snowflake, days 6 - 11

oh, i am soooo on top of this.

day 6: like all good elves, snowflake loves her some sugar. and hid up to her neck in a big bowl of halloween candy. (yes, we still have halloween candy. technically, we still have some from last year, too. i should really just throw it out.)


day 7: snowflake and gray kitty opted to give harper a little geography lesson, by pointing out where on the globe snowflake calls "home."


day 8: saturday ... snowflake gets trickier on the weekends. she was in the basement, hiding amongst all of the christmas music boxes and snow globes in the hutch.


day 9: i finally managed to get some christmas up around the house. we decorated the tree at the last second possible on sunday night. but late saturday i put up the stockings, and harper got to see snowflake and gray kitty hanging around in hers when she woke up.


day 10: harper has been asking for weeks for this branch reindeer at the grocery store. i always told her no. well, guess who showed up, riding the reindeer, monday morning?


day 11: harper could not find snowflake this morning. at all. couldn't find her after school, either. i made her look and look. silly elf was in harp's room the whole time, snuggled up for a nap with saige, and gray kitty was chillin' in the basket with nutmeg. sometimes the most obvious place is the hardest to find.



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.

we didn't kill each other

so, you know how harper pushes my buttons, like, all the dang time? well, last week the boys went fishing with my dad and uncle. near canada. for seven days. no cell service so i couldn't even call and let marc talk me down when harper started in on her button-pushing.

and yet ... we survived.

in fact, we actually had a really good time with each other.

other than the first day, when she was so lost without henry that she didn't quite know what to do with herself, she was happy and busy the whole week: swim lessons twice, piano lesson once, an art camp each afternoon, a sleepover, a play date. and in between, we had fun together, too ... painting at the ceramics place, swimming at the gym, antiquing, a jammies-and-movie afternoon, and so on.

and then the boys came home.

and they were all scruffy and delicious.

and henry immediately jumped on the computer because he was going through serious withdrawal after a whole week of nothing but this:

(excuse me for a second while i totally melt over his little elfy ears getting smooshed down by his hat. he is so four-years-old again in that hat.)

and as soon as he was plugged in, harper immediately got back into whiney, impatient, crabby mode, and normalcy returned.

who would have guessed that she is actually more pleasant and sweet and happy when the boys aren't around? huh.

turns out that the week i was dreading was actually one of the best of the summer. go figure.

a tale of two cities

it was the best of times, it was, well, times have been pretty good. so good, in fact, that the summer is flying by. instead of ignoring the ol' blog because i have nothing to say, i haven't blogged because there's been too much. june was chaos and we were gone for half of it. and this is that story.

back when marc was only on week eight of being gone, his company, red hat, was holding its summit in boston the week of father's day. we decided that since the school year was done and the kids and i had been left alone way too much (and it was likely to continue. which turned out to be true. a month later.), we would fly out to boston on friday to join marc for the weekend. boston is one of my favorite places, but the kids had never been, so it seemed time.

i tried to hold off telling them about the trip, but decided to spill the beans the day before. our flight out of minneapolis was at 6:30 a.m., which meant we had to leave the house at 4:30 a.m. ... didn't seem like waking them at 4 a.m. saying, "surprise!" would go over well. they were troopers getting up and ready to go, and after a fiasco at the airport (one security line open. still waiting in line as our plane was boarding. running to our gate after security. no coffee or breakfast for anyone. the "no coffee" thing really sucked. made it onto the plane, only to be delayed 30 minutes because some brilliant person thought the plane was going to alaska, not boston, and put in waaaay more gas than we needed. which then had to be emptied.), we were on our way.

the rest of the trip was uneventful, and we landed without a problem. a quick cab ride downtown, and we walked into the hotel just as marc did. perfect timing. after dropping our bags in the room, we took a cab to little italy to meet marc's aunt and uncle, cousin and cousin's wife and new baby for lunch. after lunch, henry was, unfortunately, feeling pretty nasty so we headed back to the room for some cool, dark, and quiet. (ie everyone fell asleep and napped for, like, three hours.) we ate dinner close to the hotel and called it a night, hoping henry would feel better in the morning.

saturday turned out to be a gorgeous day, and henry was feeling much better, so off we went. first stop: dunkin' donuts. our poor midwestern kids have never tried dunkin' (they don't exist in minnesota). they were totally impressed.

our plan was to head downtown, wander, ride a duck boat, take the kids to the garden, etc.

but first, my boys had to stop and gawk at a lamborghini parked in front of a hotel. while they appreciated the car, i had to wonder what sort of person drives a lamborghini, parks in from of the w hotel, and self-identifies as "gatsby." turns out, according to the doorman, it is a local student.

hmm. no comment.

and then we were off.

we grabbed a cab to the prudential center to board a duck boat. during all of our times in boston, neither marc nor i have ever taken a duck boat tour. and i'm so glad we did it with the kids. we were able to see all of the important/noteworthy/cool/historic areas, hear some amazing history, and were totally entertained by disco danny, our driver, the entire time.

and we bought the kids duck call necklaces. and they quacked a lot. that may have been a bad idea. (though it was actually the fault of danny disco. he told duck call holders to quack when he told them to. and to quack at other duck boats. my kids were just following orders. for the rest of the weekend. they quacked at every duck boat they saw.)

funny (to us) story: while we were on the tour learning all of the amazing historical facts and seeing all of the noteworthy places, we passed a bar called the red hat. i told marc he needs to take his co-workers there next time they're in town.

the tour ended about an hour later. we grabbed lunch at legal seafood ...

(oh, those lobster rollllllsssss ...)

and then started to wander.

our walk led us down boylston into copley square. it was a pretty emotional experience, being there only two months after the bombings. there is a beautiful memorial set up in the square with hundreds of pairs of running shoes with inspirational messages and prayers written on them. i thought it in bad taste to photograph the memorial, but i did get a picture of an adjacent tree that had been yarn bombed with love.

so we hung out in copley for awhile ...

and i saw my favorite thing about cities: old and new architecture sharing the space ...


as luck would have it, we were in town as the boston bruins were playing in the stanley cup finals against the chicago blackhawks, and the statues around town were celebrating:

we then continued our walk down boylston, heading to the park. we passed a chocolate store and got a little pick-me-up ...

the kids looked for and counted all of the "welcome red hat" signs around the area ...

and we paused for a quiet moment at the marathon finish line.

once we got to the park, the kids definitely seemed to relax in the green space. henry hugged a tree ...

we met a nice couple out walking their cute little puppies ...

i tried to take a photo of one of my favorite trees in the park, only to be photobombed by my eldest ...

and we found the "make way for ducklings" statues. harper decided to be an honorary duckling ...

we continued our walk up toward beacon hill and the state house. we talked about some of the historical points that disco danny had pointed out, and spent more timing observing and reading plaques along the way.

henry then observed and read this plaque, giving me a smirk and saying, "there's a general hooker entrance. where do the special hookers enter?" thus proving a) he's totally a 13-year-old boy, and b) he's totally my child.

further we walked ... the kids were both amazing and kept up and stayed interested the entire time. it was getting to be late afternoon by this point, and we were all hot and tired. henry found a place that looked like it might be right up his alley ...

but decided, "it's too early for dinner. and we're in boston. we need to eat sushi." so, okay then.

we wandered on to the granery burying ground - the third oldest cemetery in boston, and spent some time trying to read the headstones that had been weathered over the past three hundred years.

we turned off of tremont, heading toward faneuil hall, and passed the old state house, with its lion and unicorn statues, and the balcony on which the declaration of independence was read for the first time.

we made it to faneuil and wandered through, but it was a bit chaotic. so we settled into a booth at anthem for some iced tea. and the boys had clam chowder. and harper photobombed me.

seriously ... what is it with my children?!

that little pick-me-up got us through the remainder of our walk. we ended up at the harbor for a quick walk by the water, where harper was obsessed with finding jelly fish (because i told her i'd once seen the harbor full of jelly fish). she did ... a few ... all dead. and i discovered where i think i'd be perfectly happy living for a while ... boston, view of the city, view of the water, a boat. yup. totally doable.

as we waited for a cab back to the hotel, my kids continued quacking at duck boats, and harper kept track of which ones we saw in a little booklet she picked up at the ticket booth. (we scratched off more than half of the list before our weekend was over.)

henry had said he wanted sushi, and he had seen a sushi place at the end of the block by our hotel. we opted to try it ... and let me just say that it was some of the best sushi we've ever had. ever. we will definitely return to genki ya the next time we're in town.

after dinner, we all fell into bed. i have no idea how much we walked that day, but the path looked something like this:


the next morning, i was up by 7:30 ... and at 9:30, my people still looked like this:

so i started bouncing on beds until they woke up.

sunday was all about the aquarium. it was the one thing harper had her heart set on doing while in town.

both of the kids loved it.

and then as we left, harper looked for more jelly fish in the harbor. this time, she saw two that were still alive.

which made her very happy.

we walked from the aquarium to the rose kennedy greenway and hung out by the rings fountain for a bit. it was a nice day - warm, but breezy, and the mist from the fountains felt wonderful. harper got as close as she dared ...

while henry tried to decipher the timing of the fountains, in his rodin-esque way.

harper continued to keep a respectful distance ...

but henry thought he had figured out the system. so he was all in. and feeling very confident. even after we said, "you know, if the fountain gets you, you'll be wet all through lunch and on the plane." but his confidence said, "i know. i'm fine."

well ... guess who was surprised by the fountain's random timing ...

that's right, boy. you'd better run.

(also, notice how he runs. this is why he swims. he gets his running skills from his mother, too.)

once we had a good laugh at henry's expense and expressed our thankfulness that he was still, amazingly, dry, we had one last lunch in boston then headed to the airport.

it was a great weekend ... too short, but wonderful. the kids loved the city as much as we do, and we are talking about when we can go again and spend more time. until then, boston ...

but wait: i said this was a tale of TWO cities, right?

so we got back home on sunday night. monday morning, marc left ... again ... for the week ... again. he got home thursday night, and friday henry had a camp until 3:30 in the afternoon, at which point we picked him up and pointed the car south to indiana. my cousin got married on sunday in indiana, we hung out with family on monday, and on tuesday we drove two hours south to drop the kids off at marc's parents, before driving three hours back north to chicago, where marc was working for the next two days. so i tagged along.

we started our Kid Free two-and-a-half days with a grown-up fancy steak dinner on tuesday night. just us. and a cocktail.

on wednesday, marc left for his meetings, and i left to wander ... and, turns out, buy a rain coat, because it wouldn't stop raining ... to meet a girlfriend i haven't seen since high school. we killed the afternoon at the art institute, looking at the art and sharing memories and catching up. it was so great. then i walked back to the hotel (marc prefers cabs ... i prefer sidewalks) and got ready for dinner. we tried a sushi place that the concierge recommended (it was okay; couldn't compare with the stuff in boston.) ...

wandered up michigan for a little window shopping, then stopped by a theater to see a movie. world war z. because when i have "kid free date night" time with my husband, we see a movie he wants to see. it was okay ... henry tells me i would prefer the book.

that night, we could not get to sleep. we kept hearing sirens and yelling on the street. turns out, the stanley cup was in town, the blackhawks having won it a few nights before, and it was making an appearance at a bar a few blocks north of our hotel. i was convinced the zombie apocalypse was starting and the crowds were yelling in fear. but they weren't.

i should have known. i'd seen the hockey helmets on statues that afternoon. a week earlier, it was jerseys on statues in boston. the symmetry made me smile.

anyway, on thursday i was feeling not so great, so i opted to enjoy the quiet of a hotel room and king sized bed all to myself. i laid in that bed and flipped ... and flipped ... and flipped through terrible daytime hotel tv, and i re-read every magazine i'd brought on the trip. the movie i wanted to see that had been playing the day before at only 1:00 and 4:00 and i thought for sure i could go see on thursday? no longer playing. figures. however, marc was done for the day by mid-afternoon, we got cleaned up, and met his boss' boss for delicious cuban food. then we walked all the way up michigan and back to our hotel again and called it a day.

on friday, we had a few hours before we needed to leave for indy to get the kids. the blackhawks parade and rally were being held in the morning, and we debated what to do and whether it was wise. in the end, we decided to do an architecture boat tour along the chicago river and out into lake michigan. like boston, all the times i've been to chicago (which is innumerably more than the times i've been to boston), i wanted to do a boat tour and never have.

we headed down the stairs to the boat, which was docked by the wrigley building. more old/new architecture juxtaposition for my nerdy little heart. wrigley and trump, two tycoons and their expressions of wealth.

the tour was really amazing. like the duck boat tour, it was full of information and history, and was so worth the time and money.

(old IN new, as opposed to old AND new.)

we were on the boat while the parade was going on, so the sky was full of planes with banners and media helicopters. i think we counted 11.

soon our boat went through the lock and headed out into my beloved lake michigan.


it was a wonderful ride on a perfect day.

as the boat turned to head back to the river, we started hearing yells and tons of bangs coming from the south shore. the rally in hyde park was ending, and fireworks filled the air ... the loud booming kind. you can see the smoke.

our tour wrapped up about 15 minutes later, and we joined the throng of red and black-clad fans walking through the streets. we walked back to our hotel, grabbed a nice mexican lunch around the block, then got in our car to head south. the traffic was, amazingly, not terrible.

we spent the night in indy before heading back home on saturday. we drove right through the town where my dad and stepmom and grandma live, and met them for an impromptu lunch.

in the space of a week, we managed to see all three families, attend a wedding, have some alone time in a fantastic city, and be smack in the middle of a stanley cup celebration.

truly, the best of times.

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!



the kids had spring break this past week and we actually went away!! i'll post pix and stories over the course of the week, but considering half the pictures i took are on my phone, i need to spend some time organizing.

but here's a little teaser and a hint:

it rhymes with "shmerto pico."

give me a day and i'll be back ...

my new favorite thing

several months ago, i was reading a blog that's on my list of "check into every few days to see what's up," and the author wrote an entry about noonday collection. noonday is an amazing idea that takes home parties, jewelry, altruism, artistry, self-reliance, hope and compassion, and stirs it all together. what comes out is something amazing. and i'm now hopelessly hooked.

now, i'm not a jewelry person, but i was so moved by noonday's mission that i couldn't wait to support them. their purpose is to become a way for women (and a handful of men) in impoverished communities around the world to craft something beautiful and become their own industry, providing an income for themselves and thus finding their own way out of poverty, and to provide safety and education and hope for their children. after i finished reading the blog entry about the company and its vision, i immediately looked on noonday's web site to see if there is an ambassador (the person who represents the company and leads the home parties) in the twin cities area. turned out, there was only a single ambassador in all of minnesota (that has since changed; now there are two.), and she lives in my town. go figure. i called it fate, and immediately emailed her about having a party.

we got a time set up, and in october i had a great evening of girlfriends, appetizers, and noonday.

while everyone got excited about the product and the philosophy behind the company, the thing that really got us talking was noonday's support of overseas adoptions. friends at the party had either been through the adoption process themselves or knew someone who had/is. we had the best conversation about it, and it created even more excitement and support among us for noonday.

i've now been to a few other parties in my neighborhood, and there seems to be an unspoken agreement that every couple of months *someone* will host a party and we'll eat more appetizers and buy more jewelry. and give yet another artisan/mother hope.

some things i love:

i couldn't resist this necklace. it is made in ethiopia, from found ammunition casings which are then melted down and made into beads. the artists have found a way to take something that brings fear and destruction and remove its power, take control over its state, and turn it into something beautiful that will bring only good things. and it is nearly weightless ... like all of the pain has been stripped away.

the beads of this necklace are made from a seed found in ecuador, which is where marc is from. so i feel a little affinity toward it.

the paper beads are made in africa and are so colorful and lightweight. the earrings in the top right corner? have them. love them.

i am currently coveting everything on this plate. i mean, come on.

my favorite thing is this scarf, crocheted from alpaca by an artist in peru. sadly, this scarf left me at a swim meet last month. i set it down next to me, and then it was gone. the school doesn't have it in the lost & found. i have a feeling someone else saw it and liked it. which i am choosing to view as the universe's way of telling me to get another and support this artist twice; which is proportional to the amount of love i have for this scarf.

one of the things i love most about noonday is that the ambassadors are not in it to be on the top of a sales pyramid. the company is structured so that the profits go back to the artisans. ambassadors gain nothing from recruitment; they just want more people out there spreading the word about noonday in order to bring more good to the communities and artists that are supported by it. so if you need some extra income and love the home party vein of employment (and, really: this stuff sells itself. my ambassador, andrea, gives the history and mission of noonday and shares some of the artisans' stories at the beginning of the party, and then lets everyone touch and try on the jewelry, and answers questions. no pressure, no guilt.), you may want to consider this. or find an ambassador in your area and have a party. you'll have a great time, find some great pieces, and do a good thing.



snowflake brought the north pole with her

to get up to speed, on friday we found snowflake and gray kitty hanging with the snowman crew:

saturday morning, snowflake was a bit trickier. as in, harper was totally freaked out that snowflake wasn't here. turns out, harper just didn't look in the basement:

i guess snowflake assumed that harper could look harder on a saturday. bad assumption.

so sunday, she was a bit more obvious: she held a braveheart-type meeting with some littlest pet shop warriors:

harp was so excited about that that she colored (half-heartedly, per her norm) a picture for snowflake and folded it up and laid it on the table beside her. snowflake must be more impressed by harper's skill than i am, because she put that picture on the fridge for this morning:


the best thing snowflake did over the weekend, though, was bring some of the north pole back to minnesota with her.

we had been hearing since thursday that snow was coming, and when i went to bed at midnight on saturday, it was indeed coming down. and didn't stop for the next 19 hours.

we woke up to a world of white on sunday.

before lunch, we sent the boy out to shovel ...

(okay, both boys ...)

and harper tried (again, half-heartedly) to make a snowman.

she quickly gave up and went exploring instead.

when the driveway was done, marc went inside to thaw, and henry and harper made snowcones out of snow and sunny d ...

then they stayed out to roll around in the white stuff while we made lunch (mini quiches and cheese & crackers ... perfection), and then we used the snowy day as an excuse to finally decorate the tree.


and a few hours later, we all went back out for round two of shoveling. we got about 11" in all ... more than all of last winter's snowfall combined.

we may get a real winter this year. and that makes us all happy.

so, thanks, snowflake, for bringing our missing holiday spirit back to us. i guess all we needed was snow.

that was pretty awesome

on friday, henry came home from swim practice holding a piece of paper and trying his hardest to not smile his fool head off. he handed me the paper, and lost the fight against the grin.

"i got bumped up to juniors," he said.

only three months in the top intermediate tier, and his coaches moved him on.

he was super proud. as was i.

he was still riding that high on sunday, when he attended a break-out clinic, hosted by his club and led by three olympic swimmers: megan jendrick ('00, '08), matt mclean ('12), and jimmy feigen ('12).


(sidenote: my kid always looks like a giant. put him next to two olympic swimmers who are 6'5" and 6'6" and suddenly henry looks like a kid. however, he's supposed to end up around 6'5" ... which makes my mom heart go apoplectic at the thought of feeding and clothing him for the next handful of years.)

the four-hour clinic started with about an hour of introduction and advice and "what i've learned" from the athletes, during which mclean's gold medal from london made its way around the kids.

i think it looks right at home on henry, yes?

and i totally held that puppy.

it was surprisingly large. and heavy.

the kids were completely into the the moment, and hung on the swimmers' every word.

but then it was time for the fun part: swimming with the olympians.

how many kids get to say they've done that?

for the next two hours, megan, matt, and jimmy broke down the strokes with some training drills, and the kids swam alongside them.

and then it was time for the races.

each kid got a chance to race the swimmers. henry (lane one) chose to swim in a backstroke heat - 25 yards against jimmy feigen (lane four).


jimmy gave the kids a five-second head start, and he didn't go his hardest ... but my kid totally won the heat.

and got a high-five from jimmy.

and a head-pat.

and i think henry was floating after that.

the final heat was a 25-yard freestyle race, which henry was also invited to swim in.

now, i've been to the olympic trials before. i've seen these athletes swim In Real Life. however, unless you see them in a regular-size pool with regular kids, you just can't grasp the power these athletes have in them. it was awesome to watch.

the last race was a good one ... and henry swam his heart out.


after the last race, the kids went back into the stands for another half hour of Q&A. megan, matt, and jimmy were charming and patient and great with the kids and full of tips and honesty, and the kids ate it up.

on the way home, henry was fairly quiet. then, about 10 minutes into the ride, he very quietly said, "that was pretty awesome." then he went back to playing on his phone.

yes, it was pretty awesome, indeed, buddy.

morning walk

these are my favorite nine days of the year: when the leaves are gorgeous, the mornings are cool and crisp, and color is everywhere. i know that by sometime next week, it will all be brown for the next eight months.

it makes me think of emily dickinson:

Besides the Autumn poets sing,

A few prosaic days

A little this side of the snow

And that side of the Haze

A few incisive mornings -

A few Ascetic eves -

Gone - Mr Bryant's "Golden Rod" -

And Mr Thomson's "sheaves."

Still, is the bustle in the brook -

Sealed are the spicy valves -

Mesmeric fingers softly touch

The eyes of many Elves -

Perhaps a squirrel may remain -

My sentiments to share -

Grant me, Oh Lord, a sunny mind -

Thy windy will to bear!


or my favorite autumn quote, which seems to sum up my thoughts on the season quite perfectly:


Delicious autumn! My very soul is wedded to it,

and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.

- George Eliot


and it makes me think of our wedding, held in the middle of october when it was beautiful. and marc's best man alluded to eliot's sentiment in his toast to us, when he wished us a life of eternal autumn ... neverending color and beauty, and always appreciating how rare it is. (not that it's an ending, he was quick to clarify.)

yesterday morning, when i looked out the window at 6:15, the sun was just starting to lighten the sky and i could see the misty fog out our back windows ... the the heat of the previous day struggling with the cool of the night.

once the kids got on the bus, i grabbed my camera and my walking shoes and set out to enjoy the autumn that has come to our little space in this world.

and the balloons were back ... how wonderful would it be to float silently above all of this color?

after school, the kids and i set out into the empty lots to look for bugs for henry's science project. because the nights are now so cold, bugs are getting hard to come by. but we did find interesting things, nonetheless:

and all the while, i was feeling sad that this is our last autumn to enjoy all of that space and quiet behind our house.

equipment is starting to move in to lay the infrastructure for the next phase of houses that will take over the empty space. by spring, it will be noise and dirt and urbanity behind us.

luckily, it's still peaceful out my front door.

even if the color is fleeting. however, i have high hopes for what it must be like during a good old fashioned minnesota snowfall. we're all crossing our fingers we get to experience that this year. just not too soon.