Thursday, February 26, 2009

Remembering Millie

For the first decade of my life, our family lived in a small rambler on a busy, suburban street. Just up the road, within walking distance of our house, was a lake, with a beach and a park. Adjacent to that park was Ted's Store, known to all as "Millie's." It was a tiny, cramped, overstuffed place where one could pick up grocery essentials and ice cream treats. And, behind the counter, always, was Millie. Ted, Millie's husband, died years ago. He had a barber shop next to the store, and they lived in a house behind their businesses.

Thirty years ago, Millie seemed "old" to me, though she could not have been. She was the wonderful kind of "old": friendly, bend-over-backwards helpful, patient as the day is long. She called everyone "Honey," though she knew all our names, and had exceptions for every rule. My parents tell stories of being young and cash-strapped, when they would stop in, or send one of us kids to the store, and Millie would let us charge milk or bread or whatever we needed to get by until payday. I don't remember struggles-- just hunks off blocks of cheese, strings of old-fashioned wieners, ice cream push-ups, and Charleston Chews.

Urban sprawl reached the area, and our family moved further out, to greener pastures. My parents continued to tell stories of stopping in to see Millie, how well she was doing, how she remembered all of us. Millie wasn't just that way with our family; she was that way with everyone. She was a community hero, a neighborhood figurehead, loving to all and beloved by all.

Some years ago, a national news magazine did a little feature story on Millie and Ted's Store. It was just the kind of place that took root in hearts-- and didn't let go. Even when strip malls with mega-supermarkets popped up, full of low prices and big selections, anyone who had ever been into Millie's continued to shop at her store. Just a couple years ago, I was in the area, visiting a hospitalized family member, and I drove by Millie's. It looked the same. It felt the same. I could have been a seven-year-old on a hand-me-down, banana-seat bike. But I wasn't. I had two sleeping kids in the car, so I didn't stop and go in. I wish I had.

Millie Buzzelli died this week. She is with her honey, Ted, now. She has left a legacy of caring-- and I can't think of a greater legacy to leave. If you have time, take a moment to read some of the tributes in her growing obituary guest book. I know what I have written has not done justice to this remarkable woman. Millie will be missed.

UPDATE: From the Star Tribune, Feb. 28

A tiny grocery's beloved owner

Millie Buzzelli ran Ted's Grocery in Coon Rapids, a little place where she knew your name.
By TIM HARLOW, Star Tribune

Commerce will be conducted today at Ted's Grocery in Coon Rapids, but it will anything but business as usual.

Customers will still be able to pick up cereal, diapers and produce. They'll be able to buy the store's signature Freezie pops for just a quarter, trade recipes with neighbors and even bring their pets inside the tiny store that opened more than 60 years ago.

But Millie Buzzelli, the grocery's beloved owner who greeted generations of patrons with her genuine smile, won't be there to ring up the sales.

Friends and customers are invited to the store today to shop and remember Buzzelli, 76, who died Tuesday at Mercy Hospital in Coon Rapids from complications from heart failure.

"We wanted people to be able to come to talk about her and be sad and connect and laugh," said Sue Melody, a customer from Coon Rapids who will step in to help run the store.

A crowd so large that it could barely squeeze inside the sanctuary turned out for services Friday at St. Stephen's Catholic Church in Anoka to pay respects to the woman who knew customers by name and epitomized Matthew 25, the Bible passage read at her funeral.

"She always said that we will be accountable to God," Melody said. "The verse talks about when you feed the poor and thirsty. She lived those words."

Buzzelli never accepted credit cards but often allowed customers who were short on cash to pay later.

"That was a recurring theme," said Buzzelli's daughter, Toni Jett, of Minneapolis. "She loved and trusted everybody in the neighborhood, and they looked after her. The times she did get a bad check, she'd say, 'I guess they needed it more than I did.'"

The store, no bigger than 20 feet wide and 20 feet long, had all the necessities of life and a bit of old-time charm. Buzzelli kept large blocks of cheese in the vintage freezer. When a customer wanted a chunk, she'd slice some off and use a Toledo scale to weigh it, Jett said.

Buzzelli ran the store solo after husband, Ted, died in 1983. Over the years she gave advice to parents, helped children learn to count and prayed for her customers.

"Millie was Ann Landers, Dr. Spock and Julia Child rolled into one," Michelle Filkins said in eulogizing her aunt. "She was an unassuming angel who quietly held together a community with her love, grace and her unwavering commitment and service to others. It's impossible to quantify the impact Millie had."

Friends such as Melody will run the store for now, but it's unclear how long Ted's will remain open. Buzzelli's children, Jett and Ted Jr., of Coon Rapids, are unable to take over operation of the store, at 13120 NW. Crooked Lake Blvd.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Sacrifice, Simplified

Well, it's about that time again-- Ash Wednesday, the kickoff to Lent. We've been talking about Lent a lot around here... the girls bring home lessons from their Christian schools and they're good starting points for discussion. And, you know how we Catholics like to pick up our crosses and make our Lenten sacrifices. The church's longstanding practice has been to promote prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, all with the purpose of encouraging the faithful to live lives more like Jesus'.

I was struck, however, by a simple, but excellent, point made by our priest in his "Pastor's Column" in this week's church bulletin. He stressed that Lent is not about racking up accomplishments; rather, it is about conversion. He passed along advice given to him, suggesting that before we take on new tasks as Lenten sacrifices, we should first examine how we are handling all the daily duties that come with our vocations. Am I the best wife, mother, daughter, sister, and friend I can be?

"Make sure you are living out your vocation before you consider doing more." I've been carrying Father's advice with me this week, and am challenging all of you to take a closer look at your own lives. I know I have a long way to go... and could stand to learn a lot more, to do a lot more, with the mission of becoming more Christ-like. It's a much different approach than, say, giving up Diet Coke or Target.

This was also the sermon topic at the school's Ash Wednesday service. Amanda and I will be discussing it more when she gets home today. Last evening, I found her on her hands and knees, wiping up the post-bath puddles on the bathroom floor. She told me she planned to be more diligent with her chores for Lent. When I told her Lent was six weeks long, her eyes rolled back in her head.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Deal on the Doh

The three children I have at home today, ages 2, 5, and 36, are playing Play-Doh. I hate the stuff, myself-- hate the mess, hate the way it makes my hands smell-- but the Number One Son loooves it, begs for it, can't live without it. So, sometimes I cave.

I am sitting at the computer, catching up on important business, adjacent to the room where they are playing, out of sight but within earshot. I hear the usual litany of rules about one color at a time, don't get it on the carpet, take turns with the rolling pin, blah, blah. Then, Daddy says, "Hand me the extruder." The kids ask, "What?!" He's insisting on the extruder, and, I assume, begins gesturing. "Oh, the Play-Doh Fuzzy Pumper!" Elisabeth solves. Dad explains what extrusion molding is, and shows examples with the soft, yellow dough.

Next, he asks the kids, "I wonder who invented Play-Doh. Do you know?" By this time, the youngsters are thinking maybe playing Play-Doh is not the best idea... Daddy makes everything too much work. So I Googled "history of Play-Doh." You'll be happy to know the compound was invented in the 1950s, by two brothers who worked for an East Coast chemical company. It was originally intended as a wallpaper cleaner. Find out more useless information here.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Creature Feature

The latest creepy activity in my kids' world: attending the Reptile Show with Grandma P. and their cousins at the local nature center. They learned all about things that crawl, swim and slither. As usual, Amanda had all the questions-- and all the answers. My favorites are those questions that aren't really questions at all: "I have this big book about reptiles. It has turtles, and lizards, and snakes on it. On the page about cobras, there is a picture of three cobras, and all their heads are really close together."

No hesitancy to touch or resulting nightmares this time. In fact, after the presentation was over, Amanda proclaimed, "This is the best day of my entire life!"

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Well Rounded

I didn't really get a chance this past week to write about Kindergarten Roundup. We took Elisabeth to the parent/child meeting at school, mostly to give her the experience of getting geared up for kindergarten. With Amanda, we listened attentively to the presentation, pored over the curriculum, and asked lots of questions. This time around, we mostly watched the slide show for shots of when Amanda was a kindergartner, and worried about how Libby was getting along in her orientation/play time in the kindergarten room.

Elisabeth was really excited to go to Kindergarten Roundup, and I was happy to see that, because she has a tendency to be my little leg clinger. She knows many of the kids with whom she will attend kindergarten, either because they have older siblings in Amanda's grade or because they were in her preschool class. Libby is already talking about having the same teacher her sister had... but we'll have to wait and see if that happens. There are two sections of kindergarten at the school, and we have heard wonderful things about both teachers.

She was a little reserved, but Libby seemed happy to have attended, and to have the focus be on her. There are many more things to do before kindergarten begins in the fall-- we will attend the screening day in the spring and orientation this summer. She seems relieved to be easing into things. A family friend of ours had to explain the process a bit more to her five-year-old son; the morning after Kindergarten Roundup, he got up, ready to get on the bus. He had been "rounded up," so it must be time for him to start kindergarten.

As for me, I can't believe I'll be sending another one off to school in just six months. In the blink of an eye, as my mom always warns me. She is so smart, so sweet (when she wants to be,) and so small. It will be hard. Of course, I'll still have two at home with me... In some ways, the fun never ends.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

We All Have Our Ways

Todd celebrated his new job contract by hiring an attorney to read it. Me, I got new bedding.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Everything's Fuzzy

I washed a Kleenex-- maybe two. I think it was just one, but probably two-ply. Cleaning out the lint trap in the dryer, picking off the tissue worms from clothes and bending to retrieve tiny bits of Kleenex from the carpet-- that's my new exercise routine.

one Kleenex=$0.005
potential havoc=priceless

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Say "Aah!"

The kids all had their dental checkups today, including Benjamin's first. We began talking about it this morning, trying to prepare him-- but not freak him out. We talked about who the dentist was, and we practiced opening our mouths. After a few minutes, I asked Ben whether he had any questions, and he said. "Yeah. Is there an elevator there?" (Nope.)

All was cool when we entered the office. After a couple early, bad experiences with our family dentist (Amanda refused to open her mouth-- imagine that,) I found a pediatric dentist we like. He is very friendly, and only sees kids, so his office is a pretty fun place to visit. Anyway, the girls went first and everything was OK, though they still made faces about the fluoride treatments. Ben went willingly enough with the hygienist, so I stayed in the waiting room. I never heard any screaming-- and I was listening-- but when they returned 15 minutes later, he was sobbing a bit and there was a tear stain down one cheek. I commented, "Oh, you were crying. I didn't hear you." The hygienist said it wasn't too bad, and assured me everything had gone OK. After she left, Ben scolded me, "I was hrying and hrying, an' yew din hear me. Yew din hum." (translation: "I was crying and crying, and you didn't hear me. You didn't come.") He got to pick a plastic fish out of the prize box, so the visit was salvaged.

The good news: The dentist did not seem overly concerned about Benjamin's teeth and jaw alignment. He noted there is still a mild crossbite and underbite, but said he has a nice arch to his palate, so we will have to just wait and see what changes as his molars grow in. Ben also has not rotted his teeth-- yet-- with all that Pediasure he sucks through a sippy cup. Sometimes, you just get lucky.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Holier Than Thou

Have you felt the power of my prayers for you? I'm not sleeping. Well, I fall asleep-- basically drop on my feet-- by 10 every night, but I wake around 1 or 2 and can't get back to sleep. I wish I could blame kids with nightmares or a husband who snores... But, these days, it's typically that I either have to go to the bathroom or I have charley horses in my legs. I know, I know, I should get some exercise and drink more milk. Neither of those has happened so far in this life, so they're probably not going to start now, either. The calcium intake would go much more easily if someone would just find a way to fortify soda-- or vodka.

Anyway, after being out of bed for as little time as possible, I return to my "bunker," as Todd calls it-- I'm sleeping with no fewer than one body pillow, one king-sized pillow, and four standard bed pillows these days. I don't want to read or turn on the TV or eat... because I don't think any of those things will help me get back to sleep. So, I lay in the dark and I pray for all of you. I know God hears me, because it's really quiet at that time of night. Also, I have proof: Todd got a job offer today. Now, don't get your undies in a bunch... because his are already so far up his crack no amount of pacing is going to work them out. He hasn't yet signed the agreement, so that should give me something new to pray about tonight.

I am certain that soon Benjamin's snotty nose will dry up... Amanda will pass her Math Facts... Elisabeth will grow a rear end or a waist... and all my family members and friends with health problems will witness their ailments fade. However, as I type this, I sense God may be speaking to me. He's suggesting that I direct my energies toward praying for SLEEP.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Little Mommies, Little Daddy

We took the kids to the "Big Brother, Big Sister" class at the hospital this evening. We've done it before, so we knew what we were in for-- fluffy explanation of how the baby grows and moves in Mommy; practice diapering and swaddling; book about how it feels to be ignored and surrounded by a tiny, screaming, new person. My kids ate it all up, of course. They took right to the nurse-teacher, asked waaay too many questions, and jostled to be first in line for whatever was happening next.

Amanda wanted to know-- if there was a class for kids to learn how to be big siblings, why didn't adults take one to learn how to be mommies and daddies? Benjamin got into the act, practicing with his baby doll, but always seemed to be under the nurse's foot; he picked up receiving blankets and those tiny caps and told her, "Here you doh. Here you doh!" He tried to give back the disposable diaper he had just put on and taken off his doll, but the nurse assured him he could keep it. Everyone had a good giggle when Daddy was chosen to be the "volunteer" to wear the baby apron with the anatomical drawings on his tummy.

Our poor kids were thrown for a few loops-- one of the other families in the class had a 13-year-old sister, who asked questions like, "What if the baby gets halfway out and then gets stuck?" I'm totally avoiding bedtime right now, so Daddy can field the follow-up questions to THAT.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Oh, the Irony

I went to a maternity store to buy a couple new nursing bras, because, by Kid #4, those things are n-a-s-t-y. I found two on sale and went to the checkout to pay. I went through all the "What's-your-telephone-number-do-you-want-to-be-on-our-mailing-list" stuff, and, after the clerk took my money and put my purchases in a bag, she said, "Wait! You qualify for a free gift." She handed me a bag full of baby product samples, magazine subscription offers, and something bigger-- a "Playtex Baby Feeding System." No, not new breasts to put in the nursing bras... It was a bottle. Just kind of struck me as funny.

My Funny Valentine

My valentine took me out this weekend. We went on a date (Amanda kept telling us it was a date) with my brother and SIL-- dinner and a play. I can't recommend you all go see the play, because we saw it on closing night... but it was very funny, and so much fun. It was just something different to do. Not SO different-- we live in an area that's great, great, great for theater, and it's the kind of thing we used to do all the time (all the time meaning three-and-three-quarters kids ago.)

Anyway, it was one of those small, independent theaters that is no doubt hurting in this economy, but seemed to be doing quite well this past weekend. And it was a straight play-- a door-slamming comedy with a small cast, not one of those gigantic, overproduced Broadway touring shows (which I also love.) The guys agreed on this plan because my bro knew someone in the cast. OK, that's a stretch-- my brother has a friend who recently got married to a woman, and that woman's brother and sister-in-law were in the cast. Still, I felt the connection.

After the show, we went back to said brother and SIL's place... where the three others played Rock Band and I gestated on the couch. Todd called me a party pooper-- guess I was-- but I am still trying to figure out why I would want to spend a night without kids awake.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

"Nobody Puts Baby in a Corner"

In honor of Valentine's Day, a tribute to my favorite movie, "Dirty Dancing."

Hey, I never claimed to be a highbrow expert, or even much of a film buff. And, this movie certainly has some major plot and character issues that go against everything I believe in-- the acceptability of (illegal) abortion as the only option, the patronization of young women, classism. I'm not making excuses for any of that... or the silly title. I just can't help myself. I love the music, I love the dancing, I love the places I go in my mind every time I watch it. The last time I watched "Dirty Dancing" was... last night. It must have come up on one of those older movie cable channels, and the TiVo caught it.

The experts will tell you that movie "made" the careers of its stars, Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey. I tell you that movie was a dangerous weapon to a junior high school girl and her ideas about love and romance. "Dirty Dancing" was released in 1987, which put me in the 7th grade. Although this was the age of having Mom or Dad drop me off to meet friends at the movie theater on Friday night, I am quite certain I never saw "Dirty Dancing" in the theater. Based on the title alone, my parents never would have gone for it. However, I do remember hanging out with friends in a girlfriend's basement and watching the movie after it came out on video.

I remember fascination and wonder at everything from the painful social situations the characters found themselves in; to the angst of unrequited love; to the clothing, hairstyles and cars from a time that was before my time. Most of all, I remember latching onto my favorite lines, and wondering if I would ever experience the feelings that made Baby utter:

"Me? I'm scared of everything. I'm scared of what I saw, I'm scared of what I did, of who I am, and most of all I'm scared of walking out of this room and never feeling the rest of my whole life the way I feel when I'm with you."

If you've never seen the movie-- because you weren't a preteen in the 1980s or because it seemed too cheesy (it is-- it is SO cheesy, it's good,) here's a link to the trailer: "Dirty Dancing" trailer. Happy Valentine's Day!

Johnny: "I'll never be sorry."
Baby: "Neither will I."

Friday, February 13, 2009

News of the Weird

I drove both the girls to school, because they were loaded down with valentine cards and class treats. To get from one drop-off site to the other, I had to drive along a busy, two-lane highway that crosses our town from north to south. As I entered the commercial area, I noticed traffic in front of me was basically stopped. When I got closer, cars seemed to be crawling past a man who was walking on the highway, against traffic, right along the white line that separates the driving lane from the shoulder; he was wearing one of those reflective, neon vests and was walking a large dog.

My immediate response was, "Police! Drug-sniffing dog!" I kind of panicked a little bit, which is funny, since I've never in my life done drugs, and the hardest thing I carry in my bag is Extra-Strength Tylenol. Anyway, cars weren't actually stopping for the man or dog, no one was in uniform, and there was no squad nearby, (plus, I've never actually heard of police randomly stopping highway drivers in their cars to check for drugs-- at least not in our small town) so I dismissed that idea.

As I slowly passed the guy, my brain eventually processed the situation: he was blind. He was also wearing a surgical mask. (About some things... we'll just never know.) I wondered whether I should stop, but there wasn't really a place to do it, and I had little kids in the car. I wondered why no one else stopped. I considered calling 911. I kept watching in my rearview mirror, and soon the man veered back onto the shoulder, along a safer walking route. I've been thinking about the guy all day, and wishing I'd done more to make sure he reached his destination safely. Also, I think he should get a better guide dog.

Thursday, February 12, 2009


Have you ever seen anything more pitiful than a little boy with a nasty cold? The constant whining and the not sleeping and the refusal to take any kind of medicine that might make Benjamin feel better-- that's all getting kind of old. But, we can't help but feel sorry for the little guy in his misery. Todd and I spent the day looking at him, then looking at each other and saying, "Awwwww."

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Status Quo

When Amanda learned how to ride a bicycle without training wheels last summer, Daddy took her shopping to pick out a new bike. The one she got was just a tad too large at the time... She wouldn't ride it last fall because she still felt kind of unsteady and couldn't reach to stand while sitting on the seat of the larger frame. With these warmer days we've been (temporarily) experiencing, and with the ice melted off the driveway, Amanda has hit the pavement on her new bike. She grew enough over the winter that she is now comfortable with the bigger frame-- and she is so excited.

Late this afternoon, the kids begged me to go outside... even though it was overcast, and windy, and not all that warm, anymore. I obliged-- bundled up, found a cushion to sit on, tried to start a crossword puzzle, began putting Benjamin's mittens back on every two minutes, and dodged Elisabeth's kamikaze Big Wheel runs. Todd was gone at a business meeting, and I had one hand on the phone in my pocket, waiting for his call. While cruising in circles, Amanda remarked, "You know, Mom, this is just like a 'normal spring day.' You know-- where we come out and ride our bikes after school and wait for Daddy to come home from work."

Clearly, they all sense something has been "out of the ordinary..." A week or so ago, all the children followed me around, asking, "Why is Daddy home? Is Daddy sick? How come Daddy is home? What do you mean Daddy is at the gym? Is Daddy home again?" A few days later, after processing our simple explanation, when Todd had a dentist appointment, they got all wigged out that he was gone. "Where did Daddy go? Why isn't Daddy home? When is Daddy going to be home?" Today, I'm glad they found comfort in the chilly monotony.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


Call me Mama Bird-- I guess I'm nesting. I had a dream over the weekend that I had the baby and took her home, but nothing was ready. Yes, in the dream the baby was a girl, and we named her "Melanie." Nothing against all you lovely Melanies out there, but, for the record, the name is not on our radar. Anyway, in my dream, the crib was not put together, I hadn't found the bassinet, and I was trying to get the baby to sleep so I could rummage through a box for some nursing bras.

So, the past couple days, Elisabeth and I have been hauling up storage totes from the basement... sorting and washing baby clothes... soaking toys... and looking for parts for essential baby gear such as the mobile, bouncy seat, etc. I was folding laundry this evening and making piles when my SIL walked in and her eyes got wide: "All these clothes are pink! The baby is a girl!" I quickly had to set her straight that the blue load was still in the dryer.

I figured I might as well get it all out, though, because whichever color we don't need will be going to some faraway place, never to return. And, even though we still have plenty of time before the baby comes, I don't know how much longer I'll be able to bend over and reach around my belly to pick up these tiny things. The girls had the little rattles, stacking cups, and cloth books spread around the living room. Amanda told me, "You know, Mom, I think I must still have some baby in me-- because I'm having a lot of fun with these things!"

Monday, February 9, 2009

Ice, Ice Baby

Not one of my children likes Icees. Don't you think that's odd? I mean, I know it's just frozen sugar air (OK, that doesn't make sense... but that's what it seems like I'm sucking through the straw) but, when I was a kid, I thought an Icee was the biggest treat. I still do, actually, except for the 4,000 calories and the semi-permanent tongue stain. There's the domed cup lid so you can really fill it up-- and that cool, long, red straw with the little spoon built right into the end. My weird kids don't know what they're missing.

While I'm on a roll, here are some other really great, but sometimes underrated, things:
*Good Earth Original Sweet & Spicy tea bags
*Kraft Macaroni & Cheese-- the original in the blue box
*Lestoil-- strong-smelling, hard-to-find, but the best stain remover around
*John Frieda Collection Light Reflecting conditioner
*Clorox Clean-Up Cleaner with Bleach (but watch out for your clothes)

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Number One Godson

Today is our nephew and godson Solomon's third birthday. He and his brothers bring us such joy. Solomon is a sweet and funny boy, though, in his old age, he is growing mouthy like his auntie. We had a wonderful time with family celebrating his birthday. Happy birthday, Solomon, and many, many more!

Friday, February 6, 2009

Slackers Unite

My sister recently posted on her blog about being a "lazy mom," and I say, "Darlin', you are not even in it!" First of all, the correct term is "slacker mom." Second of all, I am proud to be amongst the ranks. I try not to brag about it too much, though, because then word would get out and someone would try to appoint me President of the Slacker Moms, and that would just be too much responsibility.

Benjamin, Elisabeth and I are the only ones home tonight, and I was almost done cleaning up the supper mess when I got distracted on a quest for extra bed pillows (don't ask.) I don't know how long I was upstairs rummaging through the guest room closet, while Benjamin was still downstairs, locked into his high chair (also please don't ask why my two-and-a-half-year-old son still eats in a high chair.) I know it's not safe to leave a young child unattended in a high chair... but I figure it is safer than letting him have the run of the joint while I am not watching him.

By the time I returned to the kitchen, Ben's five-year-old sister-- who only outweighs him by five pounds-- had removed the high chair tray, washed Ben's hands and face, helped him out of the chair, and taken him into the den, where she had started a movie for the two of them. See? They don't even need me.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Naming Rights

Todd isn't much interested in discussing a possible name for the baby... until I'm in labor. But it's a topic others bring up often. We've never decided with finality on a name until we've held the child in our arms, and I'm sure this one will be no different. Still, it's fun to think and talk, and to compile our options.

We aren't spending much time mulling over boys' names. We both kind of think the baby is a girl. But, if the baby is a boy, we have a couple strong contenders on our ongoing name list. Girls are a different story.

I have many rules about baby names. Not everyone agrees with them, but they work for me:
1. No alliteration. I love the name Caroline, but our daughter would be spitting at people with all those hard consonants.
2. Break up the syllables. Our last name has two syllables, so I prefer first or middle names with more or fewer.
3. No more names that start with vowels. People have enough trouble with Andrea, Amanda, and Elisabeth.
4. I used to say no diminutive nicknames that end in "y" because I thought that was too cutesy with our last name... but "Libby" stuck. And she is pretty cute.
5. No names with "y" in the middle. There are some exceptions.
6. No crazy spellings of traditional names. Again, I got into enough trouble with Elisabeth.
7. Family connections are nice, but not absolutely necessary.

I really like more older, traditional names, and I had been leaning that way with my list:

But, more recently, I started thinking about some names that were standards for my parents' generation... and that you never seem to hear anymore. You think I'm joking, but, really, I'm not:

I welcome your opinions and suggestions... but I'm not saying you'll change my mind.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009


I know it's not interesting when I blog about my kids being sick... But consider this one a public service announcement. No one is immune.

Amanda came home from school Monday with a stomachache and a low-grade fever, refused to eat-- or drink-- anything, and spent much of the night whimpering and trying to make herself throw up. She was still complaining of so much pain on Tuesday morning I took her to the doctor. Of course, Amanda breathed in the magic clinic air, like all kids do, and perked up immediately.

When the nurse asked whether Amanda had any allergies, the girl jumped in and said, "Yes, I believe I am allergic to spiders." Next, a medical student had a go at us, and, after hearing Amanda describe her abdominal pain, she asked whether there was anything else. Amanda replied, "Yes, I have a wart on my foot." She also informed the med student that if she ever got "good enough to do surgeries," she might find some of Daddy's devices in the operating room. "My dad's an engineer," Amanda bragged. "He saves lives just like you do." After all that-- and Amanda saying she suddenly felt hungry and wanted a grilled cheese sandwich, because she couldn't believe she had missed BLTs for supper the night before-- the pediatrician told us there are such nasty strains of stomach bugs going around right now, two out of every three patients she sees has something going on with the tummy.

We don't know if it was one of these bugs or something Amanda ate, but you know paranoid me-- I've been Purell-ing, Clorox-Wiping, changing sheets and isolating. Today at school, I got further proof it will not make any difference. I took Amanda to school today, because her fever was gone and she had gone the 24 hours without diarrhea. Also, she was doing the macarena in the shower this morning, so I figured she must be feeling better. But Amanda was definitely dragging... and I advised her teacher to call me immediately if she didn't think Amanda was up to par.

But I was talking with some other mothers, who were bemoaning the sicknesses in their own families and all over the school. So many kids were out yesterday that the school nurse actually called our house to see if Amanda's symptoms were the same as others'. When I passed along a message from the nurse to Amanda-- that everyone at school hoped she got better and they missed her-- Number One Daughter remarked, "That doesn't surprise me."

Many are blaming a serious strain of the norovirus, the yuckiness you always hear associated with cruise ships. The worst parts: Some parents said their kids were sick for 24 hours, then fine for 24 hours, then sick again! Also, other doctors have warned these bugs can have incubation periods of up to 10 days! I told Todd when I got home, and he said, "Great. Can't wait to get that one." I know it may be shameful, but, at this point, I am hoping my oldest child was stricken with food poisoning-- at least, then, there's less of a chance of the rest of us getting sick.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Trying Dad's Potty Patience

I suggested to Todd one thing he could do with his unexpected time off is potty train our son. Well, this morning, I walked into the bathroom to find the little boy standing dropped-drawers at the toilet. He was facing in the right direction, but the, ah, unit to which he clung so faithfully was falling a few inches short of the goal line. I called for Daddy, and pointed out this was the perfect situation where he could teach Benjamin something about which I knew nothing.

Well, Todd quickly tired of Benjamin's antics-- first, Ben refused to sit down; then, he refused to stand up; next, he made a bare-butt breakaway down the hall, yelling, "I just need to grab a diaper quick!" Dad did get him back on the toilet, and, at that point, Ben demanded reading material. Todd went to his room and came back with a couple books, but, after reading and re-reading with no resulting action, he got up to leave. Benjamin protested, but Daddy held firm: "You're not going, and I'm tired of this," he said. "Read the books to yourself." After Todd departed the bathroom, Ben started whimpering, "But... but... I don't know how to read, yet."

Monday, February 2, 2009

Oh, Yeah!

We had the fam over last evening, to celebrate Super Bowl Whatever-It-Was and to cheer for Whomever-Was-Playing. One team won, the other team lost... Some family members pretended to be really interested in the game; others stayed in the other room, playing equally competitive card games. We all ate, ate, ate. I'm sure you're reliving similar gastric memories today.

In gathering and setting up the party supplies, I got some juice boxes for the kids. But, then, I started thinking, I really didn't want them squeezing their stickiness all over the house. I rummaged around the pantry and came up with a few envelopes of Sugar-Free grape Kool-Aid. I mixed up a cooler jug and set it out on the counter. What a hit! Benjamin called it, "Dat duice dat 'mells like Dittles (Skittles.)" I started thinking... I don't think I've ever made Kool-Aid before for my kids.

We have a pretty rigid beverage protocol around here. The kids get one serving of fruit juice a day, and the rest of the time it's milk or water. Soda pop is a very occasional treat. But, we had Kool-Aid growing up. I'm not saying it was a family staple, something we couldn't live without, but I certainly remember Kool-Aid. Don't know why I never made it before for my kids... probably just too lazy.

After the kids went to bed last night, I was cleaning up, and decided to have a slug, myself. It was good. But, I suddenly recalled that kooky cult connection. No, I don't actually remember Jonestown from personal experience (I was four) but I do remember those other nutty folk, who thought the aliens were coming to save them, so they drank the tainted juice and laid down underneath their purple drapes and died. Ah, Kool-Aid. Oh, yeaaahh.

UPDATE: It just dawned on me that the group I was thinking of was the Heaven's Gate cult. So, I Wikipedia-ed them, and got the correct details. They were actually planning to hitch a ride on a comet, so they consumed phenobarbital mixed with vodka, and then put plastic bags over their heads. Just in case you wanted to know.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Burning Love

UPDATE: A couple loyal followers have corrected me that this movie actually did premiere in theaters before going to DVD. The lead is played by Kirk Cameron of "Growing Pains" fame. The boy's winsome smile and curly locks decorated my walls during those middle school years. The same day Todd rented this movie, I actually read a small writeup about Cameron in "People" magazine. He is now 38, married for 17 years to the woman who played his girlfriend on the sitcom, and they have six children. *Sigh.*

Todd and I watched a really good movie last night. Let me rephrase-- the movie was not that great; the acting kind of smelled, the story was very straightforward, but the message was exceptional. It's called "Fireproof," one of those straight-to-DVD deals, and Todd found it in the Redbox. The movie contained important reminders for any married couple, especially for us and the week we've had.

There's a companion website for anyone interested in finding out more: Fireproof My Marriage.

Cute Cagers

Amanda had her first basketball game. Daddy and Grandpa are her coaches. Todd commented before leaving for the gym, "This should be very interesting-- I'm excited!" The girls themselves have seemed more concerned with voting on a team name (the Green Grasshoppers) and whose turn it is to bring snacks (Amanda's.) When we got to the field house, it was pure chaos. Naturally, Amanda had the largest cheering section-- and the loudest.

The teams at this age play eight four-minute running-time periods. With eight girls on a team, the coaches just swap them out, so each child plays four minutes and rests four minutes. One of the girls on the other team asked her mom before things started, "Is the game over yet?" After about two quarters, girls on both teams began refusing to go in. The coaches are out on the floor, pointing the kids in the right direction and reminding them to dribble. No one keeps score, which is probably good, because the girls on the other team were a lot taller and a LOT more aggressive.

Amanda scored her first basket-- and then danced around the court. Good fun for a Saturday morning.