November, November

So you’ll probably see two posts from me today because apparently I got busy and never hit “publish” on the last one. Thanks for being patient with me!

Let’s just start out with me saying that I did not win at NaNoWriMo this year. November was just a bit too full. What did I do in November instead?

Well, the first week was all about World Fantasy Con. I was supposed to actually go out to Louisiana in person, but a) I didn’t have anyone to share my room, which was part of how I was being able to afford to go, b) I didn’t know anyone else going, which makes for a lonely conference experience and c) I just can’t drive that far on my own these days, not with all the ongoing weird health issues. Since most of the conference was going to be online, I drove down and spent the weekend with my accountability partner and college BFF, Stephanie Leary. She had to work during parts of it, so she was up in her office, but the rest of the time, we got to lounge around, eat good food, take a really long walk, be silly, talk about writing, and listen to some spectacular writers talk about writing. It was a fantastic four days. ๐Ÿ™‚ I regret nothing.

I did get a few things done, writing-wise, that week, though. I wrote my President’s Corner column and several thousand words on Lady Air Pirates, plus some background bits for that story.

The second week of November was half ETWG work, half beta reading/critiquing for a friend. This was actually my second go at the beta reading, as computer issues the month before had caused a large chunk of my work not to save, which was horrifying. But a promise is a promise and I fulfilled it. I got pretty much zero of my own writing done, not even outlining work.

In the third week, I did organizing work for ODWG, mainly working on the calendar for speaking next year. I’m pretty much always the speaker the fourth week of the month next year and I have my entire speaking schedule filled out and outlines started for most of those planned lessons. I did some writing for memoir stuff, and prepared material for an extra Spiritual Discussion group that had been delayed during the summer and was finally finishing up. I wrote about 2000 words on Lady Air Pirates, and also met with the incoming ETWG president and told her about all the ups and downs and behind-the-scenes things from this year and let her ask questions about any of it. I also helped revise the ETWG survey that had confused some people the first time it went out. As a bonus, one of my kids found my 2006 Pregnancy Journal in a box somewhere, and after doing a dramatic reading from it in front of the other kids, handed it over to me so I could run away and die. (Instead I scanned it in, used Google Photos to transcribe it, and dumped it into my 2006 All Writing Scrivener File.)

The next week was Thanksgiving break, so I took my younger two kids down to visit my dad and sister and other assorted family. We got to tour my sister’s new house, wherein my midkid found a French horn and wandered around playing it for days afterwards. We watched movies and rearranged my dad’s entire book collection and put away all the vases that were still sitting around the edges of the dining room from two years ago. Then we drove back home and rearranged my writing studio so our Thanksgiving guests could stay here. The next day we got up and cleaned up our house, then checked on the big kids house (which is my dad’s, and where he stays when he visits) for cleanliness (they did great!), and then I collapsed into a heap of exhausted Lisa. I went to bed at like 6pm and didn’t wake up until 6am Thanksgiving morning. Thanksgiving was a whirlwind of people coming and going, or not (one set of potential guests got in a car accident on the way here – everyone that wasn’t the car was fine). I took a new friend on a tour of all the other Lisa H’s art because she liked it so much (this happens a lot when new friends visit) and showed her all my other BFF’s art as well (she doesn’t have a website for it, but does sell it from time to time, and now I feel like I need to prod her about it again, despite her not having time to set one up).

The last little bit of the month was equally chaotic – my youngest had training at his very first job on Sunday and we had to shop for slip-free shoes and fancy black shirts for that, my dad stayed through Monday, so we played a lot of games over at his house, got the holiday decor organized, etc, and then wanted to spend all Monday working on what he called a “scrapbook” for my mom (it was a binder with accordion-style sheet protectors that he put photos and cards and bits of her writing in). I spent Tuesday morning catching up on stuff for ETWG & doing research for my ODWG lesson, then spent the afternoon having tea and chatting with my writer friend Ilenya. That was lovely. Wednesday I spent writing lesson notes, a script, and some prompts for ODWG, then went and set up tables for that, since the library moved us downstairs for a couple weeks while they have a program up in our usual space. Then I ran around like a crazy person, getting my eldest a car battery, taking my youngest to find somewhere to change clothes and then over to his first official work day, then scooping up the midkid, talking to the eldest again about important things, etc. By evening I was feeling like I’d been hit with a truck and my spouse said I felt hot, so we checked and I was, indeed, feverish. Yesterday he woke up feeling unwell, so he stayed home and we both worked in separate rooms, him on engineering, and me in here writing my ETWG President’s Corner column, re-working my ODWG lesson as an article, and cleaning up an older poem for the ETWG newsletter. After lunch, I rested and snuggled cats, and talked again with my eldest, who came over looking for a package he’d inadvertently had sent here and got lured into cat snuggling. Woke up today less feverish, but feeling more run down. I’d intended to go lie down after my accountability time, but the coffee kicked in right then and I went over to look at my word counts from last month instead, realized I’d never posted about that, and I’ve been writing here ever since.

So, overall, not just Lady Air Pirates, but everything put together, I wrote about 30,000 words last month. If you count just the Lady Air Pirates draft and outlines, I’ve got about 15,000 words there. If you count just the draft, it’s down to about 7,500 words. Ah well, I tried. I’ve always said NaNoWriMo in November was a lousy idea. Why isn’t it in a quiet month like January, where nothing ever happens? I have always wondered that. If you know the answer, drop it in the comments below.

October Catch-up

I really don’t know how other people keep up with all the social media, blogging, etc, AND do actual writing. I can’t juggle that many things and still arrive sanely to the end of the month.

Here’s what October looked like:

Week 1: I took my midkid to the East Texas Fair and heard the TJC Jazz Bands play, spent many hours watching marketing videos with Marsha, screwed up my courage and went to the post office to mail things to my sister and my best friend, go set up to do business as Wee Little Dog Publishing with Marsha (more about that later) and got a post office box together so we can both have a non-home address for our newsletters, wrote a couple thousand words on Caro’s Quest, and did all the usual things I do (ETWG, ODWG, UUFT Spiritual Practices, driving kids everywhere.) Started working on NaNoWriMo Prep with my Lady Air Pirates story idea from a couple years ago (the one that I started outlining, but only got two scenes written for), and went to my youngest’s football game marching show on his birthday and took him out for ice cream afterward.

Week 2: Attended Writers in the Field, which deserves a post of its own. It was fantastic! ๐Ÿ™‚ Also went to the pulmonologist for lung testing, which after all the craziness turned out that my lungs are just fine. Started tearing all the romance out of Caro’s Quest because it just felt shoehorned in, no matter what I did, and I really hated it. Taught a class for Spiritual Practices, read “The Invisible Wall” for book club, added dangly sparkle lights to my writing studio, and added another couple thousand words to Caro’s Quest to make up for the scenes I’d taken out.

Week 3: I didn’t do too much writing. I made a Scrivener file for the marketing class notes, organized my ETWG files some more, and spent hours trying to re-outline Caro’s Quest now that the romance was gone and I could re-focus those portions of the story on more magical stuff. I wrote a bunch of magic related fluff for my files so I understand the magic rules better now, but none of that will go in the novel, so it doesn’t really count, right?

Week 4: I realize this was just last week, but my brain is gone and I can’t remember what I did yesterday, much less last week. I do have a spectacular bruise on my right forearm, though, from where the phlebotomy tech thought he knew my veins better than I did and he didn’t just blow my vein, but absolutely collapsed it. It’s about the size of a business card right now, but it keeps spreading, so we’ll see. (I was there for more lung testing, to see if I had hidden blood clots. I did not.) Honestly, I probably just worked on Lady Air Pirates, locating all my old files, which were everywhere because I’d done a little bit in Word, a little bit in Plottr, a little bit in yWriter, and a little bit in Scrivener. Oh, and the link dropped for the podcast that I was on over at Authorpreneur’s Unleashed. Click here to go have a listen.

Last little bit of October: Wrote about 1,000 words on Caro’s Quest, exported my church membership database into my personal address book, and talked about joining my church’s worship team because they need more people and I’m good at standing up and talking in front of people now. ๐Ÿ™‚

NaNoWriMo starts tomorrow and usually eats my brain, so at this point, I’ll probably just see you at the end of next month. Hope you have a happy November! ๐Ÿ™‚

Lisa’s Writing Vacation

AKA: How I managed to spend a whole week NOT writing

This was a hard week for me. As I’ve mentioned before, my half-brother Ray passed away last month. Last Thursday I drove to DFW and dropped my car off at Katherine’s and she drove me to the airport. I hopped on a flight to California in order to help out Ray’s widow, Susan, and kids getting reading for the memorial service. I’d brought my writing stuff with me, hoping to get to spend some of my free time writing, but there honestly wasn’t any minutes to spare.

I got to their house after a long day of driving and flying and with a negative time change, I was so very tired and it was only 8pm. I tried to stay up and talk with everyone, but it was no use – I was in bed by 9:30pm PST.

The next day I woke up at 4:45am, but managed to coax myself back to sleep until about 6:30am. I went to make coffee, but my nephew ran out and shooed me away, telling me that his dad always got up and said “Make the coffee, Joe,” and he was determined to keep on making the coffee, even without his dad around to remind him. Just like that, I could hear my brother in my little nephew’s voice and see him in his every movement. I had to shoo myself away before I cried all over the little guy.

We spent the rest of the day taking kids to and from school, organizing, then cleaning rooms of the house and the patio so it could be all ready for the memorial service the next day.

My biological maternal grandparents

The next day I was again awake at 4:45am, but this time I got up, made my own coffee, and spent some time taking photos of photos in my birthmom’s room (which was where I was staying). Her walls are absolutely covered in photos, many of which I’ve never seen before. I stood up on a stool and angled myself this way and that to get the best photos possible. Once the other’s were up, I started decorating the house with photos of my brother and his family, and then put out the tablecloths, and washed up all the dishes and platters I thought we might need. An hour before people were due to arrive, the first visitor showed up. He was the ex-husband of my brother’s housemate and since he was early, we put him to work carting drinks into the house, setting up the coolers, and re-installing the door to the garage that Joe had taken off a few weeks ago (and was unable to put back up alone).

After that, everyone else started arriving and over the course of the day I manned the buffet table, meeting many members of the housemate’s family and Susan’s family. There were even some little kids there. Everyone brought fruit. It was fruitopia. The day spun by so very quickly. We were unable to have the main part of the memorial service, due to some clerical errors that kept Susan from being able to get Ray’s death certificate (and therefore also his remains), so the little tree she was going to plant in his honor remained on her front porch. A few of us spoke about Ray, even his little son Jeff, and we all cried. It was nice to meet so many people that loved my brother and sister-in-law.

Because it was also the busiest day of the band year back home, I skipped out on the early evening’s visitor (who had come late due to his work schedule). I went back to my room and watched the livestream of my kids marching at UIL Contest and then looked for photos of them from the Rose Parade earlier in the day. I texted with them, congratulating them on their Sweepstakes win. And then I went back out and joined the conversation.

My kids at UIL Marching Contest.

The next morning I did not get up early. We all got up a little later and then moseyed over to church, which was part Southern Baptist-part rock band church-part surfer dude speak. Everyone there was really nice and no one bugged me about my mask. After church was lunch and after lunch my best friend from high school came and scooped me up and we ran off to Starbucks for a while. I was sad to leave her when our time was up, but I love how easily we slipped back into that friendship for a couple hours.

After that, Susan and I loaded up the kids and went to the beach. We didn’t stay long, just long enough for Joe and I to get thoroughly soaked from the waist down and for Jeff to lecture us on the improbability of us turning into merpeople and Susan to get creeped out by some weirdo. A couple hundred beach pictures in ten minutes, really. But it was good. I always feel better at the beach.

I am at Imperial Beach with my nephews.

Susan dropped us back at the house and stayed just long enough to say hi to the chair lady. Then she drove back out to pick up Angela. I made my “famous” chicken spaghetti and “Aunt Mandy’s” green beans for a late “fancy” dinner. I laughed at that. Chicken spaghetti is the easiest thing ever. I taught Joe my secret sauce, just in case they liked it. Oh boy, did they! Jeff said I took him to “Flavor Town” and “Delicious Land.” I’m so happy it was well-receieved.

We went to bed very late that night, in some part due to a conversation that needed to take place out of the earshot of the children. We had to wait for Joe to fall asleep. In the end, an agreement was reached about what would happen with the kids if something happened to Susan. It was a hard conversation, but necessary. I was really glad to be included.

The next morning we all got up at the crack of dawn so Susan could drop me off at the airport and then take the kids straight to school. I waited in the longest TSA line I’ve ever seen, but made it to my gate all right. The flight itself was mostly okay, but there was a medical emergency towards the end in first class, so we ended up spending quite a while at the gate waiting for that to get sorted out. Then Katherine picked me back up and we had a late lunch and then went to rest at her house for a while before I drove home. I was feeling so foggy and out of it, I was worried about driving home. I did end up making it home okay, but I had to stop for a while halfway home and walk around for a bit to get my brain back online. So I didn’t get home until about 7:30pm (I’d expected to be home by 5pm).

Katherine and I tried to make up for me not remembering to get a photo with Emily.

Tuesday I spent cleaning my entire house. Being away from home on a super busy weekend makes the mess so much worse. But I was also still feeling so groggy and weird that it was hard to get anything done. I started to worry that I was coming down with a cold or something. I attended my Spiritual Practices group, but I absorbed none of the conversation, alas.

Wednesday morning was my pill box refill day. I couldn’t find the pills I needed to fill the box. I finally realized that the reason I was so out of it was that I had picked up my medicine at the pharmacy before I left on the trip, but had forgotten to put that one in the box I took with me. So I’d skipped it for a couple days by accident. (And now I know just how essential it is to my health and well being.)

I taught a lesson at the Wednesday Whatchamacalit group that day and it went well. That is detailed in an earlier post. Later. I spent the rest of the day resting/spending time with my younger kids because I knew that the next day I had some more big cleaning to do.

Thursday I went over to the David House and helped him get it cleaned up because my dad was coming to visit. David was supposed to have finished moving rooms before my dad came to town and he had not finished. Plus there was resetting the room he’d moved out of and resetting the closet of the room that stored the stuff that used to be in that room and putting stuff from the room he was moving to into that closet. If it sounds circuitous, it really was.

After that was the recycling. I don’t think anyone has taken the recycling out of the house since January. I filled my entire Jeep up from top to bottom and back to front. It was only about 2/3 of the total recycling. I had other errands to run, though, so I did that and never got back to check on the David House.

This morning I got up and realized that I’d never gotten around to doing the critiques for the Pineywoods Critique Group, which was just as well because I hadn’t sent anything in over the last weekend, either. So the spouse and I went and got haircuts, which we have literally never done at the same time before. Then we ran a couple errands and ate lunch. One of the errands was picking up all the boxes of history for the ETWG Historian position before the current Historian moved and took them with her.

This was the last thing on my To Do list for the day besides feeding and chaperoning the band. It’s also the first real writing I’ve done all week. I’m not sure I’ll have time during the weekend to write, unless I am very careful with my time. We have the game tonight, my dad in town, an afternoon church party tomorrow, dinner at my dad’s and games, then church Sunday morning, and an ETYO concert Sunday afternoon. I may not get anything sent in to the critique group this weekend either. Chapter Nine of CQ needs re-drafting. Maybe I’ll send them some more poetry.

Trying to Keep Up

I’m sure you’ve been wondering where I’ve been lately. Here’s the scoop:

Toward the end of 2018, just before my mother passed away, I joined a local professional writing group. I’ve spent the last year waiting for a spot in one of their critique groups to open up, and meantime I (and my friend E from NANOWRIMO2018) started attending a weekly writing group at the public libraryย as well. The library group has writers from many genres, but doesn’t critique the work we bring in. Mostly we do several writing prompts for 10 minutes each. It’s been fun stretching my writing skills with them.

In December, a spot finally opened up. Two, actually. I brought my friend E with me to this group. We got started and then a week later, our library group started an off-shoot group for critiquing as well. E and I both have multiple novels in our back pocket needing critique work, so we joined this group as well. Both groups meet every other week. One group has five ladies and one has just three for now. One group has no other speculative fiction writers, the other is all about that.

I also joined two book clubs. One with the Unitarian Universalist church my mid-kid and I have been attending. It meets in person once a month and they have a full 12 month schedule plotted outโ€”most of the books are some historical fiction or something similar. Last month it was The Secrets We Kept. This month it is Rules of Civility.The other book club is a feminist book club with an old college friend and some of her other friends. It meets online twice a month, and is covering an Audible book Warriors, Queens, and Intellectuals: 36 Great Women Before 1400.

In between all that, there’s been the usual PTA/BPA stuff, family events (Board Game Extravaganza! SuperBowl!), and the kids had band All Region events. We visited an event at NASA that my dad’s cousin spoke at (he was one of the Gallaudet Eleven) and got to spend time with him, then went back to BCS and visited with my sister, her new girlfriend, and my best friend.

I lost my planner sometime in the middle there. Finally gave in and bought a new one, so now I’m back on schedule. Literally. I wrote out a new schedule. Expect more blog posts, FB, IG, and Twitter from my author accounts. I even set up Hootsuite to help me keep track of it all.

Hope everyone’s doing well out there. Drop me a comment if you’re interested in seeing any photos from the NASA event. ๐Ÿ™‚

Book Binding Weekend

One of my best friends and I made books this weekend. She took a four-day workshop on it and graciously offered to have me down for the weekend and teach me her new skills. I forgot to take a picture of the book press, which is large, red, and dusty from having sat in someone’s workshop area for years.

Things I learned:

1. Glue is the foundation of all books. That and more glue. With some glue here and glue there. Also some paper.

Photo of a workspace that includes a teal cutting mat which has cut paper and a rectangle of cardstock on top, a wooden 12-inch ruler, a black Sharpie marker, an awl, a white plastic storage container, a box containing a brayer, a bottle of fancy white glue, a yogurt cup containing glue and a a foam paintbrush covered in glue at the tip, a blue bowl with a wet, blue paper towel wadded up inside of it, a pair of green-handled scissors, a red stool, another work area across the table from the main work area (but without the teal mat), and front-and-center a hand which is coated in glue holding a cardstock spine that is also coated in glue. So much glue.

2. I cannot cut the cardstock. Not at all. My friend ended up cutting it all. BUT she has a Cricut and we’re going to cut down some of her huge cardstock sheets to run them through the machine later. I folded all the paper in half, though.

3. Stabbing little holes in paper is fun! So much fun!

4. Sometimes you forget how many holes to make, so you have to improvise. We accidentally put in 5, but you need an even number in this style of book binding, so we put in another one at the bottom. We used variegated thread for our inner binding, which made it super festive.

5. Beeswax smells just like when you smush your face really deep into your cat and then try to breathe, but without all the fur up your nose.

6. There is no 6. 7. Waxing thread is also addictive. I don’t know why.

8. Sometimes you have the wrong sized paper for your interior. So then you need to cut it, but it is hard to do without the guillotine. You may try many things, like sanding the paper, cutting it with box cutters, or even using the dremel wood cutters. They will not work. They will also make the house smell weirdly burnt. Then you will go out to Wal-Mart really late at night and buy a guillotine. They are CHEAP. Start with that last step.

10. Bookbinding has a lot of waiting time while the press does its work. We watched irreverent feminist comedy specials on Netflix while we waited. You can watch whatever you want. ๐Ÿ™‚

11. When putting the endpapers in, use the tiniest line of glue. We thought we had. We were wrong. Also, don’t use thin paper for the endpaper. Mine was a little too translucent. Steph’s was fine (a nice sage green, not pictured.)

12. Make a feature of a little error. My error was cutting the paper too close to a little signature spot on the paper. I ended up putting it on the front, where it looks like a cute little frill. We also learned that if you don’t like one side of your book, flip it the other way and make the back the front (my blue was crooked on one side. This side is much better.)

We had such a fun time making these little darlings! ๐Ÿ™‚ 12/10 would do it again.

Hello again!

I have let this blog flounder for far too long and today is my first day back at it.ย  We have had a wacky, crazy year. I’m not even sure that I should try to summarize it, but find myself wanting to. Let’s start where I left off… oh my. Okay. That’s a rough place to start.

December 5th, 2018 my mom left the nursing home to go home for my dad’s birthday. She lasted at home until December 7th, when she had to be rushed to the emergency room. I went down on the 9th because it was clear that she was on her way out of this world. She passed away on December 12th. I spent the month in College Station or Wisconsin. We had two funerals for her, one in each of her hometowns. They were lovely, both of them attended by family and friends and filled with beautiful reminiscences of her full, mostly happy life. (Please note that this is short, not because I am being in any way flippant about it, but because I’m crying too much to say more.)

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In January we tried to be humans. We had our annual board game extravaganza on January 1st at my dad’s Tyler house so he wouldn’t have to be alone yet and could be a little distracted from all the sadness. April is with him all the time, but we come and go and try to bring a little joy to them with our visits.

February and March went by kind of in a blur. We visited College Station every couple or three weeks and spent half of spring break with my dad and sister. David and Nick were each gone a week in April and then it was birthdays and Easter all at once. We celebrated in the Tyler house, trying to avoid sadness, but failing. Easter was one of my mom’s favorite times of the year.

In May everything ramped up. The six month anniversary of my mom’s death was literally Mother’s Day. How’s that for irony for you? April and Dad ignored the day completely, while Nick, the kids, and I went to Scarborough Faire for the day (something I’ve been wanting to take the kids to for years. They were, naturally, underwhelmed because we’d waited too long).ย  All the end-of-year “lasts” were heightened because it was David’s last high school everything. We had a graduation party for him the day before graduation, we all attended graduation night outside at the stadium, and then the very next day he left for his band’s spring trip. And because we’re crazy, we had a family BBQ the following Monday with Nick’s family.

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June was even crazier, though. Nick and David left the first weekend, Nick for work in the Czech Republic and David for Tennessee for working a pre-teen camp. Then I left for China the same day Nick came back from his trip (and no, we didn’t even get to see each other at the airport). Greg spent weekdays at his Nana & Pa’s house while the other two boys came and went. David had college orientation for a few days in there. Nick and all the kids went to the Houston Aquarium for Father’s Day while I spent Father’s Day with my dad in Tianjin. Then kids all spent the last few days I was gone working the pre-teen camp at Camp Piney Woods while Nick was in Tennessee for work. We all were supposed to get home Wednesday, June 26th, but my flight got delayed by several hours and I ended up getting home at 4 in the morning on the 27th. Then on the 29th, Greg and David got in a van with other church kids and left for Teen Camp at Camp Pinecrest in Missouri. (I will most likely blog about my China trip in some upcoming posts.)

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Today is first day I’ve felt human and somewhat put together in a really long time. I’m getting back onto somewhat of a schedule. I’ll be spending weekday mornings at the gym and afternoons writing. Ree has this whole month free, so we’ll be starting parent-led driving lessons for him this week as well, probably in the mornings after I’m back from the gym. ๐Ÿ™‚ Greg will be in day camps most of this month and who knows what David will be up to? I sure don’t! He was looking for a job last time I checked, but no one would hire him because he was out of town so much this summer (he has one more camp he’s working at the end of the month).

So there you have it. We are crazy and we know it. ๐Ÿ™‚ See you tomorrow.

 

Beach vacation = writing time

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Every year at this time, my little family takes a break from work and school and goes on a church-sanctioned trip somewhere that we get to choose. Some years we go to the beach (my preference), sometimes to the mountains (my husband’s), and sometimes we stay close to home due to circumstances beyond our control. This is another beach year, our third time at our present destination. Our eldest is a senior in high school and this is the place all his summer camp friends were gathering, so since it is our last time with all our kids to go with us, we let him choose.

So how does all this equal writing? Well, the spouse and kids leave me every day for a couple hours and do the church thing over across the bridge on the other side of the resort. I stay here, in our 7th-floor condo overlooking the ocean, and write, mostly by hand with a fountain pen into a cheetah print notebook someone sent me last year as part of a Halloween craft swap. I have been doing writing exercises from various favorite writing books and writing a few poems and just generally shaking out the cobwebs from my brain.

When the family comes back, we go out for walks along the beach, swim in the ocean, laze by the pool reading books, snark about the internet, and sometimes meet up with others and have escapades.  We do not really worry about time or location this trip. Since it is our third time here, we have done all the things worth doing and gone on the dolphin watching trips, and shopped in all the little boutiques that are still open in the off-season. We are just relaxing this trip.

And that has been helping the writing flow…

Spring Break

When we were planning Spring Break originally, Nick wasn’t taking time off. I’d thought about going to see my parents or staying here…and then at the weekend we had a Teen Regional Weekend for church.  Plans changed.

Nick looked at the schedule and realized this was a great time to a) do our family vacation (a mini one this year due to other travel going on later in the year) and b) to go see the Magna Carta (on display in Houston). So we added that to the schedule.

Meanwhile I realized that my much postponed visit to see my bff needed to happen during that week, too.

So our break became one long car ride with interruptions here and there.

We started off our break with a Holcomb Family Dinner at Nick’s parents house.

Cousins all watching a movie
Cousins all watching a movie
Adults all talking about "boring stuff" (according to the kids)
Adults all talking about “boring stuff” (according to the kids)

Saturday, this happened:

There's free time! We should Bedazzle something! What do we Bedazzle? Our Phineas & Ferb shirt!
There’s free time! We should Bedazzle something! What do we Bedazzle? Our Phineas & Ferb shirt!
Saturday morning Pokemon obsessing
Saturday morning Pokemon obsessing
Floppy David is floppy
Floppy David is floppy

Then on Sunday we started the first leg of our journey… to College Station, where I spent a lot of time sitting around while the kids went exciting places, like the ice skating rink.

Ben & Greg start off pretty close to the wall.
Ben & Greg start off pretty close to the wall.
David is a speeding blur!
David is a speeding blur!
Now Ben's got it going on.
Now Ben’s got it going on.

I did break free and run off with Steph for a while to do some catching up and shopping. My favorite thing we saw:

I am absolutely certain that we do.
I am absolutely certain that we do.

While I was gone:

Time for Poker!
Time for Poker!

Then on Tuesday we drove down to Houston to tour the Houston Museum of Natural Science and to see the 1217 copy of the Magna Carta.

At the Magna Carta exhibit, there were many good things for the kids to do hands on.
At the Magna Carta exhibit, there were many good things for the kids to do hands on.
The chained books made the kids excited: "It's just like your Library screensaver!"
The chained books made the kids excited: “It’s just like your Library screensaver!”
The Writ of the Magna Carta (the instructions that travel with it)
The Writ of the Magna Carta (the instructions that travel with it)
The 1217 Magna Carta
The 1217 Magna Carta
The parts of this chair that look like wood are actually carved and polished stone.
The parts of this chair that look like wood are actually carved and polished stone.
TRILOBYTES are EVERYWHERE!!
TRILOBYTES are EVERYWHERE!!
Alligator?
Alligator?
Mineral that formed in the shape of a dragon
Mineral that formed in the shape of a dragon
We had lunch nearby at a place that only did sliders and sides.
We had lunch nearby at a place that only did sliders and sides.
Our skyline view
Our skyline view
These chili fries taste weird. Yeah, that's cause they taste like curry!
These chili fries taste weird. Yeah, that’s cause they taste like curry!
Sliders, sliders, and more sliders
Sliders, sliders, and more sliders

On Wednesday, we drove back to Tyler, dropped Nick off, then the kids and I drove to Quitman to visit the cousins at the park near their new house.

Teeter-tottering with the cousins
Teeter-tottering with the cousins
Wandering down the nature trail
Wandering down the nature trail
Sitting on the cute front porch of the historical building.
Sitting on the cute front porch of the historical building.
That's a really tall slide!
That’s a really tall slide!

On Thursday, we did a bunch of laundry, repacked, and headed up to Colleyville to see Kay. Unfortunately, she was unexpectedly still in Houston.  We spent several hours trying to amuse ourselves on our own before she made it back.

On Kay's trampoline
On Kay’s trampoline
In Kay's backyard
In Kay’s backyard

Then the girls had to go to gymnastics class (and yes, at this point we were wondering why we were even invited up, and by the end of the visit there was unpleasantness), so we took the kids to the park.

Climbing at the park
Climbing at the park
My spider boy
My spider boy
David in a teacup?
David in a teacup?
The sleeping arrangements were weird because the bed was broken.
The sleeping arrangements were weird because the bed we were supposed to sleep in was broken.

The next morning we had a muffin cook-off.

Iron Chef: Muffin Battle
Iron Chef: Muffin Battle

Our plan for the rest of the day involved the ginormous amount of books to go through and then take to sell at Half Price Books.

These are the books I'm taking home. There were about 20 other bags & boxes that I didn't take home, but did dig through.
These are the books I took home. There were about 20 other bags & boxes that I didn’t take home, but did dig through.

After Half Price, we went to Cost-co to celebrate Pi day the cheap way.

Happy Pi day!
Happy Pi day!

Then we went back to the house for movies and a frantic search for my debit card.

Sometimes it's easier to take photos of kids when they are facing the other way.
Sometimes it’s easier to take photos of kids when they are facing the other way.

In the evening before bed we had one final bit of happy Pi-ness:

Happy Pi Day!
Happy Pi Day!

Saturday we got up and drove over to McKinney for the Dallas UCG Regional Teen Weekend.

Church a la research center
Church a la research center

We had church and a Bible study earlier in the day, then in the evening there were separate dinners for the pre-teens/families and for the teens. After dinner, the teens had a dance and the pre-teens/families were left on their own for entertainment.

This is so obviously my kid. We sat across from each other and read. People thought it was weird. ;)
This is so obviously my kid. We sat across from each other and read. People thought it was weird. ๐Ÿ˜‰
Savage Raccoon Greg
Savage Raccoon Greg
Sweet Owl Greg
Sweet Owl Greg
Rainbow Loom bracelet making station.
Rainbow Loom bracelet making station.
Our dinner companions
Our dinner companions
Touring the Heard Museum in McKinney
Touring the Heard Museum – they were sweet and let us tour as long as we had enough adults to take all the kids through. Nick and I took some extra kids whose parents were chaperoning the dance.
Our hotel for the night. Ben thought it was beautiful
Our hotel for the night. The younger kids and I went back early for sleep while Nick stayed behind and waited for David’s dance to be done.  Ben thought our hotel room was beautiful.

The next morning we got up and had breakfast back at the Heard Museum before going for a little hike on the nature trails.

The Heard Museum's Research Center
The Heard Museum’s Research Center
Part of the Bluestem Walking Trail
Part of the Bluestem Walking Trail
Part of the Bluestem Walking Trail
Part of the Bluestem Walking Trail

After the trail (which the kids didn’t go on because it was FREEZING!), we headed out to Garland to the Skatium.

Roller skating in Garland
Roller skating fun
David is a blur on roller skates, too
David is a blur on roller skates, too

After the skating, we had one last meal together before we left for home.

Lunch with friends at the roller rink
Lunch with friends at the roller rink
Greg and Theron
Greg and Theron

And that was the end of our Spring Break. ๐Ÿ™‚

End of December, NY Resolutions, and all that jazz

I’m having trouble with the fact that it’s 2013 already for some reason. Most years I am quite happy to let the new year come, but this year just felt like it went by so slowly and quickly and unsatisfactorily that I can’t believe that it is over. So let’s catch up first on the end of 2012, ok? Great!

The last week of school before the break David came down with the flu, which of course quickly spread to me and I got bronchitis, too.

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We had all kinds of obligations that week including D’s first band concert, which he missed, and the annual Christmas music recital, which we all missed, and class parties, which David missed and I was asked to leave when it came out that I was so sick (“But I’m the coordinator!” “Mrs. H, you are sick. Go home to bed. We’ll be all right!”), and we also missed a birthday party for Greg’s friend Asher which was End of the World themed for the Mayan Apocalypse (we have awesome friends, right?!), and our beloved Owen’s first birthday party was missed as well. I did manage to catch Greg’s Christmas program, though, which was super cute!

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Our van also broke down the next-to-last day of school before the break. I was at Brookshire’s in my less-than-appropriate-for-the-weather pants when it happened. Fortunately my friend BR came and picked me up and took me and my supplies up to D’s school for his class party and then dropped me back at the van to await the tow truck. Then Nick rescued me and brought me back home to my sick David. (And then my van was gone until New Years Eve, due to one thing and another needing to be ordered. It was a ridiculously expensive experience.)

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So Nick ended up driving us down to CS for Christmas. I slept through most of it. When I wasn’t sleeping, I was dozing in front of the television or feeding people. Seriously, I have no real memory of what went on other than A) gifts were given and received, B) I watched more bits of more random things than ever before in my life except when I had pneumonia, and C) I wore a Typhoid Mary name tag to Christmas Eve service at church. Cause my mom said I had to go and I’m wacky like that. Looking back at pictures, I see we played some games, made a gingerbread house, grew some crystal snowmen & trees, the kids scootered with the neighbor kids, my sister took them out to play basketball at the school, and my dad got them a giant remote controlled car to play with.

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We eventually came home and found out that it had snowed while we were gone! There really was very little left, but the kids went outside and had a blast!

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The kids spent the night with their Nana & Pa. Then we had dinner with our friends L & M, making pizzas and exchanging books. It was delightful.

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Then next day Nick, David, and Greg left for Dallas for their Teen & Pre-teen Winter Weekend (a church event). Ben stayed with Nana & Pa, as he was still sick, and I had two whole days to myself. It was lovely. I spent one whole day reading than watching movies based on books I read. The next day I tried a whole bunch of things from Pinterest and posted them all just in time for the Pinterest Party some of my group of friends from church is having.

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The next day was New Years Eve. We got the van back and I bought a few party supplies and the kids and I made a few decorations and we had a party at my parents house here in town. We stayed up late playing silly games (Apples 2 Apples is my current favorite) and tried to do fireworks in the rain and ate a whole bunch of junk food.

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We did a countdown at 10pm for the younger kids, then had a toast and took everyone home. The younger kids went to bed, then we counted down the new year again with David watching the East Coast new years eve show. Then he went to bed and Nick fell asleep while I watched Sherlock and waited for it to be 2013 properly (I couldn’t stand any more of those stupid new year’s eve shows). It was a good night! In the morning we got up and went back over to my parents house for coffee and more games (we got my dad addicted to Settlers of Catan this year and even my mom will play it). Eventually they left to go back home to their other house. We spent the rest of the day trying to clean up and put away stuff from all the places we’d been and all the stuff we’d gotten.

Today feels like the first kind of real day of the new year. Although not exactly, as the kids are still out of school until Tuesday. Still, we’re working on our resolutions and playing with our new stuff. Tomorrow I’ll post about our resolutions and our family motto for the year. ๐Ÿ™‚