Monday, September 14, 2015

Two of the things i did today

Katrina's been really wanting me to teach her how to sew. Me: "Maybe we should wait until after ArtPrize, when we'll have more time?" Her: "I'm a fast learner!" So today we got out some scraps, and i showed her how to thread the machine and sew a basic seam. She sewed a red tube-type thing, with very wonky seams, and she's very thrilled with herself. Her goal is to help make a blanket out of some really, really soft material she bought in Shipshewana.

Meanwhile, Zane's room has been a disaster (seriously, DISASTER) for ... i was going to say most of the summer, but it's probably more like "forever." Or at least since i cleaned it up for him as a Christmas present in January. So. Nine months then. It's gotten to the point where i'm just unwilling to let it go any longer, and so he's on "almost no fun" restriction until that stupid room is clean. The problem is that he's just so distract-able! I'll send him to clean it and come up half an hour later to find him sitting on his bed playing Legos, with nothing having been cleaned. Me: "Zane! You're supposed to be cleaning!" Him: "OH! I forgot!"

Tonight i brought Charlotte's Web (which we've been reading) into his room, so he could clean while i read. Except that i had to keep stopping every page to say, "ZANE! Don't play with the stuff! Just pick it up and put it away!!!!" Katrina finally sighed, "This is just not enjoyable."

And so eventually i tossed the book aside, cleared a space to sit in on his floor, and ordered him to haul out everything from under his bed. He was all, "Wait. Everything? Even these little things?" Me: "EVERYTHING." Half a ton of junk later, we got down to the tiny pieces of trash that really just need to get vacuumed up. His room is now even more of a disaster. (Although it's better than it was. We started making a dent in the giant pile of junk.)

Sunday, September 13, 2015

New bike!

We spent today at my parents' house, along with most of the rest of my family.

My brother Jim found a guy on Craigslist who was selling a whole ton of bikes for $10 each. Really good bikes. He emailed me and asked me if we'd be interested in any of them, and we replied with, "Um, yes. This one for Katrina and this one because Juanito is crazy and wants to try fixing up ANOTHER one." He ended up just buying ALL the bikes, because when you come from a huge family and there are bikes for $10 each, you can bet your bootie that someone's going to want to buy them all.

The bike we got for Katrina is a Trek, and it apparently usually sells for about $400 in the store and $250 used. She's not a fan of the green color, and at first she was very "meh" about it, until we realized that the only reason she didn't like it was the color. Juanito has promised her that they can paint it something cute, and since then she's been riding it around cheerfully and has decided that she kind of loves it. Yay!

I also accidentally kind of got in a huge discussion/argument about guns and gun control with my family. I usually avoid that subject like the plague, but i somehow assumed that putting Bible verses on guns was going too far, even for them, and ... i was wrong, i guess. Lesson learned. 

Saturday, September 12, 2015


Today totally felt like Fall. It was long pants and long sleeves kind of weather, and it was the perfect day for visiting the apple orchard.

Except that first the kids needed to work on cleaning their rooms. Not Houston. His has been clean (or mostly clean) for a few months now, which is...amazing. But Katrina and Zane's rooms? Disasters. So the rule was this: "No computer until your room is clean AND then checked by an adult to make sure that it's actually clean."

Katrina's response was to start cleaning early this morning and work really hard until she thought it was clean and then get it checked by Juanito. He hadn't seen the before, so he was all, "Um. No. It's a mess." She crawled into bed with me and cried because she'd been working really hard, so i cuddled her and tickled her for a while, and then eventually i sat on her bed saying, "Clean up that stuff over there," so that she could finish and make it look awesome. And she did! Done! Clean! Hallelujah!

Zane's response was this: "Well, i'm not going to be able to finish and play computer in time anyhow, so i might as well just not even try." Like, he actually said that to me. I had to further threaten him with: A - "No computer EVER AGAIN until your room is clean," and (when that failed to elicit an acceptable response) B - "I will take away your MP3 player, and then you won't be able to listen to your audiobooks on repeat day and night." The combined threats managed to get him to make at least a minimal effort. I gave him some direction (Gather all your clothes and put them in the laundry. Pick up 10 things.) and it was going fairly well, but then i made the mistake of telling him to pull everything out from under his bed, and then i realized that he had stashed everything in the entire world under his bed, and now it is the biggest disaster that ever was. Which is awesome, because in a week and a half, his grandma and aunt are going to be staying there.

So by afternoon, all of us were kind of ready for a break. Beth suggested the apple orchard, which was a brilliant suggestion. I didn't even think that apples were ready yet, so i'd never have suggested it.

As soon as we got to the orchard, the kids scattered. Zane played in the corn until we dragged him away. Houston fed the chickens. And Katrina cuddled kittens. Just before we went to pick apples, Houston cuddled a kitten for a few seconds and then completely regretted it later, when we concluded that he is, definitely, allergic to cats. Poor kid.

We tried the different kinds of apples, picked lots of yummy ones (including honeycrisp!), and got donuts.

And then Houston, Katrina, and i left Zane at home and went to Beth's house to watch the final Harry Potter movie. Yay!!!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Juanito's ArtPrize entry

Juanito's been working nearly non-stop on his drawing for ArtPrize. He's got about a week until it absolutely has to be finished, but he's hoping to get it done in the next couple of days. So far he's put in somewhere around 100 hours.

It looks amazing. 

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Day 2

Second day of school! And the kids still like it! Yay!!!

And...that's pretty much it for the day.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

First day of school!

Tell me about your first day of school!

Zane: I learned most of the stuff i'm going to do in school this year. I had a new technology teacher this year. I had library. My desk is the tallest desk, but it's the only desk that won't open, and it's closest to the door. I'm the person who's farthest away from their cubby. For the first time in my life, i am higher than number 17. I'm number 21.

Katrina: It was really fun and all my teachers are really nice. We get lockers, and we have a lot of new kids. We transition more in middle school. and we don't dissect anything.

Houston: It was awesome. All of my teachers were really nice, and half of them are okay with me eating snacks in class. There were a lot of new kids. Our lockers are split in half. We used to have long ones, but now they're split in half, which means that we get to have our own locker. I have the top locker.

Tell me about your teacher(s).

Zane: She is really nice. She also can shake her eyes. (Miss DeHamer can do it too, but she's not here anymore.) Which is pretty awesome. She is really kind and fun.

Katrina: My favorite teacher is Mrs. Butz, because she's really nice and she's funny, and she does social studies, and i really, really like social studies. Mrs. VanderMuellen has two gerbils in her classroom and a lot of fish.

Houston: My homeroom teacher is Miss Steketee, and she's my favorite teacher, because she seems like the nicest. My language arts teacher, Miss Brennan used to be my Spanish teacher, so i know her pretty well. My social studies teacher was also my social studies teacher in 7th grade. I only really have one new teacher!

Tell me one thing you learned today.

Zane: That my new technology teacher has a son.

Katrina: We don't have to dissect anything.

Houston: We have a new grading thing. So 4.0 is now 100%. And 3.0 is 80%. This way it's easier to ... y'know.

Was the first day back better or worse than you expected?

Zane: Better. Although it was pretty boring. All we did in technology was to look at pictures of the teacher.

Katrina: Better. I was really nervous, and we went in the gym, and it was really scary, because i didn't know how to get my lunch, and there was a really, really big line, and then there's a lot of tables.

Houston: Oh, better! All my teachers are really nice. I don't think i'm going to dislike any of my subjects this year. Speech class seems like it'll be kind of...i don't like standing up in front of classes and i get really nervous when i do, so i think it'll be my weakest subject, but i hope it helps me improve.

Do you have any friends in your class? And is there anyone you don't know that might become friends?

Zane: No friends in my class. No. Actually! Stephan. He's new here.

Katrina: I think i'll be friends with this new girl named Kimberly, and she's really nice. She's from Spain, and she moved here when she was nine, and i really want to be her friend. And Madison is in my class.

Houston: Zoe is in all of my classes with me. I don't really know many of the new kids, because they're all really quiet, and i haven't tried talking to them because i was so rushed and panicked.

What was the best thing about summer vacation?

Zane: Going places, like other states and Kalahari....

Katrina: Going out of the state.

Houston: Going everywhere. Like, all the places we went to out of state and all the fun places we went to in state. And also making the zoo. That was really fun. I really liked that.

What are you most excited about for this school year?

Zane: Lumberjack day! And other field trips and things.

Katrina: Lockers!

Houston: Going to Chicago. Oh, wait! NO! Visiting the colleges and high schools!

Monday, September 7, 2015

Last Day of Summer

It was the last day of summer vacation, and so i decided that shakes were in order. (Half-priced shakes!) Because every summer should end with ice cream.

And then we grilled tonight, because grilling is ALSO a good summery thing to do.

I realize that tomorrow we don't have to start wearing winter coats and raking leaves, but there's just a feeling of the end of summer and warmth and sunshine, and i wanted to soak it all up while we could.

Sunday, September 6, 2015


It's the last Sunday of summer vacation, and it was a gorgeous day, so the kids and i went out to my grandpa's beach for the afternoon. After an hour or so, Beth and Stephanie joined us. It was warm, and the water was lovely, and the sun was sunny, and there were waves but not huge, dangerous waves. So it was about as perfect a day as we could have asked for.

I sat and talked to my grandpa for an hour or so, until the kids were just completely impatient for me to come down to the beach so they could go into the water. I feel so incredibly fortunate that my grandpa, who is 96, is still completely intelligent and lucid. He told me all kinds of interesting stuff about my great-grandpa and what happened with his property when he died. And we talked about medicine and how it's changed, and .... I wish i lived closer, so that it was easier to visit him more often.

Tonight, Juanito, Beth, Stephanie, and i went to see "Mission Impossible" - like...the 4th sequel or something. It was ridiculous, and Beth, Juanito, and i giggled the entire way through it. Tom Cruise is just so...Tom Cruise. It was a lovely, relaxing end to the day.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Musical Fountain!

It's been a tradition, for the past two years (three, including this year) to go to Grand Haven to see the Musical Fountain at the end of the summer. It's a pretty cheesy event, but the kids actually love it, and the fountain is kind of pretty.

This year, Juanito was busy working on his ArtPrize submission, so the kids, Beth, Stephanie, and i went without him. We ate a picnic on the lawn and then walked down to the lighthouse. It was much, much warmer than last year - kind of a perfect night for walking along the water and watching the fountain.

There was a family that sat behind us, and halfway through the show, the kids lost interest and started asking, "Is it over YET?" Eventually they left, with a song or two yet to go. Katrina turned to me and said, "I feel so sorry for their mom! Because she really wanted to stay and see this!"

Our kids were really happy to be there, except for maybe Houston, when the Cup Song started and Katrina and i both started singing along (quietly). He sighed deeply and asked, "REALLY?" and scooted away. So we just sang it in our heads instead. (Which is not nearly as much fun for us. But probably much happier for everyone else.)

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Adventure Thursday

It's the last Thursday of the summer, so i figured that we should end the summer with one last Adventure Thursday.

I meant to spend a good part of the day at the zoo. I found the free pass we got at the beginning of summer, drove out to the zoo, walked up to the window...and realized that the pass had expired 3 days ago. Dang it!!! I didn't really want to shell out the $40ish dollars that it was going to cost us to pay to go to the zoo, and i was kind of rescued from the kids being even sadder by the rain that started before we even got back to our car. (Katrina was still pretty desperately sad.)

We drove to the library instead, and by the time we got there - about an 8-minute drive - it was pouring. We congratulated ourselves on not being at the zoo.

When we'd been at the library for about half an hour, Houston had asked about several different books, none of which the library had. He was walking around with one book, looking lost. In the past, i've tried to recommend him books, and he's just never very interested. So this time, i told him, "Okay. Go to the librarian and ask her what her favorite book is for your age level." And 15 minutes later, he had a stack of about 15 books that look promising. (At least one of which i've totally recommended several times.)

After the library, we came home and made our own zoo. Each of us got one area of the house and a few different animals, and we could do whatever we wanted. Houston made a snake and a mouse with his Rainbow Loom and then a sheep out of a cotton ball and a few staples and googly eyes. Katrina made a map of her zoo and made adorable signs for each animal. Zane just gathered all of the stuffed animals he could find that matched his animals and threw them all together on a couple of chairs. I wrote up a list of interesting facts about each of my animals and drew a (very poorly rendered) picture of each. (Honestly, it was probably as much fun as the actual zoo would have been. Our zoo is just...not my favorite zoo.)

Next we went out to my parents' house to steal their tomatoes. (I asked permission first.) We got there just after it finished raining, so the flowers were all still covered in raindrops, so after all of the tomatoes were picked, i walked around and took some pictures of the flowers. Meanwhile, the kids played a rousing game of "Death Frog" with their cousins.

And then we came home to see Juanito and relax for a bit, and then we went to Wendy's for dinner and frozen yogurt for dessert. Delicious! Exciting!

And then Zane got his hair cut, because we hadn't already done enough stuff today. He looks adorable. (He doesn't like to be called handsome. Cute is okay, though.)

Wednesday, September 2, 2015


It's the last week of summer vacation, and it was really hot and muggy today, and we were mostly just sitting at home not doing anything, so when my sister called an invited us to come swim at her pool, we took her up on the offer.

The kids swam and swam and swam. I jumped in twice, just long enough to get cool. The second time i jumped, Zane jumped in too, right on top of me and totally kicked me in the head while i was under water. Hard. I think i'm going to have a bruise. I surfaced, completely confused, and asked him, "What happened?!" And he, with big tears in his eyes, was all, "I think i'll be okay. I got water in my face, though!" (Me: "....?)