Saturday, December 31, 2016

A Pig Pickin’

Defined: A pig pickin' (also known as rolling a pig, pig pull, pig roast or, among the Cajun, "cochon de lait") is a type of party or gathering held primarily in the American South which involves the barbecuing of a whole hog.

12-31 Pig Pickin' 1

Friends, we got invited to a New Year’s Eve Pig Pickin’ on South Whidbey Island…and it was so fun! It was a friend of a friend invitation, and no one will be surprised they spent time in North Carolina before moving up here.

Using “man-legos” (aka cinder blocks), a huge oven was built on the back porch, and the pig that had bit one of their friends was chosen to be the sacrifice.

12-31 Pig Pickin' 4

There were bonfires, friends, fireworks, and lots of sweet pork.  Great, great evening, so thanks Ruth!

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Monday, December 26, 2016

Da’ Cousins

There’s 6 of the lil’ buggers now (three are mine), and I’m half in love with all of them.  When Amber makes it up our way, we try to capture them all together.

Here’s them all 14 months ago:10-4 Kruger Cousins

Now look at them all!

12-26 Cousins at Grandma's 3

12-26 Cousins at Grandma's 2

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Phew, that was exhausting.  But probably more for the three cameras taking dozens of shots to get…half a good one.  I blame Wesley.

12-26 Cousins at Grandmas

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Christmas Letter 2016

Dear Loved Ones,

Merry Christmas, friends! It’s taken me 5 days to write this annual letter, and I’ve hidden clues throughout as to why. [You’ll figure it out.]

I was trying to come up with a unifying theme for 2016 and “pestilence” is the only thing that came to mind. Sure, we had lice, flea, and pantry moth infestations this year—and I’ll take lice any day over the other two—but it seemed an unkind implication of my youngers.

Kyla finished 3rd grade as a homeschooler and returned to 4th grade at the local school, reading at grade level! That kid is willing to work hard. All the kids did a rock climbing camp during the summer, and Kyla turned that into weekly lessons [Mama, um, Mama] until it became too much to get her homework done and go to climbing--seriously, she’s ridiculously responsible. Kyla spent hours building and playing at the stream at the bottom of our ravine, and even without being familiar with Thoreau, longs to go “to the woods because I wish to live deliberately.” However, she can’t go too long without her audiobooks, so I’m always sure she’ll be back by bedtime. Next year [Mama!], she hopes to receive her acceptance letter to Hogwarts when she turns eleven. I could make an argument for her to be sorted into any of the houses, but I probably won’t send her to boarding school, for Wesley would be heartsick (and have to sleep by himself).

Wesley, aka “I’m why we can’t have nice things”, spent 2016 honing his ability to destroy, usually beginning with my sanity and then quickly moving to furniture, though this year he advanced to larger structures when he used scissors to tunnel a way to Kyla’s room. He has lots of curiosity and no concept of consequences, and has actively ruined the kitchen table 3 different times and my wall repairs a handful of times. I have gotten to the point of sending him to Dwayne after an “incident”, as after almost 7 years of this, I am the parent [Mama, Mama, Mama] more likely to wring his neck. Earlier today, we had a conversation that engraving “I love you” on the furniture conversely relays the opposite message. Wesley does have other talents beside destruction. He can get from one level of our split story home to another without using any stairs. In related news, he’s now in weekly parkour class and he likes to play baby dragons at recess.

Some people want gender reassignment, but I think we can safely start saving for Piper’s species reassignment surgery. In Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy, every human has an animal daemon, and children’s daemons pop and transform into many different animals until maturity [Mama, um, Mama?], when they settle into one. Likewise, Piper is still continually transfiguring between species, though dragons, dogs, cats, and chinchillas are the most common. However, instead of a separate entity, she is her own daemon…and you can take that anyway you like. This year, Piper turned down all sports opportunities to take more art classes, and Cartooniversity struck a sweet chord for her. All of us WA Needs are unrepentant snugglers, but Piper is the only one who rejects humans, finds a cat, hugs it under her chin, and buries them both in blankets for the night. This year, Piper also became Grandpa’s Chief Assistant. My dad has made wine and beer for decades now, and he has finally found an 8-year old who shares his interest. He and Piper have Saturday bottling dates—she gets to truly be useful, and, temporarily, be an only child. Her true obsession is Hamilton, and the lyrics have expanded her vocabulary; not only “revelation” and “intransigent” but several 4-letter words as well. I’m oddly pleased that she learned them at home.

Dwayne won husband of the year award this year again when he surprised me with tickets to Hamilton for our 14th anniversary. We left the kids with my parents, and madly sauntered around Manhattan for a week. Hamilton was the trip’s highlight, but we loved the museums and parks almost as much. I don’t think a year goes by without him [Mama?] impressing me with some new structure. This year, it was his remodel of the cabin bathroom and a new trellis in the front yard, eventually to be the home of the best grapes grown on our street. Currently, no one else is growing grapes, so I’m entering the contest quite confidently. In January, Dwayne will celebrate twenty years at Microsoft. That is, he would be, but last year, Microsoft did away with 20 year bashes. Stock is doing well, so I’m sure we’ll get over it.

Last year, I wrote “[If all goes] well, I can finally have my well-deserved year of reading banned books, eating bonbons, and finding new places to hide dust bunnies in between spa treatments. I have a few more schemes up my sleeve, none of which involve housework.” 41-year-old Denise is kind of an idiot [Mama!], though she was certainly right about the housework. Generally, my life is interesting only to me; honestly, I’m pretty excited when the hamburger buns I have out for dinner aren’t moldy. I sub a few days a week, rule a few kingdoms nobody else wants, and, uncharacteristically, do something I’m lousy at. Dwayne and I are now business partners, after creating Heartsease Properties, LLC, which is just a fancy way of saying we started renting our cabin on Airbnb and put it into an LLC. My job is to dot every legal “I” and cross every “t”, which must stand for “taxes”. If it wasn’t for the lawyer and accounting fees this year, the cabin may have paid for its operating costs. Anyway, owning a small business [um, Mama?] pretty much exploits my every weakness. I’ve also turned down some amazing (to me) opportunities this year, simply because I have genuinely accepted that I cannot do it all…and for free, as Dwayne points out. Personal growth, indeed!

The sad news in our family this year is that my Aunt Janet, Mom’s twin, had a stroke in September. Her recovery has been excruciatingly slow, especially for Janet herself, but there is hope for recovery next year. It has put a bit of a pall over the holidays, though the anticipation of Advent is hard to ignore and my children’s excitement is more contagious than their colds.

May your traditions, family, and friends bring you both joy and peace this season!

With love,

Denise [Mama!], for Dwayne, Kyla, Piper, & Wesley, 2 cats, fish, and (-2) hamsters

Santa Came!

T’was the night before Christmas,

12-25 Post Santa Pre Kids

And then the morning aft!

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12-25 Christmas morning 2

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12-25 Christmas morning 8

12-25 Papa Bear

Merry Christmas, Everyone!

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Christmas Eve

The family met up at church Christmas Eve (where we ended service with an awesome snowball fight!) before enjoying an evening beautifully hosted by Keith and Julie. As the kids will recount, we (finally!) got to open gifts.

12-24 Christmas Eve at Keiths 1

12-24 Christmas Eve at Keiths 2

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Christmas Eve Tradition—Gingerbread Mess…I mean, House

To make Christmas Eve pass faster for the kids, we wait to do our Gingerbread House that day.  I was hoping they would start making it look pretty rather than…this, but, well, maybe this is tradition.

12-24 Gingerbread House 1

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12-24 Gingerbread House 3

12-24 Gingerbread House 4

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Friday, December 23, 2016

This Was Supposed to Be a Post About Mobak's at Christmas

But it turned out to be a photoblog about Piper's true character.  We still had fun as a family picking out ornaments and having cocoa and scones.

Saturday, December 17, 2016


We don’t go every year, but usually I try to get tickets for a local production of the Nutcracker for Me & 3.  (Dwayne usually volunteers to not come.)

This is from [Christmas%2520early%2520075%255B5%255D.jpg]3 years ago, when Wesley celebrated going to his first ballet by wearing a tutu.  My heart still melts.

This year, I went with a good friend and her daughter.  As always, the break dancers for the Russian dance was all our favorite.  We even had real snowflakes dancing outside!



Friday, December 9, 2016

Bathroom: Well, I Think It’s Adorable!


I wish I remembered to take a “before” picture, but I got a bee in my bonnet the week before to patch up all the holes in the drywall (um, thanks, Wesley). To make it more fun, I removed the ugly towel rack, aka acrobat bar, from the kids’ bath, and added a few more holes to patch.  This led to repainting Wesley’s room, the bathroom, and eventually, the hallway. The last time I decorated that bath, Wesley hadn’t been born and I put up cute baby pics of Piper and Kyla.  Now I’ve gone with a Calvin and Hobbes theme, as after having my 3, I see Bill Watterson as a spiritual guide.

*    *    *    *    *    *

Want another Wesley story?  I’m sure I’ve mentioned how early in 2016, Wesley used scissors, and the cover his bunk bed gave him, to begin a tunnel between him and Kyla, so he could just reach through when he needed her. (It’s sweet, how much they love each other, but AUGH!)

I finally patched it, but never finished it with texture and paint.  So over time, Wesley scraped off the plaster, too.  Then last week, I decided to properly fix all the holes and dents upstairs.  To Wesley, I implied strongly to not touch the wet mud in anyway.  As soon as my back was turned, he stuck his foot in it (on the &#$*@-ing wall!)…and wiped the mud off on his carpet and bedding.  I redid that patch.

The next day, it was ready for texture.  Remembering who my son was, I bought the 5-minute dry can, looked Wesley in the eye and told him quite firmly not to touch the texture, and went to work on the bath and hall patches.  Before it was dry, he had rubbed some of it off…because he wanted to know how it felt. 

Wesley spent the rest of the day under his father’s care, downstairs, banished from his room. Alive.  And I finally finished all the patches, and while Wesley was in disgrace and out of reach, repainted his room and the bathroom. 

I lost all the battles but somehow won the war.

Winter Wonderland!


Every place looks better in winter white, and even the 1/2” we got was enough to give us a face lift…and a day off school!



Kyla had a terrible cold that day, so she stayed in bed, but Wesley and Piper had an extra shot of energy from their unexpected holiday.


Piper made herself a little snowman (baby carrot and paperclip serve as nose and mouth), and when that got dull, she made a snow fort and made her snowman the winner in a epic miniature snowball fight.


Monday, December 5, 2016

How I’m Trying to Sell a Kid Desk on Craigslist

For Parents:
This master art kid desk will fill your child with a deep sense of purpose and perseverance.  Your child will crave to become an organized genius while practicing the skills to become a wildly acclaimed architect, artist, author, or actuary. The exterior cubbies are just right for organizing your child's magazines and award-winning novels, and everyone will coo over the secret compartment for unfinished work. The built-in battery-operated light gives your child the sense of feeling grown up will reducing eye-strain.  You will appreciate how the stool is just the right size for your child, and slides perfectly under the desk to be out of the way when your child is not using it.  You'll love what this desk can inspire in your child!

For kids:
This sturdy desk will take you places you've never been!  With no sharp corners, a stool, and the desk itself, you can leverage it to climb places you've previously been denied!  Need to hide candy wrappers from parents?  No problem!  Just lift up the top of the desk and throw it in there!  Want to drive your parents crazy with another lost library book?  Toss it in the cubbies behind the desk, and they will never find it!  Works well for more expensive CDs and DVDs, too.  Stuff toy cars, broken crayons, doll clothes, and dirty underwear in any of its easy-to-reach storage spaces.  The best part is the light that you can turn on after your foolish parents think you are a sleep.  The light itself practically doubles the mischief you can make.  You'll love what this desk can inspire in you!

Great for kids ages 2-6.  Come take a look--Santa can hold on to it until Christmas Eve for you.

[No nibbles yet.]

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Kyla Rocks the Wreath!


I love my helper elves!

Friday, November 25, 2016

National Swear Day 2016

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National Swear Day is kinda becoming a dud, as Dwayne hasn’t sworn while getting and setting up our Christmas tree for years now.  In spite of that, we still make it one of my favorite days of the year.

Check out the blue sky and perfect weather!DSCN0460


We are going to find the perfect 11’ tree…


at our favorite farm that has always had perfect, tall trees, until all of us consumers bought them out the last few years.

We finally had to settle for a pre-cut, and more expensive, tree.  But we’ve gotten screaming deals the last two years, so it evens out, especially when you consider the s’mores.



Dwayne and I even found a cute little place to practice our kissing.



I’m also a big fan of the letters to Santa.


Dear Santa,

DSCN0521I have been very good this year.  Well, except for the one time I hid Grampa’s wine materials.  I would really like to find a book of edible foods in the forests of Washington, and Love, under the tree.



Dear Santa,

I have been very good this year. DSCN0523Well, except for the one time when I been kinda bad. I would really like to find a vet kit under the tree.



Dear Santa,DSCN0529
I have been very good this year. Well, except for the one time when I didn’t. I would really like to find a phone under the tree.