snowflake, days 9 - 11

december is going way too fast. waaaaay. too fast.

however, the house is 85% ready for family to visit for christmas; starting on monday, i'll have marc home for three weeks; and i'm ready to spend next week enjoying the glitter of the tree and the twinkle of lights, and listening to frank and nat and bing and perry while baking and prepping food. (and attending three swim meets, one band concert, picking henry up from swim practices, taking harper to and from swim practices, and taking henry to and from a hockey game for which the pep band is playing. oh, and harper has an eye appointment. and who knows what else ... i'm afraid to look. don't want the calendar to harsh my holiday mellow. but thankfully, there is a swingin' christmas pandora channel ... frank and nat and bing and perry come with me everywhere i go.)

there will also be more elf adventures.

on tuesday, we found snowflake sitting on a wreath in the stairway.

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and she lived up to her name and the "let it snow" sign on the wreath, because leading down the stairs to where she sat, we also found a flurry of snowflakes.

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it isn't looking like it will be a white christmas outside, so she brought the snow inside for us. thanks, snowflake!

on wednesday, she was taking a ride on a reindeer in the bathroom:

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pretty pedestrian.

however, today? oh, was my daughter happy!

first, you need to know that every christmas since she was three, harper has been obsessed with "the nutcracker." it started with a barbie nutcracker dvd. that lasted two or three years. then, when she was in her all-day, every-day tom & jerry phase, we discovered that there is a tom & jerry nutcracker special that airs only at christmastime, and only once. so we have recorded it for the past four years. she watches it over and over ... and over again.

this year, we found it and set the tivo, but for some reason, it didn't record. harper was heartbroken. but, thanks to the power of amazon the north pole, snowflake knew how to remedy the situation. this morning, this is what harper found when she went on her snowflake search:

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to say our morning started with a happy squeal would be an understatement. also? she had an ortho appointment before school, so that happy squeal took place at about 6:58 a.m.

and on the way to school, she asked if she could watch "tom & jerry" after school, and i said sure, once homework is done. she immediately responded, "if i don't have homework, maybe i can watch it twice!"

happy kiddo.


snowflake, days 5 - 8

we - and snowflake - had a busy few days!

first, on friday, day 5, she sent us a subtle reminder that the tree had been up for nearly a week and was still lacking ornamentation.

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later on friday, harper and i drove 45 mins away to her second swim meet. she was feeling very nervous about it in the car, but once she got there, all the worry melted away, she got to be with her bff and another friend who has been super dear to her since they were three, and it was time for fun! she even helped her friend over a case of her own First Meet jitters, which probably helped harp out, too.

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she placed 3rd overall in her age group's 50 backstroke, 5th in the 50 breakstroke, and  6th in the 50 free, and earned a C time in the backstroke and freestyle. she was super proud of herself!

(then i had to pull over on the way home so she could throw up on the side of the road. still haven't figured out if that was from nerves or a bad sandwich, but she's fine now.)

saturday morning, instead of being super tired and sleeping in until 7:30, harper was up and searching for snowflake.

here is where she found her:

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apparently, snowflake and gray kitty are not so good with the pot holder loom.

sunday morning, snowflake gave us all a good giggle:

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silly elf.

and this morning, we found her dressed in holiday finery and sitting atop the barbie tree:

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fancy.

this week, i have a city council meeting to go to ... our neighborhood is fighting the city's desire to connect a through-road from our 'hood to the casino's doorstep. to say we are infuriated is an understatement. ... henry's parent/teacher conferences, his first high school swim meet of the season, marc's heading to seattle, and who knows what else.

hopefully, snowflake will act accordingly and be nice and easy for the next five days.


snowflake, days 3 & 4

yesterday, harper came down to breakfast and said she hadn't yet found snowflake. i told her she needed to eat, finish getting ready, and then she could look for her elf. which apparently she took as permission to peek into other rooms while brushing her hair and teeth, because she discovered right away that snowflake had brought her laundry to our house overnight.

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that sounded like a good plan to me, too, and i decided to hang out with snowflake and play catch-up from the four days i didn't do laundry over thanksgiving, while marc's family was here.

however, as with most days, plans changed. i received a text from my lovely friend, tina, who said "breakfast in linden hills with me and amy." well, i love any minute i get to spend in linden hills, so laundry was promptly abandoned in favor of brunch and christmas shopping.

which is likely why snowflake showed up this morning with new socks for harper; she knew i hadn't gotten those washed yesterday and harp would have had to wear who knows what.

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that snowflake. she's always thinking.


she's baaaaack

sunday night, as we were trying to get lights on the tree (only to discover that more than half decided to die over the past year while sitting in a bin in the garage), harper remembered that it was november 30th, and her elf would likely be coming the next day.

she ran up to her room to get the "elf on the shelf" book, brought it down to the couch, and read to us as we (marc) battled the lights. then she ran up to her room and laid out a bed for snowflake, found a dress form for barbie clothes and put a robe on it for snowflake to wear, then proceeded to tear her room apart looking for snowflake's little friend, gray kitty.

no gray kitty.

i told harp not to worry about it, gray kitty would turn up. and who knew ... maybe snowflake would use her elfin magic to make gray kitty appear.

that seemed reasonable to harp, and she was off to bed.

monday morning, snowflake was, indeed, in her robe and on the bed harp had prepared for her. and in her little arms? gray kitty.

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oh, the happiness!

(which lasted about 20 minutes. until i told her she had to drink the smoothie i'd made for her and her brother for breakfast. which turned into a 30 minute battle of the wills. which became 30 minutes of harper in tears, refusing said smoothie. which resulted in her missing the bus, having to be driven to school by daddy, and having to admit to the nice secretary in the school office just why she was arriving to school late. which led to harper having a smoothie popsicle for dessert instead of ice cream. sigh. life with her is always interesting.)

this morning was a much different story: homemade blueberry pancakes, and snowflake and gray kitty helping with the christmas decorations.

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welcome back, snowflake.

 


and so it begins

i now have two swimmers.

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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 ...

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(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.

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

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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)

 

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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.

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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.

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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 ...

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

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and made the kids' halloween costumes:

a phoenix

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

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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.

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remember when he looked like this?

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(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.

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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:

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(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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.


yup. still here.

summer is, quite literally, flying by. we were crazy busy in june, and by the end of july - since the kids got out of school two weeks earlier than usual - we were all thinking, "how much more of this IS there?!" but now the middle of august is in sight, and it feels like we still haven't managed to do the things we planned to do over summer break.

since the last transmission from crazytown (and if we're facebook friends, sorry: there is nothing new here for you) ...

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henry swam in the long course regional finals. in regional finals, you advance to state if a) you make a state-cut time, and/or b) you win your event. well, henry earned a second-place finish in the 50m free ... lost by .02 seconds, which was heartbreaking. even worse, he missed the state-cut time by .19. gah. he also placed in the top eight in his other events. so he did an awesome job.

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2. we were surprised with a lovely afternoon visit from the kids' cousins from michigan, along with marc's sister and her husband:

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3. i managed to get away twice. first, with my friend tina to her family's cabin in wisconsin. we did nothing but read, antique, talk, antique, read, and talk for two days.

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then i flew to indiana to meet up with two of my oldest and best friends, at the lake cabin where we grew up skiing and dancing on weekends throughout high school. it was just like old times, laughing and tubing all the hours away. what wasn't the same was how sore we were the next day. but it was still heavenly.

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4. our garden is doing amazeballs.

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5. this happened:

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the five flawed windows were replaced ... painting happened ... it's all good now, but it was a mess for a few days. the kitchen window changes have yet to take place, though. we're replacing the sill with soapstone and tiling up the back wall so that there is no more wood trim behind the faucet. that turned out to be a very bad thing. problem: there is zero soapstone in the area like ours right now. so we're on perpetual hold to finish that.

6. harper has been playdating her brains out.

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6.5: oh, and not to be outdone by her brother, harper completed the highest swim lesson level and is (according to her. right at this very moment in time. subject to change.) on to swim team in the fall. she's feeling pretty confident. why? their final test in lessons was to swim 500 yards. little miss lapped - and double lapped - the kids in her class, and she was the youngest.

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she was exhausted but super duper proud of herself. as she should be.

7. remember back at #1, when i said henry didn't make state finals? well, i lied. he was invited to swim on the 200m free relay and the 400m free relay. result? 13-14 boys state champs in both.

champs, i say.

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they did an amazing job. and i'm going to show you, because that's what proud mamas do.

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200 free relay ... lane four. the lead-off swimmer is a nationally-ranked kiddo, andrew, the awesome duo of alex & axel in the middle, and henry is the anchor swimmer. it was a nail-biter:

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henry's time was a zone cut (which is a good thing), but didn't count because it was a relay. he missed out on getting the time again when he time trialed, but he was okay with that ... now he knows he can do it. even better? he cut nearly two seconds off his 50 time.

but wait! then there was the 400 relay. again, lane four. again, henry anchored (i recorded only his leg on this one):

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this time, the victory was more decisive. and henry dropped three seconds off his 100 time.

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he was most curious how his long course times would convert to short course. going by the conversion times, he now has a high school letter time in both events, and is in pretty awesome position moving into his freshman year. if his coach swims him in the 50 and 100, he could earn his own spot at state by time.

that would be amazing.

and that's where we stand right now. hopefully the remainder of august will be filled with more fun things, and the kids will head back to school having no summer plans left undone.


this kid

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there are times when i wonder what we are doing to screw up our kids. it's inevitable, right? every parent does it to some degree. when henry shares music or youtube videos with me that are, shall we say, a tad "questionable" or maybe not entirely age appropriate, i have to wonder if we have given him too much slack in the line. then i think back to when i was 14, the things my friends and i did and said and watched, and realize that henry is totally normal. and could be so much worse. and he shares things with me because he knows that my sense of humor and his are totally aligned. not only that, he feels comfortable enough to keep us in the loop on the things he is doing/watching/reading.

i'm gonna put that in the win column.

remember when he turned 14 and we rocked his world with tickets to meet neil degrasse tyson? well, last month we went to the event. we battled severe thunderstorm warnings and rush hour traffic to get there on time. but once the event started - and it turned out mr degrasse tyson was going to use the cocktail table where henry and i were standing as his book signing table - henry was so poised and on it. mr dgt came to the table, said, "i guess this is where i'm supposed to be," and henry looked right him and said, "i guess it is. let me move my glass. it's nice to meet you."

and not two minutes later, this happened:

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yes, henry told his hero that he, too, wanted to be an astronomer, got his autograph, and then asked if he could take a selfie of the two of them.

no fear.

and he's so *aware*. we have the best conversations about things going on in the world. why people think the things they do, what he notices at school, things his friends say, how the world works. i see these flashes of who he will be and what he will believe in, and it makes my heart swell with pride.

the other day, he was reading about some video game conference, and said, "get this: ubisoft isn't going to make a sequel to 'assassin's creed' because to be historically correct, the new main assassin would have to be a woman. and the company says that it will cost too much to make a new character (because it would be a girl), and no guys would want to play as a woman lead character. that's so stupid. even if they did make the assassin a woman, they'd probably put her in some bikini. because, you know, boobs."

omg. my kid is a feminist.

he *listens* and he pays attention, and he see no reason why people shouldn't be given equal opportunities to do things. his years in the gifted program and advanced classes have taught him that there are just as many smart girls as smart boys, and he knows that his competition in math class or science is sometimes a girl. and he's okay with that and respects her for it. smart and talented is smart and talented, regardless of the packaging.

and if he couldn't get any better, he's also funny.

last night, after harper went to bed, henry asked me if he could get a snack and stay up a bit to watch some tv. i said sure, and asked him what he wanted to watch. he asked if we had a 'daily show' recorded and i said yes, two. so he grabbed a bowl of tortills chips and salsa and headed to the basement. i gave him trouble about the salsa, and joked that if he spilled on the couch, he'd be grounded.

an hour later, we were done and ready to call it a night. he got up, looked at me a bit sheepishly, and asked, "will this come out?" i asked if what would come out, he pointed to a spot of salsa on his white sweatshirt, and said, "this bullet i took for the couch."

no. you don't get mad at that. at least, i couldn't.

i know a day will come when he does something stupid. or something that will make us furious. it will happen. but for now? i am counting my blessings that he's such a good kid, with such a good head on his shoulders, and is such a hoot. maybe we'll make it through the teen years unscathed.

then again, we still have harper in the pipeline ...


so much catching up to do

i have too many things going on at the moment, and can't wait to post some of the things that have happened in the past month. however, today? is just for this.

this girl.

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she blows me away with how beautiful she is.

she can have so many issues, and so many tricky emotions to navigate, and she's still trying to find her "thing" that brings her a sense of accomplishment of her own.

but in the quiet moments, when it is just her, with a little flower or bug to contemplate, and a breeze blowing a hair across her face, and every little freckle sprinkled on her nose is visible, and she tells me a little story, she takes my breath away.

she can be silly and loud, or quiet and sweet, and we're never quite sure what we're going to get with her.

but that's okay. we couldn't love her more.

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i'm still here.

more in spirit than physically, but hopefully that will change in '14.

i'm applying that "change" idea everywhere this year. let's don't call it a resolution, but more of a proclamation: i'm making changes.

photography? gone. done. i can't compete in this shoot-and-burn overgrowth of Moms With Cameras, who do a "shoot" and give every photo (200? 300?) to the "client" for $50. i'm sorry, sweetie, but if you have such little respect for your own time, you don't deserve to call yourself a photographer. but still ... it has killed my business and killed the enjoyment i once got from it. and really? in the past year? the vast majority of photos i took of my own kids were on my phone. that's crazy. but it just shows how burnt out and bitter i've become, and i say "no more." i want to enjoy shooting again, so i'm taking the stress out of it.

my health? a priority this year. it has to be. i turned 40 (there. i said it.) and realized that all those people and magazine articles that have stated it all gets harder after 40? they were talking to me. i'm now officially in the "it's harder now" zone, and that doesn't sit well with me. so in response to both that and the nomophoto thing, i am converting my studio/office into an excercise room. we purchased an elliptical, and right now are in the process of finishing the crafty room (it's taken only 29 months ...), which will allow us to deconstruct the studio/office, which will allow us to utilize that room for fitness. marc bought a tv for the room, we're moving a shelf in there to hold work-out dvds and equipment, and this is going to happen. it is.

and on that note, i'm getting back into the swing of cooking. things have been far too busy, and i miss cooking far too much. right now, we have a five-week lull between swim seasons, so i'm going to use this time to get it together and  get back into the kitchen. i'm looking forward to it, and have been scanning pinterest and reading through clean eating mag to make a list of all the things i want to make. the hard part will be combining the clean eating i want to do with the caloric and protein/carb needs of a swimming teenager, with the picky palate of my youngest, with the "every meal needs to have meat and a double starch" mindset of my husband. i refuse to make more than one meal at a time, so either they are going to have to adapt or i'm going to have to get creative.

i've found another health outlet that is taking the place of the photography income, as well: i signed up to be a distributor for young living oils. over the past year, i've been seeing several friends post on facebook about how amazing these oils are. i did nothing more than glance over each update. at one point, though, i saw a testimonial from one of them a migraine blend, and i became intrigued. marc had been suffering with a return to migrainland, and we were at the point that he was willing to try anything. so i ordered a bottle of m-grain a couple of months ago. while sitting at one of henry's meets, marc felt a migraine coming on. i asked if he brought the oil and he said he had. he rubbed a drop on each temple, and a drop on the back of his neck/base of his skull. half an hour later, i asked him how he was feeling, and he said, surprised, "the migraine never actually hit." it was astounding. after that, i looked into the oils in earnest. i had also been growing increasingly skeptical and fed up with the whole big pharma/big insurance scheme to take our money. when every medication advertised comes with a list of side effects longer and more horrible than what the medication is treating, that's ridiculous. remedies should not hurt; they should help. so i went into research mode and eventually came to the conclusion that the oils were worth a shot. i ordered a few, and was so happy with what they did that i ordered the starter kit. the whole family was sold, and everyone i talked to about them was curious, so i jumped into the business side. it wasn't my intention, but by god if i can help my friends and loved ones, i'm going to. and i firmly believe these oils can do that. in the past six weeks? they have cleared up a candida-related toenail fungus that i've battled for years, and have reduced the candida flare-ups i get each month when my progesterone levels spike; they have warded off colds in all of us, and have reduced the severity of the one cold harper managed to almost catch; they have cleared up a molluscum outbreak in henry's armpit in a matter of weeks - not the "months" that others have gone through, and without the expense of meds that don't work or the pain of having the molluscum cut off; they have removed a plantar wart on harper's foot; they helped marc get a good night's sleep, after weeks of being on the road stripped him of the ability to rest and stay asleep; they have curbed my snoring (oh, the joys of getting older: snoring.), and that's just a sampling. next on the list: weight loss. several people in the distributor group have lost anywhere from 10 to more than 40 pounds using oils. i'm in for that, man.

(and i truly suck at sales so maybe this isn't the best route for me to go, but i believe in these oils and that it's worth it to try. if you want more info or are curious if there's an oil for something, let me know. i'll do the research and help you out.)

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moving down the list of proclamations: craftiness? with the repurposing of the office for exercise, it has become necessary to finish the craft room. and i'm excited. i can't wait to start pushing paper around again and getting our stories and memories down on paper. one of the biggest hurdles over the past ... man ... six years? is that my printer became a thorn in my side, and it wasn't a priority to figure out why, so i haven't had a printer for photos or words since then. and i just stopped; i walked away. but that ends now, i will get back to the crafty, and harper will have her own space to create her own art. we're both happy.

these are simple proclamations, and seem totally doable. up until this week? it seemed less doable. things were crazy.

high school swimming season finished, with two meets per week. henry earned a spot on the true team sectional team (only the top four swimmers in each event from each school, and he swam both individual events and relays), which actually won their sectional for the first time in years, so he was then on the true team STATE team that competed at the U ...

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and he also earned a spot on the varsity sectional team that swam last week at the end of the regular season. he qualified in the 100 backstroke, and came in 23rd out of 28 high school boys in the section. he was the only 8th grader on the team who made it. so that was exciting.

also exciting? he turned 14. he blows us away with how amazing he is. recently? he took the ACT explorer ... an assessment ACT to see where he stacks up to other 8th graders in the nation ... and he scored in the 100th percentile. seriously. where did he come from?! the aptitude section also confirmed that his career goals are on the right track - he wants to work in astronomy or statistics, and scored high in aptitude for both (physical science/physics, and statistics).

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which was lucky for us, because we rocked our little budding astronomer's world at present time:

 

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luckiest kid in the world, i tell you. totally spoiled, but not a spoiled bone in his body.

not to be left out, harper has also been around.

she continues to do a great job with piano. we've found, though, that it's best to leave her alone and just let her work through her practice pieces. the minute one of us tries to get involved and help, it becomes a battle and she freaks out. and that's the end. so we tell her to practice, and she does.

key to harper: leave her alone.

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she is also taking an art class after school through a program called young rembrandts. it isn't your typical after school doodle-and-craft art class; it is technique-based and is teaching her how to really see what she's drawing, and draw what she sees. the work she's brought home is amazing, and she absolutely loves it.

we did get her to leave the house last weekend and attend the father-daughter dance at school. she knew her best friend was going, so she also wanted to go. but she didn't want a new dress ... in her words?  "i just like simple." works for me. (we did, however, buy her new shoes. from the women's department at target. size 6. what??) and she didn't want to have dinner or do anything like that. she just wanted to go.

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and then an hour and a half later? they were back. she was done.

and she ran upstairs, put on her jammies, and climbed into a chair to watch her brother play on the computer.

and that's harper in a nutshell.

she will really benefit from the less crazy schedule we have for the next month, and i'm hoping all of the extra time and the intentions of getting into a better routine will be good for her and her anxiety, which is good for all of us in return.

so, that's where we stand. i am still here. and hopefully will have more interesting things to talk about soon.