My Sister Has a Blog!

I’m very excited to share with you all that my sister has made a blog!

She and a friend of hers started a travel blog called “Oh, hey sis! Oasis!” and it covers cool spots to visit in the Southwestern states. I have a pitiful “Travel” section to my blog, but you can bet your buttons theirs will be absolutely above-average in comparison.

Both my sister and her friend have unique voices in writing, and the locales they visit are off-the-beaten-path types of spots.

In honor of their efforts (and as a kind of filler post because work is being just a tad overwhelming right now), I thought I would dedicate this post to directing anyone who reads my stuff to theirs. They really are cool writers and their website is a thing of beauty.

Go check it out and give them an Above Average hello!

A Short Trip to My Sister

If I could only pick one thing that the pandemic has outrageously stolen from me, I’d say it was time with my sister. Normally, during an average year, I spend months with my sister. Our time spent together during this past year can be counted using days as a metric.

A few days ago, my mother and I planned to go visit my sister. For a single weekend. That’s a ten-hour drive there and back again.

And to make matters more difficult, work was a killer the week before we were set to go. It was a veritable hell week. I was working from 8 in the morning to 7 at night; I was glued to my laptop at practically all hours of the day. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the work.

But oofs, I was burning up.

The Friday before we were set to leave, I woke up especially early to get the final bits of my work completed before the weekend. I was running on about 5 hours of sleep.

As soon as I was done, my mother and I packed ourselves into a rental car and drove over to my sister’s.

When we got there, Alya had creamy tomato soup and bread pieces waiting for us. We ate it outside on her back patio, which is easily one of the best back patios I’ve ever had the privilege to relax in.

I also got to see Ushi again!

I have missed her so much! And not being able to see her as much during the pandemic has gutted me. She’s getting a bit up there in doggie years, and it feels like the pandemic stole my time with her too.

Plus, look at that face!

After eating soup, my sister and I sang some Beatles songs together just for the heck of it, and we stayed up past midnight talking and asking each other questions. It was easily one of the best nights of my life.

I had a bit of a troubled sleep later on though, since not only had I been drinking coffee during my convo with Alya, but the pillows in the guest room are squishier than I’m used to.

I woke up to Ushi and more coffee, which made me feel better.

That morning, my mother, my sister, her husband, and I decided to take Ushi to both PetSmart and Petco. We let her pick out toys she wanted, bought her a water bowl that she actually needed, and selected some choice bones for her monching pleasure.

We went back to Alya’s house, and we gorged on Hot Cheetos Puffs while watching Muppet Treasure Island. It’s a movie we used to watch all the time as kids, and it’s only gotten better over the years.

We ordered in Chinese food for dinner and stuffed ourselves some more. Then we went to bed.

I slept terribly once again, and before the sun was even up, my mom was brightly telling me it was time to go. (At this point, I think I’ve only slept 6 hours in total while at Alya’s house.)

And just like that we were gone.

But it was worth it.

It was an incredibly short visit, so much so that it reminded me and Alya of the long ones I used to make. It sharpened our need to hang out with each other, so we’re currently planning a lengthier trip. Alya already has the vaccine since she is a teacher, and I’m in a damn-the-consequences-I-want-to-be-with-my-sister kind of mood.

She’s the one person who knows me inside and out, and you should always want to spend time with people who get you like that.

I think I passed out for the whole day after I came back. But even with practically no sleep under my belt, I’d do it all again to be with Alya.

Finally, Some Sister Time

I’ve missed my sister immensely.

People don’t always understand how close I am to my sister. Alya and I have been each other’s best friends for my entire life, and there is no shaking that kind of connection.

We’re so close, we’ve laughed at the demonstrations of sisterly affection in Frozen. Elsa and Anna are nowhere near our levels of closeness, and both Alya and I know this for a fact. “I mean,” Alya has said, “I think I love you so much, I would not be able to stop hanging out with you even if I found out I had ice powers and it might get you hurt.”

This particular analogy got tested during the pandemic.

Suddenly, both Alya and I were faced with the very real possibility that hanging out with each other could hurt us.

We held out for a good solid five months. Then, after assessing the risk and deciding we wanted to see each other more than we worried about getting sick and potentially dying, we arranged for me to stay with her for a week.

Side note: Yeah, we were hysterically morbid, about the whole thing.

I’ve been quarantining far more than Alya, so she got tested right before I arrived. That didn’t stop us from being nervous on the car drive over to her house. We asked each other about how comfortable we were wearing masks, what we should expect in the next few days, and a few other precautions.

That’s when “Bohemian Rhapsody” came on the radio.

I mean…were we just supposed to not sing it?

We belted out the lyrics with gusto, spraying who knows how much spit into the car, and we finally relaxed.

When we got back to her house, we were just engrossed with each other. I swear, it was like Christmas. I woke up in my specially made-up guest room every day excited to hang out with Alya. I spent every waking moment of my visit with her.

We exercised on her elliptical together, listening to the ultimate bop-master, TheFatRat the entire time. We drank coffee in the mornings and hung out in her backyard while her adorable pupsters, Ushi, lay down on the sidewalk next to us. We watched The Lord of The Rings, the extended editions, through to completion, quoting it at every turn and, if it was evening, taking a drink every time Sam said “Mister Frodo.” We tried reenacting the dance number from the “Genghis Khan” music video, only to find to our dismay that they actually used professional dancers in it and we couldn’t faithfully replicate their moves. We ate inadvisable amounts of Hot Cheetos Puffs with white wine in the evening. We drank Sauvignon Blanc and spent a few minutes trying to say it in exaggerated French accents. We cuddled with Ushi and gave her a bath in the middle of the day. And (suckily) we attended to our respective work schedules, too.

Ushi and I are best buds. Clearly.

That single week was seriously one of the best of my life. The threat of potentially getting sick hung over my head for the first few days, but the opportunity of just spending time with my sister (in the house, never out and about, mind you) was obliteratingly positive. Unbeknownst to me, a knot of anxiety had slowly been building up inside of me while Alya and I were apart. But when we were together, it’s like she just pulled and poked the knot away.

Upon arriving back home, it felt like I was missing something.

We have made plans for the future, a joint birthday party to which no one is invited except us and Halloween dress-up plans to look like Merry and Pippin. I look forward to seeing her again.

At the time of this writing, I just got tested for COVID-19. It felt like the smart thing to do after returning home, and I’m currently waiting for my results. I feel fine. And honestly, the test wasn’t that bad. I think my unnaturally large nasal cavities (thanks to my grotesque schnozz) have given me the capacity to have giant Q-Tips stuck in them and twirled around for samples without much discomfort.

I think people should be careful when planning visits to their family and friends at this point, as the pandemic still looms over all our heads, but I have no leg to stand on when it comes to restricting travel. I had to see Alya. However, communication is key. Be open and honest with comfort levels and risk assessments.

And I sincerely hope that everyone gets the chance to feel as happy as I did that week.

5 Movies I’ve Had To Drag My Sister To See

My sister is a reluctant moviegoer.

She wasn’t always like this. Going to the theater with my father used to be a weekly thing when we were children. That all changed when we saw Dragon Wars.

If I’m being one hundred percent honest, it was my idea to go see Dragon Wars.

But come on! It looked like an epic fight between dragons in a city, Godzilla-style. I was and am very partial to big monster movies.

However, what we ended up watching was a massively disappointing film with terrible writing and acting that barely scratched the surface of what a monster movie could be. It was corny, cringe-worthy…in short, it was a bad-movie-night movie.

And my sister hated it.

Seriously, I got more enjoyment from watching her disgusted and disbelieving expression than I got from watching the movie itself.

But ever since then, Alya has distrusted my taste in movies. No matter how much I tell her that I’m aware they are bad movies and that I think they’re funny, she thinks I have terrible taste when it comes to film-watching.

This means that I frequently have to drag her to see movies with me. And while it does pain me to have to cajole my own sister to have a good time in a theater with me, it does come with its perks.

I get to witness my sister’s sudden reversal of opinion when I take her to a good movie. This has happened on more than one occasion, and it’s especially enjoyable the more my sister thinks the movie will be bad.

So for today, I thought I’d run you through the top five movies I had to force my sister to watch and that she ended up appreciating.

Let’s do this.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes

To be fair to my sister, she wasn’t entirely against watching Rise of the Planet of the Apes. We both had a fondness for the original Apes film with Charlton Heston, so there was precedent for her enjoying this type of genre.

It was a late night though, and my asking her to come with me was a spur of the moment decision. After a few oh-I-don’t-knows and are-you-sure-this-will-be-goods, the two of us went to see it.

The big crowd in the theater surprised the two of us, but what was even more surprising was how much we enjoyed the movie. It wasn’t just fun, it was good. The two of us shared shocked glances when Caesar first spoke, and we were riveted the entire time.

While my sister remembers this as that one time I convinced her to see a late-night movie she enjoyed, I remember it as a rejuvenation of my love for the Apes movies. I watched every subsequent film more than once in theaters, with the trilogy becoming some of my favorite movies.

District 9

Alya seriously thought that District 9 would be a dumb little sci-fi movie. Don’t blame her though. She had not paid a single ounce of attention to any of the trailers or marketing schemes for the film. So she went into this one blind.

I on the other hand had been watching this movie’s progress for a while, knowing it was the kind of science fiction I could really bite my teeth into.

The movie horrified us, but it also engaged us with its shocking portrayals of alien immigration and the connections it was unsubtly making to real-life comparisons.

Alya specifically remarked to me when we left the theater that she hadn’t expected to feel so much while watching this movie. I got a spring in my step after that comment, even though I myself had nothing to do with making the film.

All I had done was manage to convince my sister to take a break from homework to go watch it with me.

Watchmen

My sister thought I was a complete crazy person the day I saw Watchmen for the first time.

See, I had been a long-time fan of Alan Moore’s phenomenal graphic novel, so of course I’d take an immense interest in the film adaptation.

I was so interested in seeing the movie, I was willing to go see the midnight premiere for it even though the next day I had an exam to take in my AP World History class.

Side note: I had to fight my parents to see this movie. I basically promised them I would get an A.

I remember Alya, studying for a class of her own at night, watching open-mouthed as I left the house at 9 pm to go see the movie at midnight. And when I came back home at 3 in the morning and she had fallen asleep while studying at our dining table, her mouth fell open once more when I woke her up singing the movie’s praises.

Maybe that’s why she didn’t complain as much when I asked if she would see it with me one more time.

Afterwards, she expressed an interest in reading the comic book, and now the two of us can quote it at each other all day long.

Star Trek

Both my sister and I are huge Star Wars fans, but only I ever made the jump to Star Trek. My sister saw one episode of The Original Series (the one with the meatball monster) and thought it was stupid.

So I was asking a lot from her to go see the new Star Trek movie with me. She was groaning the whole time, from my pre-movie bathroom break to buying popcorn to sitting in our seats.

But then that opening sequence commenced, when Kirk’s dad saves everybody aboard the USS Kelvin in a suicide maneuver, and Alya’s eyes were glued to the screen. And when the opening title appeared on the screen with the Star Trek theme blaring in the background, she half-whispered, half-yelled, “Holy shit, that was so good!”

How To Train Your Dragon

If there is one thing my sister loathes more than any other kind of bad movie, it’s a bad kids movie. She is used to Pixar-quality kids movies, always has been, so when she watches some low-bar, DreamWorks Animation shit, with pop culture references up the wazoo, a vein pops in her temple.

So try to imagine her initial fury at my audacity in asking her to watch How To Train Your Dragon with me.

But, as those of you who have seen the movie should know, it’s not your typical DreamWorks fare. It does not strive to make itself relevant with popular trends; it just tells a sweet story about a boy and his dragon.

During the montage of Hiccup trying to train Toothless, Alya leaned over to me and said, “I want a Toothless!” with hints of a squeal in her voice.

And that was the start of never having to beg her to watch a How To Train Your Dragon movie with me again. Though she was less impressed with the sequels, she was invested in the characters enough to always give them a shot.

The Death of Travel Plans

For those of you who have stuck with me after all this time, you should know by now that I mainly talk about five things: books, movies, video games, my bird, and random stuff that pops into my head. However, if you’ve visited the homepage of my blog, you might have noticed there is a little-used “Travel” category there too.

See, when I started this stupid bloggy thing, I imagined I would have a few trips that I could write about from time to time. Small getaways with friends, vacations with families, and special gaming conventions would all become fodder for this blogging category.

Yeah, 2020 really put a lid on those ideas.

As with everyone else who is social distancing and “sheltering at home,” my travel plans went out the window with the rise of COVID-19.

Normally, I actually wouldn’t mind. For one thing, a decrease in travel content translates to an increase in movie/book/video game content for the blog. For another, I’m a homebody. I don’t go places for fun very often.

But this was going to be the summer my sister and I went on a big adventure.

We had made plans (as in bought plane tickets, booked hotel rooms, and everything) to go to New York, Ireland, and Iceland this summer. While I might not have a major travel bug, my sister does, and I’m her favorite traveling companion. We were going to paint the globe red with our antics.

So that’s basically not going to happen now.

It’s the smart and safe thing to do. Now is not the time to be meeting new people and touching countless surfaces on a quest. I told my sister as much when the first coronavirus whispers were starting.

But that doesn’t mean I can’t be let down by it, right?

Anybody who has had to stuff plans for this summer (and this coming fall too, I bet) down the drain knows this dismay, this pang that hits your gut when you have to make the executive decision to not do something you wanted to do. It sucks.

And there’s not really a bright side to the situation aside from not getting yourself and others sick.

It’s at this point in time that I’m going to turn to one of my all-time favorite coping mechanisms, and that’s screaming into the void.

This evening, I’m going to take a very long walk. I have open fields of dirt for miles not fifteen minutes from where I live. (I live in an agricultural town, if you must know.) After walking for so long that I’m dead tired, I’m going to stop in a place where no one is around. Then I’m going to yell at the sunset.

I’m not mad at the sunset or anything. But the sunset won’t call me a whiner with first-world problems as I vent my disappointment in one nice, long shout.

And then I’ll go home and patiently wait for the time when I can go traveling with my sister once again.

Soda Can Therapy

My sister, Alya, is one of the most beautiful persons I know. When I was younger, I seriously thought she was so gorgeous, she could be an actress if she wanted.

To this day, I’ll look at her, and it’ll blow my mind how pretty she is. Like, I know looks aren’t everything, but hot damn, my sister is breathtaking!

She has thick, wavy hair with a natural color of burnished gold. Her eyes can switch from a sea blue to a pale green to a steely grey depending on what angle you’re looking at her from (and on what color shirt she’s wearing). She exercises a lot, so she also has a fit physique, complete with trim calves and defined forearms.

Her personality is magnetizing, too.

She’s sprightly and vivacious. She boasts often because she seems to have a wellspring of confidence within her that never runs dry, but it’s always meant in good fun. One of the first dates she went on with her future husband is now a hilarious story, because she insisted she could play tennis extremely well, and when that wasn’t the case, good-natured humor ensued. Her attitude and active mind boost her good looks to the millionth degree.

But it wasn’t always this way.

My sister went through a bit of a “blossoming” phase when she was in high school. That’s when she became the person she is today.

In middle school, she was bullied terribly.

To this day, I don’t know why she was bullied. She was thin, wore glasses, and sported an unfortunate haircut, true. But she was genuinely a great kid. Smart, good-humored. But she was missing the self-confidence which she has now, and I guess that made her a target.

I’m sorry to say I wasn’t aware of her troubles then. I was making the transition to middle school as well, so I was more or less absorbed with what was going on with me. As far as I was concerned, Alya was just my knowledgeable big sister who I hung out with after school.

Alya later told me that she purposefully hid her trials from me. She didn’t want me to know that she was getting bullied. But she did admit there were times she cried before going to bed, dreading school the next day. She developed a habit of grinding her teeth in her sleep, as if she were clenching her entire body before having to dive back into the toxic atmosphere waiting for her.

There was only one time when Alya actually broke down about a situation going on at school. She and I were hanging out with our childhood friend, Mia. The three of us were each other’s closest friends, and nothing was more enjoyable than just kicking back at Mia’s grandparents house, giggling about books we had read and planning our next adventure pretending we were on Middle-Earth.

That day, we were just chugging a bunch of those mini root beers and having a burping contest.

Side note: Yes, we would have burping contests. No, we were not ashamed.

After the contest, Alya told Mia and I about this boy who had bothered her at school. I can’t for the life of me remember what the boy did. All I know was that it upset Alya almost to the point of tears. Not tears of sadness, but tears of frustration and anger.

For a while now, I had been eyeing this sledgehammer that Mia’s grandparents kept in a toolshed, and at that point I had the perfect idea. I suggested we all let off a little steam by using that sledgehammer to pound away our problems. The plentiful amount of root beer cans around us could serve as symbolic stand-ins for the objects of our ire.

Alya, Mia, and I then solemnly proceeded to heft the sledgehammer over our shoulders and then slam it down upon those teeny cans, crushing them flat. It’s a testament to how much soda we guzzled that we were able to do this more than a few times. We decided to give Alya the majority of cans to smash, but there was still enough to go around.

These days, I kind of question whether or not that was healthy for us to do. I mean, we were not shy about naming the situations or people that we were venting our pent-up rage against. Those cans were getting destroyed.

But we felt better afterwards. And that’s all there really is to it.

This soda can therapy in no way fixed Alya’s bullying problem. I can only hope that at least for that afternoon, this one moment helped her feel an ounce more in control of her situation.

Side note: I won the burping contest, I’m 90% sure. Mia and I were always the big contenders in these things. For the life of her, when Alya was young, she just could not burp. She would try, but nothing would come out.

The Story of My Parents

My mother came to the United States from Mexico. She and her family became naturalized citizens, and they settled in a small town nestled right next to the border. My mom’s father, my tata, worked in the fields for a living. The town is a farming community, and that was the work that was available. My mother was the first of five sisters to go to college.

My father was raised in a broken household in New Jersey. He spent some days with his mother, some with his father. Hunger was a frequent companion of his life. He wasn’t particularly close to his brother and his sister when he was young, but that is something he tries to rectify now. A tad directionless after high school, he joined the Navy.

After graduating from college, my mother became a kindergarten teacher at a local school. She has not left the place since she started, remaining a respected member of the faculty.

My father went through many experiences while in the Navy, most of which make for awesome stories, but he still jokes about how the Navy stands for “Never Again Volunteer Yourself.” After finishing his service, he decided to become a teacher. He learned Spanish, knowing that a bilingual teacher would be more desirable for schools to hire.

He got a job at my mother’s school.

When they first met, my mother thought my father was too proud. She offered to help him set up his classroom, an old-hand reaching out to a newbie, but he refused. My mother’s first impression of him was soured.

My father was completely oblivious of my mother’s dislike. He asked her out on a date.

They dated quietly for a while, until my father asked her to marry him. He also took that extra step to ask my tata for my mother’s hand. My father’s Spanish-speaking skills were perfect. He asked respectfully and quietly.

My father might not have realized this, but he was technically asking for my nana’s, my grandmother’s, permission instead of my tata’s. She ruled the household from behind the scenes. She sat next to my tata when my father asked, and she slapped his arm repeatedly, hissing, “Dile que sí!”

My parents got married.

My mother came from a large family, where family reunions included hundreds of people who all seem to know each other’s names. Everyone knows everyone’s business.

My father barely spoke to his own family.

My mother made it clear to my father as soon as they were married that she wanted children. A year after they were married, my older sister was born.

I came after, about a year-and-a-half later. Early on, my parents made it clear to the two of us that we were to be the most important person in the other’s life.

Of all the gifts my parents gave to me, this establishment of love between my sister and me is the greatest.

Not a day goes by where I do not hear an “I love you” from my parents. Despite wildly different upbringings, my parents came together with the understanding that they would create a nuclear family based on acceptance and love.

Friends You Can Rely On

Today, I wanted to make an appreciation post for two of my best friends.

Alya was basically born to be my best friend. Or maybe I was born to be hers. Either way, she’s my sister and my best friend. As many siblings might know, those terms can be mutually exclusive, and I am lucky that this is not the case with me and Alya.

Mia met me and Alya when she was entering Kindergarten, I was going into first grade, and Alya was going into third. We shared a bag of Skittles and played with wooden building blocks in my mom’s classroom. And that was it. We have been friends, the three of us, ever since.

We were never really into the same things that our classmates were into. All three of us liked to read, and we had a special obsession with The Lord of the Rings. We liked playing games of pretend, imagining we were on Middle-Earth slaying Orcs and trolls. (But never Balrogs. Since none of us were wizards, we would have been totally outclassed, even in our imaginations.)

Alya was (and still is) the leader of our games. She was the director of our adventures, the decider of our futures. To this day, Mia and I say we can’t make proper decisions without her. (Which kind of spells doom for our personal lives, but I think we’re fine with that.) When our games took a turn for the sci-fi, she was the Commander to my Navigator and Mia’s Engineer.

I have Alya to thank for helping me in all of my writing endeavors. She’s supported me in so many ways. Even more than I support myself. (Which, again, spells doom for my life if she ever decides to abandon me, but that would never happen.) She might have a terrible sense of direction, but she’s still the one who takes charge whenever she, Mia, and I get together.

One time, Alya decided we were going to pluck oranges from Mia’s grandmother’s orange tree. The ground was muddy, and our mother warned us that we were not to get dirty. She threatened us with never letting us see Mia again, which she would never have followed through with, but we were young. We believed our friendship was on the line.

Mia and I were reluctant, but Alya kept pointing out these super amazing oranges on the branches above us. These were like Tropicana-cover oranges. Just one more, Alya kept saying.

Alya had her eye on a perfect orange, but it was really high up. We couldn’t climb to it, and it was dangling right over a particularly muddy piece of ground. Alya said she was going to jump for it. Before she did, Mia tore off the slide from her plastic play-place and laid it over the mud just in case Alya fell.

Then Alya took the leap.

She hung in the air for one interminable second before the stem snapped off and she fell on the slide. Unfortunately, the slide slipped out from under her sneakers, and she landed smack on her bum in the middle of the mud. We spent the rest of our visit to Mia’s grandparents’ house learning how to use a washing machine.

Mia was (and is) the solid backbone of our group. She’s the level-headed one. When Alya comes up a crazy idea, Mia is the one who grounds it in practicality. She is the string to Alya’s kite. Mia is the strongest of us all, and also the kindest. Plus, she has an iron will and a delicious sense of justice.

One time, I had to do something humiliating for a group project in a college class. I won’t go into specifics because it really was embarrassing for me and out of my control. However, the humiliating task was typed up on a piece of paper, and Mia came up with the idea of burning it once the assignment was complete. It was a therapeutic notion, and we all thought it was a great idea.

But Mia went the extra mile. She actually placed the paper in a hollowed-out cinder block, in order to keep the fire from spreading anywhere else, lit the paper with some matches, and then declared she was going to salt what was left when the flames died down.

We looked at her confused for a moment, and then we laughed at the realization that she was talking about the ancient practice of salting the earth of conquered lands so nothing would ever grow there. Mia was symbolically planning to curse the assignment into oblivion.

So when the paper was just ashes, Mia stepped inside, then came out with a salt grinder and ground some cooking salt over the gray remains.

It was hilarious and put a fun spin on something that otherwise would have been a stain on my memory.

I don’t make new friends these days. I don’t really leave my place of residence to go out to places of socialization. Why would I when I have books, video games, and myself to keep me company?

That sounds like a pity statement, but IT’S NOT. (Capitalized letters to emphasize my seriousness.)

I don’t need a lot of people in my life to feel happy. I feel happy with the ones I have. And if I happen to stumble along some others by chance, then that’s great, too.

So here’s to my two best friends in the whole wide world. No matter where we go, when we see each other next, or what we do, I know I can rely on the two of you for all the years to come.

Of Couch Boats and Coffee Mugs

In a day, I’m going to go spend a few weeks with my sister.

Since I work from home, it’s fairly easy to travel to my sister’s place and stay over for extensive amounts of time. All I need to work is my laptop, a solid internet connection, the use of my hands, and my brain. The only real hassle in visiting Alya is the long drive.

I have found myself reminiscing about all the time she and I used to spend together.

We are/were each other’s best friend. We never really spent time apart from each other until she got married. This was due to the fact that we lived together, shared a bedroom, and couldn’t understand other people nearly as much as we understood each other.

As kids, we didn’t get out much. You know that ’80s nostalgia that’s been going around, with movies and TV shows about kids who leave their backyards to have wild adventures with aliens and other dimensions?

That was never me and Alya.

Our parents are of the “helicopter” generation of parents. Well, mostly my mother. We were never allowed to go out by ourselves when we were young. And since we lived twenty miles away from our school and most of our friends, we couldn’t easily walk over to hang out with classmates anyways.

So we made do with each other.

Our favorite thing to do was pretend we were other people. Cool people, not boring people. We would pretend we were in Middle-Earth slaying Uruk-Hai or that we were in Jurassic Park and a T. Rex was trying to eat us. One time, we pretended we were monkeys and we climbed our next-door neighbor’s tree. The looks they gave us made us never do that again. They weren’t mad. But they looked at us as if we were crazy.

On quieter days, Alya and I would do “Couch Boat.”

For those of you who don’t know what Couch Boat is, it’s when you pretend that your living room couch is an island in a vast ocean, an isolated spot you can only leave with great difficulty. Alya and I would gather up our most entertaining belongings (stuffed animals, blankets, action figures, books, markers) and climb aboard the Couch Boat.

And then we’d just stay there.

Sometimes we’d put on a movie in the background, but for the most part, we’d just float along alone together.

As I’m writing this down, it makes us sound incredibly unhealthy. We did run around in our childhood, okay? We got exercise. We were not just sedentary couch potatoes.

But on a Saturday morning, sometimes there was nothing better to do than good old Couch Boat.

Our Couch Boat these days has evolved. We bring tablets, lesson plans, notebooks, and coffee to the couch now. We do work together separately. But sometimes we’ll put on a movie we’ve seen a million times in the background. And we still pretend we can’t leave the Couch Boat. Well, we don’t actively pretend.

It just goes without saying.

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How Do You Do That?! (Amazing Art from My Sister)

My sister is one of the most talented persons I know, and I’m not just saying that because she’s my sister.

Okay, maybe I’m kind of biased, but seriously, her talent speaks for itself!

Alya's blue tiger

From a young age, Alya showed an extraordinary knack for creating things. She excelled at all things arts and crafts. (Don’t listen to her if she starts saying she’s not that good. She’s lying. She is.) Her childhood doodles did not just deserve to be stuck to the refrigerator door; they deserved to be framed. And she drew so effortlessly. She made it look like nothing to churn out masterpiece after masterpiece.

Alya's Ray Charles

And her skills only increased with age. Her work is jaw-dropping. As I’m picking my own jaw up from the floor, I feel like I have to apologize for this post. My paltry words are doing her art a disservice by merely attempting to describe them.

Alya's pointilism peacock

I’ll admit to feeling jealous of her when I was younger. Where I struggled to draw a straight line or a perfect circle, she sketched anthropomorphic cartoon animals as if it were nothing.

Alya's Evangeline

I’ve more or less grown up at this point (I hope), so I can appreciate her talents without necessarily belittling mine now. However, she is undeniably an artist of the highest caliber.

Side note: And by artist, I don’t mean one of those Abstract Expressionism kind of artists who paint a canvas white and THAT’S IT.

So here’s to my sister, an Above Average artist!