Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Relatively Speaking

We had Amanda's spring parent-teacher conference this evening. No surprise-- she is a good student and very social. She could stand to take more time doing her work, so she doesn't make dumb mistakes. Amanda's teacher noted her high fluency rate and advanced reading level. We agreed that, yes, she does have quite a vocabulary and she really enjoys reading, even taking on chapter books all on her own these days.

When we got home, Amanda began a book she had just received from her book order. It was the first in a newer Nancy Drew series. She was pointing out from the picture on the cover that Nancy solves mysteries with her two best friends, who also happen to be her cousins. I said, "Yeah, only too bad for you, because all your cousins are boys." Amanda replied, "That's not exactly true, Mom."

When I asked what she meant (I only have nephews-- I'm sure of it,) she said, "I have Ally and Katelyn; they're my cousins. And Megan and Dylan, too. Well, Dylan, is a boy, but Megan is my girl cousin, too." I conceded, yes, the kids she named were kind of like cousins-- they are the children of Todd's and my first cousins. We started the talk about "second" and "third" cousins, with lineage I don't really understand and, frankly, think is pretty much made up. Amanda insisted, "I prefer to think of them as cousins, Mom. Relatively speaking, they really are family." Yes, of course they are. And, thank you for the illustration of your verbal aptitude.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Feelings, Nothing More Than Feelings

Benjamin's peeps were over again, trying (unsuccessfully) to wrap up the cognitive testing. Today, Camryn tried to find out if Ben was capable of verbalizing logical emotions related to everyday occurrences. First, she had Ben point to different pictures: "Show me the one who is happy," etc. Then, she asked him questions about himself:

Camryn: "Ben, how would you feel if Daddy played a game with you?"
Ben: (no response)
Camryn: "Ben, how would you feel if Grandma came for a visit?"
Ben: (no response)
Camryn: "Ben, how would you feel if you got a new toy?"
Ben: (no response)
Camryn: (changing tactics) "Ben, how would you feel if your sister broke your new toy?"
Ben: "I would feel sad."
Camryn: (looking for opposite emotion) "Ben, how would you feel if Mommy gave you candy?"
Ben: (holding tummy and moaning) "I would feel sooo sick."

And, the crowd went wild. That kid doesn't just crack me up-- he's contagious.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Final Stretch

Look to the right-- my tumbling baby counter is winding down! I think I have switched from nesting to all-out panic mode. Silly, I know, because there are still three weeks to go before my due date and the chance of an early delivery is unlikely because babies do not like to come out of me. "Get the hammer and chisel," my doctor says.

Now, I am not the kind of mother who has cooked herself into a frenzy, storing two months' worth of meals in the freezer. But, I did dig out all the takeout menus and place them prominently on the refrigerator. I have also been gathering the Easter gifts and labeling them, making sure we have milk in the fridge-- and that it's not close to expiring, ordering gifts for upcoming birthdays and other holidays, and staying caught up on the laundry (you really can't ever get ahead on that one, can you?) I even ordered a dress for the baby's baptism. It may seem trivial and ridiculous, but I've been through this before, and the last thing the strung-out mother of a newborn wants to do is try on everything in her closet to find something that actually fits, looks halfway decent, and works for nursing.

If Todd would just get the crib put together, we'd be in business. I know we aren't going to need it for a couple months, but let's just cross off something else from the list, OK? I also wish he'd be willing to discuss baby names before the actual pushing phase begins. But, every time I bring up the subject, Todd just smiles and says, "What are you worried about? This time I get to name the baby." Lord, help us. I have had to put down my foot in the past. You'll note we do not have a child named "Reagan" or even "Ronald."

Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Meat of the Issue

It literally took me longer to clean up the kitchen after supper than the combined time to make the meal and for all of us to eat the meal (yes, that includes the 20-minute timer.) The dishes had to be cleared and the leftovers packed. The sticky chair seats and spindles had to be scrubbed. The floor, littered with oil-drenched slivered almonds and random pineapple tidbits, had to be washed.

I could cry, or I could laugh. There were some real highlights from supper:
*The reason the nuts were on the floor is because Benjamin ate the salad... and had seconds... and was much more interested in gobbling the bok choy leaves than the crunchy things on top.
*I set the girls straight on the origins of meat. We had grilled ribeye steaks, which everyone loves. Amanda and Elisabeth kept commenting, "This is good pork." and "I'm eating pig." and "What do pigs eat to taste this good?" I corrected them that steak is beef, and comes from a cow, not a pig. Libby asked, "Do you have to kill the cow to get the steaks?" When I replied in the affirmative, she stopped chewing and her jaw dropped. Mouth still full of masticated beef, she exclaimed, "You have got to be kidding me!"
*We had Snickers cake. The previous night, we had dinner guests, but our guests brought a dessert, so mine stayed tucked in the pantry.

I had my cake... I ate it, too... and I cleaned the floor of crumbs. Not bad for a day's work.

Friday, March 27, 2009

The Big Picture

I'm getting a lot of this lately:
"I would not have guessed you were eight (nine) months pregnant."
"You look really good for being so far along."
"Wow, you don't look that big!"
And, even from a blog reader, "You don't look nearly as big as in your picture!"

I agree the photos just keep getting more and more horrid... I think my husband does it on purpose, the way he keeps me at home and pregnant, so the other gentleman callers will keep their distance. But the comments about the weight/size-- I just don't know. I mean, I am big, large, a balloon of my former self. On the other hand, I have not gained as much weight with this pregnancy as I have with the others; it's a simple formula: very sick in the beginning, chasing after three kids, and being heavier when I got pregnant.

Still, I've heard friends' stories of coworkers asking, "You're due when?!" or "You're sure there aren't two in there?" And the comments that come my way don't really feel all that different. I'm glad you don't think I look like Roseanne Barr in her self-indulgence heyday (or John Goodman, for that matter.) But, I assure you, I am outgrowing my maternity clothes, my body in motion tends to stay in motion, and I have accused the doctor's nurse of standing on the back of the scale the last couple times she has weighed me.

The good news is, regardless of whether you think I look tiny or huge, in a matter of weeks I will be reduced to an elastic-waist-pants-wearing, stretch-marked, saggy, baggy elephant, with dark-circled eyes and leaky boobs.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

I Saw the Sign

Even though we are all healthy (knock on wood,) it sometimes seems I live at the clinic. Having three kids, being pregnant, having a husband with a bad back-- we have many reasons to frequent doctors. Today, I was at the clinic just to pick up two of my nephews for a few minutes, so the other nephew and his mother could have a checkup in peace.

The clinic we all use is a large, nice building, recently expanded and professionally decorated. When you walk in the main entrance, you first check in at an area that reminds me of a bank lobby. There is a long row of "tellers" who double-check your appointment, take your insurance information, etc. Across from that counter is a wall with windows, and under each window is an upholstered bench.

Long setup, but here comes the point of my story: Along this wall, someone has taken a liberty I find annoying on so many levels. Above each bench, printed on white computer paper and attached to the faux-finished wall with Scotch tape, is this sign: "DO NOT LET YOUR CHILDREN STAND ON THE CLOTH-COVERED BENCH WITH THEIR SHOES ON."
1. Sure, kids should not ever stand on furniture. It seems like a pretty common courtesy, and a reasonable safety request. But, do parents who DON'T teach their kids not to stand on furniture actually heed the signs? Can they read?
2. It's insulting. Which crabby staffer, after repeatedly scolding other people's kids (parents who were likely busy digging for an insurance card or a copay, or verifying an address for the umpteenth time, and who had their backs turned to urchins who quickly climbed up onto the benches to get a peek out the windows,) got a bug up her butt and used her lunch break to create and hang these signs?
3. The signs are tattered and silly-looking, like the artwork my kids hang on the refrigerator. Isn't the boss embarrassed by them?
4. Everything at the clinic-- no matter how nice, new, or recently redone-- is filthy. That is the nature of a heavily trafficked medical facility. I just try not to make contact and hope for the best.
5. Didn't the bench buyer ever hear of Scotchguard, or vinyl?

It's a silly thing to let bother me, I know. But my eyes are drawn to the signs every time I'm at the clinic. I'm a client; why are you scolding me? Also, my kids do not stand on the benches. I rarely even see anyone sit on those benches. They're probably afraid of new signs. This appears to be just another indication of a prevailing theme in life: Can't we all just get along?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

We Want to Pump You Up!

Spring Break continues (definitely not a break for Mommy) and, with the house clean and the weather looking awful, we had to find something to do. Ellen suggested a place she'd heard about through her moms' group-- Pump It Up. It's basically a warehouse space, done up in kid-friendly style, full of those inflatable jumpers or "bounce houses." Most of the time, Pump It Up hosts birthday parties and private groups, but, on Wednesday mornings, they have a public play time. The kids had a blast, and really wore themselves out (so did Ellen!)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

I Tried It, So You Don't Have To

Attempted to put on my wedding ring. Even licked my finger first. No go past the second knuckle. Then, I had to get it off. Would have taken a picture, but couldn't handle the camera with my circulation-free hand. Trying to put a ring on a pregnant, swollen hand? Yeah, Dad, guess it's one of those things they didn't teach me in college.

I Have No Network

If you use any or all of those online networking sites, then you already know what I'm about to tell you: I don't. No Facebook... No Twitter... No My Space... I'm sure there are countless others, but I so don't use them that I don't even know what they are. Now, I don't have a problem with you if you are a Facebook addict-- that's your business. So, why do people get so annoyed with me when I tell them I'm not interested in getting on and creating an account?

It's enough work for me to maintain this blog. What I like about the blog is that it's not in your face. If you want to know what's going on with me and my family, you can log on to Krinkeland and check it out. If you don't, that's OK, too. I'll never know one way or the other. I didn't have to ask you to be my "friend," you didn't have to agree, I will never "poke" you, or add you to a list of something I thought you would find interesting.

Here's another idea: If you have a question for me or if you want to tell me something, call me. Email me. You can try texting me, but I'm still getting the hang of that. I'm not interested in getting re-connected with anyone and everyone whose path I may have crossed in my past three-and-a-half decades on the planet. If we haven't kept contact, maybe there's a reason. I'm not saying I wouldn't like to talk with old friends, former classmates, previous colleagues... It's just that there are lots of ways to do that, and someone could find me if s/he really wanted to.

Todd has a Facebook account (long story.) But, some of the other Facebookers in our lives make fun of him because he's not on all the time, giving "status" reports like, "I just changed Ben's diaper" or "Andrea is yelling at me." Do you really want to know those most exciting and intimate details of our life? However, I will share what I think is secretly Todd's favorite thing about Facebook-- re-living his youth:

Monday, March 23, 2009

It's Not All Gray

You know I consider this the family blog... The content mostly consists of cute photos of my kids and funny stories about what they say and do. However, I am nine months pregnant, sore, swollen, overtired, and cranky as all get out. I do care about moral issues and the politics surrounding them. So, when I read this kind of crap, it ticks me off so much, I cannot stop my fingers from posting:

"Catholic Notre Dame Will Award Pro-Abortion Obama an Honorary Law Degree"
Obama supports abortion on demand, government funding of abortion, government funding of stem cell research that kills human embryos, legally granting same-sex unions all the rights and privileges of marriage, and repealing the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

The Catholic Church holds that abortion and same-sex unions are immoral and must be opposed.

Here's an online petition to sign, if you oppose this as much as I do: Say No to Obama.

"One side tries new strategy in debate over abortion: A battle in S. Dakota showed the public is tired of polarized politics, an abortion-rights leader says"
Abortion is a case in point. National polling has found... "The majority want to keep it legal, but the majority also see it as the taking of a life."

Life is not all shades of gray, people. Some things are black or white, right or wrong, deal or no deal. Stating these facts is not the same as judging or condemning individuals who feel helpless, who find themselves in impossible situations, or who make regrettable decisions. Not a one of us is perfect; Lord knows I'd be wasting my time standing in the halo line. But to not speak out in the face of such hypocrisy, injustice, and two-faced pandering-- that's the real sin.

Dollars vs. Grief

I recently heard some people on the radio talking about the "grief-to-dollar ratio." It was a term I had never heard, but, once I got the explanation, I instantly latched onto it. They were discussing a skiing vacation one woman was planning to take. She was bemoaning the cost of the airline ticket to fly into the airport closest to Whistler, British Columbia, Canada. Another person pointed out she could have flown into Seattle, Washington, and then rented a car and driven the few hours to Whistler. But the traveler responded that wasn't worth the grief-to-dollar ratio-- her ski trip was only four days long, and she didn't want to spend one of those days in the car, even if it would have saved her a couple hundred dollars.

We struggle with the grief-to-dollar ratio. Sure, I love a great deal, can't pass up a bargain... will even drive to three different Target stores to find the best clearance. However, when it comes to some products, I am loyal (Todd is this way even moreso;) I will pay double for heavy-duty kitchen trash bags, because I know I am going to overstuff them, and it is not worth the hassle to risk one breaking on the haul out to the trash can.

Where Todd and I really differ on this issue is with labor and services. I sometimes think he will use up six months of evenings and weekends teaching himself how to do something-- anything-- just to save five hundred bucks. And the grief-to-dollar ratio gets really sticky in our house, because Todd makes the dollars he thinks he's saving, but all the extra work and resulting unfinished projects cause me the grief.

Case in point is that glass block wall for our master bathroom shower. True: I wanted the glass block, because I clean the bathrooms and I hate trying to keep off fingerprints, water spots, and soap scum from clear, glass panels. True: We asked our tile guy and our fireplace mason, while building the house, whether either was interested in installing the wall, and neither was. True: We installed a previous glass block wall in a shower in our last house; so, we should have some experience. Todd seemed to have forgotten how awful the job was, even though he did most of the work. (Some family helped, as they always do-- to keep me sane.) Last month, I put up a stink that when I came home with this new baby, I wanted to be able to use my specially designed shower, so he better get cracking. Six hundred dollars in additional supplies (I thought everything he needed was already here) and a month of weekends later, and there are still about two dozen glass blocks that need to be scrubbed free of excess mortar.

Our grief-to-dollar ratio is out of whack.

Todd claims he is evolving in this arena. He's hired someone to build the deck. In our last house, Todd, along with my brother, our friend Erik, my dad and various other relatives and friends, spent one entire summer building the deck there. It was a beautiful deck. But I don't think we could have ever fully enjoyed how much work went into it. I'm not saying I'm right, or that my way is the only way. I'm just saying life is short, and we are getting older. Our kids grow and change every day-- and would I rather be watching that happen, or holding boards in some unfinished room in our house?

It doesn't help that Todd can teach himself to do anything-- and he likes to do that. He read a book on deck building. He read a couple books to learn how to wire a house. He watched a video to teach himself how to build glass block walls. He talked to a guy at the lawn sprinkler parts store, and decided to rent a trencher and install sprinklers. Now, I, on the other hand, have long maintained I know enough. I have no desire to teach myself how to lay carpeting-- people make professions out of installing flooring, and I have a telephone to call them.

Todd would argue sometimes the "professionals" don't really do a professional job. While I have also found this true, that's why I hold the checkbook. When I am the client, if I have reasonable grounds to complain, I do, and usually there can be some agreement to get things fixed. When my husband is the doer, I have no power. I am not the client-- just the whiny, fed-up, ungrateful wife.

Grief-to-dollar ratio... think about it, calculate it, apply it.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Goin' Buggy

I smashed a bug on the wall. It was a mosquito. I'm sure of it. Don't know if he was hiding out in the house for a while and things just warmed up... or if he somehow hatched outside and got in. Welcome, spring!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

One for You, One for Me

I was sick of looking at the kids, so, I packed everyone up and we headed to the mall... hit the sale at Macy's and then went to Build-a-Bear Workshop, where I told them they could make a gift for the new baby. As you can probably imagine, "make a gift for the baby" quickly turned into "make a gift for me... and me... and me... PUHLEEEZE!" They know I am too tired to argue, so their lobbying worked. We had a good time, anyway, if a little lighter in the pocketbook by the time we left. Serves my husband right for leaving a Mammoth Mama to waddle after those three-- all we do is spend his money while he's away.

I love watching the children make choices. They are so different. Amanda carefully weighed the pros and cons of each, and was very deliberate and certain in her selection-- she always has a reason. Benjamin really didn't care which animal he made; he was more interested in the stuffing process. Elisabeth pondered and pondered and pondered. She picked up each and every animal skin and put it back down again. Choosing is always hardest for Libby, especially if Amanda gets wind of her indecision and starts putting on the pressure. Then, the situation gets much worse, because Elisabeth always allows herself to be swayed by her big sister, and I have to intervene, so Libby will learn to choose to please herself, not Amanda.

In the end, I made Baby's First Teddy Bear. But I told the children they will have to bring it to the hospital to give the gift once the baby is born. The three of them did collaborate on a name for the bear: Cuddles Sarah Elephant. I'll let you figure out which child added which name.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Car Conversations on God

At least one of my kids is a real thinker. Amanda sits and stews about things, and then decides to bring them up, out of the blue, typically when we're in the car. It makes my head hurt. At least Elisabeth is usually good for her brand of comic relief:

Amanda: "Mommy, are China and the United States friendly countries?"
Mom: "Well, I would not say the two countries are friends. We do business together, but have very different philosophies on how a nation should run..." (launches into explanation of communism, etc.)
Amanda: (interrupts) "How old is Barack Obama?"
Mom: "I don't know exactly... late-forties, I think."
Amanda: "Is forties old?"
Mom: "It's older than Daddy, but younger than Grandpa."
Amanda: "How old is God?"
Mom: "God has no age. God has always been and always will be."
Amanda: "Did you know we are driving on God right now? Because God made all things and is in all things."
Elisabeth: (joining in) "Where is heaven? Is heaven above us or below us? Are we driving on heaven? (giggles) No, wait-- I know where heaven is… CHOCOLATE!"
Amanda: "No, Libby. Heaven is here (points to chest,) like, in our hearts."
Elisabeth: "Oh, then, more like strawberries."

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Mirror, Mirror... Hey, There's No Mirror on the Wall

There is not a full-length mirror in our house. Is that weird?

I was thinking about it yesterday while watching Todd pack for his business trip. It is always such an ordeal-- the same ordeal-- and it never gets easier, no matter how many trips he goes on. Todd pulls out and tries on every pair of dress pants in the closet, and then debates which pairs of pants go with which jackets. He takes a different sport coat for each day of the trip, even though each time I tell him that's silly and unnecessary. Then, it's on to hemming and hawing over which shirts to pack. This is the funniest part, because he only wears blue, button-down, Brooks Brothers, non-iron dress shirts. After that it's ties, belts, shoes... and, because this trip took him to Miami, running clothes and a bathing suit. And, he crams it all into an airline-regulation, carry-on-sized bag.

As I lay on our bed, trying unsuccessfully not to get sucked into the madness, I had to laugh. Todd commented, "I know. I'm sorry. I'm kind of a woman this way." I replied, "Well, I'm wearing the same clothes I had on yesterday, so I guess you're not my kind of woman." But, as Todd was turning and posing, sucking in, and tugging on waistbands, it occurred to me that it might be easier-- on both of us-- if he could just see all of himself in a mirror.

We do have mirrors. We have those big, sheets of mirror over the bathroom vanities, and there's a large mirror over my dresser in the bedroom, and there's a tiny mirror in the hall tree by the front door. But, that's it. I don't even own a compact. I obviously don't spend time looking at myself. People I meet (and frighten) would probably say it would help to do a once-over before leaving the house. And, even I agree being able to see my whole body would be helpful if I were, say, getting dressed up to go out. I remember once getting ready for a black-tie wedding, and having no idea whether my shoes went with my dress. True, I am not the kind of person who cares whether her shoes go with her dress... But, then again, what kind of person doesn't even care whether her shoes go with her dress?

OK, I've decided. I should spend less time thinking about adding mirrors to this house... and more time cleaning fingerprints and toothpaste spatters from the mirrors that are already here. Oh, did you think I was going to announce a different decision-- say, one about putting up a full-length mirror? I guess you really don't know me.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


I do not like spring. I can't stand spring. I despise spring almost as much as I despise winter. I hate melting. I hate puddles. I hate mud. My house is dirty enough without Mother Nature making her mark, too. Why can't we just skip ahead to summer? I love summer.

However, I will admit there is something I enjoy about living in the Upper Midwest in springtime. It's laughing at all the crazy people. We've had some fairly mild days this week-- the high at our house today was only 43 degrees, but I'm sure it hit 60 earlier in the week. So, it's really no surprise that every time I've been out of the house, I've seen adults, mostly grown women, dressed for summer. Capris, t-shirts, even shorts and flip-flops. Really! I'm not kidding! It does make it a little tougher to explain to my kids why they still need to wear long pants and coats to play outside.

But, that's OK, because the first grader still needs to explain to me how she came home from school today with only one boot. They're the expensive boots, too-- not the cheapo Target boots. She'll be hopping out to the bus stop tomorrow, and then pleading with her bus driver and teacher to let her comb through the lost-and-found. Boots don't grow on trees, you know. If they did, we'd surely be seeing some boot buds by now. Yay, spring!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Excuuuse Me!

The two younger kids and I were out running errands, and Grandma met up with us at the last stop, so we decided to go to lunch. Benjamin and Elisabeth chose Burger King (mostly because there's a play area.) So, we got the usual chicken nugget kids' meals, and what are kids ever interested in? The toy.

Whichever fast food stop we make, my kids call the actual toy in the bag the "Happy Meal." But, if you ask me, Burger King's prizes are usually sub-par to McDonald's. Today's special treat was a real winner. In honor of Nickelodeon's Kids' Choice Awards, I present the Burp Button. Yep, you press the little box and it makes a belching sound. Yummy.

Now, this irritating noisemaker took me back in time... Years ago, when I was working, a well-known and much-respected local television news anchor-- who is also a chronic prankster-- came to work one evening with a new device. He had been doing some guy shopping at Northern Tool & Equipment and walked away with the Fart Machine. Think: modern-day whoopee cushion. It was a small, battery-operated box that he would place under a coworker's desk, and then he would press a button on the remote control and let rip a series of embarrassing sounds. Of course, we all thought it was hilarious, and I soon went out and bought Todd his own Fart Machine and Mom bought one, too.

Krinkeland's Fart Machine has long since gone by the wayside. But, Grandma's is still going strong. One of my nephews calls it the Tooter 'Chine. The kids love the noises that come out of the box, but they don't exactly get how to use it. They are very blatant about aiming the remote control at another's rear end, or giggling outrageously whenever anyone walks near the device.

Ah, good times.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Rodent Boy

For the past couple weeks, Benjamin has made one simple modification to his vocabulary: the addition of the word "hamster." I don't know where he picked it up, or how he began using it, but "hamster" has become his favorite and most often used word. "Hamster" can be either a noun ("I want hamster for lunch") or an adjective ("Your hair look hamster.") He has not yet branched out into "hamster" as a verb. Here is an example of a typical conversation with Ben these days:

Mom: "Good morning! Did you sleep well, Honey?"
Ben: "I sleep hamster."
Mom: "Do you need your diaper changed?"
Ben: "Hamster need hees hamster changed."
Mom: "Let's go downstairs for breakfast."
Ben: "No, let's play hamster in the hamster room!"

This can go on for hours. It's only a slight improvement over his previous fixation on the word "poopy." The funny thing is, the district speech pathologist finished up her evaluation of Benjamin this morning, and he scored outside the normal range-- freakishly above normal-- for verbal aptitude. Kids are so weird.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

No Strikes, a Paycheck, Waterslides, and Diapers

I guess it's no surprise, but I fell asleep the last two nights before making my way to the computer to blog about our recent adventures. So, today will be a bit of a catch-up post:

Toward the end of last week, Elisabeth was invited to celebrate her friend Rachel's fifth birthday. Rachel and Libby are inseparable at preschool. Things will get interesting next year when they begin kindergarten in different schools, but, this year, we parents and teachers have all had fun watching them develop their friendship as both girls also become more independent from their mommies. Rachel's mom offered to take the girls bowling and to lunch, and invited Benjamin and me to join them. We visited a newer mega-bowling alley in the area-- it was really nice, and they have all kinds of weekday specials and events, so, if you're looking for ways to occupy the kids during Spring Break, it may be something to check out: River City Extreme.

On Friday, Todd got his first paycheck from his new job, so I guess the gig is legit. While he has been somewhat hush-hush about the whole deal, there was a writeup in a local business journal, so here are a few details for anyone who is interested (and able to speak medical-startup-ese): Minneapolis St. Paul Business Journal. See now why he's so excited to get to work?

Friday night, we took the kids, along with one of Amanda's friends and Aunt Lisa, to a nearby waterpark hotel for the seven-year-old's official birthday celebration. She opted out of a big party with lots of friends this year, and instead asked whether our family-- and maybe one friend?-- could go to a waterpark. We had to wait until Saturday morning basketball was done, so this was the first opportunity. The older girls were excited and so daring... I guess that's what seven gets you. The younger kids had to be prodded by Lisa and Daddy, and, really, would rather have just hung out in the hot tub. Then again, who wouldn't? Oh, that's right-- I couldn't. It was an absolute joy to squeeze my eight-and-a-half-months pregnant body into a bathing suit, but, hey, anything for my kids. There is a reason there are no photos of me.

On Saturday, there was a baby shower for me at my SIL's house. We all know it's not standard operating procedure to have a shower for the FOURTH child... But, I think they wanted to do something to celebrate, especially in light of the early loss and difficult pregnancy, job changes, and all the junk that comes along with regular ol' life, but that seems harder to handle while carrying a child. Just the closest of family and friends joined us, which was perfect. Instead of traditional gifts-- what could the fourth child need?-- the guests brought DIAPERS AND WIPES. YAY! I think we got the first six months covered, no joke. Naturally, those closest to me are not rule followers, so they also brought other gifts to spoil both Mommy and Baby. We had a yummy lunch and played one game, which I won hands-down and everyone else cheated at. My mom was able to exercise some self-restraint; the cake read "Special Delivery" instead of one of her earlier suggestions, "Way to Go, Big Mama!" or "Now Stick a Cork In It."

Many thanks and all my love to the two-generation sisterhood that planned the shower, and to the treasured ones who took time out of a busy, beautiful Saturday to spend it with me.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

This Work-from-Home Gig

Todd is officially in his second week on the job, but his new company still does not have office space. Because of this, he has been largely working from home. Due to the long hours and long commute of his last gig (and most of Todd's career choices, truth be told,) I was kind of excited about this. Now that this is reality, I still pretty much like it. It's just different.

I have made a point to try to stay out of his way, and to keep the kids out of his way. I don't seek him out at 2:00 and ask him to hang a shower curtain. His tabs on me are a little different in nature. The kids and I are often out of the house anyway, between preschool drop-off and pick-up, prayer group, doctor's appointments, piano lessons, and, of course, shopping. And I've tried to stay away for longer stretches of time, just to keep the kids from constantly asking Daddy to play. But, the first few days he was home, Todd would call my cell phone and ask, "Are you coming home for lunch?" My brain translated this to, "Aren't you coming home to cook for me? Otherwise, I might starve." I would ask back, "Who is this?" Then, I'd hang up. Then, I'd take the kids to McDonald's and force Todd to fend for himself. The last couple days, however, I began to realize he was asking just because he was home and wanted to see us, to spend his lunch break with us. He tells the kids now, "I can't do that puzzle now-- wait for lunchtime."

I feel safer with Todd at home. We live on a really busy street, and, since our house is new, it kind of sticks out and a lot of people know exactly where we live. This wigs me out. I always keep the doors locked, and sometimes don't even answer for deliveries. So, I'm glad to have Todd here. And, I love the commute. I can actually plan supper and have it on the table at the same time every night, because he just has to walk downstairs. Weather and traffic are not issues.

What I don't like is feeling like I'm in the way. I'm only on the computer now because Todd is gone at a "lunch meeting." At 3 in the afternoon, when my ankles are swollen to the size of my knees, and Elisabeth and I lay down on the bed for a little TV time, he walks through the bedroom and asks, "What are you doing?" I also don't like the liberty Todd takes with his hours. Because he can just walk away from the computer for supper, he also walks right back to it in the evening... and that's supposed to be family time. (translation: You do the baths and the spelling words, because my kid meter is already into overdrive.)

All in all, I can't complain-- especially because I know this is only temporary. And this test run is actually a really good thing... Because I know if Todd ever had a permanent work-from-home position, I would, indeed, be able to let him live.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Flattery Will Get You Everywhere-- Unless It's About Mommy's Rack

Alternate title: "How to Raise a Pervert Without Really Trying"

My son is constantly showering me with compliments. I don't know where he learned this or why he does it. However, my sister has a boy who is the same way. I figure they are just trying to store up ammunition for the future. No matter-- it's cute, and sweet, and makes me feel good even if Benjamin doesn't really comprehend what he's saying.

Common compliments from the mouth of Ben are: "I like your shirt;" "Your hair is pitty;" and "Dis is weawy dood" (about food.) But things took a precarious turn this morning. Ben walked into our bedroom, where I perched-- fully dressed, mind you-- on the edge of the bed, struggling to put on my socks. "You have nice, big boobies, Mommy!" Ben exclaimed. The comment earned him an "Atta boy" from Daddy... and so the circle continues.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Longest 20 Minutes

I share the following information not for the purpose of embarrassing my child (which it might, if she ever read this thing) but for sharing with all of you, in case you encounter something either similar in nature or similarly difficult with one of your children.

At Amanda's recent doctor's checkup, we spent a considerable amount of time talking with the pediatrician about Amanda's eating habits. Both Todd and I have noticed escalating problems, and we know we must be at least partly to blame, but we were at a loss for how to properly address and correct the situation. Amanda has never been a small child, but she is proportionately tall as she is "solid," so we have not been too worried. She does not have much of a sweet tooth-- in fact, some of her favorite foods are quite healthy-- but she definitely does like to eat, sometimes in large volumes.

When we first noticed a problem, we actually thought it was kind of funny. We were out to brunch one Sunday with my cousin and her family. Amanda cleaned her plate-- a large kid's meal consisting of one scrambled egg, two sausage links, two pancakes, a fruit cup, and orange juice. Then, she turned to my cousin's son and asked, "Hey, you gonna eat that cheeseburger?" But, on the way home in the car, she began complaining, "My tummy hurts."

This is not the everyday scene in our lives, but it has happened with some degree of regularity, and it is becoming more frequent. In fact, two nights in a row last week, after eating large suppers, Amanda complained at bedtime of feeling ill. Once, she even vomited. Apart from the overeating, or in addition to it, I have suspected she has acid reflux. Todd has battled GI issues for so long, I've become familiar with the symptoms, and the triggers. Occasionally, on the doctor's advice, I have given Amanda an antacid. Sometimes, it helps, but it seems wrong-- and sad-- to give Tums to a first grader.

The pediatrician, who has long battled with her own weight, was wonderful with Amanda. She spoke gently, but firmly, and offered some concrete tips to make mealtime less of a battle, and more enjoyable. I emphasized we would try the doctor's plan as a family, because these were things we could all do to live in a healthy way, and to feel better about ourselves.

The good doctor's tips were nothing new-- you've read about them in women's magazines or seen them outlined on "Dr. Phil." But, they are easier said than done... And, with children, it's a whole new ballgame. Here's what I did at suppertime:
1. Portioned out each kid's plate, with kid-sized portions of protein (one slice of pork tenderloin) cut into bite-sized pieces, and vegetable (five cooked baby carrots,) and just a taste of the other items, roasted potatoes and cauliflower salad.
2. Once Todd and I had also dished up our plates and we had prayed (Dear God, let this work,) I set the kitchen timer for 20 minutes. The goal was to still be eating the original servings on our plates when that timer went off. Amanda reminded everyone to chew their food slowly and carefully-- 20 times for each bite-- "even though it feels like mush in your mouth," and to put down the fork between bites. It was quite possibly the longest 20 minutes of my life. I looked at the timer, thinking we must be about done, and only four minutes had passed.
3. If someone cleaned his/her plate during that time, s/he could then ask for seconds on the protein or vegetable. Or, if preferred, s/he could have one dinner roll or a full serving of starch. (My kids are not potato or rice eaters, so this is not much of an issue for us.)
4. Everyone must stay at the table until all are done eating. Even Benjamin finished his pork when he figured out the girls were not going to run off and play without him, and I got help cleaning up the kitchen because Todd hadn't dined and dashed back to the computer.
5. If anyone still said s/he was hungry after all that, s/he was sent away from the table to play, and told to come back in 20 minutes if still hungry.

This was when Amanda asked whether there was dessert. We don't typically have a treat after supper-- sometimes I bring out fruit and call it dessert-- but I think she was just looking for a "reward" for following the "rules." It killed me to tell her "No"... But all I want is a kid with a healthy body and a healthy attitude about food. We all know how hard it is to undo bad habits once they are entrenched in us.

Todd did not seem thrilled with all these new rules. We always try to have dinner as a family, but it seemed we had so much more time to make more supper table conversation. Amanda had a field trip to the art museum today. When we asked her about it, she said, "Well, it seemed every piece of art we saw was a naked person with a penis hanging off of it. Yuck!" However, after we all weathered mealtime, Todd did say, "Thank you. This is the first time in a long time I'm not shoving off from the table feeling like a stuffed pig."

Elisabeth set the table all by herself.

The Partridge Family, Revisited

Sometimes, the pregnancy hormones cloud my judgment.

Last week, I bought Todd the video game "Rock Band." It was on sale, he had so much fun playing it at my brother's house, and we really hadn't done anything to "celebrate" the start of his new job. Since we have too many kids to ever go out, and Todd has rented every movie in the Redbox, I thought, "Why not? At least let the ol' guy have a little fun at home with the PS3."

Bad idea. The kids begged and begged for him to open the big box. (Why do they know what "Rock Band" is?) He finally caved. Secretly, I think he was holding out because he knew he'd become an instant addict. But who knew the kids would, too?! I mean, really, could I have guessed I'd be screaming, "Turn down that music! Band practice is over! Go to bed!" to a 7-year-old and a 5-year-old?!

An hour past bedtime on a school night, I was fed up. Ben was still awake, standing at the door to his room and whining, "I wanna pay 'Wock Band,' too!" My teeth were rattling in my head. And I'd heard more bad Bon Jovi than I'd lived through in high school. I called Todd on the cell phone in his pocket (because who could hear over that racket) and threatened, "Do you value your life? Then turn that thing off and put those girls to bed."

The three of them grudgingly trudged upstairs. Once Amanda and Elisabeth were in bed-- but still giggling about their escapade-- Todd came into our room and sighed, "It's just as well you made us stop. The girls were so bad, I was on the verge of kicking them out of the band, anyway."

Monday, March 9, 2009

No Choking Matter

Well, we've had a scary wake-up call to our laissez-faire parenting style.

On the way home last evening, I heard a faint gurgling sound coming from the back seat. I turned to see Benjamin, with both hands over his mouth and a panicked look in his eyes. "Pull over!" I screamed. "He's choking!" Todd slammed on the brakes and stopped in the middle of the road, while yelling back, "THE QUARTER!" He yanked Ben out of his car seat and turned him over. It took 8 or 10 back blows before a quarter flew out of Ben's mouth and he started screaming.

Once home, Todd marched the kids into the house, sat them down, and started ranting and pacing:
"That's why we tell you to pick up your marbles and your Legos!"
"That's why we say little kids can't have hard candy!"
"That's why we tell you not to run with suckers in your mouth!"
Amanda turned gray and muttered, "Daddy, you're freaking me out." I had to pull him aside, calm him down, remind him that what happened was our fault-- not Ben's-- and get him to go back to Amanda and comfort her.

It's not as though we don't know about choking hazards. I've always cut up the grapes and hot dogs into smaller bites. I intervene if the toddler gets hold of a cough drop. I make sure there's nothing on the floor before my just-starting-to-move nephew comes over. I don't, however, go overboard-- I once read in a parenting magazine that kids should not have popcorn till age 5; ours have all been to the movies by age 3, so that's not happening... We just bite off the hulls and keep a watchful eye. The little boy does have Matchbox cars, but I'm always present when he plays with them, making sure he doesn't pull off the wheels and put them in his mouth.

But, sometimes, it's easy to forget (or hard to remember?) as the older kids get older. Amanda found a pile of quarters at Grandma's house just as we were packing up to leave. I reminded her that finding money did not make it hers, and she handed it to Grandma. Grandma passed out a coin to each grandchild. I didn't think of it again. Todd later said he remembered when he put Ben in the car that the son had the quarter, but he didn't want the fight of wrestling it away from him.

Then, there's the whole some-kids-are-tasters thing. Neither of our girls were ever big on putting things in their mouths. I can remember that crawling-to-walking stage where one would sometimes pick up something and lick it, just because she'd discovered she could, and then she'd put it back down when it didn't taste good. But Benjamin puts EVERYTHING in his mouth. Plus, he's a naturally gaggy child and he has a weird jaw alignment, so all this should, should, should add up to us being more vigilant.

Consider this your public service announcement. As any kind of caregiver, we (hopefully) always have good intentions, but sometimes, we're just not careful enough. Hoping for the best isn't always the best plan. We discovered that last evening. Ben is fine; immediately afterward, his hoarse little voice uttered, "I not put money in my mouf adain, Daddy. I pomise." Then, he asked for a piece of cheese.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

If You Want Something Done Right

Here are some of our weekend headlines:

Amanda finished up her first basketball "season," with a final game on Saturday morning. About halfway through the game, she decided she was too tired to play anymore. She pouted and stomped and slunk on the sidelines. Todd was especially proud we had brought the video camera to capture the memories. In the car afterward, Coach Dad told Amanda, "You know, for a first grader, you're really a pretty good basketball player. Your skills are coming along-- you are starting to understand the game, you're fast, you can shoot, and you did a much better job passing this week. But, what stinks is your attitude." She ignored him.

Dad needed Todd's help to touch up a couple things on the bathroom repainting job-- removing the light fixtures and the toilet tank. The guys took care of those things, but were also bothered by the look of the paint around the towel bars. The tile guy who originally installed them used clear, silicone caulk; so, the original paint color showed from underneath and this kind of caulk could not be painted over. Dad and I thought we could just run a bead of paintable caulk around the holders and then paint it. Todd had a better idea: he chiseled the towel bars off the walls, thus making serious holes in the drywall, and then spent the rest of Saturday and this time so far on Sunday patching the sheet rock, mudding, and sanding, so that he can then reattach the holders without using caulking. He also took his trowel and mud tray around the house, patching dings in the walls wherever he found them. I'm holding out hope that shower wall will indeed be finished before I have the baby. This house-- with this husband-- I tell you... one step forward, two steps back. Everything is sitting under three inches of construction dust-- dust I can no longer attempt to clean up, because he just keeps adding more.

During church this morning, Benjamin suddenly yelled out, "I have a bloody nose!" He did not-- but at least 45 people turned to check him out.

We had a big breakfast before church, and, at lunchtime, everyone turned up their noses at my offers of leftovers. So, we had cold sandwiches. I don't know at what age the brain switches gears and we are able to eat the various items on our plate equally and in moderation... but it definitely has not happened with our kids yet. So, at the outset, no potato chips-- they have to eat sandwiches first, and then we bring out the chips; otherwise, it would be an all-chip lunch. When all three had downed their requisite numbers of bites, I began doling out from the Pringles can. Elisabeth immediately argued, "Ben got more chips than me." I said that could not be true because I had measured each of the stacks. (Well, I eyeballed them, anyway.) Libby walked around the table and counted her brother's potato chips. "He got eight and I only got seven!"

Seriously, this is my life.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Why, I Oughta...

The beloved and charming Amanda commented on my current state: "You know, Mom, every time your baby grows bigger, your butt seems to be getting bigger, too."

Thursday, March 5, 2009


Grandpa had a lot of help painting the bathroom-- a lot.
"I hep you, Bampa!"
"I stay wif Bampa!"
"Bampa let me paint!"
Mostly, Benjamin was in charge of masking off the woodwork.

Hey, he didn't do any worse than the bargain-basement guy Todd hired to paint when we built the house (which explains why my dad is going through, room-by-room, fixing the paint.)

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Nugget 911

Woman calls police over Chicken McNugget shortage
Police in Florida say a woman called emergency services three times after McDonald's employees told her they were out of Chicken McNuggets, reports The Stuart News.

Latreasa Goodman, 27, purchased a 10-piece McNugget meal from a McDonald’s branch in Fort Pierce, Florida on February 28. After paying for her meal, she was told she would receive different items because the restaurant had run out of McNuggets.

When she asked for her money back, she was told that that company policy was not to give refunds.

The Daily Telegraph reports that Goodman then called 911 and told police who arrived at the restaurant, ‘This is an emergency. If I would have known they didn't have McNuggets, I wouldn't have given my money, and now she wants to give me a McDouble, but I don't want one.’

She was charged with misusing the 911 emergency system.

OK, so maybe calling 911 three times is a bit excessive... I'm just saying-- I can identify.

We used to love to go to Wendy's for baked potatoes and Frosties, but I don't know how many times I was told, "Sorry, we're out of potatoes." This happened numerous times, but, thankfully, at least they hadn't already taken my money and refused to refund it. The most puzzling part about this particular Wendy's was that it was located across the parking lot from a grocery store. Now, my SIL who works in restaurant management could probably explain why this food outage thing occasionally happens, but I know she would never stand for that sort of stupidity from her workers.

Now that I'm thinking about it, ordering at fast food restaurants is generally problematic for me. The last time I went to Dairy Queen, they didn't give me all the food I ordered. The last time I went through the McDonald's drive-thru, I thought the price I was charged was kind of high; but, I was halfway home before I realized they had given me "Big Kid" Happy Meals, with a higher cost and way more food than my scrawny kids could ever eat. Why is it so hard to get it right?

Then, there are the personalities. This is an area where I do believe I can throw stones. I am no peach. I know that about myself, and, therefore, would never take on a customer service position. I could not do it. But, am I one of the few with that level of self-awareness... or do others just not care?

A week or so ago, I was at McDonald's with my two younger kids and two of my nephews, letting them run around the play area. (One of the main reasons we eat at fast food joints-- even though I complain: It's just something to do with the kids, especially in winter.) Anyway, I walked up to the totally empty counter to order our food and no one came to help me. I stood there for literally a couple minutes, and the workers could clearly see me. Finally, a middle-aged woman turned away from the coffee machine and said, "I'll be with you in a minute. I'm just trying to get this done. It seems whenever I start something, one of you people show up and I have to stop what I'm doing to help you."

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Lucky Number Seven

Today marks the seventh anniversary of my journey into motherhood. Amanda has surprised us, mellowed us, changed our lives so much for the better. We adore our daughter and we welcome the challenges she presents. This groundbreaking child sure is breaking us in... and she seems up to the task.

Amanda Noel was born following a blissfully easy-- but exceedingly long-- pregnancy. I was working, and in a birth race with another colleague whose due date was two days after mine. More than a week overdue, I was growing larger by the minute. I remember laying on the floor in front of the TV on Friday night, watching this alien ram around in my belly and thinking, "This child is never going to come out."

After a few hours of sleep, I got up very early on Saturday and went to work. I was producing a two-hour news and variety show for a local television station, so this was part of my usual routine. I wore a faded black maternity jogging suit (jogging-- ha!) because it was about the only thing that still fit. We got the show on the air. About an hour in-- during the gardening segment-- my seat started feeling really wet. I got up and left the control room (a big no-no in my job, and unheard of for me) and went to the bathroom. I was pretty sure my water had broken, but I didn't feel any pain, so I cleaned myself up and went back to work. After the show was over, we had our usual debriefing, and I said nothing, but packed up to leave.

My sister was living very near the television station, so I stopped to say "Hi" and to drop off some goodies from the show. I made another visit to her bathroom and then headed for home. In the car, I called Todd and asked, "Are you ready to be a dad?" He replied, "Sure. Oh-- TODAY?!" When I arrived home, contractions still had not begun, but I called the hospital's birth center to ask for advice. The nurse on the other end told me if my water had broken, I needed to come in. Since it had been a few hours and I wasn't feeling contractions, they may need to augment my labor.

I was not excited about that prospect, so we stalled some more. I changed my clothes. Todd took some video of me in the nursery. I packed Daddy snacks for the hospital while he loaded the car. The hospital nurse called back: "Where are you?" OK, OK... We kissed the dog, got in the car and left home for the last time as a twosome. We made a couple more stops on the way to the hospital-- the car wash and Culver's.

When we arrived at the birth center, the nurses on duty took one look at me and said, "Oh, no, you're not in labor... probably a false alarm." But, upon examination, they found my water had indeed broken and they told me I was staying. They got my IV in, a lab tech came and took blood (Todd thought she was hot-- and told me so,) and eventually the doctor stopped to check on me. He was wearing a flannel shirt and blue jeans, which really threw me off, since I'd only seen him in scrubs; he told us he had just come from having his taxes done.

I was still dilated to only two centimeters, so they started pitocin, and the day dragged on. Todd asked a nurse whether he could use one of the video games from pediatrics (no) or whether she had any movies for him to watch (again, no.) By suppertime, we had to call our family and tell them where we were. My parents agreed to take care of our dog; Todd's mom challenged us:
MIL: "You're not at the hospital."
Todd: "Yes, we are."
MIL: "No, you're not. I know you're not."
Todd: "Yes, we are, Mom. What are you talking about?"
MIL: "I had a Tupperware party near the hospital and I just drove through the parking lot an hour ago (stalker.) Your car was not there."
Todd: "Yes, Ma. We've been here since about one o'clock."
MIL later conceded she hadn't recognized our car because it was freshly washed and had a baby seat in the back.

After many walks and some very slow progress, labor finally picked up and I asked for an epidural around 10:30. I remember we had just watched a Tommy Lee Jones movie on TV, and then the news. "Saturday Night Live" was on when the anesthesiologist arrived. Things moved more quickly after that, and, around 1 a.m., the nurse called the doctor to tell him I was ready to push.

When the doctor arrived, I told him I was sorry the labor had taken so long, but I was happy the baby was going to be born on a Sunday, due to the old nursery rhyme: "And the child who's born on the Sabbath day is bonny and blithe and happy and gay." Both Todd and Doc had a good twitter about the "gay" part-- so mature. Everybody got set up and the action began. I had a weird contraction pattern, so I was only pushing every 15 minutes and resting in between. At 2:17 a.m., the doctor declared, "Congratulations! It's a girl!" I exclaimed, "It's a what?!" And Todd said, "I don't care what time it is; I'm calling everyone to tell them I'm a DAD!"

Amanda definitely set the stage for all these other offspring, and we wouldn't have it any other way. She is intelligent, thoughtful, beautiful, and tender. And, now, she is seven. Happy, happy birthday, Amanda Noel!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Smarty Pants

You all know Benjamin receives physical therapy through the school district's special education program. Due to his big head (macrocephaly) and poor muscle tone (hypotonia,) he was very late to roll over, late to stand, late to walk. He has made great strides and resembles a "regular kid" more and more as time passes.

Anyway, this spring, Benjamin is being re-evaluated for the program, to see if he will continue to qualify for services once he turns three. Even though we know his only area of struggle is with gross motor skills, he must be tested in all areas, including speech, fine motor skills, cognitive skills, and how he applies each of these to daily life. This morning, two women from his "team" visited to evaluate him in the areas of speech and cognitive ability.

They brought small toys and had a tea party with Ben and a teddy bear. They had spiral-bound books and asked Ben to point to certain objects or describe what was going on in the pictures. They asked me questions about things I observe about Ben's social behavior. After an hour without rest, Benjamin demanded, "I need a snack!" And the women began to pack up their materials and look at their calendars. They asked if they could come again next week. "Sure," I said. "Is there some problem?" Both agreed there was no problem; however, the method of testing requires each of them to continue with their questions and evaluations until Ben hits a wall-- until there are things he does not understand or cannot answer. He's two-and-a-half, so they started with the three-year-old skills. After an hour, both women were well into the five-year-old sections of their evaluation books, and Ben's still going.

Sure, he's not potty-trained. Yeah, he shoved fruit salad up his nose at supper. Still, when it comes to bragging rights, a mama knows when to share.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Good Luck Movin' Up, 'Cause I'm Movin' Out

With the shower wall nearing completion, my dad has agreed to use his time off to repaint our bathroom-- a necessity due to an unfortunate paint choice I made before we moved in. Todd and Dad, in their annoying quest for perfectionism, insisted the closet also be painted. So, today, Todd and I moved all our clothes into a different room. In the process, we packed five boxes of clothes to get rid of, and purging always feels good. While this was going on, the kids were supposed to be cleaning up the toy tornado in their play room.

After the closet was cleared, I went downstairs to make lunch. Soon, I heard Elisabeth leave the toy room and walk through our bedroom. She exclaimed, "Whoa! Amanda, come here-- you have to see this! It's really not good!" Then, the girls came thundering downstairs, demanding to know why our closet was empty and where our clothes had gone. I calmly explained that Daddy and I were tired of taking care of them, tired of cleaning up after them, so we had packed all our clothes to leave. They could have the house-- we just didn't want to be a part of it anymore. Libby looked a little incredulous, a little panicked. Amanda shrugged and said, "OK. Just, when you go, Mom, be sure to leave us Grandma's phone number."

The Great Wall

This glass block wall in our bathroom is Todd's big accomplishment from all his time off. Now, it's still not exactly done... You see, building a glass block wall is not a one-person job. But, one day, Todd had my brother's help; he spent that day measuring, scratching his head, and swearing it would never work. The rest of the time, he had my help, and an eight-months pregnant apprentice/assistant is really not much help when it comes to getting down on hands and knees and wiping mortar joints. It will be finished... someday.

It is one of the many projects I have been pushing for, because, once it does get finished, I'll be able to use this: