Tuesday, September 4, 2018

New School Year, Day One

Yes, it's here-- today is the first day of school!  Madeline is in fourth grade at our parochial school; Benjamin started in a new school with sixth grade at the public middle school; Elisabeth, a freshman, also has a new building; she joins junior Amanda at the public high school.  It was an exciting and anxiety-provoking day for all.  We know it's going to be an incredible year!  Mama saved her sadness for alone time and sat with the pouting Jones, awaiting the return of our kids.

In addition to some changes and having four kids in three different buildings, the school district also shook things up this year, with a kind of soft start for only those new, incoming students.  All the elementary schoolers started today, and then only sixth graders at the middle school and only freshmen at the high school.  Amanda signed up to be a freshman mentor, however, so she also went today and will spend the first semester helping underclassmen settle in to high school life.

Last evening was humorous and trying.  It was obvious everyone in Krinkeland was a bit jacked up.  We shared a nice, family dinner, and the kids were all very cordial to one another, sharing tips about the different schools, teachers and grades and helping each other select the perfect first-day outfits.  Sleeping wasn't so awesome.  The windows were open and it rained.  I was up quite a bit because I've been having trouble with my back.  The children-- Benjamin was by far the worst-- all had trouble settling down and staying asleep throughout the night.  We had high spirits but zombie eyes this morning.

Amanda texted a couple times during the school day, but just of the "Can I go here?" variety.  I did get several updates on Benjamin from a staff member at his school who is also a family friend.  One was this:

(That's Ben's friend Sam on the left.)  The message read: "Just finished lunch and off to their first class."  (There were tours and a pep rally and procedural stuff in the morning, and then a short mock schedule in the afternoon.)  Believe me, sending off your barely-12-year-old into a mega-middle-school of nearly 1,500 kids without even a sibling to keep an eye out is nerve-wracking!

Of course, my favorite part of the day was when they all returned home.  Late (it takes time to get down those bus routes) and wet from the rain.  I didn't have to prod too much to get reviews of Day One.  Leftover donuts helped.  And, this is my favorite thing about the first day of school: Each kid's review and how that delivery defines each child.

Madeline: "School was great!  My friends were good, but kind of loud and silly.  My teacher is good, but it's not gonna be easy.  I got assigned three bus buddies, but I lost two of them.  Still don't know where they are.  Really.  I didn't even catch their names.  I tried to tell the bus driver but she wouldn't stop or go back.  I don't know what the new kindergarten teacher was thinking.  I can't be responsible for anyone else-- I can hardly be responsible for myself!"

Benjamin: "It was good.  I met a kid.  I don't remember his name.  I met all the teachers.  They were walking around and talking to us at lunchtime.  A lot of the teachers read my name tag and asked if I was Libby's brother.  I said I was.  They said they liked having Libby for a student.  I hope that's not a lot of pressure for me."

Elisabeth: "It was lame.  Not real high school."

Amanda: "Oh, it was fine.  All the kids I was mentoring said the same thing: too many games, not enough time getting used to class.  The freshman boys were really annoying, until, of course, I got them alone and then they had real questions, and I was, like, 'Yeah, boy, I see how it is when your posse's not around,' but I answered all the questions nicely, anyway.  I'm really looking forward to tomorrow which will be the real first day of school for me, you know, getting to my classes and teachers and everything.  I mean, I am not actually looking forward to class, but I do love the first day of school!  I talked some more with the new choir director, which is good, and the theater director said 'Hi' to me in the hall-- she said 'Hi' first, so that's an excellent sign.  I introduced Libby to the other theater director and some other teachers and stuff, even though she didn't want to and she said it would be awkward-- had to be done.  I had this great idea about starting a Young Politicians Club at school, and I really I think I want to do it with this other student council officer because we have very different political views, so we would be a good representation, and now I just need to figure out which faculty member I should approach about maybe being our group's adviser, so that's going to be awesome.  I also had this revelation that the dress swap group I started on Facebook should really team up with the Care Closet at the high school, so I'm going to have to talk to someone about that.  Now, can I go to Abby's for one last hurrah?  And I'm taking all our board games."

Monday, July 16, 2018

Belated Birthday and Boosts for the Boy

I am aware I have not posted in two months.  I wasn't really aware it had been that long... and I do apologize... But, the fact of the matter is that I've just been occupied with writing lots of other things.  I am posting and blogging on the daily for my contract work as a social media community manager.  I also continue to volunteer with publicity and media coverage for a number of organizations with whom I am involved.  I'm getting some writing done and I'm getting paid, and, in the meantime, I've fallen way behind in bulletins on Krinkeland.  As well, I confess I'm electing to not write as widely nor as openly about many things.  I just don't believe everything needs to be said or shared.  More on that in some other post... maybe.

All explanations and disclaimers aside, I have earnestly been meaning to post about Benjamin's 12th birthday.  Yes, sports fans, you read that correctly: As of Friday, BENJAMIN TODD IS 12.  No need to tell the boy's mommy how unbelievable that is.  We had an early celebration with some of his buddies that involved a trip to an outdoor water park, complete with sunscreen-self-application-induced sunburn; takeout fried chicken; some play fighting and some real fighting; and lots and lots and lots of farts.

The actual week of Ben's birthday, the boy was particularly busy, with a full schedule of CrossFit kids' camp, baseball games, and rehearsals for theater camp.  We still managed some party time with both sides of the family.  The cousins' get-together at the lake was complete with his requested fried ice cream and an Uncle-Ted-induced water balloon fight.

The evening of his actual birthday came with a visit from Grandma R., more sports and video game loot, and a candle-lighting seminar by Aunt Lisa.  Ben is one lucky, lucky, boy!

This is the story of Benjamin's birthday that is really sticking with me, and, frankly, it's not even much about the Birthday Boy.  But it's good and important, anyway.  Oh, and I do love him the MOST.  The basis for the story is this: Ben's 12th birthday gift from his dad and mom was a cell phone.  This is not the place to discuss or debate whether this was an appropriate gift at an appropriate age.  His two older sisters got cell phones at 12, so he did, too.  I still have plenty of trepidation about this decision, and I'm never thrilled with the results brought to Krinkeland with the arrival of yet another electronic device.  That said, Ben has had a phone for three days and has greatly exceeded my expectations of how things would go... so far... still holding my breath... We're all doing the best we can.  Let's leave it at that.

What I discovered on Ben's birthday, as he explored his newly instilled texting and messaging capabilities (no social media accounts and limited internet access at this point) is that we have some really awesome teenagers in our lives.  No, I don't mean the permanent residents of Krinkeland-- though they are THE BEST-- but I mean other teens.  You know, those loud, foul-mouthed, self-centered pinheads God created to physically destroy and mentally aggravate the planet?  If that is your view, especially if that is your complete view, please, oh, please, read on.

Ben got his phone around 7 a.m. on his birthday.  He immediately wanted to call and text every human he had ever met.  We discussed.  Dad had programmed in the numbers for a few family members and I have no doubt Ben sent out selfies galore.

Soon, it was time for the big sisters to leave for their theater camp rehearsal.  A carload of high schoolers pulled up to the house and, instead of Amanda and Elisabeth dashing outside as they did on other days, the teens piled into the house.  They were supposed to head out early for coffee or some such nonsense, but instead they all came in to share birthday donuts and well wishes with the younger brother.  Maybe it was all the promise of fried dough, but I personally believe there were other factors, including good breeding and an affection for everyone's little bro.

After the sisters left, it soon became obvious they were sharing the news of their brother's newly minted phone number.  His phone began ding-ding-dinging with text message alerts.  We have our Apple IDs linked so that I, too, can read Ben's messages.  Yes, I am a spy.  It's part of parenting.  My kids know it, and they don't like it, but they also know they don't have the power or the maturity to handle things on their own.  Again, feel free to discuss amongst yourselves but please leave me and mine out of it.

Here's the part where I can't stop grinning.  My older daughters' friends, one in particular, began texting Ben to wish him a happy birthday and to share in his excitement over having his own phone.  And it wasn't just one line.  The exchanges went on and on and they continue:

Those are just some of their text conversations.  This is a mature, intelligent, talented girl with good friends, a job, and all the usual teenage trimmings and trappings.  I'm certain those usual teenage things also include stress and self-doubt and confusion.  Yet, she has taken the time to befriend our boy, take him on as another big sister to another little brother, if you will.  And she's patient and nice and fun, but she still corrects him and keeps him on a positive path.  Yes, the word "racist," along with the fake names and the random body-part terms, is all part of 12-year-old boy humor-- trust me.

So, if you still think the phase of teenagehood is comprised of brooding and backtalking and plotting graffiti art, read the texts again.  Have a giggle with me, and thank God for my kids' friends.  I know it's not cool for Mom to say, but this is so cool.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Mother Love

We spent Mother's Day at home, with others coming over to celebrate the day with us.  I am so thankful to have both my mom and my mother-in-law in good health and living in close proximity.  I will host a Mother's Day gathering as long as I am able, if only as a tiny way to honor the huge ways they take care of all of us in Krinkeland, day in and day out.  We ate... and complained we ate too much... and sat around and laughed... and ate some more... and complained some more... and laughed some more...

The day passed in a whirl of greeting cards and beach sand and coffeemaker refills.  Here are the highlights from the Queen's perspective:

My mom brought flowers, as she does every year.  The pink are for my girls, the blue for my boy, and the yellow represents the baby I miscarried and miss every day.

Elisabeth and Madeline (mostly Elisabeth) made me breakfast in bed.  It was very  hard to wait in bed while all the preparations were being made, but Libby spends a lot of time on Pinterest and it shows!  In addition to my daily eggs, she made these fancy apple pancakes where the thinly sliced apple was wrapped in the shape of a flower.  The card said something like "Sorry we're always so bratty."


The eldest gifted me a flowering plant and these cool socks, "Get it? Because you're the Queen Bee, Mom."  I put them on immediately.


Benjamin confessed he and Dad got up early and went to Menards just this morning to pick out my special gift: two spools of garden hose and two nozzles.  They were both pretty proud of themselves.


Madeline decorated a special coaster/trivet in school for me, and this was the way the wrapping was decorated.  I'm still giggling that for adjectives she chose "marvelous" and "obedient."  In a separate package-- it was a Target bag-- Maddy wrapped up in Kleenex elements of beautiful outfit, including pumps, sweater and jewelry.  They were all articles I already owned that she'd taken from my closet and regifted to me.  Kids. Are. Weird.

Maddy and Libby also worked up a dance routine as a unique gift.  Well, I guess it's not that unique, because those two are always working up dance routines, and the rest of the family rolled their eyes and groaned, leading me to believe they had been members of a practice audience for several days.

The fam came over for lunch.  I loved eavesdropping on my MIL, Amanda and Auntie Lisa catching up.  That's the best kind of gang, right there!

It was much too cold for actual swimming-- the ice has been out for nine days-- but that didn't keep some of the kids from hanging out lakeside, anyway.  I didn't seen it with my own eyes, but three-year-old Theo reportedly caught a fish with his bare hands... and later asked everyone to smell his hands (because they were making  his lunch taste funny.)

This here is my mama.  I love her.  I am grateful for her presence, her constant help and her example.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Dancing Queen


This weekend, Amanda attended her high school prom.  This must be the punchline to some cruel joke of the universe, because clearly our daughter is not old enough to go to the prom because clearly Todd and I are not old enough to have a child go to the prom.  But, it happened, anyway.

By all accounts, Amanda appears to have friends and associations amidst various groups and individuals at her school, but I think she would describe herself as a "theatre kid."  In fact, I've heard her do just that.  The group of students who ascribe to that categorization seem to have kind of a tradition going where they pair off, where there is pairing to be done, and then the rest of the upperclassmen who want to go to prom each invite an underclassman who also wants to go to prom.  So, even though Amanda is only a sophomore, and even though she has no romantic attachment, she was invited to go to the big dance with the other theatre kids.

We had an assembly of about 20 kids here on Saturday afternoon to get ready and to take photos before Grand March at the high school.  That meant parents and grandparents and some siblings, too, of course.  Never before has there been such incentive for Krinkeland to kick things into gear and get the dock in and the yard, beach, deck and patio into some kind of shape for spring!  Win-win-win!  Todd is basically paralyzed by back pain today, but, hey, it was worth it.

It was all really worth it.  More than worth it.  Just witnessing all those excited, young people did my mama heart so much good.

The kids stuck to their plans, which involved marching in the high school parade that is Grand March, going out for Chinese food, and then attending the dance at a country club closer in to the city.  Afterward, Amanda had invited the girls back for a sleepover, and so seven returned, giggling and blistered, to tell all their amusing tales.

A number of the other parents and students were gracious in their thanks to us for hosting and for helping.  That was nice... but, we really didn't do much... honestly, it's stuff we'd have to do, anyway, and it was fun to have a happy occasion to nudge us.  While I am not a social person, and prefer to be home by myself or with my family, I also prefer to keep my babies close.  Fill the house with kids.  I can see you, I can hear you, and you know I'm here if you need me, if you need anything.  It works.

To one particularly kind and personal note from a fellow drama parent, I responded:
A classmate once remarked at a reunion, "High school is such a short period of time, but SO MUCH happens during that time." With one girl on the adventure, and a second starting momentarily, the words go through my head daily. I feel so blessed to witness their journeys, and I mean all the kids' journeys. I love seeing your daughter's shoes on the rug and hearing giggles from under the door. And, if our house is open for the fun stuff, they'll hopefully remember it's also open for the hard stuff. Thank you for your kind words, but I know we're all in this together and we're LUCKY.

Monday, April 30, 2018

It's a Ringer

You may remember the story, or maybe not... as time has passed, I imagine I tell it less frequently.  However, the topic did come up just recently, while on vacation in Costa Rica.  An acquaintance was sitting in the hot tub, trying to piece together his moments from the previous evening and figure out what went wrong, causing him to misplace his wedding ring.  I said, "Oh, don't worry-- I lost my wedding ring four or five years ago, and I'm still married."

It was a hot, summer day and all of Krinkeland was working in the yard.  I was up to my elbows in dirt.  I took off my engagement ring and wedding band set but didn't have anywhere to put them.  I handed the rings to Todd and asked him to put them in his pocket.  He said, "OK, but this is a bad idea."  I said, "I know it is, but I'm too lazy to go in the house.  Between the two of us, one of us will remember the rings in your pocket."  Three days later, I was putting Madeline to bed when I stepped on something sharp in her bedroom rug.  It was my diamond solitaire.  I picked it up and scolded, "What are you doing with my ring in your room?  This is not a toy!"  Little One was still sputtering, "Mommy, I didn't..." when I remembered.

Todd and I scoured the room, emptied pants pockets, shook out the laundry, combed the yard, and looked absolutely everywhere else we thought the ring could have gone.  No luck.  I prayed and prayed for St. Anthony's help and implored the children to do the same.  We enlisted the help of my almost-psychic mother, who believed the ring would eventually be found in the washing machine.  No dice.  At some point, I gave up.  I apologized profusely, and even tried out a couple new rings.  I took one home and wore it for a week, but it went back because it wasn't quite right.  It wasn't my ring.

I had just recently entertained the idea of looking for a new wedding ring.  I've become friendly with an area jeweler who has an interesting collection, and I thought I might go see her just to get some ideas, but that's as far as I got.  This weekend, I had a big plan to clean-- really clean-- the bathrooms.  I have new rugs and towels to move around, but I wasn't going to freshen up things until everything was scrubbed.  I was washing the floor and wiping down the woodwork in the kids' bathroom when I announced, "You know what?  We're going to clean out the cupboards in here, too."  Cue the moans and groans.  It's a small bathroom.  The drawers and shelves contain only bathroom-type stuff.  How much could there be?  A LOT.

Elisabeth and Madeline mostly took to the task of sorting each kid's possessions into bins.  I emptied out all the shelves and refolded the towels.  There were four drawers, each randomly filled with old bath toys, partial tubes of toothpaste and so many hair accessories.  Libby was sorting hair ties by color when she sweetly called to me, "Um, Mom? Do you know whose ring this is?"  I turned, expecting to see a mood ring with dolphin cutouts, but the girl knew exactly what she had.

In the bottom of a bathroom drawer, under a tangle of hair binders, was my ring.  Now, it's back on my old-lady hand where it belongs.  I still kind of cannot believe it, but I am so, so thankful.

Costa Rica Travelogue Day 7

This was our last full day in Costa Rica.  Our agenda included only soaking in everything.  So, that is what we did.  We had extra doses of dirty monkeys.  We waited for monkeys that did not come.  We suncreened ourselves and we baked our selves.  We ate and ate some more.  Quite regularly, someone whined, "I don't want to go home, tomorrow!"

This is one of the palapa beds on the "preferred" area of the beach.  It's also smack-dab in the middle of the monkey hangout area.  So, my monkeys hung out there instead.

The girls took turns making themselves into tacos with the pool floats.  I could write a book on how much fun it is to be on vacation with siblings who decide they actually enjoy one another's company.  They should-- each one is weirder than the next!

Ben, pouting. Or melting.  Or both.

My people decided tonight was the night for night swimming.  All the pools were lit from underwater (but it was very dark around the pool decks) and open until 9 p.m.  They all played football, Krinkeland-style.  I was already showered and dressed, so I watched.

I also had to watch these rascals.  There were creepy racoons everywhere, but this thug and his buddies took the cake.  Actually, they took the bananas.  Elisabeth had a small knapsack with some bananas that she was saving for the monkeys.  She set the bag on the chair next to mine when she went swimming.  This dude crawled right up and took it!  His gang made off with the whole bag!  I threw my flip flops at them to get them to drop the bag.  Then, we took out the bananas and threw those just to keep them away from us.  Not a fan of rodents.

Last night dinner at Portofino, might as well order dessert.  This is all the chocolate stuff.

Instead of a show for entertainment in the evening, the crew set up a huge movie screen and reclining lawn chairs for an outdoor viewing of "Coco."  Everyone had Dia de los Muertos face paint and there was popcorn!  We went to bed knowing one thing for sure: Returning to regular life was going to be a real drag.