Thursday, July 31, 2008

Hot Fun in the Summertime

What better way to spend a steamy July evening than in the park, listening to music? We packed a picnic and headed into town for tonight's Concert in the Park. And our town does it right, man. No German band here. The county orchestra? No way. We were grooving to the sounds of Boogie Wonderland, a locally well-known '70s disco cover group.

I do love live music of any kind, and I've heard these guys many times over the years. I've even worked with them, booking them on the TV shows I used to produce and for concerts sponsored by the radio station where I used to work. The act can get a little raunchy, but they kept it pretty clean, for all the families who came to sit by the lake and listen at the bandshell. I will admit Boogie Wonderland can be a lot more fun after a few drinks... But it was still quite fun after ham and cheese sandwiches with the kids.

As an aside, I'll try to pull the photo off my phone of Benjamin, post-ice-cream-truck attack. He was literally bathing in Popsicle slime. Grandma wouldn't go near him. I said, "Look on the bright side: He's quiet, and he's sitting in one place." My mom replied, "I'll look on my bright side: He's not my kid."

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

No Contest

My two-year-old does not like it when I say the word, "No." He likes to say the word, "No." I do not like to tell him, "No," because, when I do, he cries. It's not that I can't bear to hear him cry. It's not that I feel like a horrible mother. It's not that I worry about crushing his little ego, damaging his self-esteem. It's that the crying is annoying. It's loud and obnoxious and dramatic and pitiful and it gives me a headache.

I have heard other mothers suggest that we should not use "No" because toddlers hear it so often, it doesn't really mean anything to them. They have offered substituting a word like "Stop" or "Danger." (Insert eye-roll here.) Whatever.

At lunchtime, a light went on and I developed a new technique. I will now simply omit the word, "No." If I say to Benjamin, "No, you can't have a donut until you eat your turkey," he will stick out his lip and begin wailing like a banshee. If I instead say, "You need to eat your turkey first and then you can have a donut," he just eats the turkey and then asks, "Donut now, please, Mommy." Life is good. I am good. I should write a book.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

I Am 34

There. It's out there. A number for anyone who didn't know. A fact for anyone who's been talking to my husband. (He's been telling the kids for a week that I'm turning 38.) It's my birthday.

I've never been one for hoopla. Well, maybe when I was a kid... but I can't remember, so you'd have to ask my mom. I have one friend who says Mother's Day and her birthday are the two greatest days of the year. She plans and schedules, leaves the Tiffany catalog out on the kitchen counter with desired gifts circled, makes her children and her husband do whatever she wants to do for the day. ("Let's take a walk as a family!") Me, not so much. I'd rather the day went on as any other. So, if you forgot it was my birthday, no worries. That's one fewer guilt pills to swallow.

All that said, it was a darn good birthday. Mom took me and the kids out to lunch. Todd came home early (Well, if you can call 5:50 early...) and we went for sandwiches and ice cream. Then, we took the kids to the park. And, now, he's putting them to bed. Yay!

Of course, there's always the gift dilemma/game/dance. For any occasion, Todd always asks what I want, and I always say, "Nothing." Or, "I don't need anything." (True.) Or, "We don't have any money." (So true.) This year, I had the epiphany that he was going to buy me something, no matter what, and he was going to be stressed out and make both our lives miserable if I didn't give him a concrete idea. So, I asked him to hire someone to clean the house. Surprise, surprise, the gift certificate for housecleaning appeared! I'm still trying to figure out how to make this a permanent arrangement... or, at least, how to stretch this deal to our anniversary (next gift-giving day) and then Christmas! When I loaded the kids in the van to go to the library this morning, I had second thoughts and wished I'd asked him to get my car detailed.

My favorite moments of today-- no surprise-- involved the kids. This afternoon, the doorbell rang, and it was the florist's delivery woman. She dropped off a beautiful bouquet of Gerber daisies in different, vibrant colors. The card read, "Happy Birthday! Love, Amanda, Elisabeth, and Benjamin." When I called the girls in to thank them, they looked a little flabbergasted. But, Amanda quickly picked up on the opportunity and gushed, "Oh, yes, Mommy. We knew this is just what you would want for your birthday. And we told the flower lady specially to make you pink and purple flowers because we know those are your favorite colors. And we thought you could put the flowers right on your dresser so you can see them right when you wake up." Todd got a kick out of that tale. Then, when Daddy got home, Benjamin was sitting at his little table, "coloring." (translation: scribbling) Todd asked Ben what he was drawing, and Ben said, "Happy Mommy Birthday."

Monday, July 28, 2008

Elisabeth's Elocutions

Lest you think my older daughter is the only one who utters amusing things, I offer you some of the funny expressions Elisabeth uses on a daily basis. These are my favorites:

"I didn't see that one comin'!"
"‘Posed to"
"the chuthers" (each other)
"Boringer and boringer"
"First one there's a rotten egg!"

That last one-- I used to think she didn't understand the saying. I tried on multiple occasions to explain it to her in different ways. Finally, I decided she did understand it; Libby just moves more slowly than others, so I think she altered the expression to fit her purposes.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Is Anyone Else Following This?

It began as a soliloquy on bandages, and ended with a bizarre simile.

I heard a lot of drawer opening and closing and wrapper crinkling, but I really did not want to get up to find out what the girls were doing in the bathroom. No need-- they came to me. Cue the Amanda lecture:

“Mom, you need to buy more of these Band-Aid brand Band-Aids, and not the ones with medicine inside (Nexcare.) We don’t need the ones with the medicine inside because we have this cream right here (Neosporin, cap off… Didn’t we learn anything from Benjamin’s latest near-poisoning?) And we don’t like the ones with the medicine inside because they are too sticky and too hard to pull off. I mean, it’s like I’m a wet buffalo and Libby’s pulling on the end of my tail!”

Saturday, July 26, 2008

I Could Have Decked Him

We are having deck dilemmas. We've lived in this house for nearly two years, and have known since we started building that we obviously needed a deck. How can you live on the lake and not be able to sit out on the deck?

Well, first there was time trouble... Then, there was penny pinching... Now, we have a little city conflict over fun things like setbacks and such... In the meantime, we are running into serious design dilemmas. I've talked Todd into a screened porch off the den, adjacent to the deck. I have not talked him into a balcony over the porch, off the master bedroom. The main problem is where to put the stairs. Our backyard is small and terraced with retaining walls. Plus, we don't want railings and steps blocking any of the big windows.

So, we spent part of the afternoon driving around neighborhoods with our eyes peeled for interesting deck/porch combos. When we'd find one, Todd would hand me the camera and say, "Lean out the car window and take a picture." And, I'd say, "No. Someone will think I'm a Peeping Tom (Andrea) and call the police!" So, instead, Todd would lean over me and take a one-handed photo through the passenger window. Not the best shots. Then again, we didn't see the best porches.

I have the perfect picture of what I want... It's somewhere in this disorganized head.

Friday, July 25, 2008

"Last Lecturer's" Final Day

Randy Pausch, Carnegie Mellon professor and author of the "Last Lecture," has died. I had been thinking about him... periodically checking on his blog, where he gave updates on his battle with pancreatic cancer... noticing he had not posted in about a month... So, I googled him and discovered Randy Pausch died about an hour ago. Like thousands of others, I came across Pausch's inspirational words in a profile on "20/20" or some such news magazine. Randy Pausch let everyone know he was first a husband and a father. The rest of the world just reaped the side effects.

Here are some of the highlights from Pausch's "Last Lecture":

-Never underestimate the importance of having fun. I'm dying and I'm having fun. And I'm going to keep having fun every day because there's no other way to play it.

-Experience is what you get when you didn't get what you wanted.

-No one is pure evil. Find the best in everybody. Wait long enough and people will surprise and impress you.

-Brick walls are there for a reason. They are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. The brick walls are there to stop people who don't want it badly enough.

-We can't change the cards we're dealt, just how we play the hand. If I'm not as depressed as you think I should be, I'm sorry to disappoint you.

Muskrat Love

We had a little swimming play date, with two of Amanda's kindergarten classmates and their families. The day started out stormy and hazy, but all that burned off for a perfect time lakeside. We made cold sandwiches and ate on the beach. The kids ventured out to the neighbors' water trampoline and played complicated water games where the rules seemed to keep changing. Ben chased after Amanda's friend, asking, "Where Thomas go?" Libby made good friends with the younger siblings.

But, mostly, all EIGHT children spent their time yelling at this silly muskrat (I think it's a muskrat) hanging out under the pontoon next door. The kids lined up on the dock, shouting at the animal and swiping a fishing net in its general direction. He (she?) just sat there.

Thursday, July 24, 2008


During one of Elisabeth's doctor's visits, Amanda and Benjamin had their own appointments at Grandma's House of Nails. When I called to say I was on my way to pick them up, Grandma warned me, "Brace yourself." But, by the time I arrived, she had rationalized it, "We chose a very masculine color." No argument here. I got no problem with a dude gettin' dolled up. However, is it a coincidence that this is the same day Ben began carrying around a muffin tin?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

We "Heart" Hospitals

You know, it's been about three days since Oliver came home from the hospital and began settling into normal life. Now, we're bored. So, we decided to take Elisabeth to the emergency room-- missed the medical attention, I guess.

Actually, late yesterday afternoon, Elisabeth started whining she was hungry and needed a snack. No surprise, since she ate zero lunch, so I finished changing Ben's clothes and headed for the kitchen. By the time I got some yogurt and Gatorade out of the fridge, Libby was clutching her abdomen, rocking back and forth, and yelling, "It hurts! It hurts!" I wondered if it was a stomach bug coming on, because the couple times Libby has been sick to her stomach she whines and tries to fight it. But, she said she didn't have to throw up, and the crying was escalating. I called Mom and Dad, wondering if we'd eaten something funny for lunch; Mom heard Libby screaming in the background and said they were on their way over.

In the time it took them to get to our house, Libby writhed around on the floor, kicked and screamed, tried to make herself throw up, and just kept yelling, "It hurts badder!" The grandparents pulled in, one hopped in my car and the other went in the house to wrangle the other kids. I had called Todd in a panic, so he was calling back every five minutes for updates.

Her behavior continued in the emergency room, and we were quickly bumped to the top of the list. Elisabeth had been rocking and moaning for well over an hour at this point. Once they got her situated in an E.R. bed, and the nurse examined her, she promptly fell asleep. The nurse said she probably wore herself out, but I'm still not convinced she didn't pass out from the pain.

This continued through the evening, with bouts of building pain, short dozes, and spans of, "I feel fine now. Where's my Leapster?" The doctor ran a bunch of tests, including a CT scan with contrast/dye. The only time Elisabeth actually threw up was after she got a bunch of that contrast in her. The tests didn't really show anything, and, by 10 or 10:30, Libby was chipper and wound, asking over and over again, "Why doesn't anyone come to visit me in this hospital?"

The E.R. doc ruled out problems with her appendix and gall bladder, and she didn't have a bladder infection. He said he was checking for a very serious condition called intussusception. The CT scan showed no evidence of this, but the dye also did not work its way entirely through Libby's intestines, so the radiologist could not give a definitive answer. The doctor gave us three options: wait another hour and repeat the CT scan-- but he advised against it due to the added radiation and a hunch the test would not show anything; go to Children's Hospital for a more conclusive test called a barium enema (I think you all know, or can imagine, what this entails;) or take her home, watch her closely, and visit the pediatrician in the morning.

So, Libby went home, ate two clementines and drank some Gatorade, and begged Daddy to sleep with her. As if we'd let her be alone! So, those two cuddled while I tossed and turned and listened for signs of trouble. Oh, and if not this life-threatening condition? Then, the doc suggested constipation. I'll tell you who's constipated.

AFTERNOON UPDATE: After a trip to the pediatrician's office, another visit to radiology, and a 45-minute phone conversation with Elisabeth's urologist, we are no closer to answers. She is acting OK today-- eating lightly, drinking and peeing more (a result of the contrast ingested last night)... but there's not much news. We decided to temporarily remove Libby's patch that has been treating spastic bladder, because constipation can be a side effect. The pediatrician and the urologist were at odds over whether to start an over-the-counter treatment for constipation; we may try a light dose, or something for gas. And, I will talk to the doctors again tomorrow after they confer with the radiologist.

MINUSES: My OCD is in overdrive, asking Libby every 30 seconds, "Does your tummy hurt?" I've now burned up two back-to-back Grandma babysitting opportunities for the other kids; I would rather have gone shopping or to the movies. My daughter has had so much radiation I expect her to be her own nightlight.

PLUSES: I've promised a trip to the market to pick out as much of whatever fruits the kids want. Libby has amassed a collection of 15 new stickers, or "bravery badges," from the various medical departments. The middle child has gotten a BIG chunk of Mommy and Daddy's undivided attention.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Pillow Talk

Todd talks in his sleep. While this may be new information for you, it is not for me. He's been doing it for years, and it's never interesting, because it's always about work. Mostly, this happens when I think something woke him up-- the TV, a thunderstorm-- and he starts talking, but it's all crazy talk (I can't really explain how I distinguish this from regular-conscious-Todd crazy talk, but it is different) and I soon realize he is still dead to the world.

In the middle of the night, Amanda came into our bedroom, totally hysterical about a bad dream. She was literally wailing, and I could not seem to calm her. I told her she could sleep on our floor if that would make her feel better (sorry, no kids in the bed,) and she laid out her blanket and pillow, but continued sobbing. Nothing seemed to quiet this kid, and, in my stupor, I was becoming quite frustrated.

At that point, Todd rolled over and calmly said, "Amanda, come here." Good, I thought, the hysterics have finally awakened the dead, and he can take a turn. He's genetically calmer than I am at any hour and in any situation, anyway. I rolled over to brace myself for a 57-pound, leg-and-arm-flailing bed guest, but she didn't climb in. Todd was talking to her. "Now, if you are part of the control group, these are the anticipated effects..." I rolled back over, and Todd was up on one elbow, clearly describing in technical terms criteria for quality control on tests for a new product. Amanda-- wide awake-- seemed to be taking it all in.

I whispered for Amanda to come back around to my side of the bed. When she got there, I quietly told her I thought Daddy was still asleep, and he must be dreaming about work. We giggled a little as she laid back down on the floor. Todd flopped back on his pillow and scolded, "Hey, I can hear you over there!"

The Honeymoon May Be Over

Todd was waiting for me to watch a TV show we had recorded, but I was first trying to check off a couple items on my endless to-do list. I told him, "Just wait a few more minutes. I have to shave my legs." Todd asked, "What for?"

Monday, July 21, 2008

Just Like Daddy

Amanda pitched a fit last evening, saying her new bike was too big and too hard to ride. I pointed out losing her temper did not help, and made her look silly in the process. Took me back an hour... Earlier in the evening, while at Target buying the bike, I could not find Todd and the other kids at the checkout. When I finally noticed them out in the car, I stomped out of the store with my hands in the air. Amanda asked why I fight so much.

So, like mother, like daughter... But that got me thinking about how my children are like their father. I'm not sure if it's genetic, or environmental, but there are definitely some things that separate my kids from other kids-- because Todd is their dad:

1. Instead of beginning stories, "Once upon a time," my kids start theirs with, "A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away..."
2. Amanda rips video game controllers out of others' hands and scolds, "No, you're not doing it right!"
3. Popcorn is a food group and movies are a way of life.
4. Not one of the children will eat rice.
5. After a day of swimming, when I make them shower because they "smell like lake," they look at me like I'm crazy.
6. They take apart a lot of things to "fix" them, but rarely get around to putting them back together.
7. They have to be asked to do something at least five times.
8. Amanda is freaked by spiders.
9. You'll remember, Ben started bellowing, "Andrea" before he said "mama."
10. Everybody likes to drive the boat fast.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Big, Big Day

Today is a big day-- really big. First and foremost, Oliver is spending his first day at home... after his first, long, sleepless night! His brothers were here last night (hence, my exhaustion and, thus, no post yesterday.)

Oliver's cousins were so excited to finally "meet" him. Benjamin surprised me most of all, thrilled to stand by the bassinet and coo, "Hi, Oliver. Love you."

Second, but equally huge in Krinkeland, Amanda learned how to ride a two-wheeler! She approached this skill much as she did potty training, and all the other big milestones so far in her young life: She knew how to do it for weeks and months, but still had to work up the guts. Today, she just hopped on and took off... stopping only long enough to lobby Daddy for a new bike:

Friday, July 18, 2008

Set Adrift

With Daddy back home and the weather so beautiful, we decided to go out for an after-supper boat ride. Another plus: Lisa was visiting, so that evened out the adult-to-child ratio. The girls have gotten much, much braver in the lake this year. Their new favorite activity is to put on their wet suits and life jackets and jump off the back of the boat. Who knew Benjamin would demand to go in, too?

Thursday, July 17, 2008

What to Watch

Todd is gone again. That means stricter adherence to the kids' bedtime, because I am definitely ready to go off duty. Once everyone is in bed (me included,) the wind-down begins. I do read, though not as much as I used to, because my free time is so inconsistent, I can't remember what's happening each time I pick up the book. There's always a stack of magazines and catalogs I've been meaning to get to. But, mostly, my before-sleep routine includes some mindless television.

When I'm the only adult in the house, it takes me longer to unwind, so I use the time to catch up on my favorite ridiculous TV shows, all pre-recorded and waiting for me. These are my favorites:

"Flipping Out," Bravo
"The Bold and the Beautiful," CBS
"Gene Simmons' Family Jewels," A&E
"Top Chef," Bravo
"What Not to Wear," TLC
"House Hunters," HGTV
"Iron Chef America," Food Network
"Flip That House," TLC-- or is it "Flip This House," A&E? (I like 'em both.)
"The Two Coreys," A&E
"Deadliest Catch," Discovery
"Throwdown," Food Network
"Moving Up," TLC
"Cash Cab," Discovery
"Cash in the Attic," HGTV
"A Baby Story," TLC
"The Secret Lives of Women," WE
"Clean Sweep," TLC
"20/20" (revisited,) WE
"Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives," Food Network
"Big Brother," CBS

You don't have to shake your head at the blog and mutter about how stupid these shows are. I already know that. That's why I like them.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

What I Learned Today

1. Just when the morning is feeling kind of rough, pulling into Superamerica for a caffeine pick-me-up may seem like a good idea. Your outlook will change, however, if a two-year-old in the back seat pipes up, "Mommy needs a drink."

2. This is a bad equation: too-tight pants with FOUR buttons at the waistband + two extra-large fountain sodas = pee-pee dance

3. When your husband isn't coming home for supper, don't go through the trouble of making scalloped potatoes and ham. The kids would rather have peanut butter and jelly, and the husband-- when he finally does appear-- is going to ravage the pantry for cashews and Oreos.

4. Watching a toddler eat peas, with a spoon, will make you laugh, no matter how foul your mood.

Summertime Gauntlet

We have been so busy this week. On paper, it doesn't look like much-- vacation bible school in the morning and swimming lessons in the afternoon. But, in reality, that translates to getting up early and hitting the road (bible school is at Grandma's church, a half-hour away) and then rushing back home to try to squeeze in a nap for Benjamin before heading to the beach for lessons. Somewhere in between, we have to take Grandma to and from physical therapy and get lunch. Afterward, it's back home for baths and supper before we all fall into bed.

The good part is everyone is too exhausted to even argue about bedtime. Well, last night, Elisabeth tried:
Libby: "I'm not even tired."
Mommy: "Yes, you are."
Libby: "OK."

Amanda "dives in" to her new class.

Kaz and Libby are happy to be classmates.

Auntie helps Ben and Sol keep cool.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Difference

I am cheap. I am not crooked. Why is it hard for others to distinguish?

I like to save a buck... or two... or ten. I sometimes go overboard, say, for example, buying three boxes of cereal because I have a "Buy 3 Get $1.00 Off" coupon. Or, making sure I always spend at least $25 at Amazon so I qualify for free shipping. I admit that can get silly, and I end up buying stuff we don't really need. But I also make sure it doesn't go to waste.

Still, I wouldn't dream of switching price tags to get something cheaper (something I was once accused of) or lying about purchase conditions when making a return or anything like that. I want my deals fair and square. I am just as quick to point out if I've been undercharged as I am to note when I'm overcharged. And, why do both of those problems occur so often, anyway? Why is it so hard to get it right?

When checking out at Target today, (that joke never gets old, does it?) I noticed signs posted at all the registers that told customers the store would not be able to accept internet coupons that read "$5 Off a $25 Purchase," due to fraudulent alterations and uses. My first thought was, "Man, I didn't get that coupon. How did I miss it on the Target website?" And, then, I realized it was irrelevant because I wouldn't be able to use it, anyway. What, did someone scan the coupon and change it to read, "$25 Off a $5 Purchase?" Don't they know cheaters never win? And, one person can ruin it for everyone? And all those good mom-type sayings?

Monday, July 14, 2008

Law of Averages

Benjamin got on the chart! It's what the nurse exclaimed. It's what the pediatrician exclaimed. It's what I exclaimed when relaying the headlines to Daddy from his two-year well child checkup. Benjamin weighs 24 pounds, 10 ounces (15th percentile) and is 34 inches tall (40th percentile.) And, no, I did not commit to memory his head circumference, but it is holding steady at the 95th percentile.

**Warning!** Cliche ahead: What a difference a year makes.

Benjamin's 12-month well baby checkup was a nightmare. While our pediatrician was calm and positive, as she always is, I later received copies of her clinic notes, and the dictation from that visit began, "I am really worried about Benjamin..." He already had a neurologist, because the big head thing had emerged by four months. At 12 months, Ben also gained: an endocrinologist, a gastroenterologist, a urologist, an ophthalmologist, a dentist, and two geneticists. Benjamin earned himself repeat visits to the Mayo Clinic, where he was also doted upon by teams of residents and fellows; and he became feared and loathed by the entire pediatric phlebotomy department. Later, we added a physical therapist and an orthotist.

What came of all those visits with all those doctors? Horrible tests, including the dreaded sweat test; entire skeletal surveys; more blood work than any child should endure; and lots of kind-faced shrugs. And here we are today-- with a funny, talkative toddler who keeps us hopping. In my generally-correct-but-always-humble opinion, Ben is one of the three greatest blessings a mother could know.

For a while there, I had forgotten what a "normal" doctor's visit was like. I missed our pediatrician's, "Hi, guys. What's up? Any concerns?" And the comfort of, "He's great. See you in a year."

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Number 1 Son Turns 2

My baby is two today. We celebrated in traditional fashion-- with lots of family, Mylar balloons, and the icing-all-over-the-face photos. Benjamin got his requisite collection of new trucks. I still can't figure out where those two years went. I know it makes me sound like an old bag to say it, but, I swear, he just got here. And now, suddenly, he walks into a room and announces, "Benny here!" Happy, happy birthday, beloved son.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Thar' She Blows!

You just can't count on Mother Nature. Summertime is time to entertain at our house, and we had invited friends to spend the day. Even though it was sunny, not too hot and not too cold, we really could not enjoy the lake because it was WAY TOO WINDY!

We tried. Really, we tried. Maren got a sand facial, and I had to sit on Libby to keep her from blowing away. But, Jason, Todd, and Todd took the kids in the water for a little while. It looked like they were riding waves in the Pacific. They soon emerged, blue and shivering, and begging to go in the house and put on their clothes. So, it became more of a talk-and-play-cards kind of day. But, that's a good day, too.

Todd (on the left,) Jason (right,) and Amanda (life-jacketed, in the middle) set adrift

Julia and Ben making their own waves

Friday, July 11, 2008

Taking On an Almost-2-Year-Old

I've been noting how late Benjamin has been sleeping in the morning. All my kids have been kind of late sleepers, and I'm glad. Of course, ever since she started school, Amanda now seems to have her internal alarm clock set for 7:00. Still, I can take that. Ben's typical wake-up time is sometime between 8:00 and 9:00, but, for the last week or so, it has been closer to 10:00. It's not really surprising, because he's been a real stinker about going to bed at night. He sure hasn't seemed sick, or as though anything is wrong, so I've also chalked it up to a growth spurt.

So, this morning, just to spite me, Ben starts screaming at 6:00 on the dot. I groaned, because I had been up much of the night keeping vigil on the thunderstorms. (Guess I wanted to know if I'd be waking up in Kansas.) Todd got up with him, as the regular alarm went off, anyway. I could hear Todd, filling Ben's cup, trying to soothe him, but he just kept crying. Sometimes, Ben gets a leg stuck between the bars of his toddler bed. But, when I go in there, he'll yell, "Foot stuck," and I can usually fix him right up.

Todd was having no luck, so he finally brought him into our room. Ben's face was tear-stained and his whole body was wracked by sobs. We felt his head-- not warm, and rubbed his back to calm him. After a few minutes, he turned to Todd, broke out into a huge grin and said, "Daddy run fast." Then, he was up... drinking his cup, hiding under the covers, following Daddy into the bathroom to get ready for work. He was talking a mile a minute: "Daddy, Dad, Dad! Daddy brush teeth. I hear train. Airplane up high. I see ladybug. Where bug go? Bug right there. I sweep. Dad. Dad. Daaaadddddddyyyyyy!"

After a half-hour of this, I started thinking, "Ben's typically asleep for the next three hours. What will the day be like if he stays up now? He can't take his afternoon nap at 11:00." So, I took him back to his room and changed him. While I was doing that, I told him we were going to read a book and he was going back to bed. Ben looked right at me and said, "I frow up." Again, we've already established he is not sick, nor has he been, so I could only take this as a threat. As I've mentioned many times before (because it bugs me so) this kid has an incredible gag reflex, and he gags and even vomits when he throws fits. This was the first time he admitted doing it purposely.

I was pretty proud of myself for calmly looking him in the eyes and saying, "No, you will not throw up." Then, we read a book and I laid him down. He yelled once, "Mommy!" and then settled down. Mission accomplished. I went back to my bed and pulled up the covers. I had just rolled over when another little blonde head bobbed into my sight line. "Mom, I'm hungry."

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Mom, What's the Message?

Have I told you about this photo? I took it late last year, when my mom and I were shopping the day after Thanksgiving sales. I long ago saved it to the computer and deleted it from the camera's memory card. However, whenever I download photos off the camera (about every other day,) this shot shows up. Every time. It's as though the Ghost of Christmas Shopping Past is haunting me.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Baby Bests

I was wrapping a gift for a baby shower, and that got me thinking... I know a number of people right now who are expecting their first child. Showers, gift registries, all that jazz. I remember when we were cooking Amanda, I had a list a mile long of all the stuff we "needed" for the baby. Of course, I didn't really know a thing.

Take, for example, the $300 "travel system" I just had to have. That cursed stroller became the bain of my motherhood existence-- the airline lost it on the first flight we took with the baby; the replacement stroller broke, yes, just went on strike and the wheels quit turning, in the middle of Mall of America; the d#@* thing weighed 30 pounds and hardly fit into the trunk of our car. I finally wrote a nasty letter to the company and spent $65 to ship it back to them-- in pieces.

Now, that is just one experience... But, when you fit it into the picture of having three children in four years, I've become something of an expert in the baby gear arena. Yes, we went through seven car seats to find the best one, but, now we definitely know the best car seat. I sometimes have to bite my tongue in the baby section of Target, to keep from telling young Mrs. Big Belly, "Don't do it!" Of course, some shoppers, when they spy my cart full of graham-cracker-encrusted urchins, actually do ask my advice. And, since this is my blog, I will offer my opinions wholly unsolicited.

Best Baby Gifts
*Bumbo-- If you don't know what this is, check it out! ($40)
*inexpensive, lightweight, folding stroller with a shade and a storage basket (about $30)
*plain white t-shirts-- short-sleeved Onesies, long-sleeved Onesies, a few of those side snappers for the first week with the umbilical cord stump; white is gender-neutral and easily bleached ($10 for pack of 5)
*good baby nail clipper ($3)
*Robeez shoes ($25)
*blue or pink receiving blanket-- you can put a baby in anything as long as you throw over the gender-appropriate blanket
*hand blender and other accessories to make your own baby food (Trust me, it's better than the jar stuff and not at all hard to do.)
*Baby Bjorn baby carrier-- pricier than other brands, but worth it ($80)
*zip-front sleep-and-play one-piece outfits
*Tiny Love Symphony-in-Motion mobile-- looks weird, but babies love it! ($35)
*bibs the size of hand towels-- best are those made from hand towels
*Boppy nursing pillow, with slipcover ($35)
*Tupperware Shape-O toy-- did not just throw this in for my M.I.L.... didn't you have one when you were a baby? ($25)
*temporal lobe scanning thermometer ($50)
*plastic links-- baby toys that double as bag hooks for strollers ($3)
*A & D Original Ointment
*hand sanitizer
*Little Tikes Cozy Coupe a.k.a. "The Bubble Car"-- all right, it's something to look forward to when the baby is about a year old, and it may take that long to assemble it ($60)
*one-dish meal in a disposable pan, with directions on how to freeze and reheat
*offers to clean house, fold laundry, babysit siblings-- and don't take "no" for an answer

p.s. These companies are not paying me... but they should.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Thinking Outside the Box

Benjamin's physical therapist, Margaret, brought a new torture device this morning-- this small, wooden box. She had him practice stepping on and off of it. Then, they played Mr. Potato Head, with Benjamin standing on the box, Margaret holding the 'Tato and the bin of body parts at Ben's feet, so he had to bend down and pick up each piece and then stand again to plug it in. Ben has a much tighter stance (stands with his feet closer together) when he's, well, standing on a very small box, so his only other choice is to fall off of said box.

After he tired of that game-- a good long while (because it sure is funny when you put Mr. Spud's ear in the hat hole!)-- Margaret turned the box over and placed Ben inside it. The purpose of this is to get him lifting his feet and stepping over obstacles. He tried his method first, which was to stand there and cry for Mommy to come to the rescue. Eventually, Ben started getting the hang of things. But he was not happy when Margaret left the box for us to practice while she is on vacation.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Emotional Globetrotting

This spring, I tossed the Community Education catalog in Amanda's direction and said, "Pick something." She is the child who would sit in front of the television, sun-up to sundown, watching a test pattern, if permitted. I try to keep her moving. She chose Bison Buddies Basketball Camp.

OK. Basketball. It is a language well spoken in the home where I was raised. But, here, where we are raising our children-- not so much. I took her this afternoon to the high school gym, where one of the coaches tossed her a ball and she took off (traveling, mind you) to the hoop. I was glad she was excited, and I watched for a few minutes, to make sure she'd have friends (this child could make friends in a deaf-mute leper colony) and to see that her name was called off the roster, meaning I had registered her correctly.

I returned five minutes before camp ended and couldn't find my kid anywhere. I was about to ask whether she'd been "injured" or "ejected" when I spotted Amanda slouched in a corner of the bleachers. I don't know why I didn't see this coming, but Amanda was deeply troubled by her lack of skill and experience on the court. She said she couldn't dribble, couldn't pass, got "out" first in every game, and wished she'd never come to basketball camp.

I gave her the 15-second "we don't quit" mini-speech and sent her back into the closing huddle. As the head coach congratulated all the kids on a great first day, he gave them "homework," dribbling drills to do before tomorrow. Duh. We don't even have a basketball. It hadn't occurred to me to practice with her before the camp; I'm no athlete (understatement of the century) but I know the basics, i.e.: "This is a basketball."

Grandpa P. to the rescue. He and Grandma stopped by late in the afternoon and asked how camp had gone. Amanda's disposition had improved a bit after a half-hour of "Tom & Jerry" and a Fruit-by-the-Foot. Still, she stuck out her lip and verbalized her feelings of inadequacy. Grandpa loaded her up and took her to buy a professional women's basketball. Then, he took her down in the basement where I heard a lot of bouncing that turned out to be right-hand dribbling, left-hand dribbling and bounce passing. Tomorrow, we will try again. That's the way the basketball bounces.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Lucky Enough

This will be a really dumb post without photos... But, sorry to say, I forgot my camera, and so did everyone else.

Recently, I was watching a lake home special on HGTV. It focused on innovative architecture, inviting locations, and breathtaking views. One sound bite from the show had a homeowner remarking, "If you're lucky enough to live on the lake, you're lucky enough." The saying hit home, as I feel the same way... and, often, I need to remind myself-- while sweeping up sand, or counting kids' heads, or buying more sunscreen-- what a blessed life it is.

We spent today at Mom and Dad's lake. They have an enormous, park-like lot; a shallow swim area that's mostly weed-free (ever since the weed killer kicked in;) and every lake toy a kid could ever want. Elisabeth finally got up the courage to ride with Grandpa on the Jet Ski. Later, we took out the boat and anchored in a deeper part of the lake. Amanda, Libby, Kazmer, and Solomon-- all life-jacketed, of course-- took turns jumping off the boat into the arms of Uncle Teddy.

Todd has a summer cold and was feeling under the weather, so, between the hammock and the hide-a-bed, he napped the afternoon away. When we were driving home after supper, I asked, "Elisabeth, did you tell Daddy everything you did in the lake today? You were so brave. Elisabeth? Libby? Libby?" She was sound asleep. Oh, yeah, lake living also tires you out.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

To You, It Is a Linen Closet

To me, it is a big step in the right direction, a peace offering, and definitely a turn-on.

When you build your own house-- by this I mean, you are the contractor (and cabinetmaker, and electrician, and...) and the construction loan is in your name-- everything doesn't get done before you move in. We got just enough done for the bank to let us close, and for the kids to not be living in a danger zone, and we promised ourselves we'd get the rest done ASAP. However, once we did close, it was a different story. It's not so much about running out of money, as it is about running out of gas. (OK, bad pun when I'm talking about Todd.)

Little by little, projects have been getting done... but there's still so much more to do. Some of the things drive me crazy every day, and other things I don't even notice until a new visitor asks, "And what's supposed to go there?"

One example of driving me crazy: the upstairs hall linen closet. In the final days before closing, the trimmer zipped through with his saw and his nail gun, putting up all the trim. Late one evening, when he got to this spot, he asked me about it. What was happening here? Was he supposed to finish the linen closet? It was a sneaky move, it turns out, because Todd had previously told him to finish it, just as he finished the rest of the closets. I looked at it and saw a face frame and some cupboard doors-- looked like a cabinet to me, so I told the trimmer Todd would take care of it.

While not high on Todd's list, this became a priority for me. I walked by it multiple times a day. I tried to put blankets in it, but they kept falling into the hall. The face frame just sat there, propped against the wall, and I waited for it to fall on a kid. A friend would come over and want to put a little one down for a nap in the guest room. I would direct, "There are blankets just outside the door-- you'll see them hanging out of that big hole in the wall."

So, today, while I was visiting Oliver, Todd finished the linen closet! He even folded the linens and put them on the shelves like that. Can you feel my excitement pulsing through cyberspace?! Who dares call me a difficult woman? I think I'm pretty easy to please.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Honk! Ted is 60!

We celebrated my dad's birthday today, along with the birth of our nation. For that matter, it is also Dad's younger brother's birthday-- Happy Birthday, Uncle Mike!

Anyway, a low-key celebration... We hung out a sign, and got lots of well wishes from neighbors on the lake. Plenty cruised by, honking and cheering. A couple said, "Man, are you old, Ted!" But, as Dad likes to point out, "I could be a year older... or I could be dead."

Even apart from the birthday festivities, this just had to be the best Fourth of July. Everyone said so. We spent the day by-- and on-- the lake. The weather was beautiful. The food was plentiful, and good, if I do say so myself. After supper, we played cards while the kids wound down. Then, it was back outside to watch the fireworks and roast marshmallows over the fire. Paradise. This has to be what being an American is all about.

Of course, one of my favorite things about the day was reading the birthday card Amanda made for Grandpa. Excuse the Mushy Mommy Moment. Early in the morning, she was following me around with a crayon and paper, asking me how to spell certain words. I finally stopped cleaning long enough to ask, "What are you writing?" She showed me the card she had made. The message read, "On the outside you are funny, but I know that... You love." OK-- a six-year-old expression of sentiment, but I get it. And she's right, Dad. We all know, and feel, your love.

Happy Birthday, Dad. Happy Birthday, America. Thank you, today and every day, to the men and women serving in our armed forces, protecting my freedom and protecting my family. Special prayers go out, for Jesse Johnson, serving in Iraq, and for Damon Allen, who has recently returned from Iraq on leave. Stay safe.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Flag My File and Get It Over With

So, it turns out, Poison Control does not keep records of how many calls are received from one number. I'm not sure I believe that, but it's what I was told when I asked during the latest call, and it made me feel better, so I'm going with it.

Tonight it was Neosporin-- not sucked directly from the tube, but squirted onto a finger and then licked off. Boy. Benjamin added to the excitement three minutes after the call by climbing onto a chair to look out the window, falling off and hitting his head on the edge of the baseboard. Dad was certain there was a head injury... But then told me, "Wait, your pupils don't look equal, either."

Boy. Boy. Boy. Not even two yet, but, chances are, whatever you name, Ben's already scaled it, fallen off of it, taken it apart, tasted it, or flushed it.

Note to self: For future reference, the Poison Control number is 1-800-222-1222.

Grammar and the 6-Year-Old Brain

We were out to supper, and, while waiting for our food, Amanda was playing a word game on her placemat. She filled in the blanks with "S-E-E," where it should have been "S-E-A." I explained to her about words sounding the same, but being spelled differently, as with "to." She said, "I know, I know... T-O, T-O-O, T-O-W." Well, almost. Before I could correct her, she added, "And I know another way to spell 'see.'" She picked up her crayon and wrote "L-O-K-K."

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

A Great Place I Can Do Without

Along with Grandma and Grandpa, I went to visit Oliver in the ICC (Infant Care Center.) We took turns sitting with my monsters and going in to see Ellen's angel. I hadn't been there about a week-and-a-half, because I had a cold and wouldn't dare risk passing along any of my germs. Oliver is doing just beautifully. Hopefully, he will get the hang of eating more each day, so he can soon be homeward bound.

We packed a picnic and took a break in the rooftop garden that is adjacent to the hospital's Family Resource Center. It was a gorgeous day, and a wonderful place to hang out. The patio is kind of an oasis, with comfy, shaded table sets, and lots of outdoor play equipment for the kids. But, I couldn't help thinking, "I hope we all soon get to leave this place... and none of us ever have to return."

Please keep praying for my nephew's growth and recovery. Also, pray for his parents and brothers... This is tough on everybody, and I know they can't wait to have Oliver home. I can't wait, either.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

WALL.E Movie Really Dumb-y

Grandma, Grandpa, Uncle Terry and I took all the kids (minus Oliver, otherwise occupied) to see the movie "WALL.E." Before going in, here's what I knew about the movie: it's made by Disney/Pixar; and it's about a robot. After seeing the film, I can now tell you those are the two most interesting facts about "WALL.E."

It's the story of a robot designed to collect garbage, who has developed a personality, after spending 700 years roaming a desolate, trash-covered Earth. All the people had to flee to outer space, to escape from the dung heaps they created. In space, they became even more slovenly and lazy than they had been on Earth. Then, they sent another robot, EVE, to look for signs of life. WALL.E showed her the plant he had recently discovered growing out of the debris, and lots of excitement and hijinx ensued.

Benjamin's favorite part of the movie was the Disney animation showing fireworks over Cinderella's castle at the open. Of course, Amanda said it was "great"-- but, then, she is her father's daughter. In my opinion, chasing Ben around the theater was more fun than watching this movie. I'm just sorry I wasted my mom's money.