Thursday, December 31, 2009

Home Alone

Tee, hee, hee... Want to know a secret? Right now, I'm home all by myself. Seriously. This never happens. It's so weird. I really like it.

Todd took the baby with him this morning when he went to get his ice auger tuned up. The other three kids are waking up at Grandma and Grandpa's house after a sleepover in this:

Usually, when the kids are gone to school or Grandma's or Auntie's or somewhere, I take advantage of that time alone to shop, to drop things off and pick things up, to go places it's difficult to go with youngsters (like the liquor store... glass everywhere and weird fascinations for children, such as, "Look at these cute little bottles, Mommy. Can I get one?" Yes, it's no fun to take kids into the liquor store, but law enforcement really frowns upon parents who leave their tykes in the car while they go into the liquor store.) Anyway, I did run a couple errands this morning-- Target 75% off Christmas stuff and Taco John's large Diet Dew-- woo-hoo! But now I'm back home. In my home. My quiet, clean, picked up home. Alone.

I don't know what to do with myself. I mean, I could start the laundry, sure. But I can always do that. I could turn on the TV and watch one of those shows (really, any show) that I can't watch when there are little eyes and ears in the room. But that would introduce unnecessary noise. I sure as heck don't want to waste this time on the computer. I think I'm going to curl up in my chair, in a blanket, and just sit. Happy Holidays to me.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Benny Bump

I often refer to my son as "the human speed bump." The boy always seems to be underfoot. He has one speed-- slow... and one mission-- to take his time talking and wandering and looking at everything that piques his interest. I try to tell him, "Buddy, you're holding up traffic." I urge others to walk around him, which they sometimes do, or else they just wait, shaking their heads. Ben ambles on, at his quarter-mile-per-hour pace, asking, "Mommy, how do they make sidewalks?" and sipping his Gatorade.

It was a similar scene this morning, while running errands. I stopped at Redbox to rent a movie. I had the baby in my arms, my huge bag slung over my shoulder, the movie box in my one halfway free hand, and I was looking for Ben so we could walk back to the car. I glanced one way, and he was standing directly in front of me; I nearly tripped on him. I turned around 180 degrees, and somehow he was there, too. I complained, "Ben, get walking! You're in the way! How come you always seem to be in my way?" Ben shot back, "Nooo, how come you're always in my way?!"

Sometimes it's just a matter of perspective.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Got My Health

It sounds so cliche, but the holidays are such a time to be thankful for something we so take for granted, HEALTH.

I was speaking with a close friend yesterday and we discussed how the entire outlook on life changes when there is something, anything out of the norm with one of our kids' health. Now, that doesn't have to mean something negative-- in fact, quite the opposite-- but it's just different. When your kid has a different health status than plain ol', plain ol', it changes your priorities, your perspective, your time management, your concerns.

I can tell you, I was sick over Christmas-- pretty sure it was something I ate-- and that cast a pall over the whole holiday for me. I felt awful, I looked awful, I didn't want to do anything, I didn't want to miss anything... and I'm sorry to say it rubbed off on everyone else, too. I pouted to my husband, "Here it is, my baby's first Christmas, and I'm SICK. This sucks!"

But, now, this morning, I found out one of our friends spent Christmas in the hospital with chest pains. He and his wife, too, have four young children. Today, they are still waiting on more tests and more doctor visits. If that doesn't make me feel silly for being barfy for a day or two... Please keep Jerry, Sara, and all the kids in your prayers. And thank God for your health.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Sun and Cold

Today was the first in a string of days that I woke up to sunshine. (OK, not entirely true... I woke up the first time at 4:43 to feed Madeline and it was definitely still dark, but, after I went back to bed, I woke up a second time to clear, blue sky. It's the first day since before Christmas that we didn't get any snow. Of course, without cloud cover, the temperature is plummeting. I guess we can plan on snow, snow, and more snow, or cold so cold it hurts every day now until, oh, April? Though I've never lived outside the Upper Midwest, I've also never fully accepted winter here. Point me to the beach.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas Memories

*Must be a kindergarten thing: Both Kazmer and Elisabeth were very interested in guessing what was inside the gifts before they were opened. Amanda would open something and Libby would scan her packages to try and figure out which one held something similar. Kaz shook each package, checking for Legos.
*Madeline, as expected, was more interested in the wrapping paper than what was inside the packages. She did, however, receive a soft baby doll with a magnetic mouth that held a pacifier. It was really funny when she pulled out that pacifier from the doll's mouth and tried to put it in her own.
*All the children insisted on bringing Goldy, the goldfish in to the living room with us so she could open her gift with the family (a neon rainbow painted cave-type thing.)
*A surprise hit: Amanda really loves the game "Apples to Apples Junior." She has cajoled me and her father into playing with her and Libby many, many times in the past couple days.
*Elisabeth realized in the eleventh hour that while she had painstakingly prepared, decorated and wrapped a gift for her father, she had nothing for me. So, she quickly scrambled to get something under the tree "To Mom." When I opened the gift, I was touched to see some her own sparkly, costume jewelry inside. "Wow, are these beautiful necklaces for me?" I asked. "Yeah," Libby replied. "I decided to give 'em to you, because I don't like 'em, anyway."
*I know you've all been wondering what was inside those four gifts Benjamin chose for his father at the Girl Scouts' kids shopping mall: Spongebob bubbles, a paint-by-number set, a plastic Christmas tree ornament shaped like a snowflake, and a jelly jar filled with miniature candy bars and topped with a styrofoam snowman. "I'll help you eat those, Daddy," Ben offered.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Day After


We have spent this day after Christmas decompressing here in Krinkeland. The house is a disaster... But every time I try to empty a box or pick up a pile, someone notices some new great thing he or she has to play with, RIGHT NOW. So, I stopped, and started playing with my new camera. Enjoy.


Thursday, December 24, 2009

Baby Jesus

Maybe it's because we have a baby in the house this Christmas... Maybe it's because my nephew Oliver has begun saying "Bebe She-shu," as taught by his big brother Solomon... But I've been thinking a lot this season about Jesus, the baby.

It seems every year during Advent, I either hear a sermon or read a piece where a religious leader dwells on this issue from the perspective of "Why did God come to Earth as an infant?" There's typically talk of a baby's helplessness, fragility, and ineffectuality as a leader. Most people seem to marvel in puzzlement that out of any form our Lord could take to come among us, God would choose to come as a little child.

But I can't help think, "Why not a baby?" Is there anything more wondrous than new life? Is there any greater sign of purity? How better to give and receive unconditional love than through a newborn child? I've experienced this a few times in my life, and I think we can all agree that evokes brings a greater sense of awe, a greater sense of peace, a greater sense of protection, a greater sense of good than a newborn babe.

Today, tomorrow, and every day, may you feel the peace, love, and joy that only a baby can bring. Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Who's Excited?




(Shoot-- you can't really tell from the photo, but "someones" made construction paper costumes for the dinosaurs to transform the big one into Santa Claus and the two smaller ones into reindeer.)

Merry Christmas to Me


The new living room furniture has arrived, more than two weeks ahead of schedule. Before the delivery came, Todd let everyone know I had been the one to choose the furniture. He expressed doubt over the different fabrics and color choices. It was a huge set-up, so anyone who comes to our house would be certain I was to blame, if things didn't look just right. After the furniture was delivered, Todd decided he liked the look-- and took complete credit. Men.

After dinner, we had a "how to sit on furniture" tutorial. I've always told my kids, "We don't stand on the furniture. We don't jump on the furniture. Furniture is for sitting." It's never that we've had anything particularly fantastic, or that I don't let my children "live" in our house (obviously-- take a look.) But I consider it more an issue of respect, especially when they are places other than home. Still, the rules didn't seem to apply to those huge, puffy, falling-apart, old couches. So, things will be different now. Each child shared what she or he liked best about the new furniture:
Elisabeth: "this big, blue footstool"
Benjamin: "this thing" (again, the ottoman)
Amanda: "I like that this couch (the patterned one) is the same fabric as our old couches, the ones that are in the basement now. They match."

We've had family through here, oohing and aahing... You can tell none of us gets out much. This morning, however, Ben sounded the first alarm: "How are we going to play kickball in the living room with all this new furniture?" Again, men.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Eight Months, Christmas is Near

Are you tired of this week's theme of excitement, Christmas events, and firsts? Well, then read no further, because there's MORE!

Benjamin had his preschool Christmas program this morning. You'll remember I was hesitant to send my baby boy to school this fall-- he had just turned three, he was barely potty trained, there was a good chance he'd fall and hit his head. But, his father and his ECSE "support team" encouraged me: Ben is a very bright boy who could certainly use the interaction, especially with his two older sisters gone all day. They were right, and I was right.

Ben is in a class full of just-turned-three-year-olds like himself. I teased the teachers, who look somewhat worse for the wear when they open the classroom door at the end of each morning, that they would never be able to pull off a Christmas program. They teased back they were thinking of duct taping the kids to the floor. It was interesting entertainment, to say the least. One of the shepherds hid under a table in the classroom and wasn't discovered missing until after the third song. The donkey walked into the stable and picked up the baby Jesus out of the manger. Ben, another shepherd, was apparently worn out by his first stint on stage and kept sitting down during the performance.

The teachers didn't seem to mind too much. The parents didn't mind. The grandparents sure didn't mind. It's the best free entertainment I've had in a long time:






Oh, yeah, eight months already. Life is in fast-forward.

Monday, December 21, 2009

More Firsts

This most exciting week of the year is also quickly turning into a week of firsts:

Benjamin can jump. Yes, I'd heard the rumors. I'd seen glimpses of both feet off the ground. But, I sat in on part of this morning's session with his gym teacher, Pam, and physical therapist, Margaret, and the Air-Flow Mat, and I was surprised and excited. Ben can stand in one place and jump, jump, jump his fool head off. I know other parents of other three-year-old boys are going, "So what? My kid's been able to jump for a year-and-a-half." Well, mine hasn't. And he is totally thrilled with himself, and we are so proud.

Madeline is pulling herself into a standing position. We got out a couple of those push toys, where a kid stands behind, holds onto the handle and takes steps. When Maddy is sitting on the floor in front of it, or in someone's lap, she can grab the handle and pull herself up. She'll be eight months old tomorrow. That is way too young. Tomorrow, we will begin pushing her back down.

Kazmer had his first school program-- the kindergarten Christmas program. He did an incredible job, watching the teacher closely and singing out on all the songs. Kaz was difficult to videotape, but it wasn't his fault-- blame the blondie dancing in front of him.

The day before the program, I asked Kazmer, "How will I be able to find you? Will you be wearing your uniform or a Christmas outfit? Will you be standing in the front row or the back row?" He told me, "Just look in the tall section."

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Great Moments in Parenting

Madeline hit two memorable baby milestones this evening:

First, while playing with the television remote control (always, always Baby's favorite toy) she whacked herself in the mouth. That wasn't the momentous part. The interesting thing was that she just sat there, stunned or maybe thinking about what happened-- but she definitely was not hurt. Then, I made a fuss, and then Maddy started crying. It was a full-on, lip-out feel-sorry-for-me wail. Madeline has mastered the call for sympathy.

Also, Madeline was sitting on the floor when I walked by her, and she raised her arms for me to pick her up. I love that one.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Learning

I often think about the quest for knowledge, and how some people seem to have an unquenchable thirst to learn new things. Then, I think about how I am not one of those people. When someone mentions going back to graduate school, I think, "Ugh, no thanks." I marvel at my husband, who reads how-to books for fun (and don't even get him going on the countless instructional purposes of You Tube...) and my mom, who chooses, chooses to watch Discovery Channel and PBS and then shares what she learns.

Yet, no matter how hard I try, I can't seem to escape learning new things. I think they're called "Life Lessons," and parenting is full of them. Today, alone, I have learned:
1. Telling an 18-month-old to "just wait a second" is about as effective as constructing an apartment building out of Splenda packets and toothpaste.
2. When you're three, it's never your fault-- especially when it's totally your fault.
3. My son loves his gym teacher more than he loves me. (She has the Air-Flow Mat.)
4. Boys like to dance just as much as girls do, and there's no cause for concern over lack of testosterone... because boy dance involves a lot more jumping off furniture.
5. My son's bedroom door has a knob that locks.

Spreading the Holiday Cheer

Monday
The annual holiday train came through town, raising funds and goods for area foodshelves.


Oliver made his famous circle mouth and stared in wonder.

Tuesday
Grandma R. hosted her annual holiday Tupperware sale, which doubled as a chance to show off the grandkids.


Ben devoured bowls of broccoli cheese soup with the church women, while Madeline modeled her fabulous, new bibs, courtesy of family friend Peg.

Wednesday
Grandma P.'s school had its kids' Christmas party.
I'm pretty sure Grandma had the most grandkids in attendance-- at least, they were the rowdiest.

Everyone got a chance to sit on Santa's lap, though Oliver said, "No thanks, Bearded Man."

Thursday
Solomon's, Amanda's and Elisabeth's schools had their Christmas programs.

Solomon, in a tie, looked super cute, and my girls were gorgeous, if I do say so myself.

(Amanda is on the far left, second row from the top.)
But the singing was the really impressive part!

(Elisabeth is front and center, in the green sleeveless dress with the white sash.)
As Auntie Ellen pointed out, "That Libby is made for the stage!"

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Icing on the Lake

Our lake is officially frozen over. I only know of about three people who care about such news, and one of them is my husband, but, for you other two, this post's for you. Since our lake is spring-fed, it typically freezes over later than other lakes in the area. Still, this is the latest ice-over in recent years-- by about a week. Riveting, I know.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Mean Girls, Good Book

Girls are mean. We all seem to know it, yet, we all seem powerless to change it. They are mean to each other and they are hard on themselves. It starts young. I see it already in the lives of my six-year-old and seven-year-old. They come home from school and report to me:
"No one is friends with her."
"When can I get some of those Skechers shoes?"
"She's smarter than me."
"She wouldn't let that girl play with her at recess."
"She's prettier than me."
"So-and-So said So-and-So smelled like a turd."
"She's way better at piano than me."
"When can we go shopping at Justice to get cool clothes like that one girl has?"
"You should drink skim milk because it has fewer calories."
"Take those pants out of my closet because they make my legs look big."
"I told her if she doesn't leave me alone, I'm going to tell everyone she wears diapers."


I certainly don't think this behavior started in my girls' generation. I know it didn't even begin in mine. In fact, the girls and I recently read a book on this very subject-- and it was written in the early 1940s: "The Hundred Dresses," by Eleanor Estes. It's a short book-- we read it aloud in about an hour-- with seven chapters and occasional watercolor illustrations. The reading is not complicated, though some of the language is outdated and formal-sounding, and may require explanation. I learned of the book from a friend and former colleague whose children are older than mine; she said she read it as a girl and she had her girls read it when they were young. I recently bought the book for a nine-year-old friend... I told her I knew it would be easy reading for her, but that I thought the message was an important one for any girl of any age and any ability level.

The story is about girls being mean to another girl. They are not violent or overtly torturous in their approach, but have clearly singled out one classmate as their target. Mostly, the author addresses which is the greater sin: to poke fun at someone without meaning to hurt her feelings, without really realizing what you are doing; or to sit by, watching silently, knowing how wrong it is, but saying nothing.

Find it at your library (I did) and read it, whether you have young girls in your house, or not. There's a holiday tie-in and a good message for any time of year.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Going It Alone

While I was feeding Madeline her lunch, Benjamin was dancing around the table, wielding a wrapping paper tube, the weapon of choice for this holiday season. Suddenly, he stopped and exclaimed, "I have to go poopy!" I encouraged, "Well, go!" Ben dropped the cardboard roll, turned toward the bathroom and then admonished, "Stay there! Don't even think about following me, Stick!"

Something to Yell About

One of my biggest pet peeves (and I have a lot of them, believe you me,) besides my husband muttering, "Everything irritates you," is when a member of my family stands in one part of the house and bellows to me in another part. My husband does this all the time, and the kids have picked up on it. More often than not, while I am fixing dinner downstairs in the kitchen, a child will stand upstairs in the hallway outside the baby's room and yell, "Mom? Mom! MOM!" Makes me crazy. Insane. Loopier than I already was.

Usually, I refuse to answer. Of course, the hollering continues. Sometimes, I will quietly walk to wherever the screecher is and calmly ask that the person looks for me and enters the room where I am, instead of sounding the alarm. But, if my fuse is particularly shot, I will scream back, "Stop yelling and come and find me!" Now, that's effective.

I never necessarily thought I was the only mother on the planet with this issue, but it's also not something my friends and I sit and discuss over coffee. So, when one sent me this, I split a gut:

Sunday, December 13, 2009

On the First Day of Christmas...

...we were just as busy as we'll be on all the coming days of Christmas, I'll bet. Here's the weekend in review:

Friday night: a party with friends
First, they hung out in high school. Then, they went off to college, but gathered for drinks and laughs whenever they were all home. Next, Todd and I got married; others followed suit. Then, Anita and Ross had a baby; everybody else did that, too. Now, when we get together-- which is hardly ever because everyone is so busy-- it's six couples, 14 children, and a deafening noise.



Saturday: Christmas shopping and "Terrell Steven and Friends: A Spectacular Holiday Performance"
Todd and I attempted to finish the shopping. I bought myself a new pair of boots. he bought himself a stocking hat that kind of makes him look like a thug-- I like it. Then, we went to my BIL's Christmas concert at the church where he is music director. The two highlights from this very biased reviewer: "Go Tell It On the Mountain," the best Christmas song ever and I think he might have performed it just for me (though there was no official dedication) and "Mary Did You Know," sung by the Cassidy Brothers. Babysitter extraordinaire, Chelsey, was holding down the fort. I'm not sure how she does it, but I hope we pay her enough.

Sunday: "A Night in Bethlehem"
Grandma and Grandpa R's church put on a living nativity and more, with the stable, inn, and "shops" from the time and place of Jesus' birth. The kids got to do craft projects, role play, and have snacks. Grandma played the innkeeper, though when Ben relayed it to me, he told me she was the "inn." Luckily, Grandma understands three-year-old-ness and did not take offense.

Friday, December 11, 2009

I'm Not Saying... I'm Just Saying

Maybe this is bizarrely funny, and sad... Maybe I can identify.

Woman Attacks Boyfriend with Raw Steak

(Dunnellon, Fla.) A Florida woman has been arrested after allegedly hitting her boyfriend in the head with a raw steak.

According to a Marion County Sheriff's Office report, the man told deputies Elsie Egan repeatedly hit him with the uncooked meat and slapped his face after he refused a piece of sliced bread. The man said he wanted a bread roll.

Egan, 53, denied hitting the man with the steak but did admit to slapping him, saying she did it "so that he could learn."

No "I Love You, Toos"

Amanda came home with a "love note" from a boy. Now, this isn't the first time it has happened... But, up until now, the tokens of their affection have been mostly pieces of gum, or drawings of dinosaurs biting off each other's heads. This was the first time the piece of paper actually read "I love you, Amanda," and was signed with a little boy's name.

I asked Amanda about it, and she got kind of embarrassed. I asked her whether she initiated this or whether the boy had. She assured me it was all him-- and I believed my daughter because we've been hearing about this boy and his adoration for Amanda since kindergarten. "So," I asked her, "how did you respond?" Amanda turned over the piece of paper as she told me, "I wrote back." The note on the other side read, "Thank you." Good girl.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A Shopper's Lament

Do you remember hearing, a month or so ago, that because of the "changing economy" things were going to be very different this holiday season? I read that stores were changing their philosophies, and were not expected to carry the same variety of items or the same stock volumes. At the time I thought, "Pshaw. Media sensationalism. Retailers want to make money, so they have to have things to sell." Today, I can tell you, believe the hype.

I'm having a heck of a time filling those Christmas lists. And I'm not even looking for Zhu Zhu Pet Hamsters, or whatever is supposed to be the top toy craze this season. I've been doing a lot more of my holiday shopping online, because it's just not much fun to take a three-year-old and a seven-month-old to the mall. It seems every website I search displays this message: Out of Stock. On two occasions in the past week, I have asked customer service representatives of major department stores, "Why is it so hard for me to get your store to take my money?" In both instances, the workers told me there was nothing they could do, and they did not believe their store would get in what I wanted to buy. Their suggestion? Look elsewhere.

I don't mean to be an alarmist here, but this message is for my sister, who typically doesn't start Christmas shopping until sometime around December 23, and for my husband, who is a few steps behind her on the morning of the 24th: Don't wait. I want something good. I mean it.

Maybe I should follow the lead of the Number One Son, and just let go of some of this Christmas shopping stress. I mean, do lists really matter? Do I really have to buy gifts for each member of my family? I sent Benjamin with his cousins to do a little shopping at the Girl Scouts' annual Kids' Shopping Mall. He had a list of six grandparents for whom he was supposed to find gifts, and a baggie with $20 in ones. An hour and twenty minutes later, the boys were still shopping, and my sister had to send someone to tell them it was time to go. Out marched Ben, pleased as punch with himself and not looking at all the part of the weary holiday shopper. Inside his shopping bag: $14 left over, four wrapped gifts all labeled "To Dad" and a shiny, striped pencil with a Santa eraser topper for himself.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

She's On Fire

Amanda's contribution to the dinner table discussion:

"Do you know that kind of gum in the big, red pack-- I think it's called 'Big Red?' Well, did you know that if you take the gum out of the wrapper, and then take the wrapper-- just the wrapper-- and lick the inside of it, and then stick it to your forehead, after a while it will start to burn, just burn, the skin on your forehead? Because I did that and that happened. It really felt like it was burning and I started to cry."

Monday, December 7, 2009

All I Want for Christmas Is an Air-Flow Mat


Benjamin came bounding out of his phy. ed. session this morning (yes, thanks to Pam he is beginning to "bound") all excited to tell me about a new device they had used: "Mom, today we got to play on the Air-Flow Mat and I jumped!" I honestly cannot recall ever seeing Ben so jazzed about anything. I gave Pam the inquisitive "tell me more" look and she explained, "It's like one of those bounce houses, except without the walls." She said Ben practiced walking on it and jumping on it, and she would turn off and on the electric blower to inflate it or deflate it and make different surfaces for Ben to navigate.

Well, the boy has not stopped talking about this Air-Flow Mat. I told him we were going to do our Toys for Tots shopping and he said, "Good, let's look for an Air-Flow Mat. I think they have them in Rogers." As we cruised the aisles at SuperTarget, I tried to explain to Ben that the Air-Flow Mat was probably something special for gym teachers and physical therapists and suggested maybe Pam got hers at a special store just for gym teachers. Ben was relentless. He asked the clerk at Kohl's, "Do you sell Air-Flow Mats here?"

Naturally, at nap time, I sat down at the computer to find this thing. After several Google and Bing searches, I came across a wish list for a children's hospital-- where donors could go and buy equipment needed by the staff. This is not going to be good, I thought. A bit more searching and I had it: the Air Trak. Now, I just need $2,246 plus shipping.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

Our nephews were over today and, I tell you, whenever these kids get together, it is always interesting, original, and entertaining. The five older kids (ages 7, 6, 5, 3, 3-- but who's counting?) staged their own Christmas program. It was part concert, part nativity scene-- and unlike anything I've ever seen. In this version:
*Director/stage manager Amanda also played the narrator, the shepherd, and all three wise men.
*The angel Gabriel actually flew.
*Kazmer doubled as the lighting director.
*Mary proposed to Joseph.
*Ben, disguised as a shepherd, but apparently actually playing Herod, stole the baby Jesus, stripped him, and shook him.
My little "Wait, let me grab the camera" videos just do not do it justice:

Too Saucy for the USPS

Against my husband's sage advice and my own sound judgment, unable to refrain from sharing the truth that is my life, I give you The Christmas Letter:

Dear Person Who Actually Reads a Form Letter,

Another Christmas, another child. Oh, yeah, Jesus—him, too, but I meant our child. Madeline Kate was forced from my womb on April 22, at 1:53 p.m. She came out screaming so loudly the nurse asked two pediatricians to examine her. Madeline’s father shrugged and muttered, “Her mother’s daughter.” After the first hour or so of life, however, Maddy stopped crying, and has not cried since. It took four kids, but it appears we finally got it right. Madeline is the best baby, the kind who makes you want to have a houseful, except that I already do. When we’re not fawning over Madeline, we are working to develop some way to harvest her massive amounts of drool as a renewable energy source.

Benjamin is off and running, with preschool as well as developmental adaptive physical education. In class, he gets to interact with other little boys, and to learn life skills for the common male. So far, these include: how to break toys, how to pee in a urinal, and how to avoid clean-up time. When he’s not at school, Benjamin is interested in touching his sisters’ stuff, telling strangers their breath stinks, and stapling things. He also has an astounding vocabulary, saying “horrible” instead of “bad,” “ruined” instead of “bad,” and “correct” instead of “right.” It’s the family motto: “Why be normal?” After Madeline arrived, Ben moved down the hall to a new bedroom. Months later, he still refers to it as “the guest room.” I’m glad the boy understands his status remains day-to-day.

All in the same week this fall, Elisabeth turned six and started kindergarten. Surprise, surprise, she likes it! Out from under the wing of her know-it-all big sister, Libby has really blossomed into the know-it-all she, too, can be. She reads as well as the teacher and ties other kids’ shoes, whether they want her to or not. The mandatory uniform has been a blessing; we have not had one argument about her ever-changing outfits. I don’t think Elisabeth has yet thought to stow away a costume change in her Hello Kitty backpack. I’ll give her till first grade. Among Libby’s most treasured possessions are her faux leopard jacket, her leggings with zippers, and her lip gloss.

In second grade, Amanda is all about the “clubs.” I wouldn’t exactly call it “Heathers,” but Amanda and her buddies seem to spend their free time plotting for and against each other. There’s a Rock Finding Club, which makes sense since rocks are surely contraband weapons in today’s elementary school. Then, there’s another Rock Finding Club, which involves stealing rocks from members of the first club. Last week brought the inception of the Jump Rope Club; I’m not sure what happens there. Most recently, I’ve been hearing about the Christmas Name Club. That works for Amanda, whose given middle name is “Noel.” Not so cool, however, is her friend who took on the moniker “Advent.” All clubs meet under the slide during recess. Must be crowded.

I'd be remiss not to mention the Andersen Windows guy. True, he is not actually a member of our family, but Pete spends so much time here, he might as well be. After three years, there’s still no definitive answer as to why the sliding doors leak like an incontinent mother of four, but Pete is on the case. We’ve also had other workers around the house, building a deck and improving landscaping. They started in April. The last guy finished on Wednesday.

My working man, Todd, is on to his third company for the calendar year, after the last two went belly-up. For a while there I blamed the economy… but I’m starting to think it might be him. I hoped his time off would be good for getting some of the many projects done around the house. Instead, Todd filled his time by going to “networking lunches” at Chipotle and perfecting his crazy skilz at Rock Band. He did, however, find time to assemble an animated moose for the Krinkeland Christmas display.

As for me, I officially entered “advanced maternal age” which translates to “gray-haired woman lugging an infant.” I fill my days shopping at Target and yelling at the neighbor kids. Me and the mister enjoy curling up under the covers to watch “The Bold and the Beautiful” and “Glee,” two television programs with some amazing character and plot similarities. We are looking forward to the arrival of new living room furniture… and to never letting anyone sit on it.

While I don’t actually expect to get it, my one Christmas wish this year is for a decent night’s sleep. Well, that, and a breast lift—nothing dramatic, just enough to keep them from dragging on the floor. Those things and the vacuum cleaner are a dangerous combination. May your days be merry and bright, and may all your body parts be tight.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Manhattan Declaration

Quit wracking your brains for those morsels of American history... the Manhattan Declaration isn't in the history books-- yet. But, if I was the writer, that's where we'd be headed. Click on the link to check it out and decide for yourself if you're on board. Thanks to the friend who brought this to my attention.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Prehistoric Times (My Days in Elementary School)

Amanda came home from school with her first "real," longer-term homework assignment. Yep, it's a DIORAMA! Remember the diorama? Good, because my husband doesn't. If you went to Lutheran school like Todd (where he also learned made-up words like "teacherage") you can click on the word above for an explanation. I needed nooooo explanation, and immediately got to work looking for the perfect-sized shoe box.

Naturally, the topic is dinosaurs. Is it just a universal fact that second graders are all interested in dinosaurs? I swear I also remember studying everything prehistoric when I was about that age.

One thing I've always admired about Amanda is her initiative.... thought I can't quite say the same for her follow-through. Even though the project isn't due for two weeks, she immediately hauled out the crayons and started coloring, and was soon on to cutting and gluing. Then came the part where she asked me for sand, rocks and twigs to add to the scene. I pointed out into the darkness and she shook her head. The next time I looked, Amanda had abandoned the project in favor of the Disney Channel. I imagine we'll be back at it tonight. Gee, a diorama.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

I'm Soaking in It

Neither of the houses we lived in while I was growing up had a dishwasher. Hence, many of the childhood memories I have of my mother are of her standing at the kitchen sink, washing dishes. I also remember that, though she is frugal, (like me,) Mom always bought and used Palmolive dish soap. She has very sensitive skin, that one, and claimed others were just too harsh.

So, I buy Palmolive, too. Never thought much about it, but I never had any complaints. Yet, on Thanksgiving night, my hubby and my SIL were helping their mom clean up the kitchen (I know, nice, right?) when the SIL asked, "Why are we using this crappy dish soap?" And the MIL replied, "I know. Sorry, I'm all out of Dawn." "What?!" I asked. "You both use Dawn dish soap?! I only use Palmolive." My MIL explained she just thinks Dawn does a better job cleaning the dishes-- just as the ads say, it cuts the grease. My SIL agreed, "I like Dawn because I can just fill the sink with dishes and suds, walk away for ten minutes, and come back and the dishes are clean." (I don't think she exactly meant Dawn has self-cleaning powers, but you get the drift.)

Huh, I thought. I always buy Dawn, too, but not to wash the dishes. I keep a bottle in the laundry room to use on grease stains and such in clothes. (Yet another thing I picked up from my mother... She should write a book.) So, a couple days later, when my Costco-sized jug of Palmolive ran dry, I switched to Dawn. I hate it. My hands look like raw hamburger and I don't like the way it smells. (Oh, my MIL did agree Dawn is tough on her skin, but suggested that's the price to pay for cleaner dishes. Todd asked why we don't just all wear rubber gloves. Can you tell he never washes dishes?)