Saturday, January 30, 2010

Go Dolphins, Go Dolphins

Another January, another basketball season. This year, our kindergartner is also on the court. Daddy and Grandpa are coaching Elisabeth's team. Amanda is on to the next level, a second- and third-grade team. Both girls ended up with light blue jerseys, and both teams voted to call themselves "the Dolphins." Less for me to remember... as long as I keep the shirt sizes straight.

Today was picture day as well as the first game day. Amanda's team actually got right through photos and played their game-- if you can call it that. The other team had one girl who was as tall as I am, and another slightly shorter but about as wide as I am. Even though most of the girls had previously played at least one season, the game is still really new to them. The only concept they seemed to grasp was "get the ball." So, there was no problem getting them to dive right in... but the coaches spent most of the time reminding the girls not to full-court press or quadruple-team. I found I had to walk away from the court and not watch-- had to stop myself before I started screaming, "Hack job!" or "Where'd you learn to play ball-- PRISON?!"

On the other hand, the kindergartners and first graders took a lot longer to pose for their photos and ended up just scrimmaging a few short periods. These peanuts are working more on the concepts of "Woo-hoo, over here!" and "It's not time for snacks, yet." So cute. So fun to watch. Very little to do with basketball.

Amanda plays in the first time slot on Saturday mornings, and Elisabeth plays in the last... so we're spending a lot of time taking in the scent of gym socks. Oh, well. What do we have better to do?

Friday, January 29, 2010

Funny Boy

Benjamin has been entertaining me (read: himself) with some jokes:

Ben: “Mommy, why did one tree run away from the other tree?”
Mom: “I don’t know. Why?”
Ben: “Because it had to poop!”

Ben: “Mommy, why did the alligator go inside?”
Mom: “I don’t know. Why?”
Ben: “Because he had to change his underwear!”

Mom: “Do you know any jokes that aren’t about poop or underwear?”
Ben: “Sure, Mommy. Why did the turtle sit on the toilet?”

When I decided to ignore him, Ben wandered off. He has spent the past half-hour playing hide-and-seek with his stuffed animals.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Choose Life, Choose CBS

Certainly by now you've heard about the "flap" surrounding the pro-life ad slated to air on CBS during the Super Bowl. If somehow you haven't, here's the story:

Tim Tebow Super Bowl Ad: CBS Willing to Consider More "Advocacy" Commercials After Abortion Flap
NEW YORK (CBS/AP) Florida Gators star Tim Tebow may have unwittingly stepped into the contentious legal and moral abortion debate, but the network that promises to air his controversial pro-life commercial during the Super Bowl seems to be jumping in with eyes wide open.

Despite criticism that the Tebow commercial, which is funded by Christian values group Focus on the Family, might send a message offensive to pro-choice advocates, CBS says they will run the spot during the Super Bowl, but will also consider other "responsibly produced" advocacy ads in its Feb. 7 broadcast. Presumably that means pro-choice advocates could purchase equal time.

The company said Tuesday it had received numerous e-mails, both critical and supportive, since a coalition of women's groups began a protest campaign against the ad.

The 30-second commercial is expected to recount the story of Pam Tebow's pregnancy in 1987. After getting sick during a mission trip to the Philippines, she ignored a recommendation by doctors to abort her fifth child.

She later gave birth to Tim, who won the 2007 Heisman Trophy and helped the Florida Gators win two BCS championships.

CBS said Tuesday that the decision to air the Tebow ad reflected a change in its policies toward advocacy spots that has evolved over the past several years

If you are at all involved in the pro-life issue, you have heard Tim Tebow's life story. He has been a great advocate against abortion. So has rapper Nick Cannon, whose mother contemplated aborting him. As for me, I have a few points on this issue:
1. Whether it lasts one hour or one hundred years, every human life is equally valuable.
2. I'd bet my paycheck we wouldn't hear word one about such an issue if the tables were turned and it was a pro-abortion group that bought commercial time.
3. I worked for a number of years for a CBS owned-and-operated TV station. Never before have I been so proud to admit that.

I'll let Fox News handle the opposition:

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Things That Go Bump In the Night

I was dozing on the couch, nursing the baby, when a big "BUMP" startled me. It was a loud thud, followed by a series of smaller thuds. With the noise, the house shook. I sat there, trying to process it, thinking maybe Todd had fallen out of bed. Then, I thought maybe one of the kids had kicked some books off his or her bed (something my kids would do-- sleep with books) but those would have had to be mighty heavy books. A few minutes later, I heard and felt something similar. By then, I was done feeding the baby, so I put her back to bed and walked around the house to investigate. Nothing seemed amiss, so I went back to bed. As I lay there, I heard the noise two more times.

By now, 40 minutes and four thumps had passed. I determined I would NOT wake Todd. We have a history of this. I hear things... a lot. When we're watching television or a movie in the evening, I often make him press "mute" because I think I hear one of the kids crying. I woke him once for a creepy sound that turned out to be an owl outside our bedroom window. I've even sent him outside in the middle of the night to investigate the sound of "footsteps"-- but he found no cat burglar. (We don't even have a cat.)

As I lay there, I discovered I have supernatural powers. Simply by staring at Todd and willing him to wake, he did. OK, so really he had to pee and while he was up he heard the baby fuss and went into her room to replace her pacifier. As Todd returned to bed, I was thankful he had already visited the bathroom, because he would have wet his pants when, in the darkness, a not-sleeping I said, "Since you're awake, I wanted to tell you about this noise I heard. It was like a huge Super Ball being bounced on the roof-- a big, dull thud, followed by a series of smaller thuds. I have heard it four times now." Todd sighed, so used to me, and said, "It was probably an earthquake. There's a fault line somewhere around here."

We both lay in silence for a couple minutes, and then Todd, apparently still under my mind spell, sighed, threw back the covers, and got out of bed, mumbling something about "anti-psychotic meds" and "should have had a pre-nup," and went to investigate. A couple minutes later, I heard wild, mad thumping coming from the outside of the house. I thought, "Either the phenomenon has taken off, or Todd is being chased by the boogeyman," and jumped up. I found him outside the basement door, shivering in his pajamas on the patio. He had locked himself out.

Todd had also discovered the source of the thumping. Somehow, one of the doors to the storage shed, which is tucked under the house on the walkout side, had come unlatched and flung open. It was banging against the house, damaging itself and the light fixture behind it, and causing the noise. Since it had been going on for some time, the frigid air in the storage area also got to the pipes for the outside shower. Even though the water is turned off in the winter, the outside shower still froze and exploded. (This happened one other time a few years back.)

To review, here's what the noise was not:
*a giant Super Ball bouncing off the roof
*an earthquake
*a boogeyman trying to break in
*a passing snowplow
*the moon falling out of its orbit
*my imagination

Here's what the noise was:
*an exterior door, banging in the wind
*a light fixture breaking in two
*the handle to an outdoor shower, shooting off the side of the house

Here's why this is important:
*by getting up to investigate when he did, Todd closed the storage area and prevented further damage from freezing pipes
*it proves I am not crazy.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Jump Around

My sister and BIL had a combined birthday party for Kazmer and Solomon at Pump It Up. I've posted about this place before-- it's full of those giant, inflatable bounce houses. Once I got past the compulsion for constant hand sanitizer (think: two dozen children aged three to six,) I thought it was a wonderful way to spend a blustery afternoon.

Ben jumped:

But it was the big kids who really got into it:

Monday, January 25, 2010

Pretty as a Picture

We took Madeline yesterday to get a nine-month photo taken-- just to a department store studio for one of the cheapo package specials. I'm sure it's highly illegal, or at least unethical, to copy the pictures off the store's website... but it was so easy. And I share:

Does anyone else see just how cute this baby is?

Gender Bender

In many ways, we follow the stereotypical gender lines around here: I cook and do laundry; Todd does lawn care and car maintenance. I wouldn't dream of pounding a nail into a wall to hang a picture; he has no idea how to run the dishwasher. I don't set foot in Todd's woodshop; I've never seen him soak in the bathtub. You get the idea.

But, when it comes to spending time with our kids, it's anything but girls vs. boys. You'd think that would tend to be the case, since that would charge me with the care of three daughters, and Dad would just have to oversee the one son. With four children, however, whenever both parents are home, the supervision seems to go to two-and-two. And, most often, Todd takes the two older girls, while I have the younger boy and girl. Babies just stick with their mamas, I guess, and Todd always says the kids get more fun (and easier) as they grow older.

Plus, Ben is going through this Mama's Boy phase. All right, it's been a three-and-a-half-year phase, but I'm confident he will soon come out of it. He tells Todd, "I hate you! I only love Mommy!" And I know Ben says it just because it irks his dad. So, anyway, it's a given in most circumstances that I will have an extra Ben appendage wherever I go.

Yet, I had to giggle at our family structure last evening: Todd and all three girls sat in the den, watching the sad, sad Vikings-Saints football game. They wore their purple clothes and cheered and groaned and jumped on the furniture. I'm not so sure the girls are huge football fans... they just like to be with their daddy. Meanwhile, Ben and I were upstairs, folding laundry, watching TLC and reading Little Critter books. I'm not sure this bodes well for Ben and his future as a man, but I liked his company.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Pinball Mother

It's been a couple weeks since the two younger children came down with really bad colds. When their stuffy noses and hacking coughs began, my nighttime ritual got more complicated. I found myself traveling up and down the hall, from bedroom to bedroom, wiping noses, adjusting vaporizers, administering Tylenol, offering drinks... all night long. They're just so pitiful when they're sick and tired... how could I refuse one more hug, one more cuddle in the rocking chair? (However, I draw the line at kissing-- I don't need that crud, too.)

But now that the children are feeling better-- just some of that cough hanging on-- Mommy's presence in the bedroom at night is somehow still expected, and I am beginning to feel like one of those silver balls being batted around by the flappers in a pinball game. Ben wanders up and down the hall screaming at night, "I need Mommy to snuggle with me!" So, I stumble out and walk him back to his room to tuck him in. If I'm not quick enough, his yelling will wake up Madeline, so then I stagger back to address her crying. Sometimes, I go down to the den to nurse Madeline during the night, because that's where my favorite chair lives, so then there's the added stair travel.

If Todd can be quiet, not turn on every light in the room, and not sit on my side of the bed to put on his socks, I get my best sleep between 6:15 and 6:55 a.m. Still, I feel him standing over me, thinking, "Bum of a wife... She goes to bed before I do and is still in bed when I leave for work..." I guess what I'm saying is, if you see me around, weaving, my eyes shiny and rolling around in my head, just remember I'm probably on "TILT."

Motherhood is Weird

Sometimes it feels as though motherhood is not so much a calling... or a career... as it is a punishment for everything I did to my parents when I was growing up. My kids are still so young, yet, I know I don't have any idea what I'm in for. Still, in the past couple days, I've found myself doing some really odd things-- definitely not the kind of stuff you'd expect to read in the motherhood job description:
*sticking my arm down a heating vent-- up to the shoulder-- to retrieve a "Mickey Mouse Clubhouse" DVD
*yelling out the front door: "And when you get home from school, come inside and drop off your school bags before going back out to play so the neighbor guy doesn't think you got abducted again!"
*counting pairs of underpants in the laundry to figure out which kid is not changing regularly (bet you can guess)
*after a pilot speaks at school, not predicting what the girls would do next:

Friday, January 22, 2010

Nine Months on the Inside, Nine Months Out

Today our Madeline Kate is nine months old. Today is also the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision legalizing on-demand abortion. Yes, I do believe I honored life by letting Maddy yammer pretty much the whole way through this noon's community prayer service. Please take a moment today to thank God for the gift of life, and to pray for the unborn.

“Never tire of firmly speaking out in defense of life from its conception and do not be deterred from the commitment to defend the dignity of every human person with courageous determination. Christ is with you: Be not afraid!”
--Pope John Paul II

"It is a poverty that a 'child must die,' so that you may live as you wish.”
--Mother Teresa

"I've noticed that everyone who is for abortion is already born."
--Ronald Reagan

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Big Girl

While Benjamin and I were picking up the toy room (I know, a little joke for you there) I set Madeline down on the floor to play. Soon, Ben and I heard grunting and we turned around to see this:

The real mystery is how she got over to the chair in the first place, because I know she was sitting a good three feet from it. Maddy has mysteriously moved before, and I've even caught her a little bit out of the corner of my eye and it looks suspiciously like butt-scooting! Takes you back to Baby Benjamin, doesn't it? However, with this little one's bulk and strength, I fear it will not be long before she is crawling... standing... walking... *Sigh.*

I Am the Mother of Invention

In typical Benjamin fashion, he whacked his head on the doorknob. In typical three-year-old fashion, he blamed the doorknob. "That's why they shouldn't make doorknobs!" Ben cried. "This stupid doorknob shouldn't be here!" Before I could step in, the Big Sister started:
Amanda: "Ben, you don't mean that-- we need doorknobs!"
Ben: "No we don't!"
Amanda: "Yes, we do. Otherwise, how would we open the door when it's closed?" (demonstrates by clawing at the edge of the closed door)
Ben: "We don't need a dumb doorknob. There could just be a handle here, like a lever."
Amanda: "That's the same as a doorknob, just a different shape."
Ben: "Oh."
Amanda: "Really, everyone, I think we should thank Benjamin Franklin for inventing the doorknob. Otherwise, we would be stuck in the bathroom forever! Mom, I'm not really sure if Ben Franklin invented the doorknob-- did he?"

I got to thinking Amanda must be studying inventions in school, and, sure enough, I came across a writing assignment in her school bag. It was about verbs, and was based on the story "Anansi Goes Fishing," but the basic direction was to "write about something you could invent":

I will invent a bee trainer robot. It will make bees not sting you when they get mad at you. And it can train one hive at a time. And the robot will be 4 feet tall and 7 inches.

What kind of invention would you expect my child to dream up? An electronic device that helps you decide which TV show is best to watch? A robot to fetch string cheese from the refrigerator? A little brother and sister silencer? I did not know she had it in for bees, but, I'll tell you what-- I'm going to be more closely monitoring her viewing of Animal Planet.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Anything but Average

It seemed the geneticist spent much of yesterday's appointment reassuring us about our son. I'm guessing we are the kind of parents who seek reassurance, and this is the kind of situation where the doctor could offer it. She told us while some of Benjamin's physical characteristics are not "typical," that does not mean they are "abnormal" or "wrong." This plays to a bigger topic that spins around my brain and rears itself in my home on a daily basis.

As parents, we are constantly comparing our children-- to our other children, to other people's children. We say we shouldn't. We say it doesn't matter. We may even say we don't. But we do. In nearly all circumstances, we want our children to be normal, but we do NOT want them to be average. We want them to be above average. What is it about Garrison Keillor's Lake Wobegon? "All the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and all the children are above average." (I truly cannot believe I just quoted Garrison Keillor. The man spoke at my SIL's college graduation and I nearly fell asleep.)

The one exception to this, I believe, is physical size... which is where Ben comes into play. From the day a child is born, height and weight (and head circumference, but don't get me started on that) are plotted on a growth chart with a corresponding percentile placement. If a child measures at the 50th percentile for all areas, the numbers receive a shrug of acceptance. If a child falls into a higher percentile for height, all the better, and parents credit their great genes. However, if a child falls into a lower percentile for height, parents sometimes blame the genes, wonder if there's a problem, anticipate ways for the child to "catch up" in height-- especially if that child is a boy. Then, there's weight. If a child measures significantly above or below average for weight, this, too, is the parents' fault. Skinny baby? Mom must not have had good nutrition while gestating. Skinny kid? Parents must not feed that child enough. Fat baby? Mom must have eaten too much while gestating. Fat kid? Parents must feed that child too much fast food, too much candy, too much juice, too much chocolate milk, too many bedtime snacks.

On the other hand, when it comes to academics, artistic ability, athleticism, well, then, all parents expect their children to be exceptional. In all these areas, average is somehow a disappointment. And isn't that sad. What's wrong with average? Can I only ask this question because everything I've seen in my own children suggests to me that they are of above-average intelligence?

My father, who spent the last years of his career in education analyzing student achievement, has become a crusader against inflated grades. He talks about instances where teachers do not even award grades lower than a "B" because it creates so much turmoil among students and their parents. But, he reminds everyone, a "C" is average. All those kids in the middle should be C students. And that should be OK. But, somehow, it isn't.

And, let's say some children, for example, the children of Krinkeland, are above average. What then? Amanda recently took her first set of standardized tests, where she exhibited above-average ability in math and way-above-average ability in reading. Elisabeth entered kindergarten already able to read, while some children are still working on learning the letters of the alphabet. You'll remember an early childhood assessment of Benjamin around his third birthday showed him to have the cognitive awareness of a five-year-old. Wow! All this, wow! I have bragging rights, right? But, really, what am I supposed to do with it? If my children were behind the curve, I would certainly feel compelled to get them some help so they could "catch up." If they are ahead of the curve, am I failing them if I don't push them to lead the pack and achieve, achieve, achieve?

I have a friend who is fond of the term "twice exceptional" or "2e." It refers to a child who is obviously gifted but also shows a sufficient area of weakness. Most often, this presents itself in one who tests at a gifted level but performs poorly in school due to some kind of learning disability. But sometimes it is also used to contrast high intelligence with physical incapability, for example, a 10-year-old who is mastering trigonometry but cannot hop on one foot. I guess if I was into labeling, I could put our son in this category.

Things get even more interesting when both parents don't see eye-to-eye about learning approaches for their children. In our household, one parent is more aggressive about "pushing" each kid to her or his fullest academic potential. The other is more concerned with moral attitudes, social behavior, the ability to make a friend, the responsibility to listen to adults and respect peers. I'm not saying one of us is right and the other is wrong. In all of this, I have no answers. I just observe and share. If I've said it once, I've said it a thousand times: Parenthood has taught me one thing, and that is that I know nothing.

Why be average? Why not? I mean, I'm a certifiable genius, and look where it's gotten me.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Annual Report

Benjamin had his yearly visit to the geneticist's office. If you are waiting for some big news, this is not it. Nothing really has changed with Ben, which we knew because we live with him. What was most interesting, I think, about today's appointment was how the doctor assured us things his parents thought were "something" are most likely "nothing."

She was not at all concerned about his inability to gain weight. Ben has continued along his same growth path for quite some time now: his weight is in the third percentile, his height in just about the 50th percentile and his head circumference in the 95th percentile. As she said, "These all remain within the normal ranges... Ben's 'normal' is just distributed differently than what we typically see."

The one remaining area of concern does seem to be how often Ben falls down and how regularly he hits his head. The doctor said she expects him to be "a little bit clumsy" (nice woman) because of the head/body proportion issue... but she does not think it should be as big of a problem as it is. (In the past couple months, he has fallen off a kitchen chair, fallen down a flight of stairs, and fallen out of an open car door onto the concrete garage floor. Todd is seriously pushing for a full-time helmet.) However, the doctor did NOT think this was a neurological issue, which has been my main concern. Her suggestion: to get his vision tested. She said Ben may have trouble with depth perception or some other issue that is hindering his movements and, if so, we should get on top of that now.

I had to laugh. As someone who has always been "a little bit clumsy," I actually took this same concern to my doctor when I was pregnant with one of the children. I told him, "I'm always running into things. I hit my head on the kitchen cabinets. I run into door jambs and wall corners. I trip over cracks in the sidewalk. I'm afraid I'm going to fall and really hurt the baby." After establishing that I was not drinking, he, too, suggested an eye exam. I did have my eyes lasered some decade ago, now, and have 20/20 vision. So, maybe this is one genetic issue the boy did inherit from me.

Ben mostly refused to talk to the doctor, her med student or her resident, no matter how hard they tried. Whenever they tried to examine him, Ben insisted he was terribly ticklish and squirmed around like a fish out of water. He picked out his own outfit, which included a bright green soccer jersey over the rest of his clothes and too-big tennis shoes, so he looked great, too. After about the eighth time Ben asked, "Can we leave yet?" she finally released us.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Sick House

I just logged on to write today's update on Life in Krinkeland, and I see my sister's blog has a post with the same title. She has sick kids. I have sick kids. I guess it's that time of year. I should be thankful we made it through the holidays mostly intact.

As someone who reads other mothers' blogs, I know how uninteresting it is to read a post that just whines about how awful it is to have sick kids. If you've been through it, you think, "Yeah, I've done that. So what?" If you haven't been through it, you think, "That's exactly why I don't have kids." So, instead, I offer these real and serious questions about how to care for a sick house:

*Isn't there some way to sanitize children-- wipe them, bake them, boil them-- so at least they don't spread their germs to each other?
*Some pediatricians these days say it's better to let the child have a fever and just ride it out than to medicate. The theory is that running a fever actually helps the sickness more quickly run its course. But shouldn't I medicate anyway, if it makes me feel better and if it increases the chances of one or both of us getting at least a little bit of sleep?
*How can I feel better about the things I cannot launder, such as car upholstery and decorative throw pillows? Can I spray Lysol on them?
*When, really, is the threat of contamination? Every time my husband gets sick, I try to quarantine him away from the rest of the family. He always whines about how lonely he is and claims he was most contagious before he showed symptoms, so he's already spread the bug everywhere, anyway.
*Will opening the windows, even in the dead of winter, help? (It sure makes me feel better.)
*What's worse: Putting the preschooler down for a nap because he's so miserable after spending half the night awake and whining, but knowing it will be a nightmare putting him to bed again tonight; or keeping him awake, and having him whine so much Grandma swears she's never coming back to our house?
*If the baby cannot nap because she's too busy coughing and blowing snot bubbles, can I still nap, anyway?
*What was the cable company thinking, having an "outage in my area" on a day when I AM STUCK AT HOME WITH ALL FOUR KIDS?!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

We're All the "Same Kind of Different"

I'm making a conscious effort to read more books. An avid reader ever since I learned how, books kind of fell by the wayside in these motherhood years. But, I'm trying to find time, to make time for reading more than just "People" magazine. Now, I'm not going to stop reading "People"-- one of the highlights of my week, believe you me-- in fact, "People" is largely to blame for my renewed interest in books. The magazine has a book reviews section and every week I read those reviews and think, "Wow, that sounds good. I want to read that." And I write the book down on a little list and pretty soon it's the next week and there are more reviews and more books I want to read.

One book I just finished did not come to me through "People" magazine, but it was a selection from an online book club hosted by a blogger whose blog I read. Now, I did not join the book club-- Can you imagine me in a book club? I know, no, I talk too much. I know. I just lurked and found the title and author and then requested the book from the library. I read it in just a couple days, and it was so good, I've started telling everyone about it. So, I figured I should maybe post it.

The book is called "Same Kind of Different As Me: A Modern-Day Slave, an International Art Dealer, and the Unlikely Woman Who Bound Them Together" by Ron Hall, Denver Moore, and Lynn Vincent. It is a true story-- actually, two true stories woven together-- about a sharecropper-turned-homeless-man from Red River Parish, Louisiana and a newly rich art dealer from Fort Worth, Texas. The book is about how they meet and slowly forge a friendship, and why, and where they go from there.

The copy I got from the library happened to include a study guide (ugh, reminds me why I don't join book clubs-- feels like homework) and a post-publish-date interview with the authors. The interview was a real treat, explaining how the lives of the two men have changed since putting out the book. The one that really got me: the interviewer asked each man what he thought of the other's perspective, after reading it in the finished product. The art dealer explained his side. Then, the formerly homeless man explained he's never read the book... because he can't.

If you have the urge or some extra time, look up this book. It will change the way you look at humanity. But, I'm warning you, it will also change the way you look at yourself. Right now, for example, I'm wondering why I'm sitting here typing when I could be out helping someone.

The Soundtrack of My Youth

I've been thinking about that post from a week ago, on the music "A & B: The Teenage Years," and mostly I've been thinking about all the songs that did not make the mix tape. Those TDK SA 90s can only hold so much... So, today, fellow children of the 1980s, I bring you more of the songs that take me back (and maybe you, too) to those growing up years:

Get a playlist! Standalone player Get Ringtones

Now, not all these songs hold the meanings you may think. For example, Madonna's "Like a Virgin" album was released in 1984... when I was 10. The reason it's so significant to me is that the next year, for my eleventh birthday, one of my mother's friends, who was more like a grandma to me, took me shopping and bought me my first "boombox" and first cassette tape-- that one. I'm sure there was an exchange of words when we got home, but I did get to keep Madonna.

And, I was never really a U2 fan... I know, I know, I must be the only one. However, when I was a freshman in college, U2 performed at the university's outdoor football stadium. It was a big, big deal. For whatever reason-- oh, yeah, not a U2 fan-- I did not go to the concert. But, I remember walking outside my dorm that day, blocks and blocks from the concert venue, and hearing "Where the Streets Have No Name" echoing across campus. It was very cool and I had a pang of regret that I hadn't gone to the concert. But, I was dating a guy then-- very briefly-- a much older graduate student who also did not go to the concert... because he and his dorky friends had a standing date for dinner and "The Simpsons." Ugh.

Oh, and I love all the ballads-- all the love songs that drew me in before I had any idea what love was. Enjoy.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Can't Believe Everything I Read

I make it a habit to not pass along most of the chain emails I receive. And, I'll admit, I'm one of those nasty curmudgeons who sometimes doesn't even read them. We seem to get many that are political in nature... probably has something to do with my husband's widely broadcast views.

One of the reasons I typically don't pass along the emails-- about government spending, or the dangers of certain medications, or ways attackers target innocent victims-- is that I'm so skeptical about their truth. Once I did forward one of those widely shared emails, and I immediately got back a response from someone who had actually researched the claims and found them to be false. I was embarrassed.

I do check out things on But, today, I got to thinking, what if Snopes itself is an urban legend?

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Nipple Confusion

Elisabeth walked by Madeline and snickered. "Why do you always fool the baby, Mama?" "What do you mean?" I asked. She pointed and said, "That pacifier. It's a trick. Madeline falls for it every time. Every time you put it in the baby's mouth and every time she thinks it's your private part."

Isn't it so cute how Madeline puts in her pacifier upside down?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

iti titi

Amanda has begun learning cursive handwriting in school. The first two letters her class has been studying are "i" and "t." So, I find pieces of paper all over the house with this kind of note:

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Poop Perspective

Benjamin came running into our bathroom while Todd was getting ready for work, clutching his little bottom and yelling, "I have to go poopy!" I dashed in and helped give the boy a boost-- just in time. Elisabeth came rushing behind him... I'm not sure why, but I think she was just following the excitement.

As we were going through the wiping-flushing-handwashing ritual, I told Ben, "You know, you really shouldn't wait till the last second to go to the bathroom. That's a bad habit to start." Libby immediately jumped to her brother's defense, "Why? Why not wait? That's what I do." Todd tried to explain that if you couldn't find a bathroom or if it was occupied, you could have an accident. I added that holding it for too long could make you feel sick. Libby shrugged, "I agree with Ben. I don't have that kind of time."

Recently, one of my friends was sharing way too much information about her husband-- and said he had developed hemorrhoids from sitting on the toilet for too long, too many times a day. He admitted he did it because it was the only place he could get a little peace and quiet. Two different places in life, two different poop perspectives.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Mommy Ears

With my husband back home, I slept soundly last night... for about three hours. At 1:26 a.m., Amanda coughed. I heard her and was immediately, fully awake. There was no half-asleep brain haze thinking, Did I hear something? What was it? No, from all the way down the hall, behind a half-closed door, from the bed on the east side of the northwest room, my first-born let out a cough. I heard it with my Mommy Ears.

When I was young and childless, I could sleep through thunderstorms, ringing telephones, snoring husband, snoring dog. Then, I became a mother and I got Mommy Ears. I can tell which child. I can tell which noise. I can sometimes tell whether it requires my immediate, physical attention-- though, in the middle of the night, I stay in bed a few extra seconds to be sure. Across the hall from our bedroom, behind the solid-wood door of the nursery, I can hear Madeline's tiny fingers scratching on the cotton crib sheet as she searches for her pacifier. I can hear her fumble to get it in her mouth and then start the mad sucking like "Jack-Jack" on "The Incredibles."

The other day, my nephews were over and the boys were playing when Oliver started crying. I was right there in the room and started over to investigate. I assumed his feelings were hurt because he was being shut out of some activity by the three-year-olds. Suddenly, my sister (Oliver's mother) yelled from a different floor of the house, "That sounds like he's hurt!" And she came running. Sure enough, Oliver's fingers had gotten pinched in the door. His mom's Mommy Ears heard the cry and knew what it meant.

Sometimes, I wish we didn't hear all this stuff. But there's no stopping the Mommy Ears. I lay in bed last night, awake from the cough. I had immediately looked at the clock to record the time for future reference-- to tell the doctor at what time the cough began, to keep track of how long she was sick so I'd know when it was OK for her to return to school, to compare to the other children whose coughs might come later, to try to gauge whether the baby would soon wake to nurse. I thought to myself, Have we been around anyone else who has a cough? Then I thought, That's silly. It's winter in the Upper Midwest. Everyone coughs. I waited, listening for footsteps and the click of the bathroom light switch and the running water into the Dixie cup. But none of those sounds followed. I waited, listening for footsteps down the hall and around the room to my side of the bed, where she would tell me, "Mom, my throat/chest/tummy hurts." But all was silent.

I thought about Clay Camp scheduled for the following day and how disappointed Amanda would be if she missed it. I thought about my friend's kids, who all had strep throat the week before and the only symptom was upset stomach. I thought about how none of my kids has ever had strep. I thought about Madeline's mystery fever from the previous week-- but no cough. I thought about how Benjamin sometimes coughs as he's falling asleep at night but I know it's because he has a sippy cup in bed with him and it's silly to drink while in the prone position. I thought about how Ben's annual visit to the geneticist is coming up, and how I want to talk with her about what may be a textural aversion with certain foods. I thought about how I never want to see the geneticist again. I formulated my speech for telling her we might not come back.

In my mind, I began writing this post. All the while, the Mommy Ears were on high alert. I heard two more Amanda coughs over the next 20 or so minutes. Then, silence. She could have been sputtering on her spit. She could have been dreaming she was running hard. I could not fall back asleep. I prayed, I breathed deeply, I tried without success to turn off my brain. The red numbers on the digital clock read 2:49. I thought about how no one was coughing. I thought about getting my husband to stop snoring. I thought about what a drag it was going to be getting the girls off to school and Ben off to gym class in the morning.

I thought about a conversation I had just before Christmas. I was talking to one of my sister's dear friends, an elderly woman whose children are long grown. We were discussing Madeline and how she'd been going through a particularly trying time of waking up twice during the night, and how exhausting it was for me. I jokingly asked, "But it won't be like this forever, will it? I mean, I will sleep again someday, won't I?" The woman smiled and nodded knowingly, "Oh, yes, you'll sleep again. But, then, you won't have any reason to be tired."

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Sweets for the Sweet

Madeline is definitely not starving. In fact, at the clinic last week, the med student commented, "Whoa, she's a big one!" Probably not the best bedside manner, but she's learning. And, since this is my fourth child-- and the last one was a skinny runt-- I took it as a compliment.

When it comes to meal time, Maddy she seems most content with nursing and pureed baby food. I can't really remember the feeding timelines with the other kids, but it kind of seems as though she should be getting at least a little bit interested in solid foods. So far, Maddy has only had those "puffs," fruit- or veggie-flavored grain puffs that dissolve in her mouth. She'll gnaw on a cracker, but never actually eats any of it. And, if she "accidentally" gets a hunk of something in her mouth, she gags and spits as though it's killing her. (I do check to make sure she is not actually choking.)

These past few days, with Todd gone, I have started experimenting with giving Madeline different solid foods. She still seems a little young for dairy or meats. So, I've been fostering her sweet tooth. I started with little pieces of banana bread. I'd put a tiny hunk in her mouth and she would use her tongue to mash it against the roof of her mouth. Then, she'd flap her arms like a pelican and grin, grin, grin. A couple days later, I put tiny bites of pancake drenched in syrup on a fork and held up the fork to Maddy's mouth. She would not open the vault, but did take off each little bite from the fork tine and put it in her mouth herself. Last night, I gave her a cinnamon bread stick from dessert. She had to hold the whole thing in her pudgy, little fist. She gnawed and sucked and got out all the good stuff. Eventually, her hand was empty... and a mangled snake of dough slithered down Maddy's bib.

I thought she couldn't get any sweeter-- but she smells good enough to lick. Now that we've gone down this road, I suspect I may have trouble getting Madeline to eat green beans.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

I Am Strong, I Am Invincible...

...I am old. But I'll always have the memories.

My friend Beth must be going through something, maybe some kind of early mid-life crisis, because she's been taking this walk down memory lane, and she is dragging me along with her. First, she emailed me this photo:

Then, she sent me in the mail a very sweet note along with two CDs, which were a digital conversion of a "mix tape" I had made her entitled "A & B: The Teenage Years." In Beth's honor, I popped the music on in the car, cranked it up, and sang out loud, as I drove-- too quickly, as the young always do-- to the mall. If you grew up in the 1980s, I think you will appreciate the collection. Most of it is included in this playlist (except for the really obscure, local stuff... which wouldn't mean anything to you, anyway.)

Get a playlist! Standalone player Get Ringtones

Since I rarely listen to the radio, my CD collection is buried in a box in the basement, and I haven't yet invested in one of those new-fangled iPods, I have not heard most of these songs in years. All brought back memories, some intensely personal and some profoundly universal. I remember the tunes we would scream along to on the car radio. I remember singing karaoke, when karaoke was a new thing to do. I remember the songs that were featured in movies I saw with boys. I remember those I listened to over and over again after breakups with boys.

We all know music is powerful. But, what I've been thinking about more since receiving this gift is the power of the teenage experience. I'm serious. Parents of teenagers, spend some time with this concept.

A few years back, I had a conversation with a friend whose teenage daughter was involved in a long-term relationship with a boy. At that time, I warned him about that, saying I didn't think it was a good idea for kids to be so involved when they were so young. He challenged me: "Why not? I married my high school sweetheart and she's the love of my life. I'm not saying it has to be that way for our daughter, but, if that's how it turns out, I'll support them 100%."

The more I think about it, the more I get where he's coming from. I still think it's better for kids-- especially girls-- to figure out who they are as individuals before they enter into committed relationships. However, I was the ripe, old age of 18, with just a year of college under my belt, when I met my husband. Beth was hardly older than that when she met hers. And, before I fell for my husband, I did have high school boyfriends and other close friendships, specifically the one with Beth (also Mike, pictured in the graduation photo, and our fourth musketeer, Erik,) and those relationships played a huge part in who I am today.

I guess what I'm saying is, when I listen to these songs and allow myself to relive the memories that come with them, I think about how I am still the same person I was then. Friends I hung out with, boys I dated, everyday experiences I had all helped shape my outlook on life and it was all very real. I know teenagers are self-centered, obnoxious, know-it-alls. But, please, do not discount what they're going through. These things matter.

And, please, please, remind me of this post in a few years when my children start down that teenage road. Just this morning, seven-year-old Amanda told me she wished she could shave her legs. I pretended to not hear her.

Little Language

This is a note to myself, so I will always remember this vocabulary. As we all know, kids say the funniest things. It especially cracks me up when they come up with their own terminology. Elisabeth got an electric guitar for Christmas, and all three kids call her amp "the sound box." Todd left a mess of tackle in the mud room as he packed for his fake ice fishing trip and now, whenever Benjamin walks through there, he points to the huge tackle box and says, "Uh-oh, Daddy forgot his 'fishing package.'"

Friday, January 8, 2010

Sad to See Them Go

I gave away our old living room couches. When the guys came this morning to pick them up, Benjamin cried. I don't pretend to know anything about child psychology. However, when Amanda was approximately the same age, we donated a car to charity, and, she, too, cried and cried when the man came and towed away our car. I explained to her, as I did to Ben today, that this was something we didn't need anymore. That we had bought a new car (couches) and so the former could go to another family that could put it to good use.

Ben eventually got over it. Amanda bawled and bawled over that old car, told everyone she met that a man came and took our car, and she still occasionally asks, "Remember that gold car we had? I loved that car. I was so sad when we got rid of that car." Ben didn't seem as traumatized for as long. In fact, after the guys got their truck loaded with the sofas and pillows, they had trouble getting out of our driveway, and Ben laughed his fool butt off as they spun their wheels.

Maybe it was something in the apple juice. Elisabeth-- who never seemed fazed by the departure of any of our household items-- earlier asked for a cup of juice. When I gave it to her, she slugged back a belt, put down her cup, and exclaimed, "Whoa! Is that decaf?!"

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Survival Mode

Todd has just left on his annual ice fishing trip, and already I am in survival mode. This consists of: ordering takeout, taking up grandparents and aunts on any offers for help, bribing the children to pick up their messes, kicking aside whatever piles do not get cleaned up, not inviting anyone over who is not family over fear of appalling them with the mess, letting the girls tutor each other through their homework assignments, plugging the baby with her cork, keeping Ben awake through nap time so he'll crash early in the evening, starting bedtime early, sleeping when the kids are sleeping. Somewhat ashamed, and not really feeling better now that I've confessed. Now I think I'll take some Tums.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Double the Pleasure, Double the Fun

My children rate the personal fulfillment in their days based on a grandparent-counting system. Similar to the name of the 1970s band "Three Dog Night," they refer to each really good day as a "Double Grandma Day," meaning they got to see not one but two grandmas that day. With two grandpas now retired, the chances increase for seeing some grandparents during the week, and we sometimes have a "Double Grandpa, Single Grandma Day," or any one of a number of other combinations.

This week, Grandma K. is in the hospital. Grandma R. and Grandma and Grandpa P. have been to visit, and, since we only live two miles from the hospital, we've met up with them, too. While I know Grandma K. would rather be at home, the kids are thrilled they are getting to see her on a daily basis.

Benjamin has begun each of the last two days asking me, "Who Grandmas are we going to see today?"

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Prayers for Carol

Please keep Todd's stepmother, Carol, in your prayers. She has been admitted to the hospital with symptoms of congestive heart failure and is feeling very poorly. More tests-- and hopefully more information-- are expected today.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Membership Has Its Privileges

Todd and I recently saw the movie "Up in the Air," that George Clooney comedy (I use the term loosely) about a corporate "hit man" who makes his living traveling around the country and laying off workers from their respective companies. The story and the acting did little for me. But there was this running gag about "membership perks"-- frequent flier miles, elite status at hotel chains, etc. Now, I, personally, never go anywhere. But that doesn't stop me from joining rewards programs.

I am currently a card-carrying member of:
*Speedy Rewards, the Superamerica program that gives me every seventh fountain drink free and racks up points toward I really don't know what.
*Disney Movie Rewards, where we are saving points for "free" Disney crap. The points come printed inside Disney DVD packages.
*Pampers Gifts to Grow, in which I enter codes found on the inside of Pampers diapers and wipes packages and accumulate points. Here, too, I am allegedly working toward some big prize. However, after about three years of doing this program, (and that's a lot of Pampers,) I still haven't earned enough for any prize that's actually worth anything. I figure Pampers will cancel the program before I get around to cashing in.
*Costco, where our purchases earn us cash-back rewards... and then the rebate check falls behind our bed where I find it five months after it has expired.
*American Express SPG Awards-- OK, this actually is a credit card where you earn points for hotel stays. A couple years back, Todd researched which credit cards give the "best" (biggest return) rewards and this one was the winner. I still think it's pretty funny since we really never go anywhere.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

The Cutie's Corner

There are two types of people in the world: those who rearrange their furniture and those who do not. The Queen and King of Krinkeland are the latter. We never move the furniture. Ever. We have designed whole rooms and new homes around our existing furniture and its optimal placement. When we must-- and it is a chore-- replace old furniture, we choose the new stuff with a destination already in mind. There is dust four inches thick on the baseboard behind our bed because we never, ever move it... except when my dad comes over to repaint the room and then, when I help him move the headboard, he exclaims, "Look at all this dust! Don't you ever move this bed and clean behind here?" No, we don't.

So, you may remember, just before Christmas the new living room furniture arrived. We took out the old sofas and placed the new ones directly in the same spots. Exactly. That was fine while all the holiday decorations were in place. However, now that the huge Christmas tree is gone, something is not right. It feels empty. I had Todd tug the couches this way and that. We tried the ottoman in front of one, and then the other. I moved my chair from its usual perch to the other side of the room. I think it's because our former sofas were so huge and overstuffed that anything else in the space seems to not be enough.

I finally determined that what we really needed was another chair in the room. I started going through the rest of the house, looking for pieces we could juggle... and, suddenly, we were rearranging the furniture in the den and in the bedrooms, as well as in the living room. Todd said, "I don't want to move any furniture from any other rooms. If you really think we need another chair, let's just buy another chair." I said, "No, that's silly. I don't want to spend any more money. I just want to fill this hole." Todd sat down to try to shake the stress. I could tell from his expression he was thinking, "We are not the kind of people who rearrange furniture. This is why we never rearrange furniture."

About that time, my mom dropped by with freshly baked banana bread. I know, right? She could tell things were not going well and basically told us, "You are not the kind of people who rearrange furniture." I explained it was this one corner, that one empty spot, and we needed something to fill it. Mom pointed to a piece of "furniture" that had been shoved under the piano and said, "Put that in the corner." So we followed her advice. It does, however, severely limit-- to one-- the people who will be able to sit in that corner:

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Daddy Days Extravaganza

Todd took off just a couple days this past week, claiming the time between Christmas and New Year's is his favorite time of year. I said, "Whatever." But I sure was glad he was home, because any time I am home alone with four screaming kids is definitely not my favorite time of year. Daddy declared he was devoting these few days to having fun with his family. Some ideas were roaring successes (like downhill skiing with Amanda and Elisabeth.) Other ideas are more like works in progress, as in "all work, no progress" (like ice fishing.)

The time off has included lots of new toy assembly, reading new books, watching new movies, and general lounging around in pajamas and snacking on summer sausage. We did manage to ring in the new year with a small assembly of family and friends. We also managed to toss out the Christmas tree-- Benjamin begged and begged to help with the vacuuming after that. Weird kid. Todd spent a chunk of the afternoon today drilling Madeline on the art of rolling over. He claimed she couldn't really do it since he had never actually seen her. So, today, Maddy showed Daddy. She did it, but then gave him the what-for in a wild display of screeching and drool.

One more day and we will be back to work, back to school, back to the grind. The kids will welcome the routine. Heck, I'll be dancing a jig as they head out to the bus stop.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Singing in the New Year

We spent the first day of the new year the way we have spent the first day of each new year for the past decade or so-- having our own Christmas/New Year's celebration with Todd's dad and his wife. It is always a comfortable, relaxed, happy day, full of family and food. In fact, it would be perfect if not for all the screaming children chasing the dog in laps around the coffee table. Who brought them?

This year was extra-special because we were treated to some unexpected entertainment. Grandma K. must have been hitting the sauce early in preparation for having to spend the day in that zoo, because, after dinner was over, she mixed her two favorite loves-- Bret Favre and singing Christmas songs-- and performed for us: