I probably should have written separate posts about things, but we just kept being busy and tired, and so now they're all lumped together. So be it. Things that have been happening:
1. Katrina's birthday party. Katrina started thinking about her 10th birthday part approximately one day after her 9th birthday was over, and she went through many, many ideas. A roller skating party was a strong contender. She wished it would be warmer so she could have a party outside. Eventually, about a month or two ago, she settled on having a sleepover. In a fit of insanity, i told her that she could invite 10 friends (to go along with her 10 years). She fretted about who to invite and made lists and agonized over each person that needed to be cut from the final list and finally presented me with a list of 9 girls and 1 boy. I okayed all of the girls, but nixed the boy on grounds that...he's a boy. And it's a sleepover. But he's one of her best friends and she was almost willing to make it NOT a sleepover so that he could come, and so i said that okay, he could come for PART of the party, but he'd have to go home before bedtime. She countered with a request that she then be allowed to invite another girl so that there would still be 10 kids sleeping over. FINE.
So. There were 11 kids for the party, plus our 3, bringing the total to 14. Fourteen kids is a lot of kids to have in one not-huge house. The kids were invited to come after school, and as they arrived, they kind of joined in the fray. For the first hour, our house was complete bedlam, and i was seriously questioning my sanity. They ran upstairs and downstairs and back upstairs and back downstairs and screamed and pretended Houston and Zane were going to get them and ran and ran and screamed and screamed. Juanito put on noise-blocking headphones and didn't take them off until he went to bed. Once most of the kids were here, i herded them all to the table to paint a picture, and then kind of kept them moving from one activity to the next, and honestly, it was totally not horrible. Loud! Heavens, yes. But not horrible.
We did karaoke (which was a HUGE hit) and played pass-the-parcel-truth-or-dare and a game where they had to guess who was hiding in which sleeping bags. There was pizza and cake (You guys! The cake! It was chocolate cake with chocolate frosting, edged with Kit Kats held together with ribbon, and covered with M&Ms. It was super-easy to make, looked gorgeous, and was delicious.) and presents. And a candy hunt in the dark with flashlights. (I sent all the kids to brush their teeth before bedtime, but then in the morning, everyone's bag of candy was empty, so i'm pretty sure i sent everyone home with cavities. And diabetes.) At 10:00, we ordered them into sleeping bags and put on a movie. At 11:30, when the movie ended, half of the kids were still awake, so i threw on Anne of Green Gables (interesting movie + slow moving = great to put kids to sleep), and by midnight only one girl was still awake. Success!
Saturday morning everyone kind of split into smaller, calmer groups. Some played Minecraft with the boys, some played Truth or Dare, some did Mad Libs, some played a version of Blindman's Bluff. There were pancakes and waffles (thank you, Juanito!), and most everyone was gone by 11:00. By 2:00, Houston curled up in a chair and fell asleep for an hour or so. I could have easily joined him.
2. Visiting Lake Michigan: For weeks and weeks, I've been wanting to go visit my Grandpa, both to see him and to see the lake all covered in ice. Every weekend that rolls around, however, we've either had someone sick, a blizzard, or another engagement. This week, we had the perfect trifecta - everyone was healthy, it was sunny and clear, and we had no other plans - and so we headed to my grandpa's straight after church. Here in Grand Rapids, we've gotten 101 inches of snow so far this year. Where my grandpa lives, they've gotten 135 inches. Grandpa was pretty skeptical about our being able to climb down to the beach, telling us stories about how he'd gotten stuck up to his waist before and thought he was going to die out there. We decided to at least try, though, and so off we went. It wasn't impossible. A little bit crazy, but definitely possible.
This was the first time i've seen the lake really covered in ice - and this year, it's 87% covered, according to my grandpa - and it was AMAZING. We got down to the beach, walked to the water's edge, and Zane stopped and initially refused to take one step onto the ice. "But...what if we fall through!!!" Our little risk-averse boy. (Here's hoping that risk-aversion sticks with him through his teenaged years!) We eventually convinced him it was safe and all walked out onto the lake, exclaiming, "This is where we SWIM in the summer! It's probably over your heads here!"
The lake had zones as you walked out. The first zone was just kind of flat, with deepish snow. Boring. The second zone had medium-sized hills. (We were all very impressed with these hills initially.) After the hills, there was another mostly flat zone, though this one was more uneven and unpredictable. One step is normal, the next is knee-deep snow, the next is slippery ice, etc. There was a lot of slipping and falling going on. Zone 4 was the giant, crazy iceberg-y things that looked like huge backwards waves made up of dozens of layers of ice. Very impressive. We spent a lot of time in this zone, with the kids climbing and sliding on them all. In fact, i was PLANNING to stop at this point and just look out and be all, "Oh, yes. It goes on and on, doesn't it? Very nice." But then Juanito headed off by himself toward nothingness and everyone else decided to go back in, and so i headed out to join Juanito. Houston joined us from the great nothingness the other direction, and we all forged on together.
Zone 5 was kind of like zone 3, except more treacherous. There were crazy balls of ice randomly spread around, small enough to be covered by the snow so that you'd take a step and be surprised when you stepped on it. There were slabs of ice sticking up at odd angles, similarly covered by the snow. There were pockets of snow that, when you stepped into them, you sunk in nearly to your waist. It was at this point that i concentrated very, very hard on NOT breaking my ankle. But then zone 6 was insane. Giant balls of snow. Giant slabs of ice poking up in all directions, some reflecting the sunlight into perfect prisms. Every direction was stunning. It was totally worth making the long trek to see.
And then we decided to go back, and i realized exactly how far out we were and what a giant mistake i had made. We were maybe half a mile out onto the lake, which is not far if you're walking down a road, but this is a half mile of deep, deep snow, underneath which lay all kinds of crazy ice-stuffs that wanted to break ankles and make you die, two zones of huge icy hills to climb over, and a giant hill to climb up to get back up to the house. So. Off we went. We tripped and stumbled and fell and climbed and slid and plodded and finally made it back, completely exhausted. (I am not one of those ladies who works out and looks all glistening and lovely. I end up looking like a tomato. Also, my grandpa's house is approximately 90 degrees inside. Everyone was convinced i was horribly sunburned. I was not. Sigh.)
3. Snow day. Today. Again. It's never, ever going to stop snowing.
Today we were talking about Katrina and i mentioned that she's so very consistent - the way she is now is pretty much the way she was last year, and the year before that. I mean, she's gotten older and smarter and better at some things, but her basic personality and likes and dislikes? They're all the same. Just now i looked back at last year's post about Katrina on her birthday, and one of the first things i said was, "She's so consistent!"
Her personality is so very awesome that her consistency is a great thing. Katrina is such a kind little girl. She likes almost everyone in her class. She intentionally befriends the unpopular kids in her class, not because she feels sorry for them but because she sees the good in those kids and she thinks it's mean when people pick on them. I very rarely hear Katrina say anything negative about anyone, and when i DO, she's usually just matter-of-factly telling me a story about someone who got into trouble in class because of some kind of rule-breaking. (She's a rule-follower like me. Rules are there for a reason, people!)
We were talking about our favorite things about Katrina during dinner (we do that on birthdays), and the first several things that everyone said had to do with her kindness, her generosity, her friendliness to everyone. She's just such a sweetie. I love her to bits.
Katrina is becoming a reader more and more. She discovered Percy Jackson recently and has been devouring that series. She loves Beverly Cleary and Judy Blume, and i'm looking forward to introducing her to more of the books i loved as a kid. She still loves her dolls, though these days she's all about her American Girl dolls (she's had Molly and just got Josephina) and less about baby dolls. She's not quite ready to put away the baby dolls, though, so they sit in her closet mostly unused. She draws all the time. She makes little books - stories with illustrations. I find them all the time, usually half-finished little stories that she's lost interest in because she started a new story.
She, weirdly, loves math. She struggles with math sometimes, and it occasionally brings her to tears, but she still counts it as one of her favorite subjects.
She has no interest in cleaning her room. It is her greatest downfall. (As far as downfalls go, i guess it's one i can live with.)
And now she goes forth into her eleventh year. Double digits. She's getting so big, you guys. I can hardly believe that this gorgeous, wonderful TEN-YEAR-OLD girl is the beautiful little baby that i brought home just a couple of years ago. I kind of need time to stop moving quite this fast.
While watching the Opening Ceremonies of the Olympics tonight, they showed one of the athletes, and Juanito commented, "She's pretty." Houston immediately said, "Not as pretty as Mommy."
And that's why he's my favorite.
Meanwhile, Zane fell asleep on me during the Opening Ceremonies, and every time something like that happens now, i'm thinking, "I wonder if this will be the last time one of my kids ever ______." I sometimes really miss having my little kids, and it was sweet to have a small sleeping child curled up on my lap again. (And that's why he's also my favorite.)
Poor Katrina missed out on watching with us this year, because she's at a sleepover for her friend's birthday. Tomorrow she has another birthday party to go to, and then next weekend is her own birthday sleepover party. I can't even imagine how tired she's going to be by next week Saturday. (She's not here to claim it today, but she's my favorite too.)
Zaney lost two teeth this week, the ones next to his front top ones. This would be only marginally remarkable except for the extreme EASE with which he lost them both. One day he was all, "Oh, hey. My tooth is loose," and by that night it was waiting for the tooth fairy. The other one was only barely wiggly, but it somehow got knocked out on the playground. Contrast this to Houston, who had one of his teeth hanging on by a thread for approximately 2 weeks. On one Friday, he told me that his principal had told him not to come back to school with that tooth. (The principal was joking, but Houston didn't lose that tooth for another week after the principal commented on it. Good heavens, child. Just yank that thing out already!)
There's a website called "Chore Wars." I get to put all of the chores that need to be done onto the website and assign them each a certain number of points. I set our household up on Friday, showed the kids how to work it, and let them go. (Also, told them that they can use "gold coins" for screen time.) They all immediately ran off to do chores. Houston scrubbed the entire bathroom and the stove, and Zane and Katrina have been keeping our sidewalks totally shoveled. In fact, this morning Zane told me to make sure that nobody else shoveled, because he wanted to do it when he got home. Win!
And speaking of cleaning.... Katrina's room is quite small. She doesn't have a ton of stuff in it, but then again, we don't have any kind of play room, so most of her stuff is in her room. Add to the cramped quarters a lack of organization, a tendency toward pack-rat-ness, and a teaspoon of laziness, and you have the perfect recipe for a giant mess. She'll kind of try to clean it when i tell her to, but it gets overwhelming and eventually she just can't get it clean by herself, and every few months i can't take it anymore and help her clean it all out again. Yesterday was one such day, and by the end of several hours of sorting, tossing, folding, hanging, and straightening, we were both exhausted. I'm a little bit tempted to move just so that she can have more space, and also fairly jealous of everyone with a nice, finished basement to use as a playroom.
Snowpocolypse continued through Wednesday, took a break yesterday and today, and is supposed to start up again tonight. Yay.
I was SO SURE that school would be open on Wednesday, so when i sent the kids to bed on Tuesday night, i assured them that it was almost definitely a school day the next day. School called at the last minute to cancel. I went to wake the kids up at 8:00 (not wanting them to get TOTALLY off-schedule), and Zane moaned, "I really, really don't feel well! May i stay home?" I readily agreed, and he continued moaning until Katrina said, "It's a snow day." He then bounced out of bed with a cheerful, "Maybe i just need to eat something!" And THIS is why i send my kids to school when they tell me they're sick.
By Wednesday afternoon, the temperature had warmed up to approximately 11 degrees (toasty!), and so once Juanito came home, we walked down to the little hill by our house to go sledding. (Side note: Every time we go sledding - every single time - we are struck by the fact that there are absolutely no tracks from other sledders. Does NOBODY in this neighborhood go sledding but us?) Juanito brought his snowboard, and after a few runs (he intentionally made a path that went straight through the only trees anywhere close to the hill), he gave Houston a chance to try the snowboard out. I was all, "Um...NOT through the trees, though!" Juanito helped Houston strap on the snowboard, gave only the barest of instructions, and sent him off down the hill. Houston flew down the hill like a natural. Never fell, barely wobbled. It was impressive.
We then had a grueling two-day school week. It's a rough life.
The most remarkable thing about the past several weeks is simply the weather. This isn't the most snow Michigan's ever had, nor the coldest temperatures, but it is certainly the snowiest and coldest in recent history. "Recent" being within my kids' lifetimes. That i remember. Maybe it was this cold and snowy two years ago and i've just blocked it out of my memory, but it certainly SEEMS like the coldest, snowiest winter since i was little. We already got the call that tomorrow is another snow day, which means that we will have had, i think, five this year already. I'm not sure what our school plans for, but i feel like we're either very close to or going over the allotted number of snow days. We've had a lot of days that are hovering around zero without the windchill, and most days go well under zero once you factor in the wind. The coldest days so far are in the -20s (windchill), which is pretty stinking cold. Add to that the fact that it just keeps snowing and snowing and snowing. Snow is up past my knees in lots of areas, and the roads that haven't been plowed are a mess.
All that to say this: We've been staying home and inside a lot, and all of us are getting a little bit cabin-fever-ish. Every once in a while the kids will get bored enough that they'll bundle up and go sledding at the tiny hill in the neighbor's yard across the street, just to come in 15-20 minutes later with red cheeks and red ears and cold toes. Most of the time, they'd rather just stay in their pajamas all day if they're given the option.
I'm currently reading a book that's a combination of "The Hunger Games" and "The Bachelor." It's completely ridiculous.
Guy at Barnes & Noble gave me a very disapproving look when he looked at my Nook. I feel a little guilty, even though i did nothing wrong.
Katrina got into bed with us last night and kept me awake with snoring. She's an old man.
Our alpha guinea pig just tried to force the other guinea pig to leap to her death. Harsh.
And speaking of animals: I find myself cheering for my dog when he can stand up from a lying down position. Because it's a huge achievement.
We've lived in this house, and nobody ever ran into our car...until now, just a couple of months after we got a new van. Dang it.
Yesterday my car got hit while parked on the street. Today we put my dog to sleep. Happy Thanksgiving!
Houston just declared, "I have a GENIUS idea!" and then described the worst idea ever. "You guys kneel like this, and i'll stand on you...."
Ah, Frank Oz. He makes me feel better about my singing voice with every movie he does.
Stories about Pope Francis often make me all teary-eyed.
Just saw a craigslist ad selling "numb chucks." People are adorable.
Juanito and i were in the kitchen, when suddenly all three kids started screaming and crying and completely freaking out. Turns out the tree fell over onto Houston. Not nearly the crisis we expected. (We were both thinking, "Dead guinea pig?")
Ornament says, "Not for children 13 years and under." THIRTEEN YEARS. Are 12-year-olds still putting things in their mouths, then?
Y'know what's NOT fun? A field trip to a place with lots of Christmas trees with delicate ornaments with SIX (6) kids in your group.
Kids are playing "I doubt it." Houston just put down "One eleven." Preeeeetty sure you're lying there, buddy.
Just finished a book i did not like, and am now rejoicing with choruses of, "Hallelujah! I can finally read something else!"
We just randomly received another box full of our Christmas cards. Christmas cards for everyone! Who wants one?!
According to Goodreads, i read 92 books this year. And that's not even counting all the ones i read to my kids. I'd call that respectable.
I had a doctor's appointment scheduled today, except then the kids' school has a snow day, so no doctor for me today! Staying in pajamas!
Me: Can i have your address? Her: Why? Me: So i can send you a Christmas card! Her: No. You don't have to do that. Me: Um..... okay?
Me: Sort, wash, dry, fold, sort, give to kid to put away. Kid: Throw on floor of bedroom, ignore for two weeks, throw in laundry. Me: ARRRG.
After a week full of family gatherings and late nights and general busyness, my goal today is to never get out of my pajamas.
I had to go switch cars so ours can get fixed. Rental place called here, and Katrina told them i was sleeping, so they didn't send me a car. Fail.
I just totally cleaned off my terrifically messy desk, and now i just want to sit here and gaze at it.
I keep adding books to my to-read list, even though i have tons already on it. I need an intervention.
Watching the very first episode of the original series of Star Trek. With my kids. I'm prepared for lots of giggling.
The temperature is -7 degrees. IT IS TOO COLD.
If YOUR child told you that his mouth was on fire, would YOU have been able to resist asking if it was the roof of his mouth And singing it?
Six kids sitting around a table, quoting Mr. T's character from Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, among other movies. Kids are weird.
Oh my gosh, Houston. STOP TALKING.
Juanito just backed up the pictures on my computer. 217,000, according to him. That's a lot of pictures.
Not to brag, but Juanito and i just got a score of 60 in the fast pass level of Hyperslide.
Katrina got a rainbow loom. She's trying to follow a youtube pattern taught by a kid, and it's killing both of us a little bit. Kids don't teach well!
Christmas stuff is all taken down and put away. My house feels so empty and tidy.
Me: "Katrina, there aren't any Asian American Girl dolls, are there?" Zane: "Or ALIEN American Girl dolls." I think he's missing the point.
Zane just sobbed at me, "Mommy? Sometimes i feel like a shower is the worst thing in the world."
Please let there be school tomorrow. Please let there be school tomorrow. Please let there be school tomorrow. Please let there be school to
It just took me well over an hour to get the kids to school. I'm now home alone, and it was totally worth it.
Googling ideas for a 10-year-old sleepover. "Show scary movies" and "go to sleep by 2:00 AM" have both been suggested. Only if i'm insane.
Zane's new goldfish follows Houston's old goldfish around the tank like, half an inch behind at all times. Poor old fish.
Katrina's upstairs singing her heart out to the Frozen CD. Love it.
We left the kids home BY THEMSELVES for an hour and a half tonight, and everything was fine. (Except it kind of killed me a little bit)
The kids were each given a hibiscus plant at church. My first thought was, "Awesome. More plants for me to kill!"
Just showed my kids an episode of the 3 Stooges. Their reaction: "Well. That was...weird."
Me: "Do you want to read with me? Katrina: "No, i want to do this with Daddy." (30 minutes later) Katrina sobbing, "But i changed my mind!"
When i send Zane off to school in the morning, his hair looks completely normal, but when he gets home, it looks like this. I have to wonder if it starts looking like this on the way TO school or on the way home. Because if it's on the way to school, i can only imagine what his teacher thinks about me.
Katrina was honored as the Student of the Month today. Her teacher emailed me, "Katrina will be getting the Moral Virtue award for Self-Control and Cooperation, both of which she shows consistently on a daily basis! She is always making fantastic choices with her behavior." Yep. She's such a great kid.
Her teacher wanted it to be a surprise, so i didn't tell Katrina beforehand that she was the SOTM, but i figured that as soon as she saw me and my parents (who were also there), she'd figure it out pretty quickly. I asked her afterwards, and she said, "Well, i thought i was either going to be the Student of the Month or i was going to have to leave early for some reason, but...yeah. I pretty much knew." As soon as the assembly was finished, all of the kids whose parents were there ran over to show their certificates. Except Katrina. I gestured to her to come over, but she held up her "Just a minute" finger so that she could ask for permission first. Which...Self Control. She's a rule follower, she is. :)
Speaking of self-control.... We just passed New Year's. I really like the idea of resolutions, and in past years i've come up with LOADS of resolutions, most of which i forget to do by approximately Jan. 2. So THIS year, i have exactly one. And it's a pretty easy one to follow through with, but it's a really good one for me: I will not add any new books to my current list until i have read (or discarded as not interesting enough) all of the books i already have. I have approximately a million books on my list right now, AND YET, every time i finish a book, i start looking around for more book recommendations. I'll search through loads of books, find a dozen that look good, add them to my list, read one, and then be all, "What should i read now? I'll look for recommendations!" Meanwhile, all the OTHER books, which i've already chosen as something i'd want to read, just sit there unread. I'm an idiot. So! Reading the current list first, THEN getting new books.
So if you have a really good book for me to read, i'll put it on my "after this list is finished" list. I already have one of those going. BECAUSE I'M AN IDIOT.