Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011: Year in Review

For the last post of 2011, I'm totally cheating and not writing an original post which is fitting considering my blogging incompetence this year, not to be confused with incontinence. :)  Instead, I present to you the 2011 Koons Zoo Christmas letter highlighting the notable events and happenings from the year.  Thanks for sticking with me this year, when I may or may not have blogged more sporadically than ever (hello 2 weeks between posts, I'm so ashamed).  The blog's 3 year anniversary is next month and that BLOWS MY MIND.  We'll have an anniversary party complete with cupcakes when that date rolls around but for now thanks for reading and here's to 2012.  Happy New Year! 

Without further ado..

Dear Friends & Family (and Blog Readers),
It's the most wonderful time of the year, time for the annual Koons Christmas letter! Try to contain your excitement. After a brief hiatus last year due to a depressing, craptastic, death-filled 2010, we're back and better than ever. Subjectively speaking, of course. But hey, no one died in 2011 so we're chalking it up a success!!! Always the optimist, aren't I? Also, yes I did in fact, use the word craptastic in my Christmas letter, I gotta be me.

So 2011? It's going in the "Nothing Monumental but No Tragedies so Overall a Great Year" category of years. Hang on to your seats while we review.

January-I have a massive dislike of January and January '11 was no exception. GI Joe worked approximately eleventy hundred hours every week and the stress level of his job as a Recruiter was at a record high. The three bright spots of January were 1) we survived it ulcer free 2) redneck sledding is so much fun and 3) our Christmas in January celebration at a cabin in NE with my side of the family. Listen, you get that much Arnold goodness in one place for any amount of time, fun is bound to be had.

February-As much as I dislike January, I dislike February 10 times more. Oh yes, I AM a ray of sunshine. Stay with me, I promise it gets better. February 1st marked the 12th anniversary of my mom passing away but on the bright side it was also Blade's 9th birthday, which gave me a reason to not have a full blown pity party. Speaking of Blade, 9 has been good to him. He's one of the coolest kids I've ever met and I'm not saying that just because he's mine. Fine, that might have a little something to do with it. Blade is the quintessential All American boy. Good at everything (grades, football, soccer, basketball, wrestling, you name it), Mr. Popularity, teacher's pet, class clown, and just downright hilarious. It's pretty fun being his parents, especially when he tells us things like, "You might want to take a picture of me in this uniform because you're lookin' at a legend," with a twinkle in his eye. And that sentence? Pretty much sums up Blade. So yeah, February was not a complete bust. Thank goodness for Blade....and our snowwoman.

March-We took our annual National LamKoons Spring Break Vacation to visit Hilary and family in TN. We love Tennessee (oh and Hilary, Micah & Bryan and soon to be baby #3 too. Did you catch that subtle announcement?!?). Toyed with the idea of relocating to TN, didn't, the end...for now. Settle down IA friends/family, it's LONG TERM thinking., as in after the kids graduate. I was born to be a southern belle, ya'll.

April/May-The ground thawed, the sun returned, the grass turned green(ish), the livestock auction reopened, my bovine baby Holy turned a year old, Justin shot a big turkey while turkey hunting, Dakota and I had a girls weekend in St. Louis with my sisters and smom, and my birthday happened. All good things, except me aging. Another item of note for the month of May, Dakota graduated from 5TH GRADE and into the world of middle schooldom. And with that, I died a little. SHE'S JUST A BABY!

June/July/August-My absolute favorite time of the year. I love everything about this time of year, except for the snakes. For the full story on that and much more go here (shameless plug #1). We spent a lot of time fishing, playing outside, hanging out in the pool, and mostly enjoying the schedule free summer. Not sure if you knew this or not but when you have 3 kids involved in all kinds of things, you put more miles on your car seat than you do your couch. So not having to chauffeur kids around to various activities was delightful. Here's hoping they continue to not want to play baseball and put a wrench in my whole schedule free summer. In early July, we also took our annual National LamKoons Summer Vacation to Tampa, Florida for a little beach time. Iowa has great sweet corn and all, but ocean views and salt sea breezes? Not so much and this girl likes to get white sand between my toes at least once a year.

We spent about 5 days in Florida hitting the beaches and Busch Gardens and then a surprise detour in Orlando for a couple days at the Nickelodeon Resort aka BEST 2 DAYS OF OUR KIDS' LIVES THUS FAR. On our way to FL, we made a stop in Kansas to see Heidi, a stop in TN to see Hilary, and a stop in Georgia to see Stone Mountain. On the way home, we made a stop in New Orleans to see..well, A LOT of things, mostly life lessons for the children and an unforgettable stop in Memphis to see some serious police action and to handoff Blade & Ryder to Hilary and Bryan for a week stay with them. They flew home by themselves the following week, another big to do in their book.

At the end of July, Dakota made her 4H debut at the Madison County Fair showing chickens and art work. Highlights include bathing chickens in preparation for showing them (a vinegar rinse makes them super shiny!!!) and bringing home a blue ribbon for her chickens AND her artwork. Now that we know the lay of the 4H/County Fair land you can expect to hear much more about this in future Christmas letters. Blade is also now a 4H'er too so it's safe to say that one week every July will be dedicated to the county fair cause. And that's fine with me because those are my people and I feel right at home there. Not to mention the corndogs and the animals galore. In August, we celebrated Ryder's 8th birthday, for approximately 5 days because that's how he rolls. I have no idea where he gets it. EIGHT? Can you believe it? He'll always be 5 to me so whatever, eight. He's grown a ton this year and is now just millimeters smaller than Blade. In addition to his norms, wrestling and soccer, he got to play his first year of tackle football this year and is currently in his inaugural basketball season. He loves his sports, although in a very different way than his brother. He's in it for the camaraderie, the hanging out with his friends, the having fun part of it. Blade, on the other hand, well, it's serious competitive business to him. Oh the joys of boys. Ryder is a lot like Blade in that he makes friends easily, has the teachers wrapped around his finger, and pretty much breezes through life. He still has the laid back surfer boy look and attitude going on, it's part of his charm. Although don't let that charm fool you because under that blonde exterior is a spitfire just waiting for the right moment to rear it's precious head. He's been keeping us on our toes since the minute we found out we were having him (surprise!) and is still doing that 8 years later. Man, I love him. Wow, would you look at that, I just spent a whole page talking about 3 months. And I didn't even tell you how the kids started back to school and how Dakota is now a MIDDLE SCHOOLER! Or that we had a beautiful, adorable, sweet smelling addition to the extended Koons clan when Miss Lyla Jean was born to GI Joe's brother Brian and his wife Lindsay at the end of August. It's been awhile since we've had a baby in the Koons family so it's been so fun and she really is cutest thing ever. Moving on....only 3.5 months left!

September/October-All I remember about these 2 months was the vast amount of football we watched. Between both boys playing, the Hawkeyes, and the Detroit Lions, every weekend was filled with approximately 70 hours of football. Both boys' teams ended the season with the exact same record of 3-1-1. GI Joe was able to get tickets to a couple of the home Hawkeye games and memories were made at those games. The home opener of the season he took his dad, my dad, and Blade with him and it was pouring rain the entire time. But the Hawks got the win and the boys got some new Hawkeye ponchos. Score! GI Joe also turned 34 in October, and shortly thereafter dislocated a rib while doing a home improvement project that I had requested. Old age isn't for sissies! Oh, one other fun tidbit for these months was the start up of my new venture.."Suck It Up Cupcakes". You know, because I have a ton of free time and all, I thought it would be fun to bake gourmet and delicious cupcakes for people as a little side biz. It's going great and I'm as busy as I want to be with it. The best part about the whole thing, besides the baking of 37 varieties of cupcakes (so far) is the logo.....

I mean, have you EVER?!? There's a facebook page dedicated to it if you're in the market for cupcakes (shameless plug #2).

That brings us to November, the end is in sight!!!!

November-November the month of big dates at the Koons Zoo. The first being Dakota's birthday. She turned TWELVE you guys, TWELVE!!! You know what that means right? She's officially a tween and a mere 11 months from being a TEENAGER. WAAAAAAAA! The great thing about Dakota is though, she remains unchanged by the fact that her peers are starting to get into boys and setting up facebook accounts and other such adolescent nonsense. She openly admits that she does not really enjoy being around lots of people or big cities and dating, especially in 6th grade is overrated and silly. Umm yeah, I'm thinking farmgirl forever and if we can just keep her thinking that dating is overrated until, oh I don't know, say 42, we'll be just fine. Dakota is still Dakota in that she likes her peace and quiet in the country, her ability to roam freely while hunting birds and rabbits and whatnot, her kitties, and her chickens. Her artistic and creative abilities continue to blossom as evidenced by her blue ribbon showing at the county fair and her academic excellence is only dampened by her ability to organize and her natural dizzy blondeness. She couldn't be more opposite than me (except for the dizzy blonde thing) which has been a good exercise in patience and humility for me. I've never met another kid like her and probably never will. Her potential in life knows no bounds and I cannot wait to see where it takes her. Probably not New York City, I can tell you that. :) Also, in November, GI Joe and I celebrated our 14th wedding anniversary. How do you like us now haters of 1997?!? I tease. It's flown by but on the other hand it seems like we've been a part of each other since birth. Of course I still love him but I still really really like him too AND think he's even better looking now than he was when I first laid eyes on him in the fall of 1994, and believe me, high school junior me would have never believed that could happen. I know, gag me, but it's true. Throw in Thanksgiving and Black Friday and you've got a month for the record books.

Are your eyes tired yet? I should've included bookmarks. I promise, we're almost done. What Koons Christmas letter would be complete without the annual Koons Zoo count is so here goes: 3 horses, 1 mini horse, 2 mules "stupid" donkeys, 3 llamas, 1 cow (love of my life), 1 pot bellied pig, 1 "real" pig for eating...seriously!),

1 fainting goat, 1 peacock, 2 bunnies, 1 turkey, 1 ewe (not me, EWE), 5 dogs (I forgot to tell you that we are a foster home for the Upper Midwest Great Dane Rescue and yes, I HAVE been able to give them up after fostering them), a whole lot of chickens, and a few kitties. We've lost some animals this past year and have slowed down on our animal acquisitions as of late. But don't worry there are some exciting acquisitions planned for spring of 2012, so stay tuned!

Congrats! It's now 2012 and you deserve an award for making it to the end of this letter. I apologize for the length but we had some major catching up to do. Life is good, God is great, and people, namely us, are crazy. From our zoo to you, Merry Christmas (belated)  and a happy New Year!

The Koons Zoo

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Santa Situation

In our house we go all out to make Christmas magical for our kids, and let's be honest, for us too. Because the only thing better than being a kid on Christmas is seeing your kid experience Christmas. We spend a lot of time talking about and living out the real meaning of Christmas so that it doesn't get lost in all the Santa Claus reindeer stuff but that doesn't mean we leave jolly Old St. Nick out in the cold. Out in the cold? Tee hee I crack myself up.

For example, every Christmas morning the kids wake up (in their coordinating Christmas PJ's of course) to find bootprints in ashes leading from the fireplace to the Christmas tree (thank goodness for hardwood floors), reindeer tracks in the yard and the reindeer food sprinkled outside on Christmas Eve gone, and a note from Santa next to the empty plate of cookies. They might also hear the occasional jingle of bells late on Christmas Eve accompanied by their mother yelling out the front door, "NOT YET SANTA, THEY AREN'T ASLEEP, HIT THE HOUSE DOWN THE ROAD AND THEN STOP BACK BY!" Whaaaat? Doesn't everyone yell out their front door at Santa? Pffffft.

GI Joe and I have so much fun filling Christmas with little traditions and nuances that they'll remember forever and likely pass on to their kids (you know, my named from "the list" grandkids). This year though? Blade is putting a little damper on the magic. Never before have any of them ever even questioned the whole Santa thing, I mean, how could they when they had the bootprints to prove he was real? At some point in the past month or so, Blade is having his Santa doubts. I blame the rebellious kids at school. Now some parents say they won't "lie" to their kids and tell them that Santa isn't real but let it be known, we are NOT those parents. In fact, we are the parents trying wholeheartedly to convince him that he is in fact real because, ummm, after all, ISN'T HE?!? That's one of the best parts of childhood and we kinda want to make it last as long as possible, like say, oh I don't know, THE REST OF HIS LIFE?!? My parents were not as extreme as we are, but they did go to certain extents to keep the magic alive for my sisters and I even well past the age of truth. I distinctly remember my first Christmas as a married woman, there were still presents under my parents' tree in never before seen wrapping paper that said From Santa along with the ones that said From Mom and Dad, so see...HE IS REAL! :)

So Blade rattled off about 10 different arguments as to how the whole Santa thing was a hoax, such as "Why would you have to yell out the door to Santa to tell him we're still awake when he supposedly sees us while we're sleeping and sees when we're awake?" (Because he's very busy on Christmas Eve and doesn't always have time to check his KidVision so I was just helping him out) Or, "You know that song "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus?" Why would a mommy be kissing Santa Claus if Santa Claus wasn't the Daddy?" (Because she was just really happy to see him and that's how people in Europe greet each other and don't you know St Nick originated in Europe?) or "Why would there be reindeer tracks in the yard when they allegedly land on the roof?" (Well duh, they came down to get the reindeer food we put out for them!) These are basically exact quotes, you guys. As you can see, I did my best to answer them convincingly and I think I might have made some headway and while I don't think he completely believes, I think he wants to still believe and if that's the best we can get, then I'll take it.

Of course, while he was questioning all of this, Dakota, age 12, piped in and said, "Why wouldn't you believe in Santa Claus? That's just dumb."

To which he responded, "DAKOTA, you're TWELVE YEARS OLD, why WOULD you still be believe in Santa?!? You're way too old."

She just rolled her eyes at him because she KNOWS and she's seen Polar Express so she doesn't question the magic. Gotta love her and her vast imagination and naiveness.

But the other night, was the icing on the figurative Claus cake. We were watching movies and it was time to put in a new movie. Blade wanted to watch The Santa Clause. Ryder wanted to watch something else.

Ryder: "Why would you want to watch The Santa Clause when you don't even believe in Santa?"
Blade: "Because I believe in Tim Allen."

And there you have it, the magic of Christmas...and Tim Allen.


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Catch Up

As I was writing the annual Koons Christmas letter and got to the 4th page, it dawned on me that this was a clear indication that I'm not blogging enough if I have all this pent up writing in me.  I mean, seriously, who has a FOUR PAGE Christmas letter?  Embarrassing.  So in an effort to release this pent up writing inside of me here I am.  The following are presented in no kind of order, just as they pop in my head. 

*I got bangs a few weeks ago and the following week, Taylor Swift also got bangs.  Coincidence?  Maybe.  But Taylor, I'm WATCHING YOU.  Never mind that Carrie Underwood got bangs a couple weeks before I did and was actually the inspiration behind my current cut, Taylor totally copied me.  I would post a picture but the bangs and I are still getting to know each other.  Some days I love them, some days I curse the day I ever saw that picture of Carrie Underwood with bangs in the magazine, and all days I feel like I'm riding a fine line between frumpy house wife in mom jeans, 9 year old girl, and cutting edge fashionista.  I do have to say that weeks 3 & 4 post bang hair cut seem to be the optimal bang performance time.  The first few weeks I felt like they were way too short and now in week 5 I feel like they are getting too long.  But long's ok because I think I'm growing them out.  Now you see why my Christmas letter was 4 pages long?  I can make a mountain out of a molehill. 

And now that I've verbally vomited about my bangs for an entire paragraph, I'm not sure that I have anything else to say.

*Alright, if I must.  A few years ago, we started doing the whole Elf on a Shelf thing.  We named our elf Oogey and a new tradition was born.  It's so much fun to see where Oogey ends up every morning (when he remembers to move) and use him as leverage when the kids are misbehaving. Ex:  "What kind of report do you think Oogey will give to Santa when he goes to the North Pole tonight?"  What?!?  HE DOES!   Here's where he was today after he returned from his nightly North Pole trip....

Yes, that's a deer head hanging on the wall.  You know who I'm married to right?  This is in the family room and it was an exercise in (painful) compromise that I allowed this deer head to be hung and his brother (the deer's brother not GI Joe's, just to clarify) on a different wall.  I suppose it does work with the room as it's a very outdoorsy, masculine room.  The kicker is that this deer is looking directly into my pink accented, girly kitchen. That darn compromise, it works both ways.  

*Speaking of pink and will never believe what Carhartt did to me.  They have now produced a line of bubble gum pink Carhartts.  They "claim" it is for "Breast Cancer Awareness" but I think we all know what's going on here.  They completely stole my idea without even so much as a RETURN LETTER OR CALL.  If you're new to the blog and my obsession with pink Carhartts please go here and somewhere else on the blog that I can't find right now to read up.   I'm crafting my very fiery letter to Carhartt now.  I may have to lawyer up for such blatant plagerism of my original idea.  Sure hope they aren't paying a design team for the grand PINK idea because hello, 2009 I suggested it AND sent a picture...twice...thankyouverymuch.  My demands for retribution will be as follows:  a free set of the Prairie Princess original PINK Carhartts valued at $150 and a letter of apology, oh and that they rename them to "Prairie Princess Pink."  I think I'm being completely reasonable here.  You'll be hearing more about this on the news shortly I'm sure. 

*Let's talk about Michael Buble and how much I've grown to love him.  GI Joe, believe it or not, got me hooked on him a couple of years ago when he asked for his Christmas CD for Christmas and has been raving about him ever since.  That was the short play CD with just 6 or so songs on it and it was fabulous.  Now this year, he released a full length Christmas album which is SOLID GOLD.  It is so good and has solidified me firmly in the Michael Buble Fan Camp.  Last Tuesday night was his TV special and he's just so darn entertaining and that voice?!?  I could listen to him sing for a week and not get sick of it.  And then THIS came out and that's it, I'm a goner and have now added a Michael Buble concert to my lifelong bucket list.  The guy is flat out amazing.  Also, he could be my brother in law Bryan's twin...seriously.  Exhibit A: 
NOT Michael Buble.  Feel free to ooh and aah over how cute Micah is, I KNOW!
The real Michael Buble.  The resemblance, it's uncanny. 

*In closing, (wow, can't tell my dad's a pastor can you?) I'd like to share with you in photos my Monday evening.  I was tired, I didn't feel good, I had 4 dozen cupcakes to make and one son to get to and from wrestling practice, oh and Moose the Lab rolled in something dead so that was a nice, unexpected treat.  Here is the night in pictures:

One dozen cupcakes...ruined, destroyed, finito.  1 new oven....a smoky, cupcake remains covered mess. The last pan of cupcakes of the night as I was taking it out of the oven.  I wanted to cry.  Just in case you thought it was all sprinkles and sunshine 'round here.   
My fuzzy pink slippers complete with a splat of cupcake batter and chocolate ganache.  Monday was one of those days that these went on the minute I got home from work and I had no intentions of taking them off.  Which is why I wore them when I took Ryder to wrestling practice and also why I gave him STRICT instructions to be out and waiting for me after practice was over so I didn't have to come in the building to get him while wearing my fuzzy pink slippers.  I pulled up a few minutes after practice was over just to be sure to allow him enough time to change his shoes and come outside but do you think he did?  NOOOOOOO.  Do you think it was on purpose?  YESSSSSSSS.  After about 8 minutes of waiting, I figured that most of the other parents had already come and gone so I'd be safe in entering the building in my FPS.  I tossed my pride aside and walked, FPS and all, into the building.  And walked right into one of our neighbors!  And then Ryder magically appeared, which gives me further cause to believe that he waited to come out on purpose.  Not pictured, my messy hair going 14 different directions with frosting in it, my old yoga pants with cupcake batter all over them, my baggy, shabby sweatshirt and the flour on my face.  I was a sight.  It's fine, I didn't use my dignity much anyway. 

Wow, I feel so much lighter, my burden lifted.  I'd forgotten how much fun this blogging stuff is.  I'm gonna have to do it more often!  Here's hoping.     

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


I've been neglect in blogging about Dakota's 12th birthday.  12?!?  It's probably because I'm in denial.  Twelve means we're *this* close to the teen years and I'll be honest, I can't even go there. 
As I've mentioned before, Dakota is my dad's grandchild, my sisters Heidi, Hilary, and Brandy's niece.  When it comes to social behavior, she is nothing like me and every bit like the 4 of them, in varying degrees.  Life of the party?  Not a chance.  Center of attention?  Oh NO thank you.  Thrives in big crowds of people?  Never.  Being a homebody and socializing with only your family and your couch?  Oh YES please.  This has been a bit of a struggle for me to "get" because it's just not how I operate.  I have to remind myself on a regular basis that she's NOT me and just because she prefers her solitude to socializing doesn't mean there's something wrong with her and that she's an outcast who will grow up to be the weird cat lady living alone.  Although, I have a feeling regardless of her social status the cat lady part of that won't be far from the mark. 
When planning her 12th birthday celebration she grudgingly decided to invite 6 of her friends out because "they've been wanting to come out and see the animals and stuff for awhile so i GUESS we can invite them for my birthday."  So we did.  Let it be known that this is only the SECOND time in her scholastic career that she's invited friends over.  GI Joe says that's pretty typical for country kids or at least that's the way it was for he and his brother growing up but to me, Miss I Got Mail @ My BFF's House in 6th Grade, it seems a travesty.  She was moderately excited but that had to do more with the kind of cupcakes I was making for the party than it did the actual party.  Milky Way Cupcakes, who could blame her?!?
The day finally came for the party and I picked the girls up from school.  I'd met most all of them before and already liked them. We had a very LOUD ride home, as you may or may not know that 6 6th grade girls + 2 elementary aged boys talk, sing, and shriek at ear piercing volume when they are in Friday afternoon PAAAAAARTY mode.  I was relieved to see that Dakota was participating as well.  
The girls were in hog heaven (pun totally intended) when we got to the Koons Zoo, they dumped their stuff and immediately headed to the barnyard for some farm fun.  This is where Dakota was in her element.  These were her animals, her pride and joy, so showing them off to her friends, was no big deal to her.    They stepped in poo, got muddy, gathered eggs, and had a grand old time.  They came in for a snack and then it was time for the Scavenger Hunt.  I wasn't exactly sure what was appropriate party planning for a bunch of 12 year old girls that didn't involve manis, pedis, or Justin Bieber so I decided on a fun, no-matter-how-old-you-are scavenger hunt in the yard and barnyard.  The clues were Class A corny and led them to such locations as the chicken coop, the rabbit hutch, the Hillbilly Hotel (a lean to shelter for the animals in the barnyard), on the four wheeler, and in a rotted jack o' lantern, just to name a few.  This scavenger hunt was a direct hit as the girls thought it was the coolest thing ever.  (Chalk one up for Mother of the Year!) After finding their treasure (a King Sized candy bar for each of them hidden in the fireplace) they went back out to ride the 4 wheeler, play in the hay fort in the barn, and sled down the hill on the miniscule amount of snow that was there.  Dakota was thoroughly engaged during all of this, except for the brief time that she wondered off to check on her kitties (without mentioning to her friends where she was going or inviting them to go along with her) and eventually, her friends realized she was missing and Blade led them to her.  The great part is that while I was apalled at the rudeness, her friends didn't think any thing of it. 

Finally, the sun was setting and it was getting cold so they came in to eat.  GI Joe smoked some pizzas (because that's how we do frozen pizzas in this house and OMGoodness they are so delicious that they have now been requested for every kid's birthday.)  I also put out a spread of Dakota's favorite snack foods which included but was not limited to: apples with caramel, chips and dip, giant dill pickles, olives, black olives, pickled peppers, and crackers and GOAT cheese.  Yes, you read that right, GOAT cheese.  Dakota while a hillbilly at heart has some very sophisticated tastebuds.  Homegirl can put away half a log of goat cheese as an after school snack.  I put it out mainly for her, figuring that her friends would stick to the more normal items like chips and dip.  Imagine my surprise when they were eating the crackers with goat cheese at a faster rate than I could put them out.  They were amazed to discover that they were eating goat cheese.  The food highlights of the party were definitely:  Cupcakes (duh), Goat Cheese & Crackers, and the Giant Pickles.  In that order.  Barnyard scavenger hunt, gathering eggs, goat cheese and cupcakes.  Do I know how to throw a party OR WHAT?!?
I wasn't sure how I would entertain the girls for the rest of the evening, but as it turned out I needn't worry.  They entertained themselves by making a goofy movie on their Macs and sliding and spinning across our hardwood floors. 
Who needs bounce houses or jugglers when you've got slick floors?!?

 A couple times during the festivities, we'd look around and I'd see Blade and Ryder in the heart of the action and Dakota sitting on the couch in the living room or in her room with her sketch pad, off in her own little world.  GI Joe had to gently remind her that she did have friends over and that perhaps she should, oh i don't know, hang out with them?!?  GI Joe & I were sitting in the kitchen when one of the girls came in to get another helping of, you guessed it, goat cheese.  She proceeded to educate us on the social hierachy of 6th grade.  Completely unprompted by us, she told us all about how the "populars" were already "dating" but of course they were dating other "populars".  She then told me about the other groups in 6th grade and who was in them.  There are the populars, the smartacles (the very very smart, dare i say, nerdy kids), the weirdos, and the just normal kids.  You know what I had to do right?  I said, "Is Dakota considered a "weirdo"?  You can tell me."  Her answer cracked me up because let's be honest, anyone that knows Dakota knows she leans to the weird side and is proud of it.  Her friend sweetly answered, "Oh no, she's not a weirdo.  So what if she's told people it's ok to call her DragonGirl?!?  Everyone knows that's just Dakota."  Love it.  She then let me know that she and Dakota and their other friends were the "just normals" who were friends with people in all the "groups".  That was a relief.  Nobody wants their kid to be in the weirdos or outcast group.  When I discussed the populars group and the whole "dating" thing with Dakota later she said and I quote, "Isn't that so stupid?  I mean, we're in 6TH GRADE, we're way too young to be dating.  Besides dating is sooo overrated."  I'm documenting those words here so when she's 17 I can remind her of this.  Oh YES I AM, so take that 17 year old Dakota. 
Anyway, the party was a smash success and 9pm (party end time) rolled around.  The girls were not excited to go home and were saying how they wished they were spending the night. But of course, Dakota had drawn her line in the sand from the git go and put a party end time on the invite of 9pm.   Listen, we were stretching her social boundaries by asking her to entertain or at least be present for 5 1/2 hours, overnight might have pushed her right over the edge into hermitdom forever.  So it was time to go and I told the girls to get their things so I could take them home.  Dakota being the ever graceful hostess got them each a peacock feather to take with them and then they each wanted to take the egg they had gathered.  So yeah, party favors were a peacock feather and a farm fresh egg.  Redneck much?  We were getting ready to load up into the car for the trek to return every one to their rightful owners when I noticed Dakota was still sitting on the couch drawing. 
 "Dakota, come on you have to go with me to take your friends home." 
"Oh man, I do?!?  Why can't I just stay home? I'll see them at school on Monday."  followed by a deep sigh. 
Meanwhile, Ryder and Blade were already in the car chatting up the ladies. 
She did go with us and once we were in the car with her friends she was fine.  And they explained to me how they were all friends "Well see, Dakota is my complete opposite so that's why it works" and "Dakota and I are soooo much alike that's why we're friends," and so on.  It was kind of sweet especially since I didn't fish for this feedback and we all know Dakota certainly didn't, it just came up.   
On the way back home we were recapping the party and she told me, "That wasn't so bad, we might have to do that again sometime. Maybe next YEAR."  :)
Baby steps, we wouldn't want to rush things you know. 
And by the time I got home, 3 of her friends had friended me on Facebook.  Which is so odd to me, but I put my feelings about 12 year olds on facebook aside and accepted because you know what they say, "Keep your friends close and your tween daughter's friends closer". 
I cannot wait to see what the next 12 years holds for this one in a million girl.  I'm sure at least ONE or TWO more parties, and that's probably a pretty accurate number.  But you know what?  I wouldn't want her any other way. What a girl. 

And because it was her magic, once in a lifetime birthday, 11-11-11, (too bad she was 12 and not 11) I got her out of bed @ 11:11 p.m. to do this..

She'll thank me someday.  Probably in a champagne toast at a big, fancy, black tie party she's hosting.

Or not.