Thursday, June 30, 2016

Adventure Thursday!

I started calling it "Adventure Thursday" back when the kids were really little and we'd go places like "the park" and "this other park" and sometimes someplace really cool like "the fire station." And even though the kids are all old enough now that it's not ACTUALLY an adventure, they still like piling into the car with no idea where we're going, and just doing...whatever.

Today's "adventures" included the library, Meijer Gardens, and Meijer the grocery store. Exciting!!!

This was the first time since we got our membership that we went to Meijer Gardens and just did whatever the kids wanted. We spent most of the time in the Children's Garden, and my kids proved that even big kids enjoy digging in the sand, playing hide and seek, and figuring out the old-fashioned toys in the cabin. All three kids spent ages trying to excavate all of the dinosaur bones in the sandbox and were hilariously impressed with themselves for succeeding.

When i finally managed to tear them away, we walked the boardwalk, which really is just lovely. It was all three kids' favorite part. The gardens were nearly empty today, so everything was pretty quiet, and we saw loads and loads of frogs, turtles, ducks, swans, chipmunks, squirrels, butterflies, and other creatures.

By the time we got to the farm, all three kids were fading, so we headed out. It's one of the things i love about having a membership - we don't have to try to get our money's worth out of each day. We can go for an hour or two and then just leave!

I really needed to go grocery shopping, so to make it an adventure, i bought everyone the Meijer version of the Slurpee right away, and they all sucked on those the entire trip. Yay! (Also, Zane needed new toothpaste, so i let him choose some, and he got Crayola brand, which all three kids thought was hilarious. They could not stop talking about how he was going to be brushing his teeth with melted crayons!!! Melted crayons!!! So funny!!!)

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

End of School Interviews (finally!)

What did you learn in school this past year?
Houston: The actual, not G-rated history of America, like that the Native Americans and Americans were not friends, and the Native Americans were just sent away. Quadratic equations. We read Animal Farm and the Anne Frank screenplay and a condensed version of Flowers for Agamemnon.

Zane: Symmetry. Food chains. Grammar. I seriously don't remember. A lot of it was washed out of my mind from the last week, because we had so many field trips.

Katrina: Lots of fractions. Cultures - like what culture is and their religion, i guess. Ecosystems. Space. Stuff like that.

What was the most interesting thing (not a field trip) you did this school year?
Houston: I actually liked writing essays. I don't know why. Last year i hated writing essays. I enjoyed writing letters from the perspective of a volcano photographer and stuff like that.

Zane: In science, we did circuits and electricity. We were building circuits and made light bulbs light up. In my group, we put like 5 batteries and 10 light bulbs, and it was really awesome. All of the light bulbs were lighting up.

Katrina: We went down to the pond and made observations about the ecosystem. And we got to make our own continent - like, you got to choose a topic (i chose reading and animals), and make the shape of the continent (we did a book), and then you got to choose like mountains, parks, islands, stuff like that.

What was the best field trip this year?
Houston: Chicago! We went to the John Hancock building and we saw the Sears Tower on the boat tour and we just walked around Chicago and i got a Chicago pen. And we did the thing in the John Hancock building where the glass goes out and it's really cool.

Zane: Lansing. We were gone all day, and i got Jupiter juice (that stuff was weird). We went to the science museum. I saw a huge eyeball - it was disgusting and awesome. We saw some enormous bones - one was like, the biggest bone ever. We went to the capital building, and we saw some really cool things like this awesome thing where you looked up and saw a bunch of stars and they were like two miles away. And on the way there, we saw a movie (Rio).

Katrina: Versluis Park. We got to go swimming. There were a lot of games and a lot of food.

Who was your favorite teacher, and why?
Houston: I liked Miss Miller because she was nice and funny and she liked what she taught (history) and it was interesting.

Zane: Miss Coughlin. I didn't have any other teachers. you mean specials too? Then...still Miss Coughlin. She was just really nice.

Katrina: Miss Baareman, because i knew her best because she was also my Heart and Soul coach. She was really nice, and she understood what it was like to have lots of homework and be overwhelmed, so she didn't give us all the homework in the world.

What do you plan to do this summer?
Houston: Legos. Other cool stuff.... I could work on more games like Pumchecs, and make that game better....

Zane: I really want to take a long bike ride with Dad. And i'm looking forward to my birthday! Because...who doesn't?

Katrina: Make a paper mache volcano. Go to the zoo. Have ice cream. Sleep over at Alex's house and have her sleep at our house. Stuff like that.

What do you think next year's school year will be like?
Houston: Probably a lot harder and hopefully better. I'll be with my friends Chauncey and Melody.

Zane: I think it's going to be awesome! Because i'm going to go to Michigan Adventures!!! (But that's not the only reason i'm looking forward to it. Because that would just be sad.)

Katrina: Hard. Because i'll have more classes and the teachers seem meaner. One of my teachers might move up to the 7th grade (and she was my least favorite!).

Who were your school friends this year?
Houston: Anthony, Zoe, Brandon, Melody, Claire, Lance

Zane: Isaac and Finneus

Katrina: Emily, Emily, Madison, Isabella, Max, Kim, Phoebe

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Summer days

I spent most of the past two days finding, choosing, and organizing pictures, and then trying to get them into a slideshow that works as a DVD for my aunt's funeral. And it is finished!

While i was glued to the computer, the kids amused themselves by being kids. They played with the dress-up clothes, concocting some elaborate game wherein they had to randomly pull out things to put on. They were entirely amused with themselves. Houston created a board game named Pumchecs, which has elaborate rules and is surprisingly enjoyable. They rode bikes and played with chalk and combined the two things with Zane's fancy chalk-drawing bike attachment.


Sunday, June 26, 2016

RIP Aunt Marilyn

In my life, i've spent hours and hours trying to fit my Aunt Marilyn into some kind of box that i could then look at and say, "Okay. That's who she is." When we were little, she was the aunt that we were (or at least i was) a little bit afraid of. She was never afraid to scold us or tell us to be quiet. She was stubborn and opinionated and quite a packrat, but was also incredibly generous, kind, and sentimental, and she had a strong love for her family.

Aunt Marilyn and Uncle Billy lived in New York for most of my life. My family visited them for spring break when i was 13. The year before, they had visited us, bringing along Uncle Billy's niece, Monique. And so one of the first things i asked Aunt Marilyn when we got to New York was, "Are we going to see Monique while we're here?" Except i was shy and apparently spoke very quietly. Aunt Marilyn looked at me seriously but kindly and said, "Probably. But it's polite to call them black people now." I nodded (incredibly confused) and walked away. It was only later that she and my mom figured out what i had asked, which was not "Are we going to see more negros while we're here." (Much laughter ensued, mostly not by me. I was too embarrassed.)

When we were in 8th grade, Uncle Billy and Aunt Marilyn paid for us to fly to New York, and she was then our tour guide for a week. My cousin Helene is the same age as me, so the two of us went together. We went to the top of the World Trade Towers, drove through Times Square (back when there were lots and lots of places with peep shows), and...i'm sure we did lots of other fun things that i can't remember right now. The very, very best part was that we were there for the Fourth of July the year that the Statue of Liberty re-opened, and New York did a spectacular fireworks display that was synchronized and with seven (i think) different locations, all set to music. We went downtown and stood in a spot where we could see the Statue of Liberty and at least four or five different fireworks. It was the best fireworks ever, ever. (This was also the trip where i accidentally dropped a watermelon on the kitchen floor. It exploded. Aunt Marilyn was still bringing that up the last time i saw her....)

As a kid, it never struck me as odd that my Iowa-grown aunt had married a black man, way back in 1970 when the civil rights movements were still a very recent memory. That fits with her personality, though. She was the only one of her 8 siblings (as far as i know) who voted Democrat. She knew what she believed, and she stuck to it, but she was always very happy to talk (and talk and talk) with anyone about any subject.

A few months ago, she was seemingly completely healthy, and her health deteriorated so rapidly that it just stunned everyone. She was the one in a million people who gets Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, which explains why the doctors couldn't figure out what was going on. In the end, it wasn't a shock when she died, and because it was expected, it's pretty easy to just go on as normal. But whenever i stop to actually think that i won't get to see her or talk with her, and that there won't be any new memories to be made with her, i'm really sad. She will be so very missed.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Our dollar store fireworks draw all the neighbor kids to the yard

Houston unintentionally amused me a few times today. First, he fell coming up the basement steps and totally skinned both legs (not the amusing part, poor guy). Katrina and i gave him lots of sympathy, and after a few minutes he went into the other room, where he promptly slammed his toe into a table. Several minutes later, Houston was all, "I'm pretty sure i might have actually broken my toe!"
Me: "Which one? Let me see it."
Him: "This one. No, wait. That one. One of those two."
Me: "Okay then. I'm pretty sure you'll be all right." (One of my general rules of thumb: If you can't remember which toe you "broke," it's probably not broken.)

Whenever we do pizza-movie night, Juanito prepares Houston two normal pizza crusts. Houston then rolls the sides up so that he has really thick crusts, and then fills the inside with tons of sauce. Tonight he rolled the sides up extra far, so that his pizzas looked extra tiny. I commented on them, and Houston said, "Yeah. I'm not that hungry tonight."
Me: " know that it's the same amount...."
Him, looking somewhat sheepish: "Yeah...."

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Juanito bought some (very tame) fireworks at the dollar store the other day, and we did some of them tonight. There were poppers - the kind that you throw on the ground and they go POP! (Houston and i thought we'd be cool, so i threw one in his direction, and he used his arm to swat it to another spot...except that it totally popped on his arm. I was totally apologetic, but he was all, "Look! It burned a tiny bit! Do it again!!!") Juanito took his entire bag of poppers and emptied them all into a wrapper to make one giant popper, because...Juanito. There were those weird black snake things. And there were the kind that spin around and scream and light up, some of which pop and spark a few seconds after the spinning and screaming stops. The first time that happened, Beth and i both totally screamed.

In our neighborhood, there seem to always be loud fireworks everywhere. Tonight Katrina was all, "I can't wait until fireworks season is finished! It's SO LOUD when i'm trying to sleep!" Ours were really quiet, but they were apparently loud enough to draw neighbor kids to us. I'm fine with that, except that they're not quite as cautious as i am, and they make me really nervous. I'm all "Back up! Back up farther! Farther!!!" as they inch back a teensy bit at a time...and then run at the fireworks the second they stop. Meanwhile, i'm all, "Unsafe! Unsafe!!!!" (One of the kids was all, "My sister is 10, and she never ever brushes her teeth, so her teeth are all breaking off in pieces." So i guess their parents aren't exactly concerned with teaching them good choices?)

Friday, June 24, 2016

Harry Potter! In the Park!

Tonight Houston, Katrina, Beth, and i went to "Harry Potter in the Park." It was fun - a little bit cheesy, and definitely put on by amateurs rather than professionals, but fun.

We got sorted into houses. They gave us a sheet of paper with 10 questions on it, including things like "Left or Right?" and "Black or White?" and then did a whole little Sorting Hat ceremony for each person. And amazingly, every single one of us was sorted into the house that we actually belong in, so somehow those 10 questions were pretty accurate. Houston, Katrina, and i are all Hufflepuffs (according to Pottermore, the Harry Potter website that JK Rowling herself helped build), and Beth is a Ravenclaw.

(Side note: Hufflepuff is widely regarded as the lamest of houses, and yet, i think there were more people sporting Hufflepuff scarves/shirts/etc. than any other house. So.) (I don't know what that's meant to prove, but it made me happy.)

Blandford Nature Center came and did a whole talk about owls, including 5-6 of the owls they own. The owls were actually Houston and Katrina's favorite part of the whole shindig. (They WERE really cute.)

We got to make wands and flying key necklaces, and Katrina "transfigured" a rock into an owl (using paint). We tossed gnomes. We watched "wizard rock bands." We walked around and smiled a lot about all of the other people wearing their Harry Potter shirts or (better yet) fully dressed up as characters.

So yes. Fun! Yay!

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Fun with friends!

September came over for the day today, and the kids were thrilled, especially Katrina. September's one of those weird friends that my kids mostly only know about because we talk about her family fairly often, but when they were little, Sep's family lived in town and we saw them regularly, so they totally were friends back then. And since they totally used to be friends, they're still totally friends as far as my kids are concerned.

For the entire morning and most of the afternoon, the kids played games. They taught September Exploding Kittens and This game was not playtested and Dweebies and Loopz. We all played Uno Roboto. They played Twister and ... i don't even know what else. And September helped Katrina finish up the game that she'd made up and had been working on finishing.

I wish we had neighbor kids that my kids really liked, because they all had so much fun and played together incredibly well.

And then, this afternoon, Juanito woke up just in time for me to leave him with the kids and run away for dinner and a movie with Beth. We say "The Boss," which has two actresses i love, and which i liked better than i might have, but not as much as i wanted to. I laughed really hard quite a lot, but then there were an equal number of parts where i was cringing in uncomfortableness. all kind of evened out, and i liked it okay, but it's not one that i'd want to watch over and over.

Hanging out with Beth was fun, though! Yay!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016


We (mostly Katrina) have been guinea pig sitting for a friend's guinea pig for about a week and a half. He's been living in Katrina's room, and she's been loving having him to cuddle. It was especially fortuitous last night, when she was absolutely devastated about Boshsquash's death. She came downstairs at almost midnight last night, weeping and unable to sleep, so i suggested she try to snuggle Puff a little bit to see if that could help. When i went to bed later, i found them curled up together, both happily asleep.

I moved Puff to his cage, just in case Katrina rolled over or something. This morning, i asked Katrina if she'd noticed that he was in his cage, and Katrina was all, "Yes. I thought he just crawled back there by himself."

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We've been spending the past couple of days doing some spring cleaning. So far we've completely cleaned the front porch and the upstairs landing. This all makes me very happy and the kids...somewhat less happy while we're cleaning. Now that they're totally clean and organized, though, they're all happy about it. Plus, we've uncovered several of Zane's games, so the rest of the day was spent playing with games and toys that haven't been seen in months.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

RIP Boshsquash, Greetings Velvet and Ruby

We got Boshsquash in March 2015, and she immediately made Katrina and Juanito fall in love with her. We're pretty sure that she was diabetic, because she drank a ridiculous amount of water, but she was very sweet and cuddly.

She died this afternoon, unexpectedly, and Katrina and Juanito are both pretty crushed. Katrina came downstairs a bit before midnight, weeping because she just misses Boshsquash so much. And Juanito texted me from work to tell me that he's actually really sad about it too. The boys are a lot more stoic about the whole thing.

In a weird coincidence, Katrina and Zane had just bought themselves Beta fish this morning. Zane's is mostly red and is named Velvet, and Katrina's is mostly blue and is named Ruby. They both have them in their rooms, decorated with fancy rocks and glow-in-the-dark plastic plants. Zane's argument for getting a fish was, "I've never had a fish that lived for more than a few hours!" To which my response was, "That's not really a compelling argument...."

So our pet total was briefly five before dropping almost immediately back down to four. 

Monday, June 20, 2016

Everything that's been happening this past month

I mean... I can't seem to write more than once a month lately. I have no real excuse. Nevertheless. Here we are.

It's been an eventful month - the end of the school year always is! Field trips and graduations and all of the hoopla that goes along with school ending and summer beginning. Yay! I took a million pictures and narrowed them down to my favorite 140 for a slide show...and then realized that that was way, way too many pictures for most people to want to actually look at, so i narrowed it down again to the bare bones, and those are the ones in the slideshow above. I will, if anyone in the world is interested, put the long slideshow down under.

So! Without further ado! Things that have been happening! (In order:)

1. Juanito has been building shelves and cabinets in our front room, and they are getting closer to being finished. It's all being made from old pallets, and he's doing a beautiful job. I can't wait until it's finished!

2. For the past 14 years, we've had at least one child in the baby/preschool/elementary area of church. Every Sunday, we've had to check a child in and out, and for most of that time, that included wearing a paper armband with the child's number. This month, Zane graduated out of the elementary area, up to Fifty6, and thus our time with the little kids area is finished. Henceforth, all of our kids will be sitting in church with us and then going to their individual areas on Sunday evenings.

Our church makes kind of a big deal out of the "graduation," and Zane was totally excited about participating. They did a whole graduation ceremony, at which they gave each "graduate" their own Bible (Houston and Katrina were totally jealous of the Bible!), followed by a family breakfast.

For weeks, Zane had been complaining that he didn't WANT to go to Fifty6. Couldn't he just stay HOME? Whyyyyy???? And i know why he was so opposed. It's because Houston was never a fan of Fifty6 at all. I tried to convince Zane that he would like it, that HE was not Houston, that Katrina liked it! He was not convinced. And then they had a Sunday where all of the grades moved up to their next group, and Zane got to experience Fifty6...and suddenly he LOVED it and started asking just how soon he'd be able to start going. He's now very disappointed that he has to wait until September.

3. Katrina has been using a school flute for the past couple of years, and she desperately wanted one of her very own. As the end of the school year got closer and closer, marking the point at which she'd have to return her flute for the summer, she got more and more desperate. She started looking up flutes, trying to figure out if there were any - ANY - that she could afford. She found a brand of flutes that were not only reasonably priced but also made in colors. Colors!

At first she totally leaned towards pink, but then she reasoned that she might outgrow pink, and really she likes blue just as much.... And so she spent some of her vast savings and is now the proud owner of a lovely blue flute, which she absolutely loves. (She does have to play it using slightly different fingering for one note, because otherwise the key doesn't press down all the way, but she adapted to that very quickly.)

4. For the first time, we were all able to attend the Great Salmon Release. This was Katrina's very first release, and rather than releasing one fish and then quitting, she made up for the previous years missed by releasing 5 salmon, all of whom she named first (Fred, George, Hermione, Sally, and Bob).

Every year, for the past three years, the kids' school has gotten salmon eggs. The kids get to watch the eggs hatch and grow until they're ready to be released in the spring. The first year, Juanito somehow got pulled in to helping parcel out the salmon into baggies, to hand to kids, who then released them into the river, and since then, he has been one of two guys who's been in charge of that job. This year we also helped with transporting buckets of salmon from the school to the river. And, of course, i take pictures, because...i'm me...and since i know that the teacher in charge of the salmon (who was both boys' teacher in third grade) likes pictures, i sent them to her. A week or two later, i was in the school to pick up the kids, and i noticed that there was a display of giant poster-sized pictures of the salmon release. I was all, "Oh, cool!" and then, "Hey! I took that picture!" and then, "Hey! I took ALL of these pictures!" I'm practically famous. Except for y'know...not.

5. The Sunday before Memorial Day, when it was fairly warm, we went to my sister's house for dinner so that everyone could go swimming in their pool afterwards. The kids were all in heaven. Most of the adults were much more rational and stayed dry and warm.

6. On Memorial Day, Beth, the kids, and i walked around downtown. It was a somewhat surreal experience, because it was absolutely deserted. We went down into an almost always completely full parking garage, and it was empty. Completely, utterly empty. Zombie-apocalypse-level deserted.

7. We went to see Verve Pipe at a free outdoor concert with Beth and Stephanie. It makes me happy that we're able to see them live fairly regularly. I think this was our third Verve Pipe concert. They started out with their kids' songs, which...i actually know and love more than most of their adult songs, and then finished off with stuff for the grownups. Juanito and i sang along with songs like "Cereal," "Wake Up," and "We Had to Go Home," while Zane pouted about having to be there at all and Katrina and Houston half paid attention and half read their books.

8. The fourth grade had their annual field trip to the YMCA camp. When Houston and Katrina had this field trip, it was an overnight, but this year they shortened it to just a day trip. It was a long day - we left school at 8:15 in the morning and got back at 8:00 at night - but i'm pretty sure that we did pretty much all of the same things we did when we were there for two days. There was canoeing and archery and rock wall climbing and crafts and candle-making, but Zane's favorite part was the "fur trading," where the kids had to run around in groups trying to find carpet squares with random animals written on them.

Again, there was archery! And canoeing! And rock wall climbing! But Zane preferred searching for hidden squares of carpet. Weirdo.

In the archery portion, the kids each got to shoot three arrows. When it was Zane's turn, his first arrow hit the dirt far before the target. His third shot went way over the target. But on his second shot, Zane hit a perfect bulls-eye. It was amazing. And nothing but sheer luck. Zane spent the rest of the day telling everyone he could find that he was really proud of himself because he got a bulls-eye.

In the past, the chaperons have been allowed (and encouraged) to go canoeing with the kids, and we were allowed to canoe basically wherever we wanted to on the lake. The rules have apparently changed, because this year adults weren't allowed to go out with the kids, and the canoes had to stay within a fairly small area. It was disappointing that i didn't get to canoe with Zane, but it was especially disappointing that the kids didn't get to really enjoy themselves as much. They spent most of their time just trying not to run into each other. Sigh. Rules.

We were the last group of kids from our school to get to do the rock wall. There are two walls the kids can choose between, one of which is quite a bit harder than the other. Most of the kids chose to do the easier wall, but about a third of our group decided to try the harder side. The guy in charge told us right away, "Just so you know! Nobody from the other groups has successfully reached the top on this side." Most of the kids chose to stay and try it anyhow, and every single one of them that tried made it to the top. It WAS hard, and they needed a lot of encouragement, but they all got to ring the bell at the top. Zane was the very last one to go, and everyone except for his teacher and i had already left for the next event. He was a bit disappointed to not have everyone there to cheer for him, and he had a hard time trying to figure out what to do with those long, long legs of his that got in his way, but he made it to the top and was completely impressed with himself. As he should have been.

9. Festival of the Arts! I told Houston beforehand that he was really just too old to do the paint-in portion this year. It's supposed to be for kids aged 12 and under, and we let him sneak in last year, but this year he's 14, and ... no. And so he decided just to stay home altogether, because he "only likes the painting and otherwise doesn't enjoy it." (????) So the rest of us went without him.

Beth and i looked at the schedule ahead of time this year and actually planned out what we wanted to see and when we should go. I wanted to see dancers, and she wanted to see "The Mines" playing, and there just happened to be a dance group right before the Mines were on, so we chose that group. And it was, absolutely, the very best dance group i've ever seen at Festival. It was a pretty large group, with kids from about age 9 all the way up through high school, and every single routine they did was as fun to watch as the one before it. I wish i could remember their name so that we could make sure to see them every year!

10. Houston went on a class trip to Chicago. It was an overnight trip, and they packed it full of fun things. They went to Navy Pier and took a boat tour and went to Medieval Times on Thursday night, and then they spent all day Friday at Six Flags Great America. He had So! Much! Fun!

11. Zane had his end-of-the-year field trip/party at a park. (Not a park right nearby like you'd expect, though. A park 45 minutes away, because....?) There was sand castle building and water balloon tossing and general playground-playing. Zane and his friend Finneas had both worn their fedoras, so they invented a new game called "hat ball." It was a very low-structure day, which was lovely.

12. We had a graduation party for Houston. It wasn't anything super-exciting - just cake and ice cream and family - but he loved it.

13. Katrina had her end-of-the-year beach field trip/party. It was not the warmest of days, and it threatened rain all day, but most of the kids ended up swimming nonetheless, and the rain held off. So! Success. We went to the most ridiculously strict beach/park i've ever, ever been to. Before you can even get in, the guy at the gate grills you about the rules, of which there are legion. (No running. No flotation devices of any kind, unless it's USCG approved. Goggles are okay, but no face masks. If you build a sand castle, you need to knock it down when you're finished.)

Katrina's at that age where kids are all at completely different stages. Some of the kids in her class still look like little kids, while others look like they could be 18. The boys are almost universally shorter than the girls. Some of the girls ran around in their bathing suits completely unselfconsciously, while others never changed or just kept giant coverups on the whole time.

14. Houston graduated. I already covered that.

15. The sixth grade band never did have a concert, so the band director decided that "anyone who wanted to" could come play at the graduation. Katrina was all excited that she was going to get to play during graduation. She practiced and practiced. (Her: "I'm nervous, because i just don't know if i'm doing this right!" Me: "Well, when you play with the group, are you able to keep up?" Her: "We've never practiced this!" They all went into it completely without every once playing as a group or even practicing that song. What?)

We got to the church for graduation, and she talked to the band director, who was all, "Oh, there's been a change. Instead of playing during the graduation, we're going to play out in the lobby beforehand." So...everyone there was sitting in their seats, waiting for graduation to start, which meant that NOBODY was out in the lobby. The entire audience consisted of Juanito, Beth, my parents, my sister, and my niece. And maybe two other people, but they weren't actually paying attention.

The band, meanwhile, was made up of 10 people, including the director, who played the trombone rather than actually directing. And yet! Everyone who had also been to the 7th and 8th grade concert agreed that they were significantly better than that concert had been. They sounded great, ESPECIALLY considering that they'd never once practiced!

16. Last day of school! Woohoo!!! Of course, Houston hadn't had school for almost a week, what with his class trip and then graduation and all. We went and picked up the kids, and then met Beth at Steak and Shake for end-of-school celebration shakes! Yay!!!

17. Juanito took a couple of days off, and so on Thursday we went to the local Frank Lloyd Wright house for a tour. The kids and i had gone last year, and last time we were almost the only people on the tour, and it was really cool and informative. This time, we apparently picked the busiest day of the year, so there was a giant crowd on the tour with us. It was still interesting and the house is beautiful nonetheless, but the kids and i were disappointed that there wasn't more interesting information. I think there were just too many people for the tour guide to be able to throw in lots of interesting side-bits.

18. We went to Saugatuck to celebrate our 22nd anniversary. We were about halfway there, when suddenly the front right tire spectacularly exploded. (Honestly, it's just so fitting that we should have car trouble on our anniversary! Our entire marriage has been filled with one random car emergency after another!)

Juanito spent approximately 20 minutes trying to figure out how to get the spare tire off of the bottom of the car (there's a tiny hidden compartment inside under the floor mat), and then had the jack nearly tip over, but he got it changed! Yay! (For the record: I know how to change a tire, but i don't think i could have actually changed this one.)

This was the first time Juanito and the kids had been in Saugatuck, and we had a fun time wandering around. The kids all wanted to buy all the things, and Zane did get a walking, squeaking pig, and Houston got a Doctor Who shirt and a book, and we all got friendship bracelets.

This was the anniversary that marks the point at which we've been married for exactly half of our lives. (Or nearly so. I guess that for me it'll be exactly halfway in a month and a half, and a bit longer for Juanito, but the NUMBER is halfway.) It's also completely crazy to me that when we got married, we were only 8 years older that Houston is now. Crazy!!! But i still think we made the right choice, and i'm so happy and lucky to married to my favorite person.

And there i stop. I need to remember to write more often. This was insanely long. Sorry.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Eighth grade graduation!

I need to do an actual real post. But for today, i just need to say that Houston - my sweet, tiny boy who wept and begged me not to leave him the first day of kindergarten - graduated from 8th grade today.

The eighth graders didn't have school today, but they did have rehearsal for the graduation. Houston woke up this morning and immediately dressed in his graduation clothes. I was all, "Um. You DO realize that graduation isn't for like, 11 hours, right?" He might have been a bit excited.

Houston got to walk across the stage three times. First, he got the "KCA Loyalty Award," along with 31 other kids, for being at our school from kindergarten straight through to eighth grade. That part was almost more fun for me to watch than the actual diploma-giving, because those were all kids that i know and have watched grow up from kindergarten. Houston's been in class with all of them at least once, and there's one girl who he was in class with every single year for 9 years. There were some of them that i can hardly even recognize anymore and probably wouldn't know if i saw them on the street, but i know their names and can be all, "Awww! Look how much he/she has grown up!" The loyalty kids all got a really cool compass with a little plaque with their name, 2007-2016, and "Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined." (Katrina is totally jealous, because she wants a compass, and i can already see the wheels in her head spinning, hoping that she'll get one when she graduates.)

Also, one of my favorite moments was when the principal was handing Houston his award, he totally paused and peeked around Houston to make a face for my camera.

The second time across the stage was for an award for Creativity. There were 11 individual awards given out for things like Courage, Gratitude, Respect, Humility, Perseverance, and Compassion. The art teacher handed out the award for Creativity, and almost as soon as she started talking, i thought, "This might actually be going to Houston." (Juanito and Houston, on the other hand, were both totally shocked when she said his name.) Each award winner got a whole little speech about them, and this was Houston's:
Pablo Picasso once said, "Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain one once he grows up." As young children, we have no fear or lack of self-confidence when it comes to creating art. When given the opportunity, we dig our hands in with pure joy and enthusiasm and create our dreams. As we grow up, this freedom of expression becomes more and more difficult to hang on to. It takes great courage and a sense of self to hold on to that creative spirit.
The young man that I am recognizing tonight truly has a creative spirit. He is not afraid to be himself, to express himself, and to play.
Bill Watterson, creator of the comic strip Calvin and Hobbes, said, "A playful mind is inquisitive, and learning is fun. If you indulge your natural curiosity and retain a sense of fun in new experience, I think you'll find it functions as a sort of shock absorber for the bumpy road ahead." 
Throughout his years at Knapp, I have watched this student grow, learn, laugh, and play. He always greets me with a smile and a hello, and enters the art room with fantastic ideas and a fun demeanor that says, "I am truly happy to be here."
As Bill Watterson said, that road ahead can get bumpy at times, but with an amazing creative spirit and a fabulous family to support him, the journey ahead for Houston will bring one of learning, joy, discovery, and great successes.
He really is SUCH a creative kid, and i love that he has an art teacher who has just loved having him in her classes. Sometimes his creativity shows up in artwork in ways that make me look at all of the pictures by all of the students and wonder, "Did he actually have the same assignment?" or "Was he supposed to do that?" And i'm so grateful that his art teacher just understood him and encouraged it.

And then, of course, he walked across for his actual diploma.

And so, that's it! He's finished at Knapp. I'm a lot more sad about that than he is. One of the biggest differences between his 8th grade graduation and mine is that when i graduated from 8th grade, i knew that almost everyone in my class would be going on to the same high school. In Houston's class, that's absolutely not true. He has two friends who will be going to high school with him, but other than that, he'll possibly never see most of these kids again. He seemed remarkably blase about that fact. I was all, "Awww! May! Zoey! Jakari!" I was even a little bit nostalgic about some of the kids that i really kind of didn't like. Houston, on the other hand, would have just run out of the building afterwards without taking any pictures at all. Boys are weird.

Next year? High school! (Excuse me while i quietly go and freak out a tiny bit.)