Category Archives: Family

Conversations with Boys: The One About the Hair.

Michelle: “Ethan, did you wash your hair?” (Note: it was obvious he hadn’t.)

Ethan: [silent but guilty]

Michelle: “Ethan. Did you?”

Ethan: [silent, but clearly engaged in a desperate search for a way out]

Michelle: “Son, you had better not lie to me. I mean it. Did you wash your hair?

Ethan: “Well…what happens…if I say no?” [suddenly all innocent, nothing-to-see-here, hands up in surrendering gesture] “I’m JUST WONDERING.”


I see a long, long road ahead.

Et Tu, Mandolin?

We went to a Folk and Roots music festival Saturday night with some friends. At the festival, Laurel cornered the mandolin player from Big Smith and started grilling him about his instrument. He was gracious enough to let her give it a try.

We knew nothing about this. Laurel is old enough that in that sort of small venue we pretty well let her have the run of the place so she can do what she likes.

The next day the Fiddlers were set to perform at Lewis and Clark Heritage Days in St. Charles. They do this every year, and as part of the performance they get to jam with the Peacocks (they get to do this in December, too, at the Old Courthouse in St. Louis). Well, they too have a mandolin player, who also allowed to let Laurel give it a shot.

Here was the result. Yes, it is true, I didn’t get the video from the beginning because I simply had no idea what was about to happen. This is the first time she ever played with anybody, and how awesome was it that the Peacocks, upon hearing her hit a few notes of Ashokan Farewell, picked it up and started playing with her?

She tells me that mandolin and violin have the same string tuning and fingerings only the mandolin has frets. There are some techniques specific to mandolin that she needs to learn, but she did an awesome job!

More Performances.

The other night before Laurel’s last orchestra concert I took a lot of video of the Fiddler performances. You’ve already seen one. Here are two others.

Turkey in the Straw, with 98 players (give or take a few):

Turkey in the Straw

Amazing Grace / Will the Circle Be  Unbroken. Laurel sings in this one:

Amazing Grace / Will the Circle be Unbroken

Kindergarten: That’s All, Folks.

Yesterday was Ethan’s last day of Kindergarten. He is my last child, and that means it’s the last time I will go through the whirlwind of emotions that is the first day of Kindergarten, the last of the forced naptimes, and the last Kindergarten graduation.

It’s funny, this Kindergarten graduation phenomenon. Laurel went through it and I don’t remember that it was a big deal for her, but Ethan was up early for his.

It was the first time he wore a big-boy tie.

Before Kg Grad2

He refused to do any of the choreography when the kids sang at the program.

waiting for the program to start

He dutifully received his medal for completing Kindergarten and very seriously shook his principal’s hand while receiving his “diploma.”

receiving his graduation medalshaking hands with his principal

Then the real fun began. Pizza and Field Day! Ethan is very physically active (boy howdy, IS he), so he was the class clincher for the runs. The only problem is that he doesn’t usually run in grass, so he was a little freaked out and didn’t do so hot in his first event. However, in the 4×200 he was the last one to run and closed the gap the other kids had left for him LIKE A CHAMP. He’s also very strong, so he was the anchor in the tug of war match and led his class to a 3-1 record for the day. That one loss? His teacher didn’t expect them to win because the anchor on the other end was more or less a Kindergarten linebacker.


100Mhandoff4x200 event - he caught up with the boy in front of himcelebrating a winstrategizingtugowar1tugowar2tugowar3digging deep for Coach N

By the end of the day, I had a sunburn and was hot and had a headache, but I couldn’t have been happier for Ethan. I had a rare glimpse into his life when he is not at home and I was pleased by what I saw. He was having so much fun, he was so comfortable, he has so many friends (including the ladies).


Ethan bellyached all year about how he wanted to go to parent pick-up at dismissal because they got out of class earlier. I told him our taxes pay for the fuel for that bus and so he will RIDE THAT BUS so I don’t have to fire up the truck and use our fuel to come get him. I also pointed out that the parent pick-up kids got home all of 5-10 minutes before he did because I passed them every day walking to the bus stop.

But when the opportunity arose after Field Day for me to take him home 30 minutes before dismissal, he chose instead to stay with his friends and ride home on the bus. I’m not sad. It means he has made some very good friends in Kindergarten.

With Mrs. Niewald and buddies


Biking the Katy, with Capital Letters Supporting the Important Stuff.

Last weekend our family decided to have a Good Day.

Good Days, by the way, are the kind that you remember in large part because there is an absence of bickering. And an absence of bickering is an unusual treat.

Ethan recently became the proud owner of a Very Expensive Bike. This came about in large part because he’s run through several cheap bikes and he really desperately wanted gears.

We knew he could handle gears.

Department store bike manufacturers, however, don’t know this and they don’t really plan for it. Ethan needs a smallish bike, being smallish in stature himself.

There was nothing for it but to go to a Real Bike Shop.

Real Bike Shops, for the uninitiated,  are bike shops which carry Very Expensive Bikes.

But they have smallish bikes with gears, and we have a boy who rode without training wheels at 3, so there you have it.

new bike

Naturally, we had to go and test this new machine, so off we went to a trail where we rode about 5 miles and then did this:

ice cream

That was all well good and fine, but it didn’t manage to test the bike over the long haul. So on Sunday of last weekend we loaded up and drove an hour to the Katy Trail, whereupon we traveled 11 miles to the Augusta Brewery.


Well, I should say 3/4 of us traveled 11 miles. One of us traveled closer to 18 miles. That’s Greg, who traveled all the way back to the truck to get the bike lock I had forgotten (and didn’t really think was necessary but was too afraid to really mention it because sure enough if I did, the bikes would all have gotten stolen).

While he was gone, the rest of us took it slow, stopped often to marvel at the scenery, and generally putzed around waiting for him.

Her phone didn't work there, don't remember why she's holding it

We arrived at the brewery, hungry and thirsty, placed our order, and had a mediocre meal with some pretty good beer (and root beer for those under 21).

too cool

even too cooler

There was no arguing or bickering; the weather was perfect; the ride was fun. Every once in a while we have a day like this when everyone just gets along and enjoys being a family.

I imagine Greg’s tired of listening to me go on and on about how fun that day was, but…

…it really was.

Really Fun.

Still Loves His Mama.

For some months, Ethan was presenting me with note after carefully-penned note that said, “I love you Mom.”

I wanted to keep every single one of them, but he must have given me 50 over the course of three months, and, well, as much as it broke my heart to do it, I had to pick and choose which ones to keep and which ones to let go.

Then for a period there was a drought. No notes.

It made me a little sad.

I wondered if that part of his life were over, if he’d suddenly decided (as I worried in this post) that it was no longer cool to express love for his mom.

But lo, my spirits were soon lifted when he proudly presented me with this:

love balloon

It seems he just moved into another medium. No more the simply scrawled “I love you mom” notes where the letters may or may not be drawn in the same line as they should be.

No, he has moved straight into artistry and voice bubbles drawn on balloons.

If I think about it too much, I’ll probably miss the misshapen letters and wrapped-around words of his notes from before, the ones scratched onto triple-lined paper from school or the back of a bill or in the midst of a picture of a submarine, but I’m happy.

He still loves his mama.

To My Husband On Our Anniversary

“To My Husband On Our Anniversary.”

That’s what all the stupid greeting cards say. Then you open them up and it’s some equally inane bunch of words clustered together by somebody sitting in a cubicle at Hallmark writing couplets.

The past year has been an interesting one, to say the least – especially the latter half. Thank you for having so much faith in me, for knowing who I am and knowing that I would never, ever do anything to break our vows. Thank you for providing for all of us so we don’t have to worry.

Cards don’t say the right thing, and neither can I, but I’ll sum it up like so:

Here’s to 9 strong years. May we have at least 9 more of these years together (times 7, because hey, you never know what future medicine will accomplish).

Behold the Lowly Dandelion.


I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “Really? A dandelion?”

You’re thinking this is a weed, the scourge of well-manicured suburban lawns and gardens everywhere. You’re thinking what this dandelion could use is a healthy dose of 2, 4-D. That herbicide is almost banned in many countries despite my college professor’s insistence that it was safe! safe! even as a main ingredient of Agent Orange. I’m sure you’d easily find entire tanks of it lying around in an old farmer’s barn somewhere.

But I digress.

If you’re thinking it’s a weed, you’re plumb wrong.

This dandelion, friends, is the most beautiful flower in all the universe because Ethan picked it for me at the bus stop this morning, and gave it to me – completely without shame – right in front of all the other kids.

The dandelions he picks for me serve as a yearly reminder that my little boy is growing up, and it will soon be considered very uncool to go around picking flowers for your mom.

For now, though, for this moment, I’ll take this dandelion and faithfully place it in a bud vase filled with water, knowing full well it will probably last only a few hours – likely not even a full day – before shriveling up as dandelions do when removed from their natural environs.

After all, though thinking of it just about breaks my heart in two, this dandelion may be the last he gives me.

An Essay on Leprechauns.

This weekend is, of course, St. Patrick’s Day. Ethan’s teacher asked the kids to write a sentence about what they would do if they caught a leprechaun. The responses were very cute. Many of them would ask the leprechaun to show them his pot of gold; others would make friends with him, or take him home.

Then there is Ethan’s response:


In case you can’t read that, it says, “If I caught a leprechaun, I would…toast him for dinner.”

Following that is the artist’s rendition of a toasting leprechaun.