Saturday, October 31, 2009

Halloween Wake-Up


Ben: "Mom, it's Halloween."
Mom: "I know."
Ben: "Mom, it's Halloween."
Mom: "Yes, I know."
Ben: "Mom, it's Halloween."
Mom, "Yes, Ben, I know that."
Ben: "Mom, I went potty and poopy. It's a big one."
(Wiping, washing, and clean-up follow.)
Mom: "Now, go put on your underpants and play something quiet."
Ben: "But, Mom, it's dark out."
Mom: "It's dark out because it's still early. Soon, it will be light, and then we have to wait all day for it to get dark again. We don't go trick-or-treating until after supper."
Ben: "Oh, OK. But when we go trick-or-treating, I have to take these underpants off."
Mom: "Why?"
Ben: "Because witches don't wear underpants."

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Future Masterminds of America

I am raising the next generation of criminals. Really. I don't know where they all got it (ahem,) but my kids are excellent liars. Sure, we get the usual, "I don't know why he's crying. I didn't do anything." And, "Yes, all my dirty clothes are picked up off the bedroom floor." But there's more.

Last evening, I was assembling treat bags for the kids to take to school, as well as buckets of goodies for their teachers. I dumped a bunch of candy into one of those orange, plastic pumpkins and figured I'd leave it in the workroom at school. Todd started fishing around and came up with a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup (his favorite.) I scolded him, "You can't have that. Peanut butter cups are Father's favorite. Put it back." He slunk away with a bag of Peanut M&Ms. Later that night, I thought about how twisted it was that I put the priest's wants above my husband's. So, I went out to the car and left some Reese's Cups on Todd's seat. When Todd got home from work this evening, he said, "That was so nice to find the peanut butter cups in my car. Who did that for me?" Elisabeth piped up, "I did." Daddy thanked her profusely as she went on to spin this elaborate yarn about sneaking out into the garage and placing the candy just so. She looked right at me and said, "I just knew Daddy would love that," and then looked down and went back to her homework.

While bathing Madeline and Benjamin, the little boy announced, "There are suds on the wall." Todd looked up, confirmed, and said, "Quit splashing so much." Ben said, "I didn't do that. I didn't get the suds on the wall. Libby must have done that." Todd pointed out that his older sister was not in the bathtub, in the bathroom, or even on the same floor of the house. Ben shrugged and said, "I meant, she must have done that the last time she took a bath."

It's cute, but it's dangerous. I am not looking forward to the teenage years.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Kindergarten Scavenger Hunt

In addition to coloring papers, reading booklets and numbers worksheets, Elisabeth often comes home from kindergarten with “stuff”: scraps of material, fake feathers, plastic beads. I ask about the bits and pieces and Libby just says, “My teacher said I could have it.” Sometimes I press on for further explanation, and she says the teacher is cleaning things out and finds "treasures" for all the kids. One day, Elisabeth brought home a zipper freezer bag containing a handful of magnets, two wooden clothespins, and a poster-sized piece of paper with some kind picture on it. Another time it was a laminated poster about a story book. And once it was an actual story book.

Recently, Elisabeth got off the bus toting a fairly good-sized cardboard box. I asked what was the deal with the box and Libby replied, “My backpack was too full and heavy, so my teacher gave me this box to carry my lunch bag in.” I lifted the flap and saw, sure enough, the box contained her Barbie lunch sack. “You carried this big box on and off your bus, all the way home?” I asked. Elisabeth nodded. “And that was easier than just carrying your lunch bag?” “Oh, yes,” she assured me. “Plus, now I have this great box.”

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Gift I Give Myself

When Benjamin went to his adaptive phy. ed. class, he took a little Halloween gift for his teacher, Pam. It was nothing much-- a Halloween-themed kitchen towel and some candy-- but Ben was very excited to be the giver of the gift. When I picked him up after class, Ben came running out and announced, "Mom, I just had a Lifesaver!" Pam looked a little sheepish, but, I figured, she is the child development expert, so she must know whether it is OK for a three-year-old to have a Lifesaver. Still, she must have seen the question on my face, because she explained, "Well, he wanted the Butterfinger, but I wasn't sure whether Ben had any food allergies." I said, "What? That candy was for you." Pam laughed and said, "Oh, I know that, but I'm not sure Ben did. When we got to the gym, he took back the bag and started unloading it. He lined up all the candy bars and then told me, 'I think we should start with this one first, and then...'"

Monday, October 26, 2009

Hell Hath No Fury Like a Germaphobic Mother

My sister was at the clinic and informed me they have removed all the toys. I say, "Hallelujah!" Madeline has had a nasty rash under her chins, but I have put off taking her to see the pediatrician because I don't want to unnecessarily expose her to all the sick people. I know I can't protect my children from germs, and I know they will, and do, get sick. But that knowledge doesn't stop me from trying my darndest.

Health professionals will tell you it's not "officially" flu season yet; but I know plenty of families who've already experienced the bug. Some people, like my husband, will tell you this strain is not a big deal-- it's just like any other seasonal sickness; but I know plenty of families who've had high fevers, hospitalizations, and worse. The three older kids in this house have had cruddy coughs for weeks... but have (so far) shown no other symptoms. Well, Benjamin did have snot rivers running down over his top lip at lunch today, but it's hard to tell whether that is part of a seasonal malady, or the side effect to crying after being scolded for finger painting with ketchup. My icky-germ-sick-people-creepy-crawly-skin-o-meter nearly burst while shopping, and you know it's bad when I'm considering stopping shopping to avoid sickness.

An open letter to all Wal-Mart employees:

Do. not. touch. my. baby. I heard you sneeze. I watched you wipe your nose. I saw you headed our way, but I never guessed what would happen next. Who told you it was OK to touch my child's hands? Why do you think it was a good idea to pull on her toy? Could you really not keep from coughing on her? Did you notice you started a trend and two of your fellow employees came over to get in on the action, too? I am her mother and I will take you all down. I mean it. I do not permit her own siblings to touch her. I am certainly not afraid to go H1N1 on your a**.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

I Am a Winner

My brother has always been the lucky one. When we were growing up, if Ted put his name into a prize drawing, there was a pretty good chance his name would be drawn out. You think I’m exaggerating, but, he clearly had the Midas touch. When he was, like, six, Teddy visited a local car dealership with our dad and came home with a Vespa moped. Now, it’s not that I never won anything; it’s just that my “prizes” took a bit more work. Yes, the plastic Ronald McDonald wall clock hung on my bedroom wall, but that winning coloring contest artwork did not create itself. To this day, I prefer to rub Ted’s head before I buy my Powerball ticket.

But Ted was not along one recent Saturday morning when I was out running errands with half of the children. Amanda first spotted the bounce house in the parking lot of the feed store, and I read the banner that announced “Customer Appreciation Day.” The van pretty much turned itself into the drive. We had free peanuts and popcorn and hot dogs. Amanda bounced while Benjamin poured a root beer float down the front of himself. Todd called with a crying Madeline and a whining Elisabeth in the background, and he was not pleased when I told him we had stumbled upon lunch, so he was on his own.

Before loading the kids back up, I put my name in the door prize drawing. Imagine my surprise when I got the voice mail message telling me I had won and could stop by the feed store any time to pick up my prize. So, what did I win? A LIVE TRAP.

Which kid do you think I’ll snare first?

Friday, October 23, 2009

Rollin', Rollin', Rollin'

She did it! Madeline finally rolled over! And she did it from her tummy onto her back, which all the child development books say is the easier way to do it, but which none of my other children have done (they've all gone back to front first.) I think it was kind of an accident-- she was on her tummy, reaching for a toy, got mad, and bucked. But, I saw it happen. Aunt Lisa is the witness. We had just been discussing, too, that Maddy would probably have her six-month checkup with the pediatrician... and then go home and start rolling over. But, Wonder Baby has exceeded our expectations once again.

Taking the Wind from Under the Wings of a Social Butterfly

Benjamin has, of late, become quite the conversationalist. He asks me with great regularity (sometimes four times an hour) and in a jovial, sing-songy voice, "So, how are you today, Mommy?" Ben greets his sisters when they get off the school bus, "How was your day at school, 'grils?'" And he is often the one to begin exchanges at the dinner table.

It seemed par for the course when Ben asked Todd, "So, Daddy, how was your trip?" about the recent business trip to Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. But this probably wasn't the answer the three-year-old was expecting: "Well, Buddy," Dad sighed, "the trip was OK. Just OK. It was a real eye-opener, Benny. I sure learned a lot-- like how bad medical care is under socialism. I don't want that for you, for our family, or for any of our fellow Americans."

Still, Ben smiled, patted Daddy's leg, and responded, "Oh, OK, Daddy." At this point, Ben would make a great Southern socialite... or maybe a Stepford wife.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

A Fall Outing for a 6-Month-Old and a 3-Year-Old

Benjamin had his first preschool field trip today-- to the apple orchard. The weather has been so awful lately, I thought for sure the excursion would be canceled. But, we got notice earlier in the week that it was on, no matter what. After the rain all day yesterday, I suspected the place would be one huge mud hole, and I was correct. I tried to talk Ben out of going, but he was not having it. So, we pulled out the winter coats, hats, and mittens and headed to the orchard.

We were a little late, so the owner took Benjamin on his Gator to catch up with the others on the wagon ride. Flying through puddles was a big hit. Since we've already had two good snows in these parts, all the apples had been picked; we just bought and ate.

This mom-and-pop joint is also a working hobby farm, so Ben's favorite parts were all the animal pens. He chased the huge turkey toms, mooed back at the bulls, and giggled at the baby goats jumping on each others' backs. Ben was funniest in the pumpkin patch, commenting, "This pumpkin is all alone. Those pumpkins got in a line. How did that pumpkin wander over here all by itself?"

I kept Madeline bundled and warm, next to me. She doesn't really know it yet... but the field trip to the apple orchard is how she celebrated turning six months old. The roosters were crowing about her.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Closest a Man Comes to Asking for Directions

While Dad and Benjamin were shopping, Dad called me with one of those questions that makes me laugh and shake my head. They were in Costco, trying to fill Grandma's shopping list, and Dad asked me, "Where is that French onion soup? I can't find the soup." Todd will do this, too... call me from the store to tell me he can't find something on my list. Well, usually he can't find the list because it's still sitting on the kitchen counter-- but that's a separate issue. And, once, I asked him to pick up orange juice and he called to ask, "Do you know how much orange juice COSTS?!" I'm off on a tangent, again...

Anyway, Dad's call reminded me of my early days in television news. One of my first jobs at a local TV station was as a dispatcher. I would listen to police scanners and call law enforcement contacts to track spot news, things like fires and shootings and car crashes. Whenever it seemed an actual news event, I would call or radio (dispatch) a news photographer ("photog" or "shooter" in newsroom lingo) to go to the scene and check it out. I cannot tell you how many times a shooter would call me-- back inside the newsroom, inside the television station, in the heart of the city-- and say, "I can't find the fire." Since I'd already given the address, the cross streets, directions, and the page number in a map book, I never knew how to respond, except, "Look for smoke."

Now, in Dad's defense, Costco is not known for its customer service, and I have, on occasion, left the store without something on my list because I couldn't find it and couldn't find anyone to ask. My best tactic is to look for someone else who has the item already in the cart and ask that person. I did kind of want to say, "Well, Dad, I'm at home 20 miles away, so I sure can't see the soup from here." But I would never say that. He took my kid for the afternoon, remember? And I really hope he finds the soup, because I'm thinking about showing up at his house for supper tonight.

Grandpa to the Rescue

True confession time: I have been known around these parts to say (scream,) "You never do ANYTHING around here!" Now, while that behavior may never be the best tactic, at times, that is my perception, for example, when the baby is fussing, the dinner dishes are still on the table, the front door won't latch, the half-naked children are chasing each other with plastic golf clubs, and my husband is snoring, open-mouthed on the den couch. However, at times like this, when he is gone, even just on a short business trip, I quickly realize he must do something... because I sure can't do it all myself.

Whenever Todd is gone, I typically get the pity offers from the grandparents, and this time was no different. But, I thought, this is just a couple days, and our parents are all so busy, anyway. "Thanks, but, I'm fine," I told them. By bedtime I was holding little cheeks in my hands and pleading, "I need you to help me out here." They looked back, blank-eyed, and shrugged before returning to flicking toothpaste at each other. I tucked in the last child at 8:44. My head hit the pillow at 8:53. Well, then, at midnight, the phone rang and I was greeted with a cheery, "Hi! How was your day? What's going on there? Wait-- what time is it? I think it's EARLIER where I am."

So, this morning, I was dragging. My dad must have sensed it, because when he stopped by, he offered to take Benjamin with him on errands. If he hadn't offered, Ben probably would have just asked. He has recently come to the realization that all of his grandparents are at his disposal for entertainment and activity. Knowing how I love to shop, you might think I would have wanted to come along. But, actually, since his retirement, Dad and I kind of refrain from hanging out in public too much. People often think we are a couple. They talk to Ben and refer to Grandpa as "your daddy." Creepy, I know... but I think it makes Dad giggle, too. That never happens when I'm out with my MIL.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Filling Little Pie Holes-- With What?

You know how you sometimes see or read about mothers who continue nursing their children even when a kid is old enough to walk up, say what he wants, and unbutton the mom's blouse? I know there are all kinds of reasons-- cultural, medical, nutritional, ideological-- why mothers choose to go that route, and I am NOT being critical. To each her own. As for my own, these puppies become dispensers for one year, and then I want them back. Sorry. However, when I started reading the news headlines today, I thought, "Gee, maybe we better just stick to breast milk. Nothing else seems safe."

Baby food recalled for possible botulism
(Washington) There's a national baby food recall.

Plum Organics is recalling some of its apple and carrot portable pouch baby food because of concerns over possible botulism contamination. The product was sold individually throughout the country at Toys-R-Us and Babies-R-Us stores.

The California-based company says the product did not meet the FDA guidelines for proper acidity level, leaving it vulnerable to botulism contamination. Botulism is a serious and sometimes life-threatening condition.


Truthfully, I'd been checking the baby food and organic sections of my area grocery stores, in search of this stuff. I've heard other parents rave about it, and Madeline is just now beginning the baby food bonanza. Yes, I've made my own baby food in the past, and probably will again, but with all that's going on around here, there's no guarantee I won't accidentally poison her, either.

Report: School lunches fall short on veggies
(Washington) School lunches need more fruits, veggies and whole grains and a limit on calories, says a report urging an update of the nation's 14-year-old standards for cafeteria fare.

But the changes won't come cheaply.

Schools can't put just anything on a kid's lunch tray. They must follow federal standards, because the government's school lunch program subsidizes lunch and breakfast for needy kids in nearly every public school and many private ones.


As far as my girls are concerned, there's no need to put any vegetables on their lunch trays. They're not going to eat them, anyway. Even Elisabeth, who typically takes a cold lunch, brings home her lunch bag every day still containing a snack-size zipper bag with four carrot sticks inside.

The school has a new head cook this year, and that woman is working her rear off. Talk about a thankless job. I want to send her little notes of encouragement: "Don't give up," "It's not your fault," "They'll thank you some day."

20 worst kids' foods in America
Here's a pop quiz:

If you have young children at home, which of the following is likely to eat up the larger percentage of your household income?

A. Books and other educational materials
B. DVDs, CDs, music downloads, and trips to the movies
C. Video games
D. Fast food

You're probably not surprised to discover that the right answer is D. But you might be surprised to discover that, if you're a parent, you will most likely spend more on fast food this year than on A, B, and C combined.

Restaurants are no more kind to our children's health and well-being than they are to our own: The typical burger, soda, and fries that you and I ate as kids contains an average of 214 more calories today than that same meal did in the 1970s — enough to add at least 3 pounds of weight a year to your child's body, even if he or she ate that fast-food meal just once a week.


Ugh.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Super-Sized


Before I had children, I remember listening in on many discussions between my mother-friends about diapers. They debated brands and specialized lines within those brands. They talked about sizes, and which kid was in which size, and for how long. I wondered whether the sizes were universal between brands... (I guess they pretty much are.) I soaked up as much as I could, so I'd have the knowledge to someday apply to my babies' bottoms.

That brand thing is a never-ending battle. My personal opinion is that most generic diapers stink. Even Baby Alive pees out the leg holes. The one exception may be Costco diapers, which seem pretty good, especially since Costco upgraded to a "supreme" line. However, a trip to Costco ends up costing me $300, so that turns out to not be a money-saving venture.

I've gathered there can be big differences in which brand is better based on a baby's gender. I had girls first, and I found Huggies worked best at not leaking, not irritating their skin, etc. However, I got that recommendation from a friend who was having boys as I was having my girls, so whatever. Following my own logic (not hers,) I put my baby boy in Pampers. I also bought him the Swaddlers/Cruisers higher-end line. I had convinced myself they were better, and we could afford them, so, why not?

We were still kind of in the Pampers habit when Madeline came along, so that is mostly what she has worn. Also, I got loads of Pampers for her at the baby shower... and we have pretty much gone through that entire supply. When we had the shower, back in March, before the baby was even here, I remember surveying the loot and thinking, "This is great. I'll never have to buy diapers... at least, not until we get into SIZE THREE."

Back to before I had babies: All the other mothers advised me about size 3 diapers. They said babies don't spend much time in size 1 or 2, but they seem to wear size 3 forever. I have found that to be mostly true. Newborn diapers are useless once you leave the hospital, unless you have a preemie or otherwise scrawny baby. You go through a bunch of packs of sizes 1 and 2, but that's over a really short period of time... It's just that you have to change babies all the time when they're so little and eating so often. Then, it seems like size 3 generally hits around rolling over time, and lasts through sitting and into crawling. Average-sized babies don't really get into size 4 until they're close to walking. My nephew Oliver, at nearly 17 months, wears a size 4 diaper.

You knew it was coming-- my exception: Madeline. I broke out the first box of size 3 diapers about a month ago, got halfway through the package and thought, "These do not fit her." According to the weight guideline, they were the right size. But, I felt like I really had to cinch her into that Velcro waistband. She was peeing out the front and pooping up the back. Plus, let's be honest: When undressed and sitting there in only a diaper, the Buddha Baby looked just plain uncomfortable.

So, I abandoned the threes, skipped the fours, and went straight to the fives. I know, it seems extreme. My sister told me I was nuts. My SIL claimed when she changed the baby (Yes, can you believe it... Kristin changed a diaper?!) that the size 5 came nearly to Maddy's armpits. But, nothing's too comfy or cushy for my Little Love Muffin. The only problem is: I'm not exactly sure where we go from here. Size 5 is kind of like the biggest size of diaper made. There are some size 6 out there, but I always thought they were for children with other issues.

With my track record, it's doubtful I'll have Madeline potty trained by age one. Maybe I'll just use duct tape to create one large diaper out of two size 5s. Or maybe I'll switch to cloth diapers. Ask my sister how that one worked out for her.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Marriage is Love Personified

"A life without love is like a year without summer."
--Swedish proverb


Ding! As of today, the mister and I have gone 13 rounds. I mean, today is our 13th wedding anniversary. Measured in memories, it is a long time... but it feels as though the years have passed as instants. Just think, in 13 more years, we may have two girls in college, Benjamin could have his driver's license, and even Madeline will be a teenager.

I was reading one of those articles about "How to Have the Perfect Marriage," or some such drivel (because we all know there's no such thing as the perfect marriage... some of us are just more willing than others to admit it.) One of the suggestions was for a couple to use their anniversary to review and reflect, to look back from where they've come and ahead to where they're going. So, on Friday night, Grandma and Grandpa had the kids so Todd and I could go out for a drink and a movie.

We talked about how we thought marriage would be-- on that day of the proposal, as we said our vows, on the flight back from our honeymoon-- when we looked ahead 10 or 12 or 13 years, how did we think things would be? I said I never would have imagined I'd have children, that I'd have FOUR kids, and that I'd leave my career to be their stay-at-home mom. Todd said everything was turning out pretty much as he'd imagined it would. That was the end of the conversation.

See them? See how cute and young they are? See how they didn't know anything? What you can't see is how stubborn they are, how determined they'd be to make it work, how they are still happy to be together.

"It's so great to find that one special person you want to annoy for the rest of your life."
--Rita Rudner


"Love one another and you will be happy. It's as simple and as difficult as that."
--Michael Leunig


"One word frees us of all the weight and pain of life: that word is love."
--Sophocles

Friday, October 16, 2009

She Sucks


Oh the thumb-sucker's thumb
May look wrinkled and wet
And withered, and white as the snow,
But the taste of a thumb
Is the sweetest taste yet
(as only we thumb-suckers know)
--"Thumbs" by Shel Silverstein

Thursday, October 15, 2009

A Great Grandma Day

My play date plans got canceled because one of my friend's kids was sick. My sister's play date plans got canceled because it rained. My sister called me and said, "I just decided to go visit Gua. Want to come?"

In two cars, we packed up our seven young children and headed the two-plus hours south to visit our grandma. I think she was happy we came. She didn't seem to mind the looks from others in the restaurant. (The owner put us in our own, private, back room.) I did overhear her responding to at least one question, "Yes, SEVEN of my great-grandchildren, and two of my grands."

I'm not sure Gua's fellow senior neighbors or the thousand-piece jigsaw puzzle set up in their community room will ever be the same.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Warning: Inside Jokes for the Birthday Woman


Today is my friend Beth's birthday. We've had a lot of birthdays between us, since we met in the seventh grade. This year is not a particular milestone. But, in a way, aren't they all momentous? I'm thinking of her so much today, and can't help but blog about my friendship with Beth.

I was about 12 when we met. Her family moved into my neighborhood. We swam in adjacent lanes at swim team practice. We sat near each other in Mr. Honek's geography class. At first, we didn't know each other well, but, eventually we made the connection and the connection stuck.

As the years progressed, so did our friendship. There was just too much in common to deny: we attended the same church; we were both children of educators; we had little brothers the same age; we were both smart and well spoken; we were both musical; we were both driven to success. However, we were not the same: I chased boys a lot more; she held many more positions of leadership; I sought the performance spotlight; she was more athletic.

We've racked up plenty of memories-- some incidents are fairly well known by now; some are secrets we'll take to the grave. For Beth's sake, all these years later, here are some standouts in my mind:
*During our sophomore year, we were enamored (obsessed) with the senior class. We made up "code names" for each beautiful and interesting person in the class of nearly 400 so we could talk about them without being detected. Today, I can't remember some of their actual names, but "Sam," "Gary Indiana" and "Delilah" immediately come to mind.
*The first weekend Beth had her driver's license, she asked her parents to borrow the car. They asked where we were going, and she said, "Just into town." She MEANT 45 minutes away, to a major metropolitan downtown.
*We loved to just drive around and scream along to the radio, songs like Billy Joel's "The Longest Time" and the B-52s' "Love Shack." I don't care how old or dorky that makes us sound.
*One of the really cool older boys (we later learned he was a real creep) was Beth's neighbor. One evening, when we noticed all the cool cars parked in his driveway, we made up a story about Beth being locked out of her house so we would have an excuse to ring his doorbell and see what was going on inside. The guy's first question was, "Why don't you just go to Andrea's?"
*Throughout junior high and into high school, we both did competitive speaking. We knew it was not cool, but we were darn good at it. To compensate, we called it "Nerds" and refused to sit by other students on the bus.
*Every year the swim team had an awards banquet. Since I was slower than poured concrete, I knew I was never going to win an award, so Beth and I invented the "Boyfriend of the Year" award and the coach actually gave us a platform to present.
*We both represented our high school at Girls' State, and spent much of the time grumbling about what a sexist organization it was.
*We once went to a "field party" (ask anyone who grew up in the sticks to explain) and, though we were not drinking-- we just wanted to be part of the action-- Beth did accidentally hit a senior's car with hers. That girl was like a goddess in our world-- beautiful, popular, well dressed, athletic, stuck up-- and, though she knew full well we did it (because everyone tattled,) she couldn't do anything about it because she was also at the party, and was drinking, and would have made herself ineligible to compete in a state sports tourney.
*Beth once dated a guy who refused to turn the key in his car's ignition until everyone had their seatbelts fastened. I thought he was such a dork.
*We used to go with our friends to Bridgeman's and play cards there, while eating seasoned french fries. Later, we moved our post to the all-night Perkins in the next town, where we practiced smoking cigarettes.
*We boldly sang the national anthem before each high school sporting event, but changed the final line, "...and the home of the Elks."

After high school graduation, we separated to attend colleges across the country from each other. I think it was mostly in oppositional defiance to our high school guidance counselor, who suggested it couldn't be done and we'd just end up at the nearby state school. Our college experiences were different. Our professional ventures have been different. Our family lives are different, though we are both married with children... and still living across the country from each other. Our lives have changed, our names have changed, our friendship has evolved, but I will always be here for her. I have to be. I owe her for the times I've called Beth to say, "I've really screwed up this time." She has listened and responded, "Well, yes, you have... but it won't be this way forever."

I could call Beth now to wish her a happy birthday and to relive all these memories... but who can talk on the phone with all these screaming kids hanging around? Happy, happy birthday, Beth, and many more. How does that joke go? "We'll always be friends; you know too much."

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Blame It On the Snow

Due to the "early winter" and the fact that boot camp is held outside, the trainer has canceled the remaining sessions. I was just starting to get going with this, so I'm actually pretty bummed. At least I have an excuse, though: overweight on account of the weather.

Monday, October 12, 2009

And the Mobile Came Tumbling Down

I was putting down Benjamin for his nap when I heard a noise. It was kind of a thud, kind of a crash, coming from some other part of the house. I got up and looked out the window to see if there was a car outside (yes, people stop by unannounced and walk into my house all the time, and, no, I don't care-- as long as they don't mind the mess) but the driveway was empty. I finished Ben's story and was walking down the hall when I heard whimpering coming from Madeline's room. I opened the door to look and discovered the source of the noise: she had pulled the mobile down onto herself.

Yes, there was a warning on the box-- don't use this product past five months, or something like that-- and I presumed it had to do with this kind of situation. And, I had noticed Maddy this morning waving her little hands in the air in the general direction of the twirling guys. But this is another new one. None of the other kids actually grabbed the mobile and disconnected it from where it hooks onto the crib. And I really loved this mobile as much as Madeline does. It's a new version of the same one I had for all four kids-- brightly colored but odd-looking animals, backed by black and white geometric designs, spinning around to classical music. After Maddy's early morning feeding, I could park her back in her crib under those guys and crawl back to bed, for at least another 30 minutes of pretending to sleep.

I know Madeline is big, and I know she's strong. But, here, I was just starting to find something new to worry about, because she hasn't yet rolled over (it's a belly block, I tell you,) and Maddy goes and pulls this feat. I also told Todd yesterday I was concerned there might be something wrong with Maddy because she was just laying on her back, staring at the ceiling, and laughing, laughing, laughing. "Oh, great," Todd muttered. "Now, you're going to worry the kid is too happy, too healthy?!"

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Friday, October 9, 2009

A Bad Combination


While Todd may be among the world's worst patients, I am definitely the world's worst nurse. So, as he lays downstairs, watching a silly movie in the den, I am upstairs, hiding from him.

The procedure went well and he is now resting uncomfortably. There will be no word on the results (a.k.a. whether the doctor removed all the Barrett's cells) until Todd has a repeat endoscopy in six months. But, Dr. Hair-- this man makes so much money you'd think he could afford a decent haircut-- seemed very positive about Todd's future with this condition. Then again, he should be positive... he developed this treatment and is undoubtedly making millions off of it.

The admitting nurse asked Todd whether we had any dinner plans set for after the procedure was over. This suggested to Todd that everything would be so simple and painless that he would want to eat afterwards. It turns out that woman was just cruel. Once the drugs wore off-- halfway through our long and congested drive home-- Todd was in considerable pain. He has likened it to a severe GERD/acid reflux-type attack, which he has not endured in the past couple years. The doctor told him to take Tylenol if he felt any pain, but, so far, Todd's self-prescription has been:
*a Dairy Queen Cookie Jar Blizzard
*a cup of strawberry yogurt
*a bed on the couch
*a Jack Black movie

Thanks to those who prayed today, those who helped with the kids, and those who just said they were thinking about us. All is well in Krinkeland (except, Madeline is giving me a hickey on my left arm.)

Down the Hatch

Todd is having an ablation this afternoon, in an attempt to remove the Barrett's cells from the damaged spots on the lining of his esophagus. This is a very minor medical procedure, Todd is expected to be a model patient, and his doctor is the leader in this field. None of those facts does anything to ease my nerves or, I imagine, Todd's. Around 3:30, please say a little prayer for him.

A Very Merry Un-Birthday


Benjamin celebrated his "un-birthday" at preschool. Since his actual birthday is in the summertime, he got a day dedicated to him at school, to bring treats, to share his "All About Me" poster, to hear the "Happy Birthday" song-- which his class ends with "ha-cha-cha" and it just cracks me up. Now, I also have a summer birthday, and I do not remember having un-birthday celebrations while growing up. Maybe I did-- I don't remember most things. Either way, I can say I suffered no permanent damage.

To add to the excitement, Ben's un-birthday celebration fell on the same day as Fire Safety Day at school, when the firefighters came and brought the big fire truck. The pieces really all came together for Ben, who, you may remember, had his three-year-old birthday party at the fire station this past July. This week's activities have Ben again talking about his next birthday party-- or parties. He told me, "For my next birthday, I want to have two parties-- one will be a celebration and the other will be just for presents."

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Did You See Nie?


I meant to write about this before it happened... But, I forgot. Another writer of one of the blogs I follow was on "Oprah." Now, for the record, she was not on Oprah because I follow her writing. She was on Oprah because her story is nothing short of amazing.

I started reading The NieNie Dialogues after the fact. Stephanie Aurora Clark Nielson is a wife, a stay-at-home mother of four, a daughter, a sister, a friend, not to mention a devout member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. She's kind of a stylish, funky, crafty, kid-friendly Martha Stewart for twenty-somethings. For some time, she had quite a faithful blog following, writing sincerely about the joys of motherhood. She gushed about her equally young and handsome, as well as dedicated, husband. She shared vegetarian recipes and do-it-yourself decorating ideas. She laughed about her kids and posted artistic pictures of family life. And then she stopped.

The NieNie Dialogues got on my "must-read" list about a year ago, after I saw a news story about the Nielsons. Stephanie and Christian were critically injured in a small plane crash that also killed their pilot-friend. Stephanie was burned over 80 percent of her body and was not expected to survive. Christian broke his back and suffered burns over 30 percent of his body. NieNie followers in the blogosphere organized fundraisers and benefits, sent donations, supported family members who divided their time between bedside vigils and caring for the Nielsons' children.

Now, NieNie is back-- writing about their new life together. She's the same person, and at the same time a changed person. In her interview with Oprah Winfrey, much time was spent lauding Stephanie for having a home filled with love, joy, and peace-- there was talk of making the most of each day and celebrating the little things. Not to be trite, but it's the kind of thing about which you typically hear after someone has come through a major life challenge. What I admire about NieNie is that this is the way she lived before the plane crash.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Even Disney Channel Has Its Downfalls

In the past week, my seven-year-old daughter has asked me a number of questions that make my head hurt.

Amanda (while getting her hair brushed): “Watch it, Mom! Are you giving me split ends?”

Amanda: “Mom, do you think I should wax my eyebrows?”
Mom: “No, I think your eyebrows are just fine.”
Amanda: “But I don’t want to have a unibrow!”

Amanda: “Mom, when can I dye my hair?”
Mom: “When you’re 18 and no longer living in my house. I’m 35 and still haven’t dyed mine. So, maybe you should just wait to go gray.”

Amanda: “Mom, can I have a QuinceaƱera?”
Mom: “No, I don’t think so.”
Amanda: “Why not?”
Mom: “Because we are not Latin. That tradition is not part of our heritage, and so it would be very uncommon in the place we live, and among the people we know. You also cannot have a bat mitzvah or a coming out party.”

I am unplugging the television.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Rain, Rain, Go Away

I know we need the rain, and I wouldn't really care, except it does make things a lot more difficult.

I'm finally kind of in gear with this workout routine. No, I don't look any different and no, I haven't lost much weight. But, it's becoming more habitual-- I have boot camp two mornings a week, and I am walking with a friend in the evenings, but both of these are contingent on the weather. This morning, I was already up and dressed when I got notice that boot camp was canceled, so I went to the stinky gym, anyway. OK, our gym isn't really stinky (that's one of the main reasons Todd chose it,) but I'd still rather be out doing something in the world than stuck on a machine watching the news about a six-year-old who died of H1N1 and panicking over it.

Who wants to take out a baby in the rain? I don't. And she doesn't want to go. But, when the other kids require me taking them places, she has no choice but to come along.

The boat has not been taken out, and the dock and lawn furniture have not been put away, because I kept saying we'd get "just one more nice day." I hope I won't have to eat those words. Just a week or so ago, the weather was so beautiful, we took the kids to the apple orchard in shorts and t-shirts. I'm going to post those photos now, to spread a little sunshine:

Monday, October 5, 2009

Fair-Weather Fans


Now that Brett Favre is a Minnesota Viking, Todd has decided to become a football fan. Granted, he totally fesses up to his fair-weather status, but, still, it is one odd feeling here in Krinkeland to have the husband huddled on the couch for Monday Night Football. Suffice it to say, this has never been a household of athletic supporters. But, when Dad said, "Kids, into the den-- I'm going to teach you about football," they went.

Only Amanda really stayed. (That girl would show an interest in anything if it got her more attention.) Todd was explaining to her how the game worked, and I was fascinated to hear how much he knew about football. Now, I have no idea if his explanations were accurate, as I never tried very hard to understand the game. Back in high school, my on-again-off-again boyfriend picked my birthday for his jersey number so I'd always be able to find him on the field. That's as much as I followed football.

Meanwhile, Elisabeth and I had our own match-up, a mean game of Uno. While there was a lot of whooping and hollering from the den, I didn't let the kids stay up too late, since it is a school night and I have enough trouble getting Libby out of bed in the morning. (The princess needs her beauty sleep.) While I was tucking in the older girls, Benjamin wandered off.

I called and called for Ben, and then heard him yelling back from the den: "Not now, Mom. I'm watchin' the Vikin's!" Of course, Todd thought that sassy talk was too cute to actually go punished, so he let the boy stay with him a few minutes longer. Finally, Daddy brought him upstairs and stopped by my side of the bed for a goodnight kiss. I asked Ben about becoming a football fan, and he told me, "When I get bigger, I'm going to play all the 'balls.'"

My Monkey Baby

You may think I'm joking, but this is an actual television special. I thought April Fool's Day had come six months early when I saw it promoted on the cable network TLC. So, I had to look it up online, and, sadly, it is not a "Saturday Night Live" skit:

My Monkey Baby (TV-PG)
Meet the Johnsons, and their beloved 'child' Jessica Marie, problem is she's a monkey! But call her that, and her parents will go bananas. Just what motivates these people to raise a monkey as their child?

Hey, if these crazies really wanted a monkey child, I know a few who would qualify.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Ode to CaringBridge


I just want to say I think CaringBridge is one of my favorite non-profit groups. If you do not know about it, click here. Basically, CaringBridge is an organization that allows a patient with a long-term illness, or his or her family, to establish and maintain a website to keep others apprised of the patient's condition. There is no fee involved for the family, and it is an excellent way to pass along information.

I have a number of links to CaringBridge sites on the right-hand side of this blog. Some are friends and family, others are only acquaintances or strangers about whom I've simply learned from others. But that's part of what's so great about CaringBridge. You can check in and check up on people you care about, without being intrusive. Unfortunately, I've had to do too much checking lately, but at least I have information, straight from the sources, so I know how to direct my prayers and my energy.

As the CaringBridge home page states: "CaringBridge is a charitable nonprofit organization. You can make a difference in the lives of people who depend on CaringBridge. Support our mission: To bring together a global community of care powered by the love of family and friends in an easy, accessible and private way." Since CaringBridge is a non-profit, the organization is always soliciting donations. What's nice is you can donate in honor or memory of someone through an individual's site. You can include your name and a message, or be anonymous. If you have any extra money sitting around, I think CaringBridge is a good place to send it.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Fair Warning

If you are Grandpa, and Grandma is out of town on your birthday, and so your grandchildren call you and say they want to celebrate with you, and you say they can pick where to go for dinner, you are likely to end up at Chuck E. Cheese's:

Friday, October 2, 2009

Words to Live By

I've been thinking we should have a family motto. So far, without trying, the one that has emerged is "Don't kill each other." But I guess that's not much of a motto. I do find that the older I get, the more I wax philosophical about life, and the more I try to adhere to certain interpersonal concepts. And, I think, I hope, I'm getting better at following my words to live by.

"If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all." Whoa, there's a challenge if ever I've heard one. But I have learned one thing from becoming a parent, and it applies to everyone: Consider the value of the information before you share it. Don't tell someone something unless that person can do something with it, something about it. "Bill said he liked your hair better longer." The only thing that statement does is hurt feelings. Ms. Short-Hair can't do anything about it, and nothing positive can come of it. I cannot keep track of how many times someone has come to me, all upset about something, and all I think is, "Why did someone tell you that?"

I guess this relates to some of what I posted yesterday about off-limits blog topics. Sometimes I'm upset at someone or something and I think really mean things. But, posting those thoughts would only be hurtful. If there's no greater purpose, I really try to keep things to myself.

The same comes with giving children too much information. I try to not tell my kids about upcoming events until they are actually happening. Plans change. People get sick. Weather happens. I don't want them to get all excited, or all let down, for nothing. And it applies to answering kids' questions-- I don't lie to my kids (well, sometimes I do just for fun, but never about the really important stuff) but I only tell them what they need to know. "That information is on a need-to-know basis, and you don't need to know."

Related to this topic is one of my favorite quotes, from Maya Angelou: "The first time someone shows you who they are, believe them." We all are who we are. I have had relationships change in an instant when someone did or said something that showed me this was not the kind of person who added value to my life. Other times, I've written off a single incident as an anomoly or a fluke, only to find later it definitely was not. There's no point in pretending the really important things do not matter.

Regarding relationships, I often find myself thinking or saying, "She (he) picked him (her.)" When one half of a couple seems to do nothing but complain about the other half, that's a simple, but important, thing to remember. You didn't have to get married, you wanted to. You chose that person, above all others, to share your life.

The tangent to this philosophy is, "It works for them." I think this so much when I hear someone gossiping about someone else's relationship. As an outsider, that person might perceive, for example, that the husband goes to work all day, makes supper when he gets home, does all the cleaning and the laundry, takes care of the household finances, oversees car and lawn maintenance, while the wife seems to lay on the couch and read magazines. But, I always assume there's more that others don't see, and, either way, it's working for them, so it's nobody else's beeswax. (p.s. You're all just jealous.)

My sister's email signature includes the following quote by Abraham Lincoln: "Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be." Tain't no truer words ever been spoken. I spent a lot of my younger years being "unhappy" and blaming other people, specifically my husband, for that unhappiness. It was a simple empowerment for me to figure out that, no matter the circumstance, I had the choice to be happy, anyway. Just take the situation and decide to see it differently. If you can change something, do it. If you can't, accept it.

The one I've been hearing from others so often lately is: "It is what it is." True, fair, straightforward... but it is also a real bummer. This phrase is typically uttered with a sigh, from a crestfallen face, in regard to a sick spouse, a sick kid, a job loss, any of a number of obstacles or disappointments. While it may seem defeatist, I think it is important to realize when things are totally beyond our control, and to surrender.

That brings me to the most important philosophy of all: "With God all things are possible" (Matthew 19:26). It's easier to say than to believe, but we must believe. Boy, I don't know what's gotten into me... must be the gray weather. Benjamin is creating some kind of make-believe world with his Legos right now, and the Lego policeman just yelled at the Lego fireman, "Don't sit on my head!" Now, there are some words to live by.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Answers

One of the problems with having a blog is that I just throw information out to the universe and don't get much back. Also, I know I sometimes mention things and then forget to fill you in on the follow-up, that is, until I get one of those emails that begins, "Hey, whatever happened with..." So, today, I answer some frequently asked questions about Krinkeland. Some are questions I've answered before, but, if people are still asking that means either they are new followers, or they're just dumb.

How do the kids like school?
Everyone likes school, and I like it when they go.

How does Todd like his new job?
Well, it doesn't feel so "new" anymore, as he's been there seven or eight months. Todd loves a challenge, loves solving problems, and loves the prospect of making money and retiring early. He is doing well on the first two fronts. The last may be a little harder to come by.

How's that nephew Oliver doing?
Oliver was born in May 2008, more than nine weeks early, and spent two months in the NICU as a very sick baby. Today, he is perfect, except that he has another ear infection. Oliver is 16 months old, he is taking steps on his own and he speaks his own language. I take much joy in watching him and his brothers grow. You can follow their adventures here.

Who reads your blog?
Certain people are blog followers. I like to read other peoples' blogs, whether I know them or not. I do not have any way to know who is looking at my blog (so your secret is safe.) There is an unofficial counter at the bottom of the page, and it tracks approximately 100-150 hits a day. Now, I believe approximately 90 of those hits a day are by my mother-in-law, so the method is quite unscientific.

Aren't you worried about privacy?
Of course, I am. I maintain a certain degree of vagueness concerning names, residences, locations of events, etc. However, I am keenly aware that a vast amount of personal information about ALL OF US is already out there. I would never post someone else's personal information, such as a last name. Even with prayer requests, I limit the information to a first name or sometimes a pseudonym, and I do not publish stuff about other people without first getting permission (unless it's something they've publicized, such as through Caring Bridge.)

Why do you write so much about your kids getting sick?
My godmother once observed that she sees the blog as a modern-day journal. I have never been a diary-keeper for one reason: I am firmly opposed to putting private thoughts in print. Heed this advice: Do not ever create evidence unless you are comfortable having it float around the universe. It's the same reason there would never be nude photos or video of me. (Ha! The other reason is there's really no market for comedy porn.) Still, the blog is my place to vent. Even the most minor sickness in a child is a big deal to this mother. The blog is a daily record of our lives together, and, around here, a day can really be upturned by a wad of Kleenex or a bucket of barf.

Are any topics off-limits for your posts?
While it may seem as though I have no filter, there are many things and people about which I would like to write, but don't. I try not to mention things that could come back to bite me in the butt, such as my views about certain political groups, local government workers, school or church policies that are not likely to change, etc. I don't air too much of the dirty laundry between me and the hubby; we all have it, but I do love and admire him, and I've never been a man-basher. I would never betray a friend's confidence. I like to write about the everyday goings-on in our family life, things to which others can relate. Sometimes, I think I'm funny. I hope it never sounds as though I'm whining about my life, because I think I have a fantastic existence (except for sick kids and other people's messes.)

Why don't you make some money off this thing?
I would very much like to do that, but I don't exactly know how. I know advertisements and sponsorships are possible, but I don't believe I have that kind of following. I also hear about people who blog for a living, as in, companies pay them to be bloggers. While I am very open to that idea, no firm offers have come my way, and I haven't gone out looking for opportunities.

You should write a book.
OK, that's not a question. Flattery will get you everywhere, but it will likely not get me in print. I think many people who write online fancy themselves authors. I do like to write, no question about it, but I believe I am mostly amusing myself. I consider this blog a record for my kids. Also, it limits the phone calls from my MIL asking, "What did the kids do today?" I prefer it when she calls to offer to take me to lunch.