Oct 11, 2015

Austin City Limits

10/11/2015 — cori
I had the wonderful opportunity to accompany Chuck to Austin, Texas where he was attending his favorite Design Conference, An Event Apart.  Even though I don't personally get to attend the actual conference and learn anything, I'm thrilled that Chuck gets to and I love it when I get to go with him. We've been to the one in Boston, Seattle and San Francisco. It's always a fun adventure getting to the city early and exploring together.

This year the timing was not so great though. Chuck's conference coincided with the Austin City Limits Live Music Festival. This is only a small gathering of over 450,000 people jamming to tons of live bands in the heart of Austin at Zilker Park. Right where we were. The traffic was horrible! I don't know how we do this. We have an uncanny knack for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Take for instance the year we drove through South Dakota to get to Colorado only to find out we were following and being followed by over half a million Harleys on their way to Sturgis, SD. It is only the largest Harley gathering of it's kind each year in America. The sounds of Harley mufflers are still ringing in my ears. Loud doesn't begin to describe their noise. And everywhere we went, so did at least a thousand bikers. Not really what we would consider our type of crowd.

Then there was the time we decided to go to Washington D.C..  It was a beautifully hot day in the Capitol City.  We walked non-stop all day long. We were on our walk back to our car when what should we hear but a loud, low, distant rumbling. We couldn't fathom what it would be. Then someone told us that a parade was coming. Chuck decided to take one of the kids across the street with him in search of a pretzel for us to snack on while we watched this exciting, unknown parade. Unfortunately, his timing was bad because as soon as he was to step foot to cross the street, over 200,000 Harleys start slowly passing in front of him. We were stranded across from each other forever while all these noise machines agonizingly sputtered past us. It was so loud, my ears are still ringing to this day.

So, it would come as no surprise that we ran smack dab into the middle of yet another loud, crowd-filled, noisy festival when we didn't plan on it. It's how we roll. Chuck and I didn't end up on the same flight out there. So after picking me up at the airport, the very first thing we wanted to do in Austin was to eat at our favorite Mexican joint, Chuy's. We thought it would be cool to go to the original one in downtown Austin. Unfortunately, we learned that the original one was also in the middle of the ginormous music festival that herds of humans were flocking to at the exact same moment as we were hunting for our late lunch. It took us 45 minutes to go 6 miles.

So we were off to a great start in Austin.

At the airport, Chuck greeted me with this beautiful Yellow Rose of Texas.

We went to the Westcave Discovery Center and had an amazing tour.

This was just a stunningly beautiful ecosystem.

If a cactus can be beautiful, this is what it would look like.

We ate lunch at the amazing Salt Lick BBQ Restaurant. 
I hate BBQ and I loved this place.

We walked around the UT campus. This is Chuck taking a picture 
of the beautiful limestone on the wall of the LBJ library.

We saw some spectacular views including the Pedernales River.
We learned that Pedernales means flint. This river contained the most
sought after flint for tools, trade and money in all the new world at the time.

We kayaked around Town Lake and the Barton Springs with the lovely music from
Austin City Limits in the background.

I got the chance to visit my friend Margot. We met 30 years ago in 6th grade. 
We toured two arboretums, talked non-stop and ate at Torchy's Tacos in our activewear
It was great catching up after all these years.

 We waited for over 30 minutes at sunset/dusk to watch the bat colony soar overhead
for their famed evening meal. Apparently, the bats didn't feel like eating that night because 
we didn't see a thing. But it was a lovely night to watch a sunset over Congress Ave. bridge.

I visited the Capitol while Chuck was busy learning important things for work.

On our last day, we took a little jaunt out to visit Fredericksburg. It is a quaint, vibrant, 
old, German settlement known for all it's wineries. 

It was great to actually fly back together on the same plane.
We're such great traveling buddies.

Sep 30, 2015

Grammar Novice

9/30/2015 — cori

It's no secret that I have a lot of issues. They are outlined in great detail over the years through this lovely little medium. Guess what? I just found one more. Great. Like I needed another one to add to my stack. 

Apparently, grammar rules have changed since I was last in school and NO ONE TOLD ME! So unfair.

Of course I had to find out the hard way. So, I'm writing this paper and asked Chuck and Gavin to edit it for me. Chuck doesn't even scan it for two seconds when he's all like, "Why are you still adding two spaces after each period? Nobody does that anymore."

And I'm all like, "So why is this the first time I'm ever hearing about this? Are you serious?! People don't double space after periods?? Are you joking? Are you just messing with my brain? You know how gullible I am. I will believe you." I was incredulous. It was like someone just told me that we can now inhabit Mars.

How is this possible? How long has this new rule been in effect and I've been left out in the dark? How do you disseminate this type of information to the general populace no longer in school? How long would I have foolishly gone on double spacing after periods? People would now be able to take one look at my paragraphs and tell right off I was a grammar novice. I was clueless as to the new and improved and hipper grammar rules. 

It would appear that I grew up using the AMA Standard. Now MLA is all the rage. Whatever. I don't even know what those acronyms stand for. And to be honest...I don't even care. Who decides what rules we are supposed to use? Life is hard enough. Now I have to worry about spacing after periods. For the love! 

Sep 29, 2015

The Booty Song

9/29/2015 — cori
The other morning, on our way to church, the kids asked to play music. You know, because we can't be in the car for more than 2 minutes without music. Preferably loud music. You never know what genre of song could come spewing forth from my playlist. I have everything from Classical to Country to Pop to Rap. Let's call it eclectic.

Of all the songs, this one was the one we listened to on our way to church. A little inappropriate for the occasion. But we all like it, so we jammed.

Seriously, we're pulling into the church parking lot with this song blaring. Bennett says, "Here come those Mallotts who just love their butts." Then we do our Walk-Five-Abreast thing into the church that we're so famous for. We looked like an album cover. Maybe if it was a shot of our backside, we could have even been the album cover for "All About That Bass".

Thank you, Meghan for teaching us to accept our bootys.

Sep 27, 2015

The Association Game

9/27/2015 — cori

I will be the first to tell you that these three people are crazy!! They always want to play the stupid association game with me. They like to do that...play things I hate. I don't know why. And they love to include me. I should be thankful. But I'm not. I know how this game ends....in stupidity. Every time. 

Take last night for example. They all came into my room to "tuck me in". It's that way now. I go to bed earlier than most of them because I'm old and I like to. So roles have reversed and I'm the one who gets the "tuck in" most nights. They all came and laid on the bed with me and begged to play the association game. I thought, "Sure, what's the harm in one small game when I'm just going to go to bed anyways and don't have to think about it the rest of the night."

They were giddy with excitement. Bennett's standard answer is always "potato", Gavin likes to tell people what they can and cannot think and Chloe sits and ruminates forever trying to find the perfect answer. I tell you, it's maddening. They totally don't get the whole concept of saying the first thing that pops in your head when you hear a word. And once you add Chuck to the mixture, everything just goes askew. Apparently, he only thinks of rhyming words when he hears a word. That makes this game that much more fun for me. The problem is: I'm the only normal one! At least I think I am and this is my blog, so the story is going to be told through my lens.

I had just told the kids that one of the many problems with this game is that it has no natural ending point. It just goes on and on and on. This little fact didn't seem to disturb them in the least. I began wondering how I was going to kick them off my bed so I could go to sleep. Then it happened: the natural ending.

Gavin said: Death

Bennett said: Black

Chloe said: Dying

I said: Coffin

Gavin said: Craigslist

Boom! There it is! The one word that has ZERO to do with anything. Nobody thinks of Craigslist when they hear the word "coffin". I just proved my point of how stupid the whole game was. After the entire bed finished it's massive fit of laughter, I announced that the game had reached it's logical end and we were indeed done. Thanks for playing. Game over.

Sep 19, 2015

Born To Do

9/19/2015 — cori
Whenever Bennett and I drive in the car together he loves to pick songs from my playlist and up the volume really loud! A lot of the songs on my playlist where added by the kids. This song is one example. Bennett introduced me to Steven Cooper and his rap and I have to say I love it! I never thought I'd be one of those people who play their music so loud that other people give them weird looks as they pass. But dude - this song and Bennett demand it. This is us doing our best 'cool' impersonation. Can't you just hear that loud music in the background as we rock the 'cool look'.

This is an excellent song by the way. Bennett uses it to get pumped up before a game. I sing it the whole time I'm hiking. Whatever it is you love, you'll soon find yourself humming it inside your head. You might even find that you can handle louder decibels while driving around town in your car. Sometimes you may or may not have a teenager with you and you might be listening to it anyway. I'm just sayin. Make sure you turn the volume up...it's better that way!

Sep 18, 2015

The Crowd

9/18/2015 — cori

As Mark Twain reminds us, the crowd is not always right. This might be something to keep in mind during the upcoming political season.

Sep 17, 2015

Bedroom Makeovers

9/17/2015 — cori
I spent an inordinate amount of time painting this summer. Bennett and I had already planned to redo his room and bring it up to "Teenager Cool". It only took a week and a lot of squats, multiple trips to Home Depot for extra paint, a tiny mental breakdown over my ancient sewing machine, a few vinyl letters and a lot of tape and sweat - but we pulled it off. He was my right hand man. We did it all by ourselves (except for installing the vinyl letters - that needed Chuck's steady hand and detailed precision). His room is the perfect reflection of him. He can't help but smile every time he walks in it, passes it or does anything in it. But that's also who he is....he's a smiler, he does everything with a smile on his face (except painting - I don't believe I once saw him smile while we were painting).

Our school mascot is The Farmington Tigers. He bleeds school spirit. His favorite colors are black and orange - so that worked out pretty good for us. He didn't want to go with any tiger print though (I knew he inherited some of my design sense - animal prints are not cool). He picked all the colors (I only helped with the orange since it had to match the curtains I found).

I found those curtains pre-made at IKEA. Unfortunately, they were like 3 feet too long. I spent almost an entire day re-reading my 1930's sewing machine manual trying for the 759th time to remember how to insert the darn bobbin. I was spitting nails by the second hour of messing with my sewing machine. I think a sewing fairy must have appeared out of nowhere while my head was bowed in frustration and fixed my ineptitude that eventually allowed me to finish my course and hang up drapes that actually had a straight hem in the same color thread (that is a miracle)!

Chuck was also responsible for hanging the mini basketball hoop. I don't know if you noticed the theme yet, but it is something like "Basketball,Tigers Basketball, Michael Jordan, Basketball, Dirk Nowitzki, Teenage Appropriate, Basketball Cool"

And then I don't know what seized me, maybe being in 'Designer Mode' I just couldn't help myself, I asked Gavin if he would like a cool new room for the TWO YEARS he has left living with us. After I blinked away the tears upon realizing the stark reality of time, I think I heard him say, "Sure".

I know with makeover pictures you're supposed to show before and after shots. But it seems I always forget to take the before shot. I'm so excited and focused on the after. I'm sure I could dig some out of my picture archives, but...oh well, you're stuck with only 'after' shots in this update.

Gavin had very particular opinions. He wanted his room to be gray and he wanted to make the ledge on the one wall navy blue. He has a basement room that has always looked a little 'cave-like' to me. Not anymore. It now has the light and bright appearance of a normal room with a normal sized window.This room is such a vivid representation of who he is. He is calm. (disclaimer - he is not calm when he is painting. He is huffing and puffing like he is going to blow the house down. He is telling me all about how from now on he will pay someone to paint for him. He will never again paint a wall. However, he was super pleased with himself after seeing the finished product. I let him vent and then I let him feel the joy of a job well done). He picked out both pictures. I honestly didn't know he loved nature prints. I would have picked out those pictures. It also makes perfect sense with his new love - archery. 

We made the bow be like art work above his bed. It is a fun way to store and display his bow. I love how he has a remnant of his boyhood past displayed proudly on his top shelf. He organized his shelves the way he wanted them. It took much encouragement, but I was finally able to get him to rearrange his furniture in a way for optimal space planning. He is such a creature of routine/habit, that this was really hard for him. The only way he let me do it was by promising him that if he didn't like my new configuration, I would gladly put it all back the way he originally had it (yes - I was that confident he would like it). He ended up liking my way better and the rest is history.

He picked out that super cool hanging light at IKEA. It was his second choice. The first one looked a little more robotic and was way over budget. He put the entire light together on his own. We even took out the old light and installed the new one all by ourselves. We were beyond proud of that accomplishment. We didn't even get electrocuted. I also had the same battle with my sewing machine while working with Gavin's curtains. I won the battle in half the time it took me to do Bennett's. I consider that 'learning from my mistakes'. 

Chloe did not get a room makeover this summer, but she kinda got one this past Christmas when she got her new loft bed. I wanted to remember what an 11 year old girl's bedroom looks like so I snapped a bunch of photos. Chloe has a wee bit of a problem with the whole pack-rat thing. She also loves to arrange things in ways that only seem to make sense to her. I love this precious little girl room. Not too long from now we'll be making it a "Teenage Girl" room. I want to just live in the moment right now.

She still plays with her stuffed animals, especially horses. She always has a ton of crap on her dresser. To her, this is clean. I don't see things her way. But it is organized and 'cleanish' so I let it go. 

This is possibly the cleanest I've seen her desk area since we put it together. She is the Queen of Trinkets. 

Here's a nice view of the side of her loft bed. Everything is in it's place. Having a decorator mom must be hard because I have an instinctual knowledge of what looks good and what doesn't. Chloe doesn't really care about my 'knowledge'. She likes what she likes and no one is going to change her mind. I love that about her. I love that I can't connive, control or convince her. She is so her own person and for that I respect her and love her all the more for staying true to herself.

Sep 11, 2015

School Starts

9/11/2015 — cori
The ease and calm 
of summer is gone.

In it's place 
is busy and haste.

Our eyes awake
when the dawn breaks.

The schedule of school
now becomes the rule.

Our minds grow strong
from teachers all day long.

We learn and we grow
from all that we know.

We practice and play
and learn new ways
to grow skills and strengths
that will take us to new lengths
in our bodies and minds.

Living strong and kind
is the goal of mine.

Thankful hearts will be in store
as summer rolls around once more.

The cycle will again repeat 
and our lives will be complete.

Chloe is in 6th grade already. I'm in denial. My baby is in middle school. She is still attending the local project-based charter school. This is her second year there and she is thriving. She is excited about taking new things like choir and creative writing and possibly being in the Color Guard. She's looking forward to track again in the spring and still loves to ride her bike and play with friends after school.

This is what I got when I asked Bennett to show me 'strong'. He's pumped to be at the top of middle school in 8th grade this year. He loves everything about it. They were given alot of choices about what classes they wanted to take this year. So far, (after 3 days in school) his favorite is Spanish. This is also going to be his break out year in basketball. He's spent so many hours this summer training it's ridiculous. He is physically and mentally ready to take on anything this basketball season brings his way.

Gavin is a junior this year. Let me repeat that: Gavin is a JUNIOR! OMG!!! I thought I was still a junior. How can he be? We are not the same. He had major scheduling issues this year and had to rearrange his entire schedule 2 days before school started. Unfortunately, he had to drop German 3 due to a conflict and now is taking 4 AP courses instead. He has always loved to learn and enjoys a challenge, thus why he choose such an aggressive schedule. But we have every confidence in the effort he puts into his studies. He is also Junior Captain of his Mock Trial team this year. See that red string dangling from his pocket. This is the cool new thing kids do these days. Everyone knows that the cool kids have lanyards for key chains instead of boring ol actual key chains like their lame parents. That is one sign that I'm not a junior any more. I don't own a lanyard. 

And yes, I started school again this year too. Not only as a teacher but also as a student. In addition to teaching English to immigrants and refugees part-time, I am also starting graduate school at Hamline University in St. Paul. It has been exactly 20 years since the last time I was in college. This is really stretching me. My first goal is to attain an Adult ESL certificate. We'll see where things lead from there.

Sep 10, 2015

Scaling Mountains

9/10/2015 — cori
Since we don't technically have mountains here in Minnesota, we have to make our own. Thus, The Pinnacle at REI. We love it here. Well, at least 4 out of the 5 'We's'. Let's just say that I'm learning to love it. I love the idea. I love the adrenaline rush, I love the exhilaration after completing something you previously thought you couldn't. But I'm still working on the the whole 'fear of falling thing'. That is why it is ever so helpful to be harnessed in. I love harnesses. I love knots. I love the person attached to the ground making sure I don't/can't fall and if I do she is there to reel me in like a fish. Sometimes I get a little floppy like a fish when all my limbs turn to jello. But I'm happy to report that all limbs stayed 'normal' this go around. No jello legs. No locked fingers. No uncontrollably shaky knees. No gag reflex.

Here is my new best friend. She ties pretty knots. If I'm going to be tied to a harness, I at least want the knot to be pretty. However, I can tell in this picture I look a little doubtful. We do not want a harness malfunction. Especially since I will be scaling the wall that says, "ok for 5+". You've got to start somewhere. I've decided baby steps are the best course of action (remember Bob? in What About Bob - my favorite!). I'm keeping my goals small and attainable. Notice, I'm not showing you a picture of me on the wall, it's embarrassingly smaller than what the rest of the family scaled. 

I'm so proud of my girl. She is so strong. And she can climb much harder walls than me. She is very good at this. Kind of ironic that she's scared of her tooth falling out, but not these heights.

Chuck is not even wearing Adventure Pants yet he is owning this climb. Way to go, Baby! He even had a sore/bruised/injured thumb and still managed to make it to the top pretty fast.

You would have thought Gavin was in a race to get to the top. He is so fast at rock climbing. He looks like spider man, seriously. His 7 year old self would have been super stoked to hear me say that!

I love this picture. It looks like God is shining down on this rock telling Bennett, "This is the one Bennett. Climb it" as Bennett looks on with reverent awe. He is also scared of heights, but you would never had known it by his ascension up this rock face. 

I like climbing at REI, danger is sort of out of the picture and fun is all that is left. That's my kind of thrill-seeking. I have a feeling though, that that's not enough for the rest of my people. It doesn't fit in with our family motto which states: "We're not having an adventure unless mom is scared." 

Sep 7, 2015

Mistaken Identity

9/07/2015 — cori

So, we were at church today (looking just like this and sitting in this order) and someone asked us the most ridiculous question. First of all, we are all dressed so casually because it was supposed to be an outside picnic/church service until it decided to thunderstorm all morning, so that didn't happen. Chloe and Bennett were off somewhere else leaving Chuck, Gavin and I sitting by our lonesome. Someone I had never met before leans over and says, "Hi, I've not met you before, are you guys brothers and sister or just friends?"

And I was like, "Um, excuse me???"

And she went on to repeat her question exactly the same way. It was at this point that I realized she wasn't joking.

While gesturing with my hand, I responded with, "Uh, we're his parents."

"Oh." says lady who has no clue about people's ages.

Awkward moment ensues.

I don't know if she assumes that Gavin just looks older and more mature than he is or we just act and look younger and less mature than we are.

We're still laughing.

Aug 31, 2015

The Tree Fort

8/31/2015 — cori
We pass this house multiple times a day on Ninja's walk. It makes me want to puke. This is like the "perfect" tree fort or elevated play house or whatever you want to call it. It even has a patio, roof with shingles and windows. Obviously it isn't finished yet. I'm sure they plan to brick this little piece of perfection or at the very least put up all weather siding. I'm sure it will also include real glass windows, possibly some furniture and maybe even a tiny HVAC system. And the worst part of the whole thing is the the mom is building it all by herself! Overachiever. She even has a tool belt and a power nail gun thingy. I saw her on scaffolding the other day. First of all, what mom has time to do a project of this nature and magnitude with 4 kids to care for? Secondly, where did she learn such incredible carpentry skills and lastly, why am I so jealous?

The reason for my jealousy probably stems from the fact that our own tree fort pales in comparison. 

Most people think it's a deer stand that we've created in the woods. They would be wrong. Chuck just isn't finished with it yet. It's a work in progress (for over 1 1/2 now). We (the Chuck part of we) still have to put up a railing. Chloe will be 16 by time this piece of art is completed and Gavin might be graduated from college. I hope he's not building it for me and him.

If you notice, I'd like to point out some special features that our deer stand has that the other 'perfect' tree fort lacks...such as the classy rusted out pot hanging off one post on string. Also, we like to recycle our plastic Target bags, as you can plainly see it dangling off the edge of the unfinished post. And since we're going for the 'classy' look, we figured an empty plastic bucket laying around under the fort should also come in handy for something at some point (possible bathroom?). Sometimes Chloe puts her camping chair up there for seating. Another nice touch.

Can you see the fort/playhouse/deer stand from our back door? Nope. That would be on purpose. It might bring down the value of our house if seen by an appraiser. It is so far in the backwoods as to be secluded. It is also deep in the mosquito territory and behind our pile of wood to burn. Did I mention it was built on an incredible slope? I don't think miss perfect tree house builder had slope issues to deal with. She has a perfectly even lot to build her perfect little tree house upon. Also...did you see any trees in her 'tree house'? Not a one. We (Chuck), on the other hand, have masterfully built our tree fort around not one, not two, but three different trees. Talk about overachieving!

Migratory Pain Syndrome

8/31/2015 — cori

This most wonderful handsome guy has a problem. He has diagnosed it all on his own. I'm rather proud of him. I think he may be on to something. This could possibly change the world....well, at least all those in the over 40 crowd. 

You see, ever since he turned 40 some two years ago he has noticed odd, little pains throughout his body for no reasons at all. Each morning he awakes to find a new and different pain. One day it might be an excessively twitching eyebrow, the next day his knee locks up and chooses not to work all day and still another his pinky toe is in massive pain affecting his walk. 

He has appropriately named his malady, "Migratory Pain Syndrome". He is a namer of things. Now that this affliction has a name it is easier to cope with. It becomes more of a new, daily surprise. I might wake up saying, "Hey Babe, what seems to be hurting you today?". And he'll assess his fragile condition and give me the daily MPS Report. It's become quite the hilarious tradition.

Not that I'm complaining about getting older. I love getting older. I love the wisdom, experience, depth and insight that comes with age. What I don't love is how our bodies need a little higher degree of maintenance. This is how we are embracing it. One random body pain at a time.  

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