Monday, October 20, 2014

Rylan Says...

"I got a card flip at school today," Rylan announced forlornly when I picked him up from school today. "It was just because I forgot what Ms. Hunter told us to do after each person finished reading their Rainbow Words, so I did the opposite."

"What did Ms. Hunter tell you to do?" I asked.

"She said to say, 'Good job.'"

Uh, oh!


Friday, September 19, 2014

Self-Identifying

The other night, Michael called me a nerd.

He was helping me plan an activity about characterization in which I would have my students make inferences about me based on things I've said, things I've done, or choices I've made. I said, "Do you think they could guess what table I sat at in high school?" 

He said, "I think they could figure out that you sat at the nerd table."

I said, "I wasn't a nerd in high school."

Of course, if you asked most of the people I went to high school with, they probably would say I was a nerd. It's just that I personally never self-identified as a nerd and certainly wouldn't have listed "smart" as my defining characteristic.

Michael asked me, "So if you aren't a nerd, what are you?"

"A hippie," I replied as if it were obvious.

Michael disagreed, seeing as I don't smoke pot or listen to jam bands.

"Okay, maybe we have different definitions of the word hippie. Maybe a better word to describe me would be crunchy. Granola."

"I could see that," Michael conceded.

Environmentalist. Yogi. Gardener. Bike-rider. Folk-music lover. That is how I self-identify.

Thinking of this conversation, I asked the boys tonight, "What do you think is your main talent? How would you describe yourself? Nerd? Athlete? Artist? Musician? Dancer? What?"

Eli said athlete, which I was not expecting, but his answer might have been skewed by the fact that we were coming home from soccer.

Cole said geek, which he insists is different from and better than a nerd.

I think it's interesting to think about how others see us versus how we see ourselves. How do you self-identify?

Epic Journey 2014: Chicago

While vegging at Lake Michigan, we spent one day exploring the streets of Chicago. Pardon my phone photos. I took oh so many...

ChicagoChicagoChicagoChicagoChicagoChicagoChicago

Recall that after several hours exploring Nauvoo, my kids were begging to be strangled. Contrast that with the many, many, many miles we walked aimlessly around Chicago, doing pretty much nothing the entire day, while my children were amazing, wonderful angels. The difference? Cousins.

Cousins make all the difference.

Epic Journey 2014: Lake Michigan

In past posts, I have established that I am a lake person, not an ocean person, and here is why:

Alley fam reunion 2014

From ages 7 to 14, I lived an hour from Lake Michigan, and spent many wonderful days at this very beach. It was so fun that the Alley family reunion was held so close to our old stomping grounds. I loved racing down the same dunes with my boys that I would run down 20 years ago with my brother and sisters.

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It was a treacherous journey, but all four of us made it to the top. I don't think my parents even attempted it.

Alley fam reunion 2014Alley fam reunion 2014

The sad part of the trip was that my grandma fell and broke her hip just a few days before the reunion, so instead of getting to see her, we had to skype with her. Still, it was fun to see nearly all of my cousins and so, so many of their kids.

Epic Journey 2014: Nauvoo

We left St. Louis just after lunch and got to the Beautiful City around dinnertime. Standing on the temple grounds looking out over the Mississippi, you definitely feel for those early Latter Day Saints who had to leave behind what really was a beautiful place in Illinois for the mountain desert of the Salt Lake Valley.

Nauvoo

The sunstone that marked the spot of the burned-down Nauvoo temple was my favorite part of the historical site when I was a kid, so it was exciting to me to get to see the recently rebuilt temple in all its glory. Because I had the kids with me, I didn't get to go inside, but we did admire the beautiful grounds.

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Truth be told, Nauvoo was the low point of our Epic Journey. Because I'd loved it so much as a kid, I think I built it up too much in my mind, assuming that my kids would also love it and thus we would all love it together. 

Cole's exact words on the second day when we were there, after he'd complained a gazillion times that he was bored and would rather go back to the campsite and do nothing than continue walking around Nauvoo..."I just don't like historical stuff. I don't like history. I don't like anything without electricity."

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I mean, how can you not like a place where you get to make your own rope?

Eli's issue with Nauvoo was the stilts, which he was determined to master but couldn't master despite an hour of trying, so he just ended up really frustrated and grumpy.

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We caught a ride on the oxcart the morning we left Nauvoo, heading to the final stop on our epic journey...Michigan (slash Illinois slash Indiana)

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Epic Journey 2014: St. Louis

A week before the reunion, the boys and I left my parents' house and headed for St. Louis.

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I didn't have a good reason for going to St. Louis except that it was sort of on the way to Nauvoo and why not? But when I was looking for fun things to do in St. Louis, I came across this really amazing-looking place called the City Museum. The word "museum" is a misnomer because it's nothing like a museum and more like a giant McDonalds playhouse (or hamster habitrail for humans) made out of repurposed construction materials like re-bar, cement,sheet metal, and stone.

It was unfortunate that we went to the City Museum at the beginning of our epic journey because the boys thought they'd died and gone to heaven and every other place we went paled by comparison. We crawled through tunnels and slid down 10-story slides and climbed towers, and the boys got to ride their very first ferris wheel (on the roof of the museum). 

St Louis City Museumferris wheel in St LouisSt Louis City MuseumSt Louis City MuseumSt Louis City MuseumSt Louis City Museum

I only had one complaint about the museum. You know how some amusement park rides have a sign that says, "Must be 48 inches or taller to ride this ride." The City Museum needs a sign that says, "You must be XYZ inches or shorter to fit in this museum" and also "You must weigh less than XYZ pounds." I was happy that Michael hadn't come with us because he would have had to spend the whole day sitting on a bench on the first floor. I even had trouble fitting through much of the museum. There was one point where I climbed up a tower with the boys to get to a slide and the passage kept getting narrower and narrower until finally you had to squeeze through a thin slot to get to the slide. I seriously thought I wasn't going to fit but there was no way I was climbing back down with a long line of strange kids climbing up behind me, so I had to shimmy my way through the hole. The next day my legs were covered in ugly black and brown bruises.

At that point, I decided that I was going to find a spot to sit, let the kids roam free, and they could come find me if they needed me. Which led to this:

Eli's head wound in St. Louis
I was sitting in my spot browsing Facebook when I heard Eli say, "Mom, I bumped my head" in a very calm, not at all panicky voice. I looked up and saw blood streaming down one side of his face and his hands covered in blood. I had one of those I'm a terrible mother how did I let you out of my sight? moments while my heart jumped from my chest to my throat.

I hurried him over to the customer service desk, where the City Museum employee barely glanced at us and asked in a calm, not at all panicky voice, "Can I help you?"

I said, "Do you have a first aid room?" but I was thinking, What is wrong with you people? It is not time to be calm. The kid has bashed his head in. We all need to be panicking!

Eli was whisked away to first aid while I went to find Cole and Rylan. By the time I got back, a very nice City Museum employee had cleaned all the blood off of Eli's head and it turned out that he only had a very tiny (we're talking 1/4 of a centimeter tiny) cut in his head. Apparently head wounds bleed a lot.
camping in St Louis

We spent two nights in St. Louis, camping both nights. The first night, nature decided to test our limits with thunder, lightning, and thick sheets of rain. 

Since we were travelling light in the Camry, my brilliant idea was for all four of us to sleep on the queen size air mattress, but it became obvious in approximately .5 seconds that I was not going to get any sleep on the same air mattress as my squirmy kicking boys. We also had the good fortune of a campsite next to the kind of people who go camping so they can stay up all night getting really drunk with their friends. So when the wind picked up and the first raindrops began to fall, I was laying in my sleeping bag outside of the tent, resigned to the possibility that I wasn't going to get any sleep that night, when Cole started shouting, "Eli! Wake up! Eli! Eli!"

The next day, he told me he thought it was a tornado...

St Louis

On our last day in St. Louis, I drove all over the city, shouting profanities at my GPS, trying to figure out how to get to the Arch. By the time we got there, I had to pee like nobody's business, and by the way, Dear City of St. Louis, I believe I speak for all tourists when I say, "Why don't you have public restrooms near the Arch!!!!!!" We walked for a mile in all directions around the Arch before finally using the bathroom in a Mexican restaurant where I totally planned to be a customer until I saw their menu prices and then we had to sneak out. So instead for lunch, we had some delicious donuts, and it was a happy ending to a very frustrating morning.

Epic Journey 2014: Kentucky

My mom and older sister are major plan-ahead types. Every year, sometime around July, one of them will call me and be like, "So have you given any thought to Christmas?" Um, no. I will give some thought to Christmas in maybe November. First, I've got to give some thought to school starting, Labor Day, Halloween, three birthdays, and Thanksgiving. Then, I can think about Christmas.

To clarify, I am not a spontaneous person. At all. Compared to any normal person, I am also a major plan-ahead type. But my mom and sister are soooo extreme, I come off as spontaneous. (Also around them, I come off as laidback and a slob.)

So anyway, the Alley family has been planning a reunion in Michigan for a good long while now, and after approximately a year of my mom pestering me about my plans, I finally decided a month before the trip that if I had to drive 12 hours to Michigan, I might as well drive eight hours to my parents' house in Kentucky and  spend a couple days there before driving eight more hours to Michigan. Then, I got this bright idea to swing by Nauvoo on the way to the reunion, and if I were going to do that, why not also swing by St. Louis?

So two weeks before the trip, I decided to take the boys on an epic journey around the Midwest. In the Camry. Camping. Without Michael.

Let the journey begin...

2014 at Grammy and Gramps2014 at Grammy and Gramps2014 at Grammy and Gramps2014 at Grammy and Gramps
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