New minivan

Our new Kia Sedona

In preparation for our big summer road trip, we purchased a nearly-new Kia Sedona minivan from Enterprise Car Sales. It was the closest thing to a new car we’ve ever purchased.

After many years of service criss-crossing the U.S., we’ll miss the old green Mercury Villager. The kids were sad for a while. But I will say they are now enjoying the amenities of the new van!

Viper Bots’ last hurrah?

This was my fourth season coaching an FLL team. This year all three Renaud girls were on the team: it was Jadzia’s fourth and final year, Ludi’s second, and Josie’s first.

The Viper Bots are a school-based team, so we begin when school begins in August at Vogt Elementary. After that, it’s a race to build and program our robot, research a project, and write a presentation by November. It is pretty exhausting.

Continue reading “Viper Bots’ last hurrah?”

Fall colors for International Josh Day

Our kids were off school (presumably in celebration of International Josh Day), so we took the Golden Eagle and Brussels ferries to Pere Marquette, Grafton, and Elsah.

This was our first time driving through Calhoun County, and it was really lovely. We had heard of it many times via the Farmers Market, since we often buy Calhoun County peaches. The rolling hills and curvy roads were lovely. I would love to go back and just walk there.

The River Road and Pere Marquette State Park had absolutely fantastic fall foliage. We saw some bright yellows and reds as we hiked up to McAdams Peak.

The leaves in Elsah were not as vibrant as I have seen in some previous years. We were also disappointed to find the General Store wasn’t open. Elsah always seems to be shut down on Mondays and Tuesdays. Oh well.

Back to Beaumont

Joseph returned to the Beaumont Scout Reservation in August and September for the Cub Scouts’ Shoot-O-Ree and Cub Launch events. Joseph was at Cub Launch last year, but this was his first Shoot-O-Ree.

They had all sorts of things for the Cub Scouts to shoot: catapults, BB guns, slinghots, bows and arrows, Nerf guns and more. Joseph enjoyed trying it all.

At Cub Launch, of course Joseph wanted to shoot the BB guns again. But he also spent a lot of time playing at Fort Hussman, and playing on the Pirate Ship. He’s really been into “Master and Commander”, the British Navy, and the American Revolution lately, so he was running around yelling nautical terms like “Make sail!”

He even found a few kids who were willing to be led. One of them said “I brought you a chair, mister.” Joseph responded: “Don’t call me mister. Call me ‘sir’!”

Pinewood Derby 2018

Joseph receives his trophy.

This year marked Joseph’s second Pinewood Derby.

This year his den leader, Ms. Retha, arranged for all the kids to get their wood blocks sawn by a pro. So that left he and I to do the sanding, painting, weighting, etc.

The derby was held at the Gateway auto sales complex at I-270 and McDonnell Blvd. After last year, we made sure to bring some Tin Tin books to keep Joseph occupied during down times of waiting.

Joseph managed to win 3rd place among all the Wolves. That meant he got a trophy, and he was very happy about that!

Grandma Renaud’s 80th birthday

All the Renaud family together in one shot! Photo by Justin Renaud

Grandma cuts her birthday cake.

My parents, aunts, and uncles got together to plan a special celebration for Grandma Renaud’s 80th birthday.

They held the party here in St. Louis, where Grandma was born and lived for many years. Around 70 people came from Texas and places farther afield. It was a lot of fun to see Becker and Renaud relatives together in one room again.

There was a dress code, so I was required to go out and buy a new suit. Yoli and I ended up cleaning up pretty nicely, I think.

Photo by Justin Renaud

Back home after the party finished.

The Very Big Christmas Show

Josie, Joseph, and Ludi dressed for the third act.

Editor’s note: This year, Ludi, Josie, and Joseph all participated in “Miss Kathey’s Academy,” and performed in “The Very Big Christmas Show” in December. All of them did awesome. Josie in particular had a memory she wanted to share:

I am in Miss Kathey’s Academy. I didn’t really expect it, but Miss Kathey said she wanted a small kid to sing a solo called “Happy Birthday, Jesus.” She wanted someone 8 or under.

Me and my friend both went to Pastor Bob to try out. He chose me to do the solo! After that, we practiced once a month every month until December.

I was super-scared at our first performance. Even the tape that held the microphone on to my cheek made me scared. But when I got out on stage and looked at the audience, I realized I couldn’t just chicken out. I said my lines to Santa, the music started, and I began to sing.

Very Big Christmas Show

Josie performs her solo, “Happy Birthday, Jesus.”

Paddleboating around Post-Dispatch Lake

I’ve lived in St. Louis a long time, but one thing I have never tried is paddleboating in Forest Park. Well, this year Yoli and the kids won some coupons to various Forest Park things, including boat rides!

We finally decided to give it a shot on this unseasonably warm October day. What a great time we had! Joseph has really been into all things nautical, ever since we let the kids watch the movie “Master and Commander.” I love that movie, and Joseph really, really loves it now. He is constantly reading and learning more about ships and boats and wrecks. Suffice it to say that he and the girls enjoyed being on the lake and racing each other back to the dock.

Here are some photos from our adventure:

Also, Joseph shared some of his thoughts on “Master and Commander” with me:

“My dad showed me my first favorite movie, which is ‘Master and Commander.’ In Master and Commander, on the British ship HMS Surprise under the command of Captain Jack Aubrey (but the crewmates call him Lucky Jack), they are fighting a French ship called the Acheron.

“They lose the first battle, but in a different battle they disguise themselves as whalers to get the Acheron to come closer to them. They changed the name of their ship to the Syren.

“The signal to make them fire at the mainmast, which was the first part of their sneak attack, was when Captain Aubrey yelled ‘Let fly!’ Then they knocked down the mainmast, but first the cannons slid out. After that, they threw grappling hooks and boarded the Acheron.

“But the French sailors had a sneak attack also. Everybody pretended to be dead. Then the French captain yelled something. Then they all got up and one of them fired at a different guy in the head. (The guy was fat).”

Tracking down a hot-air balloon in Ferguson

Finding the hot air balloon at Walnut Gove Elementary.

Editor’s note: The following post is synthesized from accounts by Yoli and Jadzia.

One day after Josie finished her guitar class, we saw a lot of hot air ballon passing over our heads. One of them was getting increasingly larger and closer to the ground, so we decided to chase it. After trying to find where it was going, we saw it land behind the field at Walnut Grove Elementary. The balloon had come from the Forest Park race, even though it’d been cancelled.

The kids helped the pilot, Mr. Mike Wade, disassemble the balloon and put it away. That was quite an adventure, and exhausting to say the least.

The kids help Mr. Mike Wade, the pilot from HI Flight, Inc.