Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Orientations and Friends

Today, the students were invited to walk around Houston's high school to find their classrooms and their lockers. We went in the morning and were there for about an hour. First we got a tour from a group of 9th grade girls (to whom Houston barely said a single word). They were very sweet, but probably could have used a map themselves, because they totally took us the wrong way several times. We saw pretty much the entire school, but afterwards, i don't think Houston had any clue where he was going to have to go.

So after they bid us farewell, Houston and i walked through his schedule from start to finish so he could actually get a feel for where his classes would be. Turns out, they're all in one corner of the school, although one class is on floor 1, one is on floor 3, and the rest are on 2. His locker is smack dab in the middle of it all, so he can totally stop back at his locker between every class if he so chooses. Yay! After we'd gone through the schedule once, i handed Houston his schedule and made him lead the way from class to class to make sure he could find his way. About that time, the vice principal, whose office is right there, came out and said, "You guys are still here? I said hi to you a while ago already!" We chatted a bit, and he was all, "Yeah, there was one girl who was timing how long it took to get from band to one of these classrooms earlier!" and Houston and i both immediately thought, "It was Ella." 

We could be wrong. We ran into our friends Ella and Lorelei, who were also walking around for quite a while, doing the same thing we were. For a while, everywhere we went, we saw Ella. And then, later, we ran into a family that has 3 boys, all of whom are friends with my boys - Chauncey, Rowan, and Finneas - and i somehow invited all three boys over to our house for the afternoon. (We got home and Katrina was all, "What?!" so she invited her friend over as well. The more the merrier!)

And here is one thing that is very, very true: boys and girls are different. 

First off, let me say that i really, really like all of my kids' friends - especially these. They are kind and funny and respectful. I have absolutely no complaints about them AT ALL. I would happily have them over on a regular basis.

But while Katrina and her friend quietly worked on making a volcano in a quiet corner of the house the entire afternoon, the boys were just very, very present. They lounged around the front room and played games, watched some youtube videos, ran around outside, laughed loudly, and acted silly together. There was nothing quiet about them. Eventually they asked if they could all have a sleepover, and i said, "Um, sure?" And so the plan, temporarily, was that all of the boys and Katrina's friend Madison would be sleeping here. 

Katrina and i had to go to her middle school orientation, so i left all of the boys here alone (Juanito was at Zumba), and halfway through orientation Houston called and asked, "Can we all go to their house to sleep over instead?!" (Me: "YES!") So instead of five boys, we ended up with zero. And so i told Katrina that she could invite her friend Alex to sleep over too. Sleepover!!!

Sadly, shortly into their fun time at their friends' house, Zane threw up and had to come home. He was totally disappointed and was SO sad, because "I just really, really wanted to enjoy the last week of vacation!" He fell asleep on the ten minute drive home and then fell right asleep when he climbed into bed, so at least he didn't have much time to feel disappointed. 

And now i am praying that he doesn't actually have something contagious. I really, really want to enjoy the last week of vacation!

Sunday, August 28, 2016


Beth and i went to a Dahlia show at Meijer Gardens today. Every single Dahlia was so, so pretty. You can see more pictures here.

I've been confused in the past, when i thought i knew what Dahlias were and then my mom or someone would point to a completely different flower and call it a Dahlia. And at this show, there were SO many different kinds of Dahlias, many of which looked nothing like the typical Dahlia, and i am now totally confused about what makes a Dahlia a Dahlia. I asked one of the people working, and they told me, "Genetics!" which is probably true, but seems like the biggest cop-out answer ever, because i could answer that about almost anything. "Why do elephants have trunks and big ears? Genetics!" "Why do trees have green leaves? Genetics!"

Tonight we had our first meeting of the year for Fifty6. I'm not particularly looking forward to losing all of my Sunday nights (it's been really lovely having Sunday nights free all summer!), but i really love our Fifty6 pastor and our family leaders. Kyle, our pastor is incredibly bad at time management and organization, but he more than makes up for it by being just genuine and kind and funny and deep. And our family leaders - two couples who are the leaders for the leaders of the kids - are all just really great, and i'm so glad that they're all back.

I'm especially glad they're all back because both of the pastors for the other two students groups - 7th & 8th grade and high school - have left this summer, so both Houston and Katrina will have interim pastors until our church hires new permanent pastors. 

Friday, August 26, 2016

We went to the zoo.

The kids have been asking to go to the zoo since the first day of summer vacation. I kind of hate our zoo. I've been there what feels like hundreds but is probably actually a dozen and a half times, and it's just kind of boring. And it doesn't have any of my favorite animals - elephants, giraffes, koalas, kangaroos. So i wasn't expecting much. But our school (i'm guessing all of the city's schools) gave us free passes to the zoo, so i had no good excuse not to go. I asked Juanito, my mom, and my sister all if they wanted to come - for free! - and none of them wanted to join us.

Turns out, a few of the animals conspired to make this trip more fun than usual. Yay!

We walked in, and the first animal we came to was a pelican. Houston was all, "That's a weird chicken!" And he continued to be highly amusing and really pleasant company for the entire trip. I really like him.

So the first place we stopped was the penguin house. Way in the back of the penguin enclosure, i noticed what looked like a penguin lying on its back, not moving. I was standing there, staring at it, trying to decide if there was, in fact, a dead penguin in there, when Zane sidled up to me and said, "I think that that's a dead penguin. I don't think we should tell all of these little kids, though...." So considerate. We did tell a random worker outside, though, because they were scheduled to feed the penguins in 15 minutes, and removing a dead penguin with dozens of little kids watching would probably not be ideal. Poor little penguin. (That was not one of the fun things. For the record.)

The tigers were new to the zoo in the last 2-3 years, so we've only seen them once, and that time one of them was hiding and the other was lying waaaaaaay far back from the fence. This time, we started walking up the path, and the tigers showed up walking along their parallel path. My kids freaked out and started pointing them out to everyone, including a group of teenagers with headphones on. The teens all glanced up, saw the tigers, and then sat on a bench with their backs to the tigers and continued listening to their headphones. Houston turned to me and said, "If i ever act like that, please kick me and tell me to stop being stupid. There's a TIGER, and they're doing what they could do in their backyards!"

We were pretty sure that that was going to be the highlight of the tigers, but we were super wrong. As soon as we got to the top of the hill, where the large tiger enclosure was, one of the tigers saw my kids and came over to the glass and walked back and forth in front of it, looking straight at us, for about 15 minutes. It was beautiful and huge and i would love to cuddle it. Y'know, if it wouldn't immediately kill and eat me. Eventually he lost interest in us and wandered off, and all three kids were like, "We have the most amazing luck sometimes!!!!!" (This is the second time we've had a big cat do this. Once, years ago, a few lions did the same thing.)

One other thing that i've never seen before: There was a giant snake - long and skinny - and as we stood at his window, he slithered across a branch, looked around for a bit, and then curled himself around and around and around and around until his whole body was a coil up in the corner on a branch. I had just been wondering how snakes make themselves into a coil, and it was super cool to see him do it! (Also, i can't get over how snakes move without looking like they're moving a single thing on their body. They just...glide.)

Houston was inexplicably tremendously excited about the wallabies. They were all sleeping when we were there - or hiding from the millions of little kids - but he did get to reach over a fence and pet one.

Katrina once again showed herself to be the animal whisperer. Animals are just drawn to her. It's like they know that she loves them. She took pictures and videos of everything.

Zane bounce back and forth between boundless energy, dashing from animal to animal in joy, and being unreasonably sad about everything possible. We were pointing out the animals, and he wanted to be able to find them himself. The stingrays were all dead and he wanted to see the stingrays. The baby goats aren't there anymore, and he wanted to pet the baby goats. There were a billion little kids there today filling the petting zoo and the playground-y things. He was too short to touch the wallaby. (You had to be able to reach over a fence while keeping both feet on the ground, and he was JUST too short.) Just before we left, right after the wallaby letdown, we were standing on the edge of the path, looking at the map to make sure we'd seen everything. Zane was being all sad, and i asked him if he had had any fun at all. He sadly shook his head no. Just then, i saw the bald eagles right behind us, closer than we ever get to see them, and i pointed them out. He was all, "HI EAGLES!!!" and was instantly happy again. We left right away, so i think he now remembers it as being fun.

Anyhow. That was the zoo.

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

Houston's school is doing Grease for the fall musical, and Houston wants to be in the stage crew for it. I'm totally encouraging him, because this is almost the first time he's wanted to do anything extracurricular. He's hoping to do lights or sound or maybe be one of the people who run onstage to move things around between scenes.

For years, i've thought, "Could we show our kids Grease?" and then remember all of the messages like, "If you are trying to be nice and good, that is lame, and you should totally change yourself to be cool and sexy so that the boy you like will like you too," and then i think, "No. Probably not. Sigh." But now! It's Houston's school's musical! He has to see it!

So we totally watched Grease for pizza-movie night tonight, and i sang along with most of the songs because how can i not?! and we giggled a lot and dude... I know that movie is kind of silly, and the actors all look like they're in their 30's (because they are), and the morals are absolutely terrible, but i love it!

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Adventure Thursday!

The rest of the pictures from today are here.

It was Adventure Thursday! Woohoo!

The first thing we did, i warned the kids that i'd never done it before, and it would probably be fun, but we might fail. (Katrina later reminded me that we DID actually do it once before. Unsuccessfully.) I'd searched and searched for someplace nearby that seemed likely to lead to success, which brought us to East Grand Rapids.

We followed the clues and found the spot where the first package was supposed to be hidden among a whole bunch of reeds. Houston dived right in and started hunting around, until suddenly he started leaping around and shouting that there were thorns and it hurt. While he was jumping around, i was all, "Well here. I'll hold these pokey leaves back, and you guys can look around them." Zane and Katrina halfheartedly poked around a bit. And then all of us started feeling the pain. And then we all broke out in hives and started itching like crazy. (There was no package anywhere.) Our next clue took us past the library, so we stopped in to see if we could figure out what we'd been digging around in. Houston talked to the librarian and was all, "I think we might be poisoned!" She googled something like, "itchy plant landscaping horrible hives," and the first thing that came up looked exactly like the whatever it was. And now we all know what stinging nettles look like.

Ultimately, we found the exact spot (and knew we were in the right spot!) and searched them all, but didn't find anything. Sigh. The kids all said that it was lots of fun nonetheless. Even with the hives. "It was an adventure!" said Houston. We went to McDonalds for ice cream to distract from the itching. (Though honestly, the itching had mostly stopped already....)

We stopped home and ate some lunch, picked up Juanito, and headed out for Adventure Thursday Act 2. The kids had gotten coupons for free giant cookies from the library summer reading program (possibly last year, though....), so we went and got those. They all agreed that they were completely delicious. And then we went to a park to play. Unfortunately, it had rained like crazy last night (So! Much! Thunder!!!), and apparently kept raining to the southeast of us, because the playground was totally wet and covered in puddles, but the kids totally had fun nonetheless.

Next we used a gift card to watch a movie - The Secret Lives of Pets. It was really cute, and my kids laughed SO HARD. They absolutely loved it.

And then we went to Pizza Hut to use their coupons (also from the summer reading program) for free personal pan pizzas.

So we had lots and lots and lots of fun, and all we had to pay for were some cheap ice cream cones and a pizza for Juanito and me. Yay!!!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

A Very Back to School-type day

This morning was orientation for City High. High school!!!

I obsessively checked and rechecked and re-rechecked the list of things we needed to bring with us to orientation. I'm way more nervous about Houston starting at City than he is! But i'm happy to report that i did manage to bring everything we needed. Birth certificate - check. Immunization record - check. Proof of residency, medical form, receipt for the photographer - check, check, and check. I had everything filled out and the money for his locker and activity pass and the PTSA all neatly clipped together and ready to go. And then we got there and went to the new students meeting, and i watched all of the other parents filling out the paperwork while the principal was talking. I might be a bit overly anxious. Or i'm just organized!

The very first station we went to was for locker assignment, and they totally didn't have Houston's name. We went to the photographer, who ALSO didn't have Houston's name. Thankfully, the office did have his schedule, so we know that he IS actually registered! (Of course, his schedule will be changing, because he's switching from band to art, but still! He's registered!) (Also, he's taking Honor Physics! PHYSICS!)

This afternoon we went to Target for school supplies. School supply shopping! The kids have been asking me when we would go ever since literally the first week of summer vacation. This year, of course, Houston's at a new school, and he wasn't given a list of needed supplies, so for the first time, we had to wing it. Katrina and Zane's teachers gave them lists, some of the things completely reasonable, like pens and pencils and notebooks and folders. Some of the things seem unnecessarily picky, like Katrina's "Mead 5-Star 8 1/2 X 11 notebook." And some of the things make me sigh a little bit, like "At least 10 large glue sticks." (They NEVER use all of the glue sticks! Never!!!) Nevertheless, the kids are all supplied up and ready to go!

While we were there, we looked for new school outfits too. Houston's uniform is black or khaki pants and a blue, red, black, white, or grey collared shirt, so he picked out a red polo shirt and some black pants that he liked. He tried them on and then was waiting by the dressing room to show me, and a lady came by and asked him, "Can i try these on?" Houston was all, "Um, sure?" And then, as he explained it to me, "I was really confused about why she'd ask me, and then i looked down and realized what i was wearing...." She totally thought he worked there.

Tonight was book club. Yay! Beth and i went out for dinner together beforehand, and it was fun to get to hang out with her. The two of us don't get much time with just us very often. Book club was fun - we had 6 of us there, which is a good number. There was some discussion of the actual book (The Storied Life of A.J. Fickry), and much laughter and talking about everything else under the sun. It was a good end to the day!

Monday, August 22, 2016

Sunday and Monday!

We had a long, fun day today! We left in the morning for church and didn't get home again until about 11:00 at night. (The rest of the pictures from today are here.)

It was a surprisingly chilly day, except for when the sun was shining, and it rained a touch, but it was lovely overall.

My cute nephew Harrison's birthday party was this afternoon. The party was at my kids' favorite park - Hager Park! It's everyone's favorite park! - so all of the kids under 15 were off playing and having fun for most of the party. There was pizza and cake and presents and lots of awesome people.

After the party we went to my sister Jackie's house to go swimming. Or rather ... we went to her house so the kids could go swimming. It was way too cold for any adults to want to jump into the pool! They loved it and swam for ages, until their teeth were turning blue and they were shivering.

We went straight from Jackie's house to Grand Haven, where we met up with Beth and her niece Emily. We walked down to the lighthouse and watched the sun set, and then walked back to watch the musical fountain. We've been going to see the musical fountain at the end of summer for the past 3-4 years, so it's totally become a tradition at this point. (On the way to Grand Haven, Zane was all, "So this is the week that has the musical fountain?!" Because he was totally under the impression that it was only a once-a-year thing. I blew his mind when i told him that it happens every night of the summer.) It was fun and cheesy and totally great. Both Katrina and Zane fell asleep on the way home, totally exhausted.

Today was supposed to be a lazy day with nothing planned.... But that's not entirely how it ended up. I needed to get Houston's immunization records to bring to registration for high school tomorrow. And Katrina was overdue for the second of three shots. And so i broke the news to her (Seriously. She was beside herself. She brought both of her blankets and a stuffed pillow guy in the car with her so that she could hug them on the way too and from the doctor's office.) and we headed off to the doctor's office. Katrina is a million amazing things, but being tough in the face of pain is not one of her strengths. She wept through the shot and the immediate aftermath and continued to be fairly miserable until we started playing with Snapchat, at which point she was distracted enough that she forgot to be miserable.

We stopped on the way home for a doughnut and then stopped at Goodwill to look for flipflops. We didn't find any flipflops, but we did find a million other things. Juanito and the boys met us there, and we ended up getting coats for the kids and me, shoes for all of the kids, a couple of sweaters, and a few other things. Yay!

Saturday, August 20, 2016

We survived a tornado.

Yesterday my sisters and i went to my grandpa's house to help clean it for a bit, and then we headed down to the beach to let the kids swim a little bit. And then we all went out to lunch with my grandpa. The kids sat at one table and the adults sat at another, and it was great fun for all of us. We talked about lots of random things, including the story about how my grandparents met and which provinces in the Netherlands all of our ancestors (on that side) came from. (Friesland, Friesland, Krampf, and wherever the city of Apeldoorn is located. But looking at a map of the Netherlands, i can't find any provinces that look remotely like "Krampf," so now i'm confused.) (Apeldoorn is in Gelderland, which makes me - as someone who liked the movie "A Knight's Tale" - very happy.)

The waves on Lake Michigan were huge, and they all loved leaping around in them. I remember being little, and absolutely loving the days when the waves were giant. Now that i'm the parent, i'm actually quite nervous about it - undertows and all that - so i'm a mean mom who only lets the kids go a short distance out into the lake, both because it's dangerous with the undertow and because it's so insanely loud that if they get any farther out, they totally can't hear me. They had fun, even though they had to stay close to shore.

In the evening, we went to a movie at our church. They showed "Zootopia" in the parking lot, and it would have been awesome, except that they forgot that there were giant lights in the parking lot that came on as soon as it got dark, so it wasn't actually terribly dark out there. As a result, we could only actually SEE about half of the movie - the half that takes place in bright light - because everything that happens in dim light was completely dark for us. Afterwards, Zane said, "It was too bad we were sitting so far down, because we couldn't see as well." Because when you watch a movie on a computer and it's tilted wrong, everything looks dark.... Cute little child of technology.

Today was going to be a completely boring day, filled with sleeping and reading and lounging, and it started out that way. At about 2:15, though, the sirens all started going off, and i looked it up to be sure, and yep! There was a tornado! We all headed down to the basement (Except Emma, who refused, causing the children all kinds of worry. But the basement steps are scary, especially for a dog.), and i started "The Great British Baking Show" on Netflix to keep the kids' minds off the tornado. While we were down there, my dad called to make SURE we were down there, because the tornado totally touched down and was headed straight for us. Upon hearing that, Zane crawled under a nearby end table and started crying. This is part of the problem when your favorite genre is "books about the most dangerous things in the world," because then you know exactly how dangerous tornadoes can be.

After about an hour, we were given the all-clear, and headed back upstairs. We did drive around a little bit this evening, and about a mile from us had lots and lots of downed trees and power outages and closed streets. We saw one tree that managed to take out part of a house and a car. So it might be the tornado that has touched down closest to where i've been. 

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Adventure Thursday!

It's a Thursday! The perfect time for Adventure Thursday! (More pictures here.)

My mom joined us today, which was extra fun. The plan was to go to Dutch Village in Holland. We picked up my mom on the way there and followed the directions from Google Maps...and got a bit lost. Or, as we told the kids, we "took the scenic route." When we knew we were fairly close, we stopped at VIPets to ask for directions - it's the perfect place to stop, because...animals! This particular VIPets had a box full of adorable puppies, and all of us spent several minutes cooing over the cuteness. So! Cute!

Eventually we dragged ourselves away from the puppies and chinchillas and several dozen other cute animals and drove the remaining half mile to Dutch Village.

The kids each got coupons for free entrance to the park as part of the Summer Reading Program through the library. So only my mom and i would have to pay ... except when we went to pay, the lady behind the counter was all, "Some people came in with Groupon tickets, and they had to buy 4 but they only used 2," and she totally let my mom and me in for free too. It was SO nice!

The kids and i had been there before, though it had been a couple of years, but my mom had never been there before. We went on the Ferris Wheel (twice) and the kids and my mom went on the swings. We petted lots of animals and tried on lots of wooden shoes. We browsed shops. It was totally fun!

And, when we were all tired and hot and sweaty and thirsty, we headed across the street to Steak 'n Shake for half-price shakes! (Zane: "What if the 'n stood for 'in'?! Steak in shake!") We had a very nice, but incredibly slow and somewhat ... inexperienced waitress. And so, rather than taking about half an hour, we were there over an hour. And she forgot to put the brownies in Katrina's and my shakes. But! Katrina batted her eyelashes at the waitress, and she brought a whole brownie for Katrina to bring home. Bonus!

And that was pretty much the day!

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Three weeks of summer left!

Today was the day we had to go to school to sign anything that needed to be signed in person, to make sure we'd finished all of the online forms, and to avoid getting roped into all of the volunteering ever. It also marked the "exactly three weeks until the first day of school" day. No one is ready to go back to school. Myself included.

My kids all wanted to get swim masks, and we hadn't gotten them yet, so after going to school, we stopped at Meijer to get some. Initially, i asked a couple of the girls working there if they had any swim masks, and they were all, "Nope! They're all gone. It's all lawn care now!" Disappointment reigned. I decided to check anyhow, and there, in the very back corner of the store, we hit the jackpot! Lots of swim masks! Three different kinds! In all different colors! Life is exciting!

Seriously, that's about as exciting as life got today. We bought groceries. And another chicken in case Emma's gets lost or destroyed, because she loves it SO MUCH. Katrina left for a sleepover with another friend of hers. We watched the Olympics. There was reading and drawing and lots of chicken-throwing for Emma. So it was a good day, for those of us who are introverts.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Olympics and other stuff

The past several days have been filled up thus:

- Watching the Olympics. I love the Olympics - especially the summer Olympics - and so i get a little bit obsessed. And i'm kind of passing that love/obsession on to my kids. Everyone's favorite is gymnastics; the uneven bars is the favorite favorite.

We all wish that NBC would show more variety. There's fencing and shot put and javelin and equestrian and synchronized swimming and archery and diving and all kinds of other interesting sports, but we really only get to see swimming, track, and gymnastics most of the time. I feel like, when i was a kid, we saw all kinds of different events during the Olympics, but that could just be me remembering things that didn't exist...?

- We tried to go blueberry picking today, but the orchard was closed. There were many sad faces in our car. So instead, we went shopping for school clothes. I feel like i don't want to actually buy many clothes for my kids right now, because all of them have been growing like weeds. Weeds! Houston grew something like 2 inches just in the past 2 months. Buying pants just seems futile! And yet, i supposed i can't just send my kids to school in their underwear....

- I went out for pizza with my mom and sisters to celebrate my younger sisters' birthdays. We sat and talked and laughed and ate delicious pizza. I love my family!

- Katrina had a sleepover with her friend Alex. Between sleepovers and the Olympics, Katrina (all of the kids, but especially Katrina) is getting farther and farther behind on sleep. Everyone is so tired!

- Our friend Keren came to town to visit, and we all went to Beth's house for pizza and Olympics! Beth made cute decorations! And got patriotic glow sticks! And candy in the colors of the Olympic rings! And Keren came up with games to play! With medals! It made the Olympics even more fun!

- Keren and Beth and i went out for pizza for lunch. And then Keren and Beth came over for dinner. It was fun and i love my friends!

- Keren gave Zane a box of slime-making stuff for his birthday, so Zane and Houston spent a long time yesterday making all kinds of slime and gross substances. They thought it was awesome.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Home again, home again!

Yesterday we left Pittsburgh, Karen, and baby Amiya. We were all sad to say goodbye, but there is always something happy about getting home to your own house (and bed!).

Before we left town, we stopped at the Water Steps and the Mr. Rogers statue. We've gone to both before - we've actually gone to the water steps just about every time we've gone to Pittsburgh, and i keep thinking that this time, my kids will  have outgrown it...but no. They still really love to leap around (so dangerous!!!!) and splash and find spots to lie down in the water. At first, Katrina was all, "I'm not going to actually get wet. Just my feet." But by the time we left, she was soaked from head to toe.

The Mr. Rogers statue is sort of cool - there's a whole circle thing behind it that plays Mr. Rogers singing songs on Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood, which i actually really liked. And i love that they have a statue. But the statue itself? Kind of weird, and - in my kids' opinion - creepy.

The ride home was uneventful. I read nearly the entire book "The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry" out loud to everyone. I started reading it just to Juanito, so he could be entertained while he was driving, but then a few chapters in, i realized that Katrina was listening, and before long, Houston was listening, and they were all completely sucked in. We got home when there were only a few chapters left, and they were all, "Oh. We're home. Sigh."

Emma was SO happy to see us. Ever since we got home, she's been carrying her toy chicken around with her everywhere she goes, and at first we were all, "Huh. That's cute. And weird." And then we realized that that's the last thing i gave her before we left, and it seems to have become sort of her security toy of sorts, and now i'm all, "That's so SAD! And cute. And sad!"

Monday, August 8, 2016

In which we didn't do much.

Karen worked today, so we had a calm day, filled with holding Amiya, resting, and (in the kids' case) playing Wii.

At about 5:30, Juanito brought the mail in to give Karen. She and i were just talking, and when she put an IKEA catalog in the "throw away" pile, i was all, "Oooo! Are you going to throw that away?" And eventually, she said, "Well...we have an IKEA.... We could go tonight?!"

Houston and Zane didn't want to go, but the rest of us piled into the car and headed there! We went through the store fairly quickly, but it was Juanito and Katrina's first time there, and they had fun seeing it. Yay!

Sunday, August 7, 2016

National Aviary!

See the rest of the pictures here!

We went to the National Aviary in Pittsburgh today. It's the kind of place where you walk around, and the birds walk/fly around you, and occasionally zoom right past your head, and occasionally walk straight at you and make you nervous that they'll attack, but they're so pretty that you can totally forgive them.

We arrived at the Aviary, got out of the car, and started walking toward the building, and Katrina's shoe broke. Juanito tied it up with string, and it worked temporarily, and Karen (who was coming a bit later) was nice enough to bring her other shoes for Katrina to change into. Shoes are not our friend this trip!

There were larakeets that we were allowed to go in and let them land on us. The kids (and Juanito) all totally seized that opportunity and tried to convince all of the larakeets to land on them. Zane was all eager until one of the birds pooped right near him, and then he was out of there (at least for quite a while!). I am actually completely shocked that none of us got pooped on all day!

There was a giant bird (a Great Argus Pheasant) who enjoys walking around right on the sidewalk, and he's awesome to take pictures of, but he's a little bit nerve-wracking, because he looks like he could do serious damage if he decided to attack. I was crouched down in front of him, taking a picture, and he suddenly and completely without warning let out a giant, incredibly loud honky-squawk. It startled me enough that i screamed a bit and nearly fell over, but still somehow took a picture, and resulting picture is mostly blurry, but kind of awesome.

There was a guy who worked there who was absolutely in the right job. He stood and talked to us about penguins for about half an hour, and then talked to us for a long time in the Rainforest room too. And he was actually really interesting. When i suggested we leave the penguin area to go see the sloth being fed, Houston was all, "But i want to keep learning about penguins!"

One thing that i've learned about us is that we just spend longer looking at stuff than most people do. According to Google, most people spend about 2 hours at the aviary. We were there for over 4 hours, and we could have stayed longer, except it was closing and we were all starving. And you'd THINK it was because i'm holding everyone up, taking pictures, but you'd be wrong. I usually just keep taking pictures because the kids are still exploring/looking/learning. And Juanito is nearly always trailing behind us all. The world is just such an interesting place!

Saturday, August 6, 2016

The Strip District!

Get the rest of the pictures here!

We went to the Strip District in Pittsburgh today. It's a street with lots of vendors and fun stores and Wholey's, the store/restaurant that has all kinds of delicious fish to eat and all kinds of random seafood to see.

There's a counter at Wholey's where a couple of guys stand and clean fish, and while Houston was disgusted and didn't really want to watch at all, Katrina and Zane were enthralled. One of the guys was particularly awesome - he clearly loved his job - and he amused our kids by making a fish into a puppet and making him talk, using a fish tail as a mustache, and just being fun. Katrina wanted to keep watching while being simultaneously kind of grossed out, especially when he had the fish where he had to leave the head on but cut out the brains and jaw and guts. Zane, on the other hand, didn't seem disgusted at all, and actually asked if he could have the fish heart so he could bring it home and pickle it. (Me: No. No, no, no.)

This afternoon, Karen built a dresser (from a kit, not from pallets) and got Amiya's room all rearranged and settled with a little bit of help from Juanito and me. The kids took the little toys and stuff that they bought at the Strip, went to the basement, and (loudly, with much giggling) made movies.

And then we watched the Olympics! Yay!!!

Friday, August 5, 2016


(Google got rid of the slideshow option, so ... no more slideshows for me. Sad. Instead, i guess i'll just post a link to the album, and you can see the slideshow there? Here's the link with all of the pictures.)

My kids have been loving Karen's treadmill, and have been spending hours running. This morning, Zane tried to run on it for the first time, and he fell...but he held on while the track kept going, so he got totally skinned knees (treadmill-burn?) until he finally let go and "went slamming into the wall." He was a sad, sad boy.

We went to Phipps Conservatory today. Yay! It's SO beautiful! It's just giant - you just keep walking and finding more rooms, and it's all just so, so pretty! There's a whole area with bonsai trees, and mist machines to walk through when it's hot, and a desert garden that was just amazing, and butterflies! We kept being all, "This flower! And THIS one! And THIS ONE!"

But! OH. MY. GOSH. It was so, so, so, so hot. I mean, the day was a pretty warm one to begin with, but it wasn't unbearable, but then the conservatory had every room way hotter than outside, and way moister. We kept thinking, "Maybe the next room will be cooler?" But it never was. We were all just dripping sweat and dying of heat. Karen D. lasted for only a few rooms before declaring Amiya (and herself!) way too hot, so they went to sit in the entry by the bathrooms - the coolest spot in the entire building.

By the time we left, after we'd been there for hours, i was the hottest and most dehydrated i'd been in as long as i can remember. So!!! Hot!!!!

So in conclusion: Phipps is awesome. Go on a cooler day.

And then tonight was the opening ceremonies for the Olympics! Yay!!! We all found a spot around the TV and watched. Houston and Katrina fought over who got to hold Amiya. I was somewhat disappointed in the opening ceremonies, honestly. I think China spoiled me a bit. But watching all the athletes come in, all happy and excited, is fun. And It's exciting, because...OLYMPICS! Yay!

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Meeting Amiya!

Today we drove to Pittsburgh! To visit Karen D and her new little daughter Amiya! As always, the kids were fantastic the entire time, and it was a pleasant enough drive. With a few mishaps.

We got to about Detroit, and Zane had to go to the bathroom. I noticed that he had on his slippers and said, "You should change into your shoes first, though." At which point he got this shocked and dismayed look on his face and said, "Oh no! I think i forgot my shoes!" Sigh.

I got a few books on CD from the library, but our CD player doesn't work, so i copied them to my phone...but the thing that makes them play through the speakers didn't work either. So! No books for us!

We got to Karen's around 4:00, and nearly immediately snuck upstairs to see the sleeping little Amiya. And she is TINY! She's a month and a half old, and today weighs exactly the amount that Katrina weighed when she was born. And Katrina was my little baby! She's SUCH a cutie, and we cannot get enough of holding her. Katrina and i are mostly fighting over her, with a touch of Houston thrown in.

Zane was all, "I don't want to hold her at all. Nope." When i questioned him further, it was because he's nervous and doesn't think he's good at holding babies. Me; "The last time you held one was when you were 8. You're older now!" Him: "But i'm still energetic!" I did eventually persuade him to sit next to me and let me help him hold her, and he liked it fine, and i'm hopeful that now that he's tried it and succeeded, he'll want to hold her more....

Amiya is absolutely adorable and the most laid-back, quiet baby ever. Katrina keeps squealing, "She's SO CUTE!" and she really is. She's just a sweet little peanut. 

Monday, August 1, 2016

Zane is TEN!

Today Zaney, mah babee, turns ten. He's been in this world for a full decade, and i am better with him in the world. Our family is better with him in the world. The world is better with him in it. He is silly and loving and energetic and incredibly sociable.

Zane loves to talk. He will talk and talk and talk and talk and talk. His favorite books are the "100 most _____ things on the planet" series - "100 Most Dangerous Things," "100 Most Feared Creatures," "100 Most Awesome Things"... - and he will tell me (or you!) all about a pyroclastic flow from a volcano or about some deadly ant or about some other completely random and usually interesting fact. Or he'll tell me all about something on Minecraft, and i usually have to pretend to be interested for a little while until finally i have to tell him that honestly? I don't care about Minecraft. At. All. He'll tell jokes. Or he'll want to plan out some event that's coming up. Or he'll just talk about...nothing at all.

He likes to know things. He wants to know everything. This includes facts about animals, the world, and science, but also what we're going to do today. And tomorrow. And next week, if possible. He wants to know that he'll like something before he tries it, and if possible, he'd like to have tried it before. He's not a big fan of surprises. (When i plan birthday parties or fun things for the other kids, i keep a lot of it a secret. With Zane, i let him plan every single detail with me, because that's what will make him happiest.)

He's a bit of a micro-manager, when he can get away with it.

Zane absolutely loves to be doing things with other people. He loves to play games, or do Legos with someone, or ride bikes with someone, or play a computer game with someone.... He's happiest when he's in a group of friends. He's the first kid to leap to join me when i'm running to the store or doing some other random errand. However. When there's nothing else to do (or when i give him the choice of finding something to do or helping me with chores), he can amuse himself for hours by listening to a book on CD (usually Harry Potter or Percy Jackson), reading books, or playing with Legos.

Zane's at an age where he desperately wants to be funny. He tries really hard to say things that he thinks are hilarious, and he sometimes succeeds,but often just kind of misses the mark. He cracks himself up, though.

He has a very clear idea of who he is and what he likes. And he's pretty stubborn. As i was looking through pictures today to make a collage of him at every age, i realized that he's worn the exact same shirt for 3 of his past 4 birthdays (although this year it was for his party rather than his actual birthday). He has the attitude of "If i like it, why change?" He does change, it's just very, very slowly sometimes. (For example: After years and years of refusing to put his face in the water, he finally - FINALLY! - learned how to swim this year, and he discovered that he loves it.)

I love that Zane just is who he is. He really wants to be liked, but he's not willing to change who he is to get someone to like him. He sincerely wants to be kind, and he really does want to be friends with everyone. He's always surprised when kids - or people in general - are unkind. He has an incredible heart and an incredible mind, and while i really want time to slow down, i look forward to seeing who he becomes in the next ten years.