... and summer's over

we woke up this morning - around 3 a.m. - to a massive thunderstorm. lightning, thunder, relentless rain. at 6 a.m., when my alarm went off, the weather was equally forceful.

the perfect way to start the first day of school.

i woke up harper, and her first words were, "is that rain?!"

yup. it's gonna be a raincoat day.

she quickly dressed in the outfit she laid out the night before ... denim capris, a white tank top, a white v-neck top she picked out at gap (from the adult side, thankyouverymuch), a hummingbird necklace ... was in and out of the bathroom, and eating a muffin, within 15 minutes.

someone was a little excited for the first day of school.

of middle school.

because ... my baby is in middle school.

w.t.h.

she eagerly put on her sandals, grabbed her backpack, made sure she had lunch money and an umbrella, and headed out the door.

the rain, thankfully, had subsided just long enough to get the first day of school photo.

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she was all smiles as the bus came, and she walked to it with two girlfriends.

and 10 minutes later, the texts started ... "mom." "mom." "mom." "i don't feel well." "i feel like i'm gonna throw up."

my poor little ball of anxiety. she hates the bus. she's nervous about a new school. she's terrified she'll show up in the wrong room, or at the wrong time. that she won't know what to do in the lunch room. that she won't have friends in any of her classes.

typical middle school fears.

i texted her back, told her it was just nerves, told her she would do great, told her no one would give her trouble if she ended up in the wrong room at the wrong time. told her to talk to her friends and take deep breaths.

and i didn't hear back ... so hopefully she got it all figured out.

the email from the principal at 7:45 stated that all kids were in classrooms and the halls were empty, so all looks positive.

and 20 minutes after harp was off to 6th grade, my 11th grader ate a muffin, grabbed his keys, and was out the door to get gas and head to school.

by himself.

not on a bus.

because he's a junior.

w.t.h.

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how?? how did we get here already?? i mean, wasn't HE just off to his first day of middle school???

i'm so confused, trying to figure out where the last five years have gone.

but he's ready. i mean, he isn't ready to be back at school ... he had a great summer full of friends and work and growing independence ... but he's ready to move forward. he's feeling the itch of almostdone-itis. this is a big year for him ... a lot of decisions to make, a lot of hard work and effort to put forth ... and i hope he's ready and understands that this is it. this is the big year.

summer moved so quickly at the beginning, as it always does, and then we consciously slowed down.

harper decided to take the summer off from swimming, so we spent a lot of time together, and she had some lovely play dates with friends. last week, to cap off the quiet summer, she spent some time on the lake with her bff from preschool to celebrate the fact that starting today, they will finally - again - be classmates. and while the girls took off across the water on their own, her friend's mom and i just shook our heads, trying to figure out how they aren't four years old anymore.

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henry, on the other hand, had the opposite of a quiet summer. he was heading to the pool every morning at 7 a.m., and then to lifeguard for an eight-hour shift, and then often to hang out with friends or co-workers in the evening. he carpooled with buddies or, once he got his license, drove himself, and felt the freedom that comes with your own time and your own money.

he didn't do any meets until the senior state meet at the beginning of august, where he cleaned up ... 6th place in the 100 free, 3rd place in the 50 free, and medals in all five relays - a 4th, a 3rd, two 2nds, and a first place finish in the 200 free relay that was .14 secs off the state record.

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we are entering very different territory today. it was a very different kind of summer. who knows what this year will bring.

but good or bad, here we go.

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it's here

the day i've been dreading for nine months has arrived, no matter how much i willed it to not happen.

it's the last day of school.

not that i'm not looking forward to having more time with the kids. (though, any introvert worth their salt will tell you that alone time is a must if we are to function and get through the day.) but ...

this last day of school is too big for me to take in right now.

this kid ...

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today is her last day of elementary school.

this is the last time she will climb onto the bus as a little kid.

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and in three months, these buddies will separate into two different middle schools.

where they will be middle schoolers.

i mean, what the heck?!

who said they could grow up??

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and as hard as that is to take, it pales in comparison to this guy ...

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who will be a junior in the fall.

a junior.

who will drive himself to school. no more bus. today was the last time.

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just ... nope. can't think about it yet.

makes my heart hurt.

i now have three and a half hours to enjoy the silence, gather my emotions, drink some coffee, and put on my big girl panties so i don't have tears in my eyes when they get home.

i mean, when the littlest kid gets home.

because the big kid is going to a pool party for the rest of the day with friends. and the girlfriend. and he'll get a ride home.

and i just can't.


well THAT escalated quickly

one month ago, i wrote that we were almost done with swimming - sectional finals were that night, maybe state ... we were close to a break.

well ...

we had sectional finals. henry was sitting in a great spot going into the meet. and then right before warm-ups, he was in the bathroom and a teammate kicked the stall door in ... literally onto henry's head. a one-plus-inch bleeding gash in the top of his head. when the coach finds you and says, "have you talked to henry? i don't think he needs stitches, but you might want to check on him ...", you know it isn't good.

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we got the bleeding to stop, but he was off his game for the meet. while his individual events suffered, he brought it when it came time for the relays.

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he helped his teams place fourth in one relay and second in the other, earning spots at state the following weekend.

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so another week of swimming later, we went to state. and to make it more fun, it was the same weekend that harper swam at the minnesota regional championships. and my parents came up so they could cheer on both kids. we watched five different meets over three days. it was amazing.

(that was sarcasm.)

but actually, it WAS amazing, because the kids did an awesome job. henry got bumped from one of the relays so four seniors could swim it, which felt right even though it was a bummer. (and henry used that free time to provide comic relief. as always.)

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but he kept his spot in the 400 free relay, and they placed fifth in the state.

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and harper swam seven events in two days, and dropped time in all but one.

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but wait!! there's more!!

henry had gotten so close to a junior nationals cut time in three events (he actally HAD gotten the times, but in relays, so they didn't count) that he jumped back to club swimming to ALSO swim MRCs the day after state ended, time trialing to see if he could get the cut in any of the events. he ended up .3 seconds away in the 50, and .2 away in the 100. close, but not enough.

which meant the following weekend we went back to the pool at the university of minnesota so he could swim at senior state to try and get those cuts. and on saturday, he got one: 48.25 in the 100 free ... .3 faster than the needed time.

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he was beyond thrilled and so proud of himself. which, he should have been. he wanted it, and he made it happen.

but that meant that on saturday afternoon, we had to make plane tickets and a hotel room in florida happen, because junior nationals would start three days later.

sunday was a quick shopping trip, when we realized henry had no shorts that fit, monday was laundry, and tuesday ...

well, tuesday was harper's 11th birthday.

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we had breakfast, then henry and i headed to the airport. (and i felt just awful. how do you pick one kid's event over another? ugh. unwinnable choice, right there.)

for the next five days, henry swam in four individual events (the one he made the time for, and three bonus events) and five relays at junior nationals. which is crazy. he's been swimming less than five years, and he made it to junior nationals. that felt like kind of a big deal. we were down there with 12 other kids, the coaches, a few of the parents, and it was a really fun experience.

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the 15-16 boys relays placed fourth in one relay, and fifth in another, which i thought was a pretty great way to walk out of the meet. and henry is already focused on getting more cuts for more events next year. the kid has goals, now, and he's focused.

which means he's growing up. and that's both weird and exciting.

the past two weeks have been pool-free, which lasts until ... well ... monday.

and then off we go again.


self-imposed break

so - hiya.

i've been taking a break from blogging, but not for any sort of big secret reason. i've just been too busy.

there are a million things to do during the day ... really exciting things like laundry! and cleaning the kitchen!! and making food for my family, who never stops eating!!

we've been spending our lives at the pool over the past three months, between high school season and harper's club season. but that is finally winding down. tonight is high school sections final, and this guy ...

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is in two relays, in 16th place in the 500 free (which isn't even an event he does well with or *likes*), and is in 9th in the 200 freestyle - and about a second away from a state cut in that event. he really wanted this to be his year to make it to state in an individual event, he just thought that event would be the 50 free or the 100 free; the 200 and 500 were never on his radar. but he's put his head down and worked hard to make the most of new events, and it is paying off in the 200.

(truth be told? i'm nearly sick to my stomach with anxiety for him. i want him to make the cut SO. BADLY. his heart was a bit broken when he found out he wouldn't be swimming his best/favorite events this season, and he felt a little blindsided by that. and to get so close in a different event ... well ... you mamas know how it is. you want your kids to succeed and reach their goals, especially when they work so hard, and for him to do it in an event he never considered would be so amazing. i'm definitely a ball of nerves going into finals night, though ... i mean, one second!! one! gah!!)

and if he doesn't make the state cut? well, he'll attempt another event at the club regional championships next weekend, and he should have three events at club state - and maybe some relays? - in two weeks. and then he's free until may.

and this girl?

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she has a full line-up this weekend at the minnesota achievement champs, a busy weekend next week at the regional champs, and then she will get a break until may.

which means we ALL get a break until may!

dinner at a regular time! homework finished before 1 a.m.! no more loads of towels and swim suits and warm-ups in the laundry every three days! no more weekends of bleacher butt!

and in between all of this swimming, henry turned 16 (more about that soon ... i'm still processing ...) and went to another dance with his girlfriend. yup ... they are still going strong!

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sadly for them, now that he will finally be able to have some time to spend with her, she starts softball and won't have time for him. it's probably why they're still together ... they never, actually, get to spend time together. and isn't that really how we decide we don't like people anymore? by spending time with them?

is that just me?

and coming in march is harper's birthday (11! seriously ... kids grow up too damn fast.) and a visit from my parents and spring break, after all that swimming.

(the ides of march are looking pretty attractive this year.)

and then i will be back.


another reminder

all last year, i freaked out about the whole "my kid is in high school!" thing. the idea that henry is almost out the door and on his way into adulthood - and into the years when he doesn't need us and won't be around - doesn't exactly fill me with glee. but for the most part, his freshman year looked a whole lot like middle school: same friends, same swim teams, same interests, no major changes.

then his sophomore year arrived.

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and with it, hours a day spent on homework (i mean, pre-calculus? who is this child??) drastically increased, making time to let him drive the car became a thing, and ... then there was a girl.

it started with:

 

him: is it okay if i go to homecoming?

me: game or dance?

him: dance.

me: of course. why wouldn't it be okay?

him: well ... wouldn't i have to get a suit or something?

me: are you thinking of taking a girl?

him: ... maybe.

 

and then he DID ask the girl. and she said yes. and then he asked her out for a date before the dance to make sure they were comfortable together. and then they decided to label themselves a "couple".

this is so, so new. and different.

but she's an adorable girl, and they seem to really get along well. and the dance came, and with it plans to hang out with friends before and after, and they had a great time (from what i hear).

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these are great kids. and i know they will have great times in the next three years. and it's fun to see them becoming young adults ... especially the ones i've known since they were in first grade.

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but it's all just another reminder that they are growing up. and it's fun to watch.

but it also kinda hurts.


warning: mom gushing ahead

the past four months have gone by so quickly that i didn't mention henry's high school swim season at all. well, one quick mention at christmastime, but that was it.

he has enjoyed high school swimming so much over the past two years, but this year it was officially High School Season because he is now, officially, in high school. he truly felt more like one of the guys, and even found that many of them forgot he was only 14 because he's been competing with them for the past two years, and competed at the varsity level with them for much of that time.

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this year i got texts from him like, "the team is going for breakfast after practice. i have a ride," "austin is giving me a ride to the pasta dinner," "i'm going to stay and hang out longer. i'll let you know when i'm ready."

not gonna lie: those texts threw me for a loop. my baby? "catching rides" with the guys? that's a hard, hard thing to accept when it comes at you the first time. however, i had to let him. it's time. now, we did have a bit of a disagreement when he asked why he had to ride the activity bus to practice after school instead of riding with The Guys, but we had our reasons. safety, obviously (being a winter sport, i was a little paranoid about teen boys and winter driving), but we also don't want him to be completely wrapped up in the upperclassmen group and forget to keep in touch with the younger (ie his age) swimmers. at some point, these upperclassmen will graduate and he needs to still have that connection with the kids his age. and, in true henry fashion, he said that he understood, and okay ... he'd ride the bus.

(have i mentioned how much i love this kid? zero push-back ever.)

in the pool, however, he was with the Big Guys. he would train daily in the fastest lanes, with the fastest guys. he was exhausted, to be sure, but he said he was keeping up and loving the challenge. he felt proud that his coaches were recognizing he could swim at that level, and was determined to prove he belonged there.

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and he so belonged there. if he didn't truly believe it at the beginning of the season, he knew it by the end.

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he was 110% determined to make letter times this season, since he was so stinkin' close last year. he actually got a letter time in the 50 free last season, but got it in a relay so it didn't count. which made him crazy.

first meet of the high school season, he not only got a letter time in his 50 free, but also in the 100 free. and he was pumped.

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for the rest of the season, he continued to drop time in his 50 and 100 free. and his 100 back, which has been kind of stalled for awhile, also improved, and he finally broke the elusive 1:00 mark. and earned a letter time in that, as well. and then the 200 free, which he never liked swimming ... he swam that at a meet and boom: another letter time.

he was so pumped. best part - two of his buddies on the team swim the same events he does, and they tend to go back and forth with each other, always on the others' toes. it was so fun to watch them gather immediately after a race to hug and congratulate whomever happened to finish before the other that week.

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his team and coaches had a successful season. one of their big meets is True Team Sectional - a preview of sectional, and only the top four swimmers in each event participate. lakers won again this year.

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and henry made it to True Team State at the U in all of his events ... and got his best times at that meet.

 

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the guys lost only one home meet through the season, won True Team Sectional, and then went on to win their sectional, as well.

henry earned spots in sectional finals in the medley relay, 50 free, and 100 back. after prelims, his relay's time was two seconds off of a state cut time, and his 50 free time was .75 off of state cut ... even better, his 50 free time from the relay was only .10 off a state cut time. he was feeling super positive heading into finals.

the medley relay is the first event of a meet, and his team swam their hearts out. each of the swimmers stepped up and dropped time, and at the end of the race, the laker team was less than a second from state time. they just missed it. heartbreaking, but they were all so proud of themselves. and henry? henry swam the freestyle leg and dropped time on his 50 free again ... :21.9. state cut time in the 50 free? :22.11. he was beyond excited.

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unfortunately, when the 50 free finals came around, he just couldn't get the same momentum going. he ended up placing seventh overall (which, hello ... seventh place his freshman year? not too shabby.), with a time of :22.98. he was disappointed, but one thing about henry: he is always philosophical. he told us later, "well, i got the time in the relay. now i know i can do it next year."

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(also in the back of his mind for next year? at last year's end-of-season banquet, henry's coach compared him to another swimmer on the team, saying that he went from a "nobody" to a break-out swimmer that season. and this year? that kid won the 50 free and the 100 free at sectional, and got a new school record in the 50. his time? half a second faster than henry's best time. and of the top 16 swimmers in this year's state finals in the 50 free, 11 of them are seniors.

henry is quietly gearing up.)

but back to sectional.

after the 50 free, he then swam the 100 back. he had just barely broken 1:00 during prelims, and in finals, he went down another half a second. he finally broke the 1:00 curse, and again placed 7th overall.

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i think we were a little sad and a little relieved at the same time that the season was over. it's amazing how quickly three months can go.

henry was asked to be an alternate for state, but he was exhausted and declined. since then, he's been enjoying a month of swim-free afternoons and weekends. he takes only two months off a year from the pool, and is very serious about having those two months. next week he starts back up with club, and this weekend he will start a 14-week clinic, lead by a former-olympic swimmer katrina radke, and her former-olympic coach husband. he will tweak his skills, learn techniques for stretching, flexibility, strength training, learn more about the psychological component of racing.

i spoke with katrina when i was signing up henry for the clinic, and she asked me about his best events and times. i told her, and she said, "whoa ... he's already there at 15? we'll get him prepared to go :20 or even :19 in the coming years, and he'll be under :50 in the 100 free by next high school season, for sure." when i told henry about her confidence in him, he got a big goofy grin and said, "that's the plan."

his focus is set, and the target is locked. and i'm excited to see where he goes from here.

(footnote: at the banquet the other night, all the swimmers got a book of the team's accomplishments and times. henry is the current record holder for time swum by a freshman in a 50 free in a relay. he was a little shocked by that, especially when he saw the names of the guys under him. and he is ranked on the all time top 20 list in the 50 free (20th) and 100 back (15th). so proud of this little guy. oh - and he got that letter jacket.)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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(irish elvis)

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(st paul saints' mascot, mudonna)

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(roller derby ladies)

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(the bouncing club)

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

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

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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:

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

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monument to the living

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roy wilkins memorial spiral

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

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promise of youth statue

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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.

and:

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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.

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

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(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%.)

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

figures.

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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:

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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 ...

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

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


15.

wha ... ???

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

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(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:

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

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

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this little buddha? he's 15 now?!

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sigh.

it happened way too fast.

just about one minute ago ...

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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.

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he loved the water ...

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

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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.

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

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but that hasn't changed, either.

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

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but that hasn't really changed, either.

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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.

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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.

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

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

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

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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.


snowflake, days 16 - 25

i blinked, and christmas is over.

don't get me wrong: we had my family here for four full days. and they were FULL. DAYS. but yet it flew by.

and i'll write more about that later.

first: giving snowflake her proper wrap-up.

day 16: snowflake got a little crafty with some glitter paint, a glass ornament, and mica flakes.

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day 17: snowflake was hiding, adorably, in our container of chocolate chips. sadly, though, harper never saw her. she woke up at 3 a.m. vomiting, and kept going until lunchtime. she spent the entire day in bed and didn't once venture downstairs. i did tell her that i found snowflake while making lunch, and took my camera upstairs to show her a photo. that was good enough for my poor sick girl.

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day 18: still sick but no longer vomitous, harper spent most of the day lying in bed, watching "magic school bus" episodes on the ipad. she had company, though. snowflake and gray kitty were sitting on her dresser, offering moral support - with proper safety precautions.

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day 19: harp flirted with fever status on and off the day before, so on friday, she missed her last day of school before christmas break. she was, however, feeling better, and convalesced on the couch. snowflake kept a cheeky eye on her from inside a bowl.

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day 20: one last crazy day of cleaning before my family arrived, one last day of rest and recuperation for harper. snowflake, meanwhile, channeled her inner miley.

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day 21: harp woke up sunday morning to discover snowflake sitting in the little tree in her room, bearing a gift.

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the note on the gift read, "santa knows this is my favorite job as your elf!"

what job was that?

bringing harp's christmas jammies.

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day 22: snowflake was part of the family festivities, but from a safe vantage point.

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day 23: snowflake and gray kitty hid a dozen candy canes, and harper had to hunt for them. much like easter, she zipped through the house, glancing at eye level, and declared, "i can't find any!" while we, the rest of the people in the room, looked around and said, "uh ... we can see five just from here."

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eventually, harp decided to Look.

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day 24: our last day with snowflake. she celebrated the arrival of christmas by sitting on the mantle with a banner declaring, "one more day until christmas!" and there was much excitement.

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bonus day 25: before she flew back to the north pole, snowflake let me take a photo of her with a little gift that she left for harper for christmas morning: a book, entitled "sparky." if you know harper at all, you will understand why this is the most perfect book in the world for her. it's about a little girl who desperately wants a pet, and her mom says no to them all, then says she'll say yes if the girl can find one that doesn't require care. so the girl orders a sloth, which is delivered via express mail.

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harp was super excited to find this little special gift in her room christmas morning.

and that was our month with snowflake. i'm challenging myself to put a bit more effort into the elf thing next year ... this year was pretty ... let's just say basic.

i'll get to actual christmas ... maybe tomorrow.

here's a teaser of just what you can expect, though:

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hope your holiday was merry and wonderful!