Sunday, September 24, 2017

Homecoming 2017

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!

Sunday, September 17, 2017


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

Friday, September 15, 2017

The Age of Daddy

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."

Happy birthday, Old Dad!

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Grandpa's Anniversary

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.


She tossed the envelope on the dresser before muttering, "Ugh, I look like I just woke up," and walking away.  I walked over and picked up the school photo packet.  She's beautiful.  And that's not just something I say because I'm her mother.  Her smile is wide and genuine, her hair looks so shiny, and it was a sweet wardrobe choice.  She is so beautiful.

In contrast, there's this:

I pulled from an old album this snapshot of me (right) and my best friend on the first day of junior high, and I keep it handy to boost my daughters' self-images.  I remember the school-clothes shopping trip and keeping the tennis shoes white, white, white for the start of the year.  I chose that outfit so carefully.  I wore the shirt again for my school photo that year.

This picture is always good for a laugh.  But the image thing-- it's not funny.  I don't have any sage advice or sure-fire quick fixes, but I do think it's something we need to discuss and keep discussing.  Our children's minds, hearts, and souls depend on it.

Amongst the Krinkeland offspring are a daughter in high school and the above-pictured daughter in middle school.  Some of their friends are starting to get interested in boys and even to date.  They have also transitioned from parochial school uniforms to having more options in what they wear and how they look, because things like makeup and jewelry are allowed by public school dress codes.  As you can imagine, this leads to many discussions, usually initiated by me, but not completely shut out by the girls.  I tell my daughters, "Not that I recommend this, because I DON'T-- but I always had a boyfriend, someone interested in me, someone I was dating.  It wasn't because I was pretty; it was because I was fun."  What I mean is, I would do the silly thing and not worry about what other girls would say.  I wasn't worried about messing up my hair riding in a convertible or on a motorcycle.  I wasn't high-maintenance about my appearance.  I liked to go places and get dirty and just have fun with the guys.  If my husband is reading this right now (and he's not,) he's asking, "What happened to the fun?"  That, my friends, is a topic for another post.

I never got much into makeup.  I really think that's just a lifestyle thing more than anything else.  I am not opposed to cosmetics and I certainly encounter many women who look beautiful wearing makeup.  It's just that my mom never wore makeup, so I didn't grow up seeing that as the standard.  Then, I got involved in theater and lots of makeup was required to make features stand out under the bright lights.  I really hated wearing all that makeup, how it felt, how I worried about scratching it off or rubbing it off, how much work it was to scrub my face before going to bed and again when I got up in the morning.  Once, when my husband I were dating and preparing to marry, I asked him if it bothered him that I didn't wear makeup.  He kind of shrugged and said, "I mean, I'm not opposed to a little bit of makeup, but I think most women wear too much.  I want to see the same person in the morning as I saw the night before."  So far, the trend has continued here in Krinkeland.  The two older girls have lots of makeup for theatrical purposes, but rarely wear any on a regular basis.  

Yet, we have these image issues.  Why do girls feel so negatively about themselves?  How can we fix it?

There was a time in my young life when I did a lot of babysitting.  Mostly these were the years BB (Before Boys) but, I confess, sometimes the babysitting work carried over DB (During Boys.)  Mom, I never invited a boy over anywhere while I was babysitting.  I swear.  We didn't even have cell phones or email or any way to do that back then.  Once in a while, though, I must have let something slip, because, there I'd be, casually encouraged six or eight little urchins to go play in traffic when a boy's car would pull up to the curb.  He'd get out and chat, but, I promise, we were not headed inside to make out on the couch while the little loves ate dirt.  For real, that one guy had all the older sisters and was already an uncle many times over by the time we got to hanging out, so he was actually helpful with the kids.  Not that any of this matters, anymore... It's 30 years under the bridge and everyone survived.

Back on topic:  One of the families for which I babysat frequently was an interesting cast of characters.  There was a mom and a dad and a little boy and a baby girl.  They later added another baby girl and had also lost a little girl to a heart condition, though this was some time before my arrival.  For a few years, I spent a lot of time with this family.  I taught the little boy to swim in their backyard pool.  I took the kids trick-or-treating on Halloween.  I even went along on a family vacation, with somewhat disastrous results because who in their right mind thinks a 12-year-old is ready to be in charge of youngsters in a foreign environment for a week?!  Anyway, we established history.  The family eventually moved out of our neighborhood, and then the parents split up.  At some point, they no longer needed a sitter, and then I didn't hear from them again for years.

Then, one summer day when I was home from college, alone at my parents' home, the doorbell rang.  There stood the father and the once-little boy upon whom I had doted and for whom I had cared.  The dad explained he and his son were visiting the old neighborhood and reminiscing and had stopped just to see if they might catch me.  As I invited them in, the father exclaimed, "Wow!  You really grew up!'  He didn't sound lecherous, just genuinely surprised.  When I looked at him quizzically, the man stammered and then made it much, much worse.  "I just mean-- you had those braces for your awful overbite, and you wore glasses at the same time.  Your hair was so short.  I drove you home from our house all those nights and it was always awkward in the car.  I could tell you just didn't feel comfortable in your own skin.  And, now, you're a young woman!"  There was no going back from that speech, and we shared a few more "pleasantries" before their quick departure.

After the guys left, I thought to myself, Wow, was it really that bad?  I mean, of course, it was... You can see the photographic evidence above... But I actually think I grew into having a pretty healthy self-image.  I know I could be taller and thinner and have better hair, but I accept myself.  I'm good with me.  Yet, I'm not sure why, especially when society sends so many awful messages, and I'm not at all sure how to get my girls to be good with themselves.

This song popped up on a recent playlist and it says it all.  "Take it from me that you have to see it first."  I pray they see it first.  They are so beautiful.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Happy Birthday, Dear Elisabeth

Our treasured Elisabeth Connie is 14 years old today! We have already been celebrating for a week or more, and I suspect the good times are not over yet! Elisabeth is a beautiful, brilliant girl, and there are many special things I could share. On this, her fourteenth birthday, I will tell you 14 interesting things about Libby:

1. She is on the school swim team-- first meet of the season tomorrow-- but only likes the breaststroke.
2. Elisabeth's favorite drink is a Starbucks strawberry acai refresher.
3. She has a tight bond with cousin Kazmer and counts him among her closest friends.
4. While she rarely watches television or movies, she occasionally uses an old sitcom or internet series episode like "Psyched" to unwind.
5. She is enrolled in a gifted program at school, but really does not care for English.
6. Libby is passionate about CrossFit and works out on the regular.
7. She loves opportunities to be part of a social group but most of the time is more comfortable with just one or two friends.
8. Libby's favorite splurge is a fresh, raised, glazed twist roll from Moon Donuts.
9. She is thinking of pursuing some kind of medical career.
10. Libby sometimes begs for her "own" dog because she doesn't think Jones loves her (but he does.)
11. While quite a healthy eater, she really doesn't like vegetables.
12. Elisabeth is also not a huge fan of reading novels, but makes it more fun by reading in her hammock.
13. Libby wants to one day live in New York City.
14. She is extra-adoring to all who show her love.

Happy, happy birthday to this girl I adore! Thanks for being my daughter.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

First Day Funnies

Today was the first day of school. That means it was also the beginning of the second year of Krinkeland enrolees in three different school buildings, thus further contributing to my insanity. As we do in most chaotic and/or new situations, we found plenty to laugh about today.

Todd: (writhing in pain due to a thus-far un-surgically-repaired hernia)
Andrea: "Well, is tonight the night we finally go to the hospital?"
Todd: "We're not having a baby."

Maddy: (missing her best friend, who transferred to another school)
Mom: "So, did you find a new girl friend to play with today, or did you stick to the boys like you planned?"
Maddy: "Boys."
Mom: "Which boys did you play with?"
Maddy: "Grant B., Brandon and Cash."
Mom: "Oh, those are nice boys."
Maddy: "Well, they're the naughty ones-- but I gotta stick to my own kind."

Amanda: "Libby, do you want this little white board to hang in your locker?"
Elisabeth: "Nah, I don't need it."
Amanda: "Well, then, I'll keep it."
Elisabeth: "You're going to hang it inside your locker?"
Amanda: "Nah, I'm going to hang it on the outside and encourage others to leave me notes of affirmation throughout the school day."
Amanda: "I'm just kidding! That board would fill up with drawings of penises."

Todd rolled out of bed and insisted on filming at the bus stop (times three) in his jammies. Poor, poor Krinkeland babies. Watch the funny, sweet product here:

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Photos of the Fam

We recently had family photos taken at my parents' place on the lake, because it had been a couple years since we had done so, and because we adults apparently like torture.  All is well that ends well... no one bled, and nephew Theo did get his M&Ms, after all.  This fam-- it's a big, big love!

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Pigpen Among Us

I love my son, but he is a hog.

One of biggest battles we face is getting him to have a bit of respect for his home and his possessions, and to follow the rules of Krinkeland accordingly.  Out of all the children, he is the only one who seems unable to keep food in the kitchen, throw away wrappers, and return dirty dishes to the dishwasher.  He's also not real keen on whether his clothes are clean and weather- and situation-appropriate... his face is perpetually dirty... and he howls over fingernail trimming.

With all this as background, I should not have been surprised by what I found while "helping" (translation: doing most of the cleaning and bossing while Benjamin did most of the avoiding and ignoring) Ben clean out his room.  Our day-to-day cleaning involves making the bed, putting dirty clothes in the laundry, and removing and dumping the half-empty sports drink bottles from the bedside table.  And, sometimes, that doesn't get done at all. 

Yet, when I order ACTUAL CLEANING, we review that this means: bedding changed and bed made; everything put away in its proper place; closet and dresser organized; nothing crammed under the bed, behind the chair or onto the bookcase.  I realized this time that the last time I required a clean room I must have been lax in my inspection.  This time, I wandered into Benjamin's walk-in closet and noticed two stacks of boxes, wondering what was inside them.  My wonder turned to horror as I realized: Instead of really cleaning his bedroom a month ago, Ben had gone down to the basement, dragged up a stack of Rubbermaid storage totes and lids, filled them, and piled them in his closet.

There were six, large, lidded, plastic boxes containing all matter of mess.  Clean clothes were wadded up with dirty clothing, snack wrappers, half-used toiletries, batteries, Legos, dirty silverware, birthday cards, fidget spinner bearings, lost baby teeth, and more.  All these treasures were just haphazardly thrown into boxes, covered and left.

I wanted to strangle my son.

After breathing deeply, and counting to 10, and saying a novena begging for intercession from St. Pigpen, I removed each box, took off the lid, and dumped the contents onto Benjamin's freshly made bed.  I told him he could come out when all the items were sorted and put away properly.  It took a number of attempts over a matter of hours, but, the room is again clean-- for now.

We found at least three tape measures in Benjamin's room-- like father, like son.

The next time this boy tells me he needs deodorant, I will be doubtful.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

New Computer, New Requests

I have a new computer and this is my first time typing on it.  I guess this is a big deal and something that should thrill me greatly, because it's the newest, latest, greatest and it is supposedly all mine, mine, mine, because the camera in the computer uses facial recognition and so none but this ol' mug can use it.  But I find technology uninteresting, tedious, and challenging.  Eventually, I will love it, but right now the keyboard just feels wrong... and don't get me started on the mouse!

I am going to use the laptop's inaugural post to ask you to pray.  There are lots of requests coming down the Krinkeland pipeline, and PRAYER WORKS.

For Bryce, 21, recently diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia
For Anna Maria, recently diagnosed with
For Mary, with metastatic breast cancer
For Eddie, awaiting his new heart
For Jaxson, with B-cell ALL
For my mom, being treated for cellulitis in her face
For answers for Johnny
For Beth, dealing with complications of diabetes
For Father Meyers and family, upon the death of mother Michele
For H., with ongoing health concerns
For E., S. and all expectant mothers and their precious unborn babies
For the safety and success of Benjamin's inaugural tackle football season, as well as that of Solomon and Oliver
For those struggling to make difficult decisions
For all children preparing for a new school year
For respite foster families to emerge and fill a desperate need
For many private, special intentions
In thanksgiving for Chris, as he celebrates 15 years post-bone marrow transplant to cure his multiple myeloma
In thanksgiving for the birth of Desmond, Chris and Kim's second grandchild and first grandson
In thanksgiving for Madeline's vision improvement
In thanksgiving for Lucia learning to ride a bicycle!

In this time, I pray for our nation, violently divided along racial prejudices.  I do not understand it.  I witness others' pain.  I will not tolerate it.  When the news headlines scream about another police-involved shooting, attack on an innocent, race rally, I pray... and seek answers... and work against injustice.  All the while, this song plays in my head.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017


Your eyes do not deceive you-- the Krinkeland boy is playing football! This move came after extensive requests and repeated discussions. OK, he begged.

I did not want my boy to play football. Whenever he brought it up, I would say, "Buddy, I just like your brain too much." The past couple years, that would be the end of the discussion. This year, Benjamin would not let it go. He surveyed his parents, his grandparents, his pediatrician, his phy. ed. teacher. He kept circling back to me. 

I asked the other mothers whose kids play football and who do not present as brain-damaged. Finally, I conceded and registered my son for Junior Bison Football. I did it for one reason: so Ben would never claim I limited him. When I told Benjamin he was signed up to play football, he said, "Wow! I did NOT see that coming!"

That decision felt pretty good, for a while. We got him fitted with an excellent helmet and mouth guard. He started talking things up with his buddies. We went to the equipment sign-out and we learned about shoulder pads. I fielded a welcome call from an absolutely wonderful coach and a text from the wife of another amazing man from our church and school who would also be coaching. 

Leading up to today's first practice, last night I did not sleep. I woke in the middle of the night and tossed and turned about the boy getting slaughtered on the field. My perfect, brilliant, handsome, small, flexible, big-headed, heart-conditioned, slow-running, football-loving boy. It dawned on me that we had neglected to pick up that important piece of protection for his niblets. I fretted for two hours before taking my burden to the Lord and leaving it there. I drifted off again just minutes before my alarm went off.

We made a run to the store today for the cup and special shorts. Then, I did what any crafty and terrified mother would do-- I called Grandpa and asked him to bring Benjamin to football practice.

There's our number 15 taking a knee in his first team huddle. Afterward, Ben was wiped out. How was football practice? "Well, I'm not gonna be a wide receiver because I can't block, and I'm not gonna be a quarterback because I can't catch.  And I'm not gonna be a safety because I can't run fast. So, I'm not sure what position I'm gonna play." I asked, "OK, but did you like football?" He said, "Oh, yeah, I love it."

One thing is for sure: Ben is so, so tired. He went to bed early and easily. You don't think he has a concussion, do you?

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Singing in the Church

Amanda and Elisabeth sang in their first voice recital this past weekend. If that didn't bring back memories! The girls have a very nice teacher who is instructing them on proper technique... and, as has become custom, I am pretty surreal they had the biggest cheering section, too.

Who Has Seen the Wind-- Elisabeth

The Salley Gardens-- Amanda

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Big, Busy Times

We've had some big, big days here in Krinkeland. Each of these events could easily warrant individual posts, but it's a lot to process, for me, anyway. Right now, for posterity:

Amanda got her driver's permit and her letter jacket, on the same day! We are taking it slow and easy behind the wheel, but, so far, I would describe her as cautiously enthusiastic. I find it difficult to believe we are already at this place in Krinkeland!

After much discussion and negotiation, Benjamin got a haircut. He admitted "letting it grow" was getting really HOT, and he and his stylists discussed styles, settling on this, which makes Ben look like the cool, older boy who lives next door. 

We also got Benjamin signed up to play tackle football. There is much more to say on this topic, but, for now, I think we should just pray.

My parents, siblings and spouses went to see Gua during a weekend wedding trip. She was delightfully nutty as always, and hanging in there.

The wedding was my cousin Drew's and his bride Kameryn's. It was a beautiful day for a wedding.

Saturday was also the anniversary of my birth, as well as-- some decades later-- the birth of my cousin Tessa. The wedding reception was a great time to celebrate the date for everyone!

It also brought my dad and his seven siblings to the same place, which doesn't often happen. These are great people with huge hearts!

Meanwhile, back at home the big girls were closing their run of "Mary Poppins." Elisabeth was on stage and Amanda was backstage. This week, Madeline begins rehearsals for another musical. Never a quiet moment for these drama queens!

And we capped off the weekend with extended family photos at my parents' house. Now, that was interesting and entertaining!

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Play in the Park

In today's edition of Krinkeland Musical Theater, we took in "Curious George and the Golden Meatball," a singular performance of a teen-produced, teen-created and teen-acted musical for children. Broadway in the Park was great fun, and a great success considering the size of the crowd and the fact that incoming bad weather held off. Nephew Kazmer played The Man in the Yellow Hat and Amanda his friend Nettie. You can hear most of their duet here.

So, it's not exactly a new concept, but it's an awesome one, right? Bring entertaining, age-appropriate art to a new audience, in a setting in which they are already familiar and comfortable. Everyone wins!

Madeline won-- the pre-show costume contest, and then I lost my view.