Friday, April 30, 2010

Gotta Laugh

Elisabeth: "I sure hope Lorraine (the regular bus driver) is back soon."
Mom: "Oh, you've had a sub?"
Libby: "Yeah."
Mom: "What's her name?"
Libby: "I don't know-- she's from the jail."

Libby: "Mom, if I stick up my third toe, is it swearing?"

We went to see the Land of Lakes Choirboys perform at the girls' school this afternoon. While trying to get situated, there was a disagreement over where to sit. Libby wanted to stay in the back, and, since I had Madeline and was afraid we may need to make a quick getaway, I agreed. But, Benjamin was adamant, he wanted to sit in the front. Just then, one of the third grade teachers walked by and offered, "He can sit with me." Without so much as a backward glance, Ben marched off, and plopped himself amidst third graders in the front row. And there he sat for the entire 45-minute concert. Upon leaving, the teacher let Ben be the line leader, and told me he sat better than most of her students. Will wonders never cease?

Thursday, April 29, 2010

What I Learned at the Clinic

I had Madeline into the pediatrician's office this morning for her 12-month well baby visit. While there, (it was a long visit... the place was crawling with sick people) I was reminded of some important life lessons:

1. Looks can be deceiving. Madeline measured in the 40th percentile for height (28.75 inches) and just the 30th percentile for weight (19 pounds, 10 ounces.) I demanded her daddy stop calling the baby "Pork Chop."

2. Be your own best advocate (and your kid's.) This was the first Krinkeland checkup since Benjamin's cardiology report, so I asked the pediatrician to listen for an extra-long time to Madeline's ticker. Have to pay closer attention to everyone these days.

3. Everything is Mommy's fault. Having been through this with four children, I am now certain the 12-month visit is when they begin to learn what's coming, as in immunizations. I definitely got the "How could you?" look from those big blue eyes as I held her down for the nurse to stab her repeatedly in the thighs.

4. Don't get your panties in a bunch. While discussing Madeline's scaly, spotty skin, I pointed out one area that's always particularly red: a crease on the right side of her pelvis/hip area. The doctor was unconcerned about Maddy's skin. She was, however, interested in the asymmetry of the folds and creases in that region of Madeline's body, and she promptly ordered a series of hip x-rays. The doctor noted she did not hear or feel the tell-tale "clicking" sounds, nor did she notice any unevenness in Maddy's crawling; either of those could better indicate a problem with hip dysplasia. We don't yet have the radiology report. But am I freaking out? Nah. Really. It's all I could do to keep from rolling my eyes when the doctor suggested the tests. Bring it on.

5. What happens at the clinic does not stay at the clinic. I told you, the joint was packed. I hate, hate, hate taking my well child there. On the way out, my mommy ears are certain, certain we passed in the hall a boy with whooping cough. I hear it's making a comeback and that kid was sick. Better to just stay away and call in my own report. It reminded me of one of the famous sayings of my MIL's husband: "I don't eat carrots. It's not worth the risk. I hear 70 percent of the people who died last year ate carrots."

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Nurse, Nurse, Give Me the News

Brush teeth? Check.
Empty and reload dishwasher? Check.
Put baby down for morning nap? Check.
Take phone call from school nurse?

The school nurse must have me on speed dial by now. She is calling my house so often, I have begun screaming at the caller i.d., "Now, what?!"

For weeks, we went back and forth on Amanda's tummy aches, and then on progress being made on the constipation front. Then, Elisabeth got a cold sore. Then, Amanda's tummy stuff got worse. Then, Libby got a cough, and missed a day of school because she was so run-down. Then, Amanda sprained her ankle.

This week, it got ridiculous. On Monday, Amanda went to the nurse's office to ask for some lotion because she said the skin on the backs of her hands hurt. The nurse thought Amanda had a suspicious rash going up her arms. (I checked her out when she got home, but still maintain it's simply what we medical professionals refer to as "Krinke crud.") On Tuesday, while rollerskating in gym class, Amanda again twisted her ankle.

Today, I waited all day, but the phone never rang. Well, it did ring, but it was the Republican National Committee. Then, it was the Lupus Foundation. Then, it was my dad. The nurse never called. Freaked me out. I didn't know WHAT I was supposed to obsessively worry about all afternoon.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Sleeping Beauties-- A Nightmare


This book is haunting me. Have you seen it? Of course, you've seen it... it's EVERYWHERE. It was one of the Target Daily Deals today. There was a write-up in "People" magazine. I even got one of those chain emails that had funny sayings associated with each of the pictures. Does anyone else find this book creepy? I remember Anne Geddes and her photos kind of made me smile... I mean, I love babies... but this is weird.

Am I the only parent who can't imagine-- for the newborn's sake or MINE-- taking a baby to a photo shoot? Are we all so starved for fame? I imagine there is a bunch of money involved... But, do you want your family's claim to fame to be, "My kid's the naked one with the creepy grin?"

And, here, I went giving this book more free publicity. Good thing no one reads this thing.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Her Gift


It's obvious to anyone who pays attention that Elisabeth has been feeling left out lately. Her baby sister turned one. Her older sister made her First Communion. Maybe it's part of being a middle child, but Libby typically has that "What about me?" attitude. She's known for her "No fair!" and "But I never get to..." exclamations, uttered with hands on hips, and followed by the famous foot stomps and harumphs.

Some of her whining is complete nonsense, but, some of it, I get. And sometimes it is purely coincidental. For example, last weekend, we attended a family fair put on by the local ECFE organization, and Amanda had her name drawn for a door prize of a story book. Libby crossed her arms and emitted steam from her ears, and didn't let us forget that Amanda had also won a book at the same event the previous year. It was all true, all happenstance, but all a bummer-- if your name happened to be Elisabeth. I didn't even mention it a few days later when a package arrived in the mail addressed to Madeline. (Her name, too, had been drawn for a book prize after we left the event.)

On Saturday, the girls and I attended a baby shower for the wife of one of Todd's cousins and the new baby. Guests played one game-- bingo. I took a card, but told Libby she could play mine, since she had wandered away from where all the children were hanging out and had come to hang on my leg. The bingo cards were small-- only four in a row needed to win-- and filled with pictures of different baby items. I don't know how many rattles and bottles and pacifiers were called-- maybe 15?-- before a small voice next to me called out, "Bingo!"

I exclaimed, "You won! Libby! You won!" and turned to see a somewhat confused look on the host's face. Then, she left the room. I heard her mumble, "Well, it's not really a prize for a kid... but maybe her mom would like it..." The host returned and presented Elisabeth with her bingo prize: a potted gerber daisy plant, blooming with pale, pink flowers. Libby was in love.

She sat with that pot on her lap for the remainder of the shower, carried it with her to the car and all the way home, and proudly showed it to Daddy upon our return. Libby was so excited, first of all, because she won-- something, anything. But the prize, in actuality, was perfect for this little lady. The plant is pretty, feminine, in need of nurture and care, and all hers.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Two Momentous Events, One Special Day

Amanda Noel made her First Holy Communion:





Yes, Amanda looked so beautiful. One grandparent suggested we remember that hairstyle and have it done exactly the same way for the prom. Another asked Amanda whether she planned to wear her hair that way for her wedding. Let's just focus on today, please. I was emotional enough with my first born making her First Communion.

We also celebrated Madeline Kate's first birthday:

No, I cannot believe my baby is already ONE. Yes, Madeline really, really likes cake.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Rain: It's Even for the Non-Living

We awoke this morning to pouring rain-- well, pouring rain and a whining kid. I'm not sure if Benjamin was scared of the noise, or if he just awoke too early. But, I stumbled down the hall to his bedroom and crawled into bed with him to calm him down. As I rubbed Ben's back and shushed him, we talked about the rain. I said how glad I was it was raining because the spring has been so dry, and Ben added, "Yeah, we need the rain to make things grow." "That's right!" I exclaimed, thinking he must be listening to some grandparent or teacher, since I always seem to grumble about the rain. Ben went on, "Rain helps the leaves grow on the trees. Rain keeps the rocks healfy. Rain makes the grass grow." Well, two out of three ain't bad.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Birthday Baby

We kept Madeline's first birthday pretty low-key. Of course, this weekend there will be a party with grandparents, godparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. But, for the actual day, we just celebrated at home. While the Baby of Honor obviously did not care, her older sisters and brother were ecstatic. Benjamin selected as a gift for Maddy a bubble lawnmower, which made total sense since he recently discovered in the garage his old bubble mower, missing a few pieces. So, the older kids took turns running laps around the deck, blowing bubbles with the new mower, and Maddy sat, being entertained like always. Oh, and the Birthday Baby really liked the cake. What more could you ask for your first birthday?

While I was uploading the birthday photos, I put together these, too.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Greatest Gift

After the older children were tucked in bed last night, I gathered my baby into my arms and held her. She snuggled right in and drifted off to sleep. I admired her long eyelashes, her rosy cheeks, her chubby fingers curled into a fist except for her thumb which was parked in her pouty mouth, her long legs that already dangle off of my lap. I just sat and held her, cuddled her, adored her. I was spoiling her. But I didn't care-- she was spoiling me.

Today is Madeline's first birthday. The year has passed in a blur of dirty diapers, developmental "firsts," sleepless nights, belly laughs, runny noses, and spills. Now, Maddy sleeps all night, smiles all day, and, if her eyes are open, chances are her mouth is, too. I remember Madeline's birth like it was yesterday:

*my mom coming to babysit and me waddling out the door to deliver her another grandchild
*the aunties-- certain nothing was going to happen any time soon-- going to get lunch
*the doctor saying, "This baby is coming right now."
*everyone in the room decreeing, "It's a girl!"
*Todd calling Amanda at school so she could tell her class
*Elisabeth, so proud, never wanting to be apart from the baby
*Benjamin, more excited about his day with Grandma and their garage sale treasures

Todd chided last night that I would probably cry all day today because my baby is one. I am a little sad, but for myself, not for Madeline. I was never one of those little girls who dreamed of becoming a mommy. But, eight years and four children into this adventure, and there's no denying it. I identify as a mother of young children, and, as they all grow, at lightning speed before my eyes, I am having to readjust and find a new path, and, for the selfish part of me, that can be painful. But, for Maddy, I am thrilled! This year will be filled with talking, walking, running, discovering likes and dislikes, digging in the sand, taking in the world around her.

All children are gifts from God. Every day I learn new things, gather new treasures from having my kids with me. But this Madeline, she is sheer joy. Another mother joked with me the other day, "You had to have all those kids before you got one who was so good, right?"

Of course, there is no perfect child, but Maddy is so lovely, she reminds me of an important lesson for all of us parents, with all of our children: enjoy them. I delight in Madeline. I roll around with her on the floor. I make silly faces at her in the car. I open and close my mouth with every bite I shovel into hers. I sing to her in the grocery store. I dance with her down the sidewalk. I thank the old woman who stops me and says, "I remember when my children were young..." It's just a blink, really, in all of eternity, when my baby is one.

Happy, happy birthday, Madeline Kate. God loves you, and Mommy does, too.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Speakeasy


I am feeling guilty for not posting this before, but now that Madeline is quite nearly one, I guess I should make it official: she speaks. Maddy says with some regularity, "da-da," "ma-ma," and "uh-oh."

"Da-da" was her first word... she started saying it and actually meaning Daddy sometime after he thought she was saying it-- at about four months-- but before, oh, today. He regularly gets greeted with his name in squeals when he walks through the door in the evening. "Ma-ma" came later; Maddy would whine, mostly to get me to cuddle at bedtime. I distinctly remember her saying it two or three weeks ago, on Good Friday, when Chelsey had come to babysit, and was holding Madeline who reached for me and said my name. It's always good to have outside confirmation. "Uh-oh" started just in the last week. Maddy says it all the time-- after some accident knocks just about anything to the ground, or before she purposely throws something to the ground.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Chef Benjamin

Here is his "recipe" for Popsicles:

"First, they take fruit and they mix it up in the blender. Then, they pour in liquid and they mix that in the blender. Then, they pour ice on it. Then, how do they cook Popsicles, Mom?"

Monday, April 19, 2010

Sick Day

Figures, since the weather has been downright gorgeous and appears to be staying that way... now my kids get sick.

Madeline ran a fever all weekend, with no other real symptoms-- save grouchiness-- to go along with it. I chalked it up to teething. Still, I was pretty thankful when Maddy awoke this morning, back to her cool and spunky self.

On the other hand, Elisabeth awoke this morning much, much later than usual, having spent much of the night awake, coughing and blowing her nose. She was not running a fever, but seemed generally miserable. I took Libby for a strep test this afternoon, but it was negative. (Just in case, I took all the kids with me... figured if it was strep, I'd get everyone tested. Instead, the doctor's exam room ended up feeling like one of those clown cars, with most of the population of Krinkeland crammed inside.)

Libby's misery grew upon return from the clinic when I told her she could not play outside, because she was sick. I also told the neighbor girl she could not come inside to play, because Libby was sick. The girls solved the problem in this way: Elisabeth opened the door from the den to the deck and talked with the neighbor through the screen. They decided on a movie, with Libby running the remote control from the sofa and the neighbor pulling up a lawn chair on the deck to watch through the screen.

Finally recovered from her constipation tummy troubles, Amanda still found she needed to languish on the couch after a particular trying piano practice session going over her recital song with Daddy. And Benjamin has already informed me he will probably be too sick to go to school tomorrow.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Goodbye, Cruel World

This year's theme for the girls' school's annual fundraiser was "Under the Big Top." We brought our family and gathered with friends for a night at the circus. Here is the evening, in photos, along with a partial list of highs and lows:

HIGH
*dressing as a gypsy
*six varieties of chicken legs
*our friends (definitely not us) having the winning bid on the pet hamster
*getting to checkout and discovering we had won a fistful of auction items on which we didn't remember bidding
*watching the wild dancing

LOW
*trying to throw together costumes in the eleventh hour
*losing Todd in the mix of the other mimes
*somehow missing the last ten minutes of the silent auction and not staying on top of my bids
*leaving a miserable, teething Madeline with the babysitter
*too many attendees who were just too drunk and beligerent

HIGH AND LOW
*bidding against our friends on the live auction for the keepsake kindergarten cedar chest

Friday, April 16, 2010

Paradise


With the beautiful spring weather we've been experiencing, life in Krinkeland has been absolutely idyllic. Yes, I just used the word "idyllic" to describe my life. No, Mom, I'm not taking any drugs, but, yes, if I were, I would share. I just mean I think nice weather really makes a difference when it comes to mood, and outlook, and activities.

Last weekend, Elisabeth and I took our books and curled up in lounge chairs on the deck. My sister came over with the boys one day this week, and we even ate outside. And the children have been playing in the yard every day, already building sandcastles on the beach and getting reacquainted with their swing set. The kids don't know how lucky they are. This is why I love living here.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Bullet Points

*We have found Elisabeth's blanket! It was stuck under a bag of something in the back room where the computer is. We had searched the area multiple times, but somehow had missed it. She is so happy, and is sniffing up for lost time.

*Todd paid an actual professional to file our taxes, which has made this week in Krinkeland a much calmer week than it could have been.

*I went as an Art Adventure volunteer/chaperone with Amanda's class today to the art museum. I love, love, love spending special time with one of my kids, BUT chaperoning is not high on my list of favorite parenting duties, partly because I hate the bus, but mostly because I don't like to deal with other people's kids. Sorry, it's true.

*"Top Chef Masters" on Bravo is not nearly as interesting as the regular "Top Chef" series. Plus, no Tom for me, no Padma for Todd.

*Since I decrapified the bathroom cupboards, Todd "can't find anything."

*I am taking a parenting class, as part of my court-ordered punishment. OK, I'm just taking this class through church because I want to. It's based on David Walsh's book, "No." When it was time to leave this evening, Benjamin told me, "But you're already a good mom."

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Take Me Back...

Today's task in the decrapification project involved cleaning out the large cupboard in the master bathroom. As you can imagine, once I started cleaning, tossing, and rearranging, the decrapification activities soon spread to the vanity drawers and to the cupboards under the sinks. I pulled out one of those small, lidded, plastic tote boxes, opened it and thought, "What the...?"

The box was half-full of dozens of travel-size bottles of shampoo, conditioner, lotion, soap, etc.-- all the same kind. The logo didn't really ring any bells, but then the fragrance hit me. These were toiletries from the resort in Puerto Rico where Todd and I stayed two years ago. It was the last trip we took, our only getaway without children, the singular real vacation in a decade.

We used the products the housekeepers laid out every day because it was good stuff, from Bath & Body Works' True Blue Spa line, specifically for after-sun care. I know that's why I took and kept the extra bottles and tubes, too, because I intended to use them after we returned home-- and then I shoved them in a box and forgot.

The smell of those products took me back to paradise, made me wish I was there... instead of where I was, sitting on my cold bathroom floor tile, staring at a tiny, Diego-underwear-clad tush, listening to the tinkle-stop-tinkle-stop-tinkle-stop of someone who has mastered a bit much control over his urination. In a way, I suppose I should have been recording that moment as a future memory, too. This house won't always have character-printed underpants, or little ones who want nothing more than to show off their peeing skills.

Isn't it funny how scents, tastes, sounds trigger memories? The taste of orange spice jelly beans reminds me of a candle my mom used to occasionally burn when I was a child. I hear Chicago's "You're the Inspiration" and I am back in the ninth grade, at our end-of-the-school-year dance. The smell of coconut air freshener will always transport me to the passenger seat of Kelly Miller's car. And when I hold stargazer lilies, it is again my wedding day.

Sniffing those lotions and potions today made my heart race a little bit. I thought of the sun and the sand and the quiet, and I longed to be back there-- just a little. I probably remember the vacation as being even better than it was. That's sometimes the cool thing about memories, too. Still, I didn't dwell on it.

Instead, I scolded myself for taking the hotel toiletries. I don't know why I do that. Actually, I do know why-- because it's free, because it seems wasteful if I don't (don't the housekeepers just throw them away when we check out, not knowing whether we've contaminated them?) because I have the intention of using them later, because my mother has always done it. I have, on occasion, donated all kinds of little toiletries to homeless shelters and to organizations that pack care packages for troops overseas. There are uses for them, other than just to clutter the bottom of my handbag.

Cleaning out the bathroom cupboards, I threw out an entire shopping bag of mostly empty bottles of lotion, oddly flavored toothpaste, expired antacids, and the like. But I didn't throw away the spa products from Puerto Rico. I packed them back in the box and tightly shut the lid. I'll open it again, the next time I need a little mental getaway.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Really Look

Here's another one of those "little things" that I'm recording because I want to remember it forever. Benjamin is always trying to get my attention. Instead of saying, "Look!" or "Look at..." or "Lookit, Mom..." he always exclaims, "Lookit at it, Mom!" Love that boy.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Back in Session

The two older girls went back to school today. This year, the calendars aligned just so with Holy Week, Easter, and a Catholic school teachers' convention, giving my children a full two-week spring break. It was too long.

Amanda and Elisabeth grumbled a bit for show, but they were happy to return to school. Libby's teacher returned from her maternity leave. Amanda was nursing a twisted ankle that surely brought her a little extra attention. Today's lunch menu was stacked with the ever-popular breakfast meal.

And then, the house was quiet.

I started making my to-do list for the day, thinking about all the places I could go and all the things I could accomplish with only two children in tow, instead of what had become the customary four. It's so weird how your perspective changes. I'm not knocking people who have only one or two children... I'm just thinking about myself, and how my routine has adapted over time.

I still remember my and Todd's first "outing" with Amanda. She was a week old. We made it to church. Things were going well. The baby was asleep. We decided to add a second destination, and drove to Babies R Us, to buy everything we didn't know we needed until we got our baby home. Once inside the store, Amanda started crying. I didn't know if she was wet or hungry or what. I started crying, too. I said to Todd, "I am such a horrible mother! I can't believe I took my one-week-old baby out of the house to go shopping! And now she is out of her element and I don't know how to fix it! I don't know what I was thinking! WE SHOULD HAVE STAYED HOME!" Todd talked me off the ledge... He directed me to the mothers' room where I nursed and changed Baby Amanda, while he shopped and gathered the rest of the items on my list. Then, we returned home and probably didn't leave for another week.

Now, I'm like, "Hey, only a baby and a preschooler? Cool, let's go shopping!" So, we did run some errands and have lunch with Daddy today. But we missed those big girls, too-- I guess we'd gotten used to having them around.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Case of the Missing Blankie

Elisabeth's blanket is missing. The last time I saw her, wandering around and sniffing the beloved blankie was on Friday afternoon. Libby agrees to the timeline, but no one seems to know where the warm wrap went. It has vanished.

This happens from time to time in our house-- a missing blankie, I mean-- but we've never had a renegade rag run off for three days or more. It's one of those situations that never ceases to annoy me, "Mom, do you know where my blankie is?" Why, yes, I was just snuggling with it over here... Why would I know where your blankie is?! You're the one who's always dragging it somewhere, no matter how often I urge, "You should leave that in your bed."

I do not know where Libby's blanket is. I don't know if a sibling took it and hid it. I don't know if I stuffed it somewhere in a mad fit of cleaning. I don't know if she took it to Grandma's house. But I have turned this house upside-down looking for the lost lovey. I especially want to find it for Libby's sake.

If it was Benjamin, or even Amanda, who was missing a blanket, the world as we know it would stop until that fuzzy friend was found. My other children would be so mournfully vocal about their loss, we would all have to put aside our lives to search. But, our Elisabeth, she suffers in silence. She wanders the house, looking for her blanket, mumbling to herself about where she might have left it. And keeping on.

I think it's important for children to have some way to soothe themselves... and all our kids have, on their own, opted for blankies. Libby actually had two blankets-- cut from the same cloth, literally. They were matching, handmade receiving blankets I had received as a gift. When she latched on, I thought, "Good choice. At least there's a backup." And there was a backup... until one evening, when Daddy took preschooler Amanda and toddler Libby to Home Depot. When it was time to leave and he was strapping the girls into their car seats, Libby threw some holy tantrum, as she was so apt to do, and threw her blanket out the car door. Daddy didn't notice until they were halfway home and her screaming slowed enough to become intelligible. Of course, he turned around and went back, but the parking lot (along with the store's lost and found) was empty. Blankie #2 was gone.

These days, five years later, Libby's only remaining blankie is a little worse for the wear. The colors are faded, the material has thinned. I've had to sew up a fair share of holes around the edges. But Elisabeth loves that blanket. Come out, come out, wherever you are.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Big 3-Oh

My baby sister is 30 today. What does that make me? Always older.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

These Shoes Are Made for Walking


Grandma and I-- along with Auntie Lisa, Benjamin, Elisabeth, and Amanda-- took Madeline to get her first pair of walking shoes. It's become a tradition... though by child four it starts to feel like more of a chore, and, at the same time, like more of an event. The girl always has an entourage! Maddy was not thrilled about the shoes-- kept curling up her toes so we were trying to fit Stride Rites on foot fists. But, we picked the cutest ones we could find (with Libby's approval, of course) so, hopefully, Madeline will be walking in her new shoes any day, now.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

On the Farm

Benjamin's preschool took a field trip to Gale Woods Farm. Nothin' says springtime like 50 preschoolers on the loose in a barn full of fat-sided pigs and cows ready to give birth. Since the older girls are still on Spring Break, we took them along-- Grandma, too. There were plenty of questions about why the eggs in the chicken coop were still warm and what got stepped in at the sheep stalls. Aah, fun on the farm!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Decrapification Project

Call it spring cleaning, if you must, but I contend I am turning over a new leaf. Recently, I visited the home of some friends and came away with a different perspective. In their home, I felt an overwhelming sense of peace. It was UNCLUTTERED. I liked it.

Now, I am not exactly a hoarder, but my trend is to buy too much, to keep too much, to have TOO MUCH STUFF. The closets are stuffed, the drawers are full-- don't open a cupboard too quickly or you may get bonked on the head. I think I have always been pretty good about getting rid of stuff... but then I just buy more stuff... so I never really get ahead of the game. I don't know why I do this-- whether I'm afraid we're going to run out; whether I find some sick pride in always having whatever someone, anyone needs; whether the shopping fills some kind of void for me. Spare me the psychoanalysis. It doesn't really matter.

After spending some time in my friends' haven, I decided it was time to make a change. Why keep 10 different tubes of hand cream when I really only like the scent of one? Who would ever need four industrial-sized bottles of ketchup in the pantry? How many white t-shirts can one woman wear? Doesn't Elisabeth have enough shoes? I vowed to stop buying things I didn't really need, didn't even really want, just for the sake of stockpiling. And, I'm getting rid of some of the excess.

After coming home each day for the past week-and-a-half and finding each day a stack of boxes destined for the Goodwill or some future garage sale, Todd coined the term "decrapification." He now asks, "What did you decrapify today?" or "How is the decrapification coming?" I loaded into boxes mini skirts that made Libby look like a teenager, because why would I save them for Madeline? I did not cry as the egg carton robot went into the trash. This morning, I packed up a box of garish Easter decorations. They were ugly when I bought them... Why have I been putting them out every year since-- just because I've been too cheap to buy something I actually like?

We are never going to be minimalists. With four children and a husband who seems to hold a sentimental attachment to everything, I am never going to get rid of all the stuff. But I am committing to some change for the sake of saner living:
*I am making a choice not to shop-- at least not to buy-- for entertainment purposes.
*Internalizing my brother's and SIL's philosophy on furniture shopping, and applying it to other areas like clothing, I am deciding not to make a purchase unless I truly love the thing.
*I'm also thinking about my parents' approach: Whenever they make a purchase, whether it's a chair or a sweater, they consider it an even trade. If a new arm chair comes into the house, one must leave.

Old habits die hard, so we'll see how long this lasts. I'm not saying I'm giving up shopping, or spending money in different ways... I just want to focus my efforts in ways that bring me more joy, simpler joy.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Saving the Best for Last

I don't know if you do this, but I have a habit when I eat of saving the best foods for last. I eat the stuff on my plate I'm not so crazy about, and put off eating whatever it is I really want to eat. I even do this with dishes like salad and stir fry-- pick out the so-so vegetables like carrots and set aside for last the broccoli florets and sugar snap peas.

It's a dumb habit... because it means I often fill up on what I don't love, and then end up gorging myself on the stuff I do love. My SIL's approach sometimes seems much more sensible: As we sit down to supper, she asks, "What's for dessert?" So, she can mete out her portions based on how much room she needs to leave for the best part at the end.

That was kind of what I did yesterday. In the middle of the afternoon, I helped myself to two slices of french silk pie. By suppertime, I was still so painfully full, I couldn't even think about eating "real" food. Truth be told, I couldn't even get off the couch to fix plates for my children who had just nibbled on pie and cake earlier in the afternoon and who were then whining they were hungry for supper. I'm not saying it was smart-- but sometimes, it feels good to be an adult and to make those stupid calls all by myself.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

"Alleluia" and Other A-Words


In their religious education, Amanda and Elisabeth have been taught that during the Lenten season, we do not say the word "ALLELUIA" as it means "Jesus is risen." So, today, on Easter Sunday, knowing that Jesus IS risen, the girls woke up asking, "Can we say the A-word today?!" It was a fun question, thrown into the mix of "Where did that bunny hide my basket?" and "Why can't I wear flip-flops with my Easter dress?"

Here are some more A-words that describe how we enjoyed the Easter holiday with our families:
ANTICIPATION: the palpable feeling in the air between 6 a.m. when the children awoke, and 7:01 a.m. when they dared to wake Daddy
ANNOYED: Daddy, when awakened
ADORABLE: the girls in their matching Easter dresses, Benjamin in his sportcoat
ABSURD: the amount of stuff in the Easter baskets at the grandmas' houses
ALIVE: how Todd said he felt running in the park and flying kites with the kids
A LOT OF WORK: what it took to fly those kites
AMPLE: size of Madeline's belly after she inhaled Auntie's special Easter egg cake
AGGRESSIVE: the necessary approach to the adult Easter egg hunt and following "Easter Grab"
AMUSING: some of the white elephant gifts in the Easter Grab
APPALLING: how badly some of us behaved trying to hold onto the real treasures of the Easter Grab
ALCOHOLICS: what Ted and Kristin must be after taking the top prize-- a bottle of Irish creme-- in the Easter Grab
ASTONISHED: what Terry was when no one tried to steal his can of Jig-A-Loo during the Easter Grab
ANNOYING: how Benjamin was, more than usual, running on too much sugar and too little sleep
ARCTIC: the climate in and around the lake when Dad, Ted and Todd put in Dad's dock
APPETITE: what I may never regain after how much I ate over the holiday weekend

Saturday, April 3, 2010

The Big Question

Walking out of church, Elisabeth grabbed my hand and asked, "Mom, how did Jesus' dying on the cross save all of us?" As I took a deep breath and began a rambling, mostly nonsensical explanation-- theologian I am not-- it occurred to me Libby's question was not one of logistics. It was one of sheer wonderment... and possibly mathematics.

My daughter wasn't accusing God of coming up with a confusing and painful plan. She wasn't thinking about heaven and hell, the forsaken and the saved. She was focused more on the ransom: How could the condemnation of ONE pay for the salvation of countless? As Daddy much more eloquently answered Libby when she repeated the question, "It was the perfect sacrifice. Jesus paid the price for all our sins." That. Is. Love.

Libby got quiet, seemingly satisfied with that answer, while obviously still mulling it over. It's not an easy concept to grasp for an adult, much less a child. The anguished wrestling with guilt is part of what makes this Holy Week so dark for Christians. The loving acceptance is what sends us out with joy, into the light of Easter morning.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Out of Ice


The ice is out on our lake. April 2 is the earliest ice-out date we can remember, though we've only been here a few years. And, I know only other people who live on lakes in the North even care about such news, so there you go. Todd anticipated the occasion this past week by purchasing a personal watercraft. You know it as a Jet Ski, but I guess that is a brand name, and not the brand he purchased, so I am learning the terminology.

Apparently, I have more lessons to learn. Todd has assured me he bought the new machine for me-- yes, me. The kids and I spend a lot of time by the lake in the summertime, try to invite over friends and such, and I will not take out the boat because it is so big and because I am afraid I will wreck something and then my children and I would be out on the street. So, Todd judiciously announced the personal watercraft was a gift for me, something much smaller to drive, especially during all those weekday hours when he is at work.

Have you ever seen a woman and four children on a Jet Ski?

Madelina Ballerina


With three girls in this house, let's just say there's no shortage of clothes. I buy (you know I buy.) Some stuff is handed down. Naturally, there are garage sale specials. And, then, there are gifts. Of course, the cutest outfits are gifts. I still remember when Amanda was about 12 hours old and the newly minted Auntie Ellen marched into the hospital room (her third visit that day) with the fanciest, frilliest, girliest dress imaginable. Three months later, Amanda wore it to Ellen's wedding, and rivaled the bride for most beautiful girl there.

Even though we've had girl after girl-- and, yes, I do recognize we also have a boy, but this post is about girl clothes and we all know little boys just have a t-shirt-and-wind-pants uniform-- the clothes keep coming. You'd think I'd just be able to put Elisabeth and Madeline in all of Amanda's first-worns... and I do, I really do... but the younger sisters have had more than their fair share of new clothes, too. I buy them new dresses for holidays and for photos. But the grandmas are the worst. In honor of any occasion, the cute new clothes keep coming out of the packages.

What I think is funny is that even having all these kids in a short amount of time, with all the baby showers and birthdays and Christmases and Valentine's Days and Arbor Days, we have never received "doubles" of any outfit. The choices for girl clothes are just so bountiful, I guess, that there hasn't been a good chance two gift-givers would make the same selection-- until now. Both Grandma P. and Grandma R. bought Madeline this "tutu cute" pajama set. Can you see why?

I'm not sure if it's because she is so stinkin' adorable, or because one of her many nicknames is "Madelina Ballerina," or because she's the last baby so we all feel this compulsion to dress her up in ridiculously adorable things, but this is definitely more over-the-top sleepwear than I've put on my other girls. She even wore the tutu to church.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Seasons Change

Spring is my least favorite season. Well, that's not true... winter is my least favorite season, because I HATE to be cold. But I really don't like spring, either. See how difficult I am? Spring is brown, and wet, and dirty-- really dirty, when you have four young children.

But spring in the Midwest is also comical. It can go from snow to rain to sun in a matter of hours. And it does. Last week, the mercury first edged toward 60 degrees and people broke out their shorts and flip-flops. Happens every year. Today, it's 80, and even I, the meanest of moms (as I'm often described to my face,) relented to the changing fashion.

The beginning of spring also signals the start of another season in Krinkeland: Daily Bath Time. After holding them to just a couple baths a week in the winter, to protect their fragile, scaly skin, it is now necessary to scrub down the children at least once a day. They find dirt where I would have thought no dirt existed, and they hide it in their unmentionables. Except, I just mentioned it. Happy Spring!