Category Archives: I did something Special

Swamp Beauty.

In our recent visit to Michigan, we visited Tony’s aunt near Roger’s City.  Upon our arrival, after settling in a bit, we went out on the quads, the sole mission to explore.  I brought my cell phone, and figured that’d be good enough.  Yet, we rounded the corner to the lake and sitting atop the lookout was a bald eagle.  In the wild, a bald eagle!

I snapped a couple of inadequate photos with my phone and mourned the fact that I had left my camera with the longer lens back at the house.  Tony, reading easily my disappointment, let his aunt know what we were doing… she nodded sagely, kind of smiled, and said she would wait there for us to return.  She said she knew the eagle landed there, most evenings, some mornings.


We came back and I took a few more pictures and then the eagle flew away, swooping over the swampy lake and soaring majestically into the trees.  I figured that would be the last I saw of it that day.

The engines to our quads roared to life and off we went through the trails, bouncing over rocks and feeling the wind rushing past.  We came to a fork, and as we decided which way to go, I leaned out a bit and glanced up… and there was that eagle again!  I took a couple more pictures, terribly focused, but I was so pleased.  And then it took off again, flying away to a quieter location.


There were so many moments of beauty that day.  Here are a couple more.

These photos of Buddy the dog were entitled by Tony’s aunt:  “Happiness is a romp in the swamp.” 

Comments Off on Swamp Beauty.

Filed under I did something Special

Letter to our 5 year 6 month old

Dear William,

On June, 8, 2017, you turned 5 1/2 years old.


These days you seem to be a very sensitive and sentimental person.  You hold on to each moment with a desperation akin to the way my grandma used to save the last bite of food on her plate at dinner.  She had been through WWII, but I’m not sure what your excuse is?  Maybe that you’re 5.

One morning when you had awakened, you told me you’d had the best dream about a Monstro whale and that he was a really nice whale, and he liked you.  And you really liked him.  And  you were so sad that he had left you.  You started sobbing.  I told you that sometimes a goodbye isn’t forever, sometimes it’s just “goodbye for now.”  This gave you hope.  I also told you that sometimes you can see your dreams again the next night.  I know sometimes i have the same dream.  You took hope from that… but then there more tears the next morning, because you didn’t see your whale again.  At that point, I suggested that you draw your whale so I could meet him, too.  You were thrilled with this suggestion!  You sat down the next day and drew out the story, like it was a comic strip story… the initial meeting and how happy you were, the playing time with each other, and the the sadness when you left each other.  Now, whenever we go somewhere, if you see a picture of a whale, you claim it as “your whale.”

I finally found a dentist who was willing to do the work that was needed on your molars without general anesthesia. You met with her for a cleaning and you both just fell in love with each other. It was an instant connection. The first visit was cleaning and x-rays, the 2nd visit, she tackled the toughest two teeth (2 hours in the chair), the next visit she did two more difficult teeth (1 1/2 hours in the chair — you decided to take a nap), the 4th visit she did 2 easier teeth (you told her you were going to take a nap… haha) and the last visit she did just a couple fillings… all on your molars. I am relieved and thrilled that we were able to find someone who is so skilled with teeth, such a good fit for your personality. She is now my dentist, too, and when I leave her office, I feel like I’ve just visited a really good friend. We are so blessed!

Travel and Activities:
We traveled to see my Aunt Marjorie in April, and when we got there you curled up in the hallway under all the family photographs and started crying, “I want Uncle Jim back.”  I know you were grieving his loss, and I know that it wasn’t really real to you that he was gone until we got there and you actually realized that he wasn’t there, but … damn… could your timing have been just a bit better?

We’ve visited Legoland and Sea World several times each in the last six months.  One of the times (for each park) we brought your Grandma D.  You held her hand and acted as her personal tour guide around each park, sharing all the things that meant so much to you.  Your Grandma D. is a true treasure, she just let you lead her around and soul-feasted on your joy in sharing with her.

In April we enrolled you in beginner’s basketball. My boss at work was coaching her son’s basketball team and she said she wanted you to remember her always as the first person who contributed to your fame, so she sponsored you.  We have tried… gymnastics, dance (ballet and tap), swim class (although not as a sport, just to learn), ice skating, aerial arts … and it appears as if basketball is your love.  You LOVE basketball.  You were excited the first night, even though it was orientation, and wanted your ball despite the fact that your ball was flat. You didn’t care. You wondered where your coach was… you’were ready!  As far as I can tell, the stories I’ve heard, you are a willing and eager participant in learning to play the game.

The end of May found us doing a road trip to the Monterey peninsula, with an overnight stop on the way to visit a long-time friend of mine in Ojai, who graciously offered their home to us so our drive wouldn’t so long and sent us on our way the next morning with a delicious breakfast under our belts.  We stopped next at Hearst Castle on the way to Monterey. We also, later, drove up further north to see the Redwoods. We were thrilled to be able to meet our friends, Cat and Jake, and their daughter, Scarlett at both Hearst Castle and the Roaring Railroad camp near the redwoods. It was such a unique trip and you loved having Scarlett there to play with. We also met up with my best friend from high school, Bridgett, who also happens to be a cartoonist and she drew you an octopus in your sketch pad, and her friend, Judy, looked for shells with you. They also brought us a yummy lunch from a local deli. It was just a delight to spend the afternoon on the beach with them! Pictures from our trip can be found here: LINK

You finished out your Awana season in the Cubbie group, and next year you’ll move up to the Sparks group. You were excited about that and then the next day you randomly realized that by becoming a Spark, you would no longer be a Cubbie.  Child, I think you outgrew being a Cubbie about halfway through the season, as you towered over the other kids in your class.  You are going to thrive in the next level; you are SO ready.

Your teacher at the co-op preschool group you’ve been attending left the group.  She was driving a long distance to teach our little group and traffic in California is increasing rapidly every day.  It just got to be too much for her.  With her leaving, the other child who was your age also left the group, and the remaining children are a year younger than you.  I think the socialization has been good for you, but I’m evaluating whether it’s time to move on.

In the last few months, you went from shunning coloring other people’s pictures to coloring them with vivid colors and you focus really hard to stay in the lines. You prefer to paint things over coloring them. You still prefer to draw your own pictures. To that end, I found the Draw. Write. Now. books that show you step-by-step how to draw things, starting simple and gradually getting more complex.  I will find you with those books pulled out, a piece of paper folded into fours, and you diligently working on drawing something.

One evening after finishing watching the Moana movie, I had instructed you to go upstairs for your bath.  You disappeared and I followed you upstairs… except when I got up there, you weren’t there.  You had tucked yourself into the corner in the living room behind your desk with construction paper and markers, and you were drawing freehand the kakamora (coconut pirates) that you were seeing on the screen like it was the most important thing you’d done you’re entire life.  When you were done, you instructed me to send them to Disney so they would use them in the next Moana movie.

You’ve also had a turn of attitude in the last few months about workbook sheets, you are now seeing the value in them. You still prefer to work on a chalkboard or a slate instead of paper. If we do that, you will sit there with me for 2 or 3 hours and do the work.  We completed one workbook in a weekend that way, you just wanted to keep doing more and more pages. Even in just the last couple of weeks, I’ve seen that you fix your “pencil grip” yourself without a reminder from me. It is so thrilling for me to see each step of progress that you’re making!

You love, love, love to be read to, especially The Magic Tree House books.  You love good story lines that involve adventures,  journeys or mysteries.  Because of that love, I somehow stumbled onto the Five in A Row curriculum for learning.  We have had the BEST time working through those books and we love the flexibility of it to explore every topic and subject we can think of while reading through the recommended classic literature. You are working hard to learn to read and write, sounding out letters, learning how to shape your letters. One day you sounded out Happy Birthday all by yourself, and wrote it down… backwards. That’s OK, if I remember right, Leonardo da Vinci wrote things backwards, too. ha

As you’ve grown and changed in the last few months, I find that you are more analytical and are sometimes a step ahead of me in your mental processing skills. Yet, there are still gaps that I’m seeing as far as the end result of your decisions. I find that I’m working harder these days to evaluate how the things I teach you will impact you as an adult, and find myself pausing more as I respond to you, while I try to give you coping and problem solving skills that will serve you well throughout the next few years. I see everything in that perspective these days because I’m realizing that some of the methods that have been used by the people who taught me were designed to “shut down” the process of learning instead of “working through” the problem to a solution. I see now, in parenting you, how I have “learned” responses that result in panic and anxiety, because of the “shut down” method I was taught as a child resulted in a fear response instead of a “solving” response.

Our sweet boy… I treasure my time with you. You are equal parts silly, funny, sweet and mischievous. You are always on the move, experimenting, and yet you go completely still if I’m reading to you. I love our snuggle time and I love our active time. Time spent with you and your father are the best times of my day.

Love you forever,


Pictures from the last few months can be found here:
Link 1
Link 2
Link 3
Link 4
Link 5


Filed under Best Husband, I did something Special, I have Friends, I Left Home for Awhile, I Stimulate the Economy, Letter to William, Our Kid is Cute, Travel and Adventures

Theme Park Christmas, LegoLand Style

A few days before Christmas, we headed to LegoLand to check out their holiday decorations.  For some reason, the park was virtually empty!  Maybe people were scared of the cold and rain?  I’m like, uh, jackets and umbrellas … and GO!

We had a blast and rode a bunch of rides and did a ton of things.  I mean, if I listed every single thing we did, your eyes would glaze over.  So just go ahead and glaze now and wake up at the next paragraph break, because that’s where the pictures live and we all know that’s the fun part!  We took William to the Kid Power Towers (pulled themselves up 4 times), (the sky pedal ride wasn’t running), Junior Driving Club, then he rode the Sky Patrol ride, played in their seasonal snowman building area, rode on the Skipper School boat ride, the Flight Squadron ride, rode on the Royal Joust horse, did their dragon roller coaster two times, rode their Lego Technic roller coaster two times (love, love, loved it, I think that was his favorite), did their Lego Coast Cruise, the Safari Trek, the Coastersaurus roller coaster, the Fairy Tale Brook boat ride, the Legoland Express Train, Mia’s Riding Camp carousel, walked through the Lego Movie Experience set (which was like torture for kids… William kept asking why they had plexiglass in his way.  The plexiglass reached from the floor to six feet up, he checked both ends.)

Of course, we got pictures with Lego Santa and a few other characters.  Because that’s just how we roll.

Almost caught up with us today.  But tomorrow is another day with more memories!!

1 Comment

Filed under Best Husband, I did something Special, Our Kid is Cute

Theme Park Christmas, Disney Style

For William’s actual 4th birthday (you know, December 8th?), our friend who works for Disney let us into the park as her birthday present to William. Let me just say here for the record: BEST PRESENT EVER!

William had SO MUCH FUN. He got to see BUZZ LIGHTYEAR!! He got to see Donna the Dog Lady, Lightning and Mater and Flik. Santa, of course. And OLAF! But did I mention Buzz??? William was so excited to see Buzz that he was, literally, quivering! And Olaf, oh my goodness, it was so funny — William told him that he liked carrots, and when Olaf ran away, he started laughing so hard! He “ice skated” around the frozen fountain and even built a tiny snowman on the side of it.

Image 003 IMG_2286 IMG_2263 IMG_2472


Image 046

We rode Racers ride, rode in Mater’s Junkyard, did some bumper car ride in Bug Land, did the Toy Story ride (THREE TIMES), and played in the snow in Olaf’s Winter wonderland. In Disneyland, we made it over there around 5 PM and had dinner and then rode on the Dumbo ride and the Buzz Lightyear ride (TWO TIMES) and It’s a Small World.


More than all that, though, he conquered his fear of tunnels! Ever since last year’s debacle when we got stuck on the Racers ride inside the tunnel, he has been terrified of rides with tunnels. But he did it! And now he says he’s not scared anymore!



The cast members were so nice to us … from our friend who let us in (forever grateful), to cast member Eileen who told William the Toy Story ride wasn’t scary and walked us to the front of the line (no 45 minute wait in line) for the first ride — which was a blessing and a curse, because he had such a blast and was laughing so hard in the ride, that he became obsessed with it. HA! To the lady who we ordered our lunch from at Flo’s Cafe, when she found it was his birthday gifted him a mud pie. Little touches like that really made his birthday so special for him!

Then, late afternoon, he wanted to ride the Toy Story ride yet again, but decided he wanted to nurse while Tony did the line waiting. And… my boy, my 4 year old who doesn’t nap, fell asleep on me….under a rollercoaster, next to a loud, dinging dart game, on a bench, fell asleep on me.  So, he gave me a BIRTH day gift of letting me hold him for his 30 minute power nap. Which gave him just the boost he needed to be able to stay for the fireworks in Disneyland, which were scheduled later this year (9:30 PM) than they were last year.


On the drive home, he kept saying, “I’m up way past my bedtime. I’m up way past my bedtime.” Yeah, well, you only go to Disneyland once a year. So an 11:15 PM bedtime is warranted for such an occasion.

Image 031


Comments Off on Theme Park Christmas, Disney Style

Filed under Entertainment can be Expensive, I did something Special

Awana Club, 2nd week

After last week’s post, I thought I should post an update about how the second week went. I’m not sure what happened behind the scenes this past week, but things were much different and more organized this week.

To start, they did introductions and roll call. Then the teachers did a puppet show with the characters that were in the student’s pamphlet.

Then they were assigned a craft and were given a tiny tub of Playdoh, to “make something that God created.” William started with a footprint, then it morphed into a burrito, then bacon, then a taco, then an egg, finally a potato, then back into an egg. At least that’s what William said, and then in the middle of it all, he exclaimed, “Phew! This is hard work!”

Then they did a Bible story, although I’m not really certain which Bible story it was, but the verse they concluded with was 1 John 4:10, sort of> It was more like a partial verse, “God loved us and sent his son…” and that was also their memorization assignment for last week. Not too hard, considering that some of these kids (William included) can quote entire scenes of movies and complete stanzas of songs. A seven word Bible verse is definitely doable.

After that, they had snack time… and William volunteered to say the prayer! I was impressed! So, snacks last night? Cheddar Penguin crackers and chewy fruit snacks. I wasn’t overly thrilled with that, but ended up being grateful. Why? Because I had spied several bags of Fritos in the lead teacher’s equipment bin, so that momentary fear that I was going to have a child whose breath smelled like dog feet changed my perspective!

Then they had play time in the tots playground. William wanted to go into the playground for bigger kids, but the instructor told him he couldn’t, the gate was locked. He peered through and said, “Well, there’s a gap in the fence, so you just open up the gate and I’ll go around, then.” He didn’t get to, but I have to admire his problem solving skills.

The one thing I’m not happy about is that when the Cubbies arrive, they are supposed to be taken directly to the room. They don’t get to play on the playground before hand and they don’t get to participate in the opening flag ceremony or Pledge of Allegiances. I was informed that it was a mistake that they were included last week. I asked the pastor why that was, and he said he didn’t know. I emailed them about it this morning.

Personally, I think it shows a stand of unity as a greater group. It also allows the little ones to see that there are older groups (Sparks, etc.) to aspire to as they grow older and they shouldn’t be isolated just because they’re little. I believe that they are never too young to learn the pledge of allegiances. And, finally, it’s a nice routine to start the evening.


Filed under I did something Special, Who I am

Awana Club

Last night was William’s first Awana Club meeting. Awana Club was something that my brother and I did when we were kids, we pretty much grew up in Awana Clubs, attending every week, and earned our trophies. I loved the meetings… the games, playing with other kids, even the Bible memorization. It was just so much fun. I hope William ends up liking it as much as I did.

My mom, being experienced in teaching, mentioned to me that as it was the first night it might be a little disorganized. I was glad later that she had mentioned that, because it helped prepare me for the state of disaster that it actually turned out to be. To start, the room was locked. It then progressed to the leader trying to give parents an orientation while 10 kids (ages 3-4) sat at a table with nothing to do. When that didn’t work, the leader gave them their book bags to paint, except the paint markers still had the plastic wrapping on AND the internal stopper. Confusion reigned, and most of the kids had paint all over their hands, so they had to wash them (10 little kids to one tiny sink). They finally went out to the tot playground while the leader “prepared” a snack of half a hot dog/bun and Cheetos (of all things, really?), but she didn’t have plates, cups or a knife to cut things in half. Then the kids had to come in from the playground (but line up first!) and wash their hands again (10 little kids to one tiny sink). And that was it. As William pointed out when we got to the car, “We didn’t get to hear a Bible verse or read a Bible story… or play a game.” Yeah. Kind of the foundation for the whole thing, that Bible verse.

When I saw the issues they were having, I tried to help where I could and quietly made suggestions to the leader, but I felt like it wasn’t enough. So much of the stuff actually needed far more advance planning, i think. Maybe even making one of the crafts ahead of time to troubleshoot problems and then to use as an example for the kids. Awana Club is such a great resource; I pray that next week, and the weeks to come improve.

The quote of the night from William. After he’d finished painting his bag and declaring repeatedly and emphatically, “I’m done!” one of the helpers took his bag. He watched her with great concern, and seeing his concern, she explained to him, “I’m taking this outside for some air.” He replied, “Well, there’s air in here. That’s how you’re breathing.”

Yeah, air, kind of one of the most important parts of breathing.


Filed under I did something Special, Our Kid is Cute

More About Last Month’s Vacation.

In a previous post, I shared one of the funny moments that happened late in our vacation while it was still fresh in my mind. I also shared some tidbits of things we did while on vacation in William’s monthly post. I wanted to share an overview of all the things we did.

Our airline experiences this time were much better and on par with what I expect from Southwest Airlines. We managed to rack up $400 a person in complimentary vouchers from Southwest for the shoddy way they treated us last October, and those vouchers mostly funded our trip to San Francisco the end of May and our trip back to Nebraska. Sadly, since they did so well, that is the end of our free ride. Thank you, Southwest Airlines!

We stayed with my dear Aunt Marjorie (paternal side) for a few days while we visited the Omaha Zoo and Lauritzen Gardens again. We had visited those places last October, but our gardens visit got cut short due to a fast moving rainstorm. They have a model train garden that is quite amazing to watch, it’s so detailed! So we visited that again, and also walked up to see the two real-size, huge, famous engines they have on display.


We were well pleased with our visit to the zoo last time, except they had ended the season of camel rides and their train wasn’t running the day we went. This trip it was overwhelmingly hot and humid. While the weather wasn’t necessarily a surprise, it was challenging for me (us?) because we’re used to California’s weather. Sadly, I wilted quicker than I expected in the heat. While at the zoo, We managed to meet up with some friends, a lady I know from an online Facebook group (and her family). Fortunately, they were willing companions for our agenda and didn’t protest when we suggested going and getting lunch. She had her two boys with her, the older of them shares a birthday with William. William LOVED meeting him and I loved hanging out with her. Tony pretty much gets along with anyone, and her husband was great to converse with. So, we kind of went to get some lunch and then just never stood back up again until it was time to leave.


The timing of our trip was stipulated by a family gathering that happens annually the last Sunday of July in Albion, Nebraska. So, we did a road trip from Omaha to the middle of Nebraska, a two hour drive made longer by construction and ill-timed traffic lights on a timer in the middle of nowhere.

My uncle (maternal side) graciously hosted us in their basement, which was blissfully cool and mostly comfortable. They are gracious hosts and very accommodating to quirky travelers. I highly recommend them. I just love staying with them on their farm. They have animals galore… cats and kittens(!!), dogs, horses and ponies, goats, guineafowl, cows, and… I’m sure I’m missing naming a species here. Also, my cousin has two girls and William just loved playing with them!



The drive to the family gathering was mostly on dirt roads, which William thought was fabulous thanks to the off-roading scenes in the Cars movie. It was made more entertaining for me by texting with my cousin, who was in the vehicle in front of us. She acted like a tour guide with such things like, “This is corn fields on your right and soybeans to your left. Upcoming to your right is a house where no one famous lives.” She would switch the types of fields appropriately. As we drove, we passed a farm that had a bunch of old buildings on it. There were a couple of churches, a sheriff building, and other things. It looked like a little Western town. I later learned from my uncle that the owner of that farm had a vision of building a little town, but he passed away and now his family doesn’t know what to do with the buildings. I guess his vision isn’t theirs.

At the family gathering, the couple who hosted it are 2nd or 3rd cousins, once removed, to me, I think. I’m not really sure. Anyway, they have grandkids around William’s age, and while the kids weren’t in attendance, their toys were. William and my cousin’s girls had a fabulous time playing down in their basement. They have a pool table down there and William loved putting the balls in the holes and then listening to them rumble to the end. Best kid entertainment ever! I enjoyed seeing one of my cousins who I haven’t seen since he was 6 or 7 years old, and meeting his wife. There were also other distant relatives there and it was just an enjoyable relaxing time. The food was set up buffet style, entrees on one side of the kitchen island and various “salads” (the notion of salad is very different in the Midwest vs. California) on the other side. Also, desserts.

The days went quickly (surely a sign of a good vacation?) and before we knew it, we were headed back to Omaha to stay with my Aunt Marjorie one last night and catch our flight the next morning. Now… where do we go next?

1 Comment

Filed under Best Husband, I did something Special, I have Family, I have Friends, I Left Home for Awhile, Our Kid is Cute