Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Summer's Out for School

We didn't even take a breath between Summer and school. One day, the kids are in Idaho and we are watching the eclipse and the next moment, everyone's grabbing a backpack and heading out the door. (Or at least that is how it feels.)

There have been years where everyone was ready to go back to school. This is not one of those years. I don't think we were quite done playing. It has been such an amazing Summer. (Not that you know because I haven't blogged about most of it, but trust me.) But school and homework wait for no child. When the bell rings, you come running.

We went to Back to School Night last week for the Bigs and last night for the Littles. I, of course, have been back to school for a couple weeks now making copies galore. I definitely feel useful.

It will take us a while to get back into a good morning routine but all the faces at the table were pleasant this morning and I got lunches made on time. We even left a little early and didn't forget pictures. We are on a roll! Let's look at all these cuties headed off to expand their brains and horizons...

Pearl is getting so big. I can't believe she is in 2nd Grade already. I remember thinking June was so old when she got there. Pearl is already reading very well and is great at Math. I think she will have an excellent year.

Daisy had the most changes in the oral department. Check out her picture from last year. She still had her baby teeth. They finally came out, but only one adult tooth has bothered to grow in. We believe there is another one in there, but have yet to see a sign of it.

Ivory rules the school this year. She is one of the big oldest kids. She is still doing A.L.L. and is excited to see all her friends again. No gymnastics this year, so I'm thinking she will have plenty of time for all that extra homework.

Robyn is no longer the new kid in Jr. High. She has it down. She is taking Jazz Band along with Percussion and I am looking forward to some awesome concerts. I'm totally digging her new transparent glasses.

Finally Miss Ambition herself. June is loaded down with honor classes and a schedule to keep two people busy. But if anyone can do it, she can. She has a positive attitude when it comes to almost everything...except bedtime. She tends to ignore that one. She is living life so fully, it must be hard to sleep.

I'm so proud of all my kids. They work hard and do their best. They aren't perfect, but I love their imperfections. It is what makes them...my kids.

p.s. I included honorary son Radi in filling out a list a favorites, but he didn't make the 'bus' this morning since we left early. I'll try to get a picture of him and put it on here. He has been one of the things that made Summer so sweet this year.

Monday, August 21, 2017

It Hasn't Happened in 38 Years

Well, naturally: Maleen.

Yes, 38 years ago, Maleen was born. Turns out she's one of a kind, and that's...

No, it just happens that Maleen is the same age as the last total solar eclipse in America. Yes, it's been that long!

We had a conundrum about how we were going to celebrate this milestone. Idaho Falls, one of the premier viewing locations in the country is only a four-hour drive north of here. There was talk of AirBNB home rentals at $1500 per night in IF! Bonus, I'm from there, so I had free room and board with Mom and my brothers.

However, we were also starting school this week. Back to school night was Monday night, and classes start on Tuesday. There was a good chance we'd be back on Tuesday — assuming we didn't hit too much traffic on the way back — but there was little or no chance we'd make it for back to school night. Then there was the traffic: Idaho Falls, booming metropolis of 65,000, was expect to triple in size. Officials prognosticated shortages of everything from gas to water, from food to toilet paper.

So, we put it to the girls: who wants to go? The vote was originally 4-1 going. 5-2 if you count Mom and Dad. Over time, it became 4-3, then 3-4. Before it got any lower, I figured I needed to get in the van and GO! So, after the June's dance, we piled in the car (Dad, June, and Robyn) and headed for the land of the eclipse. It was late when we drove up, but there was a steady channel of cars pushing northward to Idaho Falls until 2:00 a.m. when we finally arrived.

We ended up going to church with Grandma. Church in Idaho is always great. Firstly, I'm usually going on some event weekend and other people from my youth end up there on the same weekends as I. The eclipse was no different. It's odd because I know all these people have grown up, moved away, and have families of their own. Yet, when I'm in town, there they are! It's like they never left. They must think the same was as I do.

Note to self: when you're packing your Sunday best, pants are included. If you don't pack pants, you have to go to church in your jeans and a suit coat. While this may pass for "dressed up" in Texas, in Idaho, they just wonder about some bizarre fashion craze that hasn't hit sage-brush country yet.

Sunday was great. We spent the day with the Ks and the Js, and we had a wonderful time. It occurred to me after the trip that this was probably the last time we would get to play with Kaysen. He'll be leaving on his mission soon, and it's likely that the next time we see him, it will be his farewell.

We all retired on Sunday night, ready for the eclipse on Monday. We were all excited, and none of us quite knew what to expect.

And so dawned Monday. By 10:00 the crew was assembled in the driveway on lawn chairs, sipping sodas, and staring into the sky with our solar glasses on.

I even had my binos ready for the event. I got some great photos of the eclipse projection. Yes, that's my dapper shadow with the projection of a 35% eclipsed sun on it...projected via the binos.

Robyn had conscripted the local quadraped into the experience. I'm not sure Pip knew (or cared) what was going on. She was happy to be in a lap. 

The sun slowly approached the mark. 

We didn't know exactly what to expect during the total maximum of the eclipse, but it was incredible. It started to get darker and the temperature rapidly cooled off. We saw shadow bands like light on the bottom of a pool reflecting across the driveway. And then, all at once it was dark. Yes, dark. We could see stars and planets in the sky. We took off our solar shades and stared in awe at the sun through the binos. 

Here's the solar eclipse, though the photo doesn't do it justice. The camera sort of wigged out under these strange light conditions. On the right, you can clearly see Venus...at 11:30 nearly mid day. The sky was dark. Breathtaking. 

The pictures we took don't do it justice. It's something you experience, and no picture will ever capture the experience. 

Then we had to get home: the girls literally had school the next day. But when to leave? The shortages largely fell short (pun intended). But there was no shortage of cars. By 12:00 noon Kathryn was ready to go — she had business in Salt Lake City. So, she hit the road. After an hour, she had made it to the on ramp for I-15 (about 7 minutes from the house), and concluded that it was best to turn around and return home. 

The girls and I waited until about 2:15 checking the traffic reports every 10 minutes. When it looked like the projection was coming down, we said it was time to go and hit the road. 

It took us about 5 hours and plenty of backroad navigation to get back home. This is usually a 3 and a half hour drive. So it wasn't terrible, but it certainly added to our travel time. That said, even with terrible traffic, it was spectacular. I'd do it again in a heartbeat. 

So, you know where I'll be on April 8th of 2024. Or at least you know where I'll be within a 60-mile band from Texas to Maine. See you there.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Monkey Highlights Six, a.k.a. the 4th of July

The Fourth of July ended up being a strange holiday for us. Youth Conference was coming up right after the holiday, and I had gotten myself invited after some pleading and begging. (They did need some extra leaders so I think they were happy to have me come.) We needed to get our littles up to Idaho since both Tyler and I were going to be gone with the bigs. I originally thought I would take them up right after the holiday, but eventually it seemed better to take them up before the holiday and celebrate up there with Granny V.

It felt pretty roomy in the car with only three kids. One child per row...that is the way to travel.

The kids even took a picture of their awesome mom driving.

Grandma was so excited to see us. So we fisheyed her.

The Fourth of July is always a great event in Idaho. We have been there many times and my favorite part is by far 'breakfast on the boulevard.' It is close enough that we walk. We brought umbrellas for shade, but that didn't protect us from the photobomber back there.

Jami, J.R. and Henlee joined us for the festivities. Check out this delicious breakfast. Nothing beats the strawberry rhubarb syrup. I think I could drink it straight.

We stayed and watched a bit of the parade. It was a pretty typical parade. There were horses, bands, floats, and the like. I did like these topiary animals.

We relaxed for much of the afternoon. Pearl drank enough soda to chill her bones and then she needed extra time in the sun.

We crafted for a bit. We worked on making cute owl pencil holders. Here are the bodies.

And here are the wings drying for later use.

I actually took off early and was not able to finish mine, but the girls did such a cute job on their owls. Look at these wise birds. Daisy plans on bringing one to school.

Like I said, I decided to split early. I was worried about having enough time to pack and get ready for Youth Conference. I left in the early evening and was just entering the valley when fireworks started to go off. Tyler and the girls were already on top of the parking garage (where we watched the  Summerfest display). In fact, he even sent me a picture since they were scootering down the levels.

Maybe you noticed more about that picture than I did. Truthfully, I was driving and I didn't look that closely, but it turns out that picture is more than just a grown man on a small kids' toy. In fact, it is showing off some beautiful road rash Tyler picked up when his scooter didn't turn like it was supposed to. Would you like to see it a little closer?

Nifty huh? Good thing we weren't headed out to go camping in Moab in only two days. That would really be annoying.

The good news is that I arrived safely and we watched fireworks explode all over the valley. I can't believe how many there were....everywhere. I'm sure I've become a little jaded. Sometimes all I can see is money evaporating into the evening twilight. How much could we do with that money if we put it towards schools and parks? Perhaps a new sound system for the Jr. High? That would  be pocket change compared to what was ignited that evening. I still love the Fourth of July and I certainly love our country, but as a nation, we could do with some financial allocation seminars.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Get With the Program

Let's go back in time for a moment to May. I'm sorry to say that May is not my favorite month. (Even with Mother's Day thrown in.) It is the last month of school and everything is so crazy and there are a million programs to attend.

You may think I don't like programs. You may be partly right.

I like seeing my kids do well and I do enjoy a good concert, but sometimes I think it is overkill. That said, let's look at a few highlights.

Pearl had her first grade program. This stems from a teacher in first grade who really likes programs. That is good because there are fun songs that I have never heard before. And bad because...it's another program. They had several this school year.

Pearl looked like a little waif child up there. She never brushes her hair or lets anyone else do it. (That is going to change this year if I have anything to say about it.) But luckily she was in the 'pajama' group, so I figured unbrushed hair would look just right.

They really were cute up there. And I did enjoy the songs.

Pearl loved singing them. She knew all the actions and would sing some around the house. I do think music is a great part of school. I'm just hoping for less programs in Second grade.

After, we went to her class and she gave me a cute gift. Love my little Pearly Pea.

Now to another program...the choir performance. Choir performances are usually pretty fun. Robyn opted out of Spanish half way through the year and took Girls' Choir instead. They call it Madrigals. She seemed to like it okay, but she isn't taking it again, so that says something. The end of the year choir performance was pretty good except, as usual, the mikes were awful. You could hear the group numbers simply from the sheer number of voices combined, but whenever there was a solo singer, the background music would drown out the voice, or you could tell they were singing, but couldn't make out any of the words. I wish the school would invest in a new sound system. I naturally only had eyes for my cute Robyn in the front. Here are some pictures from the performance.

 Next up...Ivory. This is probably the saddest program of the year because I didn't get to hear any of it. Pearl had a meltdown moment and I spent the entire concert in the hallway, then car, with her. Bummer. But my kids took pictures and I grabbed one from Tyler's phone, so there is still documentation of Ivory's cello awesomeness.

Oh, I lie. I forgot about June's end of year orchestra concert. That was even more sad than Ivory's. June was sick and she didn't get to go. Tyler went and recorded it so June could watch it later at home. There are few things as sad as seeing your daughter sick on the couch watching a performance she practiced so hard for and miming the fingerings while playing along on her invisible violin. Breaks your heart.

Here is the orchestra, but don't look too hard for June. :(

This isn't all the end of year concerts and programs, but it is all you get today.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Monkey Highlights Five

Week five in the summer was one of the rare weeks that we didn't have much going on. It was actually quite nice. Ivory had gotten home from camp and we didn't have to go anywhere until the Fourth of July.

We still had some of our regular activities. Robyn had another swim meet. I was glad I got to go to them this year. She did a great job. She isn't the fastest swimmer, but she is consistent and usually would beat her own time. There were never a lot of girls in her age group. Often there were only three girls swimming, and I'm think that once she did a race by herself. (I'm pretty sure she won that one.)

This was the week we discovered new filters on the phone, so you get an impromptu fisheye photo shoot. There are some other filters like cartoon and sepia, but the fisheye was the big hit.

We rounded out the week with a blood donation. The boy who used to live next door to us (back in the old hood) did his eagle scout project which was a blood drive. We were more than happy to help out. Here is Tyler doing his thing.

It was funny because Ivory almost cried when she found out I went without her. She sure does like the snacks you get at the end. (I wonder if she will like it as much when she has to give blood to get the snacks.)

I love easy relaxing weeks.