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June 2012
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August 2012

now that's something you don't see every day

yesterday evening we were wiped out. exhausted. the weekend had been exhausting, the past two weeks had been exhausting, and we were just done. (i'll let you in on what was so exhausting in the next day or so. it's pretty exciting stuff, actually.) so we made snack dinner (crackers, cheese, apple slices, etc.), watched some recorded olympics, and vegged until about 8 o'clock. at that time, i told harper she needed to pick bath or shower, and she chose shower in the basement bathroom. so i got her going, the boys headed upstairs to get cleaned up, and i wandered out to the sliding doors in the basement to look out over the yard. and that's when i saw the hot air balloon.

now, we see hot air balloons quite often, actually. they are always off in the distance, aross the lake, small balloons miles away. we watch them float and think about how fun it would be. this balloon last night was not like that. it was big. it was close. like, ON the lake. the lake that is just down the hill from our house.

so i went into the bathroom and told harper to chop chop, that she needed to hurry so she could see something cool. then i ran upstairs to get my camera and yell at the guys to tell them what i saw. they yelled back, "we're in henry's room and we can see both of them!"


from my angle in the basement i could see only one balloon. however, when i got upstairs i saw that there were, indeed, two.


realizing just how cool this was, i ran to the basement, pulled harp out of the shower, wrapped a towel around her and said, "hold on to the towel ... we're going outside!" and out we went ... into the backyard to watch, in amazement, as these balloons hovered ever closer to us.

and as we stood there, the blue one appeared to come straight for our neighborhood. it approached the house down the street from us and seemed to lower.

then it lifted and came straight for our house. i could hear marc and henry talking and yelled to see if they were still in henry's room. they said they were, and they couldn't believe how close the balloon was getting.

it drifted, literally, right over harper's and my head. we waved and yelled hello. they waved and yelled hello back to us. i took a photo of them ... they took a photo of us.

and then that balloon drifted right. over. our. house. marc said he was eye-to-eye with the people in the basket, then they lifted over the roof, maybe ten feet above henry's room.

just when we thought it couldn't get more amazing ... that balloon landed across the street. in the park.

so harper and i ran inside, she bolted up to her room to put clothes on (remember ... she was still wrapped in a bath towel at this point.), and we ran out the front door ... marc already in pajama pants. (which, if you know marc, you know that Never Would Happen under normal circumstances). as we crossed to the park, we looked back to see where the other balloon had gone. it had made it as far as the back part of our neighborhood.

the entire neighborhood descended upon the park. kids were running everywhere, all the adults were mingling, telling their "when i noticed the balloon" stories and sharing photos they'd taken, all while we watched the balloon deflate and the crew and passengers disembark.

marc had wandered over to talk to the pilot, and discovered he'd been piloting balloons for years, and has set 20 world records over his career. so naturally, marc got a brochure.

when all the excitement was over, everyone started to head back home. there was one last look at where the other balloon had landed, and then it was over.

but all of our weariness had disappeared. we'd been amazed, delighted, astounded, inspired.

what a great way to end the weekend.

that's my boy

we are approaching the end of henry's first year as an official Swimmer.

his level of interest and his level of ability and improvement have both gone up sharply in the last 11 months. it's now fun and exciting to see him race and get into it and make friends on the team.

where he had only "potential" last september, he now has documented ability. he's built to swim - long and lean, with huge hands, a massive (for being 12) wing span and flipper-like feet.


at his meet on wednesday, he was in four races - final heat of all but one - and he won all four races. he's gained confidence in his ability and in himself, and that has made all the difference. instead of standing behind the block fidgeting, he now gives himself props when they call his name.

and confidence in himself seems to be all it has taken to push himself more and take swimming more seriously. i get that. i was the same way. it took me a year or two on the team to really "get" what i was supposed to do, and to make enough friends to feel like a valued part of the team, like i belonged there. henry's circle of friends hasn't ever extended outside of school, so this "being a part of a team" thing is a new and important piece of the life pie.

(sidenote: seriously, how good looking in my kid?! that makes me a little nervous ...)

(oy vey.)

he still needs some tweaks, but heck: he's 12. it's his first year. he'll tweak. and if he stays excited about it and interested, there will be swim camps in his future. and he'll have a blast. and he'll make even more friends. and who knows how well he can do in the long run. that's up to him. but i hope that swimming will do for him what it did for me - the self-confidence and self-assurance to carry him through many other aspects of growing up, and a good solid work ethic. and the ability to eat five large meals a day and still have a perfect body.

i need to get back in the pool.

staycation '12

(granted, every "vacation" is a staycation.)

last week was the july 4th holiday, obviously, and marc's parents and sister and her daughter, kayla, came up to be with us. marc took the week off, everyone arrived on monday, and we had as much fun as a group of people can who are stuck in a week-long gauntlet of 217° days. we were troopers, i tell you.

marc and his family lived in ecuador for decades - they were missionaries there - and lived in a large city near the coast where it was always hot and humid, so their adaptability to the weather hell that befell minnesota (and the rest of the country) last week was more highly evolved than mine. so much so that on the first day they all headed over to the park to play basketball. (trust me: i never, ever would have chosen to do that.)

however, being out there, watching everyone shoot the ball and run around, took me back to the christmas break in college when i got to go to ecuador with marc for three weeks and see this place where he was from. the week we spent at his parents' home in guayaquil was hot and sticky, and yet every day the boys were outside playing basketball. i thought they were all nuts.

but i was in love and obsessed with watching marc play. he was amazing to watch. and my white man could dunk, which was super impressive, even to a girl who swore she would never be "into" a jock. funny where life takes us.

anyway, back to last week.

everyone gave being outside the old college try for a good hour. during that time, we discovered that our 12-year-old's hands are now a wee bit bigger than his dad's, and he can actually palm a basketball. at 12. a feat marc was only ever barely able to do.

sadly, henry's coordination on the basketball court is still lacking. we'll have to keep working on that to see if he can learn the skills that his dad has. then again, he may be like me and only find his grace and athleticism when he's in the water. on dry land with a ball? uh ... no.

however, it turns out that our youngest just may be the basketball player in the family. she has a natural form that i only noticed when i saw this picture.

huh. who knew?

guess marc needs to spend some more time on the court with the kiddos.

after nearly an hour of "having fun" at the park, the kids headed back to the house to get the hose out. harp and kayla spent the next 20 minutes soaking themselves and each other, while marc and henry and grandpa hopped on bikes for a spin around the 'hood.

the next day was the 4th, and we spent the first part of it at mall of america. kayla really wanted to see the american girl store, so we had reservations at the bistro for lunch. harper has never been into american girl before, but this time she actually found herself enjoying the borrowed doll, especially since they had one that sort of looked like her, and looking at all of the money-sucking merchandise.

she and kayla even held their girls' eyes closed when we prayed for lunch. that took a level of "into it" that harper's never had with dolls.


the american girl stuff might have been more interesting, except kayla had noticed the amusement park on the other side of the windows, and getting out there became her sole focus.

(just for the record, kayla is nine days younger than harper. nine. days. my daughter is an amazon.)

we took the girls out, bought them wristbands, kayla immediately ran toward the roller coaster, a ride harper has been on dozens of times, and ... harper freaked. didn't want to ride it. didn't want to ride anything. decided to be in a pissy mood. with a brand-new $30 wristband on her arm.

yeah. it was awesome.

so we let kayla ride the roller coaster a few times, during which i finally got harper calmed down and back to reality, where she decided that maybe riding the carousel would be okay.

so they rode that, and then the swings, and a few other of the smaller rides. then kayla really wanted to go back on the big rides. harper agreed to do the log chute ride with her because she saw it splashing down into the water at the bottom of the hill and thought that might be nice.

well ...

sorry if i just made you pee yourself.

she ran to me after the ride, buried her face in my shirt, and told me that she "never ever wants to do that again."

kayla went on a few more rides, we met the guys, who had gone to a movie instead, and laura and i did a little shopping while they got to negotiate the park for awhile.

then it was time for fireworks.

because it was 340° outside, we decided to just stay at our house for fireworks. the way our house is situated - near several smaller towns, up the hill from a lake, and just south of a casino - we knew we would be able to see fireworks, just maybe not as "up close and personal" as we would have had we packed bags and camp chairs and snacks, drove to a park, walked to find a spot, sat there for two hours waiting for dusk, smacked countless mosquitos off of ourselves, watched 30 minutes of fireworks, packed back up, walked back to the car, sat in the exit traffic, and got home by midnight.

besides, marc had bought sparklers and smoke bombs, so we were good to go.

now, what you don't see in these pix - because i sat down my camera at about 10:15 and didn't pick it back up, even though now i'm kicking myself - is that we were, in fact, able to see fireworks from the house. lots of them. everywhere. for nearly two hours.

it started with smaller ones shot off in the neighborhood and on the lake. then it grew to larger ones. we counted more than a dozen individual sites across the lake, and half a dozen or more out the front door.

and then the main ones started. the ones by the casino. they were huge and constant and wonderful. and right outside our front door. what i now wish i'd done is walk around the house while everyone had a window at the front of the house staked out. some of us were in the loft, some in harper's room, watching this amazing fireworks show taking place right at the end of our neighborhood. we were in the perfect spot ... and it was air conditioned. with no bugs. and afterward, instead of fighting traffic, we had brownies and ice cream.

i think we'll never go out to watch fireworks again.

the next day was, again, 487° outside, so laura and the kids and i decided to check out the lake. we walked down (well ... they walked. i drove all the bags and sand toys so the car would be there in case we needed a fast getaway.) ...

and waited for the kids to get acclimated to "lake" swimming. it took awhile. i won't lie: i may have called my kids pansies and told them to get over it.

the girls were more into digging in the sand and finding bugs than swimming,

but soon the heat won out and we all got in and swam for the next two hours. it felt so good that even the kids soon forgot it was a Lake and they started to have fun.

however, they much preferred the safety of the slip and slide in the backyard later.

it was even more fun when marc turned on all the backyard sprinklers. which, of course, henry then sat on so it looked like he was peeing.

why are boys so gross?!

they stopped only once, briefly, to sing happy birthday to their cousin jason, who was turning seven in costa rica.

and then it was back to the slide.

all too soon, the week was over. harper was completely bummed that her cousin had to leave. she had such a good time having a five-day sleepover, regardless of the power struggles and clashes over henry's attention.

but they'll be together again for thanksgiving. so we have that to look forward to, as we wait out the long, hot summer days.

oh, and in other news? the friday before they arrived, on the last business day in june, guess what we finally got to do?

that's right: the old house is SOLD. no longer our responsibility. no longer a financial albatross around our neck. huge sigh of relief. now we get to spend the next eight months paying off the debt we had to incur to hand over the keys to someone else. however? worth it. we're done. and NOW we can enjoy our summer, because it's officially in full swing.