We took a vacation to Phoenix over Thanksgiving break. Wayne grew up in that area, and though he went back a year ago for his grandma’s funeral, we hadn’t been there as a family since 2008. Which was before we even had Ben.

Day 1: Trip to Camp Verde

We drove about an hour north to Camp Verde, picked up Wayne’s dad (and his tiny dog), and went for a little hike.

This is how most of Arizona looks. Dry and brown with scraggly weeds and bushes. I’m not a fan of the southwest landscape.

Abby took a picture of me while I took a picture of her.

The kids posed for a picture on Larson Lane, named after Wayne’s family. This is the road he grew up on (although it was named something different back then).


Day 2: Phoenix Zoo

We spent the day exploring the zoo and enjoying temps a good 30 degrees warmer than what was happening at home.

Day 3: Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon is more than 3 hours from where we were staying. We left at sunrise, stopping for an excellent breakfast in Flagstaff and again at a gift shop along the way. It was about noon when we got to the canyon. We had dedicated one entire suitcase to coats, specifically for this day, since it’s much colder at this elevation. But happily, the weather was sunny and warm enough to skip the coats in favor of sweatshirts. (Except for Wayne, as you see, who is never cold.)

We saw idiots going way out on small, unstable-looking ledges to get photos. We tried to position Ben so that it looked like he was doing something dangerous, but that was a fail. Emma, however, is standing sans railing. I didn’t breathe til she got back down.

Day 4: Thanksgiving. Wayne’s aunt and some cousins came over. We bought most of the food at Costco, since we were gone all day Wednesday. We ate, and then Wayne’s uncle made up some spontaneous games, mostly involving everyone guessing the word he was thinking of.  We tried to play a round of Telestrations, but that fell apart when Wayne handed me this drawing:


It looked to me like a house and someone making syrup. (It’s moonshine, for which I have no frame of reference.)

We had a little music, as well.

Also my children took some selfies on my phone.

Day 5: Local shopping

We did a little shopping – not for Black Friday, just to get out. We wandered around Goodwill, Old Navy, and another place or two. We found some clothes, but I was worried about extra things to fit in suitcases so I didn’t let anyone buy much. We tried In & Out Burgers with high expectations, but no one was impressed.

Day 6: Lake Pleasant

I noticed that many things in the Phoenix area are named with positive words. Lake Pleasant. Sweetwater. Happy Canyon. It’s like the street namers were on a positivity campaign. Anyway, we lazed around in the morning and then headed to a place called Lake Pleasant to feed the ducks and look around. On the way home we stopped to hike up a rocky steep trail that Abby and I did not enjoy. We went halfway up and then came down to wait for the others.

Day 7: Musical Instrument Museum

Some people wanted to go hiking again, and off-roading in the jeep, but Abby and I chose to avoid those activities and instead visited the Museum of Musical Instruments. It was pretty fun. We had lunch at 5 Guys and swung by Target, then relaxed at the house while waiting for the adventurers (who reported having an excellent adventure.)

This ginormous thing is tuned two octaves below the cello.

This is an animal, turned into an instrument. Abby was outraged.

Here she is playing a theremin, which seems like a hoax but apparently is a real thing.

Day 8: HLS Phoenix!

I got to spend the day at the Highlands Latin cottage school in Phoenix. It was really inspiring and a day I thoroughly enjoyed. Here they are at their school opening, practicing for their upcoming Christmas program.

One thing the kids enjoyed all week long was playing with the cats. Wayne’s family feeds multiple neighborhood cats, so there was generally a cat or two about.


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A Man’s Accounting of an Event

{Whoa, my last post was in June?! I once again resolve to write about the minutiae here instead of social media platforms.}

The other night Wayne took Ben to basketball tryouts. When they got home, I eagerly asked Ben how it went.

“Fine. It was fun.”

I pressed for a more detailed answer.

He hesitated. “I’m not sure what to say. We played a game. We did some drills. That was it.”

Could he sound more like a man?

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Summer Swim

This year Ben joined Emma on the summer swim team. He didn’t want to, but I made him because I wanted him to improve his swim skills and I thought he’d enjoy swimming more than sitting around watching other kids swim. Which is what he did last summer.

He took swim lessons in the spring as a refresher; it had been awhile since his Florida lessons. He enjoyed the class, and I think it really set him up for summer swim. The strokes were more familiar, he had worked a little on endurance, and his confidence was up.

Despite all that, he hated the first few practices. He complained. He asked if he had to finish the season. He asked if I planned to make him swim next summer.

Then, about the end of the first week, he changed his mind. I think it just took a few days to feel like he knew what he was doing, because he’s loved swim team ever since.




(I am editing photos in Google Photos, but for some reason when I upload them here, they revert to the original. I can crop in WordPress, but I don’t think I can brighten. I tried to link them a different way in the original post, but some people couldn’t see them. And the pictures my sister sent me have disappeared entirely. Sigh.)

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Emma’s Birthday

Emma turned 12 a few weeks ago.

She opened her gift from us first thing in the morning — a pull up bar, now attached to her bedroom door frame.

She and Wayne came up with the idea of an escape room party. Wayne spent two days turning the garage into an escape room, complete with black light, glow in the dark spray paint, and tons of glow sticks. It was tricky to get pictures in the dark, but I tried.

The girls all LOVED the escape room. I’m so glad Wayne is good at big kid parties. He did an amazing job.

They also tie-dyed t-shirts.

Most of the girls slept over in the basement, where they stayed up til the wee hours talking and laughing. Or so I hear. I was asleep hours before. Hooray for big kids!

Continue reading

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Never Been Cool

Abby: I’m cooler than you, Mom.

Me: Oh, for sure. No question.

Also me: Ooo! Look! My new book about teaching Latin and Greek came in the mail.

Abby: This is why I’ll always be cooler than you.

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My sister and her family bought a camper a couple of years ago. We started talking about buying a camper, too, but decided to invest in a better tent instead. My sister’s family made reservations at a campground in northern PA and we made reservations to join them. In preparation, Wayne bought camping stuff. Packages arrived almost daily. Cots. Foam to put on the cots. A Coleman stove. A cast iron griddle to put over the fire. A fire grill. An extra table. Some smaller tables to put next to chairs around the campfire. A mesh tent to put around the table. Two kinds of bug spray. And that’s just the stuff that comes to mind immediately. “But like the man said, you can use it all again!” (The Camping Trip, Ray Stevens)

Packing a van with stuff for 5 people and 2 dogs to camp for 6 nights cannot be done haphazardly. It almost can’t be done.  See?

Even with the rooftop carrier, it was tight. I had stuff on my lap and around my feet, as well.

We stopped for lunch at Cracker Barrel, and were amused by the table sign:

We got to the campgrounds and set up. During set up, I tweaked my back, resulting in 3 days of intense pain and very limited mobility. For example, I couldn’t lift my left leg more than a few inches. I couldn’t lean forward; brushing my teeth required a wide squat. Getting in the car was a process of several minutes and made me feel like I was 90. Changing clothes took some ingenuity, to say the least.

It rained most days. There wasn’t a lot to do at the campground and not only was there no wifi, we couldn’t even get a cell signal. Not at the campground and also not for about 20 minutes outside of it. We took daily trips to civilization to download texts and check the forecast.

In a moment of sun, I took a photo of our set up.

I will say that camping really shows off Wayne’s ingenuity. He’s great at setting things up and making them work for us in the best possible way.

But the site was filled with rocks, which made it difficult to drive in tent stakes. And the pine sap got all over our dogs. Miley still has a good-sized spot on her paw. We threw away the dog beds because they were gross with it.

On the worst day of rain – we later learned there had been hail just over the border in NY – we took refuge in the rec room. I read, sitting up straight and careful in a folding chair, and everyone else played in the small arcade.

Yes, I actually brought this many books camping. I read 5 books in the 5 days we were gone. That was the best part of the week! I had thought I would read aloud to the kids, and also that I would drill them on math and Latin flashcards, but guess what? That part didn’t happen. I’m the only person who is surprised by this.

Friday was a beautiful day. My sister and her family – aka The Cousins – were there, and the kids ran wild and free all day. They played gaga ball, they rode boats on the lake, they rode bikes, they played Bingo. It was warm and sunny.  My back and leg were healing. I could lift my leg all of 6 inches again. I could get in the car almost like a normal person.

However, we knew it was supposed to rain all day Saturday and Sunday. We knew there was no possible way to take down the tent in the rain and pack everything so that it would fit in the van. We were packed to the gills on the way, and that was with lots of time to pack carefully. This wasn’t the kind of trip where you can toss wet things in any old way and sort it out later. So we decided to leave a day early, and to rent a cabin for our last night. Which meant that Wayne and I spent most of Friday afternoon and evening packing everything. Well, Wayne did most of it and I tried to help as much as I could. We moved our suitcases and sleeping bags into our cabin, which was handily adjacent to our campsite. It rained all night, and in the morning we were really glad to have most everything packed. Wayne packed the rest – in the rain – while we hid in the cabin.

So it wasn’t a particularly good trip. We made memories, I can tell ya that. The girls go to church camp in June; we had talked about taking Ben camping while they are gone. I’m not sure I can face it again so soon. But as Wayne says, practically everything that could go wrong, did. The next trip has to be better.

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The only picture we took today.

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