Christmas with the Boys

Every year I see my friends Clay and Lew for Christmas Eve. That didn’t work this year, so I saw them a few days later. We exchanged gifts, had dinner, and played games, it was a wonderful, relaxing afternoon.

Before I left, their delightful father, Tom, insisted that the boys take a photo with me by the tree.
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How sweet is that. And is anyone else shocked at how tall Clayton is getting, or is that just me? I love those boys so much and appreciate that even though they are getting to the stage where it is not “cool” to take pictures, they still do it for me.
That is easily one of my favorite photos from the holiday season.

Summer is Here!

If you haven’t been paying attention, or are fortunate enough to live somewhere that is NOT here, you may be unaware of the intense crappiness that was our spring/summer. It snowed into May, then rained the rest of the month and the first two weeks of June. It was mid-June before our highs started hitting the 70s. Essentially, super-awful weather. Finally, finally it started warming up and though it still rains most days, it has stopped raining all day, every day.

It hasn’t felt even remotely like summer. I have hardly been able to read outside and the pool? Forget it.

Yesterday, Mindy called and asked if she could bring the boys swimming. I wasn’t remotely in the mood. It didn’t feel like summer and I didn’t think I was up for it. However, I haven’t seen Mindy and the boys in ages, and they are some of my favorite people in the world. So, I ignored my impulse, shut down the negative part of my brain and simply said yes.

I am so glad that I did!

It was a wonderful afternoon and evening. It was simply the perfect way to kick off the summer and now I truly feel like summer is here and I can enjoy it. And, for those of you keeping score at home, the pool is officially open!!!
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Me and Clay, I was teaching him to dive. I LOVE to dive and it’s a tough skill to learn. I showed him and he’s a natural! He was diving like he’d been doing it for years.
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Sweet little Lewie. He was catching butterflies. About the cutest thing I’ve ever seen. And then he got in the pool, which has never been his favorite thing to do. However, what a difference a year makes! He was tentative at first, just hanging in the shallow end. Then, suddenly he realized how much fun this was and BAM! he’s swimming the length of the pool. Jumping in off the edge. Jumping into the deep end, by himself, and swimming to the ladder to do it again. It was amazing. He played in the pool for 3.5 HOURS and only got out because it was time to go home. Next time, I’m teaching HIM to dive, too!
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Because it is still not as warm as I’d love it to be, we headed into the sauna to warm up. It took a while to figure out how it worked, but Clay and I put our heads together and….mmm, a nice warm sauna.
Then, as always, before they left I asked for a nice photo of the boys.
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 Those are a couple of handsome boys! I loved my evening with them and with their mother. It was a perfect way to spend a summer afternoon. And for future reference, bringing a pizza to the pool might just be a genius plan!
Thanks for being the perfect way to kick off the summer and open up the pool for days and days of fun to come!

Lent Letter #4

Dear Clayton,

Hi my friend. I love the fact that you are old enough to read this yourself. I know you will, too. I wanted to talk to you today about our friendship. You and I have talked about our friendship before. You know that I love you and that you are one of my favorite friends and that you and I have been friends since the minute we set eyes on each other.

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Right there. That was the minute we met, the minute we became friends. You have no idea how special you are to me. You are the first. The very first kid in my life. When you were born, I didn’t have nieces or nephews and my friends and I did not have children. You changed everything. You made me into the auntie that I am. I know that I am not actually your auntie, and that’s okay. You and I have something better. We have friendship. We choose to be a part of each other’s lives, it’s not an accident of family.

Did you know that you smiled your first ever smile, for me? Part of me feels bad about that, because you should have shared it with your mom or your dad or both, but you didn’t. You gave it to me and it is a gift I’ve always treasured. Even then I knew that you understood that we are a special kind of friends.

We have always been able to talk about anything. You’ve asked me more questions than anyone I know and some are so thoughtful that we’ve had to work together to find an answer. You tell me things that sometimes you don’t even tell your mom and dad. I love the way your mind works, how you process information. In many ways, the way you think deeply and thoughtfully and tend to over analyze things, we are very similar. That is how I think and how I process, which could be why we have always communicated so well. We think alike. In other ways, your love of science and technology and nature, we are very different, but that helps us learn together. I’ve learned so much from you and I hope that you have from me, too.

I know, as days pass and we’re both busy it gets harder and harder and harder to spend time together and to be friends, but it’s okay. Because what we have isn’t because of the cumulative (look it up) time we’ve spent, it’s because we love each other and understand each other. That doesn’t change over time. So, even if you become a sullen teenager and don’t want to spend time with me and get embarrassed by your “parents’ friend” I’m gonna still be your friend. I will just wait you out and then, one day, you’ll remember our bond and that after your mom and your dad, I loved you first. And I will love you always. You changed my whole life just by being born, I can’t wait to see how you use your special life to change the rest of the world, too. I’m really looking forward to that.

And I am always here for you, if you need to talk.

Thank you for being part of my life,

Olivia

(to see why I am doing this, read here)

The New Year

“Youth is when you’re allowed to stay up late. Middle age is when you’re forced to.” ~Bill Vaughn

New Year’s weekend was exciting, fun, and very, very different. (Also, CAUTION, this is one of the longest blogs I’ve ever written.)

My friend Niki and her 3-year-old son, Finn, were coming to town. As we don’t get to see them often enough, we try to get people together for a visit. As it fell over NYE, I figured I’d throw a shindig. Well, the sentiment was right, the execution? Not so much.
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The party dwindled daily, until it was just our core group. Then, Frodo couldn’t make it. Things were not going well. In preparation for Finn, I had talked to Mindy. She and Tom were out of town, but they were looking for a home for the boys. I volunteered to take them, during the party, so that they could keep Finn company. I’m so brave. Turned out, having them there was the life of the party. But, I’m getting ahead of myself.

For the first time, Niki and Finn were staying the weekend with me. Usually they just stay one night. They arrived Friday night about 9pm. Finn fell asleep in the car, so Niki carried him in the house and up to bed. Then, because so many couldn’t make it on Saturday night, we had our friends over on Friday night. This was mostly an excuse for us to see Frodo. We stayed up and talked and chatted.

We were in the garage for a bit and the girls were making great use of the one man we had on hand.
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That picture just about sums up my friends. So comfortable with each other. Poor Frodo, the only guy left in the bunch, but we love him and I think he loves the attention.

Then, Niki wanted some pics, and we are a group that does not often do pictures.
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First, we had Frodo take one of just the girls. Then I said that my phone has a timer and we aimed for the four of us. We sat on the couch, did the timer, and…

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Seriously? That is a terrible picture. After several tries at this, it occurred to me that the flash wouldn’t reach that far. Finally, we stood up and moved closer. We got this.
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It’s still not the best, but it’s pretty good. It is also the only decent picture in existence of me with those three friends, so that makes it very special.

When I was sharing it with them, Frodo said, “am I really that much taller than you guys?” And, yes, he is, but it made me a little sad, because it always used to be him and Peter with us girls and Pete was so tall that Frodo never seemed tall when he was next to him. Without him, Frodo is now the giant of this group.

Of course, as these things tend to go. We were up until about 4am, drinking. We crashed, hard, and everyone slept at my house. The next morning was hard, but it was fun to see Finn. At three, he is just darling and so creative. We played and played and played while Niki dozed on the couch. They left at lunchtime to go visit some friends of theirs. Finn didn’t want to leave me, he was having too much fun. Niki said he talked about coming back and playing with Olivia.

Then, of course, the real fun began. Tom’s mom, Teri, brought Clay and Lew over to my house. Surprisingly, this was the first time they have spent the night at my place. They were so excited. Plus, it was New Year’s and I had promised them they could stay up as late as they wanted to.

We let the boys play for a bit, but they were a little squirrelly. Finally, to wake up me and Niki, we went outside to play. It was over 40° outside that day, which is unheard of for nearly January in Minnesota. No snow on the ground. We played outside with the boys running, then we did a couple games of hide-n-seek. Finally, Niki decided we should explore my woods. My idea of a good time.

We hiked into the woods, found sticks to carry, made trails, followed trails and generally just explored. We found a pond and some guy yelled at us, “that’s private property!” I apologized, we really didn’t know, and we started to leave. Then he yelled, “they can play, I don’t mind” except, you already yelled at us, so clearly you DO mind. We left.

We found a huge hill and the boys ran to the top to “get a good start”.

The race results?

#1
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Clayton. You can see the little boys WAY behind him at the top of the hill. He’s very fast.

#2
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Lewie. Apparently that year makes a lot of difference.

#3
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Finn. These boys were so cute running and running. Being hungover and tired, Niki and I were just fine watching.

Eventually, we made it up to the park where we played all sorts of silly games that only kids can play. Something called Alligator that Clay and Lew swear their mother made up. If that’s true, Min, I’d like to hear the “rules” not the crazy rules the kids make up and change to suit themselves.

I wanted a cute shot of the boys to commemorate their first night staying at my house. As always, they were good to me.
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Eventually we walked back to my house and we were only gone for less than 90 minutes. I couldn’t believe it. I thought we were gone for HOURS.

The boys played for a bit in the basement (careful of the bookshelves!) and then Niki left to go to the grocery and get dinner for us. I said I didn’t want to cook. So she cooked. Niki is a very good cook. She and Pete had me over for dinner a few times and I was always very impressed. While she was gone, I entertained three boys. We played “Sea Monster”, they met my puppet Louie for the first time (Louie was purchased by me when I was 15 years old. He’s one-of-a-kind and I was nervous to let them play with him. But they LOVED him. Lewie loved that Louie has the same name as him. So did Clay he kept asking me, “Can I play with Louie?” which is so funny).
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That’s the two little boys playing “sea monster” I’m not too sure on the rules, but they sure loved it. They were loud and entertained and paying no attention to Clay, except when they would randomly attack him and throw pillows at him. I think they were considering him the sea monster. Eventually, Clay got frustrated and yelled at them. This was the only “fight” of the weekend. I knelt down by Clay and he was struggling to stay in control. I told him it is often hard to be the oldest. Then I asked him how old he was. Seven. I asked him how old Lewie is. Four. And Finn? Three. “Well, if you add up their ages, how old does that make them?”

Seven. Just a moments pause and he said, “so even if you add them up, they’re only almost as old as me?” (He’ll be 8 in April). I said that was exactly right. “And he said, so since they’re so little, I should be more patient?” And that was it. He was calm and patient and didn’t get frustrated again. He also called them “the little boys” for the rest of the time, which I found funny. I sure do love that kid and how his brain works.

Finally, I couldn’t take the noise anymore so I declared it was movie time. I set the three boys on my bed and headed down to grab a movie. I have precisely two movies that children of this age can watch. Cheaper By The Dozen, which most of the children who visit me have seen and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. I knew they wouldn’t be entranced by either, so I gave my collection some serious thought. Suddenly, my eyes alighted upon The Princess Bride. It’s PG, it has action comedy and a little boy just about Clay’s age. I thought, why not? I presented it to them and, predictably, they were none to thrilled to watch a movie with “princess” in the title. But I told them it was a movie about pirates and there were sword fights and a giant and oversized rats and it’s all to rescue the princess. They were hooked.

I started their dinner while they started the movie and, even though they swore they were starving, they would not tear themselves away from the movie to eat. Even Finn, who is only 3, loved it. I finally set up the laptop on the dining room table so they could watch while they eat. It worked and Niki and I got some more peace and quiet.

Muffy showed up soon after and the three of us were set to have “grown up” dinner. Niki did all the cooking and preparation, which should have been weird since it was my house, but I guess she’s stayed there often enough! The boys settled in to watch Rudolph while we ate. Of course, that is a short movie and they were over it fast enough. Then it was “play with us, play with us!”

We managed to hold them off long enough for us to eat. Not too long after dinner, Niki put Finn to bed, it was 9pm! Clay and Lew were still holding strong, though their parents said they’d never last.

They wanted some entertainment, so Niki suggested we play a game. Clay chose Monopoly. No surprise there, that boy LOVES that game. However, Monopoly is a bit involved to start at 9:30 pm and it is a bit much for Lewie. I remember a game that was given to my nephew as a gift and I keep it at my house. We’d never even opened the box. I asked Clay to get it. He was a bit pouty and said he didn’t want to play that game. I said his options were play this game or sit quietly. He chose the game.

The game is called Caterpillar Scramble. We set it up, put in the batteries and read the rules. Four players. Clay, Lew, Niki, and Muffy.

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You have to use tiny plastic tongs to pick up tiny plastic marbles and place them in tiny plastic cups (the caterpillar’s hands) and you have to do it while the caterpillar is moving. It was strangely fun and addicting. We played a game and Niki won. Clay was a very close second. After the first round, Clay leaned over by me and said, “sorry I didn’t want to play this, it’s very fun.” I love how he will freely admit that he was wrong about something.

We played this game several times over. Niki and Clay won every game. Those two have very steady hands. Lew finally started gaining momentum. I think, at four, he was at a distinct disadvantage, but he played every game and tried his best. By the end he was one or two marbles away from winning.

After a while, we all got a little bored with it and I suggested we play cards. Niki and Muffy were chatting and Lew was playing on my phone. My phone got an intense workout. All three boys played multiple games throughout the weekend. Lew finally saw it sitting, unattended, and figured it was his chance to play, uninterrupted. He was quietly playing for about 2 minutes when Clay wanted to play with it. I said no, it was Lewie’s turn and Clay was just going to have to play with me.

We played a couple games of Crazy 8s. I won. I do not let him win. He handled it very well, (he’s super-competitive) but after I beat him two games in a row, he didn’t want to play that anymore. So we switched to War. I dislike this game. It is not challenging and goes on forever. I offered to teach Clay some new games (I know a TON of card games) but he wanted War. So we started. He was killing me. Fine, the faster he wins, the faster it is over.

Then, suddenly, Lewie wanted to play. Clay got bored so they switched. Now I was playing War with Lew and Clay was on my phone. This is a terrific game for kids who are working on numbers. Not only does he have to recognize all the numbers, but he has to know what beats what. He and I had a lot of fun warring back and forth. Of course, inevitably, he got bored and we quit that game.

Lew’s cough was getting worse and worse and it was getting close to bed for him. Niki suggested I give him honey. Even though I hate honey, I needed it for a recipe and had some on hand. I gave Lew a spoonful of honey and within minutes, it actually helped his cough. I never knew that before!

About 11 pm, Lew was done for. I walked him downstairs and he wanted a cup of water. I grabbed a cup and stepped into the bathroom to fill it up. I was five steps away from him and gone for 20 seconds, max. He was asleep by the time I got back to him. He was so tired. Sweet boy. (And in case you were wondering, he DID take his shirt off).

Muffy left and then it was just Niki, Clay and me. The three of us were sitting in the living room, just talking. Clay was semi-playing with my phone, but we were chatting. We learned about school and his friends and what he’d been doing on break and what his favorite Christmas presents were. We also talked about the ball drop. Never having lasted until midnight, Clay was unfamiliar with this tradition. At about 5 minutes to midnight, we went into my bedroom. We turned on the tv and found that only one channel was broadcasting the ball drop. Isn’t that weird? Of course, it was channel 5, which never gets a clear picture at my house. But, we saw enough. And just turned it on in time…they started counting seconds after I turned it on. I guess my clocks are slow.

We said Happy New Year and Niki and I had champagne. I gave Clay a sip. He didn’t love it. But he liked trying it.

Then we went into the kitchen and I waited until the clock said midnight in order to get this:
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He climbed up onto the counter to do that for me. I’m glad we have photographic proof that he lasted until midnight. He really liked that picture and asked me to send it to his parents. I did and Mindy wrote back: “I can’t believe he made it!”.

He did, but he was so very tired. Right after I sent that photo, he hopped off the counter, said “goodnight Olivia” and walked downstairs. I didn’t tell him to go to bed. He was just so tired. Five minutes later, he was back upstairs. I asked him what was wrong and he looked at me and said, “I’m kind of scared.”

It was so sweet. This was the first time he’s ever slept at my house. I know it is hard to sleep somewhere new. I asked if he wanted me to come downstairs with him and he did. I sat next to him and talked to him and he looked over my shoulder and said, “what’s Ferdinand?”

It is an oversized children’s book I purchased, “The Story of Ferdinand” by Munro Leaf. It’s a really cute story about a bull. Clay didn’t know it. He said, “will you read it to me?” And my heart just melted. I’ve read to him since he was born and every single time I’m at his house at bedtime he asks. I love reading to him. We read the story and then, the best part of kids getting bigger, we talked about it. He told me what he liked about it and what he thought it meant. Even with all the fun we’d had, that was, hands down, my favorite part of the weekend.

Finally, I told him I was going to go into the hall to pick up all the coats and shoes and that I’d be right back to check on him. He said that was fine. I left the room for three minutes and when I came back, he was out like a light. So sound asleep I was able to take this, with flash:
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Both boys, sleeping sound in front of my new bookshelves.

The story (long though it is) should end there. But it did not. Lew woke up coughing at 4:30 am. He woke up Clay and said he couldn’t sleep. Clay said to go get me. Lew said “I don’t want her to get mad”. Which cracked me up when Clay told me, because neither of these boys have EVER seen me get mad and certainly not at them. Eventually, Lew came and woke me up. I gave him a glass of water and two spoonfuls of honey. During this, Clay came upstairs. He said to me, “I don’t know why we always wake up so early.”

I laughed and told him that they are going back to bed, 4:30 is too early for anyone to be up. Plus, Clay had only slept 4 hours at that point! I walked them downstairs and it was C-O-L-D down there. So cold, in fact, that I worried my furnace had gone out. As I shivered, Clay, who was tucked in bed, said, “how come the door was open?” I thought he was dreaming something, but he said that when Lew woke up he got up and shut the door.

The door to the outside.

Damn! When we went outside to play, we didn’t come back in that way and so the door didn’t get locked. That door doesn’t shut tight unless it is locked. It has popped open before. Naturally, it popped open in the middle of the night, on the one night it SNOWED. These poor boys were sleeping in front of an open door in 20° weather. Yep, I’m a helluva babysitter!

I felt so bad. But, I just tucked them back into bed, grabbed an extra blanket and locked the damn door.

The next day, they got up about 8:30 am and came into my room. We’d made a plan the night before. They were to come into my room and watch cartoons. Clay knew how to turn on the tv. I heard them come in and said good morning, but then I went back to sleep. I drifted in and out until 10:30. Finn had gotten up at some point and come in there to hang with his buddies, so Niki got to sleep in as well.

It was an amazing weekend. Very different that I had planned or expected, but oh-so-much fun. Before leaving, we managed to get this, a shot of the three little boys who kept us on our toes.
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Happy 2012! Hope yours was as loving, fun, creative, and event filled as mine.

Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve is always a conundrum. For my entire life (up until about 3 years ago) we spent Christmas Eve with my mom’s family. Appetizers and presents. That was tradition. Somehow, things got all mixed up and we stopped doing this. We now see those relatives after Christmas, which works out just fine.

However, this left a gaping hole on Christmas Eve. My sister sees her in-laws that night, as did Zack, before he and Kim broke up. So, this left my parents and me on our own. Well, that’s not entirely true. You see, many moons ago (about 7 years) I popped in to Tom and Mindy’s apartment on Christmas eve, during Clay’s first Christmas, to drop off a gift for him. Mindy was sick and Clay was sleeping and Tom…was working? It was odd. But, it started a tradition with them that lasts to this day. Before my plan, I always stop off at Tom and Mindy’s to give gifts to the boys.

Last year, they did a family trip to San Diego for Christmas and my mom commented that I seemed bereft. In the midst of my bereftness (that’s definitely not a word), I started a new tradition. Mom, Dad, and I would go to a movie. Then drinks and apps somewhere, then we’d call it a night. Last year, it was an amazing night. This year? We’ll get to that in a minute.

Mindy invited me to join them for Christmas dinner, which was very kind of her. The family Christmas Eve is with Tom’s mom and it is also when they do their family gifts. I feel honored that I’m allowed to take part in these special family traditions. I got to their house and the boys were bouncing off the walls. They had already opened a present (each) because they were driving their parents nuts and they figured it would give them something to do. Thus, upon my arrival, I got bombarded with the story of the brand new Lego semi-truck. It has a bed and a tv in the cab!

We played for a bit and then did presents. I got spoiled this year, with new fuzzy socks in purple, Christmas ornaments that hold the boys school pictures, AND a kickass bookend that you simply must see. I love it! It is exactly the kind of quirky thing that I love in the stores but rarely buy. Mindy said she was done for me, but when she saw it, she said, “that belongs to Olivia” and bought it. She was right, it does belong to me.

Clay got his annual snowglobe, which he liked. He still tells me he’d prefer toys, but then his mom tells me that when it gets time to decorate, he cannot WAIT to get out his snowglobes and wind them up. So, it’s the small victories.

Lew got his annual M & M ornament, which was thoroughly unimpressive to a 4 year old, but he’ll like them someday. He also got a box of Sugar Babies, because I love giving that boy candy and his mother wishes I wouldn’t, which makes it fun. Then, I got the boys a game to share. Operation. They already have the game operation, but this is special. This is Star Wars Operation and you operate on the little robot. Dang it. Hang on while I look up his name. R2D2. Got it. They were very excited and played it almost immediately.

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They were going crazy. Mindy and I ended up talking about how much we liked Operation when we were kids. Once the boys abandoned the game, about five minutes after they started it, she and I played a game. We let Clay join us, because he saw what we were doing, and it was fun.For the family gift, I gave them something very special. This fall, I took a class in stained glass. I cut and designed an abstract piece for them and gave it to them with a display stand. I wish you could see it. I wish I had been smart enough to take a picture of it. It was beautiful. I liked it more than the piece I made for myself. Mindy loved it. She was astonished that I made it. Tom didn’t seem surprised at all.After Tom’s mom arrived, we had a wonderful dinner of roast beef and cheesy potatoes. After dinner, it was time for presents again. Normally, this was when I would leave, but my parents had decided against a movie. So, I stayed and hung out some more. Before more presents, we decided to make them work a bit. The boys were directed to plan a Christmas performance (this was my suggestion, to keep them busy so we could finish dinner in peace). Below, you will see the video of their performance. It was pretty adorable for a 7-year-old and a 4-year-old who threw it together in about 2.5 minutes


MOV06937 a video by okmoris on Flickr.

Earlier in the evening, I mentioned something about the NORAD Santa tracker. This was not something they knew about. I was surprised I hadn’t mentioned it before, we’ve been tracking Santa at our house for years. I showed them the website and the boys were enraptured. They couldn’t believe the could watch Santa delivering presents. We watched videos of other cultures and got to talk about how different things are in other countries. Clay wondered why he went to the countries he did and we got to talk about time zones. Lew enjoyed this, but 7 is perfect, I am thinking because Clay was obsessed. He stared at that all night and kept coming up to me and asking where a certain country was. I have a World Map app on my phone, so I kept pulling it up and we’d search for whatever country. The only one we struggled with was the South Sandwich Islands. (Off the southern tip of South America, near Antarctica, if you’re curious).

Later that night, as I was watching Santa head toward St. Paul, I text Mindy to see if he was still awake and to let her know that Santa was spotted nearby. I got a text back that said, “he fell asleep in front of the computer, tracking Santa”. Adorable!

After entertaining us, they were made to change into nicer clothes for pictures. One nice one with Grandma:
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And Mindy said, “I know you want to open presents, but I will make you do this over and over until you don’t have goofy faces or cheesy smiles, so smile nice the first time and we’ll be done faster.” It made me laugh because she was so serious. The boys took it to heart, though, and we got nice pictures.

Next, we did pictures with me.

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I have no idea why Lewie felt it was necessary to drape himself across me, but he did. And Clay is clearly not looking. So Mindy made them do it again.
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Now Clay isn’t smiling. I’d have been happy with either of these, I don’t have too many pictures of me with both boys. But, Mindy made them do it again. I was actually laughing at this point.
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And how perfect is that! I simply love it. As soon I can, I will print that and it will be framed in my house. I’m so glad she was being a stickler, totally worth it!

Then, just to torture the kids some more, we did a family picture.

I said, “just so you know, I will stand here and do this all night, until every one of you is smiling. And that includes your dad!” That cracked everyone up. Tom is notorious for never smiling in pictures. I took a picture of him smiling this summer in Chicago and Mindy loves it so much she included it in their Christmas card–but that’s a story for another blog. Of course, my humor got even Tom to smile.
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This was my first attempt, but Lewie was testing me to see if I was as tough as his mom (usually I am not), but I stood my ground and made them do it again.
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Now, Lewie looks a bit cheesy, but I think it is cute. And I love Clay’s hands clasped under his face–and Tom, look at that handsome smile. Worth it. I said this could be their Christmas card for next year!

Then, more and more presents awaited.
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Things not even fully unwrapped before they move on. Lucky kids.
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I love how serious he is. I think he gets nervous about whether he’s going to like it. At 7, he’s a lot more conscious of things like that.
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More and more and more!

Next up is one of my favorite Christmas pictures of the year. Lewie, who is the sweetest boy, will always stop to smile if you point a camera at him. I love that about him. But, he decided to organize all his new presents by carrying them across the room–all at once.
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It was funny to watch, he’d taken approximately one step when I stopped him for the picture. He took one more and the pile collapsed. He stooped down and restacked everything and started again. Three tries before his mom just took half the pile and helped him out.

Clay and Tom headed downstairs to set up some new toys and I never went to look, so I have no photos of that, but Lew and Mindy were putting Legos together in the dining room.

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Legos are a LOT of work. Wowza.

I was teasing Lew about the names of his new Legos and he was laughing at me, he looked so cute I picked up my camera and said, “look at me, Lew”:
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Every time! I love that kid.

I left about 8:30 to head to my parents. Things were very low-key there. They were just hanging out. Then when my brother arrived, the four of us played music trivia until the wee hours of the morning. I really mean wee. I didn’t leave there until 4:00am. Then, I still had some presents to wrap when I got home. That was one long night!

But, it was a relaxed, calm and fun Christmas eve, full of family and friends. I sure couldn’t ask for more!

Clayton’s Birthday Day

Going all the way back to April (man, losing that camera cord really threw a wrench in my blogging), I have to do a quick recap of my date with Clay.

I had told him it was up to him to pick what we do. He only had one request. Legoland.

Sigh.

Okay! I picked him up (and I was late, due to the unforseen circumstance of…I was babysitting Arionna) and we headed out to the Mall of America. I told him that the first thing we had to do was have lunch. I was starving, so we were eating. We found a food court and he wanted McDonalds. What is it with kids and McDonalds? I like the place, but in a food court, it is the LAST thing I would choose.

I stood with him and we got what he wanted (not a Happy Meal–he’s too big) and then I made him hold it and stand in line with me at Great Steak and Potato Co. The sign prompted a discussion. He wanted to know what “co” meant. I told him it was an abbreviation for Company. He absorbed that and then we talked about what an abbreviation is and why someone would abbreviate something and how to they decide what the abbreviation will be?

It was a fascinating wait for my food.

Then we found a table, overlooking Legoland, so he was able to speculate and dream while we ate our food. Mostly while I ate and tried to talk him into eating. Excitement was taking hold.
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He was taking everything in. He doesn’t get out to MOA all that often, so he was absorbing the culture.
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Think he’s more excited about Legoland or that giant pop I let him have?
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While less-than-thrilled with the number of pictures I took (not that many! I am posting them all, just to prove it) he was still a good sport. Though his brain is clearly elsewhere.

Our time in Legoland was actually pretty cute. He is so serious, considering the number of guys in a set. The total pieces. The overall price. He is getting better and better with money, but he gets confused on what he can afford sometimes. I think it is more that he gets excited and overwhelmed and doesn’t take the time to figure it out. But we’d talk prices and he kept asking me if I would pitch in any money. I told him it would depend.

Then he finally found, with my help and the help of the friendly sales associate, several packs of “guys” which was all he really wanted. I ended up having to pay some, but he was so happy, it was totally worth it.

We left the store and headed out to the mall, he stopped right away to open his packages and take out all his guys. I kept warning him about small parts and losing them, but he was content.
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He’s stuffing the tiny guys into his pockets for transportation. Never mind the BAGS I am holding…

I was aimlessly wandering while he was doing this (it took a while, he bought like 18 guys and kept having to resituate who went it what pocket to make sure they’d all fit.

I glanced over at him and he was so intent on what he was doing, I sneaked another shot. He just looked so cute, fumbling with his pockets and trying to figure it all out.
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Whoops. Caught me.

Then we just wandered around the mall for a bit. We walked past the Rainforest Cafe and he inspected the mist and jungle sounds; pockets bulging with Lego guys.

I forced him to pose again:
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and I love that picture! He just looks so…Clay.

Then, while randomly wandering about, we came across a crowd of people. I was curious–well, so was Clay, and then the crowd shifted and I was able to see.
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Can you tell? Can you see her? She is sitting down at a table, looking down, signing a book, wearing a black and white striped shirt.

Now can you tell?
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Is that one better?

It was super crowded and I was getting jostled, trying to shoot the picture and keep track of Clayton. Plus, we were really far away and the lighting was awful. It was broad daylight…how can it be so dim in there?

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Last one, after we went up a level. It’s a better picture, but she’s looking down, so I don’t know if it is easier or not…

 

Any guesses?

 

It’s Molly Ringwald. Man, anyone who lived through the 80s must know and love Molly Ringwald, as evidenced by the huge crowd of people. I guess she wrote a book. Who hasn’t? And she was there to sign copies.

Of course, after all these crazy photos, I had to explain to Clayton who Molly Ringwald was. He wanted to know what she was in. He’d never heard of her movies. Weird. I told him that both his mom and his dad would know who she was, so he should remember her name and then ask them when we get home. So, we were going up an escalator and he was whispering to himself “molly ringwell, molly ringwell, molly ringwell” I figured close enough and let him alone.

At the top level, I forced him to stop for another photo shoot, in front of this weird statue. He refused to smile. I worked for it, and, if you look close, you can tell he’s having to fight to NOT smile at me.
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What can I say, I’m irresistable.

He didn’t really want to do anything else at the mall. I tried and tried to talk him into more. Anything, really, but he wanted to go home and hang out with me. It’s his day.

So we went back to his house and found that his mom was off working, his dad and Lewie spent the day shopping at Axman and Clay recounted our day. He forgot only one part and I prompted him “what celebrity did we see?” and I could see his little brain churning as he struggled for that name.

Molly Rangwill!

He was so proud of himself. Luckily, his dad is fairly savvy and knew who he meant. Later, he managed to get it right when he told his mom.

Then, he got the coveted permission to play a video game and the boys and I trekked to the basement to spend a couple hours playing some weird Star Wars game. I didn’t like it at all, but Clay liked that I was there to play it with him.

He was happy with how we spent our day, so, even though I was a bit disappointed, I’m happy he’s happy.

I might devise a better plan for next year. (and see, that wasn’t that many pictures, and it includes THREE of Molly Rangwell).

Swimming Pool

I’ve wanted a swimming pool all my life. That’s not an exaggeration. Ask my mom, she’ll tell you I’ve been a pool nut from the very beginning.

We once visited a friend of my dad’s, someone he worked with. We went to his house and he had this HUGE above-ground pool in his yard. I was in love. I remember begging for my dad to get us a pool like that. (Since I’d long given up on getting an in-ground pool). Our family friends, Frank and Kathy bought a pool for their kids. It was a small above-ground pool. Maybe 8′ across? I was so jealous. I longed for a pool of my own. But, it never happened.

That is why, when I had the opportunity, I took full advantage. Ask Kelly about the time I went “camping” with her family and I wouldn’t get out of the pool for three days. I mean, other than flirting with those cute guys (and playing pool?) I was in the water the entire weekend. Which sent me home with 2nd degree burns on my face. I’m much more careful now.

But, I love to swim. I love to play in the water and have fun.

My house has a pool.

I wasn’t looking for a townhouse with a pool, but when I found my house and it happened to have a pool, I was sold. After the fiasco that was the closing of this house, it ended up being more than two weeks later than it was supposed to be. Do you  remember last October? It was warm, sunny, and gorgeous. The pool was open during the closing fiasco and I just kept hoping it would hold until I got my keys. I wanted even one day of sitting by my pool.

They closed it two days before I finally got my keys.

That means I spent seven months paying dues to support the cost of my pool that I couldn’t even use.

It finally opened just under two weeks ago. Of course, this bizarrely cool weather has really been hindering the pool usage, but I’ve still managed to make it over there a few times.

The very first time was with Kelly and her kids as they popped in to visit one night.
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The kids were so excited we let them strip down to their underwear and “swim”. They played in the pool until after bedtime and we finally dragged them out so Kelly could get them home. Christian started crying he was so upset about leaving the pool. I feel ya, buddy. I hugged him and promised him that they’d come back soon.
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Next, I took my friends Clay and Lew for an evening, to give their dad a break while mom was in China. They wanted to go hang out at my house. Evidently, my house is fun. We walked over to the pool and they also stripped down and played in the water. That was last Wednesday.

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(And Lew was deliberately hiding his face. He thought it was funny!)

On Friday, I babysat my nephew for a couple hours. He, too, wanted to see the pool. He ended up skinny dipping while I swam for the very first time. We played in the water until he was cold and exhausted. Did I mention it was only 60 degrees out? We’re dedicated! Simon loved it so much. When I got him back home he told Grandma that he swam without his clothes on and she said, “you went skinny dipping?” I had avoided calling it that so far. But now he knows the term, so when his mom picked him up, what did he tell her? “I went skinny dipping, mama!” She blames me. I said it’s Grandma’s fault.

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This picture also marks MY first time swimming in my pool!
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(doesn’t really look like swimming weather…does it?)

On Saturday, Mindy called. She was back from China and Tom was helping friends move. She was looking to entertain the kids for a bit and they asked to come swimming at my house. I said come on over! We swam for a bit, then it started raining. We kept swimming for a while, then it started pouring. Finally, we were all so cold we went into the sauna to warm up. Probably not the best for kids, but we kept it on low…and it is a sauna, not a steam room. The boys LOVED the sauna.
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Lew is dancing, I think. Clay is just happy I gave him a pop. They would take turns spraying the water onto the rocks. I think that was their favorite part.

On Sunday, I watched Arionna so my sister and Chad could paint their basement. We avoided the pool. Only because I knew that we would go swimming the very next day.

Monday, Memorial Day, was an absolute blast. My sister and Chad has asked more than a month earlier if they could bring Ario over for her first swim. Luckily, my pool is heated, so it works in a variety of weathers. Then we invited my parents and Zack and Kim. Kim was sick on Memorial Day, so they stayed home. Just about an hour before our pool party was to start, Mindy called. She said they wanted to come swimming again. I invited them, too. Then I invited the Humphreys, but they missed out.
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It actually looks like Ario is having fun. She sort of did. She probably started crying a few seconds after I took this. But by the end she seemed like she liked it. By the end of summer I bet we’ll have a little fish on our hands.

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My sister used to have a pool at her apartment, four years ago. Luckily, she kept most of her pool toys and brought them with. So now, I have tons of fun things to play with, including a Jet Ski!
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My parents didn’t spend a ton of time in the pool, but they still had a blast. And isn’t the scenery by the pool gorgeous?
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Late in the day, as we were winding down, it finally got sunny. This little peanut was having fun, though she needs some more time to get used to the water.
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I love this picture! Even though she isn’t looking. The color is amazing and you can see her beautiful curls.
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Awww! Everyone should be so lucky as to have this grandma. I should know, I have her as a mom.

Fortunately, Mindy was also taking pictures and she managed to grab one of me.

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Not surprisingly, I was in the water. Except for blowing up the pool toys and taking the few above photos, I was in the water for almost four hours straight. When Mindy wanted to come talk to me, she sat at the edge and I swam over and chatted. Neither Mindy, nor Tom, are big pool people. Outside, yes, but not in the water. Their boys, however, are pool nuts. Tom and my dad were talking about it during the party and my dad told Tom not to worry, I LIKED playing in the pool with his kids.

My dad is right. I love being in the water. I love it when friends bring their kids to play (it’s more fun than swimming alone). I absolutely, positively, undeniably, love having a pool.

32 years.

Worth the wait.