A years-long struggle to get the children to turn right-side-out their pant legs before putting them in the wash has come to a close, with their father's admission he's been coaching kids to pull pants inside-out because "it's better for the pants." By all means, Krinkeland, consider what's best for the pants.
Three years ago this day, anything that could happen did. During a snow-and-ice storm, two kids had out-of-town Knowledge Bowl meets at different schools. Grandpa P. and I went to watch. (Grandma R. was there, too, naturally... but this story takes some crazy turns in the direction of my wacky family, so we'll leave her alone for now.) Grandma P. went to my sister's house, to care for children as the oldest was hospitalized with a nasty infection. Then, my SIL Kristin went into labor! Uncle Todd pulled out of an important business dinner-- must have been a family emergency for that hard-working man to actually, suddenly leave work-- to take care of one set of littles, while Grandma went to the others. We dashed out of the meet, but an excited Grandpa put his truck in the ditch. Late in the evening, once all households were somewhat settled, I drove to the hospital to sit at the bedside my oldest nephew. At the same time, at the hospital right next door, the my youngest nephew was making his debut! What a birthday story for the adorable Theo! Here's what I wrote about the events at the time. Three years later, all's well that ends well, and everyone is able to laugh about that crazy day. Well, everyone except my brother, that is. I'm pretty sure he's still ticked. Ted: "I warned you guys! I told you everyone could not leave town-- it was Kristin's due date!" Me: "Yeah, yeah, we know... but who actually delivers a baby exactly on the due date?!" Ted: "My wife. Twice."
Benjamin is having a friend spend the night to celebrate the end of the first quarter of school. Just kidding, I don’t know why there’s a sleepover, except that there’s no school tomorrow and I’m a sucker. He was up bright and early, preparing and scheming (but, of course, not actually picking up or cleaning anything.)
Ben: “Mom, can I ask you something— two somethings, actually— about tonight? Even though I️ know you’re probably going to say, ‘NO.’”
Mom: “Probably. But, sure.”
B: “Can we please sleep in the den?”
M: “I don’t care.”
M: “Sure. The only thing is, you can’t play video games all night. Regular, weekend rules apply.”
B: “And, Mom, the other thing— can we have milkshakes and popcorn for a snack?”
M: “Like, you want me to get out the blender and make shakes and pop popcorn?”
I’m still trying to figure out what I’m missing that would make those improbable requests... but I’m trying to remain optimistic and thankful. If only they were all that easy to please all the time.
I apologize I’ve been doing most of my writing elsewhere... but I have a lot of blog posts bouncing around my mind... Meantime, it’s Halloween! Todd is gone for work... Elisabeth spent the evening with a friend... Amanda dressed up (goes with her work at The Costume Shoppe) to hand out candy (15 humans and 1 canine this year)... Benjamin was a Care Bear and Madeline was Cleopatra. The kids trick-or-treated with friends, and the grandparents came by to partake of the spectacle. I ate too much candy and now I’m going to bed. Happy Halloween, everyone!
I'm not sure how it happened, as I never am in these situations, but somehow in the car the kids started talking about seizures. What is a seizure, what causes a seizure, what to do or not do when you see someone having a seizure...
B: "What is a seizure, anyway?"
A: "Well, it's something that happens in your brain... I don't really know how to describe it..." B: "Oh, is that when your body goes all rigid?"
A: "Well, it can be, but..."
M: "You guys! A seizure is when they cut you open straight up to your guts!"
(long, silent pause)
B: "NO, MADDY! THAT'S A C-SECTION!"
M: "Well, I never had a c-section, either. I've never been cut into. I've never even been put to sleep."
B: "Right. But, also, c-sections are only for mommies to have babies."
M: "Well, I know I wasn't born that way, either, because Daddy's hand slipped when he was making my birth video, and I've seen it all!"
Here's an issue about which I haven't blogged, but about which I should, because we all need to become aware and active: Today is World Mental Health Day. It seems to me a HUGE disconnect that today's society is by and large so open, so accepting on so many extremely personal topics, but mental health still seems shrouded in some kind of taboo. We must guard, keep watch, and treat our minds the same way we do our hearts and our souls and, of course, our physical bodies.
In the past six months, two families known and loved in Krinkeland have lost beloved teenage sons to suicide. We have a sweet young friend who is wrestling with anxiety and self-doubt and has developed trichotillomania. Just today, to honor the day, another young woman we know and admire took to social media to share her battles with an eating disorder. I have multiple friends who, whenever I ask about their teenagers, reply, "I'm just trying to keep him alive."
One of my favorite bloggers is a fantastic writer who is also very open about her ongoing battle with depression. Sometimes, her work is hilarious. Often times, it's dark and scary and I don't understand it. Yet, I try to understand it. I stay with her in the dark and await her announcement of return to light. I pray the cycle continues, because it is far preferable to the alternative.
There is a well-known musical about mental illness called "Next to Normal." It is so scary and powerful. The last time the production toured and came to our area, some friends had seen it and recommended it to Todd and me. We saw it and were changed. Still, when our friends said they loved it so much they were getting tickets to see it again, we worried. "Next to Normal" did not feel like fun entertainment. It felt like a trial. You can decide for yourself, if you choose to watch it here.
Depression, anxiety, rage, focus issues, impulse control... there are as many mental health conditions as there are people who struggle with them. We all need to be aware, be sympathetic and share the struggle. Do not turn a blind eye. This does not go away. Of the examples I gave above, all are intelligent, resourceful, and come from two-parent families of means. They are male and female, of various races and ethnic backgrounds, at different stages of development, education and careers. There is no way you could classify people that would make some group immune to mental health challenges.
We cannot be so jaded. I am guilty of having immediate judgmental thoughts when a friend casually mentioned that both she and her husband take antidepressants. "Am I the only person in this group who is not medicated?" I thought. But if I am, maybe it is only for now. But if I am, definitely I should be grateful. But since I am, that should make me even more obligated and available to offer an ear, to lend a hand, to be a true friend.
Our darling 15-year-old got braces today. She is not happy about it; neither is our bank account. But it is what it is, and we must remind ourselves things could be much worse. We have a reasonable and cautious family dentist who held onto his wait-and-see approach until after she lost all her baby teeth. Months out from that point, it appeared the overbite and bottom-crowding would not correct itself. So, we juggled a bit to decide how to have the least impact on Amanda's role in the school musical, as well as how to hopefully avoid having braces on for other major, upcoming events, such as senior pictures-- YIKES! Amanda's mouth is some new kind of sore, but isn't she all kinds of adorable?!
Today is my father-in-law Harlan's birthday. He would have been 64 years old. We celebrated in Krinkeland by taking in Todd for double hernia surgery. He has needed the operation for months now, after injuring himself in the spring doing heavy dead lifts at the gym. There just wasn't a "convenient" time to have surgery-- is there ever?-- and so Todd was just marching on tolerating the pain and shoving his guts back in whenever necessary. We have dubbed this year "The Summer That Wasn't" because of all the things we did not due, many because of Todd being out of commission.
He was dreading surgery because he is an awful patient, and I was dreading it because I am a terrible nurse. That said, things are going pretty well so far this night. The painkillers make his brain loopy but his pain tolerable. The kids are fascinated to see Dad laid up. They're also more anxious and out-of-sorts than usual, but I didn't really expect them to be helpful. My parents swooped in to be parents today, so I could be at the bedside. Todd has had many well-wishers check in. I think we're both just hoping for a little sleep.
We have, of course, been remembering Harlan especially this day, too. Todd had his hernia surgery where Harlan had his cancer surgeries. Todd's general surgeon even assisted Harlan's surgeon on his major operation. The kids and I took some time this evening while Todd was resting to make apple crisp and sing to Grandpa. He lives in us.
There just hasn't been time to even catch my breath (or catch up on laundry) much less to be writing on the blog these days. In this whirlwind, while Todd and Madeline were performing in their second weekend of SOAR Regional Arts's "Annie," Amanda, a sophomore, attended her high school Homecoming dance. Here are some photos of Amanda (navy, lace dress) and her friends from the upcoming high school musical cast. After the dance, a large group of them went out to dinner and then an upperclassman friend drove Amanda home. I gave permission and then worried every second. Growing up is hard for me. Love my big girl!
We've finished the first weekend of performances for "Annie," with SOAR Regionals Arts, the community theater my sister and BIL founded in their neighboring town. "Annie" is one of my favorite musicals, so it didn't take too much persuading when Madeline said she wanted to audition. I did have my reservations: Rehearsals went every night until 9:30 and then performances began during the second week of the new school year. Aaand, she has been a zombie, but Maddy is also having a man awesome time, making new friends and learning so much. I love watching her perform, and just sit in the back of the theater and grin. She did it all without any stage-momming from me!
Madeline plays "Kate," one of the littler orphans and a friend of Annie's. She has a handful of lines, mostly to torture Miss Hannigan, as well as some featured singing parts. Then, there's the added perk of being on stage with Dad. He plays FDR, Bert Healy, and others. So fun!
We have another weekend to go, but tonight I am grateful for a matinee show time and on-time bedtime. We're so proud of our little starlet and this opportunity for her to shine!
Maddy and Daddy after the show
Alexa (Molly) and Maddy (Kate) who became fast friends and head mischief-makers
Today is Todd's birthday. Of course, it is a busy, busy week, but we tried to squeeze out a few minutes to make sure the birthday boy felt special. It was a lovely day, filled with laughs. This morning, the kids were signing a card for their dad, and cracking the classic jokes like "Happy 60th Birthday." Madeline giggled along, but seemed like she wasn't really getting it...
Mom: "Wait-- Madeline, how old do you think Dad actually is?"
Maddy: (shrugs) "57?"
Mom: (chuckles) "No, no, Dad is not quite that old yet."
Maddy: (muttering loudly enough for me to hear) "Whatever. Well, I know for certain you guys are way the oldest parents of anyone in my class."
Ben: (trying to be reassuring) "No, no, that's not true... you are at least the second or third oldest parents out of all my friends."
Today marks the 50th anniversary of the death of the grandfather I never met. I know this because my dad told me, and maybe it is on the minds of others as well, but I did not have the opportunity to know my grandpa. I believe I will know him when I am one day welcomed into glory, and I know he is well. Each life, however long, after it ends, continues sharing lessons with those still here.
What I am about to tell you about Grandpa Paukert is what was told to me. I may not get it right, because all I have are stories. There is no photo of him, smiling, with me on his knee. He never saw me on stage or danced at my wedding. Yet, the love is there, and it has molded all of us into who we are, into what Grandpa Paukert's legacy is.
Grandpa Paukert was a small-town family man, a leader in his Catholic church and in his southern Minnesota community. He wanted to be a farmer, but asthma and allergies forced him into town and another line of work. He and Grandma had eight children, and miscarried additional babies. Grandpa was always lending a helping hand, always looking for an adventure, and always brokering a deal. One day, while on the job for the power company, he lost his life in an auto wreck. He was in his mid-forties, with his oldest children barely grown and the youngest just three years old at home.
I remember my dad, Grandpa's third child, when in his forties going through a bit of a crisis as he became older than his father had ever been. My dad now has a dozen grandchildren, has retired from a successful career, lives in a paid-off home, has vacationed across Europe and the Caribbean, and has lived so much more than his own father did on this Earth. It gives one pause, especially one granddaughter now rapidly approaching her mid-forties.
We know love never dies. Here are photos of all of Grandpa Paukert's children and their spouses, along with a random collection of grandchildren and spouses, at a recent wedding of one of the younger grandchildren. Wouldn't he be proud?
People love to spout out those platitudes, the cliches, truisms on life:
Live each day as if it's your last.
When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.
There's no time like the present.
Don't let the sun go down on your anger.
Always be the first to say, "I'm sorry."
Never forget to kiss me goodnight.
Live, laugh, love.
Here's why people keep saying those things: They're true. Life really is as short as you think it is. None of us does know how many days we have. Bad things really do happen and they really are hard. So, what to do about it? Be like Grandpa Paukert. Be who I am told Grandpa Paukert was. Do what you know to be right at every turn and let the rest take care of itself. Have peace in your soul.
I wish I had been lucky enough to know my Grandpa Paukert. Because of all these loving and beloved descendants, I know he was a blessed man. May memory continue to be a blessing to us all.
I am a never-stay-at-home mom to four children and a dog, and a wife to one always-comes-home-late husband. We are living our dream on a lake. Before all these other people showed up in my house, I was a journalist, producing local television news. Now, I'm a freelance writer (for hire!) and a totally scaled CrossFitter. I shop too much, worry about my kids too much, and drink too much iced coffee. I am a Catholic, trying to model Christian living, and failing every day. I am an opinionated cuss, but I am the most loyal friend. I am praying for you, and I sure hope you're praying for me, because I really need it!
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