Sunday, April 2, 2017


Tyler wanted a Minecraft Birthday Party. Of course he did. He eats, breathes and lives Minecraft. He identified potential party guests based on their affinity for Minecraft. I reminded him it's also nice to invite other friends, too. We invited the kids from his Little Dragons class, who we see each Saturday, say hello to the parents each Saturday, and then barely speak to each Saturday - each parent/couple sits to themselves, and alternates between looking at their phones/laptops and watching the kids. And yet we genuinely care for each other's kids, and celebrate their successes. And when we attend each others' kids' birthday parties, which always take place on Saturday afternoons, we greet each other with hugs. And cluster together for the duration of the party. But never hang out other than that.

Of course we invited our good friends, the Bushmans, the McNamaras, and the Eaves, who have moved away but we still invite, even though they can't make it. And Tyler's long-term best buddy, Eileen. The newbies were Tyler's school/Minecraft friends, Chris and Joseph. One of the weird things about Tyler's school is that they really don't foster any kind of relationships. If they have a school directory this year, they haven't advertised it. I signed up to get one, and never heard back. I had no intention of inviting the entire class. So I had to plot how to get in contact with two kids I didn't know.

Chris was easy - his dad arrives for pick up at about the same time I do. So I just stalked them, and had Tyler wait for them to leave the school gate and approach them with an invite. I had a feeling they lived far away, so was nervous that they wouldn't want to drive so far on a Saturday, when this was a Minecraft Party, and it was clearly so important to Tyler that Chris be there. I was thrilled when his dad texted that they could make it.

Then Tyler started talking about his friend Joseph. I coached him to ask for Joseph's number. Day after day, he came home without a number. I sent a piece of paper with a clearly printed note and a line for Joseph's number. Tyler came home with a partial address. I tried sending a note to Joseph to ask his parents to please call or text me so we could invite him over. That note kept somehow not ever leaving Tyler's backpack. Finally, Tyson suggested we bend the rules and send the invite itself with Tyler. I coached Tyler on how to give it to Joseph on the playground before school, explaining that it's rude for other kids to find out they aren't invited to a party. Tyler delivered the invitation, proudly declaring that he was stealth in delivering it. "In the morning before school?" "No. After school, in line for Late Bird." Ummmm well we didn't hear anything about it, so guess it's okay. I think during the last week of school I'll go in and try to buy a directory and try to negotiate a discount.

If they even made a directory this year.

Joseph's parents texted their rsvp.

Tyler's designs for his birthday keep growing more elaborate each year. This year I thought I was getting off light on the cake, that I could just bake a square chocolate cake, leave it unfrosted on the sides, and put green frosting and coconut on top, and call it Minecraft. Yeah, no. Tyler wanted a Steve Cake. I was so bummed! I talked him down to a flat cake, not an erect Steve. And warned him, it was just going to be Steve's head. Second year with fondant. I am not a perfectionist by any means, and fondant requires extra steps - seriously, you still have to frost the cake first??? But it makes it a lot easier for someone with severe limations in artistic ability to get the idea across.

I did a dry run cake on Thursday for Tyler's actual birthday. Anne Marie had bought a bunch of box cake mixes on sale a few years ago that went unused because they weren't the flavor Tyler or Tyson liked. So I used them now. Even though they were old :). I tried to dye the fondant skin color. It turned peachy orange and was marbled. The eyes and mouth weren't right. I realized I should use graph paper to sketch designs for the official cake. Tyler kindly told me, before I'd even begun to frost the cake, "It doesn't have to be perfect. I know you worked really  hard on this cake. You tried your best, that's what matters." Wow.

Our family party consisted of pizza and cake and family presents. Meanwhile, that night I baked the party cake, with newly bought cake mix. Friday morning I made blue and orange batches of jello to represent water and lava. Tyler was pumped about that, especially the lava. But then I never figured out what to do with them, so they went unused. Ooops.

Last year was our first year having a birthday party at our house instead of the park. I'd thought it would save us time and that we could prepare everything ahead of time. I forget why that didn't work out last year. But it didn't really work out this year either. Parents from previous years make comments like, "oh, I can't WAIT to see what you do this year!" On the one hand, I like that the parties are memorable. On the other hand, it adds pressure.

Anne Marie always helps me decorate, and she often finds ways to accomplish projects I'm having a hard time with. She offered to help again this year.  I suggested that we stay up late and work on decorations Thursday night to get a head start, thinking then I could clean on Friday night. Thursday night Tyson made the Creeper Bags - green backs with black faces stenciled on them. I baked the next cake. Anne Marie played with Tyrien. I was surprised when she left after the kids went to bed. Sadly, I lost my motivation to continue preparations in her absence.

I had to work Friday til 3:30 and had to pick up both boys, and was getting sick. I had to work Saturday morning and then attended Tyler's green belt ceremony. The weather was not conducive to setting up early, and I wasn't sure whether we'd be able to be outside at all. It was windy, forecasting rain and a high of 64, which to Tucsonans, might as well mean a blizzard. I conveyed to Tyson that his attempt last year to keep the kids out of the house failed miserably, and that this year we should plan to let them in, and might even have to let them eat inside. And that I would not be doing a thorough cleaning of the house because it would just get messed up. He agreed.

Saturday I cleaned the house thoroughly.

Anne Marie helped. I drew the line at mopping though. Tyson said he'd spot mop. But then he went outside and worked in the yard for hours on end. You see, he didn't like the way I pruned the bushes and jammed as much brush as I could into trash cans and left the rest on the ground next to our mailbox. But he didn't just deal with all that. He decided to eviserate all the thatch that has been building up for years, and rake all the dirt and the winter and spring debris and sort it into compost versus trash, and make all that happen. Anne Marie asked about mopping, I told her "Tyson said he'd spot mop." "He's going to be upset if we don't, it'll put him over the edge." "Eh." Sure enough, a few minutes later, Tyson was upset.  I ended up spot mopping. Laughing about it. I told Anne Marie, "Ok, now we know, not only does the house have to be clean, the yard does too!" Next year, I need at least one full day off before the party. And to not have to work the morning of. And to take echinacea and zinc the week prior!

I made a Creeper out of two large boxes, green tissue paper, and black construction paper. Anne Marie and I made Ghasts out of white balloons, white tissue paper, and black construction paper. I made an enderman out of two black balloons and streamers. I coached Anne Marie on making a spider out of one black balloon and black streamers. I told Tyler I couldn't figure out how to make an ender dragon. He was devastated. Anne Marie figured out how to make an ender dragon. I made the enderportal out of black tissue paper, and black and purple streamers. I added a blacklight and a treasure chest full of white, black, and aqua pearls, with aqua pearls being the enderpearls. We hung the decorations from the ceiling and closed all the doors, making it a dark hallway.

Outside, we hung the ghasts and stationed the Creeper. I scattered Creeper bags around the yard, but they blew around. So I rescattered them behind the iron bars on all our windows. I scattered popsicle sticks. When the guests arrived, they had to locate the popsicle sticks, then use craft glue to craft weapons. Then they had to locate the Creeper bags. Meanwhile, Brooke and I hid fondant covered rice krispy treats for the kids to find, and then encouraged them to craft shelter. I left to go hide the minerals - gold, iron, obsidian, lapis lazuli, emeralds, and the rare and highly coveted blue diamonds.

The kids somehow could not find the blue diamonds. They found everything else though. I then had them barter with the villagers to acquire bows and arrows - the kind with the suction cups on the ends. I was surprised that the bows needed assembly. Delegated that task to the villagersI loved seeing some of the parents negotiating with their kids - "I'll do it for THREE pieces!" and then eating their kids' candy.

I lined the kids up to have them take turns shooting the Creeper. It turns out, using those bows and arrows is not intuitive. That exercise was kind of a disaster. I should have drawn lots of targets on the wall so all the kids could have practiced at the same time instead of taking turns.

I thought I could kick back and take a break, but Tyler asked for the next activity. I tried to set up Shrinking Islands outside, but it was too windy. I tried setting it up inside, and couldn't fathom having 12 kids in my living room at once. I came outside and the kids were shooting their arrows at each other and at the sky. Again, I thought I could take a break. But I saw the bow and arrow situation was getting out of hand.

Someone had opened the sliding door between the kitchen and hallway, so kids had seen the streamers and blacklight. They deemed that door "The Death Door" and kept asking about it. I couldn't get them to break for dinner. So I gave in and took them, two at a time, through the enderportal. They walked down the hall, avoiding touching the enderman, enderdragon, and enderspider, and then retrieved one pearl, being unable to discern whether they were getting a true enderpearl, a black pearl, or a regular pearl. If they touched anything, they had to drink Healing Potion. I thought it was anticlimactic, but instead they wanted to do it again and again. I had to stay in the hallway with them to supervise. I didn't realize all the Little Dragons kids were leaving without cake. Tyson alerted me to the situation. The only kids left were the family friends and Eileen and Chris. I toasted, "To the Closers!" and rewarded them with cake. Tyler selected and placed his own candles, including a pink trick candle in the middle, so he had to blow it out over and over. Tyler later asked to open presents, and began playing with his toys. I put on youtube music videos for the kids to dance to. Tyler mostly worked on Legos with Leo and Auggie, while Penelope, Izzy, Ruby, Tyrien and I enjoyed the music.  Meanwhile Anne Marie worked her ass off cleaning up, despite Tyson's efforts to get her to kick back and relax. She was the true closer. I don't think she left until after 11pm.

Tyler and Tyson stayed up playing Star Wars Battlefront. Today Tyler spent the day building legos. Tyrien and I alternated betweein cleaning up and playing outside with bows, arrows, and balloons.

I laughed to discover that after everyone had left, 10 bows remained, and  4 arrows.

 Happy Birthday Weekend, Tyler!

Monday, January 2, 2017

So long, 2016!

2016 started off with a dog being forced to share his dog bed with a boy with a mullet.

Guess we should have known it was going to be a rough year.

In February, my good friend Paula's dad died from kidney cancer. Took Tyrien to the funeral to cheer people up. Thought he would sleep during the service, but instead he writhed in my arms the entire time. He cheered people up after, though.

We'd only been in the new house for a few months - moved in September of 2015. By February of 2016, Tyson was asking me, "how come I'm always tired and have these bad headaches?" I joked about carbon monoxide poisoning. And then we realized it wasn't a laughing matter. Began researching new HVAC systems.

In March Grandma G came for a visit. She bought our boys an amazing swing set. Tyler was happy to push Tyrien in the swing.

 Tyler always likes climbing walls.

The installation guys said not to let Tyrien use the rest of the playset until he turns 3. That rule remained in effect for about 20 minutes. There's just no stopping him.

While Grandma G was visiting, we learned that Grandpa Keith had a huge tumor just outside his cerebellum, and a small one inside. He came to visit us before his surgery. It was a gorgeous day, warm and sunny, and we sat outside and chatted.

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Took the boys to see Cousin Beth and Gary. Met their grandkids. Loved their grandkids. And their daughter-in-law, too.

Got our new HVAC system at the end of March.

During the install, Tyler and Tyrien discovered the joy of the sandbox. Only they turned the sand into mud. 

 I discovered Tyler running, buck naked, amidst the workmen. And found Tyrien looking like this:

On final inspection, our house still failed the CO test. The inspector tested the water heater. It read 3,000ppm. He jumped backwards, hyperventilating with a look of sheer terror on his face. "It can't be that bad all the time. My dog's here all day every day, and he's still alive." Sure enough, the water heater was producing large quantities of CO upon ignition only. But our water heater closet vented directly into our kitchen. He deemed the water heater hazardous, inoperable, told us to please, never use it again, and that until it was replaced and revented, we could not qualify for the energy savings rebates for the HVAC. We didn't feel we could affort to pay more money for a water heater installation, and yet we were counting on those significant rebates to help us pay for the HVAC. The inspector was empathetic, and told Tyson what he needed to do to replace the water heater and vent it properly. Tyson was nervous about getting the job done right - carbon monoxide and all. We decided we'd wait until Grandpa Keith got out of the hospital, he'd be too weak to actually do it, but he'd be able to talk Tyson through it. But Grandpa went back to the hospital for pneumonia, and ended up on  life support! The inspector called to check on our progress. He voice rose two octaves when I admitted we were still using the water heater. I told the inspector that we'd purchased a new water heater, but explained why Grandpa wasn't able to help us with the repairs. He sounded tearful. He talked to the owner of the company. They installed our new water heater for us free of charge and vented it to the outside. Family Air. Best guys ever. We got our rebate a few weeks later.

Celebrated Tyler's 6th birthday. Tyler asked for a Star Wars themed birthday party, including an R2D2 cake. I planned to make that cake, but while searching on line for ideas, found a cool design for a Sarlacc cake. Made that cake for Tyler's family birthday. Tyler was devastated. Tyson eventually was able to get through to him that he would still get his R2D2 cake, showed him pictures of the Sarlacc, showed him video of the Sarlacc swallowing Boba Fett, and helped him realize this cake was actually pretty freaking cool.

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Tyson prevented me from putting duct tape all over the Death Star Pinata. Tyson made fun of my Death Star Pinata.

Ordered pool noodles to turn into light sabers. Pool noodles didn't arrive. Mad dash the day before the party to find pool noodles. Dollar Tree. Grandma A and Tyler were instructed to convert the pool noodles into light sabers, using duct tape and electrical tape. I found them doing this instead.

Used fondant to make the R2D2 cake. Most of the kids were from Lil Dragons, a few from school, and the rest were family friends. Taught them a Jedi Mind Trick (paperclips on strings). Taught them discipline (Yoda Says). Taught them how to aim at stationary targets (chalk drawings of enemy fighters). Taught them to aim at moving targets (imperial trooper balloons). They earned their lightsabers. Worked together with lightsabers to achieve a goal (keep a balloon from hitting the ground). Then had lightsaber duels. Scavenger hunt to find Vader. Found Vader on Degobah. Faked them out with a decoy and fog, then Seth ignited his lightsaber and slaughtered them all. 
Finally it was time for cake.

Tyson got the call that his dad was being transferred to hospice. Kids kept playing. Parents kept waiting. Tyson asked not to have to do the Death Star Pinata. Parents finally started giving up and taking their kids home. Tyler asked to do the Death Star Pinata. Tyson gave in. The Death Star Pinata was nearly indestructible. Finally a weakness was found and exploited. Kids left. Went to visit Grandpa to say goodbye.

Grandpa woke up for us, knew us, let Tyler crawl all over him, talked to us, was affectionate with us. Tyson visited him every night for the next week. Grandpa died on April 15. Tax Day. 

Siblings sent us an edible arrangement. Best gift ever! We ate it all in about 10 minutes.

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Bushmans and Grandma G sent plants. Tried to keep them alive. There were some casualties.

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Worked together on a eulogy. Lots of laughter. Lots of tears. 

Tyson heard buzzing, and realized we had a bee hive in the playhouse, which we'd converted into our firewood storage center. Couldn't find a bee removal service willing to deal with potentially Africanized bees in such close quarters. Found a guy who could do it in a few weeks. But Vader wouldn't stop killing bees, and we live across the street from an elementary school.  We learned the bees would likely become aggressive within two weeks. We went with the bee extermination service instead. The exterminator noticed another swarm of bees in one of our trees. Fortunately, that swarm moved on without incident.

The exterminator warned us that the playhouse would be attractive to new bees. Playhouse deconstruction commenced.

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Tyson repurposed some of the playhouse.

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Paint by bubble was a popular activity.

Bubbles in general were popular.

Learned the two velvet mesquite trees were actually ironwood trees. I'd always wanted an ironwood tree! It's the closest thing we get to cherry blossoms in the desert. Felt less homesick. 

Learned that this house is perfect for hosting play dates, and discovered that six year old play dates are a blessing. They stay busy, they don't need a whole lot of supervision, the kids play in the playroom and in the backyard, they eat on the patio...I offered to host often - Tyrien could nap whenever he was ready to nap, and for as long as he wanted to sleep, and I could clean while they played.

Discovered varying forms of wildlife throughout the year. Beautiful birds, butterflies, hummingbirds, plenty of lizards, and then we found some of these.

Tyrien discovered the joy of riding in the Chariot. He had his own way of asking for bike rides.

Celebrated the annual recurrence of the work air conditioning system breaking down.

Tyler focused on his swimming this summer. University of Arizona far exceeds Demont and City of Tucson!!! Tyler got much stronger, faster, and it made our weekly swims at the YMCA much more enjoyable.

Tyrien saw what he thought was Tyler's water bottle in a store, and couldn't understand why I kept returning it to the shelf. Gave up and paid for it. 

Celebrated the end of summer with a week in San Diego. Learned why Legoland doesn't charge for toddlers. 

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Stayed in a condo walking distance from the beach. Tyrien had an infection that prevented him from being allowed in sea water. Quickly learned that he cannot visit the beach without going in the ocean. 

At least we were near a park.

By the end of the week, Tyrien had finished his medication, and we decided to violate the "no seawater" rule. 

Explored ships and subs with Tyler. 

Celebrated sunsets.

Taught Tyler to reset a router.

Spent significant quantities of time resetting said router. Tyler demonstrated grammatically correct usage of the f-word as both an adjective and an adverb in the same sentence. Tyson demonstrated gentle scolding for inappropriate language, while I demonstrated my unfortunate inability to supress laughter. 

Returned to the annual Pima Community College Piano sale, and actually bought a piano this time.

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Tyler asked for the piano, but Tyrien seems to enjoy it more often than Tyler does.

Spent lots of summer evenings at the Bushman's house. 

Enjoyed the Bushmans' dog until his last.

Celebrated Tyson's 40th. Cheesecake.

Celebrated brotherly love.

Celebrated spontaneous sleeping.

Celebrated goofy t-shirts.

Celebrated Tyler's progress in Lil Dragons. Noticed the sensei giving Tyler more leadership opportunities and more playful affection. Tyler has found a special place in that man's heart.

Tyrien had his first official haircut to banish the mullet.


Celebrated Labor Day Weekend .

Won a national award at work. Spoke during a national webinar. Interviewed by periodicals. Conducted a flashmob and made the evening news. Got noticed by a couple of politicians. 

Took boys to Flagstaff for Fall Break. 

Visited the Eaves.

Visited Meteor Crater.

Shed tears at Meteor Crater.

Miss the Eaves. Love the Eaves. Can't wait to see them again.

Visited Montezuma's Well.

Celebrated dance parties.

Celebrated Halloween.

Decided the pumpkin fest is a scam and vowed never to go to one again.

Walked in the Peter Howell Neighborhood Halloween Parade.

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Tyler got MRSA. Pinned Tyler down to the hospital bed and asked him to name his favorite Halloween candies while two doctors drained and cleaned his wound. Popsicles fix everything.


Tyson had MRSA. Treated entire household for MRSA. Tyler became allergic to the anti-MRSA treatment.

Lost Vader.
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Grieved the election.

Tried to celebrate our 8th wedding anniversary, but it was the day after the election.

Grieved some more for Grandpa Keith. Attended VA memorial. 

Celebrated Veteran's Day with  Grandpa Glass's 48 star flag.

Grieved for Vader.

Celebrated Tyrien's 2nd birthday and his love of trains.

Celebrated Tyler's interest in living on Mars by taking him to Biosphere II. 

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Cursed Elon Musk when Tyler had a meltdown over the fact that the Biosphere staff had killed most of the aquatic life in their quest to determine the effects of carbon dioxide on coral.

Celebrated the spirit of Christmas by volunteering at Toys for Tots.

Cursed the Toys for Tots  volunteer coordinator for missing the point, and rewarding Tyler's work with leftover toys donated to Toys for Tots.

Celebrated that if Tyler is going to be given a choice of  reward, he chooses the chemistry set.

Celebrated Christmas.

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Celebrated bikes.

Celebrated Christmas cookies and Christmas jammies.

Celebrated New Year's. Celebrated friends. Celebrated fun. Celebrated the end of 2016!