Monday, November 30, 2009

Know-It-All

OK, this is going to be one of those cryptic posts where you might wonder what I'm writing about. But, I bet if you really think about it, you would be able to figure it out... at least get in the ballpark. I toss out this question: Is it ever OK to say, "I told you so?" Does the person who's being told already know it is so? If I say, "I told you so" am I always just rubbing his face in it, or can a valid point ever be made?

I am still eating it over the new living room furniture order. The two adults in this household agree we need new sofas because the old ones are falling apart. But, one has repeatedly, repeatedly, repeatedly rubbed it in the other's face that the reason new sofas are necessary is because the other person selected and pushed for the falling-apart couches, even though the other person said they were crap right there on the showroom floor. The person who chose the poorly constructed couches has wholeheartedly admitted the error and wants the issue dropped.

The sofas are not the root of today's question. I should not go into detail. Let me just say, no one in this house is a mechanic... and, it is a long walk to work.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Is It New Year's Yet?

We've had a whirlwind of activity to kick off the holiday season, from two Thanksgiving dinners to crazy shopping to Christmas tree hunting to dipping half the pantry in almond bark. For those who lived to tell about it, here's a recap of the highlights:

*"What am I forgetting? Oh, 10 more pans of dipped pretzels."
*"She said, 'Don't open the back end!'"
*$10 free, nothing to spend it on
*the monkey cake lady
*If an 11-foot tree costs the same as a 10-foot tree, always get the 11-footer, even if the house has 10-foot ceilings
*by school-age, most children learn to not hang all the ornaments on one branch

For those of you who were not there, here's Krinkeland's Thanksgiving Weekend in photos:

Friday, November 27, 2009

A Dad and His Girl

Madeline is a daddy's girl. Maybe I haven't mentioned it before... That's probably because I hate to admit it. Who gets up in the middle of the night, every night, for that feeding? Mommy does. Who gets spit up on? Mommy does. Who holds her down for the necessary doctor exams and vaccinations? Mommy does. Who changes all the poopy diapers? Mommy does. Who shovels applesauce into the mouth and scrapes it out of the nostrils? Mommy does. Who gets the grins and the bounces and the "da-da-das?" Daddy does.

Oh, a mother's lament. Nothing most of you haven't heard-- or experienced-- before. Still, I did not feel too guilty leaving the two lovebirds alone today so I could get up before the butt crack of dawn and go shopping with all the other cheap idiots of the world and my mother. Hours after my incredibly shrill and annoying cell phone alarm went off, Daddy and Maddy snored on. Eventually, they awoke and basked in each other's adoration. At some point in the morning, Todd called me and said, "She's kind of whiny." I said, "When did you feed her?" He said, "I didn't." Problem solved. She chugged down nearly two bottles, and Daddy was so proud.

Once Madeline was fat and happy, Dad decided to venture out with the baby. (Did I mention the other three kids were at Grandma's? Todd would never voluntarily attempt to leave the house with more than one child. He leaves that to the expert.) So, Dad got Madeline all dolled up in embroidered jeans and the softest velour cardigan sweater. They went out and did their stuff, greeting other adoring fans along the way, I'm sure, and then retrieved the rest of the children. When they returned home, Maddy was still bouncing and grinning in her daddy's arms. Figures.

Later, I went to shovel out the car, and I found hanging on the passenger seat another outfit, a cute little sweater with coordinating top. "What's this?" I asked Todd. "Her wardrobe change."

A Thanksgiving Day Prayer

I meant to post this yesterday, but the day just got away from me, what with all the time I spent being thankful and all. Anyway, a friend sent me the prayer, and it's a good one:

A Thanksgiving Day Prayer

Dear God, our almighty and merciful Father,

Thank You for loving us from before the foundation of the world with a shining and unconquerable love, and for choosing each one of us to receive Your precious and irreversible gift of life.

Thank You for who You are—a Trinity of Love with Your Son and the Holy Spirit.

Thank You for giving us our families and friends, and for our beloved country, the United States of America. Thank You for Your gift of faith; the opportunity to know You and to develop a deep, life-giving relationship with You, through Jesus' saving death and Resurrection.

Thank You for our heritage as a nation of free men and women, founded upon the lives, sacrifices, and love of our forefathers. Thank You for choosing us to stand in this hour and fulfill our mission as true citizens of both heaven and earth.

In this season of harvest, surrounded by the bounty and blessings of the earth, we pause and remember all You have given us. Thank You, thank You, thank You!

Finally, dear God, please pour out Your mercy and grace this Thanksgiving upon the less fortunate, and help us remember that we are all one body—one nation—under You, called to love, respect, and serve one another, especially the poor and disadvantaged, in whom You are present among us. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Little Things

I spent much of yesterday being pissy-- about my two younger kids not letting me get more than an hour of sleep at a time, about my favorite outlet store going out of business, about the piles that keep piling up around my house, about every Target in the state being out of the one toy I want to buy, about waiting on hold for way too long, about my husband wanting to go to a holiday party for a company that he doesn't really work for, about something I bought breaking, about having to take the son to the bathroom while grocery shopping, about the kids having a sleepover at school, about feeling guilty for not letting the kids stay all night for the sleepover at school.

So, instead, I'm now going sunny-side up... and posting things that make me smile today:

all three older kids playing together

the children giggling over one of those silly "Hoops & YoYo" e-cards from Grandma

Amanda and Ben naming the Littlest Pet Shop pets
Amanda: "Let's call this one 'Trumpet,' because it's a trumpeter swan. Now, your turn."
Ben: "Ummm... 'Kitty?'"
Amanda: "Nah."
Ben: "'Kitty Cat?'"
Amanda: "How about 'Fluffy?'"

Libby still having her hair "done" from the party at school

the "big girls," home for the holiday, stopping to visit, and one of them bringing a *boy*

Elisabeth calling, "Oh-- my-- Amanda... Oops, I just took your name in vain!"

Amanda watching the TLC show "18 Kids and Counting" and remarking about Mrs. Duggar, "That woman needs a hobby."

a check from Libby


Ben getting frustrated by his sister teasing him and tattling to me; me getting frustrated by Ben's tattling and coaching him, "Just tell Libby, 'I'm rubber and you're glue; whatever you say bounces off me and sticks to you!'" And Ben going into the other room and yelling, "Libby, I'm glue... and you're... MEAN!"

Madeline Kate

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Elisabeth and Amanda Project


Amanda and Elisabeth came home with fistfuls of worksheets and projects related to Thanksgiving. On one, Libby stated her favorite Thanksgiving food is turkey, and her favorite Thanksgiving dessert is pie. Could be true... could be those are the only words she knew how to write. Either way, we are fortunate to have a chef in the house who specializes in both those dishes; Amanda came home with the following writing project:

How to make a turkey
Frist, you buy or hunt a turkey. Then, you put some sesning on it. After, you put it in the oven at 460 degrees for half an hour. Last, you carve it.

How to make apple pie
Frist, you get apple and butter and shuger and bread. Then, you put it in a pan. After you bake it at 100 degrees for half an hour. Last, you take it out and eat it.

Amanda asked me to read over the recipes and then asked, "How'd I do?" "Pretty good," I replied. "In some ways, you got really close, like with the temperature for cooking the turkey." Amanda asked, "Oh, was it supposed to be 462 degrees?"

Monday, November 23, 2009

P.U.

(Poop Update)

I know you've all been keeping up your prayer vigils, awaiting word, so here it is: Madeline is having a much easier time pooping this week. We still have a way to go before I will stop worrying, but at least we're seeing some action every day. Dr. Mommy maintains it just takes a while for the body to get used to anything other than breast milk.

Thank you for all your suggestions. Some I used. Some I considered, but decided to file away until the situation became more dire. Some I dismissed as just plain nuts... But that's the great thing about being an individual, being an American, being a human with free will-- we can all do what works for us.

If any of you have any familiar, or personal, poop stories to share, well, that's why Krinkeland is here.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

7 Months and All Is Well

Madeline is seven months old today, or, as we like to say here in Krinkeland, Madeline has reached the age of too-busy-to-sit-still-too-nosy-to-look-at-the-camera-more-interested-in-destroying-the-sign.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Watch Us Crack the Case

The mystery of the scratched toilet seats has been solved. This morning, the culprit turned his magnifying glass on himself, emerged from the can, and declared, "I know how the toilet seats got scratched!" Then, Todd held up his arm and pointed to his wristwatch.

It makes perfect sense. He is the only person in this house to wear a big, clunky, metal watch (which he wears all the time, by the way, can't live without it, and still manages to be late for everything.) He is the only lefty. And, Todd spends more time in the john than all the other inmates of Krinkeland combined.

Kudos to my sister, who provided the best clue, noting she remembered similar scratches on the toilet seats in our last house. Props, too, to my MIL, who came closest to guessing correctly-- she suggested maybe a ring on someone's finger was doing the damage. However, I also have to give the same MIL a big raspberry for sharing way too much information as to how she was able to come to that conclusion. Thanks for nothing.

Most of all, I would like to tell you all I am sitting here, still laughing my rear off, because I have gotten more comments, more questions, more suggestions, more follow-up emails to the "Backside Bandit" posting about the scratched toilet seats than I have any other entry here in Krinkeland. You all need to get hobbies.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Lumpy Liar

While washing Benjamin's hair, I noticed a big goose egg on his forehead. My first mistake was asking him what happened:

Ben: (rubbing side of head) "I don't know, Mommy."
Mom: "Did you fall down and hurt yourself?" (thinking of the tantrum he threw at nap time and how I walked away and left him unattended to thrash around in his room)
Ben: "No."
Mom: "Did it happen at school?" (I know his teachers would have told me if he'd gotten hurt.)
Ben: "Yeah, it happened it school."
Mom: "Did you fall and hit your head?"
Ben: "No."
Mom: "What happened?"
Ben: "Quinn bonked me."
Mom: "Really?! Quinn bonked you? Are you sure?" (Quinn is adorable, quiet, and even smaller than Ben is.)
Ben: "Yeah." (rubs back of head)
Mom: "Can you show me where you got hurt?"
Ben: (tentatively feels different spots around his head, takes his time, sighs, looks up at me) "Mom, where did I get hurt again?"
Mom: "Did Quinn actually hit you?"
Ben: "Yes, Mommy."
Mom: "What did he hit you with?"
Ben: "He just bonked me with his head."
Mom: "Oh, you mean you ran into each other? Was it an accident?"
Ben: "Yeah, it was an accident... But then Quinn had to sit in time out."
Mom: "If it was an accident, why would your teacher punish Quinn?"
Ben: "I don't know."
Mom: "Ben, did Quinn really hit you-- on purpose?"
Ben: (looking down) "Yes, Mommy."
Mom: "Ben, are you telling me the truth?"
Ben: (still not looking up) "Yes, Mommy."
Mom: "If I called Quinn's mommy and asked her about it, would Quinn say he bonked you and hurt you on purpose?"
Ben: (quiet for a while, then looks up expectantly) "I don't know, Mommy-- he might."

Thursday, November 19, 2009

University of Krinkeland

I think most would agree that one of the primary roles of a parent is teacher. My parents are both teachers by profession and by passion. I always said I would have made a horrible teacher because I have no patience. Also, I don't much like other people's kids. Even when it comes to my own children, in some areas I am clearly deficient: my mom answers all of Amanda's science questions; my sister gives the girls piano lessons; a parent classroom volunteer taught Amanda how to tie her shoes.

Then, there are other areas, areas where I am an expert-- outstanding in my field-- but I can't seem to effectively convey the lessons to the fam. Professor Mommy of Krinkeland U. would like the following course offerings:

What "Not Yelling" Actually Sounds Like
If the Water Doesn't Go Down, STOP FLUSHING
Proof Those Are Your Dirty Socks
How I Knew That Toy was a Piece of Crap Before You Bought It
How to Replace a Toilet Paper Roll
The Shower Curtain Is not for Wiping
Boogers: Where to Put Them
How to Sit Here and Read Quietly
The Seven Deadly Sins:
*Writing on the Wall
*Embarrassing Mommy in the Store
*Leaving Chewed Gum
*Hitting with a Wiffle Bat
*Sucking on the Shopping Cart Handle
*Waking the Baby
*Whining
You Farted, So What?
It's Time to Stop Being Naked
No, You Can't Have a Sip (It's Vodka)
Mommy's Sleeping, the Tell-Tale Signs

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Her First Free Lunch

Anyone who's ever visited a warehouse/club store knows there is such a thing as a free lunch. While trying to cram too many things into one day, as is typically my fashion, the younger kids and I arrived at Costco right at noon. Madeline's morning nap had been interrupted when I had to wake her to pick up Benjamin from preschool. Benjamin always comes out of preschool starving. Somehow, both these facts eluded me as I decided to shop first, and feed the kids later.

I had both children strapped into the seats at the front of the massive cart as we made our way around the store. We were doing "the loop," stopping to sample whatever goodies were offered. I saw men in ties and young couples, people who were no more warehouse shoppers than Ghandi himself. No, they were there for the free lunch, too.

Ben and I snacked on hexagonal crackers, soft cheeses, apple slices, tiramisu cake. In the baked goods section, Maddy started squawking. OK, she was actually crying because Ben had just stuck his finger in her ear... Still, I started thinking, "I bet she's getting hungry." But I really wanted to finish shopping first. The next hundred-year-old sample server was doling out squares of multigrain toast with butter.

Here's where things get hinky: I know full well that baby care changes and evolves over time. But, if you've had a child in the 21st century, you know there are rules to introducing new foods. And I am a rule follower. Madeline has only been on baby cereal for about a month or six weeks, and single baby foods started a few weeks after that. The main rule is: only introduce one new food at a time, and stay on that one food for two to three days (multiple feedings) before going on to the next one. The thinking is that if there is an allergic reaction, it will be simple to tell what is the culprit.

But, what's the harm in a little toast? True, I didn't actually read the label... but she did get a cracker a few days ago, and seemed to do OK. I didn't see any actual nuts in the bread. It wasn't rye or anything wacky like that. Another point, the butter. All the experts will tell you babies have trouble digesting dairy, so wait to introduce that. Yeah, I gave Maddy the toast. She mostly just gnawed and goobered on it. It turned into a doughy ball that stuck to the front of her shirt. But the great-great-grandma who was making the toast thought it was adorable.

Fast forward two aisles. Sample Sally Senior was hocking veggie chips. "Your baby would love these," she urged, in between tugs on her hairnet. "Eh, what's the harm?" I thought. I selected an orange one, which I hoped was made from sweet potatoes or carrots, because Maddy has had those. She stuck it in the corner of her mouth like a cigarillo and we made it through the canned goods and bagged snacks. I vowed to myself, "No more snacks for Maddy. I've already gone too far. Let's just wrap things up and get out of here." And I kept my promise. Ben and I did try a few more samples. He's a pretty adventurous little boy.

Unfortunately, Ben also likes to share. The next time I looked down at Madeline, she had a big clump of something green and slimy in her little fist. And she was sucking on it. I pried open her plump little fingers, and could not control my astonishment as I loudly accused her big brother, "Did you give Madeline your pickle?!"

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

I Don't Know Whether to Laugh or Jump


I don't know if you ever buy anything on Amazon, but I do. I've been trolling for a Christmas gift for my son... His gym teacher suggested something very specific: one of those mini trampolines that has a handle bar. (The boy still cannot jump-- that is not him in the photo.) So, I've been price shopping. I found one on ebay that I could "make an offer" on, so I checked for the same product on Amazon to find a competitive rate. What always sucks me in about Amazon is the customer reviews. While I've never actually written one (shocking, I know, since I have so many opinions and buy so much stuff,) I love to read what everyone else writes. This product, however, is puzzling, because the reviews are all over the map, from "5 stars, best thing ever" to "1 star, piece of crap." I was trying to decide just who I believed when I came across this review:

NOT FOR FAT KIDS

My 6 year old son has a thyroid condition that causes him to gain weight rapidly when he eats honey-glazed pork rinds. So we got him this to help him shed some weight and he hates it. He works up a sweat in about 15 seconds and starts to wheeze and cough like an old Buick I used to own. He says it's not fun because there's no game pad...and he's right. How can you make a kid's trampoline without the requisite game pad?

We left it outside and it collects lawn clippings, which the engineers should have thought of. I mowed around it all summer and when the winter freeze killed the grass the paint was chipping which made me so angry that I kicked it and it dented a little. It's like the thing is made of old soda cans. So I took the dented, paint chipping, grass-filled apparatus and decided I'd donate it to the neighbor kids and I haven't missed it one bit.


I still don't know what to do about the trampoline, but I sure had a good laugh. Hope you did, too. Maybe Santa's elves can come up with something sturdier.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Time Is On Her Side

Let it be noted that, here in Krinkeland, we choose doctors, particularly surgeons and other specialists, based on their experience and skill... not necessarily on their bedside manner, convenient location, or other attributes. We definitely do not choose them for the aptitude and friendliness of their office staff. Hence, I bring you today's bizarre client/scheduler exchange:

The setup: I called the office last week to schedule a little procedure Ben needs (no big deal... more on that at a later date.) After listening for 15 minutes to a recorded loop telling me how important my call was and that it would be answered by the next available associate, I got tired of waiting, felt decidedly unimportant, and chose the option to leave a message. On the message, I detailed the spelling of our name, my son's name and birthdate, the procedure I was calling to schedule, our preference for a hospital location, basically everything short of his blood type and favorite flavor of Jello. I was just thinking this morning that no one from the doctor's office had returned my call, when, soon enough, the phone rang.
Dingbat: "Hi, this is So-and-So from the Such-and-Such office. What'd you call for?"
Me: "I wanted to schedule for my son--"
Dingbat: "Surgery?"
Me: "Yes."
Dingbat: "Hold on while I get the book." (Really? There's still a "book?" We have this thing called a computer here at home.) Puts me on hold long enough for me to walk downstairs, wash an entire sink full of dishes, put the cushions back on the couches, walk back upstairs, quiet the ornery baby and put her back to bed, and sort a pile of dirty laundry.
Dingbat: "Let me just confirm your address (reads it to me,) telephone number (reads it to me,) and insurance (reads it to me.)"
Me: "Yes."
Dingbat: "Hold on." Back on hold for a couple minutes.
Dingbat: "Where did you want to have the surgery?"
Me: name hospital
Dingbat: waits in silence, apparently didn't hear me
Me: name hospital again
Dingbat: "OK, hold on."
Dingbat: back on phone with me but talking to someone named Patty in the background... eventually talks to me, "The next date the doctor has is December 14; then he's gone."
Me: Stifling irritated laugh, "We'll take it."
Dingbat: "Hold on."
Dingbat: Gives brief instructions for time to arrive, etc. and tells me she'll send details in the mail. "Thanks for waiting." hangs up

According to the time stamp on the phone, the call lasted 13 minutes. According to the time stamp on my brain, it was much longer. Now, she never did ask a few key questions, such as what kind of surgery I was calling to schedule. We could be in for an interesting trip.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

What Makes a Great Day

Every day can't bring marriage proposals and Caribbean vacations. I found plenty of reasons to smile on a boring, old Saturday:

*small accomplishments: changed lightbulb, new furnace filter, full water softener
*tackling a bigger chore that's been put off
*looking at Christmas toy catalogs
*getting a package
*lunch out, where no one cries, everyone eats, and someone else pays
*a little bit of alone time with each child
*a simple, stovetop supper
*feeling like I'm getting a fair deal
*all the kids playing something together
*the baby grinning over a new food flavor
*buying a new book
*an email invitation to a holiday party
*clean sheets on the bed
*ice cream for dessert
*knowing it's still not hat-and-mittens weather

Friday, November 13, 2009

Someone Else Thinks She's As Great As I Do

Amidst the papers in Amanda's take-home folder came this note:

I just had to ask. Amanda explained the teacher had read a book called "From Me to You" by Anthony France. In the story, Rat has the "bathrobe blues," feeling miserable and unloved. When he receives an anonymous letter from an admirer, he pulls himself together and sets off to find the sender. Rat realizes many care about him and discovers he must be a true friend in return.

After reading the book, Amanda's teacher had each child draw the name of a classmate and write a secret letter saying what s/he liked about that person. I didn't get to see what Amanda wrote to another child. I just thought this one was so sweet, particularly: I lik you so mush that I want to be you. Wow, what a compliment. I couldn't help it, though... My mind immediately went to the dinner exchange in "As Good As It Gets":

Thursday, November 12, 2009

You Win

In the past 24 hours, I have seen two Christmas trees lighted in windows, as well as one whole house decorated in those icicle lights. Way to go, people. Way to go.

Baby Mine

I had some pretty strong pangs today of, "This is my last baby." It wasn't anything significant that sparked the feelings, so I can just imagine how I'll be when something real happens. What a sap. But, for that very reason, I offer these video clips of how Madeline spends her days, which I realize are interesting only to her mother.

Madeline sits


Madeline tries apple juice


Madeline eats prunes and grunts


Here's what you don't see from the videos:
*Madeline saying "da-da-da-da-da," which is her major mode of communication these days. Todd is convinced she is talking-- about him. He has spent so much time bragging about this, it actually compelled me to consult the early childhood speech pathologist. She assured me Maddy is still a bit young to be calling for her dad... and she pointed out Maddy also calls me "da-da," Amanda "da-da" and the ceiling fan "da-da."
*Madeline pooping. Never a frequent pooper, ever since we began the baby food a few weeks ago, she is really stopped up. Here's what I've tried so far to get things moving: nursing her more, switching from rice cereal to oatmeal, only feeding her "p" fruits like prunes and peaches, rubbing her tummy and working her legs like a bicycle. Nothing has really worked. If you have other tips, I will take them.
*Madeline crying. She hardly ever does this, either... except when she's trying to poop.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A Day of Discipline

We've reached a new milestone in Benjamin's young life: the moment of self-exile. He's had a tough week: the physical therapist, after observing him at preschool, tattled he doesn't help with clean-up; he cried he didn't want to stay at school because he wanted to have coffee with me and my girlfriends, and then, later, while standing at the urinal with the other boys, he peed on his shirt; he's begun demanding Madeline's baby finger food ("puffs") over his own snacks; he "helped" me make stir fry for supper, because "I loooove stir fry, Mommy," but then would not eat it, and seemed astonished when I refused him dessert; he knows how to wipe his own nose, but has instead taken to coming up to me and yelling, "Boogers!"

This morning, he wanted to play a game on the Sesame Street website. I let him, for a while, and then said it was time to stop, get dressed, and have a snack-- it's 10:30, for Pete's sake. He went into full-on meltdown, ending with, "(foot stomp) If you don't let me play my game (foot stomp,) then, I'm going to my room! (arms cross, foot stomp, harumph) "Good," I said. "Go." And off he went, wailing down the hall. It was like a fire engine siren, fading off into the distance, but soon returning at full force. "I'm back!" Ben screamed. "I'm better now! I calmed down! I WANT TO PLAY MY COMPUTER GAME!"

I couldn't help it. I laughed. I stifled it, but I think he could still tell. Ben slunk off, more quietly this time. I could hear him muttering in the next room. I peeked to find him sitting on the floor with a screwdriver, disassembling all the toys he could find that require batteries. Guess he's powering up for the next round.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Miss Manners

While flipping through channels in the wee hours, I caught an interview with Whoopi Goldberg. She has never been my favorite celebrity, but she does have her funny moments, and there wasn’t much else to watch. The interviewer was asking about Goldberg’s new profession as an author. Apparently, she has written a couple children’s books, and is now writing a manners book for adults. I found that amusing, since Whoopi also has a career as a comedian (sorry, I think saying “comedienne” is sexist and unnecessary) and comedians often make their livings by displaying poor manners, such as making fun of others. But, whatever.

Goldberg said the main idea of the manners book centered on the need to respect personal space and boundaries. She said, as a celebrity, she has encountered uncomfortable situations where total strangers think they can touch her, or say inappropriate, personal things to her. I thought, “How sad we have to have a book on this subject… but how true, how true.”

I immediately thought of this woman I know. She’s actually the wife of one of my husband’s former colleagues. At one point, we knew them well enough to sit at the same table at a professional awards banquet. Another time, I invited them to a party at our house. That was years ago, and that’s about it. From time to time, I run into this woman around town. I cannot tell if she is mean-spirited, unintentionally rude, or just socially uncomfortable… but this lady could sure use a manners lesson from Goldberg, or somebody.

A few years back, I was standing in the doorway to a restaurant, herding my two little girls around me, belly out to here with Benjamin, when the woman walked in. She looked me up and down before greeting me with, “Boy, Andrea, some people just don’t know when to quit, do they?” I was stunned to silence (something that doesn’t often happen to me) but mustered a tight smile and a polite greeting before going on my way.

Except for a passing wave here and there, I haven’t had any contact with the Forked Tongue—until recently. I was grocery shopping, with Ben riding in the “car” at the front of the cart and Madeline sleeping in her seat in the back, when Ms. Mouth crept up behind me. I recognized her voice before I turned around, and should not have been surprised when she opened with, “Well, Andrea, if you’re trying to re-create the Brady Bunch, you’re nearly there.”

Actually, that has never been my goal. Even if it was… I don’t drive a station wagon, we don’t have a maid, my oldest daughter doesn’t have a crush on Davy Jones, and the part of my husband is not played by a closet homosexual. This is the first, and only, marriage for Todd and me. Neither of us was widowed. But, this woman’s husband is well on his way if she keeps up with remarks like that. It took everything in me to keep from spitting back at her, “You’re just jealous.”

Oh, wait—I forgot the punchline: This woman has just finished seminary and is working as an intern pastor.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Sofa, So Good

Todd and I spent much of Sunday furniture shopping. It was not the first trip... I was hoping it was the last. I highly dislike furniture shopping. Todd and I have basically the same taste, we understand what our budget is-- it should be simple. But, as with any situation in life, the differences in our personalities rise to the surface. Todd is unable to envision something, anything, so we are limited to the examples on the showroom floor. He also has a hard time committing; he has to be so positive it is right. (I often needle him, "How did you ever choose someone, anyone to marry, especially someone so imperfect as me?!") About me, he would no doubt say I'm cheap and impatient. Both correct. So, we clash.

Finally, we decided on new couches and an upholstered ottoman for the living room. But before pulling the trigger, we figured it was prudent to do a little price shopping, and to take home the swatches of fabric to see how they would look with our carpeting, woodwork, etc. So, after the kids were in bed, Todd laid out the different fabrics on the floor. We took it all in, and I realized it was like living a scene from one of my favorite chick flicks, "Beaches." It's the one where the women are coloring their hair:

CC Bloom: "Do I look like Marilyn? I don't look a thing like Marilyn!"
Hillary: "OK, well, how's mine?"
CC Bloom: "Hillary, it's exactly the same color!"
Hillary: "No! It isn't!"
CC Bloom: "You just spent two hours dyeing your hair exactly the same color!"


Yes, the fabrics we chose for the new furniture are more than a little similar to the fabrics on the existing furniture. We are spending all this energy and all this money to recreate the same living room. On one hand, we know what we like. On the other hand, yaaaaawn! After the furniture arrives, and you come over to see it, can you at least pretend it's different?

Sunday, November 8, 2009

A Tale of Two Bedtimes

Mom's version:
1. Yell, "Put your dirty clothes in the laundry and get on your pajamas!" Repeat 11 times.
2. Pick up trail of dirty clothes all the way down the hall.
3. Yell, "Brush your teeth!" Repeat seven times. Stand in doorway to bathroom until task is complete.
4. Scrub gobs of toothpaste out of sink.
5. Read one chapter from "Ramona and her Mother." Skip superfluous words while deciding Beverly Cleary rambled.
6. Say prayers.
7. Tuck in.
8. Give kisses.
9. Answer bizarre question.
10. Turn out the light.
11. Say, "No more questions."
12. Say, "I love you."
Time: 15 minutes

Dad's version:
0. Watch TV while waiting for Mom to complete steps one through four.
5. Teach children lyrics to the "Star-Spangled Banner."
6. Rehearse national anthem, loudly.
7. Tickle each child.
8. Read at least two chapters from whatever Chronicles of Narnia book they are on.
9. Read an entire book of tongue twisters, alternating pages to allow all of the children to practice reading.
10. Explain phonics.
11. Read another chapter from C.S. Lewis to one child, while the other two run relay races down the hallway.
12. Say prayers, adding, "God bless all the men and women of our armed forces" and other people Mommy doesn't think to include.
13. Tuck in.
14. Turn out the light.
15. Snuggle into one of the kids' beds.
16. Begin making oral Christmas lists.
17. Kiss each child.
18. Kiss each child again.
19. Fall asleep in kid's bed.
20. Continue snoring as child gets out of bed and tattles on Daddy to Mommy.
21. Ask Mommy, "Why are you kicking me?"
Time: endless

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Vindication for Hilda

Todd's late maternal grandmother lived a long life, full of God, family and friends, but wrought with health problems. Some were bearable, such as her incessant farting. Some were not, such as the congestive heart failure that ultimately took her life. There was always something wrong with this woman, so much so that the family teased she was a cat with nine lives. Grandma talked about her medical issues openly and often, but one we never got over was Hilda's statement about how her body changed after bearing four children, "My vagina fell out." Naturally, we figured she was sharing some bizarre combination of exaggeration and senility. As much as "my vagina fell out" can be a running joke, it became one in our family.

So, when I heard this story being discussed on the radio, my thoughts immediately went to Grandma E. I warn you, it is graphic and gross... but it offers proof maybe the old bag was telling the truth all along:

My Bits Fell Out!
Have you ever heard of vaginal prolapse? I hadn't either, until it happened to me.
My first pregnancy was totally normal and healthy and fine. When my daughter was 11-and-a-half months old, I got pregnant with my second child.

About ten weeks into my pregnancy, I was doing prenatal yoga and it felt like someone had rammed a pitchfork up my butt, so I stopped. It was an intense, sharp pain, but it passed. As I was feeding my daughter lunch a short time later, it felt like I had peed my pants, and when I ran to the bathroom, I saw I was gushing blood everywhere. It was the biggest scare of my life.

I rushed to the OB/GYN, and they said I hadn't lost the baby, thank God. But they couldn't figure out what was wrong, and I kept bleeding for 15 weeks straight. When I was 25 weeks pregnant, they put me in the hospital for three-and-a-half weeks on bed rest. That was the first time I had stopped bleeding in four months, and I was so relieved. When they released me, they put me on hospital-level bed rest at home, but even walking from the couch to the bathroom made me start bleeding again, so they had to put me back in the hospital. My son was born six-and-a-half weeks early, at 33 weeks.

What they ultimately found out was that I developed a hematoma outside the placenta. The baby was fine, thank God, and after he was released from five weeks in the NICU, we thought the whole ordeal was behind us. Boy, were we wrong about that.

One day in the bathroom, I felt something kind of strange when I was wiping. There wasn't really a hole there -- it felt kind of flat. I thought it was a little weird, but I had a 19-month-old and a newborn to care for, so I brushed it off. I wasn't bleeding, I wasn't in pain, so I didn't address it.

Over the next year, I noticed this more and more and more. I would feel that something was poking out of my vagina when I was wiping.

One night, I took a look down there, and it was like my insides were on the outside and they were coming out. I knew I couldn't put this off any longer. I went to my doctor and said, "My vagina is falling out of my body!"

I was referred to a pelvic floor specialist. She took a look and said, "Holy crap -- your vagina is falling out of your body, and it's dragging your bladder and your rectum along with it!"

It turned out I had complete uterine prolapse, where the uterus is falling out of the body. I also had rectocele, where the walls of the vagina are weakened, and your rectum is pushing into the back wall of your vagina. That explained why I had been constipated for months. They also told me I had cystocele, where your bladder pushes through the other wall of your vagina. I had been having trouble peeing -- even though I always felt like I had to go. This was apparently why.

The uterus is supposed to be 8 or 11 centimeters up inside your vagina. When I was lying down in the doctor's office, mine was 3 centimeters up, but when I was standing, it was plus-five centimeters! It was literally falling out of my body.

I had to have surgery, and they took my uterus out. All the ligaments that hold the uterus in place were completely shredded by all the blood I'd lost in my second pregnancy. My husband and I had thought about possibly having another child, but that took care of that.

Then my doctor had to resupport and restructure the back wall of my vagina so it wouldn't collapse again. She put my rectum and my colon back in their proper place. She had to untwist my bladder and place it right-side-up. It had twisted and turned upside down. (story continues here)

Friday, November 6, 2009

Another Good Opportunity

I got this text message yesterday from my husband: "You married one big loser... I got let go twice in one year." Yep. I don't think you can call it deja vu when the feeling is familiar because you definitely know you've been there before. This time was not as much of a surprise as the last. It's difficult in the current economic climate to raise money for new businesses. And, even in good times, Todd reminds me 90 percent of all start-up companies fail.

Ever-the-optimist, Todd said, "I think this is another good opportunity for us." I'm not sure exactly what that means, yet, but, as always, Todd is excited for the future. I'm excited about maybe having him home more as the holidays approach, and about checking off a few more projects from the never-ending home improvement list. I won't worry until he suggests I get a job. Hey, maybe I could pose for some kind of a racy church calendar.

UPDATE: I just checked the time stamp and, as I was posting the original message, Todd was calling and leaving a message that he had a new job-- it's temporary consulting work, till the end of the year, but still... God must have really not wanted me to go that calendar route.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

For the Hubby's Bedside Table

Many thanks to my sister, who's a whiz with the airbrush:

A Picture is Worth... an Eyeful

There are so many serious things I could write about today: Todd's job going down the tubes... Benjamin smacking Amanda in the face with a plastic baseball bat... a disturbing news story on an abortion doctor sent to me by my sister... But, instead, I will share something I find equally appalling and amusing, and that is the pornographic church directory portrait.

I signed up to have our family photo taken for the church directory. Even though new directories come out every few years, I have avoided this activity ever since we had kids. Kids are not clean. They don't sit still. They don't follow directions. They develop the fake "cheese" smile at way too young an age. Forget it. However, at this point in our lives, we are more involved in our community, our school, and our church, which are all basically one in the same. And, we believe our family is now complete, with Madeline missing from our last family picture. Plus, with the fall timing, I thought maybe I could get a Christmas card out of the deal.

So, I coordinated, scrubbed, herded, combed, fixed, arranged, scolded, rearranged, bit my tongue, held my breath, and faked my grin through the whole session. But, we did it. From what I could see squinting at the thumbnails on a computer screen, in between rounds of chasing after kids, the pictures looked OK. We ordered Christmas cards and a couple prints of the kids. Then, there was the free 8x10, our gift for coming in, in the same pose that would appear in the church directory.

Today, the photos came in the mail. And, here's what's set to be printed in hundreds of copies of our church directory:

Yep, my boobs.


I'm sorry about the photo quality. You would think this company would have the images online so I could just pirate them, but, no... I actually had to lay out the print and take photos of the photo. Still, I think you've seen enough.

Maybe to you it doesn't look that bad. However, my bra and my dress are the same color, similar material, and both of a plain design. So, you might not be able to tell that the whole front of my dress is pulled off. (I'm guessing the baby is sitting on it.) If you really look closely-- and please don't-- you will find this mother of four is essentially posing topless. I told Todd I was calling to complain and request a change, but he really didn't see the problem. He wouldn't.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Backside Bandit

A regular visitor to my home has a back-door secret. I don't know who this person is, but I'm thinking it has to be someone familiar, who comes over fairly often, because I've spotted posterior prints all over the house. I do know it's not a member of my immediate family, because I have inspected all of them for the tell-tail signs. I have gotten to the bottom of the secret: a pierced left butt cheek.

How else do you explain why all the toilets are in arrears, with gouges in the same place on each seat? If this was from a cleaning product or process, the tush tracings would appear all over the seat. If this was from buttons or other hardware on pants pockets, the derriere designs would (presumably) be on the lids of the seats. And the kids aren't smart enough to do any kind of hindquarters hijinks that would be so consistent.

I was a little behind for a long time... the hiney heiroglyphics were like Krinkeland crop circles... butt now I have cracked the case. I beg you, Ms. or Mr. Fancy Fanny, next time, don't be a bum: please remove your rump ring. Be a sweetie and don't scratch the seatie.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

What I Wanted to Become

I was leaving the polls after voting, when a bumper sticker caught my eye. It is Election Day, people, and, if there's something, anything to vote on in your town, you should go vote. We live in America! It's your democratic duty. In my town of 10,000, I was number 196 to cast my ballot. And I was the only one in the room with more brown hair than gray. Vote.

Back to the issue at hand... The bumper sticker read: "Remember What You Wanted to Become." The message struck me, and has been sticking with me all day.

First, since I had just voted, I thought about idealism and political involvement from the first time Americans get to vote. How does the saying go? "If you're young and a Republican, you have no heart. If you're old and a Democrat, you have no brain." Something like that... Is my bias showing? Anyway, I remember being a freshman in college when Bill Clinton was elected. I was living in the Liberal La-La Land known as Madison, Wisconsin. Without really knowing what it was, I signed up as a member of WISPIRG, Wisconsin Public Interest Research Group, though after a meeting or two I soon figured out it wasn't for me. I also signed up for a "science" course where the "textbook" was Al Gore's book.

Unlike my husband, who considers politics one of his main interests, that has never been the focus for me. I vote based on issues of morality, humanity, and what's best for all people, whether they like it or not. Hey, I think that's the way I parent, too.

So, then, this bumper sticker message made me think more of my childhood, of my dreams and professional aspirations, "what I want to be when I grow up." By the time I was in high school, I already knew I wanted to go into journalism, particularly broadcast. First, I wanted to be Barbara Walters. Then, I learned she had basically slept her way to the top. Then, I wanted to be Oprah Winfrey. But I wasn't black. Then, I went to college, where a professor told me I was a good writer and a good speaker but I looked like an 11-year-old boy, so I should find a job not in front of the camera. I tried to get an on-air job, anyway. My talent outshone my looks and I finally got a boss to let me go on air, but, when I looked at video of myself, I thought I looked like an 11-year-old boy, too, and I hated wearing makeup everyday. Plus, I really liked to boss people around, and to be responsible for entire shows instead of singular stories. So, the dream evolved, but I was still being what I wanted to become.

Recently, Todd and I had a discussion about what it means to be a "success" or a "failure." I asked him: "Which person has it right: Is it the one who has a dream, and continues to pursue it throughout a lifetime, no matter the obstacle, no matter the level of talent; or is it the one who has a dream, realizes it is not to be, and changes the goal to something more appropriate and/or attainable?" Anyone who knows Todd will not be surprised to learn he had arguments to support both sides... He truly sees the best in people.

I consider myself a professional success, though I also consider that profession to be behind me. I cannot call myself a success or a failure at parenthood... Can any of us? I do know, however, when it comes to raising my children, I will always remember what I want them to become-- and they'll know it, too. It's not about what kind of job they'll have, where they'll live, whether they'll get married or have kids. It's about who they are and who they will become. I want my kids to always remember: I am doing my best to raise them to be good people.

"Remember What You Wanted to Become." Something to think about.

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Seal Has Been Broken

This is the start of what will likely go down as a very bad week for me.

This is the tub of candy the kids collected on Halloween (less what they have already eaten, what Todd and I have already eaten, the gallon-sized bag Todd took to work, and whatever our guests ate and took home over the weekend.)

This is the bowl I assembled to hand out to trick-or-treaters. We had two.

These are the other two cases of candy I bought but obviously did not need to add to our trick-or-treat bowl. All this candy sat in our house, untouched, for a couple weeks prior to Halloween. I mostly bought things I do not like. No matter. Now that the cellophane has been removed, something seems to end up in my mouth every time I walk through the kitchen.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Follow the Bouncing Baby

Madeline did not go trick-or-treating. She stayed home and treated the rest of us to a delightful show, courtesy of her new jumper:

Many thanks to Anders, Christine and Ross for the bouncer. If you can't tell, Maddy really likes it.

Super Girl, Two Witches, and a Duck