in summary:

ten days before july ends and we start the lightning-fast slide to the end of summer, here is a brief look at where we are and what we've accomplished in the past two months.

to recap:

harper's room was going to get a new look

henry's room was going to get a refresh

something about shelves in the basement

veggies in the garden


as of today, we've accomplished precisely zero of those things.

unless you count three tomato plants and the herbs.


so what HAVE we been doing?

well ...


henry swims at 8 a.m. daily for 2-2.5 hours, at either a pool that is 15 mins away, or a pool that is 45ish mins away (depending on traffic).



after swimming, there is a one hour or so time gap until he needs to go to work.

dude's a lifeguard:




marc traveled literally all of june.


harp WAS swimming ...




but kept having stomach issues, so she opted to sit out the rest of summer.

those stomach issues? last week they became a seven-hour visit to the emergency room, during which time she had not only a blown vein while trying to get her iv started, but both an ultrasound and a CT scan to check her liver, gall bladder, appendix. verdict? high likelihood of a ruptured ovarian cyst. poor kiddo.





other than that, she had a sewing camp for a week,




got some new socks,




and is now in summer band.




on the few days that henry doesn't work, he's usually either doing summer homework or out pokehunting with friends.




and just yesterday we finally managed to make it to the dmv so he could take his driving test.

he passed.

now we have to let him drive.




which ... remember what i said about 8 a.m. swim practices?

and one night i got to do something fun: i went to see brandi carlile and the avett brothers with my friend, sue.



and right as the concert was starting, i got a text from my mom that my grandma had passed away.




sooo ... yeah. fun stuff.

summer's been super productive and relaxing.

we have a very fun trip coming up, though, and then: school.

and then, maybe, i can get stuff done around the house.


how does it all keep going so fast?!






a beautiful day

mother's day turned out to be a lovely one.

i slept in - made it all the way to 7:49! - and had a quiet cup of coffee before everyone else awoke. then we all got ready for the day, there were gifts (a "best mom ever" mug from harp, some funky socks from henry, and a new ipad from mchotness, because my old one has finally updated itself out of reliability), and then we headed to the old old neighborhood for brunch.

back in 2004, before i was pregnant with harper and when henry was still just a little guy, there was a new bakery/restaurant about six blocks from our house in south minneapolis that made the best brunch, so we went there for mother's day. and henry ate more food than i'd ever seen a little person eat, including at least a dozen giant chocolate-covered strawberries. we moved away a few months later, and haven't returned to that restaurant in 12 years. this year, i was feeling nostalgic, so off to turtle bread we went. harper and i had brunch, but the boys opted for soup and sandwich. alas, there were no strawberries - chocolate-covered or otherwise.

we then walked by the old old house, and commented on how huge the pine tree in the front has grown (well over 20' tall, when just a dozen years ago it was only about marc's height), and reminisced over the neighbors we knew and memories we had from our time there. and i got a pic with the best thing to come out of that little bungalow that i loved so much ...


we then drove over to linden hills to walk around lake harriet - as per my usual mother's day request - and take in the blooming spring flowers and charming houses. and while we walked, i told marc that the next time we move, i would really like to end up in a walkable place. while i love the idea of space and quiet, we've learned from our experience in our current neighborhood that no matter where you go where you *think* you'll have a quiet spot, some city official will decide it's a brilliant idea to put a road to the casino in front of your house.

or some such crap.

and, truth be told, my heart has always been in walkable little communities. my favorite spots to visit are that kind of place ... a quiet walk or bike ride to pick up coffee or something from a bakery, or to pop into a little shop or eat lunch at a quaint cafe. we've said that we'll get through harper's high school years and then likely downsize, and to me, downsizing is an all-encompassing idea of making life slower and easier, which includes (in my mind) less yard work. and a sweet little lot in an old neighborhood just won't have a huge yard; a big plus in the pro column.

that doesn't make the yards any less lovely, though. i mean ...








(okay ... that last house isn't exactly "quaint" or "downsized", but the yard IS charming.)

walking around gave us a lot to think about. there are definitely cons as well as pros, and luckily we have time to mull it over. about seven years, to be exact.

(unless that new road makes our life hell, and then all bets are off.)

anyway ... after we got home, the remainder of the day was quiet and nice. i get pretty freaked out when i think about how quickly time is moving, and how our lives will change so much in two years, then seven, and then who knows ... so it was nice to just appreciate being with the kiddos for the day. mother's day may no longer look like this ...


(and yes, that makes me really sad sometimes)

but it does still look like this ...


and as long as i have these two, it's a good day.

every leaf speaks bliss


fall in minnesota. to borrow vernacular from the kids:

i. can't. even.


i find myself stopping at windows, just staring out across the yard. i mean, really ... wouldn't you?



i even managed to squeeze in five minutes with the kids while it was still amazing.


then, minute 5:01:


and at 5:02:


and that was that. today? gray, raining, cool. very fall-like, and the leaves are dropping fast. wonderful, really, but the beauty is fading.

luckily, we managed to make it to the orchard last weekend, when it was still bright and crunchy and golden.




("how tall this fall" used to be cuter.)




hopefully this weekend there will be time to carve these bad boys. next week is a busy one ... often, pumpkins end up a rush job at the last minute.

also, stay tuned next week for a four-year house update. pinterest has garnered our little place a lot of attention, and many questions have come to me about what more we've done since moving in. the house is pretty clean right now, so next week i'll share house pix.

appetizers ...






where does summer go?!

not that i'm complaining - heat and humidity are my two least favorite types of weather - but summers go faster each year. it's crazy.

one minute it's the last day of school ...


and the next 90 days stretch before us like taffy, sticky and stretching longer the more we try to reach the end. then suddenly the days on the calendar are filled with events and camps and swimming and life, and the summer flies by.

every year, i tell you.

this year has been no exception. we just finished the first week of freedom that we've had since june. it was lovely and restful, but also included things like summer homework and dentist appointments and weeding the garden ... things that haven't fit into the schedule until now.





school ended, marc took off for a week in boston, and harp and her bff had picnics and bug hunts ...


while henry and his guys hung out with a buddy who would be moving away by the end of the month.



and then, two weeks into summer break, we headed to new england.


the kids and i flew out to meet marc on friday. he was waiting at the airport with a rental car, then we grabbed our luggage and pointed to the seaport for a lobster roll and a summer stroll along the water.




saturday, we made a list of the boston things we haven't done before, and set out to mark them off. first stop was the skywalk observatory at the prudential building. 360 degree views of my favorite city.



(someday one of those brownstones will be mine. that's the dream, anyway.)





(henry had to pretend to play because his podium wasn't working. he still kicked butt.)


then we walked to the christian science monitor center so i could finally, finally see the maparium, which has been on my to do list for, like, eight years and every trip to boston. click on the link; photos weren't allowed in the maparium, but it was amazing. so cool. even the kids were wowed.



(one of the country's largest pipe organs)



we walked around a little more, got our favorite sushi, etc.



sunday morning was rainy and cold ... perfect day to head to maine.


we kept an eye on the weather and decided to take the scenic route. and by scenic route i mean spend the day in salem, mass.

first was lunch ... and a meltdown from miss harper, which is typical of a meal with harper.


then we got passes to three museums - the witch dungeon museum, witch history museum, and pirate museum. the museums were very interesting ... little, and more than a tad cheesy, but also sad. the whole history of salem left me feeling horrified and outraged by how cruel people can be when they are so narrow-minded and led by fear.




then we just wandered salem. very cool little town: brick streets, lovely homes, dunkin' donuts. and we found a stick installation from artist patrick dougherty.



from salem, we drove the rest of the way to maine, checked into our hotel, then headed out to find some lobster and clam chowder.

monday morning was beautiful, and we had tickets for a whale watching trip out of boothbay harbor.

when i was pregnant with henry, marc and i took a vacation to maine and absolutely fell in love with the coast. it was so nice to be back among the quirky, sweet villages full of saltbox houses and fishing boats, and see a town we hadn't visited the last time. boothbay is charming and touristy and wonderful.



the whale watch boat ride was after lunch, so i told the kids to not eat anything too heavy or greasy. hindsight: i should have picked up some dramamine somewhere.

the boat trip started off great ... it was windy and cold on deck, but the view was beautiful.




once we got out of sight of the shore, though, the water became rougher, and the swells tossed the boat around more. harper wanted to give up on standing on deck and go below to sit down. for an hour, i watched her turn more and more green around the gills. another hour, and henry was below deck with us, also green. and below deck was where there was no fresh air, so the smell of boat fuel was stronger, which triggers marc's migraines, so he stayed above deck. to recap: two hours of bouncing and rolling with two kids who were on the verge of puking, while marc was up top. super fun family activity.


but then: whales!



it took longer than expected to find them - and we had to go about five miles farther out - but there were mama and baby finback. henry didn't want to get up, but harper was feeling a bit stronger, so we watched from the lower deck (just in case) while henry stayed in the warm, stuffy, smelly comfort of the table, sipping a ginger ale. luckily, he managed to see the whales through the window, so it wasn't a total lost cause for him.

the ride back was, thankfully, better. smoother, and tummies were more settled.


once on land, everyone started to feel better. ice cream cones made all the difference.



we spent a little more time exploring boothbay, finding the perfect souvenirs, having what was hands-down the best meal of our entire trip at the boathouse bistro ... a tapas bar, where marc discovered a blackened grilled shrimp with spicy honeydew gazpacho that he loved so much that he ordered two more.

the next day, tuesday, was all about lake winnipesaukee in new hampshire. i was really hoping to bump into bob wiley ... we could have gone sailing.

 we didn't find bob. but we did sail. or ... boat. we boated. we're boaters.

marc's aunt and uncle's boat is on lake winnipesaukee, and luckily they were staying on the boat while we were in the area. it was such a fun day, and the kids had a blast.

and the lake ... oh, my ... such a beautiful place. water, trees, mountains ... just breathtaking.



the whole day was relaxing and wonderful.












just blissful.





after a perfect day, a yummy dinner, and a glorious night cruise, we headed back to the hotel.

the next day, we decided to detour through concord on our way back to boston. we took the kids to the concord museum to learn more about the town's role in the revolutionary war and the transcendentalist movement.

what else we learned? paul revere apparently looked like jack black.




(ralph waldo emerson's study)


(henry and his namesake, henry david thoreau)

after the concord museum, we took harper to the louisa may alcott museum. we've been reading "little women", so it was so fun to show her the house that inspired the story, and the rooms of the sisters who inspired jo and amy and beth and meg.



(i may have sneaked a photo of louisa's writing desk. bad girl, i know, but what can you do.)

we also walked past emerson's house ...


and then emerson's grandfather's house.


the grandfather who had a first-person view of the start of the revolutionary war.




the kids were troopers through this whole trip. we aren't exactly "let's go on vacation to relax" people; if there's something interesting to do or see or learn, that's where we go and that's what we do. i wanted the kids to experience where history and literature and philosophy happened, so that when they learn about it in school, it will feel more relatable and real to them. for the most part, they were curious and attentive about it all, and we had some great conversations.

it got too hot to keep wandering concord, though (we'll take them to sleepy hollow cemetery next time), so we drove back into boston, where we had a lovely hotel in cambridge and ate some yummy sushi ...


which henry said looked like "sushi dipped in crushed cheetos", and the next day we flew home.

such a whirlwind, but totally worth it. it was a perfect trip.

and then it was





july was pretty much all swimming, all the time.

there was, though, the one day when marc drove a lamborghini.

i had gotten him a slot at a driving day for christmas, and it was finally time to cash it in.

the car wasn't exactly roomy for a big guy, but he didn't care. he had the. best. time. three laps around an agility course. the only downside was that he couldn't go as fast as he would have liked.





but once that fun day was over ... all swimming. all the time. like, a meet every weekend plus two mid-week meets.


but the kids did awesome and ended the season with some major wins.





and one of the meets was an invitational, so the kids swam at the same time and were able to cheer each other on. which, of course, delighted harper.





harper ended the season with best times, and a great position for making it to the finals meet when fall season rolls around.

henry swam a full roster of events at the minnesota regional finals meet, but struggled with the heat during the three-day outdoor meet. he dropped some of his times, though, and was the 50m free champ with a state-cut time.


which meant the following week was four days of state - prelims in the morning, finals in the afternoon. he swam five relays and the 50 free ... he just missed the top eight in the 50, but he and his relay teams medaled in four of the five relays - an 8th, 7th, 4th, and a 1st place state champ finish.



kinda fun that he's now a state champ in relays two summers in a row :)

i know he was disappointed that he didn't do better individually, but he still has one more year - and two more state meets - in the 15-16 age group, so he's going to do awesome next time. he's so close.

concurrently with all the swimming, harper also attended three camps: one was a "girls in science" camp at the zoo, the second was to lean how to create fashions and fabrics using technology (for which a picture of the back of her was in the newspaper, and she was interviewed for the article, so she's convinced that now she's famous), and the third was to learn how to sew, at the end of which she and her other campmates gave a fashion show to debut the lovely dresses they made.


also during this time of swimming and camps (july was beyond insane), henry took driver's ed. i was doing really well not freaking out, then on the first day, henry got out of my car and there was one of his best friends ... the little boy who came up to henry on the first day of first grade, introduced himself, shook henry's hand, then said, "i think we should be friends" ... and off they went to drivers ed together. gah! heart!! tears!!


and now we have to sign him up for the behind the wheel stuff. and - as luck would have it - he has wheels.

back in may, marc took the man car in for some work and some mods. yadda yadda yadda  ... he finally got his car back three days ago. so in the meantime, rather than throw money away with a rental, we went ahead and got a third car. cuz we were going to need one anyway for henry to drive.

so now we have a cute little safe, reliable suburu in the driveway.


also, in the middle of all the camps and swimming and drivers ed and car buying, we got to spend three days with my sister and her family. they were driving back to indiana from fargo, and we just happen to be on that route.

their first day here, we found their personal heaven:




i've never seen so much candy in my life.


(seriously ... chicken & waffles salt water taffy?! chicken & waffles seems like a bad idea in and of itself, but to make it into salt water taffy?? that's just irresponsible.)

we let the kids run off their sugar high in the sprinklers ...




(i don't know what this face is, but i totally recognize it.)

and also the park.






(seriously ... nora's faces ... )

and i got to be the aunt who introduces her niece and nephew to a hilarious video of a corgi twerking; a video they watched about 500 times. (go search for corgi bubble butt twerk on youtube. you're welcome.)


i won Aunt Of The Week with that one.

we also braved mall of america so wyatt could experience legoland ... a trek that about pushed my sister and i into claustrophobic, apoplectic wrecks from the sheer magnitude of humanity in the hallways.

but legoland was a hit, and then there was sushi.



then they had to go home. [sad face]

and ... what else ... oh: we got a king-size bed after nearly 19 years of marriage and cover-stealing (marc) and knee-and-elbow wars (also marc) ...


our garden is churning out monster zucchini ...


i had to have a spot on my face biopsied ...


and now it's august.

hoping for a month of breathing room before the summer is over and we re-enter the school-swimming-craziness routine. the kids head to indiana for some time with the grandparents later this month while marc and i go really crazy and ... clean out his office. should be awesome. and henry starts his first job on wednesday: teaching swimming lessons. i have a feeling our "breathing room" will be not so roomy, but we'll take it.

staycation '15

so ... spring break is over, amazingly enough.

we had a good week. instead of the sun and fun of, say, disneyland or puerto rico, or having a historical adventure while visiting someplace like washington dc, we opted to spend our vacation days exploring beautiful st. paul.

yes, st. paul. minnesota. but i'll get to that.

spring break was actually kind of a two-week deal for me. the week before break, my mom was in town to visit. we did lots of shopping and wandering, she was able to attend henry's band concert, and she took care of my family while i had some 24-hour bug on friday. it was a little mini-vacay for me, because i got to just enjoy all the little boutiques and fun shops that i love but never get myself to on an ordinary day. and my mom is now a friend rather than just "mom," so it was great to girl talk and have fun.

saturday, the first official day of spring break, we celebrated harper's birthday while mom was still here. harp wanted to spend some time at heartfelt doing a craft with her bff, so that's just what we did. they chose to make little fairy cottages, then run next door to the bakery for a giant cookie. after that, it was special birthday dinner at the hibachi place.







sunday morning, harper's official birthday, mom left early and harper had the whole day to do as she chose. there were presents, then play time with henry, lots of drawing and crafting, and dinner at cheesecake factory so she could get a grilled artichoke. (really.) a perfect day for little miss 10-year-old.


on monday, we didn't do a whole lot of anything. the kids wanted to hang out at home, play on the computer. harper did more crafts (she got a sketch book for her birthday and spent hours drawing dragons and wolves and mermaids. then she moved on to making three-dimensional dragons out of clay.), marc and i spent quality time on the couch catching up on shows we hadn't had time to watch in weeks. it was a total lazy bum day.


we did, however, leave the house to get a burger at red cow ... and harper ordered an avocado cheesecake. seriously. this child's eating habits are beyond bizarre.


tuesday we got our irish on and headed into st. paul for the st. paddy's day parade. the sun was shining - even though it was a wee bit chilly - and the people watching was epic. my favorite part of st. patrick's day.






(i think the o'keefes started their drinking waaaay before the parade began.)



(irish elvis)




(st paul saints' mascot, mudonna)


(roller derby ladies)




(the bouncing club)



before and after the parade, we spent some time watching irish dance and music groups.


then we got some mini donuts from a food truck, said goodbye to ol' scott fitzgerald.


which ... hello ... fitzgerald. totally irish. also, one of my favorite writers.

then we were out of there, home to lazy bum away the rest of the day. i think we played some uno ... that was the extent of expended energy.

 wednesday, harper was invited to watch "cinderella" with her bff's family, so marc and i took henry to see "kingsman."

hold on a minute: i have a beef with "kingsman" and, realistically, most movies out there ... especially in the "action" genre. (spoilers ahead, so if you haven't yet seen "kingsman" and plan to, avert your eyes and skip the next paragraph.)

"kingsman" is the story of a young man setting out on a hero's journey to become a secret society cia-type assassin/badass gentleman. he is called to action by the ever lovely colin firth (which is why i agreed to see this movie). the villain in the movie, valentine, is attempting to talk world leaders into following his (evil? necessary? that's up for interpretation.) plan, but one resists - a swedish princess. she refuses to go along with it, so valentine puts her in a cell "to protect her." she's a strong woman who stands up to a man and voices her disagreement and concern. however, at the climax of the movie, when the hero goes into action mode, he comes upon the princess's cell. through the bars, she says, "if you save the world, i'll give you anything you want." he replies, "a kiss? i've always wanted a kiss from a princess," to which she replies, "if you save the world, we can have the butt sex." and at the end, when he's killed everyone in place, he returns to her cell with a bottle of champagne, and he's greeted at the door by her naked rear-end. my problem? how do you take the ONE strong, independent woman who stands up to the evil mastermind, and turn her into nothing more than a faceless, naked reward? literally, a faceless, naked reward. infuriating. so, so infuriating. and i told my boys so. they, of course, only "saw" the action in the movie and completely missed the anti-feminist moment. they are so lucky to have me around to point out these teachable moments.

okay ... back to spring break.

we saw movies, we ate burgers afterward with the bff's family, et voila.

thursday was Hang Out In St Paul day. we planned to walk around the state capitol grounds, check out the capitol building, then go through the minnesota history center. henry and i had been to both places years ago on a field trip, but it was a first for marc and harper.

we started out wandering the capitol grounds and looking at all of the monuments and statues:



USS Ward cannon ... shot the first shots of the pacific war after the attack on pearl harbor


monument to the living



roy wilkins memorial spiral


vietnam memorial, which is located in a sunken area shaped like the state of minnesota


promise of youth statue


WWII memorial, with monuments to the story of the war in both the atlantic and pacific, respectively, on each side.

at this point, i really had to use the bathroom, so we missed a couple of monuments, but we fast-walked into the capitol, which is under heavy renovation right now, and climbed stairs until we found a bathroom.

goal attained, we then realized we were right outside of the state senate chambers. we had a little chat with the sergeant-at-arms and he asked where we live. we replied, and a man walking out the door said, "oh! that's so-and-so's district! he just left ... let me see if i can catch him! he would love to meet his constituents!"

um ... we didn't vote for the guy. awwwwkward.

the nice man came back empty-handed, but it turns out that he was the state senator from the district next door. he walked us to our rep's desk and offered to take our picture. again ... didn't vote for him ... but the other guy was being so darn friendly that we said sure.



so that was that. we thanked him, wandered a bit more through what we could access in the capitol (which wasn't much), and decided it was time for lunch.

the history center was a quick walk from the capitol, and there is a great cafeteria on site. they were featuring a hmong lemongrass-pork belly dish in honor of a special exhibit on the hmong in minnesota, so we tried that, then it was on to the rest of the museum.


(it's super crazy how much henry looks like marc's brother in this picture. like, super. crazy.)


(did i ever tell you about the day i was looking through henry's 8th grade yearbook, and discovered the page with the class dignitaries and Most Likely Tos? yeah ... henry? voted the class clown. this picture makes me believe that 100%.)



my favorite exhibit was of a home that was built at the turn of the century (the 20th, that is) in st paul, and the exhibit followed its history and the people who lived there up until present day. "the little house" is my all-time favorite children's book, so this exhibit was fascinating and so moving.

friday was our big spring break road trip: we headed two hours south to wabasha, minn. ... home of "grumpy old men" ... to visit the national eagle center.

we left mid-morning so that we could get to wabasha in time for lunch. why? so we could eat at slippery's, the bar where max & john hung out in the movie. it was the same place in name only, but that mattered not a bit to me. and to capitalize on their fame, slippery's has the movie running on a loop all day long.


sandwiches and fries later, we made it to the eagle center.


this was harper's favorite. there is information about eagles all around the building, but in one room there are actually live eagles sitting on perches. all have been rehabilitated after injuries and can no longer fly. this was harper's happy place.



she even took a seven-minute-long video of a golden eagle, while one of the handlers was answering questions, and only stopped recording when the eagle turned around and pooped right at her. she was laughing too hard to continue.

we watched a presentation about the eagles and the eagle center, saw one of the bald eagles eat a fish, and found out that harper's wing span is as wide as a wild turkey, then we walked around a bit more before leaving for home.




saturday and sunday were our "get back in school week mode", with homework and laundry. marc and henry kicked my and harper's butts in settlers of cattan, we made some pulled pork, we watched "grumpy old men."

then sunday afternoon, as we were winding down from our relaxing break, it began to snow.


and on monday morning, as the kids were heading out to finish up the school year, they did so into 10" of wet, heavy snow ... the biggest snowfall of our entire winter, and it came three days into spring.




the snow is good, though ... it makes it feel as if time isn't moving as quickly as it is. when i stop to think that spring break is already over and we're in the final stretch to the end of the year, i get a little freaked out.

make that a lot freaked out.

because she's 10

i have more to write, but for today, there is this:


she is so utterly in love with him. and he is (generally) so very, very good to her.

today she is ten-years-old. double digits. growing too fast. and we said, "whatever you want to do today, you name it!" and her reply?

"i want to have alone time with henry."

and they have been up in her room playing together ever since. laughing, being silly, like old times before he grew up faster than she did and life got less fair (in her mind).

today she is 10. and i look at this photo and think, "it's going to have to be a very special person to be able to win her over, because she will have high, high standards after growing up with her brother."

i hope their bond is forever. i hope he always protects, and she always knows how to voice what she wants and needs.

and listening to them today feels like old times. and it makes it that much easier to accept that she's 10 today. because the alternative? is that in my mind they still look like this ...


and that seems forever ago. and five minutes ago. all at the same time.

happy birthday, sweet girl. you are so very, very loved.


wha ... ???

i'm having a very hard time wrapping my brain around this one, but yes: henry turns 15 today.


(technically, not until 6:50 this evening, so i have a few more hours of deniability.)

i'm truly floored each year, when i have another "my kid is how old?!" moment, that they are growing up so much more quickly than i am. but this? this 15 thing? no. i am not sure i can accept it.

i mean, come on:


that was 15 years ago?! granted, i barely remember ... but it wasn't THAT long ago!

little mr serious ... mr frowny face ...


this little buddha? he's 15 now?!



it happened way too fast.

just about one minute ago ...


it was all bob the builder and thomas the train, and he snuggled with me and was the cutest thing i'd ever seen. and he looked way, way up at his daddy.


he loved the water ...


and loved to read maps and instructions and figure things out.


truthfully, neither of those things has changed at all.

and there was a sweet spot, when he was so wonderful and funny, and we thought life couldn't get any better.

and then he became a big brother.


and he was in love with her, and she was in love with him.





but that hasn't changed, either.


he was such a sweet little boy, with so much personality.





but that hasn't really changed, either.



as fun-loving as he is, he definitely has a serious side. the side that wants to just do his thing, focus, achieve a goal.





he's always been ahead of the curve: held his head up the minute he was laid on my chest after he was born; consistently in the 95th-100th percentile for height; early reader, advanced classes. in many ways, he never felt like a baby. he's always been mature for his age, and now we are seeing the man he will become.

he is polite, kind, patient, intelligent, analytical.





he will be a great father if/when the time comes. and he's taken lessons from a great role model.


and the friends. oh my word, the friends. he's picked some great kiddos to surround himself with, since the very beginning.






it makes my heart so happy to see him with his friends, because they are always smiling and laughing with each other. always.




maybe he hasn't changed so much. maybe 15 years really isn't so bad. as long as i don't dwell on the "we've signed up for driver's ed and lifeguarding class, and he has to take the PSAT in the fall, and scholarship? he wants to try to get a swimming scholarship? for college in three years?", i might just make it through his 15th birthday.

our little holiday

as 2014 drifts away tonight, i'm spending a few final moments on christmas.


when i was a kid, there was always the anticipation of christmas, then the actual holiday; it all seemed to just morph and swell, and i didn't notice the crazed pace of the days preceding it. but now that i'm the adult, and the buying and planning and cleaning and prepping and decorating all fall on me, the month of december seems so short and frenetic.


in my desire to make things lovely and magical, somehow the season also becomes chaotic and stressful; likely because i forget to factor in things like schedules and chores and business trips and swim meets and grocery shopping and laundry and addressing christmas cards, etc.


but all the work is worth it when, at the end, you are sitting in a warm and twinkling home, sipping a cup of coffee and awaiting the arrival of family, and it seems like time can finally slow down so you can enjoy every moment of christmas.



but then the family arrives, and the luggage is brought in, and the bags are deposited, and the food is put away, and the laughter starts, and the kids run around, and suddenly - time goes even faster than it did the day before.


we had four solid days with my parents and my sister and her family. we made sure food was bought and things were made ahead and the plans were for "simple and easy" so that we had more time to just relax and enjoy. it was all very intentional.

and it worked. at least, it worked better than other years. but yet time still went so crazy fast.

monday morning, henry had swim practice. so while he was off doing that, harper and nora watched "my little pony"


while marc blew wyatt's mind with the sheer amount of legos in our basement.


we did puzzles, we hung out, we ate a quick dinner. then henry was off to a current team vs alumni swim meet, and we all got to attend and cheer him on. best part? he raced one of last year's captains in the 100 free and, even though henry didn't win (by a nose), he got a lifetime best :52.70. the crowd (well, OUR crowd) went wild.


after the oldest and youngest went to bed, matt and becca and i pulled out our phones and played several rounds of heads up ... and laughed until we cried.

the next two days were full of games - both board and video (stratego, five crowns, settlers of cattan, tenzi, pokemon, etc.), snacks, wine and more wine, hanging out.






and nora kept an eye on the sky, looking for snow that never came.


we also managed a quick family photo, despite the cold wind.



my mom and sister and i had come up with the idea to get stuff to make ugly christmas sweaters, which we did on christmas eve. it ended up being such a fun activity for everyone that we've declared it our new family tradition.




there was much laughter, enthusiasm, and photo-bombing.



oh, and cookie-making. there was much cookie-making.




then: christmas eve traditions. the stockings, the letters, the reading of "the night before christmas."



followed by the traditional "get the kids to bed because we still have an hour's worth of wrapping and stocking-filling and present-under-the-tree-putting to do!"


three days in, one day to go. it all had been so fun and had gone so quickly. usually, we have only three days altogether, but four was so much better because christmas day goes faster than any other. and it was so good that i took hardly any photos.

i've learned over the years that i prefer to just be in the moment and soak it all in.




we ended the day with our ugly sweater family photos


then put the tired, happy kiddos to bed, pulled out five crowns and a bottle of gin, and capped off a great holiday in style.

as fast as it went, and as great as it was to be together, and as much fun as we had, on december 26th the house was quiet: marc was watching tv, the kids were playing new video games, and i sat alone in the kitchen, drinking a glass of wine and flipping through a new cookbook, while listening to annie lennox sing "georgia on my mind" and "summertime" on vinyl on my new, perfect crosley record player. and it was just as good to enjoy the stillness as it had been to enjoy the chaos.


maybe that's what christmas is all about when you are the adult. the crazy fun is for the kids, but it's a whirlwind for you. but the 26th? that's just for you, the time alone to reflect and be grateful and exhale, and eagerly look forward to the next year.

and so it begins

i now have two swimmers.


two kids. two different age groups. two different pools. two different practice times.

but it's cool. i'm handling it.

even easier to handle when she has bffs on the team with her. makes it so much more fun ... giggles during kicking, snacks after practice, carpools ...



(lots of snacks after practice.)

it was especially great when harper and her bff were able to share the momentous occasion of First Swim Meet with each other.


i'll admit it: it was fun to watch a different kid swim for a change. and she did an awesome job!



she won her heat in her very first event, the 50 free, and it was a huge boost for her. she looked amazing!

(lane six ... third from the top)


IMG 8776 from michele skinner on Vimeo.

the win was also huge because on her last practice start, her foot slipped and she got a scrape, resulting in her being afraid of the starting block and refusing to get back on it for the meet. after her win in the 50, she waved us down for a conference, but being unable to go on the pool deck because we're parents, henry went in our place. he thought he was going to have to talk her down from a ledge, but in fact, she was so jazzed about winning her heat that she just wanted someone to talk to.


after some high-fives and a little expert advice, henry returned, and she finished up her last two races (second in her backstroke heat, fourth - i think - in the breaststroke). she was so happy and so proud of herself, and was even happier that she and cece got to experience it together.


and now we're officially a two swimmer family. harp has two more meets in the pipeline, and henry has one more before high school season starts up in december.

which ... december?! how?? i was just excited about the start of october and then ... october went. it's gone. that's crazy.

i didn't quite get to the fall decorating, as declared, but that's life. we DID make it to the orchard for apples ...


and to the pumpkin patch for apple cider donuts pumpkins ...


and made the kids' halloween costumes:

a phoenix


and a bob ross who couldn't find a brown wig.


bob actually went to the high school halloween dance, not trick-or-treating. that was a new experience for us all. but he had a blast ... and actually danced!! maybe there's hope i'll get to someday dance at a wedding, after all. because heaven forbid i got to dance at my own wedding but no i'm not bitter.

and now: november.

which, apparently, will be full of swimming.

longest. summer. ever.

my kids are - finally - back in school.

henry headed out on monday morning to begin his high school career. yes i said high school.


remember when he looked like this?


(that would be his first day of first grade. *sob*)

one week in, and all is well. he's finding his way around without trouble. he's figuring out the lunch situation. he hasn't yet been to his locker. and he adores his science teacher.

then, on wednesday, harp began fourth grade.


not gonna lie ... i'm a bit freaked out by how fast my kiddos are growing up. this girl? seems like she was just this girl:


(well ... maybe she hasn't changed all that much.)

but after three days, she declares fourth grade is "awesome." so far, she loves her teacher, her two bffs are in her class, and at some point she'll get to bring home the class guinea pigs for a weekend.

it's all good.

august was a long, long, loooooong month. so i'm pretty sure they are just as happy to be back in school as i am happy to send them there.

we did round out summer vacation with a quick trip to indiana over labor day to celebrate marc's mom's birthday with the fam.


and that was fun. even though i got food poisoning or something the first night there. that was less fun.

and after that we headed to my parents' for a day and a half, and that was fun, too. except for the two hours i spent at the ER with my mom and my grandma, after grandma decided to rearrange her desk with her face. seven stitches later, we were back home.


but the very best part of the whole trip? i finally got to spend time with my lovely friend, jen. a visit that's been in the works for, oh, like three years.

we arrived friday afternoon for dinner and hanging out, then decided hey! why not send the menfolk out to shoot at things on saturday morning, while the womenfolk wander the village and soak up even more time together?

so we did. and it was awesome.

and i felt very anne shirley & diana berry with jen. truth be told, i think our daughters felt a bit like that, too.


jen & i are trying to orchestrate an arranged marriage between her daughter and my son. which wasn't awkward for them at all.


and yes, we got pix of jen and me together. and we agreed that none were shareable. so that's that.

it was just the loveliest way to end the longest month of the longest summer ever. and now? fall. it's cool outside, my kids are back in school ... all is right with the world.