Saturday, May 31, 2008

Train for a Triathlon in Just One Week!


Todd is competing tomorrow in the Buffalo Triathlon. Some of you will remember my brother-in-law, Terry, got on a fitness kick last year and trained, then competed in this race. It was a lot of fun to watch, and a great accomplishment for Terry. Afterward, Todd started talking about doing the triathlon. So, for a birthday present last September, Terry registered Todd for this year's race.

In the following months, Todd continued with his regular, on-again-off-again workout routine, which mostly consists of running and lifting weights. For a great while, he did nothing. This past Monday, he started training for the triathlon. Today, he is out buying a wetsuit and other triathlete gear.

The sprint course includes: 1/4-mile swim, 13-mile bike, and 3-mile run. If Todd survives tomorrow, I think he should write a book. Scratch that-- we all know I would have to write the book.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Junior Olympians and All-Around Good Kids


Amanda's school had Track and Field Day, with an Olympics theme, in honor of Beijing '08. The students played the music, marched with flags, the whole deal. I volunteered to help, and found myself the "coach" of one of 10 teams, charged with 16 kindergarteners through fifth graders. The kids came up with a team name, the Grey Hawks, and a team song, ("We are the grey hawks, the mighty, mighty grey hawks...") all on their own.

Then, they competed in various individual races and team relays, from the 40-yard dash to the leaky pipe race. While we had some very athletically talented older kids on our team, we also had some younger kids who couldn't even seem to run in the right direction. What amazed me was how they worked together. Of course, the little ones looked up to the big ones. But, the older students were unfailing in their support and encouragement of the younger children.

Just when I wanted to believe all "tweens" were sass-mouthed, eye-rolling doodyheads-- I find I'm the only name-caller in the bunch. No, the Grey Hawks didn't win one of the top prizes, but they still cheered each other on all the way to the victory Popsicle line.

Incest is Best When It's Kept in the Family

Elisabeth and I were talking weekend plans, and I said we were going to Grandma's on Sunday to celebrate the birthdays of both Uncle Ted and Aunt Kristin. "Do they have the same birthday?" she asked. I said, no, Ted's birthday had already passed and Kristin's was coming up soon, so we were just going to celebrate them together. Missing my entire explanation, as well as ignoring some laws of the state and of God, Libby asked, "Wait a minute-- are they TWINS?!"

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Pick of the Preschool Prodigies

I posted video of the girls' end-of-year school programs, so why wouldn't my nephew, Kazmer, get equal billing? Naturally, the offspring of two talented performers would shine on stage:

Gardening for the Very Young


My mom let us "help" in the garden when we were kids. I know she did. I remember it, and my memories are good ones. I wanted to plant a few annuals in pots by the front door, and, though it would have been much easier to get it done during their naps, I was thinking I should let the kids help.

I took Elisabeth and Benjamin along to get the plants, which I thought Libby would love, since she likes anything pretty. But she did not like it. "Get me out of here. I don't like this place. It's wet. It's dirty. There are hoses on the ground to trip on. Let's go." When we got home, I said we would plant after nap time-- kind of an incentive, and time for me to get everything set up.

After everyone was up-- and home from school-- we went outside. First, there was the Ben issue. For some reason, I thought he would be totally disinterested in planting and would instead occupy himself with bikes or sidewalk chalk. Wrong. He basically stood in the middle of 40 pounds of potting soil and bellowed over and over again, "I help!"

Then, there were the girls. Identical pots, identical plants, identical trowels, and timed turns with the hose. All this, and they managed to fight over whose dirt was "dirtiest." Seriously.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Preschool, Kindergarten Thoughts on Childbirth


The girls have been asking a lot of questions about their new cousin, Oliver. Since he is in the NICU, they have not been able to see him. They don't understand why Aunt Ellen came home and he did not. I was explaining that he was born a little early, so he is very small, and he needs to grow bigger and stronger before he can come home.

Elisabeth observed, "Yeah, I know Ellen's tummy didn't get very big. That's how come I know Oliver is a little baby. If he would have stayed in there longer, Ellen's tummy would have gotten bigger." I thought that was quite perceptive for a four-year-old.

Amanda, on the other hand, had her own ideas: "I know why that baby came out of Ellen's tummy early. I bet he was just sick of looking at all her food in there."

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Blabbermouth

Benjamin talks all the time-- sometimes English, sometimes not. We've heard him putting together two words for descriptions or mini-sentences. Pretty typical almost-two-year-old stuff: "Hi Daddy," "white socks," "I color," "See Sissy." Suddenly, he walked into our bedroom and said, clear as can be, "I see Daddy sleeping." Thrilling, from a developmental standpoint... As a model for productive living, not so much.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Joke, Self-Esteem Issue, or Omen?


Todd and Elisabeth were looking at photo albums together, when they came across some pictures of her as a baby. Libby pointed out, "There's me before I got evil!"

World's Greatest Aunt

OK, so I made up that part. Uncle Todd and I went to see Oliver today. Turns out, he is even cuter the second day of life than the first! I will leave the medical details to my sister (as outlined on her blog) instead of relaying them here, third hand. Also, Ellen told me today I ask too many questions. She just wants someone to tell her Oliver is doing fine, and he is. Ellen will be discharged tomorrow. This week and next will be kind of crazy, as Terry finishes up the school year, and they try to figure out a family schedule, juggling Kazmer and Solomon along with spending time with Oliver. Keep praying for his health and strength.



Here are Mom and Dad in the Oliver Operations Center.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Oliver on my Mind

We're coming up on 12 hours now since my nephew Oliver arrived. For those of you who are unable-- or unwilling-- to follow his story on my sister's blog, here is the Oliver Report:

He was born at 11:33 a.m., after my sister went into labor while showing signs of infection. Oliver Thomas weighed 4 pounds and measured 17.5 inches. As anticipated because of his prematurity, Oliver was taken to the NICU. He is on a ventilator to help him breathe, oxygen, inhaled medication to open his lung passages and help improve his oxygen levels, two kinds of i.v. medication for hypotension (low blood pressure,) plasma to help his blood clot, and a whole slew of i.v. antibiotics to battle sepsis, a bacterial blood infection. Oliver's nurses and doctors are also monitoring his temperature, his blood sugar levels, and about everything else you can think of.

The next 24 hours are critical for Oliver. I beg of you fervent prayer that he is able to fight off the infection and show some stability and improvement through the night. He is a beautiful, strong, amazing child, and we all thank God for his birth.

My sister and brother-in-law are doing as well as can be expected. Ellen was very sick, with the infection that led to the delivery. She continued to carry a fever above 103, even after Oliver was born. But the antibiotics and fever medication kicked in as the day wore on, and she was looking-- and feeling-- much better by evening. Seriously, she already looks as though she never even had a baby. I'm not just writing this because I know Ellen reads the blog. Her nurse in the recovery room commented on her flat stomach. She looks better than me, and I delivered my last child 22 months ago.

Terry spent most of the day with Oliver and I spent most of the day with Ellen. That was a good choice, because it meant I got to push the wheelchair and see Oliver whenever she did! Both Ellen and Terry are exhausted, and are missing Solomon and Kazmer, who briefly visited with Grandma and Grandpa late in the day. They have not seen Oliver, as no children are allowed in the NICU. There is a "Baby Link" camera where Ellen can watch the baby from the TV in her hospital room.

Here are some photos from the operating room shortly after Oliver's birth and from his first hours in the NICU:



Whew. And to think, when I got up this morning, I had planned to blog about my quest for a new vacuum cleaner.

"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 transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Jesus Christ." (Philippians 4:6-7)

The Child Who's Born on the Sabbath Day...

...is bonny and blithe and happy and gay. Let's add "healthy and big" to the old nursery rhyme. Ellen is in labor. 31 weeks, 4 days. Hop on the prayer highway, please, and do not exit. Terry posted slightly more information than this on their blog, The Beaudry Beat.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Big Girl, Baby, Birthday Brother, Baby, No Baby

I have not fallen into blog oblivion... just have a lot going on lately. Solomon's been a bit sick, so he's been home with his dad the last few days, but that gave me a chance to catch up on the usual stuff. Sol was well enough to go to Grandma and Grandpa's today. Elisabeth has also had an earache, so no one has been sleeping too well at our house. I think everyone just got kind of run down in all this chaos. It appears as though all are on the mend now. And, since they're asleep, I'm finally getting a chance to catch you up.



Thursday, we had Amanda's end-of-the-year school program. Since her school is celebrating an anniversary, this was a tribute to music from different decades. Kindergarten drew the 1940s. The kids sang a couple cute ditties-- everyone knew the words-- and dressed in costumes from their era. (Thank you, eBay!) Oh, Amanda is in the third row, second from the left, in the pink dress with the green ribbon in her hair.



Friday, some of the mothers from Amanda's class hosted a surprise baby shower for teacher Mrs. P., who is expecting her first baby. I don't know if she was actually surprised... but my kid sure was. (I hadn't told her what we were doing, because she would have spilled the beans, for sure!) We had the kids guess the baby's weight; when Amanda offered, "30 pounds?" I told her that was what Libby weighed now and she seemed genuinely shocked. The students also gave suggestions for baby names. My favorite: FireFlame.



Friday was also my brother's birthday. No, I didn't forget. And, no, it's not that I don't love him enough to gush over him in Krinkeland. But, yes, I realize he doesn't give a rat's tushy whether I write about him. And, no, I will not be making any cracks about his advancing age. He is, and always will be, two years younger than I am. Happy Birthday, Tebby. (That's him on the left.)



Today, we hosted a baby shower for Todd's cousin, Ross and his wife, Christine. Well, mostly it was for their two-week-old son, Anders (AHN-ders-- named for Ross' and, therefore, Todd's Grandpa Ericksen.) Grandma R. and Lisa provided the food; I provided the house and the future babysitter. Amanda loved holding Anders... until he turned into a "Baby Tooter Machine."



And, last in this post, but always at the top of my list, is Ellen and her baby. She remains hospitalized-- 31 weeks, 3 days today-- and is doing well. She's taking one day at a time and trying not to get bored or whiny about being away from her kids and being stuck indoors. Keep praying. Keep visiting. And, if she tells you not to send flowers and candy, you can send them to me instead.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Singin' on the Ark

Tis the season of spring programs! Last evening, Elisabeth officially completed her first year with Noah's Ark preschool. She will be back in the fall for the three-day pre-kindergarten class. In the meantime, she and her adorable classmates belted out their praise to God. Do I really think you all want to watch four minutes of blurry video of twitchy preschoolers screaming Bible songs? I'm just an arrogant enough mother to think you might:



Oh, Elisabeth is in the white headband and the yellow floral flapper dress. And, you should probably turn off my playlist music to get the full effect. (No, I can't actually tell you how to do that. I don't know, either.) Tonight is Amanda's spring program, so, be prepared to be *wowed* again tomorrow!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Benjamin Bulletin


With all the other stuff going on, I haven't had a chance to issue the latest update on Benjamin and his non-existent medical conditions. They remain just that.

We had our six-month review with his physical therapist and Early Childhood case worker. When we started his "plan" in November, we agreed upon a series of objectives or milestones for Ben to strive for over the coming year. These included things like: crawl from room to room in the house and take independent steps. Halfway through, Ben has already achieved all of these goals, with the exception of one: kick a ball. (Yeah, like I can kick a ball. The apple doesn't fall far...) So, the PT maven outlined a new set of milestones, including climbing stairs without aid of railing, and we will have a more relaxed physical therapy schedule for the summer.

Ben and I also met with his neurologist for his seasonal checkup. Ben walked confidently from the waiting room, where the doctor met us, all the way down a series of hallways to the doctor's office. Once inside, Benjamin immediately demanded a sucker, and then complained he didn't like the blue one. They did other fun things, like play catch with a green ball and watch a wind-up pink mouse do flips. When the doctor asked to look in his ears, Ben yelled, "No" and covered them with his hands. All fun, almost-two-year-old stuff, and all pretty normal. The neurologist said he has no concerns about Ben. He will continue to track him, with twice-yearly visits. The doctor said some toddlers have one big developmental "boom" where they suddenly catch up with other children their age; Ben seems more the steady, consistent developer.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

38 Minutes

After naps, I took all the kids to see Mommy/Auntie in the hospital. Just for fun, I checked the clock to see how long it took from the time I said, "Let's go" until we actually pulled out of the garage.



Ellen is holding on to that baby. She has been complaining of lower back pain and also feels as though the baby's position has dropped much lower, but she has not had a regular contraction pattern-- which is a good thing. A steady stream of visitors and a laptop with internet access are keeping her from boredom. After our picnic supper with all five of the monsters, I'm hoping she'll sleep well tonight.

Bowl Me Over


Elisabeth's preschool class had its end-of-the-year party at the bowling alley this morning. Many laughs and a few incidents, as always. Most of the kids just shoved their bowling balls down the ramps and then turned and walked away, without even waiting for the outcome. With Libby, I could understand, because that ball rolled so slowly, I nearly fell asleep waiting for it to reach the pins. But, she had a hot lane. Every girl on her "team" got at least one ramp-amped, bumper-bumping "strike!"

Naturally, she sat-- and bowled-- next to pal Rachel. There were two episodes of tears: first, when Elisabeth's teacher accidentally spelled her name wrong, but the Master of Electronic Scorecard quickly remedied that. The other situation I couldn't so easily fix. While we were packing up, Libby tripped and smashed her nose, her lip, and one finger. We got the blood cleaned up and she put on her brave face, but she's looking a little worse for wear.

Here's another one of those situations I just couldn't not have imagined for myself a handful of years back-- sitting in a bowling alley, at 10 a.m., cheering on 15 3- and 4-year-olds in neon rubber shoes. But, it was a blast! One mother did complain the music that was playing was inappropriate for the children. I suppose next she'll be telling me to put down my beer.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Oh, Mother

Cleaver, Walton, Brady, Teresa... I am not. These days, I feel more like Mother Hubbard. Here are the top 10 reasons why I am NOT suited to be a mother of five:

10. At 6:15 a.m., went into boys' room to tell them to stop wrestling-- not because it's dangerous, not because they'd wake the others, but because they were "bugging me"
9. 2 cups of coffee and 2 Diet Cokes before noon
8. Told Kaz and Libby to let Sol pick next t.v. show, but then did not question when Libby insisted he chose "Hannah Montana"
7. Wore my "Love is a Battlefield" t-shirt just to give the physical therapist something to talk about back at the office
6. Argued with Kazmer about his choice to dunk celery in strawberry yogurt
5. Nearly swallowed by laundry mountain
4. Decided it was not worth battle to get Sol out of socks he'd worn two days
3. Told Elisabeth and Kazmer to pick out books, then called their choices "uninspired"
2. Actually counted day's direct poop encounters: 6 (none mine, by the way)
1. When Solomon got a little weepy at nap time, stuck out a sympathetic lip and whimpered, "I miss Mommy, too."

Ahoy, Mateys!

We took the boat out for this season's inaugural spin... the Skipper, Gilligan, and five kids! Everyone was bundled into coats with hoods and those oh-so-comfortable life jackets. It was kind of a schizophrenic ride, with the boys begging to go faster and Libby urging Daddy to slow down. I sat in the back and clutched the little ones, while going hoarse from yelling, "Sit down!" to the big ones in the front. It was also a long ride, as all five children had to "drive." There are still fishermen and kayakers with recovering heart rates this morning. The best part was a little dance breakout when an especially fun song came on Cities 97's "Acoustic Sunset."

Photos? Are you joking? With what extra hands?

By the way, that boat still doesn't have a name. I think that's bad luck. Here are some of the contenders, which I don't have the time or energy to explain:
*The Blue Bee
*The Juder
*Unfinished Business
*The Story of Us
*ToddCraft Watercraft
We're open to suggestions.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Benny Bedtime Battles

We are learning all kinds of things with Ben. He's been back on a jaunt this week of throwing fits at bedtime or when he wakes up in the middle of the night. He doesn't seem to need anything... just wants to be with Mom and Dad, and not asleep in his bed. He will scream bloody murder and then gag to make himself throw up. The third night, Todd went in his room in the middle of the night and stood his ground: "Stop it." After repeating this calmly but sternly about 15 times, Ben finally sat down in his bed.

Then, last night, Ben plotted his escape. He has been throwing one leg up the side of the crib, but he is so small it hasn't been a huge threat. Suddenly, he had his leg over far enough that he was getting hung up on the crib bar. Shawshank spoiled, because he couldn't actually vault himself over to jump the wall. He just hung on for dear life and cried. But, of course, the crib was now too dangerous for Benjamin.



Bedtime turned into a three-plus-hour ordeal. Todd took the front off the crib, I put up the baby gate at the door. Todd laid pillows around the newly converted toddler bed in case Ben rolled out. I surveyed his room for potential hazards to his new freedom. I went into our bedroom to read my book. Todd went to the den and started a movie. Benjamin stood at his doorway and wailed. Thank God, Todd didn't have to work in the morning... He put in the long night of toddler bed duty. After 55 "nos" and "stop its," the crying finally stopped. Daddy somehow calmed down Benny, but I fell asleep before I got the whole story. All I know is, Ben is still sleeping in his "big boy" bed now, and he looks adorable. Todd is out cold, too, looking kinda cute himself.

Ellen Update




Well, far as I know, everything is going well with my sister and the baby. She is in the hospital-- and could be there for a while. She is getting steroids to help develop the baby's lungs, magnesium sulfate to slow/stop her contractions, and antibiotics to battle any potential infection from the fluid leak. They will keep with this regimen until Sunday night. At that time, they will take her off the magnesium. Maybe nothing will happen... Maybe she will go into labor... But, the baby will, by then, have received the necessary medications.

Ellen and Terry agree she is getting excellent care, and I think this has really helped with their states of mind. Last night, she sounded much calmer than she had earlier in the day. Thank you for your prayers, and, please, let them continue.

Meantime, we had a really fun day with the boys. At one point, I found Elisabeth and Kazmer in her closet and asked what they were doing. "I'm just picking out her clothes," Kaz told me. "She needs me to." Grandma R. and Auntie Linda, who has a new grandson and is visiting from the East Coast, came over to get their fix and brought lunch. ("I just need grandbabies," Linda told me. "They don't have to be mine. Those boys are so cute-- they'll do.") Solomon napped in the guest room, and thought he was hot stuff for sleeping in the big bed. Todd came home early to attend Amanda's Fun with Fathers event at school, and then he took the kids fishing. Kazmer figured out: "We're having supper here? That means I got to stay the whole day!" We had them ready for bed (me, too) when Grandma and Grandpa P. arrived to take them home.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Urgent!

My sister has gone into the hospital, hoping to hold off as long as she can delivering her third child. She is 30 weeks, 2 days, and is leaking fluid. The doctor says the baby looks good, and is measuring large for his/her gestational age. They have begun administering steroids to further the baby's lung development. She has gone to a larger hospital with a well-equipped and highly staffed NICU.

Ellen and Terry are scared. The boys are with me. Please pray for all of them.

For the faith and confidence that comes from walking with you daily, Lord, I give you thanks. You have taught me your faithfulness in the easy times so I can trust you in the hard times. Amen.

How Can I Get Me Some of That?

Where we live, no one works. At least it seems that way. Now that the weather is finally getting nice, everyone is out on the lake. They're driving their big, fancy boats. They're having crews build new decks or put in new sprinkler systems, while they supervise. They're going fishing. They're sunning themselves.

Do you ever drive through those suburban subdivisions with all the HUGE houses and wonder, "Who are these people, and how do they make enough money to afford this?" That's what I think whenever I look out the window.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Behind Bars


In a discussion about police and traffic stops, Amanda asked me what jail was like. I wonder why she was so certain I knew...

Call to Duty



Parenthood. Forget teaching, nurturing, consoling, feeding nutritional foods, modeling friendship and citizenship, buying cute outfits, offering religious and cultural experiences, reading, exposing to new things... All things I had planned to do as a parent. But, nope. I spend every waking moment trying my best just to keep these kids from killing their damn, fool selves.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Questions and Answers

At nap time, Elisabeth and I were looking at one of those hidden picture books. We had found everything except "Mademoiselle Mule." "She should be easy to find," I said. "After all, she's wearing a hat with flowers on it. How many mules wear flowered hats?" Libby looked at me very seriously and said, "All of them."

While saying bedtime prayers with Amanda, she asked, "Where is heaven? Is it on another planet?" Deep breath. She's six. She's six. She's six. Another deep breath. "No, Amanda, heaven is not another planet. It's not really a place like you think of a 'place'..." My voice trailed off. I tried again, "Well, no one knows exactly what heaven is like, because after we die we don't come back to tell about it. But it is a feeling of joy and peace and oneness with God. No one is sick or hurt..." Amanda asked, "So there aren't any telephones?" I told her, no, no phones. "Are all of a person's favorite things there-- like their friends and puppies and stuff?" She asked. "Yes, I believe so," I assured her. "Well," Amanda pressed, "What if your favorite thing is the telephone?"

And, just so no child is left out of today's stories, Benjamin has taken to wandering up and down the bedroom hall and calling in his sing-songy voice, "Sissy, are you? Sissy... are you?" It's so cute. He also thinks he knows a joke. Whenever I ask him what color something is, Ben always says, "Green." Then, he laughs like a lunatic.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Topic of the Two-Piece


On vacation, Todd repeatedly asked why I didn't wear a bikini. In fact, by the end of the trip, he was suggesting I really should wear a bikini. I would say the majority of women on the beaches and around the pool were wearing two-piece bathing suits. They were all ages, all sizes, and mostly all Americans, so it was not a "European thing" or other cultural difference. But, in my opinion, most of them would have looked much better a little more covered. I have not worn a bikini since my honeymoon, and, looking back on the photos, that might have been a mistake.

Now, if I had the body-- or, at least, if I thought I had the body-- maybe I would go for it. So, do all these women think they have the bodies? Do I have some extreme bikini hang-up?

Bikinis are sexy. They are modeled after underwear. They show off curves and parts and make men think of sex. This is why I am so bothered by little girls wearing two-piece bathing suits. Young girls are not sexy; they are not supposed to be sexy. Since a bikini, by my definition, is made to be sexy, it has no business on a girl's body. And, we all know there are sickos in the world who probably find little girls in bikinis sexy.

My kids argue with me about this-- already. They beg for "bikininis," a term I jokingly used once, and it stuck. I remember shopping for Amanda's first bathing suit when she was three months old and having actual difficulty finding a one-piece suit. I finally found one, and only one, at Baby Gap. The girls finished swimming lessons this week, and there was another in Amanda's class who came in a string bikini with the triangle top and some word printed across her bottom. I have caved, a little bit, with the tankini two-pieces that cover their midriffs and come with skirts.

I prefer to look like the refined (ha!) adult woman I am, and I want my daughters to look only like little girls. Maybe I'm making too much of this, but a little modesty never hurt.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Motherhood Hangover

Sadly, I can say that is one Mother's Day from which I actually have to recover. In retrospect, if this is as bad as it gets, I am living a charmed mother's life. Still...

Church was an endless affair, with a visiting priest giving a 40-minute sermon on the gifts of the Holy Spirit for Pentecost. By the time mass finally ended, our family only recognized the gift of sit-itis. All the kids were antsy and cranky and no one blamed them. Todd wanted to go out to eat after church, so I wouldn't have to cook. Elisabeth did not want to go out to eat, because, "I will spill syrup on my dress and then I won't be beautiful anymore." Todd gave her a lecture about how to behave in any situation, and being good for Mommy because it's Mother's Day.

She entered the restaurant in a funk, sat next to me to wait for our table, and began kicking and hitting her sister. While attempting to restrain her, I took a flailing arm that dumped a whole cup of scalding coffee in my lap and down my legs and arms. The woman sitting next to me got the back splash. I took Elisabeth outside and laid into her about hurting me and a total stranger and I actually spanked her-- something I've rarely done, and never in public.

Back inside, Todd helped a worker clean up the mess and I apologized to the woman and her family and offered to pay for dry cleaning. On the way out, another total stranger advised me that it was an accident and I should not be so hard on my daughter. I don't know if he thought I would kill her, or what, but, at that moment, he shot to the top of my hit list. In a way, Libby got what she wanted, because we went home... both of us crying all the way. Thankfully, neither she nor I nor the other woman was seriously burned. But the situation was plenty painful.

All this, while I was still reeling from an incident with Amanda at the flower shop. The girls and I were having a very pleasant conversation with the florist, when Amanda declared, "No, she's not my sister. She's just my step-sister." I gave an incredulous look but calmly corrected, "You are sisters. We don't have any 'steps' in our family." Amanda rolled her eyes and said, "Tell that to my therapist."

Yes, they're talking about us all over town. I'm the one who needs a therapist.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

The Mother of All Days

In honor of Mother's Day, I would like to share some favorite lessons my mother has taught me:

*It is possible to be so excited about a bird or a flower that you make others excited, too.
*An invitation is just that-- an invitation; you are not obligated to say, "Yes."
*Never send a sympathy card without money inside.
*Never send any kind of card to a grandkid without stickers inside.
*Eating cookies in the middle of the night will not make you fat.
*Sometimes, a mouthy teenager must be slapped.
*Few things in life are more satisfying than fountain soda.
*Never, ever leave a turtle in the road to get squished.
*Movie popcorn is better with real butter.
*Use coupons-- but buy what you really like.
*When someone tries to guilt you into volunteering, you may simply say, "No, I do enough."
*Most things are better with frosting.
*When a kid needs a book read, the dirty dishes can wait.
*Some people are teachers for all the right reasons.
*If you stay out all night at a guy's apartment, people will think you're a slut, even if you are not one.
*Saying, "Thank you for making it to the toilet," is a perfectly acceptable response when a kid gets sick in the middle of the night.
*Bras are optional.
*If you clean your toilets during the week, you'll be ready when someone calls you to go shopping on Saturday morning.
*Learning never stops.
*A two-year-old acts up in church because he is two. You can't stop it-- just bring snacks and hope for the best.
*Wear sunscreen.
*By the time she announces, "I'm drunk," it's too late.
*You're never too old for Legos.
*Wear comfortable shoes.
*Anything you need in life can be purchased at a discount store.
*Everything you never knew you wanted can be found at a garage sale.

I love you, Mom. Thank you for all you've taught me.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Travelogue

Proud Moment in Musical History


We had the honor of attending Amanda's first piano recital. She played her piece impeccably-- twice-- first, solo, and a second time as a duet with her teacher/auntie. Never before has "Eensy, Weensy Spider" sounded like such a masterpiece. She was rivaled only by her cousin, Kazmer, who also made his debut with the crowd pleaser "Hot Cross Buns." My buns were not hot or cross-- only proud.

Friday, May 9, 2008

The Queen Returns to Reign


We're back from vacation and back to the grind. Something fun today, though-- Amanda's kindergarten class hosted a Mother's Day tea at school. They helped make the gifts and the brownies, and put on a lovely program of songs and poems about mothers. Each mother received a crown made by her child. I assure you, mine reads, "My mom is the queen," although it may appear to read, "My mom is queer."

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Another Day in Paradise






We had a very hard day of 9 to 5 poolside. Well, I should say, I was sunning myself from 9 to 5... Todd didn't appear till sometime after 11. Highlights included: trying out the waterslide in the kiddie pool (not too exciting,) feeding grapes to a large but friendly iguana, chasing down a sand crab so I could take his picture, and walking on the beach to collect beautiful shells and sand dollars. Next, we're on our way to peruse restaurant menus and decide what to do about supper. There are about a dozen restaurants at our resort. We haven't tried many of them, partly because they are very expensive, but mostly because you just don't feel hungry when you're hot, relaxed, and sipping daquiris.

We are recovering from our big adventure yesterday. The weather was not great here-- overcast and raining. We have had occasional showers-- after all, this is a rainforest-- but this was the first time the skies looked really gray. Todd had this idea that the weather might be better elsewhere, so we packed up the car and headed to the pier at Fajardo. From there, we took an hour-long ferry ride to the island of Vieques.

You've probably heard of Vieques. It's an island municipality of Puerto Rico, just 21 miles long by 4 miles wide. Vieques was the site of protests against the U.S. Navy's use of the island as a bombing range and weapons testing ground. The Navy departed in 2003. Still, a large interior section of the island remains cordoned off, for fear of unfound-- and undetonated-- munitions.

But, Vieques is known for beautiful, secluded beaches, and, surprise, surprise, when we stepped off the boat, it was sunny! We also found we were in another world. I gave Todd that you've-got-to-be-kidding-me-where-the-heck-are-we glare, while politely nodding to the toothless, leather-skinned caballeros giving me the once-over. After hoofing it a block-and-a-half to the center of the town, Isabel Segunda, Todd eventually tracked down a taxi driver (I use the term loosely) who spoke enough English to give us a rundown on the beaches, and who agreed to take us to one... and then come back to pick us up in time to make the evening ferry.

The beach did not disappoint. La Playa Caracas (Red Beach) was a wide expanse of fine, white sand, in a protective cove framed by huge, dark, jagged rocks. We walked in the clear, aqua water and sunned ourselves on the nearly deserted beach. Big black and white-- almost transparent-- fish swam around our ankles; I spotted a small ray; and Todd described a long, skinny fish with a long nose ("It looked like a big northern, but it was silver,") and I told him I thought it was a barracuda.

The ferry ride back home was a bit easier (rough waters on the way out made the big boat pitch and many waves sprayed us) and we also got to admire the sunset over the bigger island of Puerto Rico. However, a couple little boys on the boat got sick... and you know how I am with that. Todd and I agreed if our kids were there, they'd be less likely to throw up, but more likely to fall overboard!

Oh, we have also taken in two movies at two different movie theaters-- American films in English, but with Spanish subtitles, if you were wondering-- with large popcorns (their large is much smaller than ours, which is a good thing!) We even had Domino's Pizza.

Tomorrow, we will spend the morning at the pool, and then pack up and head for Old San Juan. We thought we would spend the last afternoon there, as we have heard there are a number of historical sites-- and good shopping. We're on strict orders to bring home souvenirs, so we will do our best. We considered going to tour the Bacardi Rum distillery, but heard poolside today that the samples are pretty wimpy. I also heard at the pool that they are having trouble with wild monkeys attacking agricultural fields on the southwest side of the island. Thankfully, we are staying all the way on the other side of the island... because Todd has been talking a lot about monkeys.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Wish You Were Here





We are having a wonderful trip. Not much chance to be homesick or to miss the kids... Whenever we try to call them, they are either not home or are having too much fun to come to the phone.

Today, we visited El Yunque National Forest, also called the Caribbean Rainforest. It is home to thousands of species of unique plants and animals, including some found only here, such as the endangered Puerto Rican Parrot and the Coqui (singing tree frog.) After stopping at the visitors' center to get our bearings and some background information, we drove up, up, up the mountain on this winding road, under a canopy of palm trees and bamboo. We stopped at many scenic spots, including an amazing viewing tower from which we could see the whole rainforest, the mountains, the ocean and the green valleys between.

We went as far as the trail entrance to La Mina waterfall. That's when Todd kicked me out of the car and told me it was time to work. We took the "challenging" trail down to the falls-- a half-hour hike down a narrow, slippery (but paved) path. Then, we took a dip in the rocky pool beneath the falls-- SO cold-- Todd stayed in a lot longer than I did. I told him, "OK, now you hike back up and get the car and I'll wait here for you." No dice. I was glad I skipped the StairMaster, because I still got my workout.

Back at the ranch, I curled up in a lounge chair by the pool and promptly fell asleep. After nap time, we went back to our room and got cleaned up. We were on the way to the concierge desk to ask about a possible ferry trip to another island tomorrow, when we thought we would stop at the computers and try to upload some photos.

Todd's still working on the photo thing, but, if you see them at the top of this post, you can assume we figured it out. In the meantime, here is a list of highs and lows from the vacation thus far:

HIGHS
1. We changed from our two-queen-beds room to a much larger one-king-bed room. I have spent too many years in a big bed to downsize at this point. Todd snores wherever he drops, but I slept much better once I got more breathing room.
2. The weather has been 85 and sunny from 8 a.m. till dark.
3. Whenever we are outdoors (all the time,) the ambient sounds around us are AMAZING. Todd says it's like that tape of animal noises constantly running at the Rainforest Cafe-- but it's real!
4. Two words: iguana feeding. We did it, and we have the photos to prove it!
5. We did do a little shopping, but-- this is the best part-- it was Todd's idea! We ended up at an outlet mall that has many of the same stores as home, but even better prices. He tried on clothes and I ate ice cream. (Did my shopping at Target in advance of the trip, of course.)

LOWS
1. I actually wore sunscreen the first full day (big step for me) but I missed the top of my left foot, which is very burned. After hiking today, it hurts.
2. Todd is losing all our money at the hotel casino each night.
3. There is a funny smell in our rental car.
4. Burger King-- building is the same, menu is the same, but does NOT taste the same. And, kids, if you're reading this, all the fast food places here have play areas with tubes to crawl in, just like at home, but they're all outside.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

We Have Arrived




After a sleepless night-- literally, NO sleep last night-- an early morning flight, one quick layover, and what felt like an endless second flight to this island, we are here. This place is an oasis-- the softest beach, crashing waves, endless pools... It's 84 and sunny at 6 in the evening. We didn't do much but walk around to explore and take some photos. Now, it's off to supper and then an early bedtime for these weary travelers.

There are all kinds of families here. Naturally, we miss the children terribly. But, then I imagine Ben pushing me away as I try to apply sunscreen and Libby complaining about sand in her bathing suit. I think we will survive... and they will, too.

I will not be writing every day. After all, I'm on vacation! But, when I'm better rested, I will try to figure out how to upload some of our pictures. In the meantime, these are photos from our resort.

p.s. If someone is reading this to our kids, we already saw a huge iguana!

And We're Off!

Here we go-- Todd and I headed out on our first vacation together since before we were expecting our first child. Actually, it's our first vacation ALONE together since about 1998, and around that time it was just a couple business trips where the other would tag along.

I had to hound him to do it... And he made me promise not to lament the whole time about being separated from the kids... And it took us a while to decide where to go... Puerto Rico, by the way... Plus, we were worried that by the time we got around to going the weather would be nice here. But, it's freezing and raining and I'm so glad we're going.

Am I nervous? Anxious? Worried sick about leaving the kids? Of course. But, I know they're with family who love them, and I know more relatives will pitch in to help. That's just the kind of family each of us was raised with. We'd do the same for any of them, in a heartbeat. And, we'll be thinking about them all while we're on the beach!

Friday, May 2, 2008

Michael Jordan He Ain't...



...But we'll keep him anyway!

Benjamin's physical therapist suggested a basketball hoop. Squatting to pick up the ball builds strength, while putting the ball in the basket works balance. And he's just so cute doing it!

Oh, and that's the neighbor dog, Malibu, barking from the bleachers. We're dogsitting... And this is more excitement than that dog has ever seen!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Chick Magnet


Elisabeth's preschool class has been incubating eggs, and they have finally hatched into fluffy chicks. Benjamin is in love. I have to drag him kicking and screaming from the room, while he yells, "I see! I see! See chickies!" (Or, at least, that's what it sounds like to me.) But, when the preschool teacher takes out one little chick and holds it for Ben to pet, he just stands there and stares. Sometimes, he smiles a little, and extends one skinny finger to touch the baby bird. We share our moment, until we see Libby standing behind us with her hands on her hips, muttering, "Now, will you guys get outta here?"

Happy May Day


The kids and I filled May baskets and delivered them to their teachers. Todd called me a Communist for celebrating the holiday. But, I remember making May baskets as a kid and hanging them on the neighbors' doorknobs... and I still feel the fire of democracy burning in my belly.