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.

IMG_1391

remember when he looked like this?

Rsz-hfirstday

(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.

IMG_1392

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:

Harpwantsout

(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.

Bdaycrown

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.

Silly

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.

Emma

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

Tree

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.


delicious tweaking

our garden is the gift that keeps on giving ... summer squash. it keeps giving summer squash. incessantly. which is good, we like summer squash. but ... there are only so many times you can eat it as a side dish.

so yesterday marc suggested making soup, and i got on the pinterest to find a recipe. i found this one and it sounded like a winner. a quick trip to the grocery later, and i was ready to go.

we cooked all the veggies, pureed them into golden soupiness, and ... it was okay. a little on the blah side, though. henry didn't even eat one bowl, and he's mr soup.

as we were cleaning up the kitchen and talking about the soup, i said, "so tomorrow, let's tweak it a bit." we had onions, a poblano pepper, leftover grilled chicken ... we figured we could make that pureed yellow stuff chunky and delicious.

oh, did we ever.

Photo

new recipe, if you feel so inclined to use up a plethora of summer squash, too:

tweaked summer squash & corn soup

(we doubled the initial recipe. however, after eating round one yesterday, there was probably only the original yield remaining. so those are the measurements i'll give you)

1 pound yellow summer squash
2 ears corn
3 large shallots
2 large garlic cloves
1 fresh jalapeƱo chile
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

directions:

slice the summer squash. shuck the corn and cut the kernels from cobs. once you've removed the kernels, break the cobs in half and set aside. chop the shallots, garlic, and jalapeno. (remove the seeds from the jalapeno if you want less heat.)

in a 5-quart heavy pot, combine all ingredients (including cobs) and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 3-5 mins. stir in 2.5 cups water and simmer mixture until squash is very tender, about 15 minutes. discard cobs. in a blender, puree mixture in batches until smooth (fill the blender only halfway, removed the center plug from the cap, and cover the hole loosely with a kitchen towl. start on low, then move up to puree.), transferring each batch to another bowl. season soup with salt and pepper.

you can stop here, or you can add the tweaks:

tweaks

4-6 chicken tenders, grilled (we seasoned them with trader joe's south african smoke seasoning)

1 white onion

1 poblano pepper

1 zucchini

1 ear corn

1/4 tsp cumin

1/4 tsp smoked spanish paprika


dice the onion and poblano. (again, remove the seeds for less heat.) shuck the corn and cut off the kernals. chop the zucchini and chicken.
 
sautee the onion, poblano, and corn in a skillet under tender. add the zucchini and sautee three minutes longer. add the chicken, then add the pureed soup. add the cumin and paprika. let simmer for 20 mins.
 
spoon into a bowl, top with some shredded monterey jack cheese, some avocado chunks, and a spoonful of salsa (we used homemade ... because our garden is also giving us an overabundance of tomatoes.)
 
this soup? this is goooood.

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) ...

1. IMG_0559
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.

IMG_7473

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

IMG_0509

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.

IMG_7442

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.

IMG_7682

4. our garden is doing amazeballs.

IMG_7574

5. this happened:

IMG_7558

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.

IMG_7308

IMG_7361

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.

IMG_7456

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.

IMG_7536

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

IMG_0626

IMG_0729

IMG_0740

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:

IMG 7522 from michele skinner on Vimeo.

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):

IMG 7544 from michele skinner on Vimeo.

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

IMG_0831

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

IMG_9398edit

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:

Ndt2

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 ...


ahh, spring!

it is finally here! actually, it was here for about a week, then it went away, then it came back, then all of a sudden it was 90 and muggy, then we got a month's worth of rain in 24 hours, and now it's back to lovely.

go, minnesota.

but while it was beautiful (and slightly-on-the-edge-of-too-warm for spring), it was memorial day weekend, and marc's parents were up for a visit, and we took them to the minnesota landscape arboretum for the day. it's one of my favorite places, especially when the air is just right and the plants are at their best - spring when everything is green and in bloom, late summer when the roses are showing off, fall when the colors are amazing.

we hit the crab apple bloom season dead-on. they were perfect. the whole visit was, in fact, lovely.

IMG_0069

IMG_0063

IMG_0074

IMG_0079

IMG_0108

IMG_0085

IMG_0086

IMG_0099

IMG_0107

IMG_0106

IMG_0109

IMG_0115

IMG_0122

IMG_0150

the white crab apple above? was huge. and while we were standing there, a photographer came by with a bride and groom, they stood in front of a sparse little maroon crabapple 15' away from this beauty for some pix, then walked away. i had to physically restrain myself from yelling, "oy! over here! this is the tree you want to put them in front of for pix!!" duh.

oh well.

i'm so glad we went, since all the petals were gone within a few days. we couldn't have timed it better.

and now, a week later, it's summer. the kids are out of school, and we're working on our own gardens and summer to do list.

Untitled-1

somehow spring never lasts long enough.


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.

IMG_0035

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.

IMG_0178


i forgot to put flowers in my hair.

there were lots of flowers, i just didn't accessorize with them.

but we DID go to san francisco.

IMG_9850

(i tell you ... i didn't travel much growing up. rode on a plane, like, twice. then we got married and STILL didn't travel much. more, but not much. then, in the past five or six years? crazy travel opportunities. so grateful for that.)

marc's company summit was in san fran last week, so he knew he would be gone for five days. about two months ago he said, "are your parents planning to come for easter? if they do, think you'd want to meet me in san francisco while they stay with the kids?"

um, yes.

so that's what i did. he left monday morning, my parents arrived thursday evening, and i flew out friday morning for the weekend. it was a whirlwind, so we packed in as much fun as possible.

when i got there on friday, i met marc at the hotel (the ritz carlton ... thanks, red hat!) and we walked to a little cafe for lunch. from there, we walked downhill to union square to grab a cable car for a ride back UP the hill. at that point, we took a cab to the wharf to walk around, and somehow found ourselves buying tickets to take a rocket boat ride. it had the potential to be really cheese or really awesome.

it was really awesome.

IMG_6668

(photo was pre-awesomeness.)

the boat company calls it a "bay tour," but that's a lie. what it is is a boat with 4,000 horsepower, let loose to essentially do donuts in the parking lot that is the bay. 30 minutes of donuts. and wake jumping, and hockey stops. then a really fast run back to the dock.

and this is all done to a loud soundtrack of bon jovi, ac/dc, metallica, pearl jam, the chili peppers.

again, awesome. we loved it.

once back at the wharf, wandering recommenced. we walked out to the pier where all of the sea lions gather ...

IMG_6672

then popped into a few shops, including this one ...

IMG_6673

which i knew would make my kids very jealous. so of course i texted a photo of it to henry. because i'm mean. he responded immediately:

  Biscoff

sadly (for them), we walked away empty handed.

it was then dinnertime, so we headed to a lovely-sounding restaurant, butterfly, and had some of the yummiest apps ever. eh.ver. specifically, the smoked salmon strawberry salad rolls and the trio of spoons sampler, with bites of tuna poke with wasabi, heirloom cherry tomatoes with ricotta, and bacon dates.

we sat at a community table and made friends with a gentlemen visiting from seattle. we became buds.

then it was time to head back to the hotel. where we forced ourselves to get dessert.

IMG_6683

saturday morning, we packed up and headed out to the marriott at the wharf (because the weekend was on our dime), then walked down to the water to wait for my friend ann and her husband to meet us for lunch.

we were early, and killed time by watching the fishing boats clean their catch and throw bits overboard to a waiting sea lion.

IMG_6693

IMG_6703

IMG_6706

we met ann and craig at scoma's for really yummy seafood, and hung out for two hours ... just chatting and having a great time. after lunch, we wandered a few blocks to the boudin bakery to smell the bread. at that point, ann and craig had to head home, so marc and i wandered through the boudin museum and learned the history behind their bakery. (fascinating, actually.)

IMG_6707

from there, we just kept wandering. having zero agenda or schedule, and no kids whose whims we needed to keep in mind, was really a lovely thing. we walked to ghiradelli, got cupcakes at kara's cupcakes, then walked down to aquatic park to watch the fog roll in and chat with a hippie who was out for a swim.

IMG_6712

IMG_6713

after a few hours of wandering, we took a cab to a sushi place marc's co-worker recommended, ozumo. again: yum. especially, the dohyo, which was a tower of spicy tuna tartare, avocado, cucumber, edamame and tobiko on a puddle of ponzu and wasabi oil, with wonton crisps; japanese chips & dip, if you will. we ended up needing two of those.

the restaurant was right across from the bay bridge, so we took a little walk along the water before grabbing a cab back to the room for the night.

IMG_6724

sunday was our "tourist" day. we had tickets for the big bus tour, which we also did in dc, and planned to ride it around the city, and disembark in a few places if they caught our fancy. we started out riding around the wharf, then into the city, through various neighborhoods, out to the golden gate bridge, and back again.

the bus picked us up across the street from the gates to chinatown ...

IMG_9586

IMG_9592

IMG_9593
IMG_9623

IMG_9637

IMG_9641

IMG_9645

IMG_9648

points of interest: 1) look up. the network of cables for all of the busses is really interesting and impressive.

IMG_9596

2) next time, i want to go up coit tower. i've seen three slightly different versions of its history ... regardless of which is accurate, it's a neat tower!

IMG_9604

3) san fran has really weird trees. these are all over, and they are so, so strange.

IMG_9606

the only stop that was a *must* for me was alamo square, so i could see the famous "painted ladies." i was feeling pretty optimistic when we got off the bus and were greeted by a block-long, wall-high mosaic, which included a swimmer ...

IMG_9650

however, the "painted ladies"? i thought there would be more to it. like ... a block or two of fabulous victorians surrounding this lovely park. it was a lovely park, but there were only, like, five houses that i would consider "fame-worthy." and even then ... meh. if we'd had more time (and i didn't have a blister on my foot), maybe more were out there to discover. still, the ones we saw were quite charming.

IMG_9658

IMG_9659

IMG_9656

IMG_9667

IMG_9665

we hopped back on the bus and it headed to the golden gate bridge.

IMG_9679

beautiful.

then back to the city, where we got off the bus and grabbed a cab to the alcatraz ferry pier for our ride to the rock.

IMG_9742

IMG_9744

IMG_9756

lovely on the outside ... creepy and sad on the inside.

IMG_9759

IMG_9765

IMG_9773

i can't imagine being imprisoned out there, with glimpses of life going on a mere mile and a half away.

IMG_9780

IMG_9782

IMG_9787

IMG_9791

IMG_9799

IMG_9805

IMG_9807

IMG_9809

after alcatraz, we had yet another incredible meal - amber india ... the butter chicken was the best butter chicken i've ever had ever - then called it a night.

during all of our running around over two and a half days, we were taken right by lombard street a total of three times. and we couldn't see it three times. so monday morning, i google mapped to see where the world's curviest road was ... it was four blocks from our hotel. so that became the pre-flight home plan. we walked three blocks to a coffee shop, then another two blocks - straight up - to get to lombard.

i'm not kidding about "straight up": if marc had stood up straight, he would have tumbled backward down the sidewalk.

IMG_9828

so we took our time climbing. we "enjoyed the view." (ie went really slowly because we're woefully out of shape.)

IMG_9835

eventually, we got to the top.

IMG_9837

IMG_9844

and then that was that. we flew home.

quick, but amazing.

big thanks to my parents for being with the kiddos so we could get this time away. it was appreciated and enjoyed on every level.


click

you know that moment, regardless of what activity it is you are doing, when it just clicks? when you finally go, "hey! this is what i'm supposed to do! this is the effort i'm supposed to give! this is how it's supposed to be!" and suddenly you just get it? and you're on?

that happened to henry at last night's swim meet.

IMG_5983 2

he's been putting in some good work-outs and good efforts lately. his times were slowly dropping during club season, and since high school season started just before christmas, he's held pretty steady, but has had some moderate drops in his favorite events: the 50 free and the 100 free. he's been fast enough to warrant practicing with the varsity team and getting placed in some varsity events at meets. so that's all been good.

on monday, we found out that this coming saturday, henry will be swimming four events - two relays, two individual events - at the high school true team sectional. this meet is for only the top four swimmers in each event from each school. when henry told me that he would be swimming in this meet, i explained to him what an honor that is, and what faith his coach must have in him. that he, as a 13-year-old, is one of the top four times in the 100 free and 100 back, and is needed on two relays. henry just grinned and said, "really? wow. i didn't know that. i just knew i am the only middle schooler on the team swimming at the meet."

he got it. and it boosted his faith in himself.

and last night, that faith literally propelled him.

his first event was the 200 medley relay. he was lead-off man ... the backstroke leg. and he ended up cutting nearly a second off his best time.

his second event was the 50 free. he's been swimming it right around the low- to mid-:26 seconds mark. last night, though: 25.34. half a second faster. the sad twist to this event, though, is that henry was in the wrong lane and ended up being DQed. it was event #8, he had "eight" in the head, and went to lane 8 for his heat. no one was supposed to be in the lane for that heat, the lane timer didn't say anything, and the timer in lane two - where henry was *supposed* to be - never spoke up that he didn't have his swimmer. so all that effort for nothing. didn't matter ... he was embarrassed, but grinning from ear to ear that he broke :26.

then he swam the 100 backstroke ... and cruised in at 1:08. he's been unable to break the 1:11 mark for several weeks, and his backstroke seemed to have stalled in the improvement department. didn't matter. whatever was going on in his head last night made all the difference, and he dropped the seconds.

so he was on a high from the 50, a high from the backstroke, and then came the final event of the night: the 400 free relay. he was swimming in lane two, and i was timing in lane one. i gave him a high-five, and told him to go for a :57. he's gone from just under one minute to just over :58 seconds in the past two months, but as fast as his 50 time is, i knew he could get a lower time. and he needed the push. he grinned at me and said, ":57, huh? why not :56? or :55?" and then his teammates started in, telling him that yeah, he should go faster than a :57.

he was the third in line to race for his team. and he not only kept his team in the running, he actually caught up to and passed another team.

IMG 5990 2 from michele skinner on Vimeo.

and when he hit the wall after his final length, i did the math: :56.24.

he did it. the little twerp leapfrogged completely over :57 and landed in the low :56.

and i could just see him trying so hard to not burst out laughing ... or crying. he was so stinkin' proud of himself.

and the best part?

after each meet, each of the three captains selects a swimmer whom they consider the "studmuffin of the meet" - someone who really excelled beyond themselves, or dropped a lot of time - and that swimmer is given a muffin. in two years on the high school team, henry hasn't yet ever been given a studmuffin award, and he wanted one desperately. last night, he came out of the locker room, carrying a muffin and smiling a giant smile.

icing on top.

it was his night - the night the whole swimming/competing thing clicked for him. and who knows where he'll go from here. but by golly, he's positioning himself for a pretty impressive run over the next four years. and i can't wait to see it.


christmas

look at me ... two posts in two days! way to finish off '13, amiright?

i've gotten so removed from keeping track of the little things on here, and that seriously hinders my ability to have these stories on hand when i want to do something with them. (on that note: 2014 will be the year that i *finally* make that crafty room usable and get back to making some art. promise.) i need to be better about that. so without further ado, christmas:

first of all, it has to be said that i like the Getting Ready For Christmas part about as much as the actual holiday. i am always giddy when all the red and white and glitter and pine and glass balls make an appearance. nothing makes me happier. it makes every day a cheerful anticipation of what is about to take place. and christmas music is a constant - all day, every day, much to marc's delight (sarcasm). however, twinkle lights and shiny brites and the scent of the tree are as synonymous with holiday spirit as the sound of frank and bing and nat. in my opinion.

regardless of the work and time involved, coming downstairs in the morning to see the tree on and the icicles glittering fills me with warmth and happiness. it just does.

IMG_6738
IMG_6739
(for the record, steaming the curtains was on my to do list. it really was. just didn't happen.)

IMG_6740

(there's your glimpse at the gallery wall. i'll tell you more about that in january. maybe.)

IMG_6741

(blue ball jars. always.)

  IMG_6744

IMG_6746

IMG_6756

the best anticipation for this christmas, though, was that my family was coming up to spend it with us.

we made the hard decision this year that christmas break is just too difficult a time to travel. the kids don't have enough days off school to do everything we want to do (see both families, have a bit of a downtime break to recharge ourselves after the constant insanity of life), the weather can be dicey and unpredictable, and now that henry swims high school, he needs to be around for mandatory practices. and his coach schedules a travel meet the day after christmas each year (this year being the exception; he and his wife were gone for a wedding); since henry already swims varsity, i can't imagine that there will be a lot of understanding on the coach's part for the next four years when henry tells him he can't participate for two weeks right in the middle of the season. so, visiting family will now become a summer thing for the foreseeable future. and when my parents and sister said they would come up for the week of christmas? yeehaw!!

during the weeks after thanksgiving, becca and my mom and i talked and texted constantly about how much we were looking forward to being together, hanging out, relaxing, enjoying each other. luckily, their trip here was problem-free, and the next day, minnesota provided brand new snow, for our white christmas.

all the kids got suited up and headed out to the backyard with sleds.

all except nora. poor nora. she got as far as the boots, and was denied further access to the snow.

IMG_6763

but the big kids had fun.

IMG_6798

IMG_6806

IMG_6808

IMG_6815

until a couple of runs in, when harper decided to be pissy that henry was being nicer and more patient to wyatt than he was with her (partially true; partially justified), and she decided to throw a fit.

IMG_6850

the boys tried to reason with her, but ... has anything i've written about harper in the last nearly nine years led you to the conclusion that she can be reasoned with?

IMG_6861

no. so, they kept having fun, and she eventually gave up and did her own thing.

IMG_6783

speaking of doing her own thing, nora wasn't too bothered that she was missing the snow.

IMG_6838

so, that was sunday. monday came, and we took henry to morning practice, then headed to our little downtown bakery to have a donut before heading back to the pool to watch him swim. turns out, the pool doors were locked behind the kids and we couldn't get in. so we missed morning practice. which in turn changed all of our plans for the day so that we could go watch his afternoon practice instead. it wasn't ... bad ... but it wasn't good, either. it was "unfortunate" ... let's say that. however, we had fun at the afternoon practice. instead of just a workout, the practice was a "fun meet" of silly races. unbeknownst to henry, we all made "go henry!!" signs, and every time it was his turn to swim, we held up those signs and cheered our hearts out. (it needs to be said that we were the only people in the bleachers. and the only people at the pool not swimming. we stood out a bit.) luckily, henry is a self-confident kid who borders on Mr Popular, so he took it in good stride, and none of his teammates gave him trouble.

and that was sunday.

monday was a blur of last-minute target runs, cooking, game-playing, etc., and christmas eve was more of the same. my mom, becca, and i ran to the grocery in the afternoon, only to discover that half the things on our list were gone. lots of on-the-fly change of plans. two hours later, we exited the store into a big, beautiful snowfall. we detoured on the way home to enjoy the lights and the time to just be quiet and together. once home, it was all about the christmas eve traditions: notes to santa, cookies and carrots left out, hanging stockings, reading "'twas the night before christmas."

IMG_7050

amazingly enough, the kids all went to bed without issue, and slept without complaint.

until 7 a.m.

and then ...

IMG_7093

IMG_7105

IMG_7098

IMG_7157

IMG_7111

IMG_7151

IMG_7170

and everyone was happy.

and for all the things that didn't go according to plan, we were still together. and it was still the most wonderful time of the year.

IMG_8576


snowflake, 2013: the end

christmas has come and gone again. just like that. all the build up and anticipation, and then ... done.

i know people who get seasonal affective disorder, and i think i get post-christmas affective disorder. i've had the blahs since the 26th and cannot shake them.

oh well. january is almost here, the kids will soon be back at school, and life will resume normalcy.

however: let's finish up snowflake, shall we?

where did i leave off ... the 17th?

on the 17th, snowflake and gray kitty were perched in the bathroom window, enjoying the warm sunshine and the view.

Day17

on the 18th, she brought harper a special elf cookie straight from the north pole. which was perfect timing, because harper had an all-day field trip that day, and came home from school famished. that cookie was housed fairly efficiently within 10 minutes of her walking in the door.

Day18

on the 19th, snowflake and gray kitty were traversing the ropes course, strung up between the stairway lights.

Day19

on the 20th, snowflake had used elfin magic to build a train track, and she and gray kitty were going for a spin.

Day20

on the 21st, we found snowflake and gray kitty strung up in slinkies. we never did figure out if they were there on purpose, doing some cirque du soleil sunt, or if something had gone terribly wrong.

Day21

on the 22nd, snowflake tucked herself and gray kitty into the santa hat on top of the tree. yes, there was a santa hat on top of the tree. the star didn't fit.

Day22

on the 23rd, snowflake got a little "project runway"-ish and created a fashion forward look out of wrapping paper. she totally made it work.

Day23

and ... that's it. i failed to take a picture on the 24th. however, she was just sitting in harper's room, next to a gift that santa had told her she could bring to harper. the gift? harper's christmas eve jammies.

 really sweet, happy jammies with sunshine and rainbows.

IMG_7014

and on the 25th, snowflake was gone. but under the tree, harper found a special gift just for her. from snowflake.

IMG_7116

we'll see you again in 336 days, snowflake.