Monday, August 31, 2015


Our kids' school's parent company (or whatever that's called) is celebrating 20 years this year, and so they had a carnival for families in all of their charter schools. It was one of the least well publicized events our school has ever held, and i had no idea what to expect, and we almost didn't go, because... there was a fairly decent chance that it might be really lame. In fact, Houston chose not to go.

So we were pleasantly surprised to find that it was actually a pretty fun event! They had those giant inflatable hamster balls, and those inflatable balls that you strap on and then bang into each other with. There were free hot dogs and drinks and ice cream.

And then there were actual carnival-type things too. We stood in line for about 45 minutes for the kids to do the bungee-trampoline thing. I think that they use a different number of bungee cords depending on how big you are, and the guy in charge of Katrina guessed wrong or something, because she just couldn't jump very high at ALL. Just before her turn was up, he put her a little bit higher, and she jumped twice...and then he got her down. She came out of the fence and burst into tears. She was so, so, so sad and disappointed.

Zane, on the other hand, flew. Just before he started jumping, i was thinking, "I wonder if i should be more concerned about the safety of this thing...?" and then one of his bungee cords snapped, and he flung off to the side and landed gently on the concrete. The guy was all, "Huh. That almost never happens!" Zane jumped and jumped and loved it. He and Katrina are approximately the same size, but he was able to jump about 3 times higher than she was, and she was trying way harder.

After that ride, while Katrina was still sobbing into my side, Zane went on a ride that looked like something that i imagine would fit in very well in Hell. Four people strapped themselves into a circle, and then a guy spun them around and around and around really fast for a really long time. Like...upside down, right side up, upside down, etc. It was horrifying, but Zane thought it was awesome.

And then we ran into Katrina's best friend and her family, and the kids all went on one of those rides that goes in a circle really fast and then stops and goes backwards around the same circle. They all loved it. It was Katrina's favorite part of the night.

And then we left, and the kids never even knew that there were fireworks later, because i'm a meanie and just didn't want to stick around that long. And it was plenty fun as it was.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Grandpa's birthday

Today was my grandpa's 96th birthday.

I feel like that just deserves repeating. 96th birthday.

I'm so grateful that all of my grandparents lived into their nineties, and i'm especially thankful that i still have a grandparent who is still alive and incredibly healthy for a 96-year-old. My grandpa was a doctor, back when being a doctor meant that you did everything from general practitioner to surgery. He was a soldier in the Army, and was stationed in South Korea back when it was just Korea. He's lived through the Great Depression and World War II.

Today we gathered all of the kids and grandkids and great-grandkids that could make it, and we all sat around and ate pizza and enjoyed each other's company. My grandpa thanked us for coming and told us that he loved us all and choked up a little bit from the emotion, and it just makes me happy that we can still have him with us.

Here's to year 97.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Movie night and school shopping and other randomness

We had movie night tonight with Linda and Andrew and their kids and Stephanie and Beth and us and our kids. It's always just fun to get together with all of those people, and it's just been a long time since we've seen Linda and Andrew's family (not counting church). Stephanie chose "Grand Budapest Hotel" for the movie, and it was quite delightful. I kind of feel like i would need to watch it again to fully understand it, but i think i really liked it.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

Zane went to a birthday party for one of his best friends this afternoon. I asked if he had fun and what they did, and he said, "We had a piñata, except it wasn't actually a piñata, because it was a Minecraft Creeper, and it wasn't hanging up and we didn't hit it with a bat." 

Me: "So...what did you do with it then?"

Zane: "We just had to punch it with our hands until it broke."

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

I feel like we've just been gone a lot this summer, so our whole back-to-school shopping has been thrown off. Usually, by this time, we're completely ready to go, but this year we're still getting a few last things.

Yesterday, we went to two Goodwill stores and a Salvation Army, looking for clothes for Houston mostly. (We managed to find him clothes AND two pairs of shoes, and we found an adorable pair of shoes for Katrina as well. Yay!)

Today, Katrina and i went shopping and got clothes for her. Adorable clothes. (I wish that they made adult clothes as cute as kid's clothes. Sparkly pictures on shirts! Embroidered pictures on jeans! I want embroidered flowers and birds on my jeans too!) Shopping for clothes with Katrina has changed in the past few years, because she just has much more a sense of her own style now. Whereas before, she just liked random stuff, and i could convince her to like almost anything, she now likes specific styles (chunky turtleneck sweaters, for example). I've been trying to teach her to (kindly) tell me when she doesn't like something i hold up, rather than trying it on, buying it, and then never wearing it. If you're not going to wear it, just TELL ME!!! It's fine!!! No feelings hurt!

Zane doesn't actually need any new clothes, because he's just inherited a TON of clothes from Houston and some good jeans from his cousin. I asked him if he felt like he wanted to go shopping for a new outfit, and he was all, "Nope! I'm good!" Yay!

So. Some new socks and underwear, and i think we're finished!

(I do realize that we can buy things at other times of the year, but i just...don't, usually. Beginning of the school year, we stock up, and then we only buy things if they've actually outgrown what they have.)

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

Juanito's now put something like 40 hours into his drawing for ArtPrize, and it looks amazing. He's all, "Really, anyone can do it, if they use a small enough grid and enough patience," but he's wrong. He's just really, really talented.

Thursday, August 27, 2015


My parents bought a wonderful fifth-wheel trailer last year, and for the second year in a row (it's becoming a tradition!), they invited us for a 2-night camping trip with them.

We went to Muskegon State Park, which we've gone to several times before with our whole family. It's a great spot, because there's a little lake connected to Lake Michigan by a channel, and the campground is right there in-between. So we play on the dunes by the big lake and swim in the little lake, where it's warmer and less wavy.

I say "We swim in the little lake," but this trip i never even considered putting on my bathing suit, because the high temperature was about 73, and most of the time it was in the low 60's.. The kids were undaunted and spent hours and hours, first playing on the dunes, running up and down the dunes, jumping off of them, and digging giant holes big enough to crawl into, and then (with a short break for lunch) swimming, building sand castles, and dumping water over each other's heads. They just played and played and played together, and it was just incredibly pleasant to watch them.

Today was a bit chillier, with less sun, and it was morning, so they only lasted in the water a much shorter time before being cold enough to give up on swimming. So instead we played cards and ate s'mores, and nobody seemed too unhappy about it.

It was a really fun camping trip, even though it was unseasonably cold. We ate hobo pies and s'mores and ice cream. Zane ate his weight in tomatoes from my mom's garden. We watched the sunset. We sat around the campfire. We got filthy and tired. It was great.

Sunday, August 23, 2015


It started raining after church, and Katrina immediately grabbed her umbrella and ran outside. For a little while, she tried to keep the fire going in the grill in the backyard, but eventually she realized that she was fighting a losing battle, and she just ran around, up and down the sidewalk, allowing herself to get completely soaked. After a little while, Zane joined her, and the two of them played in the rain for long enough that when they came in, they both looked like they'd fallen into a lake.

They loved it.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Pallets and Harrison and Spy

This afternoon, Juanito was all, "Hey! Want to go do something with me?!" I was all, "Yes! Probably?" So we drove to a parking lot to haul three giant oak pallets onto the the top of the van. The first one weighed about 200 pounds, and we were struggling to lift it onto our van when a couple of men stopped and volunteered to help. (Sometimes being a woman is helpful. Nobody would stop to help a couple of men.) We secured the pallets with bungee cords and drove them home and then hauled them back off the car so that Juanito could rip them apart. Hopefully they'll turn into awesome furniture.

This afternoon we got to go celebrate my little nephew Harrison, who just turned one. He's completely adorable, and it was a fun party.

And then tonight i went to a movie with Beth. "Spy." I'd seen it before with Juanito, but it was just as hilarious the second time, although i did have several moments of, "Oh yeah. I forgot about THAT." And then i'd get all nervous, because i'd told Beth that i really liked it, and i was afraid that she'd be all, "Geez, Karen!" But then it would be hilarious again, and i just still really liked it. (So did she.) (I think.)

Friday, August 21, 2015

School supplies!

The kids have been waiting (impatiently) to go school shopping for weeks and weeks - pretty much ever since school got out for the summer. I was waiting until we were closer to school starting, because every year we go buy everything and then we get an email from at least one of the teachers saying, "Oh! Actually! Get this instead." (For the record? We got two emails last week saying exactly that. So i am vindicated!)

Today we went shopping for school supplies. Exciting! Exhausting! Expensive! The amount of stuff that each kid needs for the year is insane. And none of it is just, "Get a notebook!" It's, and i quote, "Sturdy 5 subject notebook - It should have a hard plastic cover like the Mead 5 Star notebooks, but it doesn't have to be that brand. Make sure it is the 8.5" X 11" size -- it is important that the size is correct or it won't work for gluing interactive notebook pages."

Houston and Katrina each needed three of those.

I looked longingly at the 17 cent notebooks as we tossed $5 notebooks into our cart.

Each of the teachers in middle school gives their own list. According to the lists, Houston should be bringing a total of 23 glue sticks to school. Twenty-three. We looked at each other and both of us were like, "NOPE!" He's got 10. That's more than one per month. If he runs out, we'll get more.

Two scientific calculators, 8 packs of notebook paper, 6 fancy notebooks, a giant binder, a ton of pens, pencils, mechanical pencils, erasers, folders, glue sticks, dry erase markers, colored pencils, colored pens, and dividers - and nearly $200 - later, we finally left the store. We still need to get Kleenexes and paper towels.

Kids are expensive. Going to school is expensive. I totally get that the teachers are already spending their own money for stuff for the classroom, and they shouldn't be buying this stuff out of their pockets, but i have to wonder how people with less money than us - or more kids - can afford to send their kids to school at all. We didn't even need to buy new backpacks or lunchboxes this year, so that's just stuff for the classroom. Crazy!

ANYHOW. So we came home to sort out the supplies. I suggested using the table this year, so that Emma wouldn't pester us, and the kids were all, "No!!!" Because apparently it's become a tradition for us all to sit on the floor as i throw their stuff at them and then read their lists as they put things into their backpacks. It's weird what things become traditions. I never meant that to be one, but it is a nice one, i suppose. 

Thursday, August 20, 2015

ArtPrize and Snapchat

ArtPrize is suddenly in the air. It's not yet the end of the summer, so it wasn't even on my radar yet, really - it's a fall thing, and i usually start thinking about it after school starts. Except Juanito is entering a piece this year, and he just finally started drawing it today. And Stephanie, who volunteers for ArtPrize, invited me to go with her to a volunteer kickoff party, so i went to that with her, and suddenly it feels like it's right around the corner! Yikes!

(I will not become completely consumed this year. I will not become completely consumed this year. I will not...)

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

I've had a couple of other adults who have told me, "Yeah, i heard about Snapchat and thought it sounded completely stupid, but i actually like it!" And i finally thought, "Meh. Might as well see what all the fuss is...."

And Beth and i spent a good part of the day today sending ridiculous and hilarious pictures back and forth. It is quite enjoyable. Not as informative as text, but way less stressful for those among us (me) who can't text quickly. Plus you get to laugh at your friends. (In a loving way.)

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Picture day!

Today was picture day at our school. A couple of years ago they started doing this thing, where they have picture day a few weeks before school starts. I think that the school's main reason is that when you go to get your kid's picture taken, you also have to finish any paperwork that hasn't already been completed, and that ensures that the office will have fewer headaches on the first day of school. I like it because i can fix the kids' hair right before the picture is taken, so i don't get pictures back and find that Zane has smashed his hair down into flat bangs and Houston has tucked all his hair behind his ears and Katrina has been running around at recess and now has a head full of tangles.

So this afternoon i carefully fixed all three kids' hair (bemoaning the fact that neither of my boys had been willing to get a haircut recently). I carefully inspected everyone's shirts, making sure that there were no random stains. I made sure faces were washed. And then we drove to school...

...where we had to stop at 6 different tables along the hallway before we got to the pictures. Most of them went quickly, because i HAD done all my paperwork beforehand (although i did have to have the secretary finish one of my forms for me, because when i was filling it out, it all of a sudden closed and was all, "You're finished!" and i was all, "What?! No i'm not!" and it was all, "La la la! I can't hear you! Talk to your school's secretary if you want to fix this!"), but even so, as i was filling out the picture order form, Zane was all, "Houston messed up my hair!" and Houston defended himself with, "Well, Zane was hugging my legs and wouldn't let go!" and i looked at Zane and shook my head at his hair and then looked at Houston and realized that he had a spot of blood RIGHT ON THE FRONT OF HIS SHIRT, in a spot that would absolutely show up in the picture.

Me: "What?! What happened there?! That wasn't there 5 minutes ago!"
Houston: "Huh? Oh! Where'd that come from?"
Me: ".....!!!"
Picture lady: "Do you want to just drive home and come back? Or we could do retakes?"

We finally got into the picture-taking room, and as i was trying to wrangle Zane's hair into a not-mop, i heard the other photographer call, "Um, can you help me? We've got a stain on this shirt!" I was all, "It's not my fault!!! It wasn't there when we left the house!" The kind of wrinkled his shirt to try to hide the spot, so it'll either look great or it'll totally look like they were trying to hide a spot, and we'll have to do re-takes.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Kentucky: Day 5

One of the things that the kids have been talking about for the past two years is the lemonade stand that they did the last time we were in Kentucky in the summer. They had grand plans about having a lemonade stand again this time, and planned and planned and asked a million times if they could do it today? How about today? Today?

This morning they had their lemonade stand. The still don't know how much they made, but it was "at least a dollar each." That's actually not bad, considering that it was drizzling AND they're on a street with very little traffic. They had a great time, though, and are trying to figure out if they can bring the sign back to Michigan with us.

This afternoon we went into Lexington. Juanito's mom teaches a zumba class there, nearly next door to a big book store. We hung out at the book store while she taught for an hour - Juanito read magazines, Houston found a book by Rick Riordan, which he spent the entire time reading, Katrina found a dozen books that she wanted, Zane read little kid books the entire time, and i looked for books that i'll want to read in the future. Houston and Katrina each bought a book, which they've been absorbed in ever since.

Juanito's mom treated us all to frozen yogurt, which was delicious. We drove to Thoroughbred Park, which we've been to lots of times, but not in several years. The kids remember it fondly and climbed all over the horses for ages. They'd have spent longer climbing on and off and on and off and showing off for the camera, but eventually i declared that *I* was going to go walk over to *that* part of the park, and they all kind of followed.

And tonight we visited one of Juanito's mom's friends. The kids had all requested that we visit her, mostly because she's just really sweet (and she has a lovely Kenyan accent), but also because they love the samosas that she makes. She didn't disappoint and had a whole slew of samosas, which the kids ate with glee. Houston and Katrina eventually declared themselves stuffed. I think that Zane ate at least a dozen and would STILL have eaten more if i hadn't eventually cut him off. They all fell over each other trying to tell her stories. There's something about her that they just love. It's adorable.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Kentucky: Days 3 & 4

Yesterday we went to a fair at Fort Harrod. The fair itself was kind of lame (in my opinion), but we went into the fort for $1 each, and that was interesting enough. I'm pretty sure that everything was a reproduction, but it was still fun for the kids to see what things were like in the 1800's. Also at the fair was a car show, which was very interesting to Juanito and JJ and sort of the boys and not so much interesting to Katrina and me.

Today we talked to Phoebe on Skype, and then headed back out to the farm to bring JJ home. The kids caught crayfish and played in the stream and looked for chickens. Emma ran after the 4x4 and ran through the creek and ran after the other dogs and ran some more.

And then we came back to the house, and Lauren came over, which was just lovely. We haven't seen her in a couple of years, and it was just really great to be able to see her again. More of Juanito's mom's friends came over, and we sat around the fire and talked and ate brats. And eventually everyone fell into bed, exhausted. 

Friday, August 14, 2015

Kentucky, day 2

We spent the afternoon and evening at the farm where Juanito's dad and JJ live. They have chickens and a goat and 3 dogs, a lot of space to run and play, and a little 4x4. (Also lots of other stuff, but those are the things my kids and dog are most interested in.)

Houston held the chickens for a lot of the time, putting them down only long enough to either eat or go out on the 4x4. Katrina held chickens, pet the goat, and loved looking for crayfish. Zane threw rocks by the driveway, threw rocks into the river, threw rocks into the woods.... They all had fun, anyhow.

Emma was slightly afraid of JJ's giant dog, Zeus, so she didn't want to just play with him this time. She was very interested in the goat, until the goat headbutted her. She was interested in chasing the chickens when they were running, but as soon as they slowed down or stopped, she lost interest. She played with the little dog.

After dinner, JJ drove the 4x4 with me in the passenger seat and all three kids in the back, and Juanito drove a little trail bike, and we all drove around the property a bit. I was slightly terrified the entire time, because it really felt like we were going to roll over at any second, and i was picturing my kids in a tangle of limbs underneath the vehicle. Everyone else thought it was awesome, though. Emma ran alongside, and was the happiest dog in the world. The kids chanted her name in support. After we'd been riding along for quite a while, with Emma cheerfully running next to my side where she could see me, JJ slowed down to turn onto a different path. Suddenly, Emma got extremely worried that the 4x4 was ... eating us? She started barking at the tires and trying to eat them as she ran. At one point, she was so busy trying to get the tires that she completely ran into a tree. It would have been sad if she'd been hurt, but she just seemed surprised, and so it was kind of completely hilarious to JJ and me. (Nobody else noticed.)

We drove down to the little creek, and Houston and Katrina hunted for teensy little crayfish while Zane threw rocks into the bigger pools and the dogs all trotted through the creek water. Fun!

JJ came back with us to stay in Wilmore, so we get to hang out with him again tomorrow. Yay!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Kentucky - day 1

We drove down to Kentucky this morning, arriving at about 3:00 this afternoon. This is our first time staying in Juanito's mom's new house, and it's just a lovely little home. The two youngest are starting out the night sleeping in a tent outside. We'll see if they make it out there the whole night.

Tonight we had a fire, and a dozen of Juanito's mom's friends came and sat around the campfire and talked and hung out for an hour or two. Emma ran around greeting everyone and enjoying the grass and giant fenced-in yard. The kids caught fireflies and enjoyed being out after dark.

Generally, though, we've just been enjoying being with mum/grandma and catching up a bit on what's been happening in our lives. 

Wednesday, August 12, 2015


My mom, my sister Chellie and her kids, my kids, and i went to Shipshewana today. I've been talking about wanting to bring my kids there for years, but we've just never made it. I finally decided that this summer, we just HAD to go, and since the flea market is only open on Tuesday and Wednesday, and this was the ONLY Tuesday or Wednesday that was going to work for the rest of the summer, we were going to go today. Even though that's slightly insane, given that we're leaving for Kentucky tomorrow.

The kids had no idea what to expect and were fairly ho-hum about the idea of going, but they all loved it. We walked and walked and walked around the flea market for hours. The kids bought random stuff, but at really good prices. Houston and Zane both bought fedoras. All three kids bought laser pointers that can change to show pictures. Katrina and Houston bought the softest material in the world, for me to hem into blankets for them. There were trinkets and candy and books bought. And they all declared it awesome.

We left the flea market and went to a fabric store and a grocery store. We saw Amish people in their buggies and on their bicycles. We saw lots of Mennonite people in the shops. It was a whole experience, and the kids totally enjoyed it. Yay!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Trip out West: Part 2 - South Dakota, the first 3 days

I mean, NO. I don't actually expect that anyone at all will actually look at all of my pictures, but this was amazingly beautiful scenery, so i took a lot of pictures. And i want to put them online anyhow, just in case my computer gets stolen or something catastrophic happens, so that they're backed up, and SO. Pictures.

We met up with Beth on Monday morning and headed north toward South Dakota, through Wyoming. With the exception of Juanito (who didn't remember it), none of us had ever been to Wyoming before, and all of us (or at least the adults among us) were just blown away by the vastness and the beauty and the changing-ness of it. It was amazing. As we were driving along, there was suddenly a sign for "Oregon Trail ruts." I was immediately like, "WHAT?!! The Oregon Trail?! That's amazing!" And Juanito was all, "You could get dysentery, going there!" And Beth was all, "Um. What?" So we explained the whole Oregon Trail game, but i was all, "No. It'll take too long. Let's just skip it. It's fine." Beth and Juanito insisted we go, and i'm SO glad they did, because it DID take time, but it was also totally worth it. There are ruts! Big gouges in the earth, where the wagons all drove through the limestone! I kind of love history, and it was just really cool to be able to see that. Plus, the back roads that we then ended up having to take led us to towns like "Manville" and some little mostly-abandoned town with random stray dogs walking down the middle of the road. It was a whole experience.

On Tuesday, we went to the Black Hills. We started the day by stopping in a touristy place with all-you-can-eat pancakes for 99 cents. Apparently it's one of the spots where the made "Dancing With Wolves," so there were Kevin Costner cut-outs and awesomely cheesy things from the movie. They had a giant covered wagon and a smaller covered wagon and a stockade, but they also had some really interesting things, like a guy who really loved his job, who demonstrated how to make a rope. He let the kids choose colors to put in the rope, let them help make it, and taught us how to spin the rope. The kids thought it was the coolest thing ever. We got sucked into walking around the place for way longer than we'd expected, until finally i was like, "We have to go! We still have all of the Black Hills!!!"

We started at Mount Rushmore. As we got closer and closer, the kids got almost giddy with excitement, peering out the windows for their first glimpse. They all went a little crazy when they saw it. It was awesome. We walked down the "Presidential Path," which takes you almost right up under the monument, all along in front of it. We took approximately 13 million pictures. Because...Mount Rushmore! And eventually we left and headed toward the Iron Mountain Road, a road with ponytail turns and sharp curves and everything that makes Juanito happy. There were tiny little tunnels through the rocks, and giant rock formations, and we might have stopped another few million times to take pictures everywhere.

Eventually we accidentally took the wrong way into a separate area of Custer State Park, which turned out to be very fortuitous, because we'd been thinking of maybe doing that a separate day, but we never would have had time. We found buffalo way far away, and then prairie dogs close up, and then buffalo right by the road. There were antelope and turtles and just generally nature-type things everywhere.

We eventually made it back into the part of the Black Hills where we were meant to be, and just as we got to a spot where we wanted to stop and look at the Cathedral Spires, Katrina got a spectacularly bloody nose. And amazingly bloody nose. It bled and bled and bled. We used up all of the kleenexes in the car and all of the baby wipes and were down to the kleenex from Beth's and my purses, which we made her stuff up her nose, when it finally stopped. She was pouring blood for about 15 minutes. There were puddles of blood on the ground. It was super-gross. I was starting to wonder if i should be really worried. She was a champion and didn't complain at all. She cheerfully agreed that it was totally gross.

We eventually wound our way around to Needle Highway. We somehow missed Needle Rock, even though we stopped the car and were walking around RIGHT THERE. It apparently wasn't terribly obvious. The Needle Tunnel was really cool, though. Beth and Juanito and Zane all climbed around by the tunnel, with Zane encouraging Beth that she could do it. He was so proud of himself for helping her be brave enough to climb the terrifying rocks.

The sun was getting ready to set, so we headed to Sylvan Lake, where we climbed on some rocks out to the middle of the lake to watch the sunset. It was slightly terrifying. And then we drove home and all fell into bed.

Wednesday we headed north. Our first stop was Sturgis, which is apparently home to a giant motorcycle rally every year. We stopped at the World's Largest Biker Bar, which had a giant cowboy holding a beer, a huge mailbox, a random donkey wandering the parking lot,  and a lot of other incredibly random stuff.

We went east just a bit to go to Bear Butte, which we really only wanted to go to for the name, which we all insisted on pronouncing "Bare Butt." When we got there, we realized that we needed to pay to go in, except that all we really wanted was to get a picture by the sign, which was just there, inside the park. There were signs saying, "Buffalo are dangerous. Stay in your vehicle," but we'd driven around all day the day before and had only seen a couple of buffalo even though we were totally looking. So we thought, "Meh. Let's just park here and WALK in to the sign, and then we're not breaking any rules!" We carefully, slowly stepped across the cattle grate. We cheerfully walked a bit, until Juanito was all, "Um? See that little hill over there? Is that a buffalo?" I was all, "Nah! It's like, huge! And super-close!" Juanito walked a bit closer. And then it lifted its head, and it was enormous and SO close. The kids all immediately turned and ran at full speed back to the safety of the car, flinging themselves across the cattle grate at top speed. Beth and i ran behind them, slightly less panicked.. Juanito casually strolled back to the car. We drove the 1/8 mile into the park, took the picture (while carefully watching the buffalo), and left. Zane refused to get out of the car for the picture.

And then we drove to Deadwood. I remembered Deadwood as a fun little old-west-type town, from when i went there when i was about 13. Either it's changed or my memory is just terrible. It was a totally touristy town, trying to look old west. We walked through the shops. We watched a fake gunfight in the street. We got ice cream at Dairy Queen. We went to the graveyard where Wild Bill and Calamity Jane are buried. It was ... fine.

And the we headed home. We stopped in Lead, where the town is built up steep hills. We stopped at "The Boondocks," which appears to be an abandoned amusement park of sorts. We stopped and ate dinner at a hole-in-the-wall my cousin recommended, which had delicious food. In the parking lot was a lady who made ice cream fresh with liquid nitrogen. She was super friendly and totally gave us delicious free ice cream because i guess she liked us.

And then we fell into bed, exhausted again.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Trip out west: Part 1 - U2 and Colorado

I just realized today that i never did go back and talk about our trip out west.'s a ridiculously long time ago now - over a month back - but i also know that i will eventually want to make a book about this year, and if i DON'T go back and write about it, then i won't have anything written about it. And by the time i actually get around to doing 2015, it'll probably be something ridiculous like 2030, and i won't remember what happened anymore. SO. The first 1/3 of the trip:

On Thursday, Beth and i headed up to Chicago to go to a U2 concert. (YAY!) Beth gave me a trip to the concert for Christmas, back before we knew the dates of Tony and Meloni's wedding. When we got the invitation, we were all, "NO! That's like...the worst timing!" Except that, with more thought and planning, it turned out to be kind of perfect. I mentioned that we were going to Colorado, and Beth said, "I want to go to Colorado!" because she has family and friends that all live out there too. And so the plan was hatched that she and i could go to the concert, and Juanito could pick us up there, and we could all drive to Colorado together.

We dropped her car off at her friend's house and took the train downtown, where we got dinner and then headed to the United Center for the concert. And the concert was truly amazing. Both of us just completely love U2, and it's so much fun to go to a concert with other people who as completely enamored as you are. It was their Innocence + Experience tour, and they did all of their old songs that i love, and i will stop gushing now.

Juanito picked us up after the concert and drove us out of the city, at which point i took over and drove all night and into Nevada. I'm usually pretty useless for night driving, but having Beth along meant that i had someone to talk to, so while everyone else slept, the two of us laughed and chatted and talked about...i don't even know what for hours and hours. At one point she fell asleep, only to startle awake a few minutes later, throwing water all over me in the process. It scared the daylights out of me, since she was supposed to be asleep, and i'm still not sure how i didn't wake the entire car up, screaming in fright.

As soon as we got to Colorado, Beth went off with her family and we headed to my cousin Sara's house. They were nice enough to let us stay with them for the weekend. I don't remember much about Friday, because i was going on about 2 hours of sleep.

On Saturday, we decided to go do the Lariat Loop again, since we'd all really enjoyed that last year. I think we drove it more quickly than last year since we'd already seen a lot of it, but we still really enjoyed ourselves. The kids love climbing on rocks, so we spent the majority of the time letting them do that. We stopped at a little candy store and got ice cream. We stopped at Red Rocks for a couple of minutes, but didn't really have time to go into it at all, because we were running late for the rehearsal dinner.

Tony and Meloni invited us to their rehearsal dinner, even though none of us were actually in their wedding. They're nice that way. It was really, really appreciated, because that was the only actual time that we got to see them. The next day was their wedding, and they were, understandably, fairly distracted during that. So we hung out and talked to Tony and Meloni and helped with we could.

Sunday was the wedding. We headed over to their church very early so we could help with setting stuff up. We were put in charge of sidewalk chalk, a task which my family all jumped into with glee. The wedding was lovely. The program was Princess Bride themed. The cake was Star Wars themed. There was a storm trooper at the reception. Tony and Meloni both looked completely happy and adorable. I was so glad that we could be there. It was a very, very happy wedding.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Camping and not camping

Zane missed the Cub Scout camping trip when we were in South Dakota, and he was really disappointed. So tonight, Juanito and Zane are camping. They're out somewhere in the woods in a not-campground, just parked in a State Park, hiked in, digging a hole for a bathroom.

Zane is wearing all camouflage, so that the bears and wolves can't find him.

Meanwhile, Katrina, Houston, Beth, and i are staying home and watched the sixth Harry Potter movie. We can't watch any of the Harry Potter movies past 2 while Zane is home, so we have to try to fit them in when he's otherwise occupied. The kids have approximately the same response to the movies that i do: Love the actors, like some of the movie, completely disappointed by all the stuff left out, irritated about the stuff changed. I've made it a rule that no out-loud complaining is allowed, because otherwise it's just constant wails of, "That never happened!!!!"

Thursday, August 6, 2015


Katrina woke up this morning a little after 9:00. I was awake, reading in bed, so she came and climbed in with me and we snuggled and made shadows on the ceiling. It was a lovely start to the day. I sent her to wake up Houston at 10:00, and the two of them played and played and played up in their rooms. I kept hearing gales of laughter and shouts of, "NO!!!!" I hear tales of War and Uno Attack and Harry Potter, the Lego board game.

We picked Zane up from my parents' house this afternoon and went straight to my sister's house for fun in the pool. The kids swam and jumped and swam and jumped until they were shivering. (It was warm today, but not exactly hot....) Zane played mostly in the shallow end and couldn't be persuaded to do any jumping, but he had fun floating around. (I dream of a day when Zane will be willing to put his face in the water and will learn to swim. Some day.)

By the time we got home, everyone was starving and exhausted. Typical end to a good summer day.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015


My parents are taking my sister and her 3-year-old son camping for two nights, and they decided to invite Zane along, since he plays well with his cousin and it's always good to have other kids around to play with. Zane was thrilled to be invited. So tonight i dropped Zane off at my parents house, and he'll come home on Thursday, mosquito-bitten and grimy and hopefully happy and full of s'mores.

Monday, August 3, 2015


Katrina's been thinking about getting her hair cut for a couple of weeks. One day she was all, "So i think i want to get my hair cut short!" and i was all, "Really? Awesome! But...let's wait a little while and make sure you're REALLY sure before we do that."

So she thought about it and worried about it and really wanted to but was worried that she wouldn't like it, because she hasn't had short hair since she was really little. And she finally decided that yes. She wanted it cut.

She wanted a cute bob. A little longer than chin length. We described it to the hair dresser and showed her a picture, and she was all, "Do you want me to make it more stacked in the back, though?" and we said, "Well, not really. I mean, don't just cut it a straight cut. Make it a tiny bit layered, so it looks cute. But mostly just one length." And she was all, "But do you want me to cut it a little bit stacked so that it doesn't look triangular?" And i was all, "Um? I guess a tiny bit? But mostly one length?"

She totally stacked the back. Like...a lot. It's way, way shorter in the back than i would have chosen.

But Katrina loves it. She was all, "It's like a pixie cut! But longer!" (Me: "..... I guess? Except...not.") All the way home, she was all, "I LOVE IT! It feels so weird! But i LOVE IT!" And it is really, really cute. Adorably cute. And she'll be able to just brush it and let it be, and it'll still be cute. Yay!

And, since she donated her hair to Locks of Love, some child is going to get an awesome wig.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Zane's birthday pictures

Sometimes i forget what an anxious kid Zane can be. He's so free-spirited about so many things - he'll run around the neighborhood, meeting new people with glee. He has no worries about starting school or going on sleepovers or going off on his own in a library or store or church or whatever.

But there are just things that make him nervous, and there's no convincing him that it's not worrisome. He won't go downstairs to go to the bathroom by himself in the morning when everyone else is upstairs. He doesn't like being in the kitchen by himself. And he doesn't like getting his face wet.

And today, when we went to take pictures of him for his birthday, you can see, in some of them, that he's nervous about something or other. He didn't want to walk through a path in the field that might be wet. He was quite afraid of the train tracks (Which...yeah, okay. Fair enough.) and he was really nervous about that area with the graffiti.

Also, there was a path we walked back to our house on, and he was all, "What if there's a raccoon? What if there's a skunk?"
Me: "They're both nocturnal. We're fine."
Him: "What's that noise i hear?"
Me: "Probably a bunny."
Him: "I don't like bunnies! They can be mean!!!"
Me: "Bunnies? Can be mean?"
Him: "Yes! Maybe!!"

I think we're inventing worries now.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

I made him wash his face, and i considered having him change into clean clothes and fix his hair, but honestly? This is exactly what he looks like all the time. He's messy and active and it's summer. So. This is Zane. Nerves, mess, slightly fake smiles at times, and total adorableness.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Happy birthday, Zaney!!!

Dear Zane,

You are such an energetic, silly, friendly, hilarious kid, who has thoughts and opinions that you make known. There are days that i think that you're the best kid in the universe and other days that i'm left throwing my hands up because i have no idea what to do with you. You are the most 9-year-old boy who ever was nine.

When people ask what you want to be when you grow up, you usually list off about five things; a scientist, an artist, a zoo-keeper.... You love science and facts, and while i would always rather curl up with a novel, you absolutely adore non-fiction. Your favorite books are things like, "100 Most Dangerous Animals on the Planet," which you will read and re-read and then share all of the information with anyone who will listen. Facts about weird and amazing and disgusting animals are your favorites.

Our neighbors have chickens, and you're the kid who always volunteers to bring our scraps over for them. It took me a few days to realize that the reason you love to do it is because then you get to chat with our neighbor. When we go to the dog park, you invariably find someone sitting alone, and you'll sit down with them and have a long conversation. You know all of the dogs by name, who owns them, and what breed they are, mostly because you've talked to every single owner.

You just adore people. You'll talk on the phone for long, long conversations with your friends, and anyone who watches you can just see the joy you feel from your friendships. All of the neighborhood kids know you and will come by our house yelling, "ZANE!!!" because they all want to play with you. You would love nothing more than for your siblings to spend all day playing with you.

At the same time, you're still learning some of the social skills that your siblings have already learned, and that means that there's a lot of hurt feelings and bickering going on between you fairly often. They complain that you're not listening and you complain that they're not listening, and ultimately, it's just a matter of you being nine and their being older. You pester them and they pester back and they say things they don't mean and you say things you don't mean, and you end up crying that you're the most miserable person ever because nobody likes you. (They do, by the way. Everyone likes you. You're adorable.)

You've discovered Pokemon this year. Not that you actually play it, mind you. You just collect the cards and organize the cards and trade the cards and show off the cards. Sometimes you and Houston play in a way that is totally made up by you guys, which would never be played with anyone who actually knows the rules. You don't care, though. You like making your own rules anyhow. For everything.

You like things to be correct. If i say, "That's a rhinoceros," you'll say, "Well, actually, that's a black rhinoceros." It makes me crazy sometimes, but you know your facts, and i think that you like being the one who knows things sometimes. It's hard being the youngest all the time, and you want your voice to be heard.

You just have opinions about things. You didn't want to take your birthday pictures today. You'd rather do them NOT on your birthday. You would have let me take them today, though. You asked if we could do them on another day, but you were willing, if it was really important to me, to do them today. Because you really do, truly, care deeply about other people's feelings.

So yes. You drive me crazy sometimes, but Zaney, you are amazing. You're smart and incredibly good at conversation, loving and kind and sweet. You let me cuddle you sometimes, even though you don't really like cuddling. And you're just my favorite little nine-year-old in the world.

I love you, Zaney-brainy.