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Tuesday, October 24, 2017

It's Fall Y'all

Always glad for General Conference to hear our church leaders, spend low-key time together as a family, and have an excuse to make obscenely large cinnamon rolls.

 Halloween decor is up both inside and outside. This past Sunday night we lit some Halloween lanterns and candles and watched The Nightmare Before Christmas as a family for the first time.

Also, this means hockey season has started for our minor league hockey team and we are often happy to receive tickets from Neal's work as they sponsor the Allen Americans. We were at the opening home game this past Saturday.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Plumbing Problems

Thanks to Opa for his help with a leak with a precarious pipe. Thanks to Wall-E for supervising.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Let It Go

Still happily letting things go as we consider the benefits of a minimalist mindset.
Another load for donation!

Monday, September 25, 2017

Plano Balloon Festival

Prior to Father's Day, I got a call from my cousin, Barbara, who wanted to know if our family could help her out. She gifted her husband, Chad, with two registrations to the 5K at the Plano Balloon Festival!

Fast forward to present and we all got up before the sun to meet up with our cousins and enjoy the launch (which they did, despite a spotty history) and let Barbara and Chad run their race. Good times! They both completed and 3 of their kids ran the fun run. Always nice to be with such a wonderful family.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017


We knew it would be a tough year and it is, especially for our Sophie. The teachers are sticking to the curriculum and moving on even when there are many left behind. We have had to work with teachers and adjust her 504 plan (accommodations for those with health impairments - ADHD for us!) to help balance her life and help her feel success in math for what she is able to accomplish.

It is a hard go for the whole family as it affects our family's schedule, we experience her and our emotions together, and we try to see the good and not lose her spark. Sadly, see her spark disappear often. It is hard to know how to help and love in just the right way. In the meantime, we have been conversing with her and teachers, praying as a family for assistance, introducing small group instruction  inside and outside of school hours, and try to find way to let her know we are on her side even if we don't agree the ugly should just go away.

As a mom, I am really trying to practice empathy. This is a Christ-like characteristic that I really struggle with so I can see why I have been given many opportunities to practice it. The balance I am trying to achieve is empathy while still holding her accountable to what is actually important and not losing my patience during this repeated process. Lots of stretching for both of us.

Here are just a few tangible ways I share my empathy with her. Notes I post occasionally in her study area to keep her smiling and infrequently, sugary treats.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Bottle Rocket

Neal and Rhys created a bottle rocket for a pack meeting. They looked up fin options, bought materials together, and Rhys learned how to properly spray paint. Sadly, Neal was in CA for a business trip the day of the blast off but we were happy to send video clips his way as Rhys won for both the highest (up) AND farthest (out) distances! He was one happy boy! And that was one very pleased dad!

Saturday, August 26, 2017

First (or, um Fourth) Day of School

This year because of our family trip and the district starting the school year a week earlier than the previous year the kids missed Meet the Teacher night, the back to school parade, and the first (and second and third) day of school, and mommy missed her annual Mommies Rejoicing Party. 

We had the best parent note written for their return:  Please excuse my kids from school. They were out of school exploring architectural wonders, discovering the geology of underground caverns, and witnessing the astronomical greatness of a total solar eclipse. If you have any questions please call me at ......

Turned out that because they had not attended the new school year yet, they could not be marked absent and Thursday was considered their official first day of school by the district which, might I add is excellent information to have for future summer vacations/events.

There off to 5th and 3rd with teachers that are new to our elementary school which I consider a good thing as both parties get a true fresh start.

And our "official" first day of school pose

Missouri and the Total Solar Eclipse

Over a year before the eclipse, we agreed to meet up with Kira and David in Missouri to view it's totality. We called over a year in advance and found most hotels were already booked that far out so we ended up finding a cabin at a camp to house us and we are so glad we did! It was perfect!

We took our time getting up to Branson after Neal worked half a day and happily distracted ourselves with shops the next morning. Sophie got a hiking stick and Rhys got a back scratcher and Neal got a cowboy hat I really liked on him and I got to enjoy taffy and looking at my hot husband! 

We got 30 different flavors of taffy to share with family over the week. The most unusual were maple bacon, chicken and waffles, and mango jalapeno.
The cabin was great and the kids were glad to have bunk beds. We could not get internet access at the cabin which for the most part was a real plus. There were two dogs that roamed freely around the camp. A pool, pond, and playground were all easily accessible. We spent a lot of our free time in the evening playing games and snacking on unhealthy food.

We spent 2 days in St. Louis. Day one we spent on a steam boat tour, in the arch, and the City Museum. Steam boat tour was fun, informative, and a bit hot. The arch was fun, especially the tram and visit to the top. The anticlimactic ending came when we watched the 35 minute movie about the building of the arch which had little information and a lot of dated background music (in a bad way) and put 3 of 6 people to sleep. Leaving another two wishing they had actually fallen asleep and one (Sophie) to poke our family in failed attempts to keep us awake. Do not see the movie. Keep those 35 minutes of your life and put them to better use.

Dipping their toes in the Mississippi river

View from top of arch

We LOVE kissy pictures!

We headed to the City Museum after that and were introduced to the most bizarre play area for kids and adults alike. Their website had this to say about themselves:
Housed in the 600,000 square-foot former International Shoe Company, the museum is an eclectic mixture of children’s playground, funhouse, surrealistic pavilion, and architectural marvel made out of unique, found objects. It is the brainchild of internationally acclaimed artist Bob Cassilly, a classically trained sculptor.Cassilly and his longtime crew of 20 artisans have constructed the museum from the very stuff of the city; and, as a result, it has urban roots deeper than any other institutions’. Reaching no farther than municipal borders for its reclaimed building materials, City Museum boasts features such as old chimneys, salvaged bridges, construction cranes, miles of tile, and even two abandoned planes!

It was A LOT to take in!  There were hundreds of neckties hanging from a portion of the cieling, old advertizing pencils from the 1940-50s lining one wall, railroad spikes and spades creating a barrier, old printing plates on another wall, off balanced rolling chairs, a room of entomology, a art museum, and tunnels of all sorts, and so much more.

Then 1 1/2 hours or so into the fun, this happened!

She went down a 4 story slide and her shirt started to creep up and in her attempt to pull it down, she went tumbling ending in a good gash on her head, a bump on her forehead, a bruise on her shoulder, and skin rubbed off her lower back and elbow. Rhys came down right after her, wipeing the blood off the slide with his shirt as he slid. Then Uncle David appeared on the scene to apply pressure and holler to us, as he took her to the first aid station. We could not get to her being tangled up in the tunnels. I could just see my daughter's bright red blood dripping down her Uncle David's arm as held the back of her head and guided her.

Eventually we all made it there and she was doing such a good job as David held her face and the first aid dude wiped away blood from her scalp and tried to assess what the extent was. Boy, my girl can bleed. They gave her a new shirt out of all of it!

We stopped and got more first aid supplies on the way home and because Aunt Kira works in a hospital (as an speech-language pathologist), Sophie trusted her advice on her situation. My mama bear wanted to come to the surface because Sophie was leaning on her aunt instead of me, but how could I not appreciate the love and comfort my wonderful sister in law and her husband extend to my children, so I put myself in check. Although I could have helped and reassured my daughter, she felt calmed by their sweet influence. I love the aunt and uncle they are to my kids and the family they are to me!

She wasn't allowed to swim for two days so a good scab could form. In the meantime, we spent another day in St. Louis at the planetarium exploring and learning. Back at the cabin we Kira and David introduced us to archery which looks a lot easier than it is.

Next was Sunday so off to church and then to see a few historical places and home for time with family, upon David and Kira's return from a wine sampling.

Monday was eclipse day so we enjoyed staying where we were at and hoped for good visibility and the clouds mostly had burned off by eclipse time and later that night we had thunderstorms so we were happy for the window we were given.

David is a brainiac when if comes to astronomy so we really benefited from his knowledge and had a great experience all week whether it was during the eclipse or just viewing stars and planets at night.   Before the eclipse got started though, Kira made a game of eclipse jeopardy to be played as a family to learn a few fact about our upcoming experience. After all, this was the first of three days the kids would be missing at the start of the school year.  We learned a lot like the totality could be viewed in 10 states, what shadow bands were, and the last time there was a total eclipse in the continental United States, to name a few.

David had his telescope and filters set up as well as viewing glasses so we could see it safely before and after totality. Kira and David set out a white sheet to view the shadow bands and enjoyed ourselves as it got dimmer out. We tried viewing the eclipse indirectly by poking small holes in cardboard and using a strainer to check out the shadows but the light the the leaves of the trees did it just as well and cast miniature eclipses all over us as we rested under the shade. We were at a Lutheran camp and we could hear other attendees singing hymns from across the pond.

Chelsea, the younger of two dogs that mostly lived with us the duration of our stay at the cabin.

Eclipse crescents on my leg

A few seconds before totality we saw the shadow bands on the white sheet, which is the shadows the mountains on the moon cast as things are moving.  It looks like vibrating heat waves.  Then David told us when it was safe to remove our glasses and look at the total eclipse. I don't have words to recreate what we saw but it was beautiful and like nothing I'd ever seen, even in pictures. It was as dark as dusk and the cicadas made their distinctive, loud sound. It had been getting progressively cooler when the moon partially covered the sun. Though others could, I was not able to see the prominences with my naked eye but did see them through the telescope. They are solar flares on the edges and appeared as hot pink bumps on the circumference. We were able to see stars and Jupiter and Venus, but not Mars or Mercury. We just kept saying how beautiful it was and spent just a few seconds taking pictures as we wanted to enjoy our experience rather than use that time recording it. Neal and Kira were moved to tears while the witnessed it. Then we had to put our glasses back on after what was about 2 1/2 minutes and the sun peeked out and we looked for the shadow bands again. It was a very unique experience and I am glad the kids were there instead of school where they cancelled recess so the kids wouldn't burn their eyes out staring up at the sun.

Later that evening we took a swim in the pool and once the kids were in bed, Neal played with time lapse photography to capture the thunderstorm that was rumbling about.
On Tuesday, we headed to the Onondaga State Park caverns. 

Our tour was advertised as 1 hour, 15 minutes but it lasted 2 hours to our delight. Kira got some pretty good shots underground but needless to say there were stalactites, stalagmites, and columns.  We spent the rest of the afternoon hanging out at the camp. There was very little light pollution at the cabin and the stars were great. We saw planets (Saturn), satellites, and shooting stars, not to mention what we believe was a tumbling satellite which flashed as it moved with varying degrees of light. On our last night, Neal caught the Milky Way in time lapse photography, the best ones with a few planes traveling by.

Sweetly but sadly, the world's oldest, slowest, stinkiest dog.

Great time with family, beautiful state, fun experiences. I think that made for a pretty good family vacation and certainly a good reason to miss the first 3 days of school.