+ I don't really know how she can be fifteen years old, either.
+ It was actually her idea to find a purple shirt and recreate this photo from when she was 2; I had only asked for a nice birthday photo.
+ Same ham, different year.
+ Turning 9 freaked me out because we were halfway done with her living at home full-time! But 15 might be worse, because three years is nothing. Nothing. Snap of the fingers, blink of an eye.
+ We need to find some time to squeeze in some bucket list items before three years pass and it gets harder and harder to do things together as a family of five.
+ That black velour background that was all the rage in the mid-2000s sure came in handy today, especially since it could be thrown over a door in two seconds. Best background-equalizer around!
Happy birthday to Maddie, who has always learned how to grow up in every single stage right alongside us as we learn how to be parents in every single stage.
Being a military kid isn't always the easiest thing to be. As has been discussed here ad nauseum over the years, it's hard for obvious reasons: the moving, the giving up of routine and normalcy, the making of new friends, the moving into strange houses and bedrooms and states thousands of miles from home even when the "home" in question was just another temporary stop along the way.
But sometimes, being a military kid is awesome. It's basically like being a foreign exchange student all the time. What do foreign exchange students do? They learn the culture. They make friends with different upbringings than themselves. They learn to think about things in more than one way. They experience. Not to say non-military kids don't do those same things, because they do! It's just that military kids do those things at a dizzying rate—a rate that is synced up with conditions and considerations completely out of their control. Like all good comedians with a background in improv know, the best way to approach life is to say "yes and—" and dole out the "no thank yous" sparingly. It is much the same for the military kid.
Which brings us to Sunday, when two of the kids in Gracie's class this year hosted an end-of-year party. However, they live so far away and the snow was so bad last week they cancelled the party on Saturday, thinking people might get stuck on the many miles of dirt roads required to reach them. Except we didn't get the memo because the mama didn't have my number, so we showed up with our potluck treat in hand. This family is so great they didn't even mind we were suddenly crashing their Sunday afternoon. I am so glad we didn't get the memo, because we had a BALL.
I mean, come on—we got to see this view for most of the way to their house!
This family owns a few horses of varying sizes, and Gracie got a crash course in how to ride on a pony named Joe. Joe and Gracie were meant to be, because proportionally, they were a perfect fit: small horse, small girl. I thought she might freak out a little about how much her friends' mom expected her to do—but because she was patient and extremely calm in her instruction, Gracie got the hang of it with a huge smile on her face and no issues at all. A more distant version of Gracie might have panicked about being up that high on a living creature for sure and shut the fun down in a hot second. Hey, parents of spirited, sensitive toddlers: it gets better. Truly.
Within 20 minutes, they were off for a ride around the property. Just like that. Now granted, Joe is a well-trained, calm horse who has been there and done that much like Matt's CFD horse Kiwi, but still—good heavens.
She worked on posting and trotting and if we hadn't finally told her it was time to wrap up, this kid might have ridden all the way to Mexico.
She got lessons on how to dismount a horse (not scary, since she spends so much time dismounting gymnastics equipment) and also how to clean up the hooves.
Her friends' dad was getting ready to help in a branding next weekend.
The three kiddos took off on a no-faster-than-10-mph hay ride via ATV as the afternoon clouds rolled in, just before we went in for a snack.
We've lived in Wyoming for a large part of Gracie's life, but she has never spent an afternoon quite like this one. It was definitely one of those days that make all the moving, the heartbreak, and the hassle of being a military kid 110% worth it.
Two years ago I wrote about coincidences; because Alabama was on my mind then, I was thinking about my big Alabama coincidence. But I have another one that I hadn't thought about for a long time until this week, when the news came out that Chris Cornell committed suicide after a concert. Even then, I had to confirm that my coincidence wasn't just a figment of my imagination and Googled it to be sure.
Chris Cornell has been part of life in the Dillow house since before there was a Dillow house. He was never mine, always Matt's—but I grew to appreciate him tremendously, absorbing his stunning voice and range over the years like second hand smoke. I've always preferred his singing songs vs. his screaming ones, but even those have grown on me with time. In fact, my very first introduction to Soundgarden in high school was the screaming kind: Heretic, a song from the 1990 soundtrack to Pump Up the Volume was a song I listened to (song #8, always in order, like any proper soundtrack should be consumed) over hundreds of times listening to that CD. The soundtrack to Singles is so much the soundtrack to the feel of college for us, and his Seasons from that collection immediately sends me back to those years we spent in Oxford like a time travel portal. I'm almost startled by how utterly grunge-filled so much of my life from that era actually is—for someone who considers herself to be pretty non-nihilistic, sometimes I have to wonder when I look back. Much has already been written about how in the world someone so successful, so established, so... stable a rock star could possibly be lost to suicide (this and this are especially good) that I have nothing to add on that front except another handful of stones to throw on the staggering pile of shock and sadness marking musicians gone far too soon.
This coincidence story is not sad, though.
After Matt's graduation from Miami, we stayed in Oxford to work for Upward Bound for the summer. On May 10, 1994 (oddly specific yet important to the story) Matt and I went to our very favorite place of business in Oxford, Ohio to spend our limited funds on more music: Looney T Bird's. We spent a lot of limited funds there during our time in Oxford; on this day we may have purchased more than two CDs, but the only two I know with absolute certainty are Soundgarden's Superunknown and the Connells's Ring. I remember thinking how funny it was that we inadvertently bought two albums with reference to eclipses (Black Hole Sun from this album is probably the most mainstream of Soundgarden's early songs). But later that day, we learned that there had been a major solar eclipse. On the same day we purchased those CDs. It seemed too wildly bizarre to be true, but it was. This week I thought for sure I had imagined the eclipse part of the story, but I didn't. After googling eclipses in May 1994, I had a confirmed date. Incidentally, 13 years exactly before Bridget would be born.
This summer there will be a major solar eclipse that hundreds of thousands of people will flock to Wyoming to witness. We won't be camping out in Casper or Jackson or anywhere else along the path, but we will sit on our porch and remember Chris Cornell.
Last weekend we hosted the Karahalis family and spent a good 50% of our time with them outdoors in the sunshine, surrounded by freshly planted flowers, hanging baskets, new porch furniture, and warmth.
Two days later, we were preparing for a giant snowstorm, which ended up going down as the heaviest late-May snowstorm in 74 years. We've seen plenty of May snow, but this storm was especially destructive.
It's a good thing I love to take pictures of blooming trees, because spoiler alert: not many blooming things survived this storm.
By early Thursday morning, the snow had already started. I took a picture out the window to send to our neighbors—they're in Florida for a wedding and because they moved from Hawaii last summer, I needed photographic proof that I wasn't making it up, haha.
As the day went on yesterday the trees were more and more damaged. Big old cottonwood branches are down everywhere and this happy tree behind our house and every tree like it on base is split in multiple places. I can't imagine they'll recover. Spring snow is painfully heavy.
I thought for sure the district would cancel school today, especially since they pretty much told the rural kids to stay home and we know what a bad idea it is to call school off early in this town, but nope. Maddie woke me up at 5:30 to see if there was a snow day (gah) and was furious about having to bundle up for school, but that's the way it goes. I was reminded that while May moves are already pretty bad, a May move in the middle of a giant snowstorm is truly the worst. I might print this picture out for the fridge next time we're getting ready to move to remind me of that perspective.
Ellie had the best time, even though we looked like White Walkers when we returned home—seriously, just plastered in snow. But she certainly isn't going to skip her daily routine for some weather. I find it hilarious that I took what amounts to the same picture today as I did four years ago. She loves snow.
I had a meeting with a client who was over from Laramie so trudged out for that, and when I returned home I shut the garage door and nearly got knocked out by the snow that fell off the roof onto my head, down my coat, in my bag... except for a few seconds I had no idea what had happened and I jumped ten feet in the air because it startled me so much. I'm glad my neighbors are in Florida and not watching me from their kitchen sink, which I happen to know for a fact is a front row seat to any antics that take place at our current house having washed my dishes over there for three years.
As I reached outside trying to get the mail yesterday without the door blowing off the hinges while being pelted in the face by spring snow, I rolled my eyes. Unfairly, yes—it isn't Martha's fault that spring in the mountain west is ridiculous. But really, that's just mean.
I'm not sure if it's a new feature or if I just never paid attention, but I recently learned how to properly embed an Instagram photo in a post here—so I thought I'd pick five great accounts to share that you may or may not know about.
1. akr.par // Amy Krouse Rosenthal's daughter Paris is finishing up her mom's three things at 1:23 pm project that she started but was unable to complete. It is lovely, beautiful, and heart-wrenching. I'm dreading the end of it.
2. uscapitol // The Architect of the Capitol takes care of the Capitol Complex in Washington, D.C., which is a giant task full of all sorts of incredible detail. You can easily get lost in the AOC website as well.
3. wayne_suggs // Wayne Suggs is a photographer from New Mexico that I discovered in the circle of photographers I ran with when we lived there, though I don't know him personally. His photos are breathtaking.
4. zachking // I don't remember how I stumbled across Zach King but he might be the most clever person on the internet. Just fun.
5. 5ftinf // Philippa Stanton makes me want to drink tea and move to England, and I don't even like tea.
I could so easily forsake all other forms of social media for good, old-fashioned Instagram creativity.
Recovering (sort of) from yesterday's too-busy-of-a-month meltdown. If memory serves, December 16 was the meltdown day in that month, so that's predictable.
Watching the forecast for Wednesday-Friday, where up to 24" inches of snow could fall. We have hanging baskets and flowers in planters and that's annoying, because I respected the "don't buy flowers until after Mother's Day" rule.
Trying to manage too many activities. Per usual.
Listening to Maddie's spring band concert. I got a little sniffly during the senior presentation portion even though I don't know these seniors. But I know other seniors elsewhere this year, and can do the math that our own first senior year is but three years away.
Procrastinating on writing up the last official Camp Dillow-Karahalis for the foreseeable future, because waaaaaaaah.
Reading ahead of my normal pace, and on track to make it to 35 books unless summer does me in (very possible).
Brainstorming different ideas for teacher gifts this year, because a.) Mrs. Dixon already got our standard gift four years ago and is retiring anyway, and b.) our standard gift won't really work for Gracie's teacher this year because she isn't returning to the classroom next year. But don't forget, Caravan Shoppe still has the best cheap/free printables around for this type of thing!
Listening to the new Wow in the World podcast from NPR and not sure we're sold yet. Disappointing, because Gracie, Bridget and I were looking forward to it.
Also listening to the NPR Politics podcast as fast as they can release them.
Anticipating some NBA Playoff basketball, and hoping I can squeeze in at least part of every game in the next series. Go Cavs!!
A few weeks before Matt's birthday I heard a concert roundup on one of the two radio stations I listen to in the car (The Colorado Sound) and learned that Old Crow Medicine Show was coming to Denver on May 14.
Matt has a number of options on the table for post-Air Force life; one of those options is to buy and retrofit himself a school bus, grow a foot-long beard, and follow Old Crow Medicine Show around the country to bluegrass festivals. While I have zero interest in living on a school bus, I do like Old Crow Medicine Show and back in March, a concert on a school/work night in the middle of May seemed like a great idea. I made tickets myself to present on his birthday because you never can tell what shady-looking piece of paper ticket you're going to get when you choose the option to have them delivered by mail.
It wasn't quite as easy to pull off a Sunday night concert as my March self thought it might be (especially after an already full weekend) but it was still a good idea. We listened to Blonde on Blonde on the way down to the Paramount Theatre, which is a grand old place downtown (read more about it here). It is hard for me to attend concerts in cool venues with only my phone, but I did my best to catch a few details.
The inside of the theater is ornate, though it is also one part optical illusion because so many of the details on the walls and ceiling are painted. We were in the balcony and on the wrong side for the most detailed painted scenes, but it was cool to see how much technique was used to create the illusion of relief. I wondered how much of the style was dictated by the times—I can't imagine it would have been easy to construct such a place during the Depression.
The beginning of the concert was sudden: the band marched out (complete with a bass drum and snare) to the first song on Blonde on Blonde, Rainy Day Women #12 & 35. The whole schtick of this tour is to celebrate the 50th anniversary of when this album was released, so it made sense. What didn't make sense: the annoying druggie couple in front of us with zero awareness of the people around them (and the limited personal space a theater built in the 1930s affords). We're all for Enjoying music (with a capital "E!") but they were an oblivious spectacle of what not to do at a concert. They got in trouble three times from various ushers and stumbled out at the intermission, never to return. No one in our section was sad about that.
What a show. They are masterful musicians, never missing a beat or a note and it's obvious how much they care about this music. [Whispering: we liked the Old Crow Medicine Show version of Bob Dylan's songs better than the Bob Dylan version of Bob Dylan's songs.] After the fourteen songs on the album were complete, they took a good, old-fashioned bow and headed off stage; their encore kicked off with another Bob Dylan song, Knockin' On Heaven's Door. So many people have recorded this over the years that it's easy to forget that it's originally a Bob Dylan song. There was a borderline awkward shuffling around before the next song, but it was all because of a special guest that came out to play with them next: John Hickenlooper, the governor of Colorado. That's him on the far left, playing banjo. The crowd roared for him and it was fun. True story: this is the second time we've seen Governor Hickenlooper on stage at a concert in Colorado, as he introduced the Avett Brothers at Red Rocks in 2011. This makes me giggle. The best line of the night by far was when Ketch Secor hollered "we're from Tennessee and our governor doesn't play the banjo!"
And then we had to navigate thousands of people and drive 100 miles home and be very, very sleepy on Monday morning. Live music is still worth it. So long as I'm not living on a school bus to catch it : )