, Obama!"

Me: "Seems legit." Katrina: "When did you start saying 'Legit'?" Stop judging my outdated expressions, KATRINA!

Houston wrote me a note: "May i call my friend?" Me: I'm on the phone. Him: I know! That's why i'm writing a note! Me: I'm USING the phone! Him: "Ohhhhh."

Houston has an order form that does carbon copies, and he just realized it, and he is FREAKING OUT from the coolness. "Even the thing i wrote a second ago is copied!! How does that even WORK?!!"

Katrina is upstairs trying on different outfits and taking pictures of herself to see what looks the cutest.

Zane doesn't want to use his hammer, because he doesn't want it to look used. Seems...pointless.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Friday and Saturday

Yesterday, Zane was given the Student of the Month award for the moral focus "Respect." I tried to be sneaky when i went to the assembly again, and of course Zane spotted me within seconds of walking into the room. So he wasn't particularly surprised, but he was really happy and proud of himself, as he should be. He's such a sweet and friendly kid, and i'm super proud of him. Go Zane!

I also, yesterday, worked on figuring out what we're going to do for Advent activities. It's getting more complicated, both because the kids are getting older and aren't maybe as interested in doing some of the things they used to find amazing (like visiting the reindeer), and because there's less time in the evenings. They all have more homework, and Katrina's got Heart and Sole twice a week, and Juanito's got Zumba three times a week, and Zane's got Boy Scouts once a week, and Houston, Katrina, and i have got church group on Sunday night. And so our only real nights to do stuff are Friday and Saturday. The rest of the time, it has to be stuff that can be done in a very short time. But that's still fun. 

I thought about skipping the Advent stuff this year, but all three kids mentioned how that's one of their favorite things to do at Christmastime. So. It's on.

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Today i got out my sewing machine and was totally productive. I "made" two blankets - by which i mean that i took pieces of soft material and hemmed the edges. (Katrina's shall henceforth be known as "The blanket that broke my sewing machine." I was sewing hers, which sounds a lot easier than it actually was, because that material, it turns out, is horrible to sew and kept slipping all over the place and needed to be pulled through with considerable strength. So i was concentrating hard and leaning forward, and suddenly the needle broke and the foot flew off and pieces hit me and it was like a miniature explosion. Juanito, two rooms away, heard, "Sew, sew, sew, BANG!, scream!" I don't entirely know what happened, but Juanito was, happily, able to figure out how to put it all back together, and after some adjustments, it was back to normal. Phew.)

ANYHOW. I made two blankets and two towels and fixed three headbands (one of which i have to re-fix), a sweatshirt, and a jacket. I feel like i got something accomplished, which is good. But more importantly, i feel like i got the "Stuff i have to sew before i can work on Christmas presents" out of the way. 

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Veteran's Day

Today was the Veteran's Day assembly at the kids' school. Houston (and the 8th grade band) was playing a song for the assembly, and he really wanted me to come. And Zane, as a Boy Scout, was helping escort the veterans to their seats. And so i went.

I don't usually think of myself as being particularly patriotic. I mean, i'm really happy that i live in the United States, and i'm super-thankful for all of the rights and privileges involved. I'm totally a pacifist - not a fan of war, ever - but at the same time, i totally respect people who are willing to sacrifice for their beliefs and for the good of the country, and i'm thankful for them. So Veteran's Day is always kind of a weird day for me. I'm totally thankful for the soldiers and their sacrifice, but i totally wish that there wasn't ever a need for soldiers. (I know i'm completely ridiculous. I do.)

So ANYHOW. I was at the assembly today, and the veterans all came in to the gym with all of the kids from the entire school, from young 5's to 8th grade, and then we stood up to do the Pledge, and halfway through the Pledge my eyes kind of welled up. There were the little kids all yelling the Pledge because they know it, and then there was this WWII veteran right in front of me, and...sniff. And then we sat down and the band played and we sang along for the second time through, and i was fine. And then they played parts of all of the official songs of each branch, and the veterans from each branch stood during their song...and i got all teary again. (I did NOT, however, get remotely teary during the "touching" poems. Poetry. Bleh.)

I seriously teared up like, 3-4 times. I'm kind of a dork.

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We finally revived book club after about 3 months. Maybe 4. A ridiculously long time, anyhow.

And then we hardly talked about the book. Which is fine, except i felt a little bit bad for Katie, who was there for the first time. 

Monday, November 9, 2015

Great Wolf Lodge: The rest

The kids woke up at the crack of dawn (or so it felt), ate the delicious little sugary cereal boxes that Karen had brought for them for breakfast, and were dressed in bathing suits and ready to go down to the water park at 9:00. (Morning people. Bleh.)

We swam and did the lazy river and the water slides and the hot tubs and repeated the whole process for hours. Zane's preferred method of doing the lazy river is: Get everyone to make a chain with their tubes. Drag the chain around the "lazy" river at top speed. A million times.

By 3:00, Houston and i were finished, and Katrina and Juanito joined us half an hour later. Houston immediately put on his pajamas, which he then declared he was staying in for the rest of the day. And...i think he did. Katrina got her face painted and then curled up in the room for the rest of the day. Zane was finally dragged away at about 5:00. We got pizza and it was delicious. And then the kids all curled up upstairs and watched TV (Zane was all, "How do you work a TV?") for a couple of hours while we adults sat around and talked and talked and read and ... i don't remember, exactly. Tried not to fall asleep?

And then, at 9:00, we went down to the "dance party." It was the worst dance party ever. (Or so i thought, until the next day when i saw the exact same dance party being repeated in the middle of the afternoon with exactly two kids participating.) There were lots of people, mostly under age 9. The music was really quiet, so you could just barely hear it well enough to dance to it. And they were all songs like "The Chicken Dance" and "YMCA" and "The Hokey Pokey" and other stuff that could not possibly be offensive to anyone, ever. I mean, it's a good policy, to not play inappropriate music with kids there. Obviously, it is. But DUDE. Lame. So Karen, Juanito, and i all danced like it was awesome. Zane sat on the steps the entire time. Houston started out standing near us and pretending to dance, until the "Whip Nae Nae" song came on, and then he was out of there faster than a speeding bullet. Katrina, who was just exhausted, sat on the floor to watch. So it was just us adults dancing, while kids all around us looked at us like, " you think they think they're cool?" I'm not sure why we didn't just give up and leave. It would have been the sensible thing to do.

By the time we were in the room for good, it was 9:30ish. We let the kids watch one or two more episodes of "Full House" or whatever while we sat around and talked and read. And then Karen was watching some cooking channel contest, so i started watching on the second-to-last episode, and then we had to watch the finale to find out who won.... So it was late by the time we got to sleep.

Sunday morning, we dragged ourselves out of bed, packed everything up, and went for all-you-can-eat pancakes at Steak and Shake, which was located just down from our balcony. (All three kids commented on it the first day. "HEY! There's a Steak and Shake right there! We should go!") Once everyone was sufficiently filled with delicious, delicious gluten, we headed back to GWL, changed into our suits, and did all of the water stuff again.

For a while, all six of us played in the pool - Monkey in the Middle, Follow the Leader, contests to see who could swim the farthest under water with a child on his/her back.... It was really fun, even though we had quite an audience when the kids (and Juanito) were leading during Follow the Leader and were doing ridiculous things. When we were talking about our favorite things later, all three kids said that that was maybe their favorite part of the entire trip.

We told the kids that we'd stay until they were finished. Karen had to leave by about 2:30, and i was finished by then too, so we both got dressed, took some pictures, and said goodbye. And by 3:00, our kids (minus Zane) were totally ready to leave as well.

Today was spent mostly in pajamas, resting and enjoying having a day off from school. I'm so glad that the teachers had trainings today, because my kids totally needed the day to completely crash and rest.

So, in summary: It was a great weekend. I loved seeing Karen and getting to have lots of time to sit and talk to her. I wish we lived closer so that we could see each other more often! The kids had tons of fun. Juanito enjoyed having time to just read and read, since he couldn't work on any projects.

All around awesome. Yay!

Friday, November 6, 2015

Great Wolf Lodge, day one!

We are at Great Wolf Lodge with Karen this weekend!

I dragged the kids out of school at 1:30, and Juanito got out of work early, and we got on the road at about 2:00, drove 15 minutes, and then sat in traffic for at least half an hour. Juanito and i were both like, "SERIOUSLY?!" It ultimately took us about five and a half hours to make the four hour trip, which isn't as awful as it could be, but was terribly frustrating. On the bright side, the kids were awesome. For a while, all three kids (and i) sang along to a CD with lots of Taylor Swift songs and other random awesomeness. I think Juanito was torn between amusement and a serious desire for quiet.

We got to GWL, found Karen, brought all of our stuff up, and within minutes of our being here, the kids all had their suits on and were ready to go play. So they played for an hour, and then we all had snacks and fun in our room for an hour, and eventually they went to sleep.

And then Karen and Juanito and i all sat up and talked and talked and talked. And it was fantastic.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

My mom

Katrina, Houston, and i visited my mom in the hospital. She had knee replacement surgery yesterday, and she's doing SO WELL. She's already walked (very short distances) several times, and she's totally on pain medication, but she says that it hurts much, much less than she was afraid it was going to hurt. I'm so glad. It's a minor surgery, but it's still surgery, so of course i had to worry (it's what i do!). And i think that she was really apprehensive about the pain and recovery, and i think that the general outlook, in everyone's opinion, is just a lot rosier than we were afraid that it would possibly be. Yay!

Warmth and sunshine are good things

Today was an amazingly beautiful, warm day, especially considering that it's November. Juanito, Zane, and i took a walk to enjoy the sunshine and warmth. We walked down toward the construction that's been going on since FOREVER, and it seems like it might actually be getting close to being finished. Yay!!!

There were some construction guys who were putting the finishing touches on the road - the painted "Only" and arrow and bike lane pictures on the road. We, of course, stopped and watched them for several minutes. It was quite fascinating. Did you know, for example, that they spray paint it and then toss little glass beads into the paint? They do! And then they blow it all off with a leaf blower. Because otherwise the cars that come along will slip on the loose beads and mess up the paint.

As we were walking along, Zane noticed a leaf that had blown into the path of the line being painted on the road. The road now has one leaf-shaped hole in the paint, and Zane is the proud owner of one white-painted, glass-beaded leaf.

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My mom had knee-replacement surgery today. According to my dad, it went really well. She had quite a lot of motion before, so that should help with the recovery, which...seems reasonable? I went to visit her in the hospital a couple of hours after she got out of surgery, and she was still quite (adorably) groggy, slurring words and falling asleep mid-sentence, sleeping for 30 seconds and then waking up and then falling asleep again. She'll maybe be in the hospital for an additional night, because they did the surgery late enough in the day that she was pretty much out of it for the rest of today, but she seems to be doing really well.

Here's hoping that the recovery is swift and as painless as possible!

Monday, November 2, 2015


Katrina had Heart and Soul after school, and then stayed home from zumba with me tonight, and the two of us snuggled and watched Project Runway and drew pictures.

Zaney got a perfect score on his spelling test, which was awesome...except that it meant that he somehow got more homework, because now he has a harder list, which was devastating to him. So he and i studied for his new spelling words and watched silly YouTube videos occasionally as motivation to keep going.

Houston worked on a writing assignment for history class. He and i might disagree about what constitutes half a page of writing. But if i were his teacher, i'd totally give him bonus points for making it interesting. He totally makes up little bits of information to make things funnier or more interesting. Him: "Is that okay?" Me: "Sure. As long as you're not changing information, it's like you're writing historical fiction!" Him: "This is a real person, MOM."

So it was a normal day. My favorite kind.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

The Giraffe Story

We got to church today, and Stacy yelled across the parking lot, "Hello, the Moores! I have something for you!!!" And he led us to his giant green van, opened a giant box in the back of it, and handed us six copies of the book that Juanito and i made years ago.

Stacy works with an organization that is trying to educate and get books to kids in Haiti, and he was over at our house one time and saw the book that we'd made for Katrina for Christmas. He was all, "This is exactly the kind of thing we need!!! Can we use this?" To which Juanito and i immediately agreed, of course. So they got their editor to make it better and their translator to translate it into Haitian Creole, and now it's an actual book. Crazy. The cool thing is that for every hardcover book sold here, they send five paperback books to Haiti. Yay!

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We spent the afternoon at my parents' house. It was a gorgeous, sunny day today, so the boys were outside for hours. Meanwhile Katrina and her cousin played with American Girl dolls upstairs in the quiet, enjoying having a lot of time to just hang out together.

After Fifty6 and the Element (our church's student ministry), as we were driving home, Katrina said, "This was just the best day i've had in a long time. I got to have my book published, which is really exciting. We got to stay extra-long at Grandma's house. It's a clear night, so i can see the stars. And we got snacks at church."

She was really excited about the book. She showed pretty much everyone she saw, and she's planning to bring it to school tomorrow as well. Happy girl.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Happy Halloween!

It's Halloween! My sister Jill has had a Halloween party most years - one where the kids and ladies are invited, and everyone needs to wear a costume. My mom dressed up as her mom, wearing all clothes that she got from my grandma, and she was super cute. We had Batman and a waitress and a fencer. My sister-in-law Alisha was a fish, and Harrison (who is one) was a scuba diver, with the cutest little costume. And that's just the adults. (And one kid, i guess.) My kids all had fun. Houston is very nearly too old to go, but he honestly looks so forward to it.

Jill's party ended at 12:30, and then Houston and Katrina had another Halloween party to go to at 1:00. I dropped them off at that party and went to Beth's house, where Juanito was hanging out with Beth and Keren. He took Zane home, and i went out for lunch with Beth and Keren (fun!) and then picked the kids up again at 4:00.

We came home for an hour and a half. Katrina immediately headed upstairs and took a nap for the entire time. Houston went to his room to "be quiet." Zane excitedly talked and talked and talked and told me all kids of random stories until Juanito took him to the store with him. And then we were off to go trick-or-treating.

Today was a terrible day, weather-wise. It was raining and cold and just miserable. I would have walked around for a couple of hours if i were going to get a giant bag of candy at the end of it, but without that motivation, it just didn't look like fun. We told the kids that we'd wait at Grandma's (warm, dry) house while they walked up and down that street, and then we'd drive them to the next street and follow them in the (warm, dry) car until they decided that they were finished. Except then the kids' cousins ended up walking around with them, and my sister and my brother-in-law both were walking around with them, and so Juanito and i stayed at my parents' house for the entire time while the rest of them got soaked.

We did make ourselves useful, though. I copied a million pictures from my mom's ipad to her computer, while Juanito fiddled with my dad's laptop to try to make it behave again. And then i made both of my parents take the (not-really) Meyer-Briggs test to see what personality type they are, because i think it's fascinating. So it was fascinating (to me, anyhow) that i am one letter away from each of my parents, who are two letters away from each other. My dad's an ISTJ and my mom's an ISFP, and i am an ISFJ. Meanwhile, my mom is right in-between me and Juanito, who is an ESFP. 

Friday, October 30, 2015

'Twas the Night before Halloween....

The kids didn't have school today, due to the parent-teacher conferences the past few days, which was lovely. I woke up Houston up at 10:30, and when i asked him how he was doing a little while later, he was all, "GREAT! Sleeping in was fantastic!" Zane insists that he slept until 10:00, but he's exaggerating by at least an hour. Nevertheless, sleeping in was done by all, and lo, it was wonderful.

Katrina and Zane helped me make my costume this morning. We went to the store for groceries and pumpkins. (My kids honestly do not care whether their pumpkins come from an orchard where they can pick their own pumpkin from a field or from Meijer where they can pick their pumpkin from a box, so we opt for the much cheaper Meijer option.) We snuggled and read. It was lovely.

Once Juanito was home, we carved pumpkins. Katrina would very much like it known that she decided to do a vampire pumpkin first, and then Zane copied her. Katrina and Zane both hate touching the goopy stuff on the inside of the pumpkin, and they're still kind of little to be using the sharp knives, so basically, Juanito and i did all of the work on those pumpkins. I cleaned out Katrina's and carved Zane's, and Juanito cleaned out Zane's and carved Katrina's. The kids did totally design them, though. They drew the faces on the pumpkins in marker, and then we just traced their lines with the knife.

Honestly, sharp knives + pumpkins = dangerous. I totally cut myself, and i'm used to using our knives. That said, Houston did almost everything on his pumpkin by himself this year, and he did a great job. It's Harry Potter, and it's adorable. And he didn't even hurt himself at all. Yay, Houston!

Keren's in town this weekend, so she and Beth joined us for pizza-movie night. We all made the pizzas and talked and laughed, and then we crowded into chairs and the couch. It's been a while since we've seen Keren, so the kids cuddled up with her, while Emma tried hard to sleep on top of poor Beth. We watched "Twitches," which is a completely made-for-TV cheesy movie, but it's Halloween-appropriate and also not terrifying to children. (Mostly. Though Zane says that he's scared by "The Darkness," so we'll see how that goes.)

After the kids went to bed, we adults hung out and had actual conversation. It was lovely.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Halloween preview and more conferences

Several years ago, we brought our kids to a church that was having a "Trunk or Treating" event going on. There were dozens of cars, and everyone gave out lots of candy. Ever since then, the kids have asked about doing that again, but i'd either hear about the events after they were finished, or they'd be at the same time as something else we were doing, or whatever. So this year, i remembered to look up if there was going to be anyplace doing it at time when we could go. And the best and only option was...basically at the same time as Zane's parent-teacher conference.

So we went to the conferences for the other two kids yesterday, and we ate dinner ridiculously early, and we headed over as soon as Zane's conference was finished. was kind of lame. It was indoors, probably moved there because it had been raining off and on all day, so they basically had a whole bunch of tables set up in one room, and the kids just kind of walked around through the tables, getting a piece of candy at each table. I was thinking, "Meh. We could have skipped that," but as soon as we got home, the kids were all, "Let's go have a small trading party!!!!" So i guess they enjoyed it.

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Zane's conference was not as bad as i expected, but also not awesome. His teacher had glowing comments about his behavior and his personality ("He's SUCH a great kid! He brought in some of his books and asked to put them all up front for other kids to look at and borrow if they wanted to. It was so sweet!"). He fiddles and wiggles, which is no surprise, as he's been doing that since always, but he's quiet about it and stops immediately if given a look. So that's all good.

But he just doesn't do well on his actual school work, and none of us are sure if it's because he's just too inattentive (and we are going to go ahead and evaluate him for ADD, which i'm sure he has, with the "Primarily Inattentive" aspect) and that's keeping him from actually focusing on his work OR if he's just straight up not doing it because he just doesn't feel like it. I feel like that's an important difference.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Conferences and other random things

During conferences, our school always has a book fair - kind of like a mini book store that comes to the school. My kids LOVE the book fair and always, always buy books from it. What always amuses me is that they buy books that i would never expect them to buy. This year, Houston bought a little book with Grumpy Cat "inspirational" sayings, a book about myths that aren't true, and "Dead Girls of Hysteria Hall." Zane bought a diary for boys and a book about sea creatures. Katrina's the only one i could possibly have predicted, with a National Geographic book about animals. (I got a $10 certificate for working at the book fair, so bought a couple of books for me too, because i am a teenage girl.)

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Tonight was the movie premier night, which i've been going to with Beth and Stephanie for the past year or so. Every 4 months, the theater offers free tickets to whoever grabs them first. They offer little containers of candy (usually - this time there were just crackers and cookies), movie posters, and a chance to win a raffle, and they show about 30-40 movie previews in a row. It sounds kind of weird, but it's actually quite an enjoyable night out. This time, my mom and two of my sisters came along, and it was totally fun.

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The school does middle school conferences like this: All of the teachers sit at a table in the gym, and you go to whatever teacher you want to talk to (usually the homeroom teacher), and they tell you how your kid is doing. There's no set times or anything. And so today we went to talk to Katrina and Houston's teachers.

Both of them were really excited about conferences, especially Houston, because he knew - knew, for the first time ever - that he was doing really, really well. No missing assignments (except that one that he didn't know about, from when he was sick), good grades in everything, and good behavior. It's such a change from the early days of his schooling, when i used to despair that he'd ever stop being in trouble all the time. It's lovely.

Katrina's conference was the fasted thing ever. Teacher: "Here's her grades. They're great. She's such a great kid, and such a pleasure to have in class, and so dedicated to working hard. Any questions?" Us: "Nope."

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Fifty6 and homework

Tonight was parent night for Students at Mars, which was complicated this year, because i'm now a leader as well. Houston never even mentioned it and just disappeared as soon as we got to church. Katrina dragged me to meet her leader before the program actually started, and then i stood by her during the teaching, and that seemed to be acceptable.

Meanwhile, we got to meet most of the girls in our group and their parents at the same time. We seem to have a really great group of girls. There are a few that i feel like i'm immediately drawn to, but all of them seem like good kids. Katrina asked me if we got the really scream-y girls, and i'm pretty sure we didn't, so that's good.

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Tonight i had the kids get ready for bed and get their stuff ready for school tomorrow, and as Katrina was getting her school bag ready, she remembered that she still had to finish some math homework. And 9:00 at night is totally the best time to remember homework due the next day. Sigh.

She set to work on it and worked hard...and realized after 45 minutes that she'd just done an entire page and a half completely wrong. She was completely devastated, both because she had to re-do all of the work that she'd just done, and because she was just SO INCREDIBLY TIRED. She sobbed uncontrollably for about five minutes, and then was able to pull herself together to do it over and finish it up.

I'm torn between feeling sad for the poor girl (because having to re-do all your work when you're tired is the WORST) and feeling annoyed that she forgot about it and left it to the last possible minute. 

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Zombie Dash

Last year Juanito, Stephanie, and a couple of Juanito's friends from Zumba did the Zombie Dash, and Beth, the kids, and i went to watch for a little while. The kids totally enjoyed watching it, and Zane especially was super excited to participate this year.

It was raining today. And it's chilly. And Katrina was at her cousin's birthday party, so she and i were late getting there...and apparently Zane was absolutely miserable. Poor little guy. I brought him an old, tattered coat, borrowed from my mom (a coat that was, incidentally, perfect for being a zombie), and he leapt out at people from behind a thing and...kind of enjoyed himself, in-between bouts of misery because he didn't think he was scaring people enough or people were bumping into him or....? It's hard being a nine-year-old zombie.

Everyone else seemed to enjoy themselves, though. Juanito was kind of over-the-top bloody, and Katrina was a fresh kill who was only barely a zombie, along with Beth, who was a zombie cheerleader. Houston and Stephanie and the rest of the people kind of fell in the middle of the gory-meter.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Student of the Month

Last night i got an email from Katrina's teacher, telling me that she was getting an award in the assembly today. That should have been my first hint that middle school was different - in the past, i'd get an email days in advance telling me exactly what was coming.

I dropped the kids off casually, made sure Katrina wasn't watching, and parked in the parking lot to wait until school started. As soon as i walked into the gym, it was obvious that this just wasn't going to be like assemblies in the past. The bleachers weren't taken down, so there was nowhere to sit (i took them down), and there were no other parents there. At all. Eventually two other parents wandered in, but in elementary school award assemblies, the bleachers (all three sets) are always packed full of parents.

When Katrina walked in, she didn't immediately look at the bleachers, so i thought that maybe she'd actually be surprised this time around. Usually she's seen me as soon as she walks into the gym and knows immediately that she's getting an award. She continued to not look back at all for half of the assembly, all through the completely random and utterly un-understandable skits that were supposedly about respect. (I mean, DUDE. There was a 20-30 minute thing that felt more like hours, where one of the teachers boringly explained how we could have respect for ourselves, and then the seventh graders had a skit that made NO SENSE done by kids who were reading off papers and skipping lines, i think, and ... pretending that one of the smaller kid had become a larger kid because he had eaten too much? Which seemed kind of mean to the larger kid. And then the teacher explained how we could respect each other, followed by a skit that made no sense.... This went on through respecting teachers and the building and ... something else. It was interminable.)

As soon as she realized that it was awards day, though, she swiveled around to look, saw me...and immediately deduced that she was getting an award. Stinker.

So i'm going to brag a second: Here we are, first month of awards, and Katrina has received the "Student of the month for moral focus." I'm not surprised. She's an incredibly dedicated, hard-working, kind student. She's the kind of kid i'd want in my classroom. I'm super proud of her. She's such a great kid.

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Tonight we went to see "Minions" at the movie theater, because it was free for kids and only $5 for adults. It was a cute movie, and going to the theater is a fun thing to do, but it kind of doesn't feel like a Friday right now, because there was no pizza or anything. I'm a creature of habit, and this has totally thrown off my routine. 

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Pumpkin Walk

We've been going to the Pumpkin Walk since 2010, and it's a tradition that my kids love.

There are certain pumpkins that they do every year - even the first one, which i just realized when i was checking pictures to see when we started going. There's Bert and Ernie every single year, and Cinderella, and this giant snake made of about 10 pumpkins. But there are always new and creative pumpkins as well, and it's fun to see what people come up with. People are amazing.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Mean Girls

A few days ago, Katrina was looking at a recent picture of herself and exclaimed, "Are my freckles fading!? I don't want that to happen!"

I love it that that's her attitude. She loves her body right now. Her favorite thing on her is her legs, because "they're really strong and i can use them to run." She loves her freckles. She knows that she's super-cute.

And right now, i really, really dislike mean girls. And, honestly, all of the people who have told her in the past or will tell her in the future why she and her body and her style are not good enough.

A few weeks ago, we were out somewhere, and a random man we'd never met before told her, "I'll bet you hate your freckles, don't you?" Katrina just looked at him and didn't say anything, but as soon as we walked away, she was all, "Why do people always think that i don't like my freckles? I love my freckles!"

Today, she wore a super-cute and very "Katrina" dress - a sparkly purple one, with lots of ruffles running vertically - to school. After school, she was all sad, and when i asked her about it, she said, "Lots of girls came up to me and said, 'Oh, i'm sorry you have to wear that dress. I bet your mom bought it for you, didn't she?'"

I hugged her and reassured her that i absolutely LOVE her style, and that she looked adorable. And then we had a talk about mean girls. Because these weren't her friends, and they weren't being asked what they thought, and even if they were, that's just a straight-up incredibly mean thing to say. If you don't like someone's dress? Just shut up. If they ask you, then you can say something like, "Well, it's not my style." But to walk up to someone in the hall and tell them that their dress is ugly? That's unacceptable. And such a stupid middle-school-type thing to do. GRRR. 

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Beth's birthday! Woohoo!

Today was Beth's birthday, and i got to spend it with her. Yay!

There's a giant mural on a wall a mile or so away, and it's completely random and weird and changes from one look to a completely different look about four times. It's perfect for using as a backdrop for pictures. So Beth posed, and i stood in the middle of the street, hoping not to get hit, and we took birthday pictures. And they're totally cute.

We didn't do anything very exciting, honestly, but we hung out all day and ran some errands and went out for dessert and went to Rockford to walk around and see pretty colors, and in the evening we had cake and presents and grilled cheese with the rest of my family.

The kids (and Juanito) were really happy to celebrate too - both because they love Beth, and because...cake! Katrina made Beth a little banner that says, "You are so awesome!" and a little picture that's completely adorable. And Juanito installed Beth's garage door opener and made an adorable picture with a hedgehog and a fox and an owl drinking coffee. Done with melted crayons. So cute.

And they they all went to zumba. And then Beth and i watched Pitch Perfect 2 and both fell asleep by the end, with Emma curled up happily between us.

Sunday, October 18, 2015


The kids ministry at church started up again a few weeks ago, so Katrina and Houston have been going to the Sunday night meetings, and Zane's been going to what we used to call Sunday School. But the church was still totally needing leaders, and so this week, Beth and i started as co-leaders for a group of fifth graders.

It was kind of a weird week to start, because it was a "we're not going to meet at the church like usual! Instead every group will just go off and do their own fun thing!" night. Luckily, all of the fifth graders were doing their fun thing together, rather than in small groups, and so Beth and i were able to just show up and hope to find the girls that will be in our group. The activity was at a farm owned by the parents of the family leaders, so we got to see lots of cows, take a hay ride, and enjoy the beauty.

The sixth graders had a pool party - so they went swimming. Outside. In October. In Michigan. I mean, the pool was heated up to something like 90 degrees, but it's still a good thing that it was not horribly, horribly cold today. When i picked Katrina up, i practically had to drag her out of the pool, and a couple of the leaders told me that she'd been the first one in, and had spent nearly the entire time in the pool. She was happy, but completely exhausted.

Houston was supposed to have a really, really fun activity that he was completely excited about. They were going to play tag in a corn maze. And then carve pumpkins. We showed up at the farm at the appointed time...and there was nobody there. Nobody. Because it's closed on Sundays. I called Juanito and had him double-check the email...and it was yesterday. 

Houston was really, incredibly good-natured and kind about the entire thing, and assured me that it was COMPLETELY fine. No worries at all, Mom. But i feel terrible, because he was really excited about going, and Houston just hasn't been really excited about going to church events ever. Not because he doesn't like church, but because ever since fifth grade, he just doesn't feel like he really fits in. The first two years were terrible - he just hated it, and we basically let him drop out for most of sixth grade. Last year he had totally new leaders and a new group and Katrina and a couple of other friends in the building, and it was much, much better. But he's not been really, truly excited to go to many things. So i feel really, really sad about dropping the ball on this one. 

Friday, October 16, 2015

Family Drawing Night

It's been nearly a year since we last did Family Drawing Night - what with school and zumba and boy scouts and lots of other random things, it's just fallen by the wayside. And i missed it. And the kids missed it. And so tonight we all sat down to draw for an hour or two.

I love that Zane is starting to branch out beyond squiggly monsters that he draws in 2 minutes. He drew a really cute whale right away, and then a great jelly fish ("without a heart, because jellyfish don't have brains or hearts, you know!"), and then tried to think of more sea creatures. And so! An eel and a starfish! 

Katrina copied Zane's jellyfish idea and ran with it. She tried a new kind of eyes, and they're kind of creepy-adorable. And there are some tiny hermit crabs down on the bottom, and they're darling. 

And Houston, inspired by Katrina's art box, brought down the art box that my parents gave him for his birthday years ago, and FINALLY discovered how completely awesome it is. He decided that he actually really likes colored pencils, and he used the oil pastels for the first time, and the harder and softer pencils for the first time, and he was all, "How have i never used this all before!?" Katrina was positively drooling over it, wishing she had one that was that cool. 

Houston's drawing is a "Venus fly." Not a Venus flytrap. Just the fly. I love it.

So! All in all, a successful family drawing night. We seriously need to do this more often.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Furiously Happy

However many years ago that Jenny Lawson's book "Let's Pretend This Never Happened" came out, Juanito and the kids were awesome enough to know i wanted it like crazy, so they got it for me for mother's day, and i proceeded to laugh out loud while reading it. A lot. Her new book, "Furiously Happy" just came out a month ago, and i immediately got it from the library and read it and laughed a lot again.

This time, Houston and Katrina were both all, "Can we read it?!" And...i'm not a fan of banning books, all. If you want to read something, you may read it. (I might make you have a lot of discussion about it afterwards, though.) But i DID say, "Um...well, there's a lot of swearing....." And they both got sad faces and said, "Oh. Okay."

And so i started reading it to them out loud, editing what needed to be edited.

It is the WEIRDEST book i've ever read out loud to my kids. It's all about her struggle with mental illness, but it's told in the funniest way possible, and there are a lot of times when i have to pause in my reading because they are both laughing SO LOUD that they wouldn't even be able to hear me. They are loving it. 

Monday, October 12, 2015

ArtPrize, ArtPrize, and more ArtPrize.

I mean, things have happened this month. Zane started Boy Scouts again and the Katrina and Houston started going to Fifty6 and The Element (the middle school church groups) again. There were tests and there was homework and we even managed to squeeze in a pizza-movie night (though, to be honest, i think that we actually started eating at about 8:00). Juanito and Katrina managed to paint Katrina's bike, which was THRILLING (for Katrina).

But honestly, our life has been pretty dominated by ArtPrize for the past month.

First, Juanito was spending every single minute he could find working on his piece. He lost sleep and skipped fun family outings and gave up spending time doing anything else so that he could get it finished in time. He not only drew his picture, but he also built the frame for it. (And a stool. Because: procrastination.) But he finished it on time, and it was fantastic.

Since he was an artist this year, Juanito tried to sit by his art when he could, so he spent quite a few hours there. I think that he probably didn't spend as many hours at his piece as he expected to, though, because ArtPrize is addicting, and he kept wanting to walk around and see the rest of the art out there. He took off work a couple of days, skipped Zumba on the first day of ArtPrize, and spent as much free time as he could downtown.

My dad picked up my grandpa and brought him downtown, where my mom and my sister Jackie and i joined him. We walked around and looked at art, obviously stopping in at Panera to visit Juanito and let everyone see his drawing. It was my grandpa's first time at ArtPrize, and i think that he really enjoyed it. Yay!

Juanito's mom and his his brother JJ came up to visit for several days, to see Juanito's art (and the rest of ArtPrize). We took them around to see as much art as they could stand, but i think they were both pretty finished with ever seeing art again by the time that they left.

The kids went along and saw a LOT of the art, but they're not quite as obsessive about it as we adults are. Zane, especially, was just not interested in spending a lot of time at ArtPrize, and was pretty quick to want to be done. Houston enjoyed being there when he was downtown, but he generally chose to not go if he was allowed to make the choice. The amazing thing, this year, is that Houston is 13, and we can totally leave the kids home alone.

Katrina, on the other hand, came with us downtown several times while the boys stayed home. I'm not sure if she was just happy to be the only kid with the adults, where she got lots of attention and didn't have to deal with brothers, or if she just really liked looking at art, but i suspect it was a bit of both. She was awesome to walk around with, and ended up being my partner when we split up into smaller groups in the big venues. We were generally interested in the same things, so we'd just barely glance at some stuff, and then stand and look for a long time at other things...and almost always, we were standing and studying the same things. It made for a fun experience.

Both Houston and Katrina (and, a little bit, Zane) have really interesting observations about the art that we see. When the artist is around, they ask really good questions. And they tend to be drawn to the same stuff i'm drawn to. Not necessarily the "best" art and almost certainly not the most "deep" and "meaningful" art with long artist statements that only other artists understand, but also not only the giant, "shiny" art that Artists are so disdainful of.

I volunteered at ArtPrize this year, and worked 5 shifts. I did all different things - i registered people and stood by art yelling, "DON'T TOUCH THAT!" and put together signs.

And we walked around and drove around and walked some more and just looked and looked and looked at art. And there were great and good and okay and terrible artworks. Beth and i both somehow managed to go to every single venue.

The very first day, i told Beth and Juanito that i just wasn't as impressed this year by a lot of the art as previous years. And then i decided to stop being whiny and give it a chance. And i think i did. And i just looked back at all of the pictures i took for the past three weeks, and...i think i wasn't impressed this year as i was in some of the other years. There were a lot of things i liked, and some things i really liked, but there wasn't very much that i LOVED. When the finalists were announced, i was annoyed. And when the winners were announced, i was even more annoyed. (I never even took a single picture of the winning public vote piece, because i just Did. Not. Like. It. And the winning juried piece was just ridiculous.)

And so, here are MY votes for the top 25. (I get to make my own rules, so i'll keep their four categories, but i'm allowed to put as many into each category as i want. Because i CAN.) These are the ones that made me happy or sad or just really captivated. These are the ones that i kept wanting to go back to to look at them one more time.

Karen's completely subjective and probably totally un-artsy choices that would make the jurors swoon with disdain list of favorites:

2D Category:

(I am now removing Juanito's picture from my competition, because otherwise he would CLEARLY win.)

I just think that this one is lovely. 

Something about this just draws me in and makes me  want to keep looking at it.

This one actually was in the top five - the only one on my list that was. I think that it's just really emotional even without any of the story, but then once you know the story behind it, it's even more powerful.

Y'know what? This just makes me smile. Loads and loads of artists paint people without clothes, but this is the first time i've seen clothes without their people.

Beth and Keren and Katrina and i all stood in front of this one for ages, looking for our favorites. It's 100 women that she's drawn on cancelled checks, and i just really, really like it.

I LOVE this, and i just don't even understand how it WASN'T in the top 20. It's a giant wall of 22 women from different countries around the world. They're beautiful.

Okay, so this is both just kind of clever and funny, and also really well done. The "Sky Jack" and "Pair of Jacks" are especially beautiful. 

Honestly, i just saw this for the first time yesterday - i somehow missed it the first time - and so maybe i won't like it as much in a few weeks, but i think it's clever and really cool.

Tiny things. Beth, Juanito, and i stood and looked and looked at these and kept pointing out new ones to each other. They're adorable.

From the first time i saw these, i was completely impressed. They're four pieces and they're all quilted, and they're amazing. I just can't get over how well done they are.

3D Category: 

Honestly, i think that i liked this artist's entry better last year. But last year he was in a tiny venue, and not many people saw it, and i'm really glad that he won his category this year.

This was my first choice for 3D. It's all made out of screen, and it's amazing.

This just makes me smile. It's pretty and delicate and whimsical.

There was a lot of Japanese pottery at Meijer Gardens this year, and it was mostly really, really beautiful. This was my favorite piece there, though.

Okay, i just think these are cute. And my kids liked them. And they're fun.

I contend that this is an installation, but they listed it as 3-D, so, fine. Beth and i just stood and looked at this one for ages. It's the last meal of 600 different people who were given the death sentence in America. And it's SO sad.

These are just pretty.

Also just pretty and creative and well-done.

I loved Melondy. 

Installation category:

So these were little swirls of paint that was poured and then scraped up, and i can't explain why i liked them, but i did.

This is just beautiful. And really interesting from every angle.  

I want to own this and put it in my house and curl up in it and read and draw and cuddle.

The more that i looked at this, the more that i liked it. 

Time-Based Category:

This is the only one i really liked from this category. It was interesting and different and the kids loved it.

Grand Prize:

This was the first thing that i loved, and every time i saw it (many times), i was impressed again. It's just so, so good. (My choice may change a dozen times over the next year, though.)