Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Progress

What better inspiration to start the day than the smell of your son, all the way down the hall from his room? But, he made up for it on the changing table, when he said, "bubble." These days, he squirms around and tries to buck off, so I try to give him something to hold. The item of interest this week is a swim diaper with pictures of Nemo and Dory. But, he does point to the fishy eyes when he says "bubble."

We did have a breakthrough-- kind of-- in the Amanda department. I bought a digital clock with a multicolor readout and told her she could not get out of bed until the green number was a "7." She told me when she awoke this morning, the first number was a "6," but she stayed in bed until the numbers said "7-0-0."

And the lovely Elisabeth had a moment of her own. Last night, when I came into the girls' room to put them to bed, Libby screamed at me, "Get out! I don't want to see you!" What?! This is all sounding a little too familiar? Well, she had been perfectly fine up until that point, so I sat on the edge of her bed and asked what was wrong. She melted into me with violent sobs, and it took a while before I could translate what she was saying: "I'm a liar! I lied about EVERYTHING today!" So, I gave the typical parenting speech about the importance of telling the truth, keeping trust, blah, blah, blah... and then asked if there was anything specific she wanted to tell me. "You know how I told you the ribbon on my brand new dress 'just ripped?' Well, I CUT IT!" Yeah, I had already cracked that case.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

He Speaks... Unfortunately, So Does She


Benjamin had his communication assessment today, with one of the school district's speech therapists. We did not anticipate any "problems," and she didn't find any. The only thing I was anxious about is Ben is typically VERY quiet around people other than our immediate family. He prefers to just sit and silently watch whatever is going on. My brother often comments, "Sure, he talks."

But, while the evaluator was here, she counted 16 words he says on his own... and even felt certain he was asking "Wha dat?" when pointing to various objects. He also did some mimicking, copying words after she said them. (I've recently noticed him doing a lot more of this, too.) She marveled at how he likes books, and how serious he is about studying the pictures. So, Benjamin is right on track in the communication department. Nothing to worry about, unless he stops making progress.

Meantime, Elisabeth. Need I say more? I've repeated this story to some already, but I really need to make it part of her permanent record. Two nights ago, she did not want to go to sleep. She laid in bed, repeatedly screaming, "MOMMY!" When I did not respond, she changed her tactics to a sing-songy, "Mommy, I need you to come in here..." After a half-dozen of those, I started down the hallway (mostly to tell her to be quiet so her sister could sleep.) As I got closer, she continued sweetly calling to me, "Mommy, I need you to come in here... I want to tell you I hate you."

The next morning, she and Amanda were up early "doing art." Elisabeth brought me a picture, silently laid it next to me, and turned and walked away. It was a four-year-old drawing of a face with a circle around it and a diagonal line through it (the "no" symbol.) Underneath the drawing was written in preschool handwriting, "No Mom." I can't make this stuff up.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Special Prayer Request


I hope you all have noticed my "Prayer Requests" section further down on the left side of the screen. It is much easier for me to manage than remembering to send out emails to all you Prayer Warriors. Today, I got a note from my husband, regarding a special prayer request coming from his work. I do not know ANY of his coworkers, but, for Todd to be asking for prayers, this one obviously hits home:

Jonathan here at work found out this weekend that his sister is about to deliver at 24 weeks. She went in last week for an ultrasound which showed her cervix was thin and needed to be sewn shut. They scheduled for the following day to allow time to get a second surgeon to assist and her water broke or leaked out before they could do the procedure. She will probably have to deliver within 72 hours depending on how she is responding to the antibiotics. The probable outcome is dismal as you already know. Please include them in your prayer chain.

I find myself repeating the verses which have brought me great comfort in times of uncertainty:

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:6-7)

Help!

My bladder woke me around 3 a.m. As I lay in my warm bed, trying to determine whether I could hold it till dawn, I heard Elisabeth cough, so I decided to get up and check on her. She was fine, but AMANDA WAS NOT IN HER BED! She was downstairs, in the den, every light on, wrapped up in a blanket, watching television! When I pointed out it was the middle of the night, she argued with me-- saying she had seen light out her window. I asked her how long she had been watching TV, and she said, "Two shows."

I dragged her, sniveling and protesting, back to bed. She told me she couldn't sleep in her room because it makes her have "bad thoughts." After going through all the routines of music, feet rubbing, the "out bad dreams" chant/dance, and "magic spray," she still followed me back to my room and made her bed on the floor.

All I could think was, "What is her kindergarten teacher going to think?" The girl is going to be a zombie, falling asleep in class; plus, she has these big gashes under her right eye from an attack by her sister. Here are the actions I have already taken, or am considering:
1. Telling her she cannot get up if Daddy is still in bed.
2. Putting a digital clock in her room and telling her she cannot get up unless the first number is 7.
3. Unplugging the TV.
4. Hiding the remote.
5. Blocking the channels she likes. (Did you know there actually are cartoons on at 3 a.m.?!)

Halloween Hoopla




When did Halloween become such a big deal? I know, I sound crotchety... But, I remember being a kid: On the day of Halloween, we would parade around school in our homemade costumes (thanks, Mom) and then, that evening, Dad would take us up and down the neighborhood street until our fingers froze. When we returned home, we'd dump out our candy on the living room floor so Mom and Dad could inspect it (This was the start of the razor blade scare.) Then, there would be a few trades, and the buckets would get stored on top of the fridge, with the contents rationed out until Christmas.

Halloween isn't even here yet, and my little goblins already had a big weekend. Amanda and Elisabeth were invited to a costume party at the home of some friends. Plus, we went to the Home and School Association event at Amanda's school. The girls had to wear different costumes for each... Nothing I paid full price for, of course, but there was a lot of digging in the orange and black bins to find just the right looks.

Then, at supper last night, the kids-- BIG kids, like me, included-- all got our Halloween presents from Grandma P. Did you know this was a gift-giving holiday? The big winner was a Halloween joke book Amanda got. Two highlights: It came with punch-out masks (see photo,) and the girls are already cracking up over punchlines about "Hollow Weenies!"

Saturday, October 27, 2007

No Compromises

I'm cheap. But, really, let me tell you something you don't already know! For many things, I will buy whatever is on sale... whatever I can find and make due with on the clearance rack. Todd sometimes asks, "Is there anything in this house that does NOT come in with an orange sticker on it?!"

But, sometimes, you just can't compromise. My husband has many, many rules like this: only Crest tarter control original toothpaste, only Skippy creamy peanut butter, only Paul Mitchell hair mousse, only Old Spice deodorant-- NOT antiperspirant, only Domino's Pizza, only Krusteaz pancake mix (a gradual shift from Bisquick.) I used to argue with him that we spent so much more money than we had to. However, if I bought a different brand, then it didn't get used at all, so that was really wasting money.

Over the years, I have developed my own "standards." Sometimes, you just can't go the cheaper route-- it's not worth it. So, today's lists are items on which I just cannot compromise:

IN THE KITCHEN
1. butter (any brand of salted sticks, just NO margarine)
2. Hormel pre-cooked bacon
3. Glad Force Flex trash bags
4. Palmolive dish soap
5. Campbell's tomato soup

IN THE BATHROOM
1. Sonicare power toothbrush
2. Olay Daily Facials disposable washing cloths
3. Cottonelle toilet paper
4. Bath & Body Works liquid hand soap
5. Clorox disinfecting wipes

IN THE NURSERY
1. Pampers Cruisers diapers
2. A&D Original diaper rash ointment
3. Old Navy cuffed socks (but I do shop the outlet)
4. Leap Frog learning toys
5. Purell hand sanitizer

I feel the same way about jewelry and purses... Buy the good stuff. Now, if only our household budget lived up to all my lofty ideas.

A Proud Day


Friday was Grandparents Day at Amanda's school. This much anticipated event had been discussed for WEEKS... What would the entertainment be? How about the menu? What would we wear?! And that's just what I heard from the grandmas and grandpas!

The kids got to dress in their Sunday best, have lunch with their grandparents, do activities like play bingo and make bookmarks, and put on a Beatles-themed program. You just haven't lived until you've heard 30 5-year-olds belt out "We Love You, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah!"

Amanda held the honor of being the student with the most grandparents present. Only Grandma K. couldn't make it, so that meant our much-adored kindergartner had an entourage of FIVE! More people to love my kid-- that's something I definitely do not take lightly.

The photo above was taken in her kindergarten room, at the end of the joyous day. Sorry, we missed Grandpa K. by that time, but the other grandparents are all there... along with my other kids, who had to get their loving, too, and the kindergarten teacher, who appears to have survived the day after all.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Show and Tell

Amanda's class began Show and Tell this week. I guess the teacher must have determined her students are now capable of public speaking and/or sitting and listening while their peers talk. She announced the new schedule a couple weeks ago, and sent home a letter urging parents to practice with their kids.

We have had numerous discussions about what Amanda should bring for Show and Tell. Her grandparents have been giving her things for months, in anticipation of this standard kindergarten event. I even had some suggestions of my own. But nothing, nothing was fabulous enough for Amanda.

Last evening, I told her time was up and asked her what she planned to bring. She chose: a brochure from the water park we visited last weekend, a marble, and four fallen tree leaves.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Romance, Revealed


While the girls were playing Barbies in the toy room this evening, I, unfortunately, overheard their narration of a double wedding:

First, Amanda's prince and princess dolls were getting married. "Oh, Eric, how I love you so!" And she proceeded with a detailed and disturbing explanation of how to kiss, "First, you get your noses right together, and then you turn your heads just so..."

Next, came the Elisabeth version of "Happily Ever After." Her couple was the super-tan surfer Barbie and Ken. Ken turned to Barbie and said, "I'm brown and you're brown. Isn't that great?!"

You Go, Girl!


I was at Amanda's school when the principal got on the loudspeaker and announced the student body had raised more than $62,000 in this year's Marathon for Non-Public Education. Prior to the walk, the staff and the students had set goals: Raise $10,000 and you can have chocolate milk on Fridays, the principal raises more than the priest and the priest has to come to school in his pajamas, raise $40,000 and the principal will dye her hair blue and gold, the school colors (she's a good sport.)

The principal stopped to tell me that today the teachers were all grumbling MY daughter's name. WHY?! Apparently, at one of the pre-marathon pepfests, the principal got really worked up and suggested that maybe ALL the teachers should join her in dyeing their hair. She asked the kids, "How much would we have to raise for all the teachers to dye their hair blue and gold?!" Amanda raised her hand and was called on. "$50,000?" she suggested. The teachers, I'm told, all nodded and grinned, and secretly thanked the principal for calling on a kindergartener who obviously had no concept of money. But, today, when the total was announced, it all went back to Amanda!

I laughed and reassured the principal that Amanda has NO concept of money... she probably thinks she raised $50,000 by herself.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Money Makes the World Go 'Round


Today, I am all about the buck.

You know I'm looking for a job. Apparently, I am not looking hard enough, as I have not yet found one. But, I did send off a resume yesterday, on a hot tip I got from a friend. Today, the company's owner called me-- to tell me I was overqualified. (I think he said "grossly overqualified.") I've never understood that one. If I am willing to do the work you need for the rate you're willing to pay, then don't you WANT someone who is "overqualified?" I suspect the real issue is that I said I was not available to work full-time, at least not during regular business hours. And, I certainly do understand that. He just didn't believe me when I told him I could do a full-time job in half the time it takes a mere mortal...

So, in the meantime, I'm selling stuff on eBay. Laugh if you want. I'll be laughing, too, all the way to the bank! Seriously, I just decided to list some of that extra stuff that has been piling up around my house following some overzealous shopping jaunts. The things I thought people would be clamoring for are still sitting bid-less. The junk I thought no one would want is being bid up to three times what I paid for it. My big anxiety now is that I won't be able to figure out how to receive all those electronic payments, or that the shipping will cost me more than I estimated.

Then, I need to get all this bank stuff changed over. I opened the new accounts, but still have not closed the old accounts, due to bill pay and automatic payments. Way too many companies have their fingers in my checkbook. And, why do school photos-- PRESCHOOL photos, at that-- now cost $37?

Monday, October 22, 2007

Everybody's a Comedian

Benjamin got his foot and ankle braces today. They're basically just little plastic boots, with padding inside, that slide into his shoes and go on over his socks. So far, he is not thrilled. I will go shopping later for shoes to fit over the braces. We will attempt to have him wear them one hour today, two tomorrow, and gradually work up from there until he is wearing them whenever he is awake. I am also supposed to be on the look-out for "red spots"-- anywhere the braces might need to be adjusted so they are not rubbing.

I also took Elisabeth to the doctor today. As suspected, her cough is just a cold (maybe a couple colds back-to-back) and she has now infected the rest of us. The pediatrician also said Benjamin's recent fever was most likely a reaction to his MMR vaccine. We had a nice chat about cold medicines and fever medicines... and why the doctor is not a big fan of either. She said even medicating for a fever is really more for the comfort of the child-- or the mom-- and is unnecessary unless the fever is significant (at least 102.5.) I asked about my medicine-puking kids, and she suggested asking at the pharmacy for Tylenol suppositories. She said just to keep some on hand in the event of a high fever, but, otherwise, to let the bug just work itself out, because fevers are beneficial and actually help kids get better faster.

I also told her about last week's visit to the ophthalmologist. She was glad to hear all went well. I had to tell her the eye doctor's little "FLK" line... Of course, she already knew it, because it is common medical terminology. She pointed out that most parents are unaware there is actually a hereditary cause of FLK-- It's called FLP. I'll let you figure it out.

Old Friends, Good Friends


We spent the weekend at a water park resort in Wisconsin Dells with our good friends, Erik and Alicia, and their daughter, Annie. The weekend was, for me, the definition of stress: the girls and I were all coughing, and surely passed along our germs to our friends; Benjamin started running a fever midway through the trip, and was fairly miserable, though there were no other symptoms; no one really slept (does anyone while traveling?); the condo was nice, but dirty, and never enough room to separate children at bedtime; I haven't even gotten to the whole water/pool/safety/ health/cleanliness issue...

The friendship is what makes a trip like that worthwhile. The girls adore each other. But, more importantly, Todd and I get a chance to catch up with our very good friends who live too far away. I've know Erik since elementary school, but we've been friends as married couples for nearly a decade. For a few years, we were neighbors-- a total coincidence, our mothers started talking and discovered their kids were both building houses, just one block apart. We would order pizza and hang out, help each other with household projects, celebrate when we got new jobs or new cars or new pets, take care of each other when we were sick, go to meat raffles at rural dive bars, and travel together, even back then.

I remember when Alicia and Erik first started talking about wanting children-- Todd and I went home and discussed how that would "wreck" everything... We were having such a good time being independent and selfish. Yeah, that's changed. But not the friendship. We can eat each other's food, discipline each other's kids, finish each other's crossword puzzles (sorry, Erik.) This friendship is family.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

We Are in Love


(By the way, the 4-year-old again took this photo of us. She has quite the eye!)

Our wedding day was sunny, warm, and windy. We were young, stupid, totally in the dark about what we were in for, but we were thrilled with ourselves and each other, just the same. I remember feeling so calm that day.

Sure, there were moments of excitement: Teddy and I wrecked Dad's car antenna in the car wash... Todd plugged a toilet... invited guests called my parents to say they never responded, but could they still come... all the flowers were wrong-- beautiful, but wrong... we forgot to have someone take our car from the church to the reception... Heidi wore knee-high stockings under her bridesmaid dress... crashers strolled down from the country club bar and onto our dance floor...

Todd and I stayed at that reception till the bitter end. I remember finally leaving and going to the hotel. Riding in the glass elevator up to our suite, I felt like I was going to a costume party-- little girl, big dress.

Now, we have our own little girls and boy. We have a big house. We have a hairy dog. My career has come and gone. So has my figure. So has Todd's hairline. But I love this life. Walking down that aisle, I could not have imagined it. Now, I can't imagine anything else. Something different would be something less.

Thank you to my husband for loving me even when I am unlovable. Thank you for providing for our family. Thank you for making my dreams your own.

Thank you to our parents and families for supporting us. There are so many times when it would be easier-- maybe even better-- to NOT support us.

Thank you to God for bringing us together, keeping us together. I don't make it through a day without a "Help me, Jesus" or two. He obviously hears me.

I should add an appropriate scripture verse here, but what comes to mind are the final lines of "our song," Harry Connick Jr.'s "We Are in Love":
"So, when I kiss you goodnight
Just sleep tight with the thought that you'll
Always be caught up in love with me
And you'll dream that the stars up above
Have the answer of whether we'll be
Or whether we won't be
In love,
Well, we are
Ooh, we are
Girl, we are
Indubitably we are..."


Happy anniversary, baby.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Big Day


All this excitement, and I almost forgot to mention Benjamin pulled himself into the standing position today. Totally unprovoked. I looked over and there he was, hanging onto the arm of a chair.

He also said "balloon" today, after much coaching. It's more like "bee-loo" and, somehow, it comes out all as one syllable.

AND, Todd and I both heard him undeniably say, "Hi, umbrella," while shopping at Costco.

By the way, I'm feeling a little guilty that I called Ben a "funny looking kid" in print. Will he be scarred? Should I delete that? For the record, I don't find him the least bit funny looking. I think he looks like his dad.

Welcome to the World


Our friends Sasha and Todd are welcoming a new baby girl! Tahlia Lynne was born on Tuesday, October 16. She is 20 inches long and just under 7 pounds. She has a big sister, Shaylee, who is no doubt wild about her. We can't wait to meet her! Congratulations to all!

Update: We have also learned of another same-day arrival, Charles Curtis, born to Todd's college friend, Curtis, and his wife, Teresa, in Florida. God's blessings on everyone!

Cinderella


First task after lunch: Clean up the toy room. I set the girls to work, Elisabeth putting the books back on the shelves, Amanda cleaning up the art supply storm around the table. It wasn't long before I heard the older one grumbling: "I wasn't made for this... so early in my life... down on my hands and knees... picking up crayons..."

Moms Gone Wild


Yes, I know you've all been anxiously awaiting my report on the "girls' weekend"-- the first time I'd been away from the kids in a really long time, and the very first time I'd left Benjamin overnight.

Six of us met in Des Moines, Iowa... well, it was a place to meet. Friends, most of them, for twenty years or more, I think. I got adopted after I chose my husband. We saw a lot of farmland, dodged plenty of raindrops, and got lost along the way. ("Hey, look, kids! Big Ben! Parliament!") Naturally, there was eating, there was drinking, there was shopping.

I'm not spilling details-- you just had to be there. But I will share one favorite moment: At the mall, I walked into J. Crew with Janice. She's the one who lives in Iowa, so I don't ever spend much time with her. She turned to me and muttered, "So, where is the clearance rack?" Now, that's friendship.

The point of the weekend was to celebrate: 6 marriages still going strong, most at the decade mark; and 14 beloved children. And, if we don't get away from them once in a while, we'll all go mad.

Diagnosis: FLK


Benjamin saw the ophthalmologist. One of my favorite doctors to date, really. Ben probably didn't share my view, or any view, since his eyes were dilated, and that had to be pretty trippy for a little kid.

Anyway, she walked into the office, took one look at Ben, and pronounced, "He does not have that syndrome." What? Turns out, she had a patient with that same, rare diagnosis during her residency, and she did some refresher research based on my overly thorough pre-appointment phone call. So, she had some background, and, she just didn't think he looked like that. But, then, she checked him, checked him, checked him... It was a really long visit... no cataracts... no retinal pigmentary defects... no optic nerve colobomas...

At the end of the visit, she said, "You know, I'm not a geneticist, and I don't want to upset you, but I suspect you already have all the diagnosis you're going to get. You son has what we in the medical community refer to as 'FLK.'" WHAT?! Are you ready? Are you really ready? Are you sure you're ready for this?! Brace yourself--



Funny looking kid.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Why It's Good to Have a Husband

I spent part of today trying to figure out whether I could get any kind of insurance coverage for Benjamin's nutritional drinks. The main part of his diet is Pediasure or, better yet, another product that contains 50% more calories in the same serving size. The doctor has advised us to maintain this diet until he gets on and stays on the growth chart for weight.

But this stuff is expensive. I mean, really expensive. I mean, we could have a car payment for what we're spending each month. Ben's pediatrician offered to write us a prescription, to see if things would go better with insurance that way. When I talked with the folks at the medical supply store, they told me insurance usually only covers this type of thing if it's the primary source of nutrition for the patient. It definitely is, so I was hopeful.

Later, they called to tell me insurance would not cover it-- unless our son received the supplement through a feeding tube. I didn't really understand the difference, and called Todd to voice my outrage that our son's "condition" wasn't viewed to be as "serious" as some other kids'. Todd reminded me, "It's not that serious. Thank God he doesn't have a feeding tube. Let's find a way to pay cash, and just be grateful." See how he is?

Not the Reaction I Expected

I think Benjamin is having a reaction to one of yesterday's immunizations. He went to bed OK, but woke up screaming around 11:30, and was pretty miserable the whole night. He was running a fever (up to 102) and just crying, crying, crying. I finally got a dose of Tylenol in him, after he threw up the Motrin... None of my kids can take medicine, and I can't blame them, because I've always been a gagger myself. My mom would call that payback.

Today his fever is somewhat lower, but he's still miserable-- and making me miserable, too. I am spoiled with such a pleasant baby. I was used to being screamed at by Elisabeth. Now, I don't know how to handle it. Speaking of which, I hear him bellering again, so I'm off to give it another try. You'd think I'd be better at this by now.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Get Your Flu Shot

Benjamin had his 15-month checkup today: 19 lbs. 11 oz. (less than 5th percentile), 31 in. long (25th percentile,) 19 1/4 in. head circumference (95th percentile!) All was well. We talked a bit about the genetics experience, and the doctor said she had actually heard of this rare syndrome. She said it was helpful from her perspective to know she hadn't been missing anything glaring, and she agreed that we not go overboard with more tests and doctors in the future.

We did go ahead with the Hepatitis A vaccine today. With every child, it seems there are new immunizations. This one, I'm told, they are recommending particularly because of the masses of immigrants coming into this area and bringing with them the disease.

Ben, Libby and I also had our flu shots today. I figure it can't hurt. Libby said it didn't hurt! After watching Benjamin scream his head off and looking as though she might pass out, I was a little worried. But she was so brave. I'm sending Amanda and Todd to get theirs tonight. They just don't know it yet.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Free Advertising for Relatives


I don't want you all to think I'm going to make a regular thing of this-- offering free advertising space on my fantastic and popular blog. But, he is my brother-in-law, out there in the trenches, supporting my sister and my adorable nephews, one of whom is my godson, and the other of whom currently has green-markered feet. So, here is the big plug for Terrell Steven's next scheduled concert at a Christian music club in Minneapolis:

Terrell Steven
Club 3 Degrees
Saturday, November 3
His set starts at 8:20 p.m.
$7 cover


Links to Terry's website, as well as the club's, are at the bottom of this page. On Terry's website, you can also find out how to buy his CD, "Answer the Call."

Syndrome, Schmyndrome


On the Benjamin front:

Today, he got fitted for foot and ankle braces, which will help stabilize him and hold his ankles in proper alignment as he begins to stand and walk. The orthotist is a local man (very important, since they apparently require regular "tweaking") who is very kind and knowledgeable. He took fiberglass castings of Ben's feet, and we will go back next week for the fitting. Ben will be in these braces, along with shoes, at least six to eight hours per day. It is important he wears them whenever he is bearing weight on his legs. (They will not "fix" him while he is sleeping.) There is no way to predict the length of treatment, but this is seen as a corrective measure, certainly not something he will do for life. By the way, Elisabeth took the photo-- Ben is on my lap.

We got the clinic notes from last week's visit to the geneticist. You already know we're not putting much merit in his "theory..." But, the one idea he had for Ben is that he could have a very mild form of something called Hallermann-Streiff Syndrome. No matter what I tell you, I know you're going to Google it anyway, so judge for yourself. As previously stated, there is no diagnostic test for this syndrome, and a cause has not been identified, so diagnosis is made subjectively, by a doctor who thinks s/he can find enough characteristics to fit the description. Ben has very few that match up with this list, and they are considered quite mild. The doctor himself wrote, "He does not look like the photo in the reference book." Anyway, the main things he wanted to check in relation to this syndrome were skeletal deformities-- Ben's full body x-rays showed no abnormalities; and eye problems, so we will see an ophthalmologist next week. Benjamin also had some blood work, but that was sent to Johns Hopkins (the only place in the country they test for this kind of thing) and the results are not expected back for months. Don't lose any sleep over it-- we're not.

Benjamin also had a visit this week from the Program Coordinator for the school district's Early Childhood Program. She assessed his cognitive abilities, by setting him in his high chair and putting him through a series of tests. "The toy is under one of two cloths. Will he peek under the right one?" (Yep, every time.) The testing has not been officially scored yet, but, unofficially, he did very well. She said she was testing him at about the 19- or 20-month level before he started drifting off, and, at that point, it was tough to discern whether he couldn't do the skills or he was just bored with the test. She is also completing a behavioral assessment, and we will see the speech therapist in the next couple weeks. The first week in November, there will be a pow-wow with the whole department to decide on a course of treatment, if there is one. We suspect physical therapy, at the least, and that should be a very good thing.

Continue to pray for our son, but please make them prayers of thanksgiving. We are so blessed.

Ticklin' the Ivories


Amanda had her first piano lesson this evening. Auntie Ellen is her piano teacher, and they are using a new book series designed especially for young beginners. Amanda was SO excited-- the kindergarten teacher told me she'd heard about nothing else all week. I did not listen outside the door, but Auntie said it went well. She said Amanda has a very good sense of rhythm (did NOT get that from me) and that she listened well and really enjoyed what she was learning.

We were worried she might be a little young. But she has been asking us to start, and this seemed like the perfect chance. Before Amanda's next lesson, we'll be practicing correct posture and bottom-positioning on the piano bench, as well as telling her right hand from her left.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

A Compassionate Bone in Her Body

As we pulled out of the grocery store parking lot, an ambulance whizzed past us, lights flashing. "Uh-oh. Ambulance! I hope no one got hurt," Elisabeth called from the back seat. Renewed my faith in humanity, that single comment did. You see, from the moment Libby could form sentences, whenever she heard sirens, she would comment, "I hope SOMEONE got hurt!" No matter how I tried to correct her, she was insistent-- and consistent. I was starting to believe she meant it.

Meantime, I had a little heart-to-heart with Amanda this morning, as we were the only two up early. I reminded her that I was going out of town with some friends this weekend, so the kids would be home alone with Daddy. "Good!" she exclaimed, and then immediately tried to cover her tracks with a guilty look. I said I knew she liked being with Dad, but asked her why it was better when Mommy was gone. She was honest. "Well, I guess it means we'll be watching movies all weekend long. Plus, Daddy lets us open new cereal boxes, even before the old ones are gone."

Benjamin had his own opportunity to dazzle and amaze this morning, in his cognitive assessment for the school district's Early Childhood program. I'll write more on his status tomorrow, after we go for the orthotics fitting. Suffice it to say, he's no dummy.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Non-Joiner, Reformed


"I am not a joiner." You all laugh when I say that. I'm not lazy; I just don't like to conform to anyone else's schedule. Correction: I totally conform to my kids' schedules, and, due to that, I can't answer to anyone else. I also don't think I should join something unless I'm going to be totally committed to the cause. And, I really don't like to meet new people... I don't like to make small talk... I don't like to tell people stuff I consider none of their beeswax... You get the idea.

But, today, I am a changed woman. I attended my first meeting of Moms in Touch. It's an international, non-denominational, religious organization that gathers on a weekly basis to pray for children and teachers in our schools. In our town, there's a group of moms associated with each and every school. Since my kid goes to a parochial school, it's really easy. We can meet inside the school building, and we can openly pray for teachers, students, and any issues we want. We can also solicit prayer requests.

It was a small group. Some were women I recognized from the school and the community, but had never really met. We did some Bible study, and we prayed, of course, but we also just talked about our families. We shared triumphs and struggles, and offered each other advice. We met in the education center's daycare room, so our pre-school-aged kids could play, and interrupt, as they saw fit. I'm glad I went.

"Pour out your heart like water before the face of the Lord... Lift up your hands toward Him for the lives of your children." (Lamentations 2:19)

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Bedtime Brawl


Bedtime was my sole responsibility this evening, as Todd was working on getting us a new insurance quote. While I was chiseling gobs of toothpaste out of the sink in the kids' bathroom, the girls were supposed to be selecting their stories. Soon, Elisabeth erupted, "That was my choice! You stole it from me! You ripped it right out of my hands!" I thought, "Good, they want the same book. I'll only have to read one." Lost in my delusional thinking, I almost missed Libby threatening, "Don't make me hit you." To this, Amanda responded, "For the third time, I'm sorry, OK? What else do you want me to do?" I begrudgingly made my way into the girls' room and discovered the trouble-making tome. It was none other than Karen Katz's "No Hitting!"

Because You Asked

Some of you have been kind enough to inquire about my health, so without droning on like an old person, here is some background and an update.

For about the past two weeks, I have been experiencing upper GI pain and discomfort. I have been sick to my stomach, though more from the pain than from actual nausea. The level of discomfort comes and goes; sometimes (like now) it just feels like a dull ache in the middle of my chest (as though my bra is too tight.) Other times, the gnawing pain is unbearable, bringing me to tears and making it impossible to get comfortable. Sometimes, the pain travels lower. I have run a low-grade fever. I have been eating small amounts of bland foods, nothing too late at night.

I hardly ever get sick. I don't really have a general practitioner, because my only regular doctor visits are OB/GYN. However, I've seen the same doctor at our clinic on a couple of occasions over the past decade. I think I have convinced him I am not a hypochondriac, and I really do have better things to do than complain. The most popular theories are:
1. acid reflux
2. ulcer (not bacterial, as that test was negative)
3. gall bladder trouble, which runs in my family

However, so far, most all the tests have been negative. The only thing that came back high was the SED test, which measures inflammation. Here's what it's NOT:
1. pregnancy
2. a viral bug
3. something in my head

I am now taking a course of steroids to reduce the inflammation. I am also taking a PPI (like Prevacid, Prilosec) to block the stomach acid. I will see Todd's GI specialist at the end of the month. I'll tell you one thing: If it turns out to be acid reflux, then I haven't given my husband enough credit for dealing with his condition over the past 15 years. This pain has been worse than any of my labors, deliveries or postpartum periods. Really.

I'm not a good sick person, and this has been difficult, mostly because Todd is so busy with work, and, at times, I feel like I cannot take care of the kids. Our family has stepped up and been wonderful; grandmas swoop in to care take, babysit, cook and clean. But I'm ready for my life back, so, hopefully, the drugs will work and the experts will get to the bottom of things. And it better be soon, because I've also given up Diet Coke.

Monday, October 8, 2007

"Mo... Nana"


Benjamin still doesn't say much: "Hi," "Ike," sometimes "dada" or "mama," but he is entering that stage when he may repeat what you say, even if he doesn't really understand it. During his lengthy time in the high chair, I got him to repeat two words, almost like his first slow, stuttering sentence: "Mo" (more) followed distantly by "nana" (banana.)

When Amanda was this age, "monana" was a regular word in her vocabulary, but, in her case, it meant "motorcycle," and, boy, was she interested in motorcycles. I'd forgotten that funny little thing, until we were sitting at the lunch table today and Elisabeth and I were giggling over Ben's copycat speech. Ben spent much of the rest of the day trying to pull himself into the standing position. I kept trying to tell him to concentrate on actually using his arms and legs, but he insisted on wasting all his energy just grunting and saying, "Up, up!" Hence, his bottom never got more than an inch or two off the ground.

What comes out of Elisabeth's mouth is generally much less amusing. At nap time, she hissed her usual, "I NEVER can sleep!" at me, just moments before taking one last, deep sniff of her blankie and nodding off. Later, Todd arrived home while she and I were preparing apple crisp for dessert. He tried to lift her off the stool, hug her and ask about her day, but she was busy baking. "Don't make me poke your eyes out," she threatened Daddy. Cute kid.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Steps


The Krinke family stepped out this weekend, taking part in our first Marathon for Non-Public Education, a fundraiser for Amanda's school. We got poured on part of the time, and the kids splashed in lots of puddles, but that kindergartener was really a trooper-- she walked the whole three miles! It was very nice for all of us to get some quality time together, and we walked around a part of town we'd never seen. Thanks to family who sponsored her on the walk. If you still wanted to donate, I'm sure the school would take your money.

I took a stand this afternoon, participating in my first Life Chain. Many churches honor Respect for Life weekend, and I took part in this national event. The girls accompanied me, carrying peaceful, hopeful signs and standing along a busy street, praying for an end to abortion. The welfare of children-- all children-- is a cause I consider dearest to my heart. I was proud to show my community what I stand for, and to share with my children what I believe. Life is precious.

Benjamin is taking a step forward on the development front. We had our first visit by the school district's Early Childhood Program. A number of therapists will evaluate him in different areas, to determine whether he might qualify for, and benefit from, their services. The physical therapist remarked first on his strength and his fine finger skills. She was concerned with the way he turns his ankles in and his feet out, when he stands and attempts to take steps. It is unclear whether this is the way he was born, or a position he adapted in an effort to stabilize his body on tiny feet. To that end, we will have him fitted for orthotics, braces for his feet and ankles that he will wear at least six to eight hours every day. She says these will be especially annoying to him in the beginning, because they will hinder his scooting, but they should correct his foot positions and make him feel more stable as he does learn to stand and walk.

We have also decided to take a giant step backward from "The Quest to Uncover What is 'Wrong' with Benjamin." Todd and I traveled with Ben (and Libby, who was trouble incarnate) to the Mayo Clinic, for our first visit with a geneticist. I had been looking forward to this, as a chance to cover all our bases, to make sure we weren't missing anything regarding his health or the health of the other children. We discovered we were both ill-prepared for what was in store. In my mind, the doctor would take a little blood from Ben, maybe a bit from Mom and Dad, too. Then, he would somehow map out our makeups and say, "Aha! Here is the spot that shows why Ben has a big head and a small body." That is not what happened.

The doctor, a fair and knowledgeable man, perused our son, observed our son, and then began remarking on our son. He pointed out every physical "oddity" in our son, from his sticky-out ears, to his too-light-blue eyes, to his slightly indented chest, to the creases on the palms of his hands. Then, he said, "Benjamin reminds me of a picture I once saw in a book." He left the office and returned with a genetics reference book on "Human Malformations." He opened it, began describing this rare syndrome, and tried to "fit" our son into its classification. There is no test for it, of course, so it's all subjective. "But, don't you think he has lighter than normal hair growth?" (No, I think he's fair. All our babies were bald.) "Are you sure he doesn't have respiratory problems?" (One cold in 14 months, and that was only because his snotty-nosed sisters wouldn't stop kissing him.)

We allowed some tests to be performed (a story for another day) in relation to this syndrome, but, we agreed, when this round is done, we are done with genetics. The label does not matter to us. "So tell me about your son." He is perfect, healthy, intelligent, funny, and beautiful. The word malformed does not come to mind. In fact, I'm quite certain God does not make malformed babies.

I have recently received from a number of friends one of those chain emails quoting a wonderful, religious writer and speaker, Rick Warren. I share the heart of his philosophy:

Happy moments, PRAISE GOD.
Difficult moments, SEEK GOD.
Quiet moments, WORSHIP GOD.
Painful moments, TRUST GOD.
Every moment, THANK GOD.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Out Sick

Will return to blog when I return to the living.

Monday, October 1, 2007

World Traveler






Todd spent the last work week in Denmark, visiting a company that is building a machine for use in his company. That's as much as I care to know. Naturally, with all these children, I don't travel with him. But I'm always a little jealous when he goes. (I've never been off the continent.)

His first call to me began with, "Well, I can see why my grandparents left." He flew into Copenhagen, and then immediately traveled across the country by train to get to the town of this machine maker. He likened the scenery to the I-94 drive to Fargo-- flat.

He claims it was all work and no play, and judging from his phone calls and photos, I have to believe him. Todd really should be writing this himself. But, since no monkeys are flying out of my butt today, I will instead post a few of his photos and let you figure out things on your own. I plan to get to Europe someday... Maybe I'll even take him.