Sunday, March 13, 2016

Death Valley Wildflower SUPERBLOOM!!!!

Do you know what a serious First World Problem is?  When you find out from your sister that there's such thing as a Death Valley SUPERBLOOM, and you talk your in-laws into going for a weekend with you, and you spend hours planning, and they bend over backwards scheduling rooms and rescheduling rooms and talking to the National Parks Service to make it happen, but then you get there and think, "Well.... I guess that's cool...."  

These little baby flower seeds baked in 130° heat for a decade, soaked in an El Niño deluge, pushed their delicate little roots down and their brave leaves out and bloomed!  And do you know what I said when I saw them?  "Huh.  I guess I expected a little more..."  If those flowers could, they would throw a Death Valley Boulder at my face.  

Colby & Uncle Dan drove down late Friday night so they could spend the day biking.  Amber & I drove down Saturday morning right after the Girl Scout Discovery Museum Sleepover of 2016 so we could not spend the day biking.  If you ever get the chance to drive through rural Nevada, don't.  I don't recommend it.  Unless you're driving 395 down through Bishop and Lone Pine.  Those are lovely little towns.  The ones we drove through?  Yeah....  notsomuch.  I was cheered by the youths I saw at our inevitable McDonalds lunch time stop.  They were cute and fashionable and didn't seem like they hated their lives.  Which is what I assume of everyone who lives a different life than me.  (Of course, they were hanging out at McDonalds at lunch time.  But I don't judge.)  (Yes I do.)

My kids have stopped letting me pose them for pictures.  Good thing we have cousin Lucy!  I love you Lucy! (She hates me.  The only reason she lets me stay around is because I bring her beloved Ella & Gretchen to her.  Mostly Ella.  And because I take pictures of her.  She's really good at posing for pictures.  I am personally affronted by this.  Does she even know how popular I am at the girl's elementary school?  Does she even know that, like, 10 kids say, "Hi Miss Apryl" every time I walk on the campus?  I AM SERIOUSLY A BIG DEAL.  Come on, Lucy!  Kids love me!  EVERY KID BUT YOU!  And you are my NIECE!  You know I only see this as a challenge.  You will love me, kid.  I will be your favorite.) (Behind Auntie Krista, of course.  No one competes with Auntie Krista.  Let's be reasonable.)

It looks like she loves me in this picture, but she's only happy because she's with Ella.  And because I'm taking her picture.

Ella wanted to bring this natural salt crud home with us.  I said, "Yeah, no sweetie.  No.  No.  And No."  So this picture was our compromise.

This here is the lowest point in the Northern Hemisphere.  So of course they had to take their shoes off to feel the lowest earth under their feet (400' below sea level???)  Amber's lowest point was just prior to this when Lucy had a meltdown in the stinkiest PortAPotty in the Northern Hemishphere.  I remember those days (that's me pretending we don't still have those days).  Ella tried yelling over the concrete divider, "It's ok, Lucy!  Just put your arm over your mouth and try not to breath!"  Also, there was a line of people waiting to use the Stinkiest Port A Potty because a million people came to Death Valley to see the SUPERBLOOM.  I love having meltdowns in public with spectators.  When I'm old, I'm going to do it to my girls and hopefully be self aware enough enjoy the irony.

Love this shot.  (Also, she still hates me.)

This was a cool natural bridge.  The girls stood in front of it...

...and then laid under it.  Gretchen kept saying, "Yeah, I really don't think this is safe.  Mom, I really don't think we should be laying here like this..."  (as she's laying on the ground under it, pointing out the cracks...)

Awww, cousin Alex HAAAAAAAAAAAATED Death Valley.  Like how Gretchen HAAAAATES Girl Scouts and homework.  But the wind wasn't as bad in this little canyon, so he brought his face out from under the blanket.  Temporarily.

The artist's canyon changes colors every time it rains.  That is amazing.  Gretchen walked off to enjoy it by herself.  She wants to enjoy everything by herself.  The crowds were very bothersome for Gretchen.  She also has lots of first world problems (awww, just like me sweetie!)

Possible felony here with the plucked wild flowers.  We put the kibosh on that pretty quickly, but this was when we first got out of the car.  And they were already picked, and if she was holding contraband, she'd let me take her picture.  So they didn't die in vain.

We got home at 11pm.  We were exhausted.  And we still had a full week of work and school ahead of us (including work for Colby, two deadlines for me, plus getting print files prepped for Grandpa Beck's games).  But we made it.  We're on the other side now.  And I can now say that IT WAS WORTH IT!

Discovery Museum Sleepover!

Gosh, we had quite the time last weekend.  We had TWO amazing activities planned.  This is the story of the first one....  

Friday night we started out with a Girl Scout Slumber Party at the Children's Discovery Museum.  They started out this excellent activity so that kids who live in rural areas could come to the Discovery Museum and stay for more than just a few hours.  We don't live in a rural area.  We actually could probably have walked to the Discovery Museum.  But we hopped right on board that train, cause it was a train headed for awesomeness.  

Last year, the girl's Girl Scout Troops decided to split into two groups.  The older girls going into 6th grade "bridged" up to the "Cadette" level.  Since they're so mature and grown up (see photo above), they broke off from the younger group to do mature, grown up things (see all other photos ever of Ella)(also see: sarcasm).  It's been a little hard having two troops at the same time.  Then we found out that the younger troop was not going to continue after this year.  And really, that's ok.  Especially what Gretchen inevitably does before every meeting:  OHMYGOSH, WHY do we HAVE to go to GIRL SCOUTS!  I HAAAAAATE GIRL SCOUTS!  I don't even want to BE a GIRL SCOUT!  Why do we have to do this?  Because you tell me to?  FINE.  It's like you don't even CARE about me!  UGHHHHH!!!!  (and that is why I didn't volunteer to be a Girl Scout Leader this year.)  Of course this is after I asked her if she wanted to continue with scouting (she'd said yes, for sure.  At the time), and when she found out that the troop was ending, she decided she was upset about it.  Until I told her we'd do other fun stuff.  Promise.  Come on, I love having fun.  Fun is my favorite!

So we're ending the troop, and we have a ton of blood-sweat-and-tears Girl Scout Cookie Money we need to spend in the next 2.5 months.  So we are GOING BIG.  Hence the fabulous sleepover at the Discovery Museum.  If you life in town & can get a group of 50 people together, YOU SHOULD TOTALLY DO THIS.  It was so great!  They provided all the food, they had staff on hand the whole night, they had a RIDICULOUS amount of activities!  It was so cool! 

The evening started off with the girls sewing fleece Monster Fish stuffed animals on sewing machines like a cool little crafting sweat shop of creativity.  That's what Ella is throwing in the above picture.  Then they had a game that taught stuff about habitats and fish (There's an excellent National Geographic Monster Fish exhibit there now, hence the theme....)  But I was tired, so I didn't pay attention or play.  Because I'm the worst.  Then they had a giant slingshot set up in the foyer.  See?  We may have accidentally knocked the cover off the security camera.  Sorryboutthat.

Then we dissected a real dead fish.  That really smelled.

And looked at all the fish guts.

And took pieces to an electronic microscope and projected them so we could all go "Oh GROSS" together.

And looked off in the distance while smiling and shrugging our shoulders (can you even believe we're doing this?  I know!)

And then disrespected ANOTHER fish corpse by covered it in black ink and making traditional fish prints or Gyotaku (Japanese 魚拓, from gyo "fish" + taku "rubbing") (so cool!)  (I don't know how to make Japanese characters, I totally copied and pasted that from my BFF, Wikipedia.  Thanks Wiki!)

Wait, there's still more nasty guts in there!

Is this a heart or a lung?

We got to pick any room in the museum to set up "camp", so we picked the "Camping" room downstairs.  There's a neat little cave down there, and a tent already set up, and fake stars in the sky.  I had anxiety dreams the whole time that kids were playing in the museum, but in my dream I kept thinking, "But I'm sooooooooo tired!  I'll get up in a minute!"  So I dreamed I was tired.  That sucks.  Also, can someone please invent a sleeping back that doesn't make a "whooshing" sound every time fidgety little legs move in their sleeping bags?  That'd be so awesome, thankssomuch.

Besides anxiety dreams about wild children and sleeping bag swoosh noises, it was a 100% GOOD TIME!  We are going to miss Girl Scouts.  But we're going to cram as much fun into this Spring as humanly possible.

Because Ella's troop is also ending.  They're all growing up and coming up with their own minds about what they want to do!  Sniff!!!!


(OHMYGOSH, I'll have SO MUCH more free time!  I'm going to fill it up so fast, but I'm going to pretend that's not going to happen and that I'm really going to just sit in the hammock all weekend.)

Sunday, October 11, 2015


We had a family camp-out with the Girl Scouts.  But then only Colby came.  Poor guy!  So it was a mom & daughter camp-out with Colby there.  But it was fun anyway!

Except for the really loud owl that woke me up a bunch of times.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

What time is it? SUMMERTIME!

Why is the end of the school year always SO CRAZY!?! 

Because it involves kids like these...

And saying goodbye.

And ripping your heart out, knowing they'll never be first and fifth graders again.  That they're getting bigger.  That you have to say goodbye to the wonderful teachers and coaches that helped encourage and challenge and expand their world.  I never cry on the first day of school, I'm always distracted by the exciting new supplies and new teachers and new classrooms and new friends.  So much new stuff!  But the end of the year is so hard for me!  I hate goodbyes.  I may be a little dramatic.  I realize this.  You have to love me anyway.  

My awesome friend C decided to celebrate the beginning of summer by creating a homemade GIGANTIC SLIP & SLIDE!!!!  Look at how huge that is!  It went down the side yard of her neighbor (and luckily our friend;) J's house.  There were about 15 little girls over, ready to party.

At first some of the girls didn't understand what you were supposed to do.  They daintily sat their hindquarters down on the plastic and expected to have a swift, entertaining, but fully controlled slide down the hill.  They slid awkwardly down about three feet and wondered why it wasn't "working".  Then one brave girl threw herself down belly first on the plastic.  Then C broke out the bucket of shaving cream.  And a bottle of soap.  And, for good measure, a Costco size bottle of dish washing liquid.  Yeah.... there weren't any problems sliding down after that....

Can you see why Gretchen loves these girls?  BRING ON THE CRAZY.

Just in case you were wondering, yes it IS very fun to cover yourself in shaving cream.  Being covered in shaving cream unleashes your inner poser.

(Unfortunately Ella was at a class GIRLS ONLY swim party, so I didn't get any awesome pictures of her covered in shaving cream.  Though she may have been too mortified by her sister to engage in shaving cream shenanigans...)

Gretchen posed at the top of the slide, ready for adventure...  


Our friend C is a very good friend to have.  For example, the week before she made a GIGANTIC END OF THE SCHOOL YEAR ICE CREAM PARTY for 50 of their closest friends.  Don't be grossed out by how unhygienic it is to share an ice cream trough with 50 of your closest friends (we're building immunities!) think about how awesome it is to have A FIFTY FOOT ICE CREAM SUNDAE!!!

The only problem is that it was sort of on a hill, and our little friend on the bottom right kept yelling that her ice cream was "floating away"!  But it's the ice cream trough that keeps giving, cause as hers floated away, another new ice cream cam floating down to her.  Awww!  Circle of life.


Remember how two paragraphs before I was saying how hard it is to say goodbye to our teachers?  Yeah.  It was.  Now I'm going to go on about that again.  Feel free to make fun of me for what an emotional nerd I am.  This year my friend M & I partnered up to do art in two classes (her son's and Gretchen's.)  We had so many nice moms (and even a nice grandma) who came in to help us.  It was AWESOME.  To thank our amazing teachers, we had the kids do self portraits on shrinky-dinks (dude, we're bringing shrinky-dinks BACK.  For reals.  It's our 2nd time using them this year, and we have a plan for next Christmas too.  Booya!)  We gave the kids the option to draw their self portraits as a person, or as an animal.  They just had to draw the animal (or person) with a t-shirt on that had their name.  So we could tell who it was who thinks of themselves as a purple dragon.  I don't know if you can tell in this picture, but they turned out ADORABLE.


I gave Gretchen's teacher hers at the Poetry Slam the night before the last day of school.  I was going to say, "We love you so much, thank you for all that you did for our children.  You have an amazing gift of making each child feel special and capable.  We all owe you so much."  But instead I just sort of awkwardly shoved it at her and said, "Thanks for a great year." and then sat down again before I broke into tears.  UGH.  NERD!

No, but seriously, her teacher was amazing.  Sniff.

Also, that's not her baby.  But look at how cute that baby is.  We all fight over holding her.  We let her teacher win.  This time.

The kids were encouraged to wear "Black" to the poetry slam.  Fun, right?  Gretchen took it a step further and wore ALL BLACK.  She resurrected her super creepy Halloween costume from kindergarten year.  And totally owned it.  I kept thinking she'd wimp out and take it off last minute, but she sat in full black for the full poetry slam.  Even delivered her poem in it.  Yep.  Pretty proud of that kid!

I almost didn't make it to the Poetry Slam.  I had an unexpected 18 hour layover in Phoenix on the way home from Charlotte, NC.  Why did I go to Charlotte?

To help these fine people debut their new card game, "Nuts about Mutts"!  Yaaaaay!  We were at a Specialty Toy & Gift Fair, right next to the Smelcils people (smelly pencils!  don't be jealous!  My girls were!) 

You should totally buy this card game!  Despite the fact that it's still getting shipped from the Italian printer.  You should TOTALLY buy a million copies!  It'll be on Amazon in a few weeks with free Prime shipping!  Woo hoo!  While we were there, we found out their first game (which I illustrated for them many moons ago, "Cover Your Assets") is not only the hot new college drinking game (Grandma Beck and I are a little mortified that we're contributing to the delinquency of minors, but happy they're buying the games;), BUT it's also in the Top 100 games on Amazon.  Woo hoo!!!!!

It was a really fun experience, and cool to see all the specialty toys.  Grandma Diana would have been SO EXCITED, it was all her favorites.  Automoblox, fancy wood learning toys, random 3D puzzles, dress up booths... the works!

The next day, Grandma Beck (who I call Tauni.  We're close like that.) decided the best way to spend our free morning was to go to an antique mall.  That, my friend, is ALWAYS the best way for me to spend my morning!

Here note two things:  
1.  People have always loved their cats.  Even antique people.    
2.  Does that music stand look familiar siblings?  They totally had one!


And, because poor Ella got NO pictures this post, I'm throwing in this one from her friend's birthday party.  She beat that beautiful purple unicorn to a candy-bleeding pulp.  That sounds awful, doesn't it?  But look at how big and capable she's getting!  

And, I forgot to add this one on.  Here's Gretchen with her soccer coach getting her ribbon.  Yay!  Soccer is over!  (Wait, did I just say that?  I mean "Yay!  She tried something new and persevered!"  I really was proud of her, by the end she was totally going after that ball!  I would have been all, "Um, I'll just stand over here and hope it never comes close to me...")

 This was the first week of summer and we kicked it off with a bang.  I invested in water park passes and they've already paid off!  We went FOUR TIMES last week!  And we're going tomorrow!  Crazy, I know.  But SO SO SO FUN!  Gretchen' officially ridden all the rides.  (There's one even I won't go on!  It's the only one that Ella won't either.  I was proud of her for branching out!  I thought she'd stick to the lazy river and the wave pool all summer, but she proved me wrong!)  Uncle Aaron and his crew are rolling in Monday evening, then we're going to take them to Tahoe and show them around town.  So fun will be had this week, my friends.  FUN WILL BE HAD.

Sunday, May 31, 2015


The feed store was getting their last delivery of baby chicks on Friday.  But I was scheduled to be in Ella's class doing art!  What to do!?!?!  COLBY TO THE RESCUE!  He picked out the best three chicks they had.  I mean, CLEARLY.  Look at these babes.   Above is when Gretchen saw them for the first time after school on Friday.  AwwwwWWWWwwwwwWWW!!!!

Right now they're named Chicken Nugget (formerly "Marky"), Hello Chicky, and Brownie*. 

*Names subject to change at a moments notice. 

We have to keep them away from Duke (who we are babysitting for Uncle Aaron for three more weeks).  He wants to eat them.  EAT THEM SO BAD.

We also have to keep them away from Russia, our comrade kitten.  She wants to STALK AND HUNT THEM SO BAD.

So for now they live in a big Rubbermaid container in the girl's tub.  Under a heat lamp.  With the shower door and the bathroom door closed AT ALL TIMES.

Because even though one's named Chicken Nugget, we don't really mean it...

Their feet are creepy, FYI, and may make you freak out a little bit. But get over it.  Cause they're so FREAKIN' CUTE!!!!

 Kiss!  Mwah!

  Creepy feet, cute face!  Awwwww!

Gretchen is super into "posing" them.  She kept trying to get this one to pose for a portrait amongst the flowers.  I'd already shut down the idea of posing in the fairy village (too far for chicky to fall) and she wouldn't stay still enough to pose in the flower pots....  CHICKY, BEHAVE!!!!

 Pretty much the best picture ever taken, right?  I KNOW!  CHICKIES!!!!

Oh yeah, and did you see Gretchen in her soccer uniform?  She had her last game yesterday.  She rocked it.  But she also hates it.  So she says.  (She says that about a lot of stuff, we'll see how she really feels when next season rolls around.  I'd bet she wants to join again.....)

And my dream of summer marshmellow roasting came true, friends.  Gretchen and I ran to Home Depot yesterday and bought a $20 galvanized metal tub..  Then we said, "That's our fire pit!"  Then we made a fire in it.  Then our friends came over and made smores with us.  AMAZING.  The backyard sort of smells like camping now, so hopefully our neighbors don't hate us.  AHHH SUMMER!!!  It's amazing!  I can't wait for the rest of it!  Except I sort of can, cause summer gives me serious anxiety (balancing work and chllins and chickies and trips out of town.... OVERLOAD!)  But I have a plan this year.  Only two road trips.  Passes to the water park.  And I will know my limits.  I WILL!  Ack!  When things get stre3ssful, I can just hold a chicken in the chair swing and it will all be ok.