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Welcome to the Jones Home!

Visit my About page, where I introduce ourselves, or just scroll down for the most recent wit and wisdom and… well, just whatever I decided to post about today. Glad you’re here. Leave a comment, and “Follow” the blog to keep up with the Joneses!

— SJ

Gamerboy Graduates!

He did it! Gamerboy finished high school, donned the gown, developed a deep grudge against the mortarboard cap, and graduated.

As with Bookgirl’s, the ceremony was hosted by a state homeschool organization, who did it up very nicely with a processional, a speaker, and parents presenting the diplomas. This being many people’s first big event in a post-covid world, everybody was a tad slap happy. It was a boisterous crowd, and the kids on stage did everything from secret handshakes to a football-inspired pantomime (both parents did the touchdown sign) to a quick hip-hop shuffle on the way down the steps. Someone in the audience had an air horn.*

DJ and I really didn’t know how much Gamerboy was going to enjoy the event. He doesn’t like loud crowds and he’s never quite sure of what to do with himself in unfamiliar situations. But it was important to him to walk and receive his diploma. So he put on the gown and the hat, and…

That hat.

See, here’s a thing about Gamerboy: he’s got a literal big head. That head is the reason why he was born via C-section after 12 hours of labor. It’s also why we haven’t found him glasses that fit him, and are just going to have to go to contacts. So we got this mortarboard cap that was labeled “one size fits all” and I thought, “Yeah, right.” The cap didn’t fit him at all; it slid off every time he moved. He had just as much success wearing it upside down:

He also t-posed, because that’s what the kids these days do. And yes, the hat is wonky and part of the tassel is caught on his eyelashes. Because it’s funny, that’s why.

But when the time came, he balanced the hat on his head and processed down the aisle to “Pomp and Circumstance.” Of course, he plugged his ears because the crowd was so loud, and somebody had an air horn.

Sparkler got a video of us onstage (at Gamerboy’s repeated request). We didn’t do any cute handshakes or pantomimes. Gamerboy just enveloped DJ and me in his huge hug, we dropped his diploma, and we all laughed. His school career wasn’t always a smooth ride, but we made it.

I think that deserved an air horn.

Congratulations, Gamberboy! We love you.

**

* While watching the pre-ceremony slideshow of all the graduates, I was pretty sure I recognized one of the names. I went in search of her family — easy to do because everyone sat in alphabetical order — and was delighted to find out that I was right. I’ve known her father literally since I was born. Back in our little Mississippi town, our families grew up together. When my dad died, they were there. When their mother died, we were there. As adults, we don’t cross paths very often — we aren’t the type to go on vacation together or anything. But we always keep up with each other and know each other on sight. It was extremely special to me that my son graduated with their daughter.

They were the ones with the air horn.

Jones Vacation 2021

With life returning to normal and 4/6 of us fully vaccinated, the Joneses happily embarked on summer vacation. It was the kind of trip we all like best: we stayed in a vacation house in a quiet spot not terribly far away, planned a couple of fun things, and otherwise — in the words of my teenagers — “just vibed.”

We went to Williamsburg, a perennial favorite area. In previous years, this is where we brought our little ones to that place of near heavenly transcendence, Great Wolf Lodge. Now that they’re older, we had to look around for other attractions.

There is always, of course, Colonial Williamsburg. DJ would probably live there if they’d let him, I find it interesting, and Sparkler enjoys it; but overall it has always failed to enchant the kids the way Great Wolf Lodge always did. Still, it was a good place to start. We arrived on a 90-degree afternoon, which was a great way to appreciate what life was like in bygone days! It was easier to appreciate it in the buildings that had air conditioning, of course. The kids were good sports — and honestly interested in the printing press and the courthouse constructed of bricks that were older than the U.S. itself — but even DJ and I couldn’t last too long in that heat. We’ve agreed that one day we’ll come down to Williamsburg, stay in the grand Colonial Williamsburg resort, and canvass the town by ourselves.

And we did get a selfie, so it counts as a real experience.

You might notice that Bookgirl isn’t in this photo. Huh, wow, you really are paying attention! She had to work, so couldn’t drive down with us. Instead, she drove down halfway on Monday evening, and DJ met her and brought her the rest of the way. On Thursday, I took her halfway and she drove the rest of the way home. It wasn’t a difficult drive for her, but it was the longest she’s had to navigate by herself. She did great and I wasn’t even worried at all ever so that’s all good.

Our vacation home was tucked away behind an RV camp on a “lake.” It was really just a very wide creek, but Mattaponi Lake sounds way better than Jackson Creek so for the purposes of vacation marketing, it was a lake. (Note: I changed the names slightly because AirBnB protects its hosts’ addresses unless someone actually books a stay.)

The first thing we noticed upon arrival was a goose. No, wait, three or four geese! Oh good heavens, look at all these geese. Dozens of them roamed the property, which they obviously owned. We kept out of their way, so they let us stay.

Besides geese, we also saw a heron. As with the “lake,” this bird might not be exactly a heron but it sounded good so that’s what we called it.

We surprised a pretty sizable turtle, who was probably on the prowl for frogs. He did not appreciate us at all and hauled shell for the water. At the same time, we startled a wild rabbit out from under the porch, who dashed off in the other direction. “It’s the tortoise and the hare!” Gamberboy yelled.

Sparkler and I had noticed two birds — I think they were barn swallows, and that sounds good, right? — who were very busy near the dock. DJ discovered why: they had a nest of very hungry babies. Sparkler would sit out on the deck and watch the parent birds swoop back and forth, bringing food to the babies. “They don’t seem to get much of a break,” she said. “I thought maybe that was how it was for you when we were little.” Yes. It was indeed.

It rained one day. Simply a deluge. What a lovely day for a walk.

But on other days, the sun made diamonds out of the ripples:

Sparkler got a chance to go out in the kayak. Of all our kids, she’s the one who most enjoys “messing about in boats.”

And there was, of course, gaming to do. This was the game Ranger got for his birthday, The Voyages of Marco Polo. What with travel and graduation and colds picked up due to travel and graduation, this was the first chance we’d had to try it out. It was sufficiently complicated with lots of little fiddly pieces, and DJ and I liked it. The boys prefer games with a deck-building mechanic. Fine, then, DJ and I will play it when we go to Williamsburg by ourselves.

The showpiece activity of the week was a day at Busch Gardens. No, Busch Gardens is not a historic mansion that you can tour, although all the kids thought it was when we said we’d take them there. (Why would they think we’d take them to tour a historic area on vacation, anyway?) It’s an amusement park. An amusement park, furthermore, built as a marketing tool for that one corporation you immediately think of when you think of “fun for the whole family”: the Anheuser-Busch Brewing Company.

Busch Gardens is ostensibly a theme park, the theme being “Europe.” Yes, you can experience all the wonders of Europe in one small park! There’s England:

And Ireland:

And Germany and Oktoberfest, which are two different sections. Oktoberfest features this dreamboat to welcome you to the pleasures within:

Also, not pictured, are France (where we ate French fries), Scotland, and “Festa Italia” which features Roman numerals and a teacup ride of rather lovely patterned cups and a tall teapot called “Turkish Delight” whose relation to Italy is fuzzy. This version of Europe doesn’t feature Spain or Portugal or Sweden or Austria, but it does have Sesame Street for the summer.

Busch Gardens is corny, but overall it’s rather charming. The kids liked the rides, while DJ and I liked the shaded walks, the variety of music, and the rescue animals. Anheuser-Busch no longer owns the amusement park, but you can still see Clydesdale horses and buy beer.

Plus, we couldn’t possibly have had better weather. I told DJ that the sky looked almost fake blue — like he’d chosen it online from several “park weather” options.

The kids ended the day pretty worn out. They learned an important truth about amusement parks: 67% of it is standing in line.

But they all bought plushies so they ended the day happy.

DJ and I discovered that doing an amusement park with four kids who can go off on their own all day is absolutely the way to do it. We earned this day together — us and those barn swallows.

Even with spotty wifi at the vacation house, all of us enjoyed ourselves. We played games, saw wildlife, did an amusement park, and vibed. Now it’s back to real life (and much better wifi) — but it was a great vacation at the “lake.”

Ranger is 12!

Our youngest is now a Big Kid, which seemed unfathomable ten years ago when he was a toddler who referred to milk as “ungk” and helped himself to my ice cream bars out of the freezer. He’s grown into a giant in the household — he’s the tallest by a comfortable margin — and has proven himself to have the same capacity for games that his older brother has. Instead of a couple of brothers shooting hoops in the driveway, my boys play online games together. He gives Gamerboy a run for his money, too.

One thing that hasn’t changed from the time Ranger was a baby is his good humor. He takes pride in being a “nice person,” and he goes through most days in a pretty good mood. He’s easy company — although you do have to be pretty interested in the things he’s interested in because he does talk about them a lot.

In honor of Ranger’s 12th birthday, here are 12 of his favorite things. I tried to draw out some explanations, because his train of thought doesn’t always board as the same station as everyone else.

  1. My family
  2. Our pet
  3. I enjoy my genes (“What do you mean by that?” “That I’m healthy and I’m very creative. And tall.”)
  4. Friends
  5. Failboat, Ryan George (both YouTubers)
  6. Games (He loves everything from learning to mastering to discussing the finer points of strategy afterward. He doesn’t like losing. But he’s a good sport.)
  7. Plushies
  8. Computer (“What do you use it for?” “I use it for games like Hearthstone with Gamerboy.”)
  9. Pizza (“Italian pizza.” “As opposed to… what other kind of pizza?” “There are a lot of different kinds. I just like the original Italian one.” “I think you mean good old American pepperoni.”)
  10. My community (“What do you mean by that?” “My neighborhood. And Scouts.”)
  11. School subject: science. (“Well, I mean, learning about science. Actual science is terrifying. Even botany — fungi are terrifying. They have spores and the fact that might have originate from animals, not plants.”)
  12. My life (“What do you like about your life?” “Well, the fact that I exist, the fact that I have a caring family, and the fact that I have a lot of supporters.”)

He’s very affectionate — I get at least five hugs a day from him. He loves being given a list of goals and accomplishing them, like his dad. His siblings are slowly realizing that their baby brother is grown up, practically a contemporary of theirs. I have to say, I too love his life and the fact that he exists.

Happy birthday, Ranger. We love you!

The Gall…!

“When a 47-year-old overweight man staggers into the urgent care complaining of chest pains,” DJ explained afterward, “they get the ambulance there real quick.”

Fortunately for him, the EMTs — unlike his wife — hadn’t left their phone charging and on silent. They arrived in minutes, gave DJ nitroglycerin, and whisked him to the nearest emergency room. By the time I returned to my charged-up phone and found the texts, voice mails, and messages from DJ, he was already hooked up to an IV, had a dose of morphine, and been seen by a doctor.

Furthermore, he had good news. Well, relatively speaking. What he feared was a heart attack could, instead, be symptoms of a gallbladder attack.

A week later, DJ and I know a lot more about the gallbladder. We found out that a lot of our family and friends have had problems with it as well. At the time, however, my knowledge was a bit spotty. My mom suffered from gallbladder attacks when I was a young adult; I remember her being in a lot of pain until she she finally had to have it taken out. My memories of that whole event are fuzzy, though; at the time that she was undergoing surgery, my sisters and aunt and I were frantically getting our newly-opened tea shop up to code before the health inspector arrived. Mom’s surgery, the inspection of our tea shop, her recovery, and our passing certificate from the health department are all just one big stressful tangle.

So really the only part I took away was that it might not be his heart. That was good enough for both of us.

DJ spent that night and half of the next day in pain. Not even the morphine could kill it all. The sonogram was so excruciating he nearly threw up. Yet through it all he maintained his poise and politeness. He even did his daily Duolingo lessons, keeping his 921-day streak unbroken.

“I’m impressed,” I told him. “I can say sincerely that you’d do great in childbirth.”

It turned out to be a very easy diagnosis: the gallbladder needed to come out. The next day, the surgery was squeezed in between two others. Just about the time I was starting to wonder about the result, a nurse called to say that he was in the recovery room and did fine. Half an hour later, he texted me; about an hour later he called. He was groggy, but even immediately after surgery, he was in dramatically less pain.

The surgeon said that the gallbladder had been sick for a while, and was surprised that DJ hadn’t been suffering for weeks. But the first symptoms DJ felt were the ones that drove him to the urgent care. Well, actually, DJ drove himself, which in retrospect was a very bad decision; but all the rest of his decisions were good.

We got him home the day after his surgery. He was sore and tired but remarkably perky considering he’d just had an organ cut out of him. His improvement has been steady, so that a week after surgery, he was back to work. His abdomen looks like he was attacked by someone with a small knife and bad aim, but the soreness decreases daily. We are amazed at how quick the onset was, and how quickly they took care of it.

A day or so after he got home, DJ got an email from the hospital. “They want me to take a survey about my experience.”

“I know what you should say,” Sparkler piped up. “‘It was terrible! I can’t find my gallbladder anywhere!'”

Welcome Back, Back Yard

DJ remarked to one of our kids a couple of weeks ago, “It’s really springtime — Mom is working on the back yard.”

Over the years, I have put in a lot of effort to “get the back yard in shape” for summer. We like to hang out around the fire pit (which, as a reminder, is literally a pit we build a fire in), roast marshmallows, and have friends over. Here’s an evening in 2018 when DJ led a D&D campaign around the fire.

But the past two years haven’t been this way.

In 2019, we’d just lost E, and no one really wanted to hang out in the yard where he and my kids used to play all summer. I did some half-hearted trimming and clearing-out, but we just stayed inside a lot of that summer.

Then came 2020 and all its weirdness. I didn’t want to deal with the back yard. I started fantasizing to DJ about having a house in town with a tiny yard that I could mow with a manual push mower. What with the broken trampoline, various other junk, an overgrowing fire pit, a defunct sand pit, and weeds around the fence and deck… the yard just wasn’t welcoming anymore.

This year, however, I took notice. Not only was the back yard a sad remnant of the summer haven it used to be, but my body was feeling the effects of slowing down. My lower back hurt for a week just because I’d bent down to clean the dining room floor. I’ve never been a paragon of fitness, but all of a sudden I felt creaky and weak, and I didn’t like it at all.

I hate mindless exercise, but when I have a purpose — such as getting the back yard in shape — I can go for hours. I mean, I hate yard work too, but at least I accomplish something that way. I decided I’d tackle the yard again this year.

The first thing I did was disassemble the broken trampoline. (I saved one of the springs in memory of E.) The desolate late-winter light gives the whole thing a post-apocalyptic vibe.

Once the accumulated junk was hauled away, the trampoline left a tidy circle of bare ground. I briefly considered planting vegetables or flowers, and then hauled away that junk thought. A garden is like yardwork that needs a babysitter. No thanks.

What if, instead, I used that pre-cleared ground to make a new fire pit area? One that didn’t constantly grow in on itself, or fill up with water for two days after every rainfall? (I referred to it as “the elemental pit — sometimes a fire pit, sometimes a water pit.”) In lieu of landscaping cloth, I laid out some of the hundreds of paper grocery bags we’d collected since the grocery store stopped taking returns during COVID. Then Darren and the kids carried a couple dozen bags of gravel and sand to the site. We got a firebowl, and I gathered twelve baskets-full of broken edging and paving stones I’d accumulated over the years. Meanwhile, I cleaned up the sand pit. And spring came, making the back yard look less like something out of the Hunger Games.

Last night we inaugurated our new fire pit area.

I wish it were bigger around, that the gravel were deeper, that I could string lights above it… any number of Pinterest improvements. But as it is, it’s good. The kids enjoy playing in the sand pit and talking to each other, DJ and I enjoy the fire, and the physical labor has helped with the creaks in my middle-aged body.

The back yard is welcoming again, and it feels good.

Mundania: Getaways and Grown-up Kids

It’s spring, at long last. You know what that means! It means that the Joneses are living their same ordinary lives, illustrated by whatever random photos I decided to take at any given moment. Here’s one to open with:

“Hey, y’all, hey look at me, I’m a tree! I’m a tree!”

(In less than a year, this ambitious little cloud would branch out into snow business.)

Elsewhere, this plaque caught my eye because… well, 2020 was just a hard year for everybody, wasn’t it?

Mom gave me this tablecloth. It’s pretty, but it had a few stains I didn’t know what to do with. So I dyed it. I chose pink, which went on very dark, and at first I was afraid I’d created a Murder Holiday Tablecloth with dramatic bloodstains. It all evened out in the wash. I was miffed that the polyester lace squares took the dye way better than they should have, but overall it’s… cheerful, anyway.

This picture features the tablecloth that my mom gave me, paired with the china that DJ’s mom gave him. The unironed wrinkled look is all mine, though.

I don’t like it when parents refer to their grown children as “babies.” This is completely my opinion and shouldn’t in any way decide what you want to do. But my kids aren’t babies anymore, and in fact I enjoy them a lot more now that they’re not. So I don’t call them babies.

I mean… seriously. This is a young man — with a beard that he’s spent many years cultivating.

And we no longer have to lift up this one so he can reach this spinning-wheel thingy at the park. (Wow. It wasn’t that long ago, either.)

Yet… my children can still fall asleep in my lap. Only they’re way bigger now, and it’s because they work all week and are also doing two classes.

Springtime does bring one change to the household — it’s conference season. And this year, there are actually a few conferences. DJ has several lined up, which of course eats up our weekends. So he took a couple of days off last week for a quick little getaway. We can do these overnights now that, you know, we don’t have babies.

DJ searched AirBnB and found us this little schoolhouse built in 1888.

It was renovated and improved, of course, but they preserved the look of the schoolhouse. The ceiling and floor appeared to be original — or at least old.

I was particularly impressed by how they created “rooms” by putting the bed on one side of the divider and hanging the TV on the other side.

AND EVEN BETTER was the creek just a few feet away from the house. It was a fast, happy, rushing creek and I loved it.

Also, I assume this was where the outhouse once stood. We, fortunately, had an indoor, enclosed, tip-top modern bathroom including a toilet with a small nightlight.

The little schoolhouse and the remains of the community around it gave us a lot to look at and think about as we drove. But none of the 19th-century farmhouses and mid-20th century postwar houses caught my eye quite like this round house. My mom said it looks like a very substantial yurt.

Back home, I visited my friend in her new home. She said that they discovered they have a lilac bush at the side of the house, on account of it suddenly bursting into purple blooms. She sent a cutting home with me because DJ loves lilac; it reminds him of growing up in New Hampshire. Looking for a vase, I pulled out this little pitcher that someone gave me for a wedding present. So we put this New Hampshire flower in a Mississippi vase, and had our Virginia daughter hold it for the picture. I think that’s a nice wrap-up for a Mundania.

Well, actually, I need to point out how the rabbit is keeping an eye and ear on me, hoping for a treat. (He got one.)

Unkovering Historikal Postkards

While trying to track down information on an old building in this area, I came across vintage postcards on eBay. I love vintage postcards, especially ones that have messages on them.

(Although I would like to pause here and complain a teensy bit to those who have gone before us, leaving only words in fading ink: why didn’t you ever write something interesting?

Most old letters are almost exclusively concerned with who is sick and who is well. One letter I found said, “I had a good time touring Europe with Betty this summer. Roger’s ankle is bad and you may have heard that Mother was in the hospital again, but I’m feeling much better since September.” In a book when someone discovers an old letter full of explosive, plot-altering news, rest assured that it’s total fiction. Instead of revealing that the babies were switched at birth, Mabel would have just talked about how her cold is getting better.)

Anyway, as I browsed, I found the logo above. There’s so much about it that annoys me. Let’s discuss.

  1. I don’t know when the postcard was printed, so I’m not sure if “Triangle K” carried the association that blares out to us. I mean, considering the post-Civil War atmosphere in Virginia (where this postcard is from), they probably wouldn’t have minded the KKK association; but I don’t know whether it was deliberate or not.
  2. The logo on the left has 4 Ks. Not 3.
  3. In the center logo, why did they spell it “Korrect” and “Authentik” but not “Historikally”? That would have given them a third K.
  4. Because of the placement of the Ks in the words, the center logo does spell out KKK. And they sure do lean heavily into the idea that they provide authentic and correct history. Except that they spell it to suit their own purposes. Can’t deny the parallels here.
  5. “Always ask for Triangle Kards because they are korrect & authentik.”

I’m konvinced!

New Short Story Collection: A Bowl of Pho

A Bowl of Pho: very short stories by [Sara Roberts Jones]

I’ve written some short stories for your reading pleasure. Well, to be honest, I wrote them for my writing pleasure. But I hope you like them too.

A Bowl of Pho is a collection of ten very short stories. When I say “very short,” that’s what I mean. The whole project began with a challenge to write a 300-word story. Since I recently had to shelve my 131,000-word novel, telling any kind of story in 300 words seemed both trivial and impossible. I was half-wrong — and fortunately it was about the impossible part.

It turned out that writing these vignettes was therapeutic. I let myself go beyond the 300-word limit, but I still kept them all short. It was fun, low-pressure, and got me excited about writing again.

As my catalogue of “mini-stories” grew, I wanted to prove to myself that I can still bring an idea to completion, despite the smoking wreckage of a novel behind me. So I did it. I didn’t overthink anything (as in, I’m pretty sure the art on the front is ramen, not pho). I just I wrote the stories, designed a cover, and put the collection up on Kindle Direct Publishing.

The stories are similar in style to Go Right: they’re warm, fun, and perfect to read over a cup of coffee. I didn’t tackle anything very weighty. I wrote what I liked and called it done.

It’s currently available on Amazon for $2.99. A “pocket-book” size paperback will be coming soon. I hope you check it out!

A Happy Day in Littletonville Town America USA

Sometimes I do things that make me laugh a lot, while everyone around me is just mildly amused. Since this is my blog, I get to laugh at my own jokes. The rest of you can smile politely.

I was reading a puzzle catalogue and found a series of puzzles that I thought were hilarious. Normally I don’t pick too much at clumsy art, since even clumsy art is better than anything I can create. But I’ve got it in for this type of puzzle. It’s a genre that plays heavily on nostalgic Americana, presenting a version of the past where everyone lives in a small town, smiles a lot, and is white. Seriously, after browsing a hundred puzzles, it starts to look like an eerie Aryan dystopia. Where are all the people whose skin isn’t a cheerful pink and white? Why are all these people so happy all the time? Why do they always own a red or blue truck?

Then I saw these puzzles, where as a stylistic choice the artist gave everyone elongated limbs and odd bodily proportions. I started laughing. And then I got inspired. I created an entire photo essay, giggling as I went. My family looked over my shoulder, smiled a time or two, and said, “Um, why did you do this?”

Because it’s an entire town of androids who are living like humans based on all these nostalgic puzzles they’ve seen. That’s funny.

So for your mild amusement, I present:

A Happy Day in Littletonville Town America USA

1.

Here in Littletonville Town, we live like the happy humanfolk that we definitely are! Here are Betty Mo, Dianatha, and Mary June selling quilts they make daily, as most female humanfolk do in small American villages.

Oops, Dianatha’s electronic eye fell out of place… quickly, look at the happy cats! Happy like everyone here!

2.

Miss Ammie Smarth, the teacher in Littletonville Town, helps the children humanfolk work in the community garden. See the pretty flowers! They will make a nice salad sandwich!

Miss Ammie notices little Bully’s hands and briefly considers the subtext that the only non-pale skin in the whole town is because of literal dirt, but quickly resumes her normal programming way of thinking.

3.

After a vigorous morning harvesting puppies from the dog patch, it’s time to let the happy humanfolk take some home. Puppies bring happiness and friendship to us.

Oh, no! It looks like Travy and Cornea Jombs are arguing about Mr. John Coop’s blue truck. They need to adopt a puppy ASPIC!

4.

Only the best animals bring enough joy, so the Littletonville Town Mayor and Assistant-Mayor periodically inspect all the pets.

Mayor Amadama Full is part octopus (on her paternal side) so she is pleased with little Flissa’s goldfish.

Ha ha! It looks like Sussy put on the wrong torso when she got dressed that morning!

And oops, Binnie Roo forgot half her pony! Such comic episodes at the Pet Contest!

5.

It’s everyone’s favorite day at the Littletonville Town Welcome Kids Rodeo! It’s hosted by Mayor Full and her family. Little Binnie Roo is singing the National Anthem, “America The Great and Beautiful Land of Liberty and Justice for All.”

Twins Patty and Ratty forgot that real horses aren’t on sticks, ha ha!

Everyone is happy except for Bully and Bob who have to wear the Red Stripe Socks this time. Everyone knows that ponies will attack red stripes. Next time Bully and Bob won’t steal half of Binnie Roo’s pony!

6.

At the end of every day in Littletonville Town, the humanfolk gather in their own family units for a happy picnic. Everything is as it should be, with smiling animals and a blue truck. The family unit sits at the table together and eats salad sandwiches.

Miss Ammie Smarth, the teacher, watches her unit with happiness from the porch where she lives.

It is a very happy place here in Littletonville Town America USA!

*

(And here is the photo essay, literally cut-and-pasted, with the original handwritten captions. As my family said: “Why did you do this?”)

Mundania: The Thirteenth Month

So how was Winter 2021? Or, as we all affectionately referred to it, The Thirteenth Month of 2020? (All of it. From January to now. It’s all been the thirteenth month.)

Well, I figured we could start with how Ranger won the award for “Most Thoughtful Random Gifts.” I present: my new t-shirt:

It’s Minecraft-themed and personalized, and that’s funny because I don’t play Minecraft! But he did spell my name correctly, which is good because otherwise I’d have had to send him back with the shirt.

As random as a Minecraft shirt is, it’s got nothing on the Kyle Mug:

It’s a picture of a typewriter with the words, “Who is this Kyle person and why has no one told me about him?!” You might be racking your brain for this reference — is it a video game? A show? A YouTuber who plays Minecraft (good guess, anyway!). No, it’s much more obscure than that.

In his math book, a reading problem referred to “Ranger” (using his real name, of course) and “his brother Kyle…” I wrote underneath it, “What?! Who is Kyle? Why didn’t anyone tell me about him?”

Well, as you can imagine, this was high comedy. So funny, in fact, that when it came to ordering a gift for me, Ranger knew exactly what he wanted to immortalize. Hence the Kyle Mug. It’s a favorite.

As this winter crawled past, we had brilliant moments:

And mysterious moments:

And a whole lot of gray in between.

The Valentine’s Exchange, despite Ranger’s reservations at the idea of sending love notes to nine strangers, was a success for both him and Sparkler:

This long winter did at least have animals in it. Here’s Gamerboy with our neighbors’ cat, Snickers, who never ever gets enough cuddles:

And Bookgirl with Cosmic, who isn’t so much cuddling as tolerating.

It’s kind of like Gamerboy and Bookgirl are posing with their personality mascots, to be honest.

Let’s see, what else happened this Thirteenth Month? Well, Sparkler and I saw an eagle:

And I put up string lights in the living room in a battle against winter.

I’v noticed that my living room always looks overwhelmingly brown in all these pictures. Shortly after this photo was taken, that old recliner finally broke, and the new one is a light beige. The difference that made to the overall brightness of the living room was surprising. One of these days we’re getting new carpet, but I’m going to avoid choosing it during the winter or we’ll end up with white with white highlights with an undertone of white.

You can see our Game Shelf to the right. I cleaned out all our games and managed to fit all of these on one shelf! Not pictured is the additional three-foot basket full of games, plus the top of the closet. It’s not that we have a problem with buying too many games; we’re actually quite good at it.

DJ treated himself to an expansion of his current favorite game, Terraforming Mars. It took the boys and us three evenings to finish the whole thing.

Here’s DJ dressed to the nines for Thirteenth Month.

But spring is almost here. Good riddance to another winter.