celebrating what was and what is to come

this update is way overdue. but wow ... how fast does time fly?

one year ago, i was in the midst of stressing about when the deck would be finished, planning a graduation party, and coping with all of the emotional trauma that goes along with your first little bird leaving the nest. looking back, it was one big blur from march to august. it can't be overstated how quickly a child's last year of high school goes, and how lightning fast their last month of school is. prom was in april, dual enrollment classes ended in may, he graduated in june and left for college in august. it went faster than any four months of life have ever gone.

i'm grateful he and his girlfriend let me take way too many pictures for prom ... there's a very good chance it's the only prom i'll get. henry didn't go his junior year, and this year his girlfriend doesn't want to go to her prom. so ... one. (jury is still out on whether harper will ever choose to get dressed up and go to a school event. if you ask her now? nope. never.)

i'm doubly glad, in hindsight, that they looked happy and gorgeous and excited last year.













the day of graduation came, with rain in the morning and threats of rain in the evening. but the clouds cleared and it was a beautiful, perfect night. somehow, i made it through the whole event without shedding a single tear. if i'm honest, though, i totally lost it earlier in the day while taking pictures of henry in his cap and gown, and harper lost it after graduation, which about made me lose it.











the deck was finished mere days before family descended for graduation. it was stressful right up to the end, especially with ongoing issues with the door that still aren't perfectly resolved. the furniture for the deck was actually IN our house until just days before the party, which made it hard to clean around. but it all worked out at the last minute ...


... and then the day of the party arrived, and it poured all. day. long.



the tent and tables and chairs we'd rented for the backyard sat unused in the downpour. the screened room, where all the food was going to go, sat filled with folding chairs so we could get some of the people out of the house. the sign and balloon we put at the end of the driveway were beaten down by the rain, and laid all sad and soggy on the yard. just before people started to arrive, the deluge lightened to a drizzle, but it was too late to save any outdoor plans.

at the end of the day, more than 150 people filtered through our house over the course of three hours. many stayed longer. some stayed longer still. when henry's buddies arrived, they grabbed plates of food and headed to the basement to play video games. i had no idea at the time that they did that, but when i heard about it, i was tickled that they all felt enough at home to take that initiative. one hot dog full of ketchup got dropped on the white living room rug within the first 15 minutes of the party, but my mom (super stain master) was here and quietly took care of it. we ran out of food an hour in (how do you prepare food when you invite more than 100 people and get 11 rsvps??), but my wonderful sister-in-law and mom made emergency runs to the store. it was a madhouse, and i know i didn't get to talk to everyone who came, and i didn't take a single picture during the party, but it all worked out in the end and everyone seemed to have a great time. we literally could not have pulled it off without my parents, marc's parents, and his sister. even harper and our niece jumped in and helped with decoration and treats. it was an all-hands-on-deck moment, and all the hands were so appreciated.






















and then it was over. prom ... graduation ... the party ... all done. he was again a lifeguard for the summer, again swam on relays that got age group state records, spent time with his friends, went dorm room shopping with his buddy/roommate. then august arrived, and we drove him to south dakota and left him there to start the next phase of his life.

over the past nine months, he has excelled in the classroom (dean's list with a double major: political science and spanish, in the honors program, started his freshman year with enough credits to be a sophomore), in the pool (he was just named most improved for the season at the team banquet), and as an emerging adult. i'm not a horn-tooter for myself, and i don't want to sound braggy about my kid, but here's the deal: this is all stuff that is just true about him, and i didn't have to pay anyone half a million dollars to make it so. i continue to be amazed by the young man his dad and i created. i wish we could take credit, but he's just a freaking special human being.

his freshman year of school will be done within the next three weeks, and he will again be under our roof for three months. i can't wait. i know summer break will look different because now he's an adult and used to autonomy. but i also know our time with him at home is waning. i'll take what i get, and will be grateful to have both of my little birds home for three months. because now i know how fast three months ... or a year ... can go.

this girl.

i reflected on henry's last first day of school of his high school years, but then i drifted away and got busy and didn't give the same time to my girl.

my seventh grader.



she seemed to grow up so much over the summer. there is a lot more "pre-teen" going on in our house right now. whereas last year i would have said, rightfully so, that the idea of henry graduating and moving on would leave her so lonely and adrift at home, this year she is becoming much more social, much more into her own things, much more comfortable in her own skin. after a few years of dealing with anxieties and emotions, it feels like the boat is rocking a wee bit less these days, and i have a feeling she will blossom next year when our whole world gets to revolve around her and her activities for the first time ever.

and she's such a smart, curious, funny little thing. though i say "little" like she's still seven ... girlfriend is taller than i am now, with arms and legs for days. she's gone to slumber parties with her friend group, and with her swim friend group ... and that's a whole new thing for her. up until now, she had a very hard time even spending a night away from home with a best friend, much less with a group of people she doesn't know as well. she's turning into a girl with things to do and places to be, though she still prefers home.

in august, she and i spent a few days together in michigan, just us girls, and we had the best time. we went to my favorite little town, saugatuck, had some beach time at lake michigan. then my mom joined us for a day, wandering and popping into shops and eating lunch by the water. it was so good. there was one time, however, when we went into an ice cream shop for a treat, and as we walked in the door this adorable boy behind the counter - all sandy blond hair and blue eyes and freckles and braces - had to double take at harp, then kept sweetly glancing at her as we ordered our ice cream, paid, walked out the door.

and it hit me in that moment: i've been keeping her little in my mind because henry is growing up so fast. but she's growing up just as fast, and it's time to let her be twelve-and-a-half.



she went home with my mom for a few days, then had a few days with her other set of grandparents, and i finally got to tackle her grown-up room.




it's done, and she loves it, and later this week i will clean it up (because about 20 minutes into having a new room, she destroyed it with laundry and hairbands and art projects, and it hasn't been clean since.) and take pictures to show you how it turned out.

school started, and seventh grade is going really well so far. her 6th grade math teacher suggested a different track for her this year, and it's been the best move. and she spent the summer collecting bugs, knowing that would be the first big project in seventh grade science - and she ended up getting 102/100 on it. her confidence is definitely higher.

middle school swim season started, and she was happy to be back in the water with her friends. she dropped four seconds in the 50 free in her first meet after a six month hiatus, and that gave her yet another confidence boost and the thrill she needed to have a great season.



the biggest sign that we're entering a whole new phase of life? she has no interest in halloween this year ... only half-hearted interest in carving pumpkins at all. and just like that ... i no longer have little kids.

but you know what? i'm learning that it's okay. i like these children of mine in every new stage. so what if they aren't kiddos anymore. they are turning into fantastic people, and it's time to look forward to what comes next instead of mourning what is no longer.

also, it's very hard to think of your kiddos as babies when you have to look up at both of them.


the importance of remembering

it's been a long time since i've written anything down, and i hate that it's a habit i no longer have. for years, most of my day was spent documenting memories and stories, writing down facts and milestones about the kids or our family, keeping track of all the things we will want to remember.

i haven't touched paper and glue for years, i no longer write on a daily or weekly basis, and those are things that need to change.

the days and months are speeding up, and i'm afraid they're going to pass right by and i won't have paid enough attention because of the constant busyness, and not being mindful in the moment.

say what you will about scrapbooking and memory keeping: you have to be present, and you have to pay attention.

the coming nine months will find me pulling out all of those rusty skills for a very important reason: henry's graduation.

because that little pork chop just started his senior year.
















last year, the big milestone was that he drove himself to school. this year, he didn't even go to the high school on his first day ... instead, he's enrolled at the local community college for the year. he's ready to be done and on his way; the next phase can't come soon enough for him.

we're knee-deep in college talk. he has his first official visit with a coach and a school in september ... the swimming will continue. i can't even begin to comprehend how quickly this school year will go, and if i dwell on that too long, it breaks my heart. and yet, i'm so excited for him and what comes next. i know he will have a great time wherever he goes, and he will love the challenge of the classes he takes and the opportunities that are presented.

but that's next year. 12 months away. i'm not going to think about it. instead, i will cherish that he will be home for lunch most days, and because of his community college schedule, we will actually have a bit more time together during the week than if he was at the high school.

looking for those things to remember and hold on to.

yesterday, he texted me from the parking lot when he got to school, just to say he was there and he loved me. today, he met a girl friend at the mall after school and had lunch and did a little shopping. one foot still here, one foot halfway out the door.

and that's as it should be, i guess.


... and summer's over

we woke up this morning - around 3 a.m. - to a massive thunderstorm. lightning, thunder, relentless rain. at 6 a.m., when my alarm went off, the weather was equally forceful.

the perfect way to start the first day of school.

i woke up harper, and her first words were, "is that rain?!"

yup. it's gonna be a raincoat day.

she quickly dressed in the outfit she laid out the night before ... denim capris, a white tank top, a white v-neck top she picked out at gap (from the adult side, thankyouverymuch), a hummingbird necklace ... was in and out of the bathroom, and eating a muffin, within 15 minutes.

someone was a little excited for the first day of school.

of middle school.

because ... my baby is in middle school.


she eagerly put on her sandals, grabbed her backpack, made sure she had lunch money and an umbrella, and headed out the door.

the rain, thankfully, had subsided just long enough to get the first day of school photo.


she was all smiles as the bus came, and she walked to it with two girlfriends.

and 10 minutes later, the texts started ... "mom." "mom." "mom." "i don't feel well." "i feel like i'm gonna throw up."

my poor little ball of anxiety. she hates the bus. she's nervous about a new school. she's terrified she'll show up in the wrong room, or at the wrong time. that she won't know what to do in the lunch room. that she won't have friends in any of her classes.

typical middle school fears.

i texted her back, told her it was just nerves, told her she would do great, told her no one would give her trouble if she ended up in the wrong room at the wrong time. told her to talk to her friends and take deep breaths.

and i didn't hear back ... so hopefully she got it all figured out.

the email from the principal at 7:45 stated that all kids were in classrooms and the halls were empty, so all looks positive.

and 20 minutes after harp was off to 6th grade, my 11th grader ate a muffin, grabbed his keys, and was out the door to get gas and head to school.

by himself.

not on a bus.

because he's a junior.



how?? how did we get here already?? i mean, wasn't HE just off to his first day of middle school???

i'm so confused, trying to figure out where the last five years have gone.

but he's ready. i mean, he isn't ready to be back at school ... he had a great summer full of friends and work and growing independence ... but he's ready to move forward. he's feeling the itch of almostdone-itis. this is a big year for him ... a lot of decisions to make, a lot of hard work and effort to put forth ... and i hope he's ready and understands that this is it. this is the big year.

summer moved so quickly at the beginning, as it always does, and then we consciously slowed down.

harper decided to take the summer off from swimming, so we spent a lot of time together, and she had some lovely play dates with friends. last week, to cap off the quiet summer, she spent some time on the lake with her bff from preschool to celebrate the fact that starting today, they will finally - again - be classmates. and while the girls took off across the water on their own, her friend's mom and i just shook our heads, trying to figure out how they aren't four years old anymore.




henry, on the other hand, had the opposite of a quiet summer. he was heading to the pool every morning at 7 a.m., and then to lifeguard for an eight-hour shift, and then often to hang out with friends or co-workers in the evening. he carpooled with buddies or, once he got his license, drove himself, and felt the freedom that comes with your own time and your own money.

he didn't do any meets until the senior state meet at the beginning of august, where he cleaned up ... 6th place in the 100 free, 3rd place in the 50 free, and medals in all five relays - a 4th, a 3rd, two 2nds, and a first place finish in the 200 free relay that was .14 secs off the state record.





we are entering very different territory today. it was a very different kind of summer. who knows what this year will bring.

but good or bad, here we go.





it's here

the day i've been dreading for nine months has arrived, no matter how much i willed it to not happen.

it's the last day of school.

not that i'm not looking forward to having more time with the kids. (though, any introvert worth their salt will tell you that alone time is a must if we are to function and get through the day.) but ...

this last day of school is too big for me to take in right now.

this kid ...


today is her last day of elementary school.

this is the last time she will climb onto the bus as a little kid.


and in three months, these buddies will separate into two different middle schools.

where they will be middle schoolers.

i mean, what the heck?!

who said they could grow up??


and as hard as that is to take, it pales in comparison to this guy ...


who will be a junior in the fall.

a junior.

who will drive himself to school. no more bus. today was the last time.


just ... nope. can't think about it yet.

makes my heart hurt.

i now have three and a half hours to enjoy the silence, gather my emotions, drink some coffee, and put on my big girl panties so i don't have tears in my eyes when they get home.

i mean, when the littlest kid gets home.

because the big kid is going to a pool party for the rest of the day with friends. and the girlfriend. and he'll get a ride home.

and i just can't.

well THAT escalated quickly

one month ago, i wrote that we were almost done with swimming - sectional finals were that night, maybe state ... we were close to a break.

well ...

we had sectional finals. henry was sitting in a great spot going into the meet. and then right before warm-ups, he was in the bathroom and a teammate kicked the stall door in ... literally onto henry's head. a one-plus-inch bleeding gash in the top of his head. when the coach finds you and says, "have you talked to henry? i don't think he needs stitches, but you might want to check on him ...", you know it isn't good.


we got the bleeding to stop, but he was off his game for the meet. while his individual events suffered, he brought it when it came time for the relays.


he helped his teams place fourth in one relay and second in the other, earning spots at state the following weekend.



so another week of swimming later, we went to state. and to make it more fun, it was the same weekend that harper swam at the minnesota regional championships. and my parents came up so they could cheer on both kids. we watched five different meets over three days. it was amazing.

(that was sarcasm.)

but actually, it WAS amazing, because the kids did an awesome job. henry got bumped from one of the relays so four seniors could swim it, which felt right even though it was a bummer. (and henry used that free time to provide comic relief. as always.)


but he kept his spot in the 400 free relay, and they placed fifth in the state.




and harper swam seven events in two days, and dropped time in all but one.




but wait!! there's more!!

henry had gotten so close to a junior nationals cut time in three events (he actally HAD gotten the times, but in relays, so they didn't count) that he jumped back to club swimming to ALSO swim MRCs the day after state ended, time trialing to see if he could get the cut in any of the events. he ended up .3 seconds away in the 50, and .2 away in the 100. close, but not enough.

which meant the following weekend we went back to the pool at the university of minnesota so he could swim at senior state to try and get those cuts. and on saturday, he got one: 48.25 in the 100 free ... .3 faster than the needed time.


he was beyond thrilled and so proud of himself. which, he should have been. he wanted it, and he made it happen.

but that meant that on saturday afternoon, we had to make plane tickets and a hotel room in florida happen, because junior nationals would start three days later.

sunday was a quick shopping trip, when we realized henry had no shorts that fit, monday was laundry, and tuesday ...

well, tuesday was harper's 11th birthday.


we had breakfast, then henry and i headed to the airport. (and i felt just awful. how do you pick one kid's event over another? ugh. unwinnable choice, right there.)

for the next five days, henry swam in four individual events (the one he made the time for, and three bonus events) and five relays at junior nationals. which is crazy. he's been swimming less than five years, and he made it to junior nationals. that felt like kind of a big deal. we were down there with 12 other kids, the coaches, a few of the parents, and it was a really fun experience.





the 15-16 boys relays placed fourth in one relay, and fifth in another, which i thought was a pretty great way to walk out of the meet. and henry is already focused on getting more cuts for more events next year. the kid has goals, now, and he's focused.

which means he's growing up. and that's both weird and exciting.

the past two weeks have been pool-free, which lasts until ... well ... monday.

and then off we go again.

self-imposed break

so - hiya.

i've been taking a break from blogging, but not for any sort of big secret reason. i've just been too busy.

there are a million things to do during the day ... really exciting things like laundry! and cleaning the kitchen!! and making food for my family, who never stops eating!!

we've been spending our lives at the pool over the past three months, between high school season and harper's club season. but that is finally winding down. tonight is high school sections final, and this guy ...


is in two relays, in 16th place in the 500 free (which isn't even an event he does well with or *likes*), and is in 9th in the 200 freestyle - and about a second away from a state cut in that event. he really wanted this to be his year to make it to state in an individual event, he just thought that event would be the 50 free or the 100 free; the 200 and 500 were never on his radar. but he's put his head down and worked hard to make the most of new events, and it is paying off in the 200.

(truth be told? i'm nearly sick to my stomach with anxiety for him. i want him to make the cut SO. BADLY. his heart was a bit broken when he found out he wouldn't be swimming his best/favorite events this season, and he felt a little blindsided by that. and to get so close in a different event ... well ... you mamas know how it is. you want your kids to succeed and reach their goals, especially when they work so hard, and for him to do it in an event he never considered would be so amazing. i'm definitely a ball of nerves going into finals night, though ... i mean, one second!! one! gah!!)

and if he doesn't make the state cut? well, he'll attempt another event at the club regional championships next weekend, and he should have three events at club state - and maybe some relays? - in two weeks. and then he's free until may.

and this girl?


she has a full line-up this weekend at the minnesota achievement champs, a busy weekend next week at the regional champs, and then she will get a break until may.

which means we ALL get a break until may!

dinner at a regular time! homework finished before 1 a.m.! no more loads of towels and swim suits and warm-ups in the laundry every three days! no more weekends of bleacher butt!

and in between all of this swimming, henry turned 16 (more about that soon ... i'm still processing ...) and went to another dance with his girlfriend. yup ... they are still going strong!


sadly for them, now that he will finally be able to have some time to spend with her, she starts softball and won't have time for him. it's probably why they're still together ... they never, actually, get to spend time together. and isn't that really how we decide we don't like people anymore? by spending time with them?

is that just me?

and coming in march is harper's birthday (11! seriously ... kids grow up too damn fast.) and a visit from my parents and spring break, after all that swimming.

(the ides of march are looking pretty attractive this year.)

and then i will be back.

another reminder

all last year, i freaked out about the whole "my kid is in high school!" thing. the idea that henry is almost out the door and on his way into adulthood - and into the years when he doesn't need us and won't be around - doesn't exactly fill me with glee. but for the most part, his freshman year looked a whole lot like middle school: same friends, same swim teams, same interests, no major changes.

then his sophomore year arrived.


and with it, hours a day spent on homework (i mean, pre-calculus? who is this child??) drastically increased, making time to let him drive the car became a thing, and ... then there was a girl.

it started with:


him: is it okay if i go to homecoming?

me: game or dance?

him: dance.

me: of course. why wouldn't it be okay?

him: well ... wouldn't i have to get a suit or something?

me: are you thinking of taking a girl?

him: ... maybe.


and then he DID ask the girl. and she said yes. and then he asked her out for a date before the dance to make sure they were comfortable together. and then they decided to label themselves a "couple".

this is so, so new. and different.

but she's an adorable girl, and they seem to really get along well. and the dance came, and with it plans to hang out with friends before and after, and they had a great time (from what i hear).














these are great kids. and i know they will have great times in the next three years. and it's fun to see them becoming young adults ... especially the ones i've known since they were in first grade.


but it's all just another reminder that they are growing up. and it's fun to watch.

but it also kinda hurts.

warning: mom gushing ahead

the past four months have gone by so quickly that i didn't mention henry's high school swim season at all. well, one quick mention at christmastime, but that was it.

he has enjoyed high school swimming so much over the past two years, but this year it was officially High School Season because he is now, officially, in high school. he truly felt more like one of the guys, and even found that many of them forgot he was only 14 because he's been competing with them for the past two years, and competed at the varsity level with them for much of that time.


this year i got texts from him like, "the team is going for breakfast after practice. i have a ride," "austin is giving me a ride to the pasta dinner," "i'm going to stay and hang out longer. i'll let you know when i'm ready."

not gonna lie: those texts threw me for a loop. my baby? "catching rides" with the guys? that's a hard, hard thing to accept when it comes at you the first time. however, i had to let him. it's time. now, we did have a bit of a disagreement when he asked why he had to ride the activity bus to practice after school instead of riding with The Guys, but we had our reasons. safety, obviously (being a winter sport, i was a little paranoid about teen boys and winter driving), but we also don't want him to be completely wrapped up in the upperclassmen group and forget to keep in touch with the younger (ie his age) swimmers. at some point, these upperclassmen will graduate and he needs to still have that connection with the kids his age. and, in true henry fashion, he said that he understood, and okay ... he'd ride the bus.

(have i mentioned how much i love this kid? zero push-back ever.)

in the pool, however, he was with the Big Guys. he would train daily in the fastest lanes, with the fastest guys. he was exhausted, to be sure, but he said he was keeping up and loving the challenge. he felt proud that his coaches were recognizing he could swim at that level, and was determined to prove he belonged there.


and he so belonged there. if he didn't truly believe it at the beginning of the season, he knew it by the end.


he was 110% determined to make letter times this season, since he was so stinkin' close last year. he actually got a letter time in the 50 free last season, but got it in a relay so it didn't count. which made him crazy.

first meet of the high school season, he not only got a letter time in his 50 free, but also in the 100 free. and he was pumped.



for the rest of the season, he continued to drop time in his 50 and 100 free. and his 100 back, which has been kind of stalled for awhile, also improved, and he finally broke the elusive 1:00 mark. and earned a letter time in that, as well. and then the 200 free, which he never liked swimming ... he swam that at a meet and boom: another letter time.

he was so pumped. best part - two of his buddies on the team swim the same events he does, and they tend to go back and forth with each other, always on the others' toes. it was so fun to watch them gather immediately after a race to hug and congratulate whomever happened to finish before the other that week.



his team and coaches had a successful season. one of their big meets is True Team Sectional - a preview of sectional, and only the top four swimmers in each event participate. lakers won again this year.



and henry made it to True Team State at the U in all of his events ... and got his best times at that meet.


the guys lost only one home meet through the season, won True Team Sectional, and then went on to win their sectional, as well.

henry earned spots in sectional finals in the medley relay, 50 free, and 100 back. after prelims, his relay's time was two seconds off of a state cut time, and his 50 free time was .75 off of state cut ... even better, his 50 free time from the relay was only .10 off a state cut time. he was feeling super positive heading into finals.

the medley relay is the first event of a meet, and his team swam their hearts out. each of the swimmers stepped up and dropped time, and at the end of the race, the laker team was less than a second from state time. they just missed it. heartbreaking, but they were all so proud of themselves. and henry? henry swam the freestyle leg and dropped time on his 50 free again ... :21.9. state cut time in the 50 free? :22.11. he was beyond excited.


unfortunately, when the 50 free finals came around, he just couldn't get the same momentum going. he ended up placing seventh overall (which, hello ... seventh place his freshman year? not too shabby.), with a time of :22.98. he was disappointed, but one thing about henry: he is always philosophical. he told us later, "well, i got the time in the relay. now i know i can do it next year."


(also in the back of his mind for next year? at last year's end-of-season banquet, henry's coach compared him to another swimmer on the team, saying that he went from a "nobody" to a break-out swimmer that season. and this year? that kid won the 50 free and the 100 free at sectional, and got a new school record in the 50. his time? half a second faster than henry's best time. and of the top 16 swimmers in this year's state finals in the 50 free, 11 of them are seniors.

henry is quietly gearing up.)

but back to sectional.

after the 50 free, he then swam the 100 back. he had just barely broken 1:00 during prelims, and in finals, he went down another half a second. he finally broke the 1:00 curse, and again placed 7th overall.


i think we were a little sad and a little relieved at the same time that the season was over. it's amazing how quickly three months can go.

henry was asked to be an alternate for state, but he was exhausted and declined. since then, he's been enjoying a month of swim-free afternoons and weekends. he takes only two months off a year from the pool, and is very serious about having those two months. next week he starts back up with club, and this weekend he will start a 14-week clinic, lead by a former-olympic swimmer katrina radke, and her former-olympic coach husband. he will tweak his skills, learn techniques for stretching, flexibility, strength training, learn more about the psychological component of racing.

i spoke with katrina when i was signing up henry for the clinic, and she asked me about his best events and times. i told her, and she said, "whoa ... he's already there at 15? we'll get him prepared to go :20 or even :19 in the coming years, and he'll be under :50 in the 100 free by next high school season, for sure." when i told henry about her confidence in him, he got a big goofy grin and said, "that's the plan."

his focus is set, and the target is locked. and i'm excited to see where he goes from here.

(footnote: at the banquet the other night, all the swimmers got a book of the team's accomplishments and times. henry is the current record holder for time swum by a freshman in a 50 free in a relay. he was a little shocked by that, especially when he saw the names of the guys under him. and he is ranked on the all time top 20 list in the 50 free (20th) and 100 back (15th). so proud of this little guy. oh - and he got that letter jacket.)




staycation '15

so ... spring break is over, amazingly enough.

we had a good week. instead of the sun and fun of, say, disneyland or puerto rico, or having a historical adventure while visiting someplace like washington dc, we opted to spend our vacation days exploring beautiful st. paul.

yes, st. paul. minnesota. but i'll get to that.

spring break was actually kind of a two-week deal for me. the week before break, my mom was in town to visit. we did lots of shopping and wandering, she was able to attend henry's band concert, and she took care of my family while i had some 24-hour bug on friday. it was a little mini-vacay for me, because i got to just enjoy all the little boutiques and fun shops that i love but never get myself to on an ordinary day. and my mom is now a friend rather than just "mom," so it was great to girl talk and have fun.

saturday, the first official day of spring break, we celebrated harper's birthday while mom was still here. harp wanted to spend some time at heartfelt doing a craft with her bff, so that's just what we did. they chose to make little fairy cottages, then run next door to the bakery for a giant cookie. after that, it was special birthday dinner at the hibachi place.







sunday morning, harper's official birthday, mom left early and harper had the whole day to do as she chose. there were presents, then play time with henry, lots of drawing and crafting, and dinner at cheesecake factory so she could get a grilled artichoke. (really.) a perfect day for little miss 10-year-old.


on monday, we didn't do a whole lot of anything. the kids wanted to hang out at home, play on the computer. harper did more crafts (she got a sketch book for her birthday and spent hours drawing dragons and wolves and mermaids. then she moved on to making three-dimensional dragons out of clay.), marc and i spent quality time on the couch catching up on shows we hadn't had time to watch in weeks. it was a total lazy bum day.


we did, however, leave the house to get a burger at red cow ... and harper ordered an avocado cheesecake. seriously. this child's eating habits are beyond bizarre.


tuesday we got our irish on and headed into st. paul for the st. paddy's day parade. the sun was shining - even though it was a wee bit chilly - and the people watching was epic. my favorite part of st. patrick's day.






(i think the o'keefes started their drinking waaaay before the parade began.)



(irish elvis)




(st paul saints' mascot, mudonna)


(roller derby ladies)




(the bouncing club)



before and after the parade, we spent some time watching irish dance and music groups.


then we got some mini donuts from a food truck, said goodbye to ol' scott fitzgerald.


which ... hello ... fitzgerald. totally irish. also, one of my favorite writers.

then we were out of there, home to lazy bum away the rest of the day. i think we played some uno ... that was the extent of expended energy.

 wednesday, harper was invited to watch "cinderella" with her bff's family, so marc and i took henry to see "kingsman."

hold on a minute: i have a beef with "kingsman" and, realistically, most movies out there ... especially in the "action" genre. (spoilers ahead, so if you haven't yet seen "kingsman" and plan to, avert your eyes and skip the next paragraph.)

"kingsman" is the story of a young man setting out on a hero's journey to become a secret society cia-type assassin/badass gentleman. he is called to action by the ever lovely colin firth (which is why i agreed to see this movie). the villain in the movie, valentine, is attempting to talk world leaders into following his (evil? necessary? that's up for interpretation.) plan, but one resists - a swedish princess. she refuses to go along with it, so valentine puts her in a cell "to protect her." she's a strong woman who stands up to a man and voices her disagreement and concern. however, at the climax of the movie, when the hero goes into action mode, he comes upon the princess's cell. through the bars, she says, "if you save the world, i'll give you anything you want." he replies, "a kiss? i've always wanted a kiss from a princess," to which she replies, "if you save the world, we can have the butt sex." and at the end, when he's killed everyone in place, he returns to her cell with a bottle of champagne, and he's greeted at the door by her naked rear-end. my problem? how do you take the ONE strong, independent woman who stands up to the evil mastermind, and turn her into nothing more than a faceless, naked reward? literally, a faceless, naked reward. infuriating. so, so infuriating. and i told my boys so. they, of course, only "saw" the action in the movie and completely missed the anti-feminist moment. they are so lucky to have me around to point out these teachable moments.

okay ... back to spring break.

we saw movies, we ate burgers afterward with the bff's family, et voila.

thursday was Hang Out In St Paul day. we planned to walk around the state capitol grounds, check out the capitol building, then go through the minnesota history center. henry and i had been to both places years ago on a field trip, but it was a first for marc and harper.

we started out wandering the capitol grounds and looking at all of the monuments and statues:



USS Ward cannon ... shot the first shots of the pacific war after the attack on pearl harbor


monument to the living



roy wilkins memorial spiral


vietnam memorial, which is located in a sunken area shaped like the state of minnesota


promise of youth statue


WWII memorial, with monuments to the story of the war in both the atlantic and pacific, respectively, on each side.

at this point, i really had to use the bathroom, so we missed a couple of monuments, but we fast-walked into the capitol, which is under heavy renovation right now, and climbed stairs until we found a bathroom.

goal attained, we then realized we were right outside of the state senate chambers. we had a little chat with the sergeant-at-arms and he asked where we live. we replied, and a man walking out the door said, "oh! that's so-and-so's district! he just left ... let me see if i can catch him! he would love to meet his constituents!"

um ... we didn't vote for the guy. awwwwkward.

the nice man came back empty-handed, but it turns out that he was the state senator from the district next door. he walked us to our rep's desk and offered to take our picture. again ... didn't vote for him ... but the other guy was being so darn friendly that we said sure.



so that was that. we thanked him, wandered a bit more through what we could access in the capitol (which wasn't much), and decided it was time for lunch.

the history center was a quick walk from the capitol, and there is a great cafeteria on site. they were featuring a hmong lemongrass-pork belly dish in honor of a special exhibit on the hmong in minnesota, so we tried that, then it was on to the rest of the museum.


(it's super crazy how much henry looks like marc's brother in this picture. like, super. crazy.)


(did i ever tell you about the day i was looking through henry's 8th grade yearbook, and discovered the page with the class dignitaries and Most Likely Tos? yeah ... henry? voted the class clown. this picture makes me believe that 100%.)



my favorite exhibit was of a home that was built at the turn of the century (the 20th, that is) in st paul, and the exhibit followed its history and the people who lived there up until present day. "the little house" is my all-time favorite children's book, so this exhibit was fascinating and so moving.

friday was our big spring break road trip: we headed two hours south to wabasha, minn. ... home of "grumpy old men" ... to visit the national eagle center.

we left mid-morning so that we could get to wabasha in time for lunch. why? so we could eat at slippery's, the bar where max & john hung out in the movie. it was the same place in name only, but that mattered not a bit to me. and to capitalize on their fame, slippery's has the movie running on a loop all day long.


sandwiches and fries later, we made it to the eagle center.


this was harper's favorite. there is information about eagles all around the building, but in one room there are actually live eagles sitting on perches. all have been rehabilitated after injuries and can no longer fly. this was harper's happy place.



she even took a seven-minute-long video of a golden eagle, while one of the handlers was answering questions, and only stopped recording when the eagle turned around and pooped right at her. she was laughing too hard to continue.

we watched a presentation about the eagles and the eagle center, saw one of the bald eagles eat a fish, and found out that harper's wing span is as wide as a wild turkey, then we walked around a bit more before leaving for home.




saturday and sunday were our "get back in school week mode", with homework and laundry. marc and henry kicked my and harper's butts in settlers of cattan, we made some pulled pork, we watched "grumpy old men."

then sunday afternoon, as we were winding down from our relaxing break, it began to snow.


and on monday morning, as the kids were heading out to finish up the school year, they did so into 10" of wet, heavy snow ... the biggest snowfall of our entire winter, and it came three days into spring.




the snow is good, though ... it makes it feel as if time isn't moving as quickly as it is. when i stop to think that spring break is already over and we're in the final stretch to the end of the year, i get a little freaked out.

make that a lot freaked out.