Monday, January 15, 2018

Second Half of 2017 Highlights, Part I

As I look back at photos from the year, I'm struck by the number of family bike rides. This has become my favorite thing that we do together as a family. Tyler and I are now bicycle commuters on a daily basis, and we often bike as a family to his Saturday Little Dragons class, then stop by the library on the way home. Occasionally we also bike on Sundays, either to 4th Ave or downtown for lunch, but stopping at the university on the way.  

The fountain in front of Old Main is everyone's favorite rest spot.

In June we celebrated Grandma A's birthday. Cakes are my thing. Tyson alerted me that his mom loves cookies more than cake, so I made her a gigantic cookie cake. I forgot to take a picture of it, but it was about like this.

We still love our new house and yard, and are becoming more familiar with the necessary upkeep. The big issue we tackled this year was the health of the trees. We learned that we have more than 30 trees on our property, and alot of them are not healthy - they are the living dead, courtesy of boring insects and granuloderma. We removed a few trees, but hired pros to service the tougher jobs. Quality Tree Service did a great job with this one.

Neighbors actually rang our doorbell to ask about it, they were so excited with the results.

This summer, Tyler alternated between time with Grandma A, and summer day camps at Tyrien's preschool, Catalina Methodist, and programs at the UofA. While it was convenient to have both boys at the same place, Tyler definitely enjoyed the greater variety of activities offered at A Camp, especially because friends from school AND Little Dragons were there, and especially at Flandrau planetarium's Fusion Camp, because he loves astronomy. After camp, we'd drive to the campus rec center for swim lessons. Tyrien's lesson was at 5:30, while Tyler's wasn't until 6. We often didn't get home until almost 7 at night. It felt like the summer days were more work than school days! But it was wonderful to see Tyler's progress. He often had free swim time during his camps, and during A Camp he had extra swim lessons, so that he was getting two lessons per day. Our plan for this coming summer is to have him spend the first month at A Camp with swim lessons during the day, so we can get home at 6:30 instead of 7.

Tyrien passed his swim class on his first try. Unfortunately, he was not permitted to  take the next level of classes because he was not yet 3! His instructor requested an exception, but was denied. We'll get started as early as we can this swim season. Definitely, the UofA rec center swim lessons are the best swim lessons we've seen thus far in Tucson, having tried YMCA, DeMont, and Parks and Rec first.

We spent most Sunday afternoons at the Mulcahy YMCA pool, with Tyler spending most of his time on the water slide. Tyrien loves the water. His favorite game at the Mulcahy Y pool was to fall forward face first, then float face down for as long as possible. Nervewracking to watch, but awesome to see someone so young so comfortable in the water. He was definitely playing with buoyancy, using his lung capacity to rise or sink. His other favorite game was to unexpectedly climb out of the pool and dash across the peninsula, jumping in on the other side, out of our sight and reach, in water deeper than he could stand. The lifeguards practiced "rescuing" him more than once.  This kid is just comfortable hanging out underwater for long periods of time, but that's terrifying to us. You can see why we wanted so much to continue his swim lessons.

We continued to celebrating spontaneous sleeping.

The brothers deepened their relationship, seeking each other's company often - sometimes to cuddle, occasionally to play, and often to antagonize one another.

In July, we again vacationed with the Bushmans, this time renting a cabin in Greer. It is so fun to go hikinng with former camp counselors! We learn so much.

Musical sleeping arrangements were a theme both at home and here at the cabin.

Tyler was so excited to fish on this trip. He didn't catch anything, but loved trying.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Leveling Up

I took my first Krav Maga test yesterday.

I started classes in early January, a New Year's goal to learn how to protect myself and my family from violence. My first gym closed down at the end of January. I decided to train at Rising Phoenix until the other gym re-opened at it's new location. turned out that training at RP was so much more fun! My first exercise of my first class reminded me of being in a mosh pit, especially when he cranked the music, turned off the lights, and added a strobe. I trained twice a week for February, March, and April, until I tore my calf muscle badly enough to have to sit out for 6-8 weeks and get physical therapy. When I returned, at the end of June, I was frustrated at how far back I'd fallen. But it was still fun, and by then, I'd made some acquaintances. The owner announced the next test would be in September, and I felt disappointed, I knew I'd never be ready to test by then. Then he announced his gym was moving, and I felt discouraged. But I decided to give his new location a try, and sure enough, it was worth the extra drive. Then he announced the test wouldn't be until November 11th. My favorite training partner kept encouraging me to take the test when she did. I hadn't actually watched a full test, I'd only come in at the very end of the last test, because Tyler and I were watching a cow eye dissection, and he was into it - you can't just walk out of a dissection when your kid is into it! The rules are that you have to have seen a test, and you have to be approved to test. I was nervous to ask, but as more and more people kept asking me if I was testing, I finally asked the teacher, "So, for the test, am I...???" I made a tentative gesture. "Oh, definitely." His vote of confidence made me feel better.

Knowing I was testing in less than 4 weeks motivated me. I made myself a 21 day burpee/pukee challenge. I started with three sets of burpess, pushups, and crunches. I worked my way up to 70, at some point realizing that I didn't really need to do separate pushups if I was already doing them as part of the burpeees. Sometimes I tried to do sets of 15 burpees, but usually ended up back at sets of 10. Crunches, on the other hand, got much easier very quickly. And I was motivated to do my physical therapy exercises too, and stretch after. I did really well the first two weeks. The third week I slacked. And I had torn huge chunks of skin off my big toes. And was working around a sprained ankle. I rested the fourth week too, then felt panicky that I was now out of shape for the test.

I took the early classes on Thursdays, the intro classes, which were not much of a workout but were focused on technique. Saturday classes were much more intense, but not always working on relevant skills. My most frequent training partner and I stressed over gun disarms. I asked Tyson for help with it. It sort of helped. Kind of. He definitely helped me feel less squimish about it.

I ordered a different Krav Maga book, the one people on forums refer to as the Bible. I found Krav Maga instructional video segments on youtube. Whenever I struggled with a technique in  class, I read about it in the book, then watched a video, then tried to practice by myself at home. It was encouraging when I'd then try the move in the next class and get it right on the first try, when it was so confusing just one week before.

Three days before the test I got sick. I did my usual remedies, then resorted to Sudafed. My boss was kind enough to suggest that I take a day off, but I needed to teach. I reminded her I could rest on Veteran's Day. I went to class that night, and was a bit of a disaster - I could not follow the most basic instructions. The instructor pointed out the two of us who were testing, and announced that if we stayed silent during the test, we would fail. He gave us drills to perform in front of the rest of the class, stating he was trying to induce test anxiety. My training partner said she was nervous. I asked, "What's the worst that could happen?" She answered, "I might throw up." So the next day, I texted her words of encouragement. I felt she was in much better shape than me to be taking this test. She sent thankful and encouraging words back. I stuck to my word, and lazed about for the holiday, watching kung fu movies, then got serious about hydrating. I took Sudafed that night, which resulted in another night of insomnia. I watched Dark Angel for inspiration. Saturday morning I drank my usual amount of caffeine. I stressed when I realized I wouldn't finish eating breakfast before 8am. I stressed when Tyson asked that I meet him at the autoshop.  I packed four water bottles, three ice packs, extra bandages, tape, and pads, extra clothes, extra gu...and baby wipes for my sniffly nose. I had to pack and repack my bags, ending up taking two. I left later than intended - 9:35.

I arrived to the test at 9:48, thinking I had plenty of time to warm up. Instead, Jesse was already giving instructions on the mat, including announcing the location of the puke bucket. That really was an expected issue??? I raced to the bathroom, but rushed so much that I had to go again. I listened to instructions, then ran back to get my baby wipes. I showed my training partner, and apologized in advance for sharing germs. She seemed very understanding - who wants to wait another six months to test?

We started right at 10am with shadow boxing, followed by burpees, followed by straight strikes. At one point, a judge yelled at me, "What do you think this is, tae-bo?" I didn't know how to respond, but my partner understood the judge, and suggested, "slow down, focus, hit hard." I was able to pull it back and settle in. Then more burpees. By 10:15, I was shocked and concerned that it was only 10:15. I had one brief moment of nausea, but it waned quickly. By 10:33, I was exhausted, but confident. I knew the worst was over, now we'd get opportunities for rest - every time our partner attacked us.

We got started right away with a random series of  surprise choke attacks (standing with our eyes clothes until the choke was applied.)  I was confident on those. I was nervous about the bully headlock defense, and was pleasantly surprised when I took my partner to the floor with ease, over and over. Then more burpees, and then it was her turn to be attacked. I made it a point to take my time walking around her to surprise her - to give us both some rest. I was nervous about elbow strikes, which were to be called out by number. My partner was kind enough to give me extra cues until I got it down. I did the same for her, and realized, she was so exhausted that numbers simply weren't making sense for her. When it came time to do groundwork on the floor, my left middle toe began to cramp. I drank water at the break and applied trigger point pressure, but it didn't let go. I continued the test, trusting that it wouldn't get worse. Buck and rolls went okay for me. Ground kicks were a concern for me. I kept missing my takedowns, and then when it was my turn to be taken down, I missed a slapout and let my head hit the floor. I got kneed in the face at one point, and had to do the TMD release to try to soothe my angry jaw. But none of this felt terrible. Adrenalin carried me through. Then we had a five minute break. We were told to put on shoes and go outside. I booked it for the bathroom, and to my surprise, I could not pee. Given the toe cramp, I decided to take another squirt of Gu, in the hopes it had the right electrolytes to let my muscles let go. I put on my shoes, then remembered my baby wipes. I had been blowing my know and wiping my face at every opportunity. I ripped the shoes off, ran across the mat, grabbed the wipes, and ran back to put on my shoes. Three women from class gave me encouraging words - "You're kicking ass!" I went outside, and stood against the wall to rest in the shade. Next was sparring. I took some intense palm strikes to the face. Next was chokes against the wall, with the reminder to avoid getting our faces bashed against the bricks. Then we did gun disarms. I think I might have been the first person to choose to call out something threatening, "Give me all your money!" Then I heard the instructor say, "extra points for creativity!" I tried, an authoritative, "Get in the car!" and "Get on the ground!" My partner advanced on me shouting, "Give me your shoes!" I attacked and disarmed her and shouted, "I need my shoes, I have to walk home!" At one point she shouted at me to giver her my money. I disarmed her, tapped and racked, and responded, "No, you give me yours!" My last order to her while advancing with the gun was, "Buy me a drink, dammit!" It was fun to hear the spectators laughing.

After the test, we waited to meet with the other two judges and to be interviewed. One judge gave a speech about how we hit the wall, but then found the strength and courage to continue, how that makes us special, etc. All I could think was, "childbirth was so much worse!" He let me know I need to work on keeping my elbows tight to my body during strikes. The female judge let me know I need to practice getting up until it becomes second nature, and to protect my face. I was surprised when she said, "You had the best kicks from the ground out there today." I attribute that to physical therapy - all those bridges paid off. She also said, "Most people start off intense, and as they get tired, the intensity drops. Your intensity steadily increased throughout the whole test, you became more and more confident and aggressive as the test went on." She gestured with her arm to show an upward trend. I felt relieved that they didn't give any corrective feedback on the direction of the elbow strikes, or the buck and roll, or the gun disarm. They let us know that someone in the test wanted to quit after 14 minutes, and that it wasn't who we might think.

Doing an interview was tough, I couldn't think straight. And I felt a bit guilty for not being more tired, like maybe it was cheating to have taken Gu at the break. I knew at least one person was drinking Gatorade on the mat, that's pretty close. Then I noticed all the Monster drinks being consumed - that's just a liquid version of Gu, but with even more stuff in it. Had I not had that cramp, I would have skipped it. The cramp dissipated soon after taking it. True, you can't stop a fight to take gu, but then again, it's unlikely that you're going to be fighting off an attacker for more than 45 minutes straight. Note to self, carry Gu at all times, just in case.

We took some pictures and made plans to meet the instructor that afternoon for our complimentary beers. It was nice to get a few minutes alone with him at the restaurant. I told him Tyson was skeptical about the test, that everyone passes to preserve the business model. He acknowledged, "That's why I have to approve who gets to take the test. I only approve  people who I think can pass. But I never know who actually WILL pass, a guy today lost consciousness for a little while, I thought I was going to have to fail him, because you can only sit out so long before you fail. But he got back in, just in time. He explained that people have died taking the test before, hence the pre-approval mandate.

When the other testees arrived, we had great talks about kung fu, the ABO and NCLE exams, the humane society, gun safety...I planned to stay only one hour and ended up staying for 4.

Today I'm stiff and sore, mostly from missing that one slapout, and maybe from one hard elbow strike to the face. Bruises are badges, I have several. A couple months ago, Tyler pretended to stab towards me with his Minecraft sword, and I went through a disarm with him. He asked, incredoulously, "You know how to disarm a SWORD???" "Not really, but kinda." So I was thrilled when Tyler asked me questions about my test, "How many burpees did you have to do? Two hours???"

Time to prep for Level 2.

Halloween 2017

This year for Halloween, Tyler asked to dress as Willy Wonka, and Tyrien never made a decision,  so Tyson decided we'd dress him as an Oompa Loompa. I realized something about Tyson - he feels about Halloween costumes the way that I feel about kids' birthday cakes - it's a point of pride that he doesn't buy a premade one from the store, it's important to him to put the time and effort into actually creating a costume  This is the third year that we've crafted costumes out of used clothing. It's time consuming, and isn't necessarily less expensive, but it fosters creativity and appreciation for used items instead of buying something new.

I had Tyler try on my purple suit jacket, and was relieved when he announced, "Perfect!" Then we went to Savers. Funny enough, Tyler was upset about having to go, but as soon as I located a brown top hat for him, he cheered up. The tophat was new, so that was a bummer. But we found used tan pants for Tyler, and a used brown thermal shirt and used white pants with leopard print legs in the toddler girls section. A belt with a tan bow on it made for an easy bow tie for Tyler. I found a green wig for Tyrien, and a makeup kit that included the color orange. Surprisingly, we could not find a cane, but Grandma A brought Gigima's cane as a sacrifice to the cause.

Our first Halloween event was the BASIS Halloween Party. Tyler met up with Eileen and Joseph. They didn't do the activities, just ate some cotton candy and then played on the playground. Tyrien waited in line for one activity, then broke out of the line and played on the playground, too.

The next event was the Peter Howell Neighborhood Association Halloween Parade. This event is one of my favorite things about our neighborhood. An instrumental band named Sol Axe plays, and it's just so nice to get so many neighborhood kids together. The drawback, in previous years, has been that since Trick or Treating is part of the parade, kids didn't do trick or treating afterwards. But this year the parade was on a Saturday instead of on Halloween. I loved this.

We invited Eileen, Leo, Auggie, and Penelope to join us. We planned to meet up with Logan and Zane, and we happened to meet up with Edwin. Fun to see so many Catalina kids at the parade!

We stopped to take a few pictures before walking to the parade. 

My adorable Willy Wonka and Oompa Loompa!

I turned to discover a ninja had scaled our wall.

That made me realize that wall is pretty cool for photos. Too bad I didn't have the three ninjas sit together. But the kids were amped and ready to go.

Great music, great costumes, great people!

It did feel funny doing this parade while we hadn't yet decorated our house. I appreciated having the extra time. We carved pumpkins on Sunday evening, and kept them inside on Monday. I cut bats out of construction paper, and taped them to the wall behind an ocotillo. They faded in the sun, which made them look really cool, they were lit by the street light, and it looked like they were rising from the ground. So of course, I forgot to take a picture. 

I remembered from last Halloween that the lights along our driveway and sidewalk detracted from our display. I tried covering them with tissue paper bats, but that didn't do anything. So I covered them with orange tissue paper. That looked much better. I think purple paper would look even better.

I took some mason jars, covered them with orange tissue paper and with white tissue paper, and put artificial candles inside. I'll do that again next year. I also stuffed a mason jar with spiderwebs and spiders, and added an artifical candle that changed colors. I'll do that again, too. 

Last year, I only decorated my side of the carport, which meant it was only visible from Holmes St, and we didn't have many kids. It occurred to me that we need to advertise our presence to vehicles and pedestrians on the bigger road, Irving. So this year I strung purple lights along the carport that faced Irving Road. Between that and the bats, we announced our presence. I need to remember to get more purple lights for next year, I couldn't find any this year. 

This year I tried putting the graveyard with the lighted tombstones and the strobe skull in the gravel area right in front of our driveway, so it would be visible from the street. Mostly because I didn't know where our extension cords were. I liked that it was visible from the street, but I'd like to do something different next year, with more lighting. Tyler and I hung ghosts from the trees.

I experimented with the blacklights - there's too much light from the streetlights to make them very effective. I discovered that white streamers react to the blacklights, while white tissue paper does not. So I strung streamers along one side of our central architectural display. Tyson realized it would look cool to angle the spider projector to reflect on the streamers. 

We decided we'll definitely do the streamers again next year - more of them, so the kids have to walk through them to get to the candy. 

Tyson asked that we skip the fog this year. Given my disatisfaction with the graveyard, I agreed. If I have the ability to pull of a Halloween party or haunted house next year, I'll bring the fogger back. 

The boys first went trick or treating with Tyson and Grandma A along Holmes Street and then into the 6th Street Cul-De-Sac - on the Columbus side. Tyson reported "That was a bust." Grandma A and I took the kids on the Irving side of the 6th Street Cul-De-Sac. Also a bust. So I decided we should stick with what we knew - Tyler and I had ridden bikes past Halloween displays on Irving north of 5th St, and along the 3rd St Bike Path. We never made it to 3rd St - Tyler announced he was tired of walking after hitting just two houses on Irving. I realized it's not terrible that he didn't want any more candy,and it was a school night, so we headed home. 

Tyson estimated we had 25-30 kids - seems like more than last year. Whether that's because I decorated along Irving Street, or just because the parade was on a different night, we can't really be sure. But it was fun figuring out some improvements on how to decorate our house, and seeing how much potential there is for a haunted house or halloween party. 

 Hope everyone had a happy Halloween!

Monday, May 29, 2017

Things to Remember

Now that I hardly ever post, I notice things that I want to remember about the boys, but never get a chance to write down. I'll have to start this post and add to it, or just periodically post with the same title, Things to Remember. My friend Patricia once told me that her boys loved hearing details from their early years, and I notice Tyler lights up when we tell him things he did that Tyrien does now.

So of course, now that I have a chance to type without Tyrien climbing all over me and jabbing at the keys, I'm drawing a blank...

When Tyler was younger, some of the cutest things he used to say, due to his pronounciation, were "proyect" as in, "I want to do a proyect", and "instruccshuns", as in "Let's look at the instruccshuns for this lego set."

Tyrien has something adorable that he says now, that causes us to reminise about proyects and instruck juns. And now I can't think of what it is Tyrien says. Maybe I will in the next few minutes.

Oh, yes. Bike-y-bol. "Where's my bike-y-bol?" He is referring to his tricycle. Bike-ee-bole.  Melts my heart every time.

Despite his propensity for either bronchiolitis or asthma attacks, Tyrien actually has a good set of pipes. During Tyler's school play, The Sneetches, Tyrien stood on Grandma A's lap, shouting at the top of his lungs, "Brother! Brother! Brother! Brother!"

Tyler loves to watch TV and play videogames. So much so that we worry. We set limits, of course. We're not looking for advice. It's just a constant struggle. When he maxes out his time, he tends to hang out in the living room waiting for any opportunity for screen time. My plan for the heat of the summer is to have a new rule, that they have to play outside for a few hours, in the early hours of the day, before the TV can be turned on.

So far, Tyrien loves to be outside. He also loves to be barefoot. Outside and barefoot doesn't go well in Tucson. When he was one and  a half, he stepped on a huge mesquite thorn, it looked like it went halfway through his foot. Amazingly, it came out easily with tweezers and didn't get infected. Right in the soft spot of his foot. You'd think he'd learn from that.

Oh, the other adorable thing Tyrien does lately is to say, "I want a yummy" when he wants something sweet. "I want ahce keme" (ice cream) is also adorable. Clearly, he gets more sweets than Tyler did at this age, a product of early exposure to them. Good thing he loves being active!

As Tyson points out, everywhere Tyrien goes, he is running. He climbs, lately on top of Tyler's bunk bed, where he gets stuck because he can't get down by himself. Surprisingly, he has not yet climbed out of the crib. He alternates between sleeping in his crib and in the lower bunk. We can balance a water cup for him in the crib, so we prefer the crib. Why did we never figure that out with Tyler? We constantly had to bring Tyler water in the middle of the night. But, I suppose that was once per night, and Tyson was happy to do it, so it wasn't overwhelming. Whereas Tyrien, he really wants milk at all hours of the night, so the balanced water cup was an act of desperation, and it does usually work, now that he has tubes in his ears. Now if he's crying for milk in the middle of the night, I know he has an ear infection.

Yeah, he hasn't weaned yet. Not looking for advice on that either. I regretting weaning Tyler before he wanted to wean, even though he was over two. I did it because of the stupid Time Magazine cover - a four year old was standing on a stool to nurse from his standing mother, and there was a huge backlash. Suddenly strangers were asking me how old Tyler was when he weaned (which he hadn't done yet), and sharing all kinds of judgemental comments about the woman in the article, women in la leche league, etc. I weaned Tyler when I had the opportunity, and then I regretted it, because he was constantly sick for the next six months. And I weaned him in May, so it's not like it was the cold/flu season. Tyrien's colds turn into concerning breathing patterns, so no way am I forcing him to wean right now. He's not even down to once a day yet, or at home only. After two years of never sleeping through the night, I'm willing to nurse whenever and whereever he wants during the day, just so long as I can get my six or seven hours of sleep at night!

Oh my gosh, do I miss Vader. The boys have taken over the dog bed that looks like a miniature couch, and somemtimes, I see movement on it out of the corner of my eye, and think it's Vader. It's always just one of the kids, wearing a dark shirt. I hear neighborhood dogs barking so much, and think about how I used to get frustrated with Vader for barking too much. He didn't bark as much as these dogs. And I don't feel annoyed by these dogs, so maybe the neighbors weren't annoyed by him, either.

I mostly miss him in the middle of the night, I definitely did not realize how often he was checking on me in the middle of the night until after he was gone. I think anytime I woke up, he came to sniff me and get petted. He had taken to sleeping in the bathroom, on tile and against the wall, even in the wintertime, instead of on his dog bed next to me. But he still listened for me to stir and came and sniffed me each time.

Back to the living.

In January, I finally started taking Krav Maga classes. For three weeks. I didn't love it. It was hard, it hurt, and I felt lonely. Then abruptly at the end of the month, the teacher announced that they weren't renewing their lease and didn't have the new studio locked in yet. So I tried a different gym, and loved it! The first exercise reminded me of being in a mosh pit. A couple days later, I tore my left calf muscle running on the treadmill at work. I rested for four days, then gingerly returned to Krav Maga and seemed okay, so long as I stayed on my toes on that leg. Loved the class. Two months later, in the class, shortly after the initial warmup, I performed a ball-groin kick, followed by a knee to the groin. Which actually, is a motion quite similar to running. I felt that same rubber band snapping feeling in my right calf. I immediately sat down, asked for ice, and iced it for 20 minutes. I stood up to resume the class, and realized there was no resuming the class.

One week later, it looked like this.

Two weeks later, my ankle was bruised and swollen, and I still couldn't put weight on my right heel. I went to the doctor. "Yeah, with all that bleeding, I would not expect it to heal in two weeks. It'll be at least a month."

I finally got to start physical therapy four weeks after the injury. The physical therapist's response upon examining it was to periodically announce the Lord's name in vain. He asked lots of questions, performed lots of tests, and proceeded to give me a series of exercises that have nothing to do with my calf muscles. Clamshells and fire hydrants and leg abductions. Along with stretches for the hamstrings, hip flexors, and gluts. Only one calf exercise. I compared notes with my former running partner who is being treated for an IT band injury. Same exercises. I've been three times now, and can walk quickly again, but still have not been cleared to run or go back to class. I think I actually miss the class more than the running! Who knew that getting punched in the face would be so fun.

Tyson pointed out that I can still ride a bike, so I've been doing that. Funny enough, I've owned my bike for two decades, but have hardly ever ridden it. I have a lot to learn.

Tyler finished the school year. On the last day of school, we rode our bikes. He was so proud of his bike! He joyously strutted through the schoolyard with it as we walked over to the bike rack to lock it.

Here's another favorite from the end of the schoolyear:


Disneyland 2017

For Spring Break, we had planned to go to a cabin, but then were invited to Disneyland instead. We realized this was actually a good opportunity to go, not too crowded, not too hot, and to get to go before Tyler was too old to enjoy it. Especially since a new hotel had opened, with family friendly suites at a good price, walking distance from the park. We tracked down those elusive UofA discounts, along with some USAA discounts, packed the car, and off we went.

The drive was the longest road trip Tyrien has been on yet, about 8 hours. Tyler alternated between playing Minecraft on the tablet and suddenly stopping, closing his eyes, and breathing deeply until falling asleep. Tyrien spent most of the time asleep. 

The arrival at the hotel was fantastic. The woman who checked us in made it fun and seemed genuinely interested in our family having a good experience, asking Tyler questions, etc. Tyrien saw a Mickey Mouse display in the lobby, and shouted, "MICK-e-MOUSE!" and ran to see. We had no idea he even knew who Mickey Mouse was, so to see him so excited validated the trip.

Upon arrival in the room, the boys were so excited, happily jumping on the bed, looking out the window, and then playing together on the bed. 

I had done some research and found you can bring food and water into the park. This significantly impacted the affordability of the trip. We brought up bacon and sausage from the breakfast buffet, confirmed that their eggs tasted awful, so cooked the eggs we'd brought with us. We ate a large breakfast, packed peanut butter sandwiches, crackers, water, and a couple bottles of soda.

The fastpass option plus rideswap was awesome. Tyson would retrieve the fastpasses, then he and Tyler would ride first, while I hung with Tyrien.  When they were done, Tyler would get to go on the ride a second time with me - we'd get to go through the fastpass line so the wait was short. 

During one of our waits, I noticed Tyrien seemed terrified.


One of the stormtroopers approached Tyrien. When he saw that Tyrien's reaction was unfavorable, he announced, "These are not the ones we're looking for. Go about your business." 

Tyrien was miserable the rest of the day, until finally I called his doctor and requested a prescription for ear drops, explaining that we were in Disneyland and he was absolutely miserable. His doctor's office was awesome, and we were able to pick up the eardrops on the way back to the hotel. With the tubes in his ears, the drops work really quickly. Added in Tylenol and ibuprofen, and by morning, he was visibly more comfortable.

We spent Day 2 in California Adventureland. Tyrien had more opportunities to ride on rides, starting with Tow-Mater's towing. He had a blast! 

Our friends arrived in California Adventureland a bit later, and we had fun spending time with them for parts of the day, then going off on our own at other times. California Adventureland felt smaller than Disneyland - streets were narrower, and so crowded. But we walked alot more there. Tyson tracked his steps, he walked over 27,000 steps that day, compared to 13,000 at Disneyland. 

Tyler enjoyed rock climbing, practicing multiple times before I could coax him away.

Towards the end of the day, Tyson and Tyler went off on their own and Tyrien and I had some alone time together. He LOVED the carousel and insisted on riding it  over and over.  Where other rides inspired giggles and laughter, he was very quiet and serious on the carousel, looking up frequently to try to figure out the mechanics.

While Tyson and Tyler were waiting in line for a Lightning McQueen ride, we returned to Tow-Mater's ride. Tyrien was thrilled. We rode this ride multiple times as well.

With a dead phone and poor night vision, I was nervously waiting for Tyson at the "gas station", which had loud music and alternating flashing lights on the floor. Tyrien broke into dance. No worries about Tyson finding us in the dark anymore - with Tyrien rocking out like this, I knew Tyson would find us.

We returned to Disneyland the third day. We had passes for Space Mountain earlier in the day, and that resumed it's standing as my favorite ride. Tyler says Thunder Mountain was his favorite. We got to meet Chewbacca in person. Tyrien may be afraid of Storm Troopers, but he was happy to give Chewbacca a high five.

Towards the end of our time in Disneyland, we finally made it to Toon Town. Should have gone earlier. Seeing Tyrien's reaction to Goofy's playhouse was priceless. He was immediately confident, ran into the area, and immediately climbed up the play structure to wait his turn to go down the slide. He was in his element.

Then he spotted Tyson approaching from a distance, carrying oversized ice cream cones. He immediately shouted, "Ahce Keme!" and dashed out to meet him.

We enjoyed Mediterranean food that night, then left the next morning to return home. When we saw evidence of a traffic jam just before we got to Phoenix, we stopped to eat. We got back on the interstate after the traffic jam was over. But that's when we learned, Tyler cannot play videogames in a moving vehicle on a full stomach. I write that here so that we will remember. Do not let Tyler play videogames in a moving vehicle on a full stomach!!!

All in all, this was a great trip and I am so glad that we went!

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!