Saturday, April 16, 2016

Visiting with Karen, Saturday, and Snapchat

Today was absolutely perfect weather - sunny and in the high 70's and just wonderful. The kids all spent hours playing outside. They played baseball and explored the "forest" and generally enjoyed being outside.

I took advantage of the lovely weather and the fact that it was a Saturday by forcing everyone to do yard work. Our backyard has been an absolute disaster all winter, and the front yard has slowly become one as well, because our neighbors seem to believe that our garden is a perfect spot for throwing trash. Add to all of the trash and random stuff lying around the many, many leaves and sticks that were never raked up, and you have a giant mess.

I had the kids pick up garbage and wash the tables and chairs, and i raked a million, million leaves, and Juanito woke up when we were halfway finished, so then he helped as well, and we eventually got rid of a ridiculously huge amount of yard waste.

When Juanito came out, one of the first things he did was to start a fire in the grill, wherein to burn some of the random wood he's had lying around. And lo, the kids were all thrilled and would have stood around gazing at the fire for the rest of the day, but i am a mean meanie and made everyone keep working. At one point, Juanito, Houston, and i were in the front yard, and Katrina and Zane were carrying the table and chairs back to the backyard, and Zane suddenly called (in a not-panicked voice), "Um, guys! You should come back here! There's something you need to see!" I...kind of ignored him a little bit, because that's the same thing he says for things like woodpeckers and squirrels and cute little birds drinking from buckets. So i ignored him...until he added, "The fire! Is burning! On the ground!" At which point we all kind of leaped to attention and rushed to check it out. Sure enough, some of the wood from the fire had fallen out of the grill onto a pile of wood on the ground, and it was all on fire. I was all, "UM! Fire! Where it's not contained! Stop it from burning down our house!!!" because i am totally calm in emergencies. Juanito, on the other hand, simply walked over and shrugged and started putting it all back in. Katrina grabbed a bucket of water and stood by, eagerly hoping that she'd get to help put the fire out. (Juanito let her put out the fire in one little pile, but it wasn't actually necessary.)

Anyhow. The (tiny) fire was put out. The leaves are gone. Our yard looks so much better! The garden looks like a garden again! Yay!

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My friend Karen D. was at a conference in Grand Rapids on Thursday and Friday, so we got to see her! She and i went out for dinner on Thursday night, for an early birthday celebration. It was so great to get to see her just by myself, without the distraction of kids and dog and food preparation and everything that would have gone into having her here that night. We had delicious food and awesome conversation.

And i got presents! Fun ones! Karen got me a Zoku popsicle maker, which i'd never even heard of before, but you basically stick the thingy in the freezer until you want to make popsicles, and then when you're ready you just take it out and make them in about 10 minutes. We tried it out on Friday night, and it works really well. My kids thought it was the greatest thing ever, and if it were up to them, we'd have popsicles constantly. Sadly, they have to wait at least 24 between times.

Friday, Karen came over for pizza and games. And popsicles. The kids were thrilled and all wanted her attention. They might be older, but they still have that "Look at me! Look at me!" mentality in a more grown up kind of way. Now, instead of "Look at the funny face i can make!" it's "Watch me play the flute!" and "Look at this funny video!" and "Let's do a face swap!" So it was fairly chaotic, but lots and lots of fun. We played Catch Phrase and ate delicious pizza and just had a really good time.

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For a really long time, i rolled my eyes at Snapchat. "Why would you want to take pictures that would only exist for a few seconds?" i asked. And then i was persuaded that maybe it would be fun, so i started using it, IS fun! I use it mostly for two purposes: To say hi to friends and give them little snapshots of what i'm doing randomly, and to take ridiculously hilarious pictures and make each other laugh.

Recently, Snapchat added this feature where you can use filters to make your face look weird in various ways or even to face swap. It's quite amusing for adults, but it's like crack for kids. Hence, there have been many, many hilarious snapchat pictures sent back and forth between me, Juanito, Houston, Beth, and sometimes my mom and Keren. (I don't want to pester people too much....) Some of the filters make you look all beautiful. Most make you look crazy. For one day, there was a filter that turned your eyes into two more mouths. That might have been the craziest, most disturbing filter so far. The face swap pictures always look quite creepy, but they're brought to a whole new level of creepy when it sees something else as a face. Houston, in particular, has Snapchat mistake his nose for a face often, with hilarious and sometimes horrifying results.

Allow me to share some of the many:

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Highlights from the past two weeks

So. It's been a whirlwind of a couple of weeks. Some of the highlights:

  • Houston got into City High! It's the best school in the city, and one of the very best schools in the state, so it wasn't at all a sure thing that he'd get to go there. We had a backup school lined up, but City is closer and better...and one of his best friends goes there too.  Yay!

    He'll have a uniform next year (sort of), so that will be new. I think that he'll probably really enjoy having a uniform, honestly. He's not a fan of having to think about what he's going to wear, and would probably wear the exact same thing every single day if it were acceptable at his school now, so having the only choices be "blue, red, black, or grey" every day? Perfect.
  • Easter happened. We celebrated at my parents' house, along with 3 of my siblings and their families. It was warm and sunny enough outside to hide Easter eggs outside for the kids to find. I think i always kind of overestimate either how easy it is to find eggs or how good my kids are at finding things. Maybe both.

    (Side note: My kids are remarkably bad at finding things, and i should know this by now. They'll be all, "I can't find ________." I'll say, "Did you look on the table?" and they'll be all, "Yes!" So i'll come and look and ...sure enough. There it'll be RIGHT THERE ON THE TABLE, in clear view. So i don't know why i think that they'll be able to find eggs that we've actually hidden on purpose.)
  • The kids had Spring Break. The week before Spring Break was beautiful and warm enough for Katrina to be running around barefoot, but then on the very first day of Spring Break, it totally snowed. Like...several inches of snow. And i had a tiny bit of hope that maybe - just maybe - it would melt and warm up so we could do fun things outside, but no. It was cold and snowy and rainy and COLD the entire week. Sigh. They went back to school yesterday, and today is bright and sunny, and it's supposed to get warmer in the next week. So maybe we might possibly get spring after all? Hopefully?
  • Katrina's and Zane's rooms have been disasters for far, far too long, and i finally reached my limit of being able to ignore them. Katrina's was especially disastrous, so i started there. The first day of Spring Break, i was all, "Okay! We'll clean Katrina's room and then Zane's room and then i'll take a shower and have a little time before dinner!" That is not what happened at all, because i seriously underestimated just how insanely messy everything was in there. We went through every drawer and box and shelf, getting rid of giant bags full of garbage, recycling, and stuff to give away. We organized and sorted and TWO FULL DAYS later, her room was finally clean.

    I took Sunday off, and then on Monday i tackled Zane's room with him. His room was actually less work, partly because he's not quite such a packrat, and partly because he just doesn't have as many drawers and closets and random places to stuff things. We finished cleaning his room in less than a day. Yay!

    One really positive thing i will say about cleaning the kids' rooms? They were both really, really cooperative and helpful and not at all complain-y about having to clean. Their positive attitudes made it a lot less horrible than it could have been.

    They are both under strict, "You WILL keep your room clean!" orders.
  • Houston and i spent a lot of free time during Spring Break playing games. Skip-bo, Phase 10, Uno, Sequence, and Farkle (or 10,000) were regulars. I taught him how to play Rummikub, and so far he isn't a fan...but i'm confident i can win him over. Or at least wear him down....

    I love playing games. I grew up playing games with my family. My Mom's entire family are totally card players, so when we'd get together with them, there was always a game of cards happening. (They even broke out the cards and played a game during our wedding reception.) Juanito, however, isn't really a fan of games. Nor are most of my friends. So i'm really happy that my kids are getting old enough to play actual games. I mean, Chutes and Ladders and Hi-Ho Cherry-O are just not exactly "fun games" for adults to play. And Zane loves to play Othello, but it's not fun to just completely destroy him over and over, so i try to dissuade him from playing that very often. But Houston is old enough to be totally competitive in games now, and even Zane is able to be competitive in games like Sequence and Uno. Yay!!!
  • Our friends Brooke and Travis, who live in New Zealand now, are home for a visit. Travis isn't actually here yet, but we got to see Brooke and their kids! They came over for the whole afternoon on Friday, and it was so much fun to get to spend a long time just hanging out! They moved away from our town back when Houston was a baby, so the kids really only know them from trips to visit them and their visits to us and from us talking about them. And yet, the kids seem to really just accept them as "our people." For a while, Brooke was sitting on the couch, and Houston just curled up next to her with his head on her shoulder. Katrina and Zane immediately kind of adopted the kids as friends, even though they're all quite a bit younger.

    It makes me happy that we still just like their family. Beth and i were talking about how we really only knew Travis and Brooke for about 2 years before they moved away to Saint Louis, and yet they're just some of our favorite people. And i'm glad that they like us too! They're only here for a limited amount of time, and they have a ton of people to see, so they totally don't have to make time to see us, and yet they do! Yay!