2015: the 'to do' list

lately, i've been preoccupied with the "have to" items ahead of me, and it occurred to me that if i look at everything as a "have to" i will get overwhelmed and throw in the towel because i feel like i can't get it all done in the manner and/or timeframe in which i want them done.

i've begun to jot down rough drafts of the sort of daily/weekly/monthly planner that would make all of those lists bite-sized and therefor less intimidating and overwhelming. i'm just about ready to make the pages i need and print it out and get going.


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during the process, though, i've realized that a) i miss writing things down in a planner that i can flip through and organize and change ... i'm just not a "gadget" girl; and b) i need to see both the big picture as well as smaller lists that feel doable; the have to and need to and want to items.

back in the day (college) i was attached to my day planner like it was my lifeblood. in fact, it kind of was. keeping track of school work, work schedule, deadlines for the school paper, activities, volunteer hours, etc., was mandatory. i had a large month-by-month calendar on my desk for further out deadlines (the "big picture"), but i also had my book-sized day planner that didn't leave my side. it included multi-color highlighters for different things, multi-colored sticky notes, and every last bit of information i could possibly need at a moment's notice. i was hyper-organized.


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marc mocked me a bit for it, but i didn't care. i needed that book like it was crack.

after graduation, my planner became much lighter. while i needed to keep track of work and life things and wedding planning, i no longer had all of the class and social commitments. and five months later, when we were married and moved to minnesota, i had literally nothing to write down. i got out of the habit of needing my organizer. i moved from an extrovert, super Type A person to a much less organized, much less harried, much more "relaxed" personality. marc's laid-back nature began to rub off on me once we started living together, i didn't find a permanent job right away in minneapolis so i had less to schedule, and we had no friends or family with whom to make plans. i tucked myself into our apartment and went days without any real need for a plan.

that became a bad habit. even when i did start working, my heart wasn't in it. i no longer felt the drive i had felt only a year before. all of my big ambition and plans went out the window, and i became - literally - a shadow of who i had been and who i thought i would be.

we bought an old fixer upper in a downtown neighborhood and i briefly became Motivation Girl again, but then was surprised with a pregnancy that kept me sick and tired most days. after that, motherhood, choosing to stay home, post-partum depression ... i became a shadow again.

now, i'm no longer a shadow, but rather a blur. the calendar is once again full of things, but they are things like the kids' swimming schedule, marc's travel schedule, people needing to come to the house to fix something or install something or have access to something, and i am the one trafficking it all. so while the need for organization has come back to the forefront, my own personal ambition still has not.

but that changes this year. this year? i To Do like a mothereffer. and to be solid with that? i need a planner.


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i'm ready. i'm psyched. i'm pumped. in fact, i'm a One Little Word flunky, but this year?




that's my word. i'm going to put it where i can see it daily. i'm going to live and breathe it. 2015 is going to be the leanest, meanest, most streamlined and efficient year yet. and i have to think that all of that lean, mean efficiency will remind me of who i am and who i was meant to be.

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.)


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 ...

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).


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


IMG 6261 from michele skinner on Vimeo.

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.


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.




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.


so you know how a) the muppets and b) steve martin are two of my favorite things in the history of ever?

i saw this the other day, and it made me smile big-like:

and it reminded me of the first time i saw - and decided i loved - steve martin:


in the intervening 30-odd years, i've fan girled him every step of the way, through his work in movies and writing and playing the banjo.

(that's not creepy at all, right?)

when he started to tour with the steep canyon rangers a number of years ago, i wanted desperately to go to the concert because i thought, "here's my chance to see him live!" but the date they were in minneapolis didn't work out for me, and i was seriously bummed. when i heard he was coming again this past summer, i immediately called my concert buddy, sue, and said, "yes?" she said, "yes," and it was on.

and i was so happy.

i think the reason i loved steve at three is because of the banjo. it was a sound that was always in my house. my biological dad played (plays), and it was totally normal to see him plugged into the stereo, headphones on, playing along with some bluegrass album. to hear the banjo on the muppets, well, it was like comfort food. it was familiar. and so i snagged on to steve martin.

after my parents divorced and visits with my dad became less and less, hearing the banjo was still a constant during the time i was there. and it was a comfort to know that even though there were 360+ days a year i didn't get to know my dad, that part was always the same.

regardless of my limited exposure, i fell in love with the sound. i'm oddly compelled toward bluegrass, even though my preference is for indie and alternative and folk. but when bands like mumford & sons and trampled by turtles and the avett brothers and the lumineers and the civil wars, et al, became well-known - and even popular - using the banjo, suddenly my affinity for it seemed, well, acceptable.

and maybe even cool. did you see this go around? of course you did.

(on that note: dear santa, could you please put jason bateman under the tree for me? i know i've asked before ... since the 80s ... so don't you think it's time? thanks so much.)

anyway, i couldn't wait for the concert. to see steve - LIVE - in person!! and, on top of that, now he's touring with not only the steep canyon rangers but also edie brickell?! who is amazing?? and is married to paul simon??? stop it. i was over the moon.

and then the night of the concert arrived. sue and i had a fancy little dinner at restaurant alma, then headed to the theater. and i was just zingy with excitement. then the lights went down. and it started. and there was steve.


and the show flew because it was so amazing. and wonderful. (and yes ... our seats were crap.)

strangely enough, while steve - and edie - were fantastic and everything i thought they would be, i found myself absolutely in awe of the steep canyon rangers. their talent is transcendent. and their fiddler? astonishing. absolutely. he's so kinetic when he plays that he nearly levitates. it was ... astonishing. that was my only word for it. i even told him so, after the concert, when i found him inexplicably working the goody booth.


see for yourself:

(obviously, their seats were crap, too, but you can almost make out the fiddler's crazy legs on the left side of the stage.)

see? astonishing.

and on the way home, i got to thinking about how i wish i could play something. i didn't grow up around my dad, so i never got to do the whole "my dad taught me to play" thing that other kids have. i'm sorry about that. doubt it will happen now. but i would love to learn to play the guitar. when i think about what music i would put on and zone out with, i come up with paul simon ... and brandi carlile ... and the lumineers ... and joshua radin ... and cat stevens ... and so on. the guitar is calling me.

after seeing the concert, i started to talk to my friend tina, who sings, about this need i have to play something. she is currently part of a band of 40somethings who get together to jam and just enjoy themselves, and she agreed that she's always felt the same way about learning an instrument. now we're floating the idea of taking guitar lessons together, and i am swearing right now to make it my mission - my birthday present to myself - to start after the holidays. every time i put on a cd by someone who inspires me, i wish i could do as my dad does: grab my guitar, sit on the couch, and play along.

i felt it, on some level, at three. and i still feel it today. there's a part of me that feels completely untapped, and i'm gonna tap it. and seeing steve may have pushed me over the edge.

so thanks, ramblin' man.

sooo ... THAT didn't go as planned

remember how i got all excited about fall? i was going to Get Stuff Done? couldn't wait?

yeaaaahhhhh ...

we DID get the gallery wall up in the great room. still need to shoot pix of that. (i KNOW, jen.) however, right now there is too much glare. why, you ask? because i was going to finally get around to having the curtains hemmed (oh. we also finally put up curtains.), but wanted to have them cleaned first since the bottom 7" were covered with mario fur. but when i took them to the cleaner, they had a bad reaction to the dry cleaning and turned yellow.

how does white linen turn yellow when cleaned?? why did linen have to be dry cleaned in the first place?! but it did. so i called the manufacturer, they are sending us replacements, THEN i'll get them hemmed, THEN i'll take pix of the gallery wall.

however, once the gallery wall was done and i was ready to move on to other fallish things, i got busy with this:

and this:

and this and this and this (parts 1 and 2):

and suddenly, it's the last week of october, and i've done nothing but edit photos for a month. and go to st augustine, florida for a weekend for one of my oldest and dearest friend's 40th birthday slumber party ...

and marc and harper were in indy for a weekend for his dad's 70th birthday ... and henry had a swim meet and a science project ... and marc traveled ... and henry got bronchitis then a double ear infection then gave it to me ... and marc's parents stopped by for 36 hours on their way from denver to chicago ... and literally nine hours later, his sister and her family stopped by for about two hours on their way to a conference ... and our neighbors had a halloween party, wherein marc dressed as a skeevy girls' basketball coach and i was a knocked-up player ...

and this week, marc's gone a night, then he turns 40 has a birthday, then halloween. and maybe we'll carve the pumpkins we bought two weeks ago, when we combined Hit The Orchard with Celebrate Our Anniversary. (17th = Year of the Apple Cider Mini-Donut, FYI.)

(yes, my children are that tall. yes, henry is this close to the 6' mark.)

so perhaps i shall Get Stuff Done in November.

then again, maybe i should stop assuming i will ever get anything done. that seems safer.


it used to be july.

just this morning i realized i hadn't uploaded pictures from my memory card since the beginning of july. and, in that month, i took less than 100 photos altogether.

bad bad bad bad bad.

however, july was a really strange month. i've been dealing with a lot of heaviness - lots of emotions, lots of feelings being worked through, lots of learning to accept what is and let go of what will never be. lots of saying, "it is what it is," and lots of deciding that i'm done with things that make me mad and sad and frustrated and don't make me feel good or heard or happy. i've made big decisions - some are decisions people won't like. but you know what? i'm flippin' 39 years old. i'm tired of making decisions out of fear or worry that it won't make others happy with me. like me, don't, stay, leave. whatever. i no longer care.

(and this has been a running theme all summer. sorry if i keep beating a dead horse. it's been a long, hard, draining summer, emotionally-speaking.)

all that to say, i haven't downloaded a picture from my camera since july 4th.

which is too bad, because july 4th was pretty awesome.

last year, we opted to stay home for the 4th and experience fireworks from the air conditioned, non-mosquito-y bliss that is Home. and this year, when i asked the kids if they wanted to head to the casino or the lake for fireworks this year, they both said no.

so we stayed home.

and we made homemade ice cream.

and we played settlers of cattan.

we went outside to set off our small stash of fireworks.

but the mosquitos became so frenzied with blood lust that we called it and ran inside, heading upstairs to wait for real fireworks to begin.

i wandered back and forth between our bedroom and the loft. soon things started up to the south, over the lake. some were fired off by people on the lake, but others were from neighboring towns.

and then the kids yelled from the loft that multiple things were happening to the north.

in all, we saw a dozen different fireworks shows. but the best were from mystic lake ... a mile to the north, and we had front row (climate controlled, bug-free) seats.

it was super amazing, and we all agreed that nothing beats july fourth from our own home.

the rest of july flew by after that. henry finished his swim season ... which he actually participated in very little, given how busy june was. he missed the majority of the summer meets, and qualified for only three events in the long course finals. but he did a good job, and has been happy to have august off to focus on cross fit and hanging out.

harper finally got to have some time with her "best best friend," and they spent it all outside picking flowers and running around.

the native grass/wildflower part of our backyard finally took off this summer and looked beautiful. full of all sorts of frogs and butterflies and dragonflies and color.

which of course means the city didn't like it and we were told we had two weeks to mow it down and replace it with sod. so all the flowers are now gone, and we're waiting for the landscapers and irrigation guys to come scrape it down, put in new sprinkler heads, and sod, to the tune of about $4500 for something that was okayed two years ago.


it is what it is.

seriously ... that might be my next tattoo.

but that was july for you. highs and lows. glad it went quickly. hopefully august will be kind. so far the weather has been wonderful and we've been productive. though we're still waiting on the landscapers and the irrigations guys to show up.

maybe i'll have more to tell you in september. why break the "once a month blogging" streak now, right?

getting funky

thanks, first of all, for the love the other day. i heard from people very dear to me, and to know that i'm not alone in these feelings is comforting. cutting ties and letting go of expectations is scary and, frankly, really sad. i'll grieve for awhile. but in the end, i can't keep wishing on stars that will never fall.

to cheer myself up, i did something yesterday that i've wanted to do for 20 years.

i got a tattoo.

interestingly enough, the one i've wanted to get for years ... all four of our zodiac symbols on my back ... is not the route i went first time out. which means i have to go back and get another. lucky for me, i have two others planned, and a third isn't out of the realm of possibility.

(they really are like potato chips: you can't have just one.)

anyway, the place opened up at noon, and i was there waiting at 12:32.

finally the "open" light came on, and i hopped out of the car and ran in. after waiting awhile for the guy, andrew, to re-sketch my sketch and get it prepped, it was finally time.

i asked him how many people back out at the last minute on their first one. he said not as many as you might think.

and then he started.

and it was amazing. the sense of freedom and relief and excitement was overwhelming. i was giddy.

the owner of the parlor came over to chat while the tattoo was going on, and asked me why i was getting one now. i said that i'd wanted one for 20 years, and had refrained for all of those  years because i was stuck in this cycle of being the "good girl." it was the same cycle that propelled me to not double pierce my ears until i was 18 like my mom said, to go to a college i didn't want to attend, to have one of the most boring weddings on the face of the planet, to never ruffle feathers, to always be responsible and polite and helpful, to not do the things that were risky or might be regrettable. and at 39, i was done with that and ready to take ownership of my life and the remaining years i have in it.

and in the end, i had what i wanted ... an "m" and an "m" (marc and michele) on either side of an ampersand made of an arrow and a heart.

and the owner looked at it and said, "no one will ever give you trouble for a tattoo that says, 'mom.'"

and i said, "huh. how about that."

and now i kinda love it all the more. i love my husband and our life together enough to brand myself visibly with it. but it turns out i am also showing the world who i am - a mom. and that's pretty okay, too.

another amazing thing about this "mom" gig: i now have a child old enough to be sharing music with me and getting me totally hooked on stuff i wouldn't have otherwise heard. and then i go digging around for that band and find something pretty awesome. so, thanks for that, henry!


dump, literally and metaphorically speaking

i'm so on the fence about continuing the blog or letting it go. however, it's been the only place since the book where i keep track of what's going on in our lives and writing things down. the book - and surrounding life circumstances at the time - burned me out. my printer stopped playing nice with my computer and hasn't worked since, so i stopped scrapping at home. we moved, none of my stuff has gotten officially unpacked and made usable, so i lack the desire to dig through paper. and the ongoing, underlying theme here is "my stuff comes last," but without the blog, the kids' stories would be forgotten.

metaphorically, that's the underlying theme of my life right now: my stuff comes last. and it's time for some changes.

at my age (39 years, four months, 18 days), i'm finally ready to say "i'm done" with people who don't care. i've tried my entire life to find friends, to nurture relationships, to find people who care about spending time with me, and i'm officially done. the dead weight will be cut.

the emotional burden of trying for 39 years to find people who give a shit about me is taking its toll, and i'm done. i wash my hands of those people with whom i have tried  and failed to ignite any spark of giving a damn.

my life is small, but busy. and i understand that others have lives that are also busy. however, i am always willing to work out a time - regardless of how brief - to spend with those i enjoy and want in my life. the time has come, though, to erase the names in my book who do not choose to give that time to me. a person can try only so much, you know? either people want you in their life or they don't, and it has become abundantly clear that i have more people who feel the latter for me and my family.

so be it.

i'm done.

and hopefully this weight and soul-sucking "what the hell am i doing wrong?!" that i've been feeling for weeks months years will go away and i can just go about living my life with the small little group who have chosen me. and if that's literally just my husband and children (while they have no choice because they are under 18) then okay. at least they are fun.

i am who i am. like it or, apparently, don't. i am a grown up and will no longer be someone i'm not in order to sustain a relationship based on needing to be that person. and relationships that are gone because i'm no longer playing a game are relationships i no longer want and need in my life.

i've come to accept that some people have active, loyal circles of friends and family who choose to do things together and be with each other, and some don't. and so we will be our own island, having our own fun and making our memories together, and we will be enough. marc and i have talked often about how our role seems to be that of "give," and everyone around us is in the "take" position. one-sided relationships are unsustainable, and without anyone in our lives who "give" to and are supportive of us, we're tapped out. we can't always be the ones to call and try to make plans and stay in touch.

which is fine. we're busy anyway, and the coming months won't let up, either.

and what have we done over the past month, when i've updated absolutely nothing?

well, we got some snow.

and marc's parents came to visit and went to the kids' school carnival.

and came to henry's last band concert, after which we exited the school into even more snow.

and we took them to a great authentic ecuadorian restaurant in minneapolis.

and then we had to say goodbye, about which harper was not thrilled.

but she eventually came to terms with it.

and then we had more snow.

so i used some of the 5,348 antique blue canning jars that i got from my grandma and brought spring indoors.

and then it snowed a little more just to spite me.

club swim season started up again.

and it finally became nice enough outside for harp and her friends to race and jump and enjoy springtime while waiting for the school bus.

then the weather changed again and now we can't seem to get out of the 50s or away from the rain.

but harp finally has a big Big Girl bike and rides it regardless of weather.

and henry test drove a teen cross fit class to see if adding some dry land work of his own might be good for the summer.

and there were field trips and play dates and other things.

and less than two weeks until summer vacation.

but we have big plans for the summer, and i kinda can't wait to get started. especially with less burden and frustration and sadness on my heart. looking forward to trying peace in my life for a change ... assuming i can really make it stick.

letting go is the hardest part, isn't it?

dear diary:

there are so many things i've meant to share with you, but i just haven't had a moment to spare.

first of all, my eldest turned 13. i know. you're all, "what?! no!!" but seriously, yeah. he did.

it's crazy, and i'm still processing it myself.

he seems to be going through these adjustments of maturity. much more likely to come give me a hug or wrap his arm around me or rest his chin on my shoulder. because my shoulder is lower than his chin. it's like he's realizing that he's growing up quickly and maybe he'd better get some snuggling in while he still can.

he decided that all he really wanted to do for his birthday was have some buddies over for pizza and to play minecraft all night long. which they did. they started some world and didn't quit playing until they defeated it at 6 a.m.

he is also learning to march in band, and i think he's kind of digging it. he still likes band, but whether it sticks into high school remains to be seen.

henry also finished out the high school swim season with a pretty decent showing at jv sectionals. and at the awards banquet at the end of the season, the coach handed out records books to all of the boys. in it are lists of the top 10 swimmers in each age group for every event ... records going back to 1992 ... and henry's name was listed in the top 10 in every event he swam over the course of the season. ie his name was on the list in about eight different events, including taking the #3 spot for the 50 backstroke in the medley relay.

huge accomplishment.


(my kid, without the cap. he won't wear one.)

academically, henry is also still walking that line between making us very proud and making us pull our hair out. when he's on top of things, he's ON. but when he's off and not feeling like he needs to turn things in, we have trouble. however, his ancient civ/social studies class recently took part in the world savvy project, and henry's team's project was one of five from the two local middle schools to participate in the regional competition, held at macalester college.

the boys did a great job presenting their project about ocean pollution and, specifically, the trash islands in the pacific, during the interview process. then they separated into different groups for a roundtable discussion of world and environmental topics. at the end of the day, henry's group scored high enough to move onto the national online competition in may. pretty awesome.

he's had a good couple of months.

harper has also been a busy girl.

she turned eight. (again, "what?? no way!!" but yes. way.)

she is still 110% her own person, for better or worse. no one pushes my buttons more or makes my heart flutter quite so much. she's spectacular. and infuriating.

for her birthday, she also chose to keep it simple, even though the amount of time she spent deciding on her guest list would suggest otherwise. this girl's heart is so big that she wanted to make sure the girls she invited were all friends and knew each other and would have a great time together. in the end, she chose two neighbor friends and her "very best best friend," cecelia.

they played wii for about three minutes, decorated their own cupcakes, drew a gallery full of art, decorated the rest of the cupcakes because they ran out of things to do, and cecelia drew a mustache on harper. and that was that.

speaking of art, harper has become obsessed with drawing. every day, a new stack of pictures appear. typically, she draws mermaids and dragons. or herself in various stages of growth, as a tiny series of paper dolls that she then cuts out and leaves scattered all over the place. one day, she had a president homework assignment and chose to draw three presidents for extra credit: eisenhower, arthur, and obama. and then she added the capitol and a tree for extra extra credit.

she's been taking a class through community education called "young rembrandts," where she is learning actual techniques and how to "see" what she wants to draw. her skills are fine tuning, and she loves it.

she is also becoming rather musical. i think i'm going to sign her up for piano lessons because she appears to have the ability to pick out, learn, and memorize songs on her little keyboard. imagine what she could do with a full keyboard and knowledge of where the notes are! the other day, she came to me and played a song she had taught herself: the "do re me" song, all the way up to "fa," when she ran out of notes on her piano.


speaking of music, her school's class concert was last week, and harper was selected to be in the kazoo band. she thought that was pretty great. and played the kazoo most of the weekend.

currently, harper is fighting a cold and is on day 2 of laying on the couch, snuffling and drinking tea and watching "my little pony."

in other news, the kids just had their first-ever snow day. we got a foot of snow - not normally something that would slow us down, but the timing was bad for plows and school buses.

so while henry shoveled, harper dug out a little igloo, made a pantry, and filled it with sunny d.

and while i was taking photos of that, mario snuck out of the front door to see what this "snow" business was all about.

half a second after this photo was taken, his paw touched the snow, he jumped half a foot straight in the air, and ran back in the house. where he belongs.

later that afternoon, harper wanted to check out her sunny d to see if it was frozen.

it was not. but i told her that as long as she was out there, she might as well get the mail, too.

and that's what we've been up to. or, at least, a very glossed over and abbreviated version. but now i've caught you up. and now i can go back to ignoring you for another couple of months.


snowflake round-up

it's been a week. time for more of snowflake's adventures ...

day 17: she decided to hang out in the tree, snuggled with gray kitty, and spend the day looking out the window.

day 18: harper came home from school and decided to draw pictures of reindeer for everyone she knows. that night, snowflake drew some reindeer of her own for harp.

Day18(by the way: my daughter draws some great reindeer, in case you were wondering.)

day 19: harp had made a little "dressing room" for julie, her american girl doll. she had all the shoes and accessories lined up. (which sounds way fancier than it is; she has three pairs of shoes, and the purse and belt that came with julie. "accessories" might be overstating.) snowflake and gray kitty did a little "trying on" and got caught.

day 20: harp awoke to find snowflake had baked her some special snowflake cookies. she decided they must be "north pole" cookies because they were really crispy and tasted "kind of like a cracker." and then they got sweet. and she ate three for breakfast.

day 21: yesterday, harper's class had a gingerbread house party. the kids all made and decorated their own gingerbread houses. harp's house was ... minimal. however, her yard was landscaped within an inch of its life: gingerbread man making a "snow angel" in the frosting and shaved coconut snow, a marshmallow snowman, two gingerbread men riding on a sled she made out of a candy corn and candy cane-shaped sprinkles, etc.

so this morning, we found snowflake had added some visitors. to my countertop. gonna have to scrub that down tonight when snowflake ... flies away.

continuing with the light & cheery and "christmas spirit." trying. i'm writing again - elsewhere - for an online magazine called "get born." the article i'd planned for the 18th, my day, got scrapped at 1:30 a.m. that morning. i couldn't sleep. the thoughts of sandy hook kept rolling through my brain and heart, and i couldn't stop crying. so i got up and wrote, and this is what happened. it helped a little, but my emotions are still raw. the idea that these beautiful children were taken the way they were ... that the last thing they saw in their lives was evil ... i'm having a hard time shaking that. maybe it's because i am a writer; the only way i can truly convey emotions and feelings is to be able to put myself in the shoes of the person and feel. and right now i feel too much. i look at harper and think: she's seven. last christmas, she was right where those kids were ... first grade, no front teeth, sweet little face, thinking only of christmas and all things wonderful and good. and my heart breaks. for those kids ... for their parents and families ... for that school. and i get so mad that it happened at all.

so to focus on snowflake and getting through the month with my christmas spirit intact for my own kids ... that's what is keeping me going. otherwise, i'm not sure i'd be looking forward to the holiday much at all this year. right now, all i want is peace and time with those i love. hopefully, that will be easy enough.

... and then it was december.

i'm really struggling with the idea that 2012 is nearly over. there are, what, 30 days left?


the past month has been a blur ... and it seems like i said that every month this year. our days are too full, our weeks are too full, and our months go too quickly. and yet? there's nothing extraneous. nothing that can be given up to ease the pain. chiro three times a week for me and marc ... turns out, i am profoundly out of whack. who know. and marc has alignment issues that are affecting his knees, and there's always the migraine issue. chiro an additional two times per week with henry: he goes on different days, in the evening, after swimming ... it's the only time that works. one shoulder and one side of his pelvis are higher than the other, so the chiro is helping him with that.

and swimming? henry is now swimming for the high school, practicing every day after school until 5:30. that eases up the late nights that we've had while he swam with the club, but now the minutes immediately following school are crazy. harper gets off the bus and we meet her in the driveway, to jump in the car and speed to the school to drop off her brother.

and harper? she goes to learning rx three nights a week for an hour ... but it's likely that will go to four nights a week for 75 minutes. she has no short-term memory, no ability to focus, her reading/tracking skills are terrible, and she is incapable of multi-tasking. we're trying to work through these things to find the solutions before school becomes an even bigger stress and harder problem to solve, but it's three - soon to be five - hours a week that we're gone from 5:45 to 6:45 (soon to be 5:45 to 7. do the math: henry's done swimming at 5:30, harper goes to rx at 5:45 ... we are gone from 3:15 to 7 - soon to be 7:30 p.m. - daily.)

and she has swim lessons every friday at 4 p.m.

there is nowhere to cut anything or ease up an hour or two. henry's homework time? late in the evening, or at rx while harper is in her training. dinner? seriously? family dinner doesn't exist. and when marc is gone (like he's about to do for the next two weeks, and like he did the week before thanksgiving, naturally) there are no other options for the kids. we are all in, all the time.

it's exhausting. and i don't know how moms with more than two kids manage.

speaking of thanksgiving, we had a lovely one.

i learned my lesson from years past: let people do things.

i want to everyone to feel at home and comfortable when they are here, but truth is ... then the holiday is stressful and expensive, and i'm always alone in getting ready (see aforementioned "naturally" comment in regards to marc's travel schedule around the holidays.), which leaves me tired and crabby and unable to enjoy it myself.

so this year i instituted "potluck thanksgiving": i did the turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, and rolls, and marc's mom brought the traditional (and always yummy) corn casserole, assorted breakfast breads, pies, and this year made fresh green beans; and marc's sister made amazing stuffed acorn squash; and our sister-in-law brought a relish tray and snacks. it all worked out, and the crazy was alleviated. and instead of crawling into bed for a four-hour nap, like other years, this year i was able to enjoy the holiday with everyone else ...

we played games, sat around and talked, went to see "wreck-it ralph," and played more games. harper and kayla had a great time together, and all was well.

(by the way: the last time i took a photo like this was in 2006 ...

some things have changed.)

speaking of harper and learning rx ... we had made a deal with her when she began - grudgingly - to train: if she put in the effort and the work, she would get an american girl doll when training was completed. the timeline at the beginning was 12 weeks ... which would have been right around thanksgiving. well, due to us being gone, and the center being closed for various things, and harper's trainer being periodically unavailable, as well as harper's skills not improving on target, the timeline has been pushed out. however, she was heartbroken at the idea of not getting her doll before kayla (and her doll) arrived for the holiday. so harp and i made a deal: if she was good about training and regular school's homework up until thanksgiving, she would get her doll by thanksgiving. but if her attitude deteriorated again, the doll would be the first thing to go until she's done. so in the week leading up to thanksgiving, she asked me daily, "when are we going to get my doll?"

she didn't know i already had it.

and on wednesday, when she got back from running an errand with marc in the morning, she found this sitting on her bed:

a happier girl couldn't be found. now we just cross our fingers that Julie Magic works for the next, oh, eight to twelve weeks.

when it's 2013.

good grief.