Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Animal House

I swear, I don't know where these kids get this stuff:

The other morning, Benjamin picked up some coins from my nightstand and asked me, "Do you want to play 'Hwarters,' Mom?" I thought I knew what the boy said, but it was such an odd question from an almost-three-year-old I figured I'd better get clarification. After I asked, "What?" he asked again, "Do you wanna play 'Hwarters?'" "Are you asking me to play 'Quarters?'" I asked. He nodded. "The drinking game?" "Yes, Mom. Do you want to play?"

The only thing I could think is that he must have stowed away in his dad's bag on the last ice fishing trip... I declined the invitation, and Ben, shoulders drooping, started to walk away. Before he reached the doorway, he turned with a mischevious look in his eye, held up the coins in his little fists and asked, "Want to play 'Strip Hwarters?'"

Monday, June 29, 2009

Death of a Salesman

Is it weird I have not blogged about Farrah Fawcett, not about Michael Jackson... not about the election violence in Iran or the unrest in Honduras... but this is what's affecting us here in Krinkeland:

Mays likely died of heart attack
Famed TV pitchman found dead at home in Florida

(Tampa, Fla.) Television pitchman Billy Mays likely died of a heart attack but further tests are needed, a Florida medical examiner said Monday.

Hillsborough County Medical Examiner Vernard Adams said the boisterous, bearded 50-year-old known for hawking Oxiclean suffered from hypertensive heart disease. His wife, Deborah, found him dead Sunday in his Tampa home.

Television viewers knew him as the OxiClean guy: the bearded, boisterous pitchman on commercials airing hundreds of times a week nationwide. “Hi. Billy Mays here,” he would begin, before showing off his latest cleaning product or gadget.

Todd and I had recently begun watching the Discovery Channel series "Pitchmen," and there was just something magnetic about this guy. He was only 50 years old, and appeared to be trying, albeit a bit late, to make things right in his personal wife, with a second marriage and a little girl. Beyond that, I can't explain it.

More on the death of Billy Mays here.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Really Retired

We celebrated what I believe is the last of Dad's retirement festivities. This was the family party, and, by "family," I mean relatives and friends so dear that they can only be called family. We had a nice day at the lake-- wonderful weather, just a bit windy. The kids didn't mind and had a ball playing outside all day. Grandma ordered a pig roast, and that was a big hit. The children insisted it was alligator or dinosaur... till they tasted it.

Happy Retirement, Dad! Now, enough partying already. There's a paint brush in Krinkeland with your name on it.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Bruised Melon

Benjamin fell today-- tripped over his own feet and face-planted into the pavement. His head hit so hard it bounced. Just what we need-- another thing to worry about with that kid.

Todd stresses constantly about Ben's big head and propensity for injury. He regularly threatens to make the boy wear a helmet. I've never seen Todd so close to punching another man as when some guy accidentally bumped Ben at the paper towel dispenser in a public restroom.

So, Ben came out of today's ordeal with two skinned knees, a skinned palm, and a huge-- I mean HUGE-- raspberried goose egg in the center of his forehead. We kept vigil at his side for about an hour, cleaning the wounds, applying Band-Aids, trying to cajole him into keeping ice on the bump. We went through the head injury checklist, and, no, Ben did not lose consciousness; he did not throw up or get sleepy; his pupils were equal and reactive. Once again, we've dodged a bullet and we do believe our son will live. Thank God.

He looks like crap, though.

A Star is Born

Amanda has taken part in her first stage production, and she loved it! This was a week-long workshop put on by a youth theater group that tours schools in the area and recruits budding actors. The two adult directors, who also played principal roles and 75 kids put on "Beauty and the Beast." It was an interesting version-- not Disney-- and not the most polished work, but as finished as it could be, with auditions on Monday afternoon and the performance on Friday evening. Amanda was a gypsy. She was thoroughly entertained and entertaining throughout the production. I have a feeling her first time on stage will not be her last.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Feeling Cheated

On news programs for one local television station, they've begun calling this the "New Economy." I'm not sure exactly what that means, or how I feel about it-- but I think, as a consumer, I'm seeing some definite signs of changes in how businesses operate, and they're really annoying. At the big box discount stores I so regularly frequent, sales have not been as good. Clearance markdowns are not happening. Merchandise seems to be in shorter supply, yet it is sitting longer on the shelves.

Here are some examples of the changes I've seen:

Target: In May, Todd and I went looking for lawn furniture. It would have been dumb to buy it then, because the deck and patio were not completed, and we would have had nowhere to store it. But, we knew we couldn't wait till July, or all the furniture would be gone, replaced with school supplies. We found some stuff we liked, and decided to watch it and wait for a sale. A week later, every store in the state was sold out-- I know, I called. I found some of the pieces online and thought I would order through target.com, until I got to the checkout and discovered shipping for the items would be nearly $500, within $100 of the price of the furniture itself.

Superamerica: The convenience store always does a summertime promotion on drinks. This June and July, it's any size coffee, fountain, or frozen drink for $0.89. Plus, if you're a Speedy Rewards member, the program tracks your purchases and gives you a coupon for a free drink for every six you buy. My brother, a thirsty UPS driver, gave me the tip last summer to purchase the drinks during the weeks they are on special, and to save the free drink coupons for fall and winter when the prices are higher. But, I noticed, while clipping a coupon to the sun visor in my car, that this year the coupons have short expiration periods (one month,) so SA spoiled that plan. Also, when I went to cash in one of the coupons, I got the third degree, had to present my Speedy Rewards card, etc. because the clerk claimed the program has been overrun by fraud.

Culver's: We hit this joint every so often, because there's a lot of variety and Todd really loves the Strawberry Fields salad. But, it's not cheap. We met Daddy a week or two ago for lunch, and I discovered the cost of kid's meals has gone up again-- as much as an adult combo meal at many other fast-food restaurants. However, one redeeming thing about Culver's is that the kid's meal packages come with "tokens" on the back-- one is a coupon for a "free" scoop of custard for dessert, and the other can be saved to accumulate prizes, such as t-shirts or playground balls with the Culver's logo. The program has always stipulated 10 tokens can be redeemed for a free kid's meal. Since we purchase them three at a time, this feels like a little bit of a return on our investment. Anyway, on this last visit, the kid's meal bags had changed. There is now only one token, which can either be cashed in for dessert or saved up for a free meal.

If I still have money to shop, and time to notice these changes, I guess I'm not yet a victim of the "New Economy." Be forewarned, though, before you hit these spots-- change is in the air.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Listen to the Mouth on That One

I'm mouthy, so why shouldn't my kids be, too? Benjamin laid a couple zingers on us last night:

While trying to get his dad to do something for him, he kept screaming, "Dad! Daddy!" Finally, Dad said to Ben, "Ben, if you want me to do something for you, you have to say the magic word. What's the magic word?" Ben didn't skip a beat: "Miska-Mooska-Mickey-Mouse!"

Later, the kids had the brilliant idea to all sleep together in Ben's room, and we had the even more brilliant idea to let them. Todd told them they had 10 minutes to settle down and go to sleep or everyone was going to be separated. Then, he put up the baby gate in the doorway and left. A couple minutes later, Ben started hollering: "GET ME OUTTA HERE! I'M BEING REALLY ANNOYING!"

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Here's the Poop on Madeline

Because I believe there are as many as two people who read this blog who actually care, here is the summary of Madeline's two-month well baby visit to the pediatrician:

height: 22 3/4 inches (70th percentile)
weight: 10 pounds 14 ounces-- weighed naked (60th percentile)
head circumference: 15 1/2 inches (70th percentile)

Madeline was awake the entire morning before her appointment. Literally, she woke up around 8 a.m. and was still awake when I loaded her into the car at 1 p.m. So, naturally, during the less-than-two-mile drive to the clinic, she fell asleep. This put her in a fairly foul mood for the visit. Madeline also got three injected vaccines and one oral vaccine, so she was bound to be upset, anyway.

My only questions this time around were regarding Madeline's er, ah, hmmm, how shall we say it? Attention-getting digestive process? OK, she farts a lot and it really stinks. Plus, you can hear her tummy churning from across the room and she shrieks like a banshee whenever she has to poop, which doesn't seem to happen nearly often enough. The doctor asked a lot of questions and then gave Madeline a thorough check. She said everything appeared in order and what I was describing was really nothing to worry about, all part of a developing digestive system. So, when should I worry? (I wonder how many times I have asked this same question of this same doctor.) If she's throwing up a lot or if she stops gaining weight-- those are the big signals of an actual digestive problem in an infant. (Or, you could just be Benjamin. Gee, that really puts my mind at rest.)

The doctor did suggest I try cutting down on caffeine and dairy, to see if that helps Madeline. The caffeine I get-- I mean, what kind of mother would put her love of fountain soda above the health and comfort of her own child? And the dairy-- At first I was like, "Sure, no big deal. I don't even like milk." But later, I panicked when this thought came to me: "ICE CREAM!"


Not typically a family that takes a lot of medications, lately we've really been hitting the drugs around here. Todd and the two older girls came down with nasty cases of swimmer's itch, so they've been on the Benadryl pretty hard. Todd hardly ever gets a headache, but sometimes if he's complaining a lot, I will go get an Excedrin and stand over him, demanding he swallow it. And Todd does take one daily medication (maybe anti-psychotic?) that he's been on for years. Among my household duties is filling and refilling that prescription... and occasionally hounding Todd to take it.

I recently picked up a refill of the medication and noticed it had changed. Todd's doctor prescribes 40 mgs of the drug, but it has only come in 20-mg capsules, so-- do the math-- he takes two pills a day. Now, however, a 40-mg capsule has emerged. I set one out next to his drink the other evening, after Todd commented he had not been taking his medicine. The pill was larger, a different color, and there was just one. Soon, Todd hollered to me, "Am I supposed to take this pill?" I yelled back, "Yes," and the conversation ended. Later that night, I said to Todd, "Well, I know sometimes you might not like me, but at least I know you really do trust me." I set out a strange-looking pill, and he downs it, no further questions asked.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

My Perfect Day

If I could create my perfect day, it would include: a full night's sleep; hot, sunny weather; someone else cleaning up the kitchen after meal time; a long boat ride; great music, like the kind I loved in high school; and a Diet Mountain Dew over crushed ice-- or maybe a nice, crisp vodka tonic with lime. Oh, and the Bellagio fountains would be in there somewhere, too.

Now, that's a tall order... but I was thrilled to get even some of those elements at once. The sun was shining and it was hot when we decided to take the kids out on the boat, and let them jump off in the middle of the lake. They were all loving it-- no whining-- and Todd cranked "Chicago's Greatest Hits," so I sat back to watch, and grin. After a long, tiring swim, when everyone was back in the boat wrapped in towels, I shared my joy, asking the kids, "Is this the perfect evening or what?!" Amanda quickly agreed. "Yeah, it's great, Mom-- almost perfect." I had to know what else she needed on her must-have list for happiness: "Pancakes."

Monday, June 22, 2009

Not Just a Newborn Anymore

Another month has past. My baby Madeline is two months old today! She smiles and laughs and coos. She grabs toys and fingers and hair. She eats well and sleeps for longer stretches. We'll see what the pediatrician says at her checkup tomorrow, but, Madeline certainly gets Mommy's seal of approval!

Elisabeth picked out the outfit. Both girls helped make Madeline smile.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Double the Celebration, Double the Fun

This Father's Day was also Madeline's baptism day. It was great for us, because we had all the dads in one place to celebrate. Madeline did swimmingly, upon her official initiation as a child of God, sleeping away most of the ceremony in her godmother Kristin's arms. Even the priest commented how lovely she was, and I think he's something of a baby-phobe, so that was a big relief. We spent the rest of the day eating, oohing and aahing over gifts-- Madeline is so loved, playing cards, riding on the boat (in between rain showers,) and eating some more.

Here are the photos, proof of our beautiful baby and crazy family:

Friday, June 19, 2009

The Girl is an Open Book

Grandma took the older girls to the library this week-- something I always mean to do, but don't get around to often enough, mostly because our library seems to have odd hours (like not opening till 11 a.m. on Fridays. Only Fridays. Isn't that odd?) Anyway, Grandma took them and signed up Amanda for the summer reading program, another thing I always mean to do. Elisabeth, apparently, wouldn't sign up, because she told Grandma she doesn't know how to read, which (1) is totally untrue and (2) doesn't really matter, because we read to her. But that's another story.

Amanda came home and proceeded to do her entire summer's worth of reading in two days. She's supposed to color in a spot on the chart each time she reads for 20 minutes. So, she has been holed up in the arm chair in the play room, with a kitchen timer, reading, reading, reading. It gets better: What has she been reading? A thick kids' reference book on Greek mythology. Weird kid. Now, what will we do for the rest of the summer?

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Already Sweaty, We Might As Well Dance

Summer must be close when the annual Music in the Park series begins. Today was a hot, muggy, kind of miserable day, and, by late afternoon, the kids were looking a little worse for the wear. Time for a pick-us-up. Todd was out for the evening, so I called Grandma and Auntie, packed a picnic, loaded the kids in the car, and headed for the city park.

There's a beautiful lakeside bandstand, and we sat high enough on the hill to catch what little breeze there was. This week's sponsoring business handed out Frisbee-type flying discs-- the kind that are really just plastic rings with holes in the middle, so they are easier to throw and to catch-- and the kids had a ball tossing them around (all except Benjamin, who wore his on his head like a cockeyed halo.) The band was an area favorite, The Killer Hayseeds. The dance floor was crowded with children and group home residents, adding greatly to the entertainment level.

After a supper of cold sandwiches, pasta salads, and fruit, Amanda lobbied Grandpa, and then led the grandchildren's march to the ice cream truck. The boys ran up and down the hill, up and down the hill. We drank lots of water. Oliver scaled the hill, picnic table and benches, making friends with old women. When all were damp, dusty and droopy-- then we were done.

most of the kids, before they took off

Ben vs. the ice cream, ice cream wins

Oliver, a.k.a. "the Blueberry Bandit"

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Bargain, Hunted

I am really starting to get the hang of this online shopping thing. When the other option is dragging four small children to the store, one learns to adapt. I've long been a fan of amazon.com, and I check out the "Gold Box Deals" on a regular basis. But, I just discovered something similar at target.com, "Daily Deals." These are cool for at least four reasons:
1. a considerable discount (usually 50% or more)
2. often items not sold in Target stores
3. item purchase limit is 5 (not 1, like Amazon)
4. free shipping on Daily Deals buys

Just a friendly little tip, from me to you.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Pacifist

We have been trying to get Madeline to take a pacifier. Todd claims he can do it, and it works. (The last couple evenings, I have been feeding her sometime between 10 and midnight and then handing her off for Daddy to put to bed.) I have not had so much luck.

The whole pacifier thing is somewhat comical to me. When we began having children-- eight years ago this month I found out I was expecting my first-- plugs were a BIG no-no in my book. I had heard they could wreck kids' teeth and make it harder to breastfeed. They seemed like a germ nightmare-- with other people touching the Nuk, it falling on the floor, etc. Plus, while considered acceptable for infants, I didn't want a baby to get attached and turn into a toddler walking around with that thing stuck in the face.

The hospital nurses would ask me before I even delivered, "While in the nursery, is it OK to give the baby a pacifier?" And I would say, "No!" I remember with one of the children (no doubt Elisabeth,) the nurse wheeled in her bassinet one morning and said, "The baby was really crying in the nursery, but we wanted you to get your shower in, so we gave her a pacifier. I hope that's OK." Inside, I was screaming, "NO! It's NOT OK! I TOLD YOU NO! You should have brought her to me instead! Who really needs a shower?!" And I was so worried all she would want was the pacifier that when the nurse left the room, I took it out of the baby's bed and threw it away. Later, I thought, "Why did the nurse tell me? I never would have known if she hadn't."

However, by the time Benjamin was 18 months old, I started to change my pacifying ways. The beep really wasn't an issue for him, because he sucked on one finger from the time he was a little baby-- and still does. But, you'll remember, when his teeth came in, they were very crooked and misaligned. We took him to our pediatric dentist, who had the appalling suggestion to give Ben a pacifier. He said there are now "orthodontic" pacifiers, which actually promote straight teeth and properly arched palates. I went out and bought the ba-bas, brought them home, and gave one to Ben. He thought it was hilarious... carried it around from time to time... and kept sucking on his finger. As he has grown, his teeth have somewhat come together, no thanks to a Nukkie.

Then, sometime between Benjamin and Madeline, I started reading about pacifiers, and how some researchers believe the use of one reduces the risk of SIDS. Now, who wouldn't want that? When I was in labor with the last baby and the nurse asked whether they could give the baby a paci, I just shrugged and said, "Whatever." We really haven't used one, and still have just the one plug they gave us in the hospital, but Todd seems to think it is the key to Madeline's fussy times.

This morning, after she awoke at 4:30, I nursed her for a long time, burped her, changed her diaper, and walked around with her a bit. Then, I really wanted Madeline to go back to sleep, so I could get just one more hour, but she was wide awake. I laid the baby in her bed, covered her with her blanket, and put the num-num in her mouth. I laid down and pulled up the covers. I could hear her sucking on that thing, but it didn't last long. She's a noisy baby, and soon started grunting and thrashing around a bit. At the first peep of a cry, I arose to pick her up. Madeline had pulled the la-la out of her mouth and was waving it in the air. It was the first time I had ever seen her purposely pick up something and hold it. It was as though she was yelling at me, "I don't want this thing!" Cracked me up.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Krinkeland's Excellent Adventures

Summer is taking off like fireworks here in Krinkeland. In the past four days, we have: visited the zoo, attended the wedding of one of my cousins-- complete with hotel stay, taken Madeline to meet her great-grandma, and had our first seasonal dip in the lake. Wow, just imagine how busy our lives could be come if I actually got a decent night's sleep! Too tired to write, I thought I'd instead show you in photos:

Friday, June 12, 2009

I Scream

So, I was watching this show called "Sweet Tooth" on the National Geographic Channel... because, at 4 a.m., it was one of the only non-infomercials. The episode highlighted the makings of various candies and other sweets, including Ben & Jerry's ice cream. This was more about the actual product creation process-- how the big chunks are distributed and why the ice cream is so creamy-- than about the company or its kooky founders, which we've all heard about plenty, thanks to one successful p.r. machine. I believe the show was just one more sign that I am supposed to eat ice cream. Lots of it.

You see, just the other day, I bought some Ben & Jerry's. While everyone in this house adores ice cream, I never buy this brand, for two reasons: (1) it's expensive, and (2) it only comes in those single-serve containers. But, I was driving my cart down the frozen foods aisle, trying to tune out someone's rowdy children, when my eyes saw a vision, "Ben & Jerry's Vanilla Heath Bar Crunch." I blacked out for a moment, but, when I got home, I found the ice cream stowed away in the bag with the frozen peas. While putting away the groceries, I made the mistake of glancing at the nutritional information on the back of the carton. It turns out, not only is the stuff extra-high-calorie, but a pint is actually four servings of ice cream. Can you imagine?!

So, eating an entire container in one sitting would be, well, really bad. I stowed the Ben & Jerry's behind the cheap stuff, and rationed it out, a few spoonfuls at a time, to only me. There were chunks of Heath bar the size of Madeline's ear (I'm looking at Madeline's ear right now) in there. It was the best ice cream ever. I'm so glad I didn't share.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Bottle Battle

I had a moment of panic the other day. Truth is, I panic every day, for various reasons: that I forgot someone's birthday; that I nodded off and the house is eerily quiet, so where are the children; that the Hanna Andersson Outlet is going to sell out of my kids' sizes before I get to the sale; that someone is going to contract swine flu; that we're out of bananas and Todd is going to curse over the consistency of his protein shake; that my kids don't eat organic snacks; that that crazy, little turd in North Korea has nukes pointed at us; that members of my favorite bands are looking really old, and so I must be, too; that I'm paying too much for auto insurance. But this panic was about Madeline and the bottle.

I suddenly realized Madeline was in her second month of life and she had not yet had a bottle. This made me panic because I feared an entire nursing year ahead, where I would never be able to leave her, even for a couple hours. I immediately went to the freezer to thaw some milk.

Yes, I have a small store of pumped milk in the freezer, already saved up from the first days. I had to pump, to prevent actual breast explosion. But, also, I always try to have some milk stored just in case the baby loses her mother in a tragic accident, like, say, if I get offed by one of those frozen chunks of airplane pee that I hear can fall from the sky. I keep cans of baby formula in the pantry for the same reason. Can you imagine Todd, in mourning but still ever the airhead, trying to buy formula? See, these things make me panic. But I digress.

Back to a few nights ago, when I heated up a bottle for Madeline. The experts always say someone other than the mother should give the baby her first bottle, because she'll be more likely to take it from a non-milk source. But, Todd was working late and I was the only one here. The experts are right. Baby started flailing and wailing, pursed her lips in disgust and cranked her head away from that synthetic nipple. I soon gave up, and decided a finicky nursing baby was as good an excuse as any to stay home from the gym and stay fat.

But it was bugging me. I'm not saying I have anywhere to go, but, someday, I might want to go for a walk or take in a movie without this child attached to me. So, last evening, when Todd was home, I heated up another bottle. He and Madeline were sitting in his chair in the den, so I handed it over and walked out of the room. But, before I did, I caught Madeline giving me the stink eye. I went back to the kitchen, and all was quiet. I spied around the corner and that little diva was downing the bottle as though she had not a care in the world. She drank the whole thing. Brat.

Girl is sitting on my lap right now, belly-laughing at the computer monitor. Do you think she can read?! If so, is she chuckling at my cleverness, or her own?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Like Sands Through the Hourglass

Madeline was sleeping downstairs when I ran upstairs to (a) yell at someone; (b) pick up a mess; or (c) buy something online. Soon, I heard that newborn wail and I went back downstairs to investigate. Before I got to where Madeline was, I stopped at the doorway to the den. Elisabeth was sitting there, watching a home movie from the first days of Benjamin's life, and Baby Ben's was actually the crying I heard. I stopped and watched. Mommy in the hospital looked the same. Baby wrapped in receiving blankets, almost the same (just a blue knit cap covering an almost bald head.) Doting Grandma and Grandpa, same. Big sisters squealing in delight and touching the baby way too much, all the same. Even Daddy, sighing in the background of the video, "I need to go home and go to bed," the same.

But three years have passed. In an instant. My mom often shakes her head and mutters, "In the blink of an eye. It all goes so fast." And she's not even old yet!

When I saw my doctor last week for my postpartum check, we, as we always do, talked about good times and bad times, issues of life and death, how the kids are growing up so fast. (He has one headed to medical school!) Before he left the exam room, he sighed and said, "Go home and hug your kids extra tight for me. They're not little for very long."

The Good Ol' Days

I have no idea what made me think of this, BUT...

When I was a kid, I remember going to one of those all-you-can-eat buffet restaurants (which must have made plenty on our family, because we were never huge eaters.) Anyway, I swear they charged for children based on each kid's weight. Like, you stood in line to pay for your meal, and, to get the final tally, the kids took turns standing on a scale. Is that possible?! And, is it further possible that we all survived into adulthood unscathed by such a public showing of thinness or heftiness?! What would the ACLU say? Maybe that's why the practice went away...

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Indecent Proposal

The car wouldn't start-- dead battery. I called Todd and Todd called Emergency Road Service. When the tow truck guy came, I went out to meet him. There was some problem with the credit card information Todd had given, so I offered to just write a check. The mechanic, all young with a shaved head and tons of tattoos and piercings, was, at the same time, filling out a receipt. He asked me, "What year is it?" Simultaneously, I asked, "What's today's date?" We stumbled through answering each other, and it took a while, especially because I didn't understand he was asking what year is the VAN, not what year are we currently LIVING IN. Finally, we both started laughing. I shook my head and said, "Must be a rough week. We are a bad combination." The guy agreed, "Yeah, we should just go to bed." I still got it.

Monday, June 8, 2009

What's that Ringing?

Todd got himself a new cell phone, and decided I needed one, too. It's one of those flat, shiny, square things that to me looks no more like a phone than a Snickers bar. Word on the street is you can call, text, take photos, surf the Internet... I'm not sure yet about changing diapers.

Admittedly, I am a technotard, but there is a steep learning curve on this one. The phone rang three different times before I figured out what it was, what it was doing, and how to make it stop. The 14-year-old girl sitting behind me in church finally helped. I was counting on Todd to tutor me, but, after he attempted seven times to program in his mom's phone number, I figured I was on my own. If I don't answer when you call, you know why.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

I'm Not an Athlete, Just an Athletic Supporter

Todd has completed (translation: survived) his second triathlon. The chilly, wet weather was pretty awful for spectating, but was apparently great for competing. I took Benjamin and the baby to see just the last leg of the race (the three-mile run) and the finish. That was more than enough. The older girls went earlier with Grandma R. and Lisa, who was celebrating her birthday at the triathlon. Todd was somewhat bummed when, after the race was over, he grabbed the camera from me to review the action shots. I had taken all of five photos; one was of an elbow, and two others were of Elisabeth on the monkey bars. Not the year to capture the memories-- my hands were full.

Todd raced again this year with his friend, Todd, and this year the friend beat his butt. Both men significantly improved their showings from the year before. By showings, I mean they showed up with an impressive collection of new wet suits, running suits, racing bicycles, cycling shoes, energy supplements...

Afterward, Todd laid in bed, recovering, with his laptop, perusing the race rundowns for others he knew, and reviewing his times. Overall, Todd improved his time from last year by four minutes. With all the money he shelled out for that new equipment, I'd estimate he paid about $1000 per minute of improvement. Now, that's a solid investment.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Lessons Needed: In Etiquette and Anatomy

Todd's been working late a lot lately, and spending his free time getting ready for this weekend's triathlon. And now, school's out for the summer. What a combination.

I've been trying to reenter the land of the living and actually do some things with the kids. You know I can't stand to be home with all of them for any length of time. Last evening, we decided to go to the park. I packed everyone in the car (because it was too far and windy to walk.) Of course, once we got there, Madeline started crying... Amanda was hungry... Benjamin was whining, "Go down the slide wif me, Mommy. Dis one too big for widdle kids!" And who knows where Elisabeth was-- probably snatching the other moms' purses.

I got the three older kids squared away and went back to the edge of the park, where the van was parked right at the curb with Madeline inside. Suddenly, I heard Amanda bellow from the tire swing all the way across the playground, "Ow! She just kicked me in the nuts!"

Friday, June 5, 2009

Headed for Hallmark

We are off to visit my nephew Kazmer, who is soaking up the attention after a monkey bar mishap left him with a broken wrist. When I talked to him on the phone a few hours after the accident, he was in good spirits. But, I'll check back when reality sets in about no bike riding, no swimming, no coloring (at least not the way a perfectionist does it...)

As a mother to three boys, I think my sister has had some idea of what she's in for. But, he's only five-- this could be a long road ahead. The incident, and reactions by all, have provided some insight into possible future careers for the children. Kaz, obviously, would make a great stunt man. Amanda, on the other hand, may have a future writing greeting card sentiments. She made one for Kaz that is shaped like a blue arm, and the reverse reads: "If I can sign your cast, I can sign your hart."

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Movin' On Up

Amanda and her first grade teacher-- I believe they enjoyed each other.

I took a first grader to school this morning, and came home with a second grader. After their final church service and before the end-of-the-year awards were handed out, the parish priest "commissioned" each grade to the next one. And he gave each grade level a "charge" for the summer. For the departing first graders, he said, "I give you the charge to pray every day and to be kind to those around you." Amanda is certainly up to these challenges... but they're good reminders for all of us.

Sleep, Sleep, No Sleep

For those keeping track:

The night of the Snug & Tug swaddling blanket purchase and trial run, Madeline slept in two five-plus-hour stretches. The following night, she slept just shy of eight hours straight. Last night, from the time the other kids went to bed till they got up this morning, she slept a total of four-and-a-half hours. So, I can't buy stock in the swaddler company yet. Of course, that 44-ounce Diet Mountain Dew I put down for my supper could have been a factor.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009


The kids and I had to get out of the house this morning, to make way for the cleaners. Madeline started whining a bit in the car, but it was too early to make a pit stop at a friend's house, so I pulled into McDonald's. I figured I could hit breakfast (mmmm, Cinnamon Melts!) and play time for Elisabeth and Benjamin in one shot, plus find a spot to feed the baby. By the time I got the food and started following the kids to the separate room for the Playland, Madeline was really starting to fuss.

The play area was entirely empty, except for the table in the very center of the room, where one older man sat eating his breakfast. He did not look up as my tribe entered and I began navigating the room. I had been hoping for an out-of-the-way table where I could nurse without being the center of attention. Even with the Hooter Hider, and after all these kids, public nursing still makes me uncomfortable. Yes, I know it's perfectly natural. I know it's what God intended my body to do. I know the baby needs to eat and her needs come first. But I also know that nursing makes some other people feel uncomfortable... just the thought of nursing makes some people feel uncomfortable... and certainly there are sometimes gender and age barriers that come into play.

So, I discovered-- from his center perch, this man would have a perfect view of me, no matter where I sat. I picked a table, put down the tray and began helping Elisabeth and Benjamin with their breakfast. From her car seat, Madeline was really crying now. My back was to the man, but I was making up my own scenario in my mind. I could feel him rolling his eyes, could imagine him shaking his head. "Too bad," I thought. "That's what you get for sitting in the kids' section. Good. Maybe you'll leave."

Sure enough, while I was still cutting sausage into bites, out of the corner of my eye, I saw the man pack up his wrappers and head for the trash can across the room. But a minute later, he was back, standing next to me. I steeled myself and waited for him to say, "You sure have your hands full." That is far and away the most common comment I get when I'm out in public. I'm never sure how to handle it, but I usually just laugh and agree, "I sure do. And I have no one to blame but myself."

Instead, the stranger smiled down at the baby and asked her name. Then he asked her age. He made a gentle comment about a crying baby not being a big deal. We chatted a little about my children. He never offered any information about his own kids or grandkids (typically how older people begin conversations with me.) He did call Madeline "beautiful" and "precious" and other glowing adjectives. All the while, I was nodding and smiling, and she was screaming her fool head off.

Then, the man said to me, "You know, I would never condone murder, but-- that abortion doctor, the one who killed thousands of babies, especially some so late in term, that man was evil. I look at something so precious (gestured to Madeline) and I don't understand how anyone can terminate that, for convenience, or for any reason." What could I do but agree? Again, he complimented me on my family and left by saying, "You must be very proud."

Of my children? Of course. Of the way I make up stories, prejudge people, and blow things out of proportion? Nah. I'll be working on that.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Baby Burrito

A beloved sent a Target gift card to Madeline, and I just couldn't resist using it to buy one of those fancy swaddling blankets. Other mothers have raved about them... And who can really wrap a baby in regular receiving blankets the way those pros do at the hospital? But what really got me was the packaging.

One side of the package says this:
Why Swaddle?
*Babies sleep twice as long when swaddled.
*It is proven to reduce colic and fussiness.
*Swaddling limits the startle reflex that often wakes your baby.
*Properly swaddled babies sleep through the night sooner.
*It helps your baby become aware of your efforts to soothe her.
(don't really get that last one, but, whatever)

The other side says this:
Could Even Perform Small Miracles By:
*erasing those under-eye circles
*motivating you to shed your pajamas by noon
*providing time for that overdue shower
*curing crankiness with your spouse
*creating more time for intimacy... well, maybe!
(seriously, that last one is in print-- not my commentary)

I should point out that Madeline is not the fussiest baby on the planet. Believe me, I've had worse. However, she does have a fussy time of day, and it's usually from suppertime to 10 p.m. or so... which is a very difficult time for me to not have a free hand. These past weeks, she's stayed quite calm as long as she's nursing. But, sooner or later, it's time she learns this bod is not an all-you-can-eat buffet.

Now, we have only about 16 hours under our belts with the Snug & Tug, so our experience is anecdotal at best. The first time I tried to wrap Madeline in the swaddling blanket, she really cried. Todd sat back with an amused grin and commented, "I would cry, too, if someone put me in a strait jacket." I retorted, "Really? I would love it if someone put me in a strait jacket, especially if it came with a one-way ticket to the booby hatch!" Realizing her parents were sour and sleep-deprived, Madeline quickly settled down. She slept for two stretches of more than five hours each, waking in between only to eat and get dry pants.

This afternoon, I wrapped up Madeline again to create some semblance of nap time, and she soon dozed off... but not before sneaking out that left arm so she could keep her hand in her favorite position, by her face. Baby Power!

Monday, June 1, 2009

No Wash for the Weary

It's time for the second installment of "The Bathtub Chronicles." You know, one of my favorite postpartum jokes is when the discharge nurse at the hospital urges me to further my healing by soaking in the tub every day. While I was a patient in the hospital, I did soak in the tub, because a nurse would draw my bath, lay out fresh towels, and take care of my baby for any length of time, at any hour of the day or night. Since I've been home, I have not taken a bath... probably because that nurse did not come home with me.

Last night, after the three older kids were asleep, I thought maybe I would take a little bath. I fed and changed Madeline and laid her on the bed next to Todd, who was surfing the Internet on his laptop. I filled the tub and got out a towel and the only washcloth I could find, a Blue's Clues bath mitt. Soon after I got into the water, Madeline started whining. Then, Todd started calling for me. I ignored them both. Then, Madeline started screaming and Todd started screaming. Here was the exchange through the bathroom door:
Todd: "Andrea!"
Andrea: "What?!"
Todd: "You need to come and feed this kid!"
Andrea: "I just fed her!"
Todd: "She is sucking the hair off my chest!"

When I got out, dried off, and came to bed, I asked Todd, "Do you really think it helped my anxiety level to have you yelling on top of her crying?" Todd shrugged and replied, "It worked."

Now, you might think I have no reason for a bath with that fabulous shower up and running in my bathroom. True, it is nice, but there is one thing lacking. (Here's a hint: It's lacking in all areas of my life.) PRIVACY. The shower is designed as a walk-in, so there's no door or even curtain. I can't lock the bathroom door, because some kid might need me. However, I turned around from the relaxing jets the other day to find two naked children standing in the shower with me. I explained a new rule, that a shower was an individual activity... So they turned it into a spectator sport. Now, Elisabeth and Benjamin get their little packs of trail mix and pull up their toothbrushing stools to watch. I have taken up showering in my pajamas.