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Sunday, July 20, 2014

Summer


This summer is a-flyin’ by.  I hate to say that.  I hate to answer, “Busy.  Crazy.  Crazy-busy,” when people ask how our summer is going.  But it’s true.  Last year, I bragged about how chill our summer was.  We had a lot of at-home time.  Our days filled up with things like play dates and running through the sprinkler and my never-ending house projects (last year’s was painting our master bathroom…a project still not entirely complete).  This year, I feel like when people ask what we’re doing, I must just give them a blank stare.  I feel like a deer in headlights.  I feel like if I LOOK like the way I feel, then I must look like the craziest most disheveled psycho ever. 

Yes, helping my mom has been the driving force in the busyness.  But I’m so happy to do it.  All of the craziness has been for the purpose of helping simplify her life (which, let’s face it, will simplify mine too).  With multiple properties to manage, a disabled son’s affairs/finances to manage and being recently widowed – it’s just a lot.  Too much.  So, I’m happy to take on as much as I can.  And Mike is just as happy to support me in whatever way I need to support her.  Unfortunately the craziness has kind of had to get worse before it’ll get better.

At the end of May, we got her main (and largest) condo ready to put on the market – where it has now sat for nearly two months with not an offer in sight.  We also moved my brother Chris into his first ever (living on his own) apartment.  Last month, I spent a weekend (along with Matthew) cleaning out the beach house, meeting with a realtor and getting it prepped and staged and listed to sell.  Just two weeks ago, we moved mom into her beautiful, new retirement complex.  This place has been referred to as a “cruise ship on land.”  It really is a perfect way to describe this sanctuary for mom.  But unfortunately, we’ve now gone from mom having three properties to manage (two too many) to five.  Holy poop.  It’s a lot of bills and craziness to say the least.

Accompanying the move is the need to downsize.  Thus, my new part-time job as a Craigslisting fiend – I’m a ‘lister’ not a shopper or buyer...for now, anyway.  We’ve managed to sell a few of mom’s things, but some of the biggest items remain (king size bed, two dining sets, a china hutch, etc.).  Not to mention many, many beautiful collectables, antiques, China sets, pieces of religious art, etc.  We’ve had three different estate sale companies come and take a look and all have said that, while she has nice things, it’s not actually enough for them to put on a sale.  Smells like another big project coming our way – we’ll be having a moving/estate sale on August 2nd to hopefully clear out the place.  If you’ve ever had a garage sale, you know how much work it can be to get ready for one.  Now, imagine that garage sale and Antiques Road Show coming together and you’ll understand what we’re dealing with.  We’ve got to research a lot of the items ourselves to (hopefully!) price them appropriately – sellable but also appreciating their value.

On top of the, well – everything – we’ve had a plague of Pink Eye hit the Martin home.  I’ve never had Pink Eye before.  Never had a kid with Pink Eye.  Now I can (hang my head in shame and) announce that 3 out of 3 Martin children have had Pink Eye in the last three weeks.  It’s like they did a weird relay, tag team nasty-eyeball hand-off thing.  When Matthew first came down with it, we got on top of it right away.  I got him in to see the doctor.  We started the antibiotic eye drops.  We cancelled plans for a couple of days.  We disinfected the house.  I felt like we rocked the socks off of Pink Eye.  Ain’t nobody getting’ this nastiness, foo.  A week later, Zachary got it.  Like the day, Matthew finished the eye drops; Zach started ‘em.  I feel like there’s something about Pink Eye (and the fact that all of our kids got it) that just makes us sound like trashy, gross, disgusting people.  Awesome.  We’re weirdly contagious with goopy eyes.  Wanna hang out?

So, again, some of our ‘fun’ events of the summer have had to be cancelled and rescheduled or put off ‘til we’re a less nasty people.

In the next few weeks, in this last ‘hurrah’ of summer, we have our few trips planned.  Next week, we go on a 4 night camping trip with our best friends.  We’ve been looking forward to it since we carefully selected the best possible site in the campground nine (or more) months ago.  A couple of weeks after that, we go up to our friends’ cabin for an Engaged Encounter weekend get-away/overnight.  A couple of weeks after that, we’re going with neighbors to Seaside, Oregon.  All fun things! 

My prayer is that a.) We can stay grotesque and germ-free, b.) In the midst of our ‘fun’ we manage to sell 2 of mom’s properties and most of her belongings, and c.) I maintain my sanity (or what’s left of it). Wish us luck!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Strangers


Like many 3.5 year olds, Kayliana has no filter nor knows no boundaries.  I mean, you obviously have to help these wild animals known as “toddlers” learn the ropes and does and don’ts of human interaction.  She poses an extra challenge though in her outgoingness and desire to share-all.  (Hmmm, I’ll admit that sounds oddly familiar).

Last week, after swim lessons, we were waiting in the pool lobby for the boys to come out of their locker room.  Kayli spotted a fellow mom (who was engrossed in Candy Crushing on her phone).  Without hesitation Kayli, scooted up on the bench next to this complete stranger and proceeded to tell her all sorts of things.  (“I have a blue blankie and it is very special…I have my boys – Matthew and Zachary…”)  I kept trying to subtly (and then not so) bring Kayli closer to me on the bench and give this poor lady some space.  My efforts were completely thwarted when Kayli quickly pulled away from me, laid her hand gently on the woman’s arm and said, “I love you, and I’ll kiss you now.”  That’s when I grabbed her (Kayli, not the lady), apologizing profusely for my daughter’s forwardness and lack of appropriate interaction with strangers. 

So, for the next several days following this embarrassing event, I continued to remind Kayli, that we can be ‘friendly’ with strangers and say ‘hello’ and ‘hi,’ but we don’t love them or offer to kiss them or tell them personal information about ourselves.

Last weekend, when Mike’s sister, her hubby and their son Tucker were visiting on for the 4th (more details on this in a future post…when I have more time to write about it!), we went to Red Robin.  As we were walking out of the mall, we passed another little girl holding her mom’s hand.  She was like the blond straight-haired, lighter-skinned version of Kayliana.  Kayli immediately noticed this kindred spirit.

“HI!” Kayli yelled waving crazily.

“HELLO!” Imitation Kayli yelled back. “You’re beautiful!”

“Thanks!” [Or “Fanks” as it sounds.] Kayli responded.  “I’m a stranger!” she added with glee.

Soooo…maybe she’s getting it.  Sorta.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Snow Cones

We’re currently in that transition phase.  It takes the boys about a week as we shift gears (either into vacation or back into school) for them to work out the kinks and realize that they’ll be together A LOT so they best get used to the other’s constant existence.  So, that’s where we at.  It’s the first full week of summer vacation and, thankfully, (or not), we don’t have a ton scheduled for right now, so they’re getting a lot of together time. 

One thing that (maybe) helped with this is that Matthew and I left for the weekend.  We left Saturday morning to head to the beach house where my mom and brother were already busy at work.  We met with a real estate agent Saturday afternoon and the house will be on the market by the end of this week.  Sniff sniff.  I’m so sad to see the house go but I know it’s what mom needs to do.  She also has her Bellevue condo on the market. (So, for a couple of weeks, we worked like mad to get that ready.  We’re still Craigslisting, clearing things out and packing for her July 3rd move.) 

We spent Saturday working like crazy just clearing out extra ‘stuff.’  It’s all so overwhelming.  By the end of the day, we had both of our minivans jam-packed with stuff to drop off at Goodwill. I told Matthew that the main reason I brought him was to be my personal child servant.  He thought I was kidding.  Poor kid.  Now, we did allow him some breaks (just to keep it legal) – he and Chris watched the Mariner’s game and even went out and played a little baseball too.  Finally, by 6pm, we were ready to take a much-needed break and go to the pool.

As we pulled into the parking lot, we saw an older gentleman standing next to this crazy tricked out VW bus-turned snowcone truck/stand-deal.  It was covered in bumper stickers. (A couple examples: “Sometimes you’re the bug; sometimes you’re the windshield.” “Buckle up – it’s harder for the aliens to suck you out that way.” And my favorite, “I’m not stressed, you’re just FREAKING ME OUT.”) 

Matthew said, “Ooh! Snow cones! Can I have one?” (These were my exact thoughts too).

“Sorry, kiddo, I don’t have any money,” I said.

“Me neither,” my mom added.

“Maybe they’re free!” Matthew said hopefully.

“Ha! Nothing in life is free,” Mom scoffed.

We got out of the car and slowly started heading towards the pool – exhausted and overwhelmed from our day’s work and the cleaning and packing that awaited us.

“Would you like a free snow cone?” A voice yelled from behind us. 

During these past 7 months (tomorrow) since dad died, there have been many ‘free snow cone’ moments.  I’m thankful that, despite feeling like a complete emotional mess most of the time, I’ve been able to recognize and appreciate these brief breaks.
I wish I could’ve sat on the deck last weekend and enjoyed this view, but part of me didn’t want to.  Sometimes it’s easier just to stay busy.  Just to keep moving.  Dad sure loved this view (who wouldn’t?!) and it’s hard to enjoy it without him.   

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Sports Movie


It’s a little embarrassing to admit.  You think I’d know by now I’d know; life’s not a movie.  We don’t tend to experience a Tom Hanks-Meg Ryan ending on the top of the Empire State Building.  But I still feel like we should.  The recent fad of flash mobs has given me hope that someday, life will turn into a musical and I won’t be judged for bursting into “the hills are alive” or “the sun’ll come out, tomorrow” (or ‘fill in any other song from nearly any musical’ here).  And, much to my utter joy, at baseball practice a few weeks ago while my little portable ipod stereo played my “pumped up” playlist, a few of the boys started an impromptu dance session when the first notes of “Happy” began.  It gave me so much hope.  This WILL turn out to be a sports movie (and a musical one, at that!), after all, I thought.  Despite all the obstacles, we’ve faced we WILL get our deserved victorious ending.  The underdog always takes the championship in sports movies.  Surely, after all the crap, we’ve put up with – it’s only fair that we take this whole thing.

I even thought: we’d win this whole thing in honor of my dad.  In my own, sad little way, this season was going to lift my spirits.  I thought, well, we deserve to have an awesome, fun season.    

Life is not a sports movie.

We had the deck stacked against us from the very beginning.  It was an uphill battle.  Mike went into the draft ‘blind’ (having been asked to head coach at the last minute).  His only knowledge of the kids was knowing a few that were on our team last year and the one kid that Matthew said was really good (and nice and a kid that Matthew obviously wanted to become friends with).  Mike picked this kid, Nick, for his first draft pick.  Nick was amazing.  At the first practice, we were so impressed and thankful that Matthew was our little talent scout.  But, apparently, Nick’s parents took one look at our sad little team and quit the team and went to a different league.  And that was just the beginning.

So, we were the only team all season with no ‘first draft’ player.  We had the youngest team with several of our kids being 8 year old ‘play-ups’.  (Granted some of our 8 year olds were our best players).  All the other teams had at least two – usually three – second year players. We were the only team with only 1 returning ‘kid pitch’ player (and he was returning because he wasn’t good enough to move up to the next level).  We took a ‘safety hazard’ kid that no one else would take.  Mike was the only coach who let all of our kids try almost all of the positions, whereas most of the other coaches sat their ‘safety hazard’ kids on the bench as much as possible from the very beginning of the season.  Mike was the only coach who would argue an unfair call even if it was in favor of the other team. We were the team scheduled to play top seeded team more than anyone else.  We lost thrice to them, beat them once and tied them once.

Other coaches replaced injured players by recruiting outside kids – kids known to be amazing ballplayers.  We made do with what we’d been given.  (We found out last night that one of the coaches should’ve taken not one, but two of the safety hazard kids, but managed to avoid taking either). Several of the coaches have “been in the league long enough” that they “know” the rules.  Mike had to bring out the rule book at several games pointing out that what they’re doing just isn’t right.  They still got away with it most of the time, arguing so much that they confused and frustrated the umps who finally gave in.  We’ve seen awesome, wonderful people (close friends of ours) turn full-on psycho when arguing calls on the diamond.  It’s just crazy.

We were the lowest seeded team going into the play-offs.  In our first game Saturday, we were able to beat the third seeded team and went on in a double-header against the top seeded team.  We almost had ‘em – ‘til the last inning when they scored two runs more than us.  Last night, we played a team that we’ve managed to beat twice (by a lot!).  We were up by 6 runs when several errors and just lameness made it a tied game.  In the bottom of the six they – as home team – had the winning runner on third base.  Two outs.  The ball was hit to Matthew at second base, he fielded it cleaning, threw perfectly to our catcher who tagged their runner – a couple seconds to late.  Game over.  Season over.  Life ain’t no sports movie.

Sure, we’re proud of what we’ve done with these kids.  They’ve improved so much.  But you can only do so much when the deck is so stacked against you, when the other coaches aren’t following the rules and only care about winning and don’t seem to have the kids’ best interest at heart.  This league has a reputation, and tons and tons of families have left it for nearby leagues.  We’ve stuck with it for four years now, but like many before us, we’ve realized that despite our best efforts there’s too much resistance to change for the better.  The drama, the name-calling, the craziness…well, it just might be time for us to move on too.

Cardinals - Out.

Monday, June 02, 2014

Me 'n toddlers: we don't mix


It’s like I’m a total novice.  I feel like a rookie to parenting.  You’d think after having two kids ‘under my belt’ (so to speak) – or at least having gone through this phase twice already – I’d feel like I know what I’m doing.  I don’t. 
 

Kayliana is like a whole other level. Sure, she’s our most challenging, but I do have some excuses on why I extra-suck at parenting massive tantrum-throwing toddlers.
 

1.)   Matthew is our oldest, but was also our ‘easiest’ and most mellow.  He’s challenging in his tendency to be extra emotional and sensitive though.  And yes, he threw tantrums but nothing like Kayli. 
 

Matthew was our first born which means it was a long time ago that he was a toddler.  He’s also our first born so we had no idea what we were doing.  I once heard it described as “the first born, is like the first pancake in a batch, you figure it’ll turn out ‘OK’ but maybe not as good as the others.  It’s the practice pancake.”  Sorry, kid, but we just tried our best.  Also, Matthew was in his toddler years when I was in the fog of postpartum depression.  After my seven week-stint on hospital bed rest I, sadly, don’t remember much of anything about the next couple of years.  It’s devastating to me that I don’t have clear memories of Zachary as a baby.  It hurts my heart so much.  I’m sure I was also a hot mess in attempting to parent a toddler while dealing with all this and an infant.  So, that’s mom sucks reason #1.
 
Matthew -- a pretty chill little guy.  He would sit for hours playing with his John Deeres, cars and trucks.
 Don't let their cuteness fool you!

2.)   Zachary, our number two.  Oh dear.  Oh NUMBER TWO.  (Which is how we felt while adjusting to life with two).  Early on, we thought Zach would be our athlete.  He was our energetic, ‘highly spirited’ child.  Even as a newborn 5 pound peanut, he had a mischievous twinkle in his eye.  He still is quite strong willed and occasionally throws an 8 year old’s tantrum that makes toddler tantrums look like child’s play.  He was the kid found dancing a jig on the dining room table and dumping my mug of coffee on my laptop.  He was the one who got his head stuck in the stair banister. 
 

I’ll admit that as our 2nd born and middle child, Zachary’s definitely had to deal with the stigma of the sandwiched kid.  Much of his toddlerhood was spent with us very actively involved in two major endeavors (and not at all focused on his needs): we were planning and putting on a National Convention for Engaged Encounter and we were going through the process to adopt kid #3.  He got the shaft.  Mom sucks reason #2 for ya.

Never a dull moment with Zach! 


3.)   Ahh, here we are.  We’re in it.  Ms. Kayliana.  I’m sure a little bit of the issue is hearing (while raising two boys), “Oh, girls are SO much easier than boys when they’re little.  They’re less energetic and more reserved.  Girls get harder during the teenage years, of course, but they’re way easier when they’re young.  They sit quietly and play for a long time.  They help clean up, etc.” Hooey Hooey Hooey.  Lies.  Also, being told, “Girls are SO much easier to potty train,” didn’t help expectations.  Again with the lies.  I understand that these are massive generalizations, but when you hear it enough, it’s hard not to anticipate their truth…at least a little.  On top of being our most difficult to potty train, Kayli has also been our worst sleeper by a LONG shot.  She stopped napping way earlier than the boys – she was pretty much done by the age of two.  This makes dealing with her toddleriness even harder because we’re STILL sleep-deprived…and she’s THREE AND A HALF.  I was up with her at 3 o’clock this morning because she had a nightmare, had to go potty (because she refused to go before bed and threw a massive fit about it) and then proceeded to throw a freakin-middle-of-the-night twenty minute tantrum because she didn’t want to go back to sleep in her own bed.
 

Kayli’s toddlerhood has been marked by two massive life events: we moved right before she turned two and my dad died 11 days after she turned three.  I know it’s understandable that the chaos and stress of these events impacts children.  But when she’s having crazy-insane mega tantrums, peeing on the floor and I’m in tears attempting to deal with it and with life, in general, I can’t help but think “this is my entirely fault” and can’t I just get a break?!  I mean, I know it’s not…completely my doing.  But it’s what life’s brought us.  It’s the life that she’s known and so far, for her, it mostly consists of lameness.  I also think I’ve added to her temperament by ‘giving in’ more.  Letting her watch more TV (thus she’s adding more energy reserves to her tantrum-throwing process).  I’m just trying to ‘make life easier’ for myself, which is typically doing the opposite of what’s best for her.
 

Also, let’s keep in mind, that she is, by far, our most active.  She’s our athlete.  She’s our two-days-in-a-row-of-stitches-on-the-face; she’s the trip-to-the-ER-on-our-anniversary; she’s our sweet little waking-up-with-a-broken-arm-three-days-after-dad-dies kiddo.  She’s clumsy but in nonstop movement.  So often I say, “Fine if you want to be an adrenal junky and crazy-active, but don’t be all breaky and bad at it!”  Be one or the other: active and awesome or clumsy and cautious.  Kayli is my puppy.  She’s the one that if I don’t get her out for her daily exercise, I shouldn’t expect her to be house-broken!  And, let’s face it, most of the time; I’ve done a piss-poor job of ‘doing’ stuff with her because of how life’s been.  Excuses and the reason why mom sucks with #3.

 We should've known that, walking at 10 months, meant non-stop movin' for this little lady.
 ER trip on our Anniversary: Dislocated elbow (re-dislocated two days later).
 After two days of stitches.  And she's still smiling. 
Notice Kayli's 'bulky' left arm -- cast for 3 weeks for 'mysterious' broken(?!) arm
 
Good thing we’re done having kids.  I’ve already done enough not-awesome to 3 people!  At least CPS hasn't stopped in and no one's been in Juvie...yet.
 

Monday, May 26, 2014

Six Months


Today is an additional kind of “Memorial” day for me.  Today marks six months to the day since dad passed away.  Half a year.  It’s still a weird time phenomenon.  Half a year; six months.  It’s a while but also not. 

Yesterday, just Zachary and I went to church.  Matthew threw up in the morning (happy 3 day weekend to us!  Poor guy) and Kayliana – well, if she’s not sick then she’s mentally ill as she’s been acting all sortsa padded room crazy.  So, Zach and I went to Mass (wishing Mike luck as I happily walked out the door). 

Father Todd’s homily was awesome – as always.  The music was extra beautiful.  The sun broke through the clouds and lit up the altar under the skylight.  Zach received his 2nd Communion!  Without the distraction of a 3 year old, I was able to pay closer attention to the words – especially during the Eucharistic Prayer as Father Todd asked for the prayers of the Saints gone before us.  When you really listen to the words, it’s not just a bunch of religious theology fanciness.  He offers Thanksgiving and asks for prayers for our health and well-being.  Isn’t that something we’re always wanting?  We pray for it at the most important part of the Mass every week!  We join in communion with all the members of the church – living and dead.  We pray that all the deceased be welcomed into God’s kingdom.  There are all sorts of awesome that we say and pray for and offer gratitude for, and it just felt like it was all about dad yesterday.  He was there.  It was just all happening there.  I fell apart.  After Communion, during the beautiful hymn, I kind of lost it.  I think I managed to not draw TOO much attention to myself.  I kept it quiet, but this was definitely not a socially acceptable, pretty little tear slipping down my cheek.  I must say I’m impressed with my 8 year old son that he’s so unfazed by my tears and emotional blubbering (even in public), that he didn’t look at all surprised or embarrassed and just immediately started rubbing and patting my arm.

Six months ago today. 

Friday, May 23, 2014

Bob the Builder


When Matthew was little, he got into the show (and toys from) Bob the Builder.  Pretty quickly, he realized the connection between Bob the Builder and ‘D-dad.’  The boys and my mom would occasionally even refer to my dad with this nickname.  The name fit.
 

My dad was such a project man.  He was the ultimate do-er.  He was a DIY-er before the “Do It Yourself” revolution.  He would’ve laughed in the face of Pinterest and some of the silly ‘DIY’ projects and ideas that are now all the rage.  He never hired a professional unless he absolutely had to.  He built a second story on one of their first homes.  He was a landscape architect, a plumber, a painter, an electrician, a carpenter, a roofer, a tile mosaic artist.  He taught himself how to do everything.  And he was very successful at it. 
 

As my brother Timothy said, “Dad flipped houses before flipping houses was a thing.”
 

Our home from 1985-2000, was a beautiful lakefront cape cod, two storey on half an acre.  My parents bought it for a song as it was the epitome of a “fixer upper” – vines growing in through the windows, nasty dirty ceilings, floors and walls, a rotting boat dock and overgrown yard and flower beds.
 

Much of my weekends and summers as a kid were spent in the ‘torture’ of helping with projects.  One summer, my brother Chris and I moved wheelbarrow loads and loads of dirt down the steep hill next to the house.  The plan was to terrace the steep backyard.  I helped mix cement and tile the patio at the age of 9 or 10.  (I think about having my own kids do something like this now and can already hear the whining about the injustice of it all.  Spoiled children). I once pretended to pray the Rosary to get out of doing yard work.  I think it worked once and the next time I attempted this same trick, Dad said something about, “You can say a Hail Mary for each dandelion you pull.”
 

I don’t remember a Saturday that wasn’t spent – at least some of it – helping with some chores while dad worked on a home improvement project.
 

Condo living wasn’t for dad.  Sure, he still did things – remodeling kitchens and bathrooms on his own – but the lack of yard work was frustrating to him.
 

When mom and dad first visited the retirement community where she will be moving next month, she was smitten.  She’s wanted to move there for a few years now.  Dad apparently told her, “If you’re moving there, you’re moving alone.”  Touché.  Dad would’ve been bored out of his mind.  We even joked that if dad moved into a place like that, he would’ve snuck around the beautiful, manicured grounds digging holes just to have something to do.
 

Mom shouldn’t have been that surprised when dad went for a walk in their vacation, beach, weekend spot and upon returning announced that he’d found a new “project.”  The 1 acre, waterfront fixer upper had “Bob the Builder” written all over it.  And it was his project and his pride and joy for two years.  We’re just a little ticked – but not that surprised – that he ‘checked out’ before completing all the projects he’d started there.
 

Mike and I have been toying with the idea of taking out our mud-pit, drainage-challenged side yard and putting in a gravel and/or tile patio for a little grilling area.  I’ve been eying the pieces and scraps of tile and leftover kitchen granite that dad had stacked in their garage. I’ll be bringing it home in the next couple of weeks.  He even had a couple of old cabinets that I might be able to “DIY” – up for the outdoor kitchen project.  Perhaps we’ll get a plaque and call it the “Bob the Builder Memorial Outdoor Kitchen.”
 

Two summers ago, Dad and I worked together staining our deck here.  Last Spring, Dad announced that we would be having a ‘work party’ to clean up some of the ravine in the back.  Oh really?  I thought (not pumped about tackling the project).  But sure enough, he showed up and always with his ‘bag.’  Sometimes, when he’d be helping us with a project (like when he and Mike ‘finished’ the unfinished laundry room at our old house or when he was helping us get through the ‘inspection’ list for selling the house), he would bring his bag and just store it in the garage or bathroom closet.  He left his work shoes and clothes and some of his tools here because he knew he’d be back to work.
 

Well, a few days ago, I couldn’t help but smile as I brought my ‘bag’ to their Bellevue condo.  With mom selling it, I knew there were a few projects to do that I’d be able to help with.  I brought some of my painting supplies, a couple of my preferred tools and my crappy paint-stained work clothes. I stuck my bag on the floor of dad’s bathroom closet.
 

Dad would be proud.
First BIG house project.  Top floor addition.

D-dad teaching the boys how to change the oil.  (We have yet to put their skills to the test).

Front door column at the beach house.

King of his castle (or pile of yard overgrowth).  They cleared out 25 truck loads.

Painting in the beach house.

Working with Bob the Builder at the childrens' museum.

Happy place.

More work time with D-dad.