Ann wasn’t happy with the way William and I were haphazardly placing ornaments on the tree, so she took them all off and had us organize them into distinct groups: snowflakes, angels/Santas, colored balls, stars, hearts, snowmen, animals, etc. (The Nativity scene is always hers to place as the angel on top is mine.) Then she and William took turns placing rows on the tree based on the groups. She is quite the organizer, planner, and coordinator! Anyway, if you look closely at the picture, you may notice that all the snowflakes are at the top, followed by the colored balls, then angels/Santas, and so on. It seemed like an odd way to do things to me, but it turned out great. Afterward, William sat on the couch and made Ann sit on him over and over with much shrieking and laughter. Hey, what’s more entertaining than...a couch?!?

Part I: Going With the Flow

Three weeks ago my dad emailed me and asked if we were free the next weekend for a visit.  This was exciting because my parents live in Colorado and the kids and I don’t get to see them in person that often.  Our last visit was in Colorado during “spring” break of 2009.  (I say spring in quotes because it ended up hailing and snowing there the last two days and we barely made it out before the airport shut down, but that’s another story.)

[Ed.: for those that are confused thinking that my parents live in Michigan, understand that I have a couple sets of parents—my mom and step-dad in Michigan and my dad and step-mom in Colorado.  I just don’t usually use the “step” moniker as to me they’re all my parents.]

On Monday, Ann hosted a Halloween party, (this was the day after a great toilet explosion detailed earlier, but you wouldn’t have known it except the wood flooring was and still is somewhat warped in the hallway—I call it “character”).  Ann planned it all from decorations to activities to snacks to the invite list.  The latter was a bit of a struggle for her as I capped it and she wanted an equal number of boys and girls so neither group would “feel awkward”.  As it turned out, she had an almost full turn-out with one boy and one girl not able to make it—thus meeting her desired gender split.  The important thing is that everyone seemed to have fun just hanging out.  Ann had started a strict schedule earlier, but abandoned it somewhat, (although it was reported that at one point Ann said something like, “come on people we have a SCHEDULE to keep!”)  But that night at our bedside chat, she told me that she liked “hanging out” parties.

One of these days I will learn to just hire it out…

The downstairs toilet has been going off on its own for over a year now.  It’s been annoying, but I’ve always managed to adjust or reseat some piece of equipment in the reservoir tank to buy a couple weeks of stability.  But last week it got to the point where every time you flushed, the plunger mechanism that lifted to let the water into the bowl would suck the O-ring below it out of its track.  This caused the toilet to go off roughly every 30 seconds and require one to stick their arm into the reservoir and push the O-ring back down to get it to stop.  Although the kids would have probably thought it a great thing to do every time they flushed—and would probably be spending a lot more time in the bathroom—I decided it was time to replace the toilet’s internals.  Plus, Ann was hosting a Halloween party in a few days, then William was having some friends over for his Birthday, and I plan to host the family for Thanksgiving dinner.  I imagine it would look sort of strange for me to run into the bathroom and perform open-reservoir surgery on the toilet every time someone relieved themselves.  So, I picked up some new toilet internals and the night before Ann’s Halloween party set to work.

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