Tuesday, July 26, 2011

St. Louis = Ringlets

So we spent almost two and a half weeks in St. Louis this summer.

The first week was all my brothers and sisters and their spouses and was an official Family Reunion week. We started our week off on Sunday with all five of us and our families at the Waterloo branch for church. It was fun to see all the pews we filled up. And we hung out together at mom's afterwards.

The fourth of July was on Monday and mom had organized a barbecue with all of us and her side of the family at Konarcik Park. (Above: Portia and Preston played on the see-saw.) The kids mostly loved the merry-go-round and only three or four kids flew off it. We went to Columbia to watch the fireworks at The Legion afterward.

On Tuesday, we went to the zoo. The amazing St. Louis zoo. Of course we all got up early to do the free things. Here's my family riding the carousel free. Everyone else went to the Magic House but we stayed at the zoo because we hadn't been home in two years and I wanted to cover almost everything. We met at Micah and Karma's house afterward, where we ate Butter Burgers and Frozen Custard at Culver's and then did a whole night of fireworks in Micah's driveway.

On Wednesday, we drove to Meramec River to go floating. It really was fun. My little family had a raft (really a blow-up boat) and we spent most of our time just floating down the river with our lifejackets keeping us afloat. It started storming a little and we had to paddle a while to get us back in time. We spent the night at the luxurious (yes, I'm kidding) hotel near the river. The next morning, we zip-lined over the Meramec River. This was definitely more fun than I expected and exhilarating! We then toured the caverns and drove home.

On Friday, we drove up past Grafton, Illinois to an island on the Mississippi. We stopped on the way in front of this piasa bird. I think it's the only photo of the entire family we got (a couple of the small children are hiding, including my very own Portia).

After we took the ferry to the island, we ate at the buffet at the Hotel. The food really was good--and there was so much of it!

Saturday we had my book signing at the Waterloo Library. I had never done a signing before but it turned out really well. In fact, it was more of Q&A. I sold all the books I brought plus nine more. Thanks to my sister-in-law Karma for being the official book-signing photographer.

We went to Imo's Pizza for lunch, saw a movie (Zookeeper) at the Waterloo theater, and then went up to Collinsville for the Dash 'N' Splash (a 5K race). There was a lot of trash talking before the race about who was going to beat whom. Bianca ran it with me and it was so freaking hot. The race started at 6pm, which is truly unbearable in the St. Louis humidity. Fortunately, I had Bianca begging me to walk with her. I admit I was glad she held me back because there was no way I was going to beat my sister's 26-minute 5K. Afterward, they cleared out the entire water park, fed us dinner catered by Qdoba, and had a DJ there while we (and our families) ran around the splash park until ten. This was the end of the official family reunion. My brother and Eric left on Sunday.

The rest of us went to our great aunt Grace's funeral in Highland. Since I was staying on, I took my girls to do some other fun stuff. We did go to The Magic House. (Check out that hair!) This is the picture that the face recognition on Facebook asked if Bianca was Susannah Harper and Portia was Jeana. Funny, really!

We went to the Scott Joplin house, which we've never done before but it turned out pretty fun.

Science Center, shopping, Cahokia Mounds. Unfortunately, you have to throw getting sick in there. All three of us got that strange sickness of sleeping, high temp, headaches and sore throat into the mix. I got together with several of my friends as well--Hilary, Jamie, Scott, Sara and Christa.

Mom drove home with me and stayed a week, and then flew home.

I'll end this ridiculously long blog by saying that besides my family, I'm going to miss most the way the humidity curled Portia's hair into beautiful ringlets. It's curly in Utah, but it's amazing in St. Louis. The humidity was awful (running in the morning was like a sweat bath) and the air was constantly pressing in on me every time I walked outside.

So long, St. Louis! So long, humidity! So long, ringlets!

Last days and first days

This is Mrs. Lloyd. Bianca had to say goodbye to her fourth grade teacher on July 1. Bianca was tearful and it was amazing to me how attached she became to this teacher. I think one reason is because every week Bianca had to write Mrs. Lloyd a letter about what was going on with her life and the things that are important to her. The teacher would respond, and I feel like this really gave Bianca a personal relationship with her teacher. Sometimes Bianca would ask me not to look at the letter after she printed it off. I tried to not let it hurt my feelings. Sometimes she wanted things to herself and I had to respect that. On the last week, Mrs. Lloyd bound all Bianca's letters together into a book and let her take them home to keep as a journal. On the last day of school, Bianca wrote Mrs. Lloyd one last letter to tell her how much she would miss her (that she didn't have to give back). Bianca told me I could read this one and it seriously brought me to tears. It reminded me of a quote I had put aside after reading Snow Flower and the Secret Fan: "The classics tell us that, in relationships, the one between teacher and student comes second only to the one between parent and child."

Bianca also came home on the last day of school saying she had won the gold award. She'd been talking about this award for weeks now about how much she wanted it. Well, she got it. I didn't know if this was a big deal or not. But I guess only one other student in the class got a gold award. It was called the President's Education Award and is signed by Mr. Barack Obama himself (okay, yeah, I know it's most certainly stamped but still, maybe this gold award was more important than I realized). What a productive year Bianca has had. I'm so proud of her!

Today, on July 26, was Bianca's first day of fifth grade. Her new teacher is Mrs. Jensen. I hope this year will be as wonderful as the last one. Time will tell.