Saturday, March 3, 2018

The Oscars: 2018

It's that time of year again! I saw almost all of the nominees for Best Picture. Even with the Oscars airing later thanks to the Olympics, I still missed two. I guess I was too busy watching the Olympics to get to the theater. Sorry, Call me by Your Name and Darkest Hour.

In addition to the Best Picture nominees, I saw I, Tonya. Allison Janney was brilliant. I really liked it, and it fit in well with all of my Olympics watching.

I have to saw, this collection of nominees were not my favorite. I much preferred last year's movies. Anyway, here are my mini reviews.

7. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri: The more I thought about this one after seeing it, the less I liked it. The acting was excellent, and probably worthy of the Oscars Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell are likely to win. However, the story itself was disappointing on many levels. I don't want to spoil it, but I'll just say that redemption via a letter from beyond the grave does not work for me.

6. Phantom Thread: Daniel Day-Lewis is always good, and I enjoyed the behind the scenes look at fashion in the 1940s. But then this movie takes a very bizarre turn that I am not sure I liked. Actually, I am sure. I didn't like it.

5. Dunkirk: This one was interesting. It's not your standard war movie. There is very little dialogue - the movie lets the action tell the story. As with most war movies, it is violent and hard to watch at times. It was an interesting way to tell a story, though.

4.  Shape of Water: This one managed to be completely unique and totally cliche at the same time. Basically, it's a love story between a woman and a giant man fish. If that doesn't sound interesting to you, I wouldn't bother with this one. (Also, there is some gruesome violence.)

3. Get Out: So good. So freaky. So happy this was nominated for Best Picture.

2. The Post: I really liked this one. I wish it was getting more awards love, because I thought it was really well done. It takes place in the 1970s, but is absolutely a commentary on Trump. As a former newspaper reporter, I always enjoy journalism movies. And you can't go wrong with Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks in your cast. People in the theater were actually cheering during this movie.

1. Lady Bird: This was beautifully shot, directed and acted. I was worried that it would hit too close to my future home as a story about a mother and her teenage daughter, but it really didn't. After this movie my friends and I noted that we are now old enough that we were sympathizing with the mother rather than the teenager. This was the first one I saw, and it ended up being my favorite.

Should Win: Lady Bird
Will Win: Shape of Water*

*This is the least confident I have ever been in my pick. We'll see if I can win the Oscar contest for the third year in a row!

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Bits and Pieces: February

Why is it that the shortest month of the year always feels like the longest? I've been struggling this month - anxiety rearing its ugly head again. I am just so ready for winter to be over. It doesn't help that a stomach through is making its way through each of us. I am still hoping to avoid it, knock on all the wood, fingers crossed, etc.

Clare and Christopher have been making the most of winter, though. Ben took them sledding last weekend, and they loved it. They were out there for hours. I am glad Ben enjoys doing these things with them, so I don't have to. I did take Clare ice skating on Sunday, though, and it did feel good to get some fresh air. Maybe I need to try harder to enjoy winter activities.

Ben and I joke that Clare is going to be a lawyer when she grows up, because she insists on arguing, debating, or negotiating with us at all times. (A trait she likely inherited from either her grandfather, an actual lawyer, or her Aunt Katie, noted pusher of buttons. When she was a kid. Not so much now.) Clare is good at it, too. She will quickly find flaws in any argument, or throw words back in your face that show that you did in fact not give her the punishment you thought you did. It would be annoying if I wasn't so impressed with her skillz.

Clare has become interested in cooking this month. She checked a cookbook out from the library and has been busy in the kitchen making meringues and a strawberry yogurt concoction. I am hoping this new hobby will help curb her picky eating. We shall see. School is still going well. She is very attached to her best friends Rainie and Natalie. She is doing mostly second grade work, which is once again a great benefit to being in a mixed age classroom. She is reading at a much higher level than that.  She enjoys reading about 5 books at once, something I can never do. She is currently reading the second Harry Potter, "Charlotte's Web", an American Girl mystery, and a book about the main female characters in Star Wars. At school, she is working her way through the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books. I have never read those, but she likes them.

Christopher has been learning about outer space at preschool. I have never seen him so excited about a topic, or so excited to go to school. Every day we play aliens after school. He is named Rock Man, and I am the Queen. (Of what, I have not a clue.) Rock Man lives on Jupiter, Christopher's favorite planet. He also likes to tell me about gravity and how it works. I have been digging out all of our books on space, and will need to find more at the library.

Ben gave me a game emulator for Christmas, so we have a lot of the old-school Nintendo games. Clare and Christopher love it. Christopher is actually pretty good. He quite enjoys playing the games during his allotted screen time.

He is doing better at skating - there are no more tears and he actually puts forth a bit of effort. I can tell he is also ready for winter to be over, though. He keeps asking to go camping.

This month we went to the Winter Carnival, and also checked out Rock the Cradle at MIA. The Winter Carnival always seems like a good idea, and then is always kind of boring. This year there were lots of out of towners there since it was Super Bowl weekend. Rock the Cradle was fun, but Christopher was a bit cranky. (It turns out he was sick.) I was proud of him though, because at one point we got separated and he took the initiative to ask a staff person to help him find his mom. (We were in the same room, we just lost track of each other for a minute.)

Ben and I took advantage of the Y's Parent's Night Out program this month and had a date night. It was nice, although I was unimpressed with the restaurant we went to. I am going to try to plan a date night every month this year.

This coming weekend is quite busy, and then next weekend I am going on a much-needed weekend getaway with my friends. I can't wait!

The only celebrities we saw Super Bowl weekend.

Ice palace at the Winter Carnival.

Rocking out at Rock the Cradle.

Riding a horse at a preschool field trip to Choo Choo Bob's.

Ice skating at Groveland.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Bits and Pieces: January

Christopher: "Why do people who don't know you like you?"
Me: "I don't think people who don't know you like you or dislike you."
Christopher: "Well, people I don't know smile at me all the time." (Said while batting his eyelashes.)

Yes, they do, Christopher. Because you are an adorable little boy. Don't let it go to your head.

Another recent funny Christopher-ism:

Me, in the car: "Why isn't this stupid driver going. God!"

Clare: "You said a bad word. You're not supposed to say that!"

Christopher: "It's okay to say it if there is someone in your way."

And further proof that I need to watch my mouth around my children:

Clare: "Decorating gingerbread houses makes you say bad words. You said 'dumb' and 'shit'."

Anyway, moving on. January is always a strange month. At the beginning, I am relieved that the holidays are over and we have a fresh start. We always do a lot of planning for the rest of the year, and planning is one of my favorite hobbies. As we get further along in the month, though, it starts to drag and seems to go on forever.

Speaking of plans, we are going to be doing a few house projects this year, including a new backsplash for the kitchen and new siding. That is, we will do these projects if I can ever decide on a color for either. It is a big commitment!

The kids started skating lessons this month. Clare is doing well. She enjoys the lessons and has started skating backwards and doing some simple turns. Christopher, though. Christopher is not into it. He cries before every lesson and then only half-heartedly participates. I am not going to let him quit, but I wish we could find something he likes. He also did this when we had him in gymnastics and swimming. I asked him what he wanted to play, and he said football. And I said no. Actually, I don't know if there are any football programs for kids his age, but I am very reluctant to let him to play.

We took the kids to a Gopher women's hockey game this month. They enjoyed it. Clare liked watching the game, while Christopher was more interested in chasing Goldy around the stands and eating many concessions. Goldy snuck up behind him at one point and put his hands over Christopher's eyes. When Christopher realized who it was, he shrieked with absolute joy. (Clare is still scared of Goldy.)

Clare has had a few days off school this month. We spent one of the days at my friend Kerry's house, and the kids all had fun running around. I enjoyed drinking coffee and talking to my friends. It is so nice that the kids are old enough now that I don't have to watch them constantly. This past Friday, we went to the Children's Museum. It was insane there, but the kids enjoyed it, especially the slide. I sat and drank coffee and watched them come flying down. (Apparently all of my nice mornings involve drinking coffee.)

And then, of course, we had the snow day. I felt very lucky that Clare made it home safely and on time that Monday. I feel for those poor kids (and their parents) who were stuck on buses or at school for hours. I did stupidly try to take Clare to her piano lesson. I got stuck in the alley, and then stuck on Fairview Avenue before finally making it around the block to park in front of the house. My children learned a few new profanities that day as well. Later, Ben and my neighbor had to push the car down the street and up the alley. The neighbors all really banded together to help people who were stuck. And my neighbor also used his snowblower so we had a lot less shoveling to do.

The snow day itself was fun. The kids were so excited to play outside. I believe they won't see many more of these huge snowfalls in their lifetime, so I am glad they got to experience it.

My mom was here for a few days, and my sister and I took her out for her birthday. (Our usual: martinis at Moscow on the Hill followed by burgers at Red Cow.) My dad joined her here for the weekend. We always have a nice visit.

Christopher has been struggling with goodbyes at school. He sobs when I leave. I hate leaving him like that, but as soon as I leave he stops. The school has an Instagram account, so I can check it and see his smiling face. I know it just an act for me, but it still breaks my heart.

I am starting my new childcare schedule this Thursday. (I will be watching Josie and Otto four days a month.) Wish me luck! It has been a long time since I've taken care of a baby. Luckily, Otto is one of the cutest babies in the world, says his biased aunt. I just hope he'll take a bottle.

Starting the New Year with cousins is an excellent way to start the year.

Showcasing their different personalities.

Goldy excitement.


Taken moments before her boots got stuck in the snow and she came in barefoot and crying. (We went back out later.)

Flying out of the slide at the Children's Museum.

She loves painting her face.

Found on my phone.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Year in Review: 2017

I don't even know what to say for an introduction, so let's just dive right in, shall we?

1. What did you do in 2017 that you’d never done before?

Visited Wine Country. Served as a delegate at the DFL City Convention. Participated in a worldwide protest.

2. Did you keep your New Year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

I accomplished eight of my 40 x 40 goals. (Saw a local performance of the Nutcracker, did a behind the scenes tour of the Aquarium, read East of Eden, started a college savings account for Christopher and added to Clare's, volunteered at Clare's school, baked an apple pie using my grandmother's recipe, took both kids to a movie at a movie theater, and went on our yearly friends camping trip.)

I didn't make any other resolutions, but this year I have two.

~Find a regular volunteer opportunity to do with Christopher.
~Talk about our budget on weekly basis with Ben.

3. Did anyone close to you die?

No, thank God.

4. Did anyone close to you have a child?

Yes! My sister had my new nephew Otto in November. Katie had Eero in January.

5. Where did you travel?

Fort Myers Beach, Florida; Northfield (Girls' Weekend), Whitewater State Park (Friends' Camping), Lake Itasca State Park, Gooseberry Falls State Park, Sonoma, Lake Vermillion, Cascade River State Park (Friends' Camping), La Crosse (Girls' Weekend), and several trips to Evansville.

6. What would you like to have in 2018 that you lacked in 2017?

Oh let's see, maybe a world that doesn't feel like it's falling down around me? I don't see that happening, though.

7. What dates from 2017 will remain etched upon your memory?

January 21 - the day of the Woman's March. My nephew's birthday in November.

And I think, in general, I will remember all of 2017 as just being terrible.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Hmmmmm. Let's stick with something really, really small. I finished a knitting project. (A cowl for Clare.) And I read more than 50 books.

9. Did you suffer illness or injury?

Yes. I had a procedure done and ended up with a tear in my esophagus. It sucked. (I am okay now.)

10. What was the best thing you bought?

I mostly buy stuff for the kids. Also: a plane ticket to Sonoma.

11. Whose behavior merited celebration?

My friend Heather, who is now the President of ERA Minnesota, among her many other volunteer duties. She has started doing all of this since the election. I really admire her.

Also, as every year, Ben is really my rock. I couldn't ask for a better partner, even if we annoy each other sometimes. And I can say that because I know he won't read this.

12. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?

Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan and the rest of the Congressional Republicans; Matt Lauer, Harvey Weinstein, and all of the other abusers of women; and of course He Who Shall Not Be Named.

13. Where did most of your money go?

Same as last year: Things for House and Children.

14. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

My new nephew. My trip to Sonoma with my college friends.

15. What song will always remind you of 2017?

Anything on the They Might Be Giants "Science is Real" album.

16. Compared to this time last year, are you: a) happier or sadder? b) thinner or fatter? c) richer or poorer?

I hate to say it, but sadder and fatter. About the same financially.

17. What do you wish you’d done more of?

Exercised and washed my face. Had date nights with Ben. Every year I say this, and every year I mean to prioritize it. Spoiler alert: I don't.

18. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Yelled at my kids.

And, because I think I need to repeat this every year, what I wrote last year and the year before and the year before that:

Worried about things that are out of my control. I think I'll wish that every year. Also: obsessed about things that have already happened. (And are therefore out of my control.)

19. How did you spend Christmas?

We hosted my parents and my sister and her family at our house in Christmas Day. We spent Christmas Eve at my sister's house. It was our usual fun: church and then lots of taco dip and wine. The kids were thrilled with their haul, including the American Girl Diner for Clare (which I found on deep discount on Cyber Monday) and a bunch of transformers for Christopher. Ben gave me an emulator to play all of the old school Nintendo games, and the promise of a weekend to myself at home.

We had a lot of festive fun this month, including Ben's family party complete with swimming at the hotel pool, a hot drinks party at my friend Sarah's, Cindi's annual Christmas party, and my office party with my friends. (Day drinking for the win!) We are spending New Year's Eve in Evansville, with VIP visitors. (My brother, sister-in-law and nephew, who flew in from London for a short visit.)

20. What was your favorite TV program?

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, The Good Place, Brooklyn 99, Master of None, and Star Trek: Discovery. (I am not ashamed to admit it.) I have also been rewatching Friends again, which is a nice distraction.

22. What was the best book you read?

My top five:

1. "Jane Eyre" by Charlotte Bronte
2. "Little Fires Everywhere" by Celeste Ng
3. "Commonwealth" by Ann Patchett
4. "Lilac Girls" by Martha Hall Kelly
5. "This is How It Always Is" by Laurie Frankel

23. What was your greatest musical discovery?

The Palace Theatre in St. Paul. (Can a place count as a musical discovery?) I saw Belle and Sebastian, The Pixies and Wilco. All great shows, and all over by 11 p.m. This is my kind of place.

24. What did you want and get?

Clare's amazing teacher. I requested him and he has more than lived up to my expectations. I am so happy that she gets to have him as her teacher for 3 years.

25. What did you want and not get?

I mean, obviously there are a million things that I wanted to go differently this year for this country and this world. However, on a purely selfish and materialistic level I'll say a new phone.

26. What was your favorite film of this year?

"Lion", "Moana" and "Lady Bird".

27. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

Ben worked late on my actual birthday, and I spent a few days sulking about the lack of celebration. Then my friends kidnapped me two days later and took me out for a surprise dinner and drinks and showered me with some lovely presents, including a beautiful bag that my friend Sarah made herself. She could seriously sell these bags. This made up for any other birthday woes. I also went out to dinner with my sister, which is always nice. I turned 38.

28. What one [or three] thing[s] would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

I say this all the time, but I would love some more time to myself. Now that Christopher is in school three days a week I have a few hours on those days. However, I am really trying to make exercise a priority so that pretty much eats up all that time.

29. What kept you sane?

Wine. Joking, sort of.

My lovely friends Kerry, Sarah, Heather and Peggy. I honestly don't know what I would do without them.

30. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

Honestly, no one. I am sick of celebrities.

31. What political issue stirred you the most?

This isn't a political issue, but I want to fit this in somewhere. I was a delegate for the wonderful Melvin Carter, and HE WON the election in St. Paul. I am so excited and proud that he is going to be our next mayor.

I am also really mad at the Democrats right now, because I don't believe they handled the Al Franken situation correctly.

32. Who did you miss?

Same as last year: Christina. My grandpa. Robby and Andri.

33. Who was the best new person you met?

Christopher's preschool teachers, Sara and Machael. They are lovely. And, of course, Otto!

34. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2017.

I finally got it through my head that when I exercise regularly I feel so much better. This seems like something I should have figured out before I turned 38. Now, to make myself do it, especially since I've gained quite a bit of weight eating my feelings over the past year. I joined the Y, and I must make this a priority.

And now 2018. Brace yourselves.

Making Christmas cookies.

At the Nutcracker at St. Kate's.

His new blanket from Meema Mary Theresa.

Snow on Christmas Eve.

Christmas Eve night.

Ready for fun on Christmas morning.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

6 and a Half

Once again it is time for my yearly interview with Clare. She was entertaining as always. This year, I was most impressed with her answer to the question of what she would do if she had all the money in the world. ("Give it to other people." Credit to her teacher for that one - they talk about giving and service A LOT, which I think is great.)

So, Clare at 6 and a half. I marvel at how smart she is. I seriously believe she is smarter than I am. Or at least more logical. (I said that to Ben, and his response: "And Christopher is funnier." Nice, Ben. Nice.) She is sweet, and we have long conversations about all sorts of things.

And then there's the whining. I could do without that. Oh, and the teenage-like sass. That could go away, too.

Have you seen this comic? This is Clare, especially if she feels she has been wronged. (She will want to discuss whatever it is over and over until she convinces you that she is right.)

Some of Clare's favorites at this age: Pizza with black olives, chocolate, strawberry ice cream, drawing and painting, building with Legos, playing Minecraft, her American Girl dolls, the History Center, Noodles (the restaurant), Snuffy's, making bracelets, "My Little Pony", pink and purple, and reading all sorts of different books. She is currently working her way through "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone".

Some dislikes: loud noises, still. Storms, still. And dogs, still.

The picky eating is also still a problem, but not one I really have the energy to address right now.

She'll need braces soon.

Her best friends are Natalie, Rainie, Colin, James and Nora. She also idolizes Connie, a third grader in her class. I don't think Connie feels the same way.

She and Christopher love each other dearly, but fight frequently. She thinks of her cousin Josie as a sister. She can't wait to see Bambos at Christmas, and holds Otto as much as possible.

She is taking piano lessons, doing gymnastics, and learning to swim. She might do ice skating in place of gymnastics this winter. She claims she can do the splits, but isn't quite there. However, I would have to be hospitalized if I tried to stretch as far as she can.

She can be very challenging, but she is such a good kid. I wouldn't trade her for anything.

Note: After we recorded this she leaned forward to whisper the funniest word that she refused to say in the video. "Poopybutt."  Also, sorry for the dulcet tones of My Little Pony in the background. It was the only way to keep Christopher quiet during this process.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Bits and Pieces: November

I have a new nephew! Otto was born in early November. The kids are very excited about "the baby brother" as they keep calling him, and I am excited to have a baby to snuggle that is not my own.

The other big thing this month was, of course, Thanksgiving. We hosted dinner here and were joined by Ben's parents and aunt and uncle. The food was good, and I finally found a pumpkin pie recipe I am happy with. This is important because pumpkin pie is the best of all pies. (I baked an apple pie with my Grandma's recipe, too. It turns out her recipe is from the Betty Crocker cookbook.) I also mostly successfully replicated my mom's stuffing. It was a hit! I ate way too much, because I am a cliche.

The day after Thanksgiving we drove to Green Bay. We spent the night in a hotel, and then drove the rest of the way to the small town of Oostburg, where my grandma lives. We were there for her  90th birthday party. Most of my extended family was there. Clare enjoyed herself. Christopher was cranky. My grandma seemed very happy. She is so cute, she had gift bags for everyone. She even gave us each a plastic bag and to go box in which to carry home leftover cake. We drove home that night, so everyone was a bit fried. The kids had fun swimming at the hotel, though, and eating any sugary cereal they wanted at the hotel breakfast.

This might be a boring story, but the front desk clerk at the hotel is my hero after she tracked down Christopher's Bumblebee transformer that he left in the breakfast room. When we noticed it missing, I went looking for it, asking at the front desk if anyone had seen it. She said no one had turned it in. Then, when we checked out, there was Bumblebee waiting at the front desk. The clerk explained that she had seen another boy walking down the hall with it, and she asked if it was really his. He reluctantly handed it over, much to Christopher's joy. So thank you to the hotel clerk in Green Bay, Wisconsin. You saved the day.

The kids had a day off school the week before Thanksgiving, and I took them on a behind the scenes tour of the Aquarium. (40 x 40 goal!) Clare and I thought it was interesting. Christopher did not. He created his own fun by holding onto my coat and running around in circles until I was a tightly wrapped package.

We had conferences this month. Both kids are doing well.  I talked to Christopher's teacher about his complete lack of interest in writing or art. (When Clare was his age she could write her name. He can write some lines, no actual letters.) His teacher said not to worry. When he is interested in something, he'll start doing more writing and art. He has started making friends at school, and he really likes it a lot. He loves his teachers, too.

I saw Wilco at the Palace Theater. Thumbs up. I also had my fall friends' weekend away. We went to La Crosse. We had a nice trip, despite mice in the rental house and a trip to the ER. (One friend thought she was having an allergic reaction. She is okay.) I also got to visit my grandma and aunt. It was nice to visit without the kids there to distract me. I enjoyed it.

And now it is time to think about Christmas. We are going to see Santa already this Saturday. The kids are excited. December will be busy, but I tried to plan everything out so I won't be too stressed. Haha, yeah right.

Playing outside during our one snowfall.

Meeting their new cousin, The Baby Brother.

At the Firefighters Museum in Minneapolis.

I didn't frame this well, so the lamp is cutting off part of the date.

Thanksgiving, Wisconsin-style. (Even though we were in Minnesota. And I actually cheered for the Vikings. Hey, anything can happen in 2017.)

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Bits and Pieces: October

October is always a busy month, and this year has been no exception. I always mean to write more updates throughout the month, but guess what? I never do.

We started the month with Christopher's 4th birthday celebration. (Is there such a thing as the terrible fours? Because Christopher has been very cranky lately.) Anyway, we went out to dinner at the Rainforest Cafe on his birthday. (His choice. His local grandparents joined us.) On the following Saturday, we had a small party with all four of his grandparents, a great aunt and uncle, Josie, Aunt Katie, Uncle Andrew, Aunt Meg, and his godparents and their two kiddos. We ate pizza and he was spoiled with many lovely presents. He was definitely into the presents this year in a way he hasn't been in the past.

We also went to an apple orchard that weekend. It was a warm day, and the kids had a great time in the corn maze and on the pony rides. My parents came with us and paid for the tickets, which was great because otherwise it would have cost a small fortune to do all of the activities at the orchard. The fall colors have really been beautiful this year, too.

The following weekend the kids and I went to stay at my friend Chelsea's cabin on Lake Vermillion. Her cabin is beautiful. It is really a house, not a cabin. My friend Cindi and her husband were there, too. We had a great time kayaking (I only fell partially into the lake)  and hiking near a waterfall. And drinking lots of wine. (Me, not the kids.) I can't wait to go back next summer.

October also means my birthday, so I thought I'd check in on my 40 x 40 goals. Yeah, I haven't made a lot of progress this year. Maybe I'll do better next year. My actual birthday celebration was great, though. I got kidnapped by my friends and taken out for dinner and drinks (along with my friend Kerry, whose birthday is just four days after mine). Ben had me convinced I was going out to eat with him, so I was pretty surprised when my friends showed up at my door. It was a great night. I feel so lucky to have such wonderful friends.

We took our annual fall camping trip to Cascade River over MEA weekend. It was fun, despite a little rain. We go with a group of close friends, and I hope we can keep the tradition going. The kids had a blast running around the woods. I always enjoy sitting by a campfire. Something about being in the woods and spending some time staring at Lake Superior was very therapeutic. Too bad it didn't last long.

We had a bonfire night at Clare's school last week, as well as her annual fun run. I volunteered this year, and it was great to meet some other parents at the school. I hope to get more involved once I am no longer watching Josie and I have a few free mornings while Christopher is at preschool. Clare has a new best friend at school, Natalie, and it was so fun to see them running around together.

Christopher continues to entertain us with his many jokes, funny comments (which he makes even in his sleep), and dance moves. When we were camping, I shined a flashlight on his face to check on him after he'd gone to sleep. Christopher: "Stand aside!" The other night at dinner, we were discussing why Clare might not be allowed to have a pajama day at school. (She thinks it is the greatest of injustices that she is not allowed to wear a Halloween costume to school or have a pajama day, both of which Christopher gets to do this week. I told her she could ask her teacher about the pajama day, and she wanted us each to say one reason why he might say no.)

Me: It might be against school policy.
Christopher: That's what I was going to say!

School continues to go well for both kids. I am so happy with Clare's teacher this year, and she is doing great. She is in the most advanced reading group, and her teacher said it is the first time he's had a first grader in that group. (She is in a combined first-third grade class.) We just finished "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory." She is reading the first Harry Potter right now, which I am so excited about. I plan to giver her "A Wrinkle in Time" and "Charlotte's Web" for Christmas. She does well with math and science as well, but needs to be pushed a little more in those subjects. She doesn't like math problems that are challenging. She and I have been getting along well lately, too. We do much better when we don't have to spend all day together. Christopher is also enjoying preschool. He is still getting used to having to go three days a week. It is a big adjustment for him, since he's never gone to daycare.

And now it is somehow the end of October and Halloween. The kids are very excited about trick or treating tonight. We are planning to go down our block, and then meet friends at one of the block parties nearby. They close the street and the houses go crazy with the decorating. The kids got to wear their costumes on Saturday at the Highland business trick or treat event, and then again on Sunday at my friend Heather's annual Halloween party. (Although Christopher refused to wear his Batman costume because he declared it to be "too sweaty.") I am going to leave a bowl on of candy on the porch with a note that says, "Take one. Do you know what karma is?" We'll see how that goes.

Many pictures ahoy, some with very poor lighting!

School picture time! What a cute chipmunk she is.

Three generations hamming it up at Rainforest Cafe.

Christopher's Batman birthday cake, baked by Ben, decorated by me. (Can you tell I spent a lot of time on it?)

Me and the birthday boy.

Opening presents.

At the Orchard.

Cow ride!

Corn maze fun. Our group got separated at one point and Christopher climbed to the top of one of the viewing spots and screamed "Clare! Clare!" at the top of his lungs. "No answer," he said, disappointed.

Very accurate measurements.


Clare kayaking. She did all the paddling herself. Photo and French braid by Cindi.

We hiked by the waterfall while Christopher slept in the car. (With Chelsea for company in case he woke up.)

Rest stop in Duluth on the way to our camp site.

Hiking at Cascade River.

Our camping crew.

I took the kids to see the "My Little Pony" movie on a recent day off school. It was our first time all seeing a movie in the theater together. (40 x 40 goal!) And it was fun, despite a bathroom incident and most of that popcorn spilling on the floor.

Clare is the only one who posed for this photo. Christopher refused. I don't know what Ben's doing.

Batman and Supergirl.

Clark Kent, Lois Lane, Superman and Supergirl.