Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Gullible

The MIL needed to buy a new car. As many (sane) people would, left to her own devices, she would have gone to the local car dealer and told a salesperson what she wanted, and he or she would have found it for her and she would have bought it. But, for some reason, when she told me she was car shopping, I told her (somewhat insane) son. He has a different method.

After days of 'round-the-clock searching on Craig's List, ebay, and other car-selling websites, plenty of email and telephone exchanges, he did help find a car for his mother, and she did buy it. Along the way, however, I learned an important lesson. Some people are crooks.

While surfing the car listings, Todd occasionally came across one that seemed too good to be true. He emailed one "seller," basically asking, "What's the deal?" Here was the reply:

Hi,
I am selling this van because my platoon has been sent back to Afghanistan and don't want it get old in my backyard.The price is low because I need to sell it before June 30. It has no damage, no scratches or dents, no hidden defects.It is in immaculate condition, meticulously maintained and hasn't been involved in any accident.I do have the title , clear, under my name.The van has 95,000 miles, year 2006 and VIN : 5FNRL38426B038363.
It is still available for sale if interested, price as stated in the ad $5800.The van is in Great Falls, MT, in case it gets sold I will take care of shipping.Let me know if you are interested, email back.


I read the response when it came across my phone and immediately called Todd at work. I was excited and said he should talk to the guy more. Maybe it could be a good deal for both the serviceman and the MIL. It seemed like a bit of monkey business, but I told Todd, "We could help out an enlisted man and help your mom get a good deal on a car." My husband gently said, "No, Honey, it's a scam." I didn't believe him and asked him to continue the exchange, and I told his mom I thought we had a good lead on a car.

I noticed the email exchanges between Todd and the "seller" got increasingly stranger and shorter. Yeah, it was a scam. Luckily, I married up and the smart one saw through everything. He even suggested I Google "used car scam" and read the warnings that emerge.

But it gets funnier. A couple days later, Todd contacted someone with a different listing on a different website for a different kind of car, and got this response:

Hello,
I am selling this toyota because my unit has been sent back to Afghanistan and don't want it get old in my backyard. The price is low because I need to sell it in one week. It has no damage, no scratches or dents, no hidden defects. It is in immaculate condition, meticulously maintained and hasn't been involved in any accident.I do have the title , clear, under my name.The car has 55,007 miles, year 2006.
It is still available for sale if interested, price as stated in the ad $5,300.The car is in Great Falls, MT, in case it gets sold I will take care of shipping. Let me know if you are interested, email back.


I don't know if it was the same guy, or if there's some kind of cut-and-paste script for this stuff. But I am pretty sure by the second response, I would have caught on. Mean people suck.

Common Thread

I feel like kind of an outsider in this summer musical process. Part of it is that I've never worked with this particular community theater. And, partly, it's that it's been so long since I've been on stage, period. But there's also another part-- and that's my part. Playing the role of the Wicked Witch of the West in "The Wizard of Oz" makes me equally famous and infamous. Other actors don't seem too interested in sitting down and striking up a conversation with the West Witch.

The kids interest me most. I find I am watching the little actors and thinking about my own children, particularly the son, who is not in the show, and wondering how he will react. Benjamin says he wants to see the play, and I know he is an intelligent little boy who has already been exposed to theater. Still, when Mommy is on stage... but she's green... and she hangs out with Flying Monkeys... and then she melts... Well, I'm just not sure Ben will be able to process all that.

It is a lot to take in. The first few days of rehearsal, the Munchkins would physically flinch when I screamed on stage. These days, the younger ones mostly keep their distance, watching me with wary eyes. The preteens and teenagers, on the other hand, think it's great fun to get close, to poke fun, to tease me. I don't mind at all.

I noticed at rehearsal, however, one little boy, standing in the wings near me, watching me, and smiling. I ignored him for a while, but finally had to comment, "You know, you don't seem scared of me at all." The boy kept grinning as he shook his head and admitted, "I'm not." "Why not?" I asked. "Because I know you're actually human."

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Midnight Mommy

Most nights, I am awakened at some point by someone, standing at the side of my bed, saying, "Mommy." I must resist the urge to punch that person in the face, which comes up every time, partly because I'm ticked at being awakened but mostly because I think it's the natural fight-or-flight response that comes with someone standing close to me in the dark and calling my name. Two nights ago, it was Benjamin, requesting, "Mommy, I need someone to cuddle with me." Once I hugged him and turned him in the direction of the hall, urging, "No, you do not. Please, go back to bed," he started screaming. That woke Daddy-- which doesn't usually happen-- and that's when things got really ugly. Daddy picked up the boy by his elbows and carried Ben, as Ben carried on, back to his bedroom.

We are not cruel and unusual parents. Benjamin goes through these phases where he wakes up at night, every night... and he always wants company. Depending on the time of night, and how much actual sleep has already occurred, sometimes one of us complies. (Ben does have the comfiest mattress in the house.) Mostly, we just want to shut him up. But this was, like, night three or four in a row, and Todd and I were both exhausted.

An hour later, I was dozing again when Elisabeth took up the post, "Mommy," she stage-whispered, "I had a really bad dream." She was crying and shaking and I felt sorry for Libby... but not enough to let her into my bed. I told Libby to take her blanket and pillow and to make a bed on the floor, if that would comfort her. It did. The next morning, Todd and I were bemoaning the sleepless night. He was still in with Ben when Libby entered the scene, so he asked what was up with the daughter and I said, "Bad dream." Todd replied, "Yeah, I bet all those blood-curdling screams from her brother really put some scary thoughts into her head."

Last night, it was Amanda. The sight and sound of her next to my bed incites the most immediate and severe panic. Amanda is older, and extremely self-sufficient. She's been getting up to pee in the night since she was first potty-trained. She knows how to get some water or an extra blanket for her bed. Amanda rarely needs Mommy in the night.

I glanced at the clock: 3:29. Well, good, I thought. At least I've gotten four hours since I fell asleep in the middle of the taped episode of "The Bachelorette." I saw Ally kick Justin to the curb (something already spoiled by People magazine) but not much else. "What's wrong?" I hissed. "I'm itchy all over," Amanda said, scratching for effect. Whaaat? I thought. The chiggers are gone. Shes's had the chicken pox. It's been hours and hours since she ate anything. I dispatched her to the bathroom and crawled out from under the covers.

After blinding us both with the bathroom lights, I asked Amanda to show me where it itched. She had one big mosquito bite on each butt cheek. No systemic reaction. Call off the dogs. I handed her a tub of anti-itch cream and dug around for the Benadryl. After making sure that the salve did not contain the same antihistamine as the pill (see how astute I am in the wee hours?) I gave her one pill and a Dixie cup of water and then sent her back to bed with an "I love you."

Then, as is often the case, I couldn't sleep. When am I going to learn my lines for the play? Did I accidently put Todd's new silk pajama pants in the dryer? Why hasn't Madeline woken up tonight? Did Ally find out that Frank also has a girlfriend back home, just like Justin? (Sorry, another People spoiler.) Soon, the bathroom light down the hall flicked on and stayed on for a really long time. I figured Amanda was feeling a little scared, and continued laying there. Some great length of time later (seriously, like a half-hour) I heard the toilet flush. I got up to investigate.

Amanda was still standing in the middle of the bedroom. "What's wrong, now?" I asked. "My tummy really hurts, Mommy. It feels like someone punched me." Here we go again. Weeks without a stomachache... but, apparently, we're headed there tonight, too. I asked her when it started hurting and she said after she swallowed the pill. Ding! Ding! Ding! I explained that sometimes you can feel sick if you take medicine on an empty stomach. She really didn't want a snack, so I gave her some ice water and sent her back to bed. Again.

The next thing I remember, Todd was bellowing, "Can you get down here and give these kids some breakfast? I'm late for work!" Guess I was, too...

Monday, June 28, 2010

The 'Do


Ever since Molly McIntire came to live in Krinkeland last Christmas, she has been a ray of sunshine. Her books tell us stories of a different time. Her wardrobe and accessories, splayed out in each new catalog, give us plenty of options for gift-giving for any occasion. Molly has been a trusty companion and a good friend, in times of imagination and of realization, to Elisabeth. But that hasn't stopped Libby from trying to change Molly.

"Mom, can I take Molly's 'ber-aids' out?" (Yes, she always says it with two syllables.) Libby has been making her request consistently and persistently since the day after Christmas. Molly came with the most beautiful, braided, brunette ponytails, tied with red ribbons on the ends. I have warned over and over again, "I wouldn't. Once you take out Molly's braids, she'll never be the same."

Honestly, I don't care if she takes out the doll's braids. Elisabeth and Amanda's American Girl dolls are toys, playthings, props for their everyday lives. They are not collector's items or works of art. The girls (mostly) have respect for their things and take special care of the toys they cherish.

The reason I warned Libby to not remove the braids is that I knew once she did it, she'd be upset. Well, this evening, I was not eavesdropping and, therefore, did not intervene when, at her sister's urging, Libby finally did unbraid Molly's hair. It is now a crazy, frizzy mess that Molly's owner claims looks "kind of cool." Amanda spoke up, "Don't worry, Mom. I know how to braid. I told Libby I'd fix it whenever she wanted me to." This should be good.

I'm predicting 12 hours till tears... 12.5 hours until the start of pleas for me to make a hair appointment for Molly at the American Girl Store. Scary that this is my life. Scarier, still, that I know it so well.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

You Are Here

Someone in our lake association decided we should have our own logo wear. So, you know, like when you go on vacation and you buy the kids t-shirts that say "Lake Itasca State Park?" Well, we had the opportunity to order t-shirts, sweatshirts, and caps printed with the name of our lake. Maybe it is silly... but I thought they were kind of cute. A conversation starter. Bragging rights. Let the kids show their lake pride.

This is Todd modeling his new cap. Wow, talk about a back-up career possibility.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

His Father's Son

My Munchkins

The girls had a special play rehearsal this morning, dubbed "Munchkin Saturday." It was a very exciting time for them, with a long vocal rehearsal followed by their first blocking on the big stage where they will be performing. The director, who is an elementary music teacher by trade, works so beautifully with the children. She is infinitely patient and perfect for the job. I was in the auditorium for approximately three minutes before I wanted to slap the snot out of one of those mangy munchkins.

The director gave the kids a tour of the backstage area, explained terms like "downstage" and "sight lines," and told them how the show would run and ways they would be involved. During snack time, she sat with them, answering questions and gobbling up goldfish crackers. And, of course, with the drama and familiarity of the theater, the director suggests all the children call her, and the music director-- another long-time teacher, by their first names. It was all really cool and made me glad I'd made the commitment for my kids for this summer.

Most of the children's excitement came from seeing costume sketches, talking about props (which they CANNOT TOUCH) and a note from the costumer telling each child s/he needs to bring a little bag containing: mascara, eyeliner, and a neutral lipstick. My girls' eyes widened, and Amanda grinned and said it best: "This is some summer, Mom. We get to call adults by their first names AND wear makeup!"

Friday, June 25, 2010

Swimmers

Chiggers or no chiggers, this summer's session of swimming lessons started today in Krinkeland. Our friend, Kailee, who's also taking a full load of college courses and working part-time as a PCA, offered to teach the kids here at home, and I took her up on it. Another friend, whose kids are approximately the same ages and ability levels, brought her family for lessons, too.

The kids were thrilled to put on their bathing suits first thing this morning. Benjamin has never had lessons before, because he's not tall enough to touch the bottom of the public pool. Amanda, on the other hand, is nearly ready for the team. Elisabeth falls somewhere in between... but all were equally excited. (Well, except for Madeline, who was not on the roster this morning, and rebelled by nearly climbing out of her Pack 'N Play on the deck, and yelling, "Dada! Dada! Dada!")

Kailee first took the four girls. Zoe has a broken arm and couldn't do too much. But the others were kicking and floating and jumping, and eventually working on the elementary backstroke until their lips turned blue. Then, it was the boys' turn. We spent the first half-hour trying just to keep them out of the water and away from the girls' lesson... They finally decided to dig on the beach. The two younger ones were reluctant at first, but, once they warmed up to the idea of lessons, they were all smiles.

Then, they, too, got cold. Our lake is spring-fed and most people consider the water temperature too cold to go in before the Fourth of July. However, my kids apparently didn't get that memo, and have been swimming since mid-May. Anyway, Ben, in the middle of his lesson, suddenly told Kailee, "I'm done now. I'm going to get a snack," and started walking toward the house. The teacher said if both boys hadn't been shivering so badly, she would have called him back.

I'm thankful the rain held off for the morning... and I'm looking forward to a warm, sunny string of lessons next week. So is Kailee. So, importantly, are the children.

A Scratch, Scratch Here and a Scratch, Scratch There

After my kids and Grandma had been in the water for about two hours, one of the neighbors called and said, "Say, I notice your kids have been swimming... do you know about the chiggers?" UGH.

Yes, last year was the first year we noticed them. And, same week this year, the chiggers are back. Basically, when you live on a lake, at least one where the area along the shore is habitat to certain species of snails and ducks, you're prone to this nasty pest. I won't go into detail-- because it's gross-- but chigger bites are little red bumps that don't hurt when you get them... But, by later that day, a fierce itch sets in.

Lake dwellers swear by different repellents to ward off chiggers and by different remedies to treat the nasty bites. Todd got them last year and swore nothing worked. Numerous people have suggested covering each bite with either liquid bandage adhesive or clear nail polish. We have found the combination sunscreen/bug repellent called "Bull Frog" seems to do a pretty good job at preventing the chiggers from setting in. And, beyond that, it's key to completely shower straight out of the lake (don't let the lake water dry on your body) and to even soak in vinegar to kill the chiggers. "We smell like pickles!" the kids exclaim. Then, we treat with oral Benadryl and topical Lanacane.

With that knowledge and those tools, we actually managed to keep the kids from getting too many lesions. Elisabeth has really been scratching her backside... but she would probably do that, anyway. The good news is a chigger hatching/infestation/I don't know what you call it only lasts about a week. And one of my friends said her kids got all chewed up way last Friday, so we should be nearing the end. As my biologist mother is quick to point out, "It's not a pool."

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

More Rules

Mommy was especially cranky this morning, following a long night of thunderstorms, whining baby, and leaky Pull-Ups. We had all been sitting at the kitchen table for breakfast for about five minutes when I was plain fed up with the bickering. "NO MORE!" I scolded.

*"No more bad words (poop, stupid, shut up.)"
*"No more name-calling."
*"No more whining."
*"No more tattling."
*"No more threats."

Then I asked, "Do you know what a threat is?" (blank stares) "A threat is when you tell someone what you're going to do to them." (For example, in church on Sunday, Todd was holding Madeline when Maddy's foot brushed the top of Benjamin's head, keeping in line with Ben's already well-established track record of constantly being underfoot. Ben grabbed Maddy's tiny shoe and yelled, "I'm going to kick you in the head when we get home!")

But, that was way back on Sunday. This morning, in response to my definition, Amanda asked, "'I'm going to feed you some cotton candy'-- Is that a threat?"

When does school start again?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Getting Put Through the Paces

As is always the case when rehearsals begin for a show, (it's all coming back to me now,) much of the time has been spent blocking. For the non-thespian among us, "blocking" is the process of planning where, when, and how actors will move about the stage during a performance. It can be a whole lot of hurry-up-and-wait, which, I guess is an important lesson in itself to my would-be actor offspring.

In the opening "Oz" scene, as the Munchkins welcome Dorothy to their land, Elisabeth got an extra little part as a "tot" who sings "We represent the Lullaby League," with a couple other girls, and they do a tiny dance. Since I am so skilled in the movement department, I actually recorded the dance sequence on my phone so I'd be able to practice with Libby at home.

We were blocking one scene where my character appears in a cloud of smoke, screeches, scares the poop out of everyone, and vanishes (which, is pretty much what my character does every time she's on stage.) One of the high school kids who plays a principal role tried to give me some ribbing. "Oh, look, the witch is taking notes," he teased. I gave him my best mother look and said, "Yes, I'm writing down what the director tells me to do, so the next time we run this scene, I'll do it correctly." The director looked at the boy and said, "You should try it sometime."

Score one for the old bat.

Laying Down the Law

We had a little grace period last week. It was the first full week school was out. Things were kind of crazy around here with the garage sale and the start of play practice and all. The kids pretty much did what they wanted-- the quieter and the neater, the better.

But sedentary we are not. And sedentary we will not be.

I lined them all up and explained the household ordinances for the summer. There are limits on the amount of television watched, on the number of video games played. We will go swimming, I said. We will practice piano and music for the show, I vowed. We will ride bikes, I promised. We will sign up for the library's summer reading program, I suggested.

While the younger two were napping, I took the bigger two outside to swim. (Granted, I sat and read a magazine, but I never said the rules applied to Mommy.) The neighbor girl and her friend came bounding over and soon I overheard Amanda lament: "My mom said we can only watch TV for ONE HOUR A DAY... and we can only play on the computer or play our DSes for a half-hour a day... and we have to make our beds and put away our laundry every day... And we're NOT EVEN BEING PUNISHED! THAT'S JUST THE WAY IT'S GOING TO BE, EVERY DAY!"

Monday, June 21, 2010

Those Are Some Keen Shoes


I bought the older girls each a pair of these Keen Newport H2 sandals as their official summer shoes. We're inside/outside/in-and-out of the lake all the time. And I hate the shuffling walk and scuzzy look of flip-flops on little kids. Plus, I wanted something they could wear to play rehearsal and even to school, so they had to have enclosed toes and heels.

I'd seen shoes similar to these on kids at school, and my SIL has some in this brand and really likes them. I did all the online research and read some great reviews. The problem was finding them. I could order them online, but the one sticking point was a lot of reviewers said it was kind of difficult to get a correct fit. Plus, there was no real price break for ordering online, so, if we did have fit issues, I figured they would be more difficult to remedy.

So, I waited till Saturday, when I would have Daddy's assistance, and mapped out the one outfitter and one shoe store I knew carried the shoes, and off we went. This wonderful, patient, and brave clerk helped us. She pulled out the exact shoes we were looking for, in a couple different sizes, as well as similar styles for comparison. She explained to the girls there weren't many color choices in their respective sizes-- it being so "late in the season" and all-- but she talked up the colors they did have. She explained to the girls how to adjust the various straps and made sure there was enough toe room to get them at least through the summer and into the fall.

The girls made their choices, asked if they could wear the new shoes, and packed up their old ones in the empty boxes. Just then, Todd, who had been entertaining the younger population, walked up and asked, "What are those and how much do they cost?!" Uh-oh, busted. Yes, each pair did cost more than I had ever previously spent on a pair of children's shoes (or most of my own, for that matter.) Todd thought the shoes were ugly. He thought the girls' feet would get hot. He thought the soles would get slimy. He did not like the shoes and he was staging his opposition.

Todd walked around selecting various hiking sandals and tennis shoes. He asked the poor clerk to pull out pair after pair and to try them on the girls. She dutifully did. Amanda and Elisabeth complained. One shoe was too tight. Another had a strap that rubbed. Yet another had a "bumpy tongue." Todd was concerned about fit. He suggested adjusting laces. He asked whether one needed a wide width. Finally the clerk gently offered, "I think these shoes fit fine. I just don't think they like them."

Daddy surrendered and switched tactics. He now wanted to find hiking sandals for Madeline. "That's crazy!" I said. "It's hard enough for a new walker to get around without stumbling over sandals. Plus, who would spend that kind of money on baby shoes?!" Upon trying them on, we soon discovered I was right about the sandals. However, we also discovered Maddy's feet had grown a full size since she got her walking shoes in the spring. So, we found these New Balances for her instead.

Oh, and don't think we left Benjamin out of the mix. It's just that you'll remember his feet have suddenly grown and he is later this week going to be measured for new ankle and foot braces. So, he will be getting new shoes after that happens... and after we cough up the mega copay. Plus, Todd just ordered him some hiking sandals to match Daddy's. They should be on the doorstep any day now.

The moral to this story is who does NOT get new shoes. Sigh. But, I wouldn't have it any other way.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Tie That Binds (Up People in Giggles)

On Christmas, Benjamin refused to wear a tie to church. This morning, he refused to go to church without one. I pick my battles, and this was not one I chose to fight. He got quite a few looks, quite a few comments. After mass, the priest even complimented Ben on his outfit and told me, "I saw Ben coming in that get-up and started laughing. Completely forgot the prayer I was supposed to say." Sorry, God.

Oh, Father

I overheard my MIL ask Todd, "Did you ever think you'd be the father of four children?" He just nodded and smiled.

Happy Father's Day to the FATHER OF MY FOUR CHILDREN. When it was just you and me, I thought I knew what love was. Then, I saw you with our child-- and came to know an entirely different kind of love, a deeper love, a better love.

Thanks for going to work every day, without ever complaining, to provide me and the kids with things they don't even know other people do without. Thanks for rocking Madeline and singing to her so I don't always have to get out of bed. Thanks for cleaning up barf. Thanks for sitting with Benjamin every evening for a bedtime snack that will hopefully help him gain weight (while I just sit around and complain he's too skinny) and for practicing phonics with Ben while he snacks. Thanks for making sure all the kids do a good job brushing their teeth. Thanks for hugging the girls and telling them they're pretty. Thanks for spending the morning of Father's Day washing windows.

Todd often says having children is the one thing he is certain he did RIGHT. Choosing him to be Dad is something I know I did right. If the trim doesn't get put up in the kitchen... if the cars don't get cleaned out... if the laundry room counter doesn't get installed... but if, instead, my kids get their dad's love and attention every day-- then we're doing something right.

Thanks to our dads for teaching us how to parent. Happy Father's Day!

A Fine Day for a Parade

The girls and I participated in our town's annual parade over the weekend, to help with publicity for the community theater and what is sure to be a crowd-drawing summer show. The parade was long and the wait agonizing, but the weather was beautiful. Madeline loved every moment of the parade. She even liked the cotton candy once Uncle Teddy pried open her jaws to get her to try it. Todd clearly loves a parade... as evidenced by the dozens of random photos he took. (The "Wizard of Oz" float is the one with the balloon rainbow.)

Friday, June 18, 2010

Week in Review

So, I've been buried under piles of my family's crap... haven't had time to write and tell you about everything that's going on in Krinkeland (other than an exhausting, but successful, and now finished garage sale.)

*My mom spent her 60th birthday helping me with the big sale. Can you think of a better way to celebrate? She topped it off by taking in Kazmer's first soccer game. Her birthday... and she spends it giving gifts to her daughter and her grandson. My mother.

*Play rehearsal, thus far, has largely involved blocking and vocal practice. The girls had to attend a couple days I didn't, since they sing in the chorus parts, and I-- being green-- do not. Amanda pointed out to me that I really should feel "insulted" since I am the only member of a cast of 60 who does not sing in the musical. "What does that tell you, Mom?" the darling daughter asked me. I just laughed. But she must have also said something to the director and/or the musical director because when I showed up at the theater earlier this week, they asked (no, told) me to have the witch make a special appearance and sing a verse in one of the group numbers.

*We had a major bout of severe weather late yesterday. A tornado warning delayed the start of rehearsal, which I thought was a bit extreme, until my mom screamed, "Everyone in the basement! I SEE THE ROTATION OVER THE LAKE!" A tornado did touch down, about two miles north of our house. We did wait out the storm under the basement stairs-- and our home suffered no damage.

*Madeline now has four teeth. Her top two are broken through and moving down and they are BIG and CUTE.

*She is also walking more and more and more. She gets too excited and hurtles herself forward. It's so fun to watch.

*Every day, my kids and their views on life make me laugh:
Amanda: "When I grow up and get married, we are just going to buy a house instead of build one-- it seems like less work."
Mom: "OK."
Dad: "You don't want your daddy to build you a house someday?" (I know, right? Milk came out of my nose.)
Amanda: "Well, maybe... But if that happens, we should ask Kazmer to help us." (Kaz has expressed a desire to become a house builder when he grows up.) "And Grandpa."
Elisabeth: "Unless Grandpa's dead by then."
Mom: "Grandpa will still be around when you guys get married and get your own homes."
Amanda: "Yeah, he'll probably just have a cane."
Elisabeth: "Or one of those scooter things."

*And that's far from the only instance:
I was telling the girls about two of Amanda's classmates who visited the garage sale while my kids were on an adventure with their grandparents. I told Amanda one of the girls had cut her hair very short. Amanda exclaimed, "Why would she do that?!" I said it was sometimes fun to try something different with your hair, and, even if you cut it short, it will always grow again. Amanda started talking about another classmate-- a boy-- and said his mother was going to clip his hair into a mohawk for the summer. Libby remarked, "I think that's a bit inappropriate-- don't you?"

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Inheritance, Inschmeritance

Overheard in the toy room while playing house:

(Libby is playing both the child and the mother)
"Mom, why are you so rich?"
"Because your father died... and then I took his wallet."

Up to my eyeballs in decrapification for the annual Krinkeland garage sale-- which is so huge I only get around to having it about every three years. Upon seeing the piles in the garage, my friend commented, "You are a 'multi-family sale' all by yourself." She also threatened to advertise the sale as "Exploding Garage Sale Straight Ahead!" Will write more later in the week... once I dig out.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Bowl Me Over-- It's a Birthday Party!

Last week, my mother retired. This week, she will turn sixty. She planned her own birthday party today, something that was right up the grandkids' alley-- at River City Extreme. Everyone got to bowl, eat, play in the arcade, and play mini golf, and the kids all jumped in the bounce house-- even Madeline! Elisabeth told Grandma it was the best birthday party she'd ever attended.

A Fate Worse Than Death

To kill two birds with one stone on this busy morning, I got the big girls going on their bath and then jumped in the shower. In our bathroom, the tub and shower are separated by a glass block wall; it lets in light, but you can't see through it. Amanda and Elisabeth were being their usual delightful selves-- splashing to make puddles on the floor, talking about "poop," tattling on each other for drinking the bath water. Then, Libby exclaimed, "What's Mom doing?! I can't see her!" Amanda must have tried to see through the glass block, too, and jumped in with her primary school humor, "She must be dead!" "No, it's worse," Libby cried. "She's NAKED!"

Friday, June 11, 2010

Ready to Rehearse

We had our first rehearsal for "The Wizard of Oz." In addition to introductions of all the cast and crew members, there was a complete script read-through and measuring for all the costumes. When we arrived and looked over the cast list, the girls discovered they actually have two roles in the show: each will be a Munchkin and a Snowflake. I thought this would surprise and delight them.

The surprise and delight lasted approximately 10 minutes, before the "I'm bored," "I'm hot" and "I'm tired" began. I started practicing my evil cackles, and I can tell it's going to take some work to be convincingly nasty and still protect my voice. Amanda, in particular, seemed irked by the attention I was receiving and did her best to upstage me. She made a point of asking the director when she was going to get her music so she could start rehearsing her "lines," and, later, in the scene where my character is dying, as I called out, "I'm melting... melting...," Amanda picked up her water bottle and pretended to pour water on my head, so she could get the big laugh.

While all this was going on, Daddy was at home, dealing with this:

This is going to be an interesting adventure for all of us.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Endings, Beginnings


Elisabeth graduated from kindergarten this morning. There was a closing ceremony/church service, and Libby was chosen to read the welcome/introduction. She did a wonderful job and we are so proud of her. I can't believe we have a FIRST GRADER in the house!




And a THIRD GRADER! Amanda said "goodbye" to her teacher and her class... with a special "thank you" to the school nurse, Amanda's constant companion in recent months. We are looking forward to many fun adventures for the summer.



Today is also my mom's final day in the classroom. She is retiring as a middle school science teacher. I don't know how she did it all these years. Mom left the classroom when she became a mother, and returned once her youngest child was in school. She's been there ever since.

I was in junior high around the same time my mom returned to teaching. I liked it because I had a chauffer to and from school, and I could hang out in her room before and after class. Plus, I was always the kind of kid who liked to have my mommy around. But, sometimes, the other kids would give me grief because my mom ACTUALLY TAUGHT. She required students to work, to ask questions, to answer questions, to learn.

I didn't appreciate it at the time. I was 14-- I didn't appreciate ANYTHING. But, as I grew older, I came to understand the discipline my mother exhibited, the standards she upheld, the model she was. Students learned from my mother. They couldn't help themselves. And she can't help teaching; even outside the classroom, she is teaching my children and my nephews new things every day. What's more, she loves to learn. I have never heard my mother utter one of my catch phrases: "Nah, I know enough." My mother is not like all teachers... but all teachers should be like my mother.

As anyone who has ever been a (good) teacher knows, it is endless, exhausting work. Now that my mom is retiring, I hope she will take time for herself, to enjoy her days, to set the work aside, to not choke Dad. Congratulations, Mom! And Amanda! And Elisabeth! Happy summer vacation!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Clean-Up On Aisle Four

While I was "oohing" and "aahing" over all the end-of-the-year projects Elisabeth and Amanda pulled from their bulging school bags, Benjamin "decorated" himself and Madeline with permanent, red marker-- including faces. Why? "Because we're putting on a show, DON'T YOU KNOW, MOM?!" (This is what they looked like after the shower... the marker, yes, permanent, faded some to hot pink.) It's going to be a fun summer.


Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Cast

We got the exciting news that Amanda, Elisabeth and I all have roles in the local community theater's summer production of "The Wizard of Oz." They will be Munchkins and I will be the Wicked Witch of the West. Guess I just couldn't hide my true colors. Benjamin and I have had a great time rehearsing, "I'll get you, my pretty. And your little dog, too." That is, until he cackled the line at his phy. ed. teacher, Pam. He made me promise to ask when I get to the read-through whether my face will be green.

Rehearsals begin later this week. They will consume much of our summer. The shows run the last two weekends in July, and I expect you all to attend-- and to bring your friends. Click here for dates/times and ticket info.

In other major developments, I took Benjamin to visit the orthotist because he's been complaining his ankle braces hurt. It turns out his feet have grown a half-inch in length since we got these new braces in February. That's wonderful news, considering we sometimes feel as though he never grows, particularly in the feet department. But it's not going to be much fun dealing with the insurance company, convincing them to cover another set of expensive orthotics in just four months' time.

Equally exciting and distressing, Madeline is making great strides with walking. She has now begun standing up on her own in the middle of the room and taking a few steps. I'm excited for her to be able to walk-- just not particularly excited for her to actually walk. That's a whole new ball game.

And, just because it's cute, here's video of Maddy enjoying a mini-sopapilla at lunch. All that tongue action is to lick the cinnamon-sugar from her lips:

How Do You Spell Relief?


This is just a brief tribute to my favorite over-the-counter medication, Excedrin Migraine. I am not sure how these little pills work on migraine headaches, since, to my knowledge, I've never had an actual migraine. However, for your everyday I-can't-believe-this-is-my-life pounders, it works wonders.

Oh, and, speaking of headaches (just kidding,) Happy Birthday yesterday to my SIL, Lisa, who is currently the same age I am. (That joke never gets old.) Somehow, yesterday just got away from me... but I was thinking of her.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Buff at TriBuff

Todd completed his third triathlon this morning. The weather was beautiful... the kids were excited... it was a great day for a race! Todd was 98th overall, out of more than 700 competitors finishing the entire sprint course. For those not keeping track, that's a 1/4-mile swim, followed by a 13-mile bike ride and a 3-mile run. Todd improved his time over last year's by about six minutes, and was pretty pleased with his results-- except for when he fell off his bike coming back into the transition area (fancy shoe clip didn't release.) The other guy in the photos is his friend, Todd, who also raced well, especially considering he has bronchitis.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Auditions

Auditions were today for our local community theater's summer production of "The Wizard of Oz." A month or two ago, when we began making plans for the summer, both Amanda and Elisabeth expressed an interest in trying out for the show. My first thought was, "Really? What fun!" But it was followed immediately by, "Ugh. That would be a huge commitment and a LOT of work."

They kept on talking about it, so I told them if they followed through with preparing audition songs, not only would I take them, but I would try out with them. Solidarity, I figured. Show them it's not so hard. Since I really didn't think there would be a part that's a good fit for me, anyway, I didn't see much harm in it. I figured, best case scenario: both girls get cast as munchkins (though Amanda did ask whether she might be Toto) and I do not get cast, but show them I can be rejected and still get on with living. Have to learn those lessons, too.

My sister helped the girls choose and rehearse songs, and my MIL added gestures. All I had to do was brush their hair out of their eyes and get them to the theater. There were about 15 or 20 children, aged three to 11, auditioning in the group with my girls. Auditions were open, with all the wanna-bes, their parents, their agents (kidding) and all other interested parties sitting in the theater together... all listening, comparing, critiquing, making their picks. "Oh, boy," I thought, "this is gonna get interesting."

As you might imagine, some of the children refused to set foot on stage. Others sort of sang "Happy Birthday" or "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" to their shoelaces. Still others were well rehearsed and ready for their big moments. Luckily, thankfully, my girls both fell into this group. I could not have been more proud, as each girl belted out her song, complete with movements, remembering all the words, and looking out over the audience. Whether or not they get cast, they are my little stars-- and I told them so.

After the kids' auditions were complete, it was the adults' turn (well, anyone over five feet tall.) Holy cow, did my perspective change by not having set foot on a stage in 15 years. While I was certainly never Broadway-bound, I did quite a bit of amateur theater in my preteen, teenage and young adult years. It's how I met my husband, actually. But that was a looong time ago.

I used to walk into a cattle call, look around, and think, "Am I the most talented person here? Am I the prettiest? Am I the best fit for the part I'm after?" I remember praying to God that I would be cast in whichever part I sought. Today, I was surrounded by two dozen teenage girls who all wanted to be Dorothy. I giggled inside and told myself I would not be praying for a part in the show. I have much bigger issues these days with which to bend the Lord's ear. "However, God," I murmured, "It would be nice if I didn't fall off the stage."

I did survive. I wasn't the best. I wasn't the worst. It is what it is, and I am certainly fine with that. When I was a kid, I wouldn't tell many people I was going to an audition, to cut down on embarrassment in case I didn't get cast. I have grown up. I do not care.

When we first started talking about doing this show, my younger, prettier, more talented sister said we both should try out. In her signature style, she suggested she would be perfect for Glinda, the Good Witch... and declared I, therefore, could be the Wicked Witch of the West. I was kind of leaning more toward a chorus part in a crowd scene-- but this show doesn't really have that (at least not for actors over three feet tall.) Anyway, my sister went to a different community theater audition and got cast as Maria in "The Sound of Music," so, no matter what happens, we won't be sharing a stage this summer.

Callbacks are still a couple days away. I'm kind of regretting writing on my audition sheet, "We're interested in participating as a family." Instead, I want to go back and tell the director, "You don't have to cast me, but you better pick my girls!" I'm pretty confident they are shoo-ins. It's in the genes (from their father.)

When we returned home, Benjamin greeted me at the door and told me, "You have to wear green face makeup if you're going to be the witch, Mommy!" Why does everyone assume I'm a witch?

Friday, June 4, 2010

On the Move

Daddy, fresh off an overnight flight, followed by about four hours of greatly interrupted sleep (guess everyone could sense he was home,) got up this morning and went to school to volunteer for Track and Field Day. He coached Amanda's team, the Red Rock Stars. Elisabeth was on the Purple Pumas. Grandpa P. was in charge of the hurdles.

The Rock Stars won FIRST PLACE overall! The Pumas won the Tug-O-War! (I'm guessing Libby was the anchor.) A good time was had by all.

Later, back at the ranch, Madeline competed in her own event:

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Whirlwind

On top of the usual stresses of Todd being gone, this week is like the busiest in all of recorded history, isn't it? I'm still recovering from yesterday's birthday festivities. My SIL turned 30! Ah, remember 30?

OK, it wasn't exactly a wild and raucous celebration, but we had to do something. My sister and my SIL like the girly crap, so we got pedicures. No one in the salon spoke English, but I'm pretty sure the little, mean one who beautified me was telling her cohorts, "Check out the hairy toes on this broad!"

This morning, I had the great fortune, along with a lot of other dedicated parents, of chaperoning an end-of-the-school-year field trip to the zoo. The place was a ZOO. The new polar bear exhibit opened, so that added to the excitement and the crowd. The highlight for me was watching the mama orangutan care for and play with her baby. Had me rethinking my view of the whole evolution thing. Just kidding.

One of my little charges continuously complained she was hungry, even after eating all of her lunch and half of mine. Another was terrified of the giant polar bear puppet (two people in a bear suit) trotted out for the special event. We had a crochety, bumper-sucking bus driver who nearly killed us twice, but definitely got us back in time to squeeze in a smoke before starting his middle school route.

And that was just the start of the day. I knew I had to make my way to my MIL's house, because she was taking care of the younger two. But, first, we had some more stops.

Amanda, Elisabeth and I drove to check out an area YMCA camp. Amanda has been telling me she desperately wants to go to camp this summer... and I could not cut the apron strings just yet to allow her to go to sleep-away camp (even though our adorable babysitter, who doubles as a camp counselor, offered to take the first born under her wing.) Anyway, some other mothers had told me about this Y camp (actual quote: "I don't know exactly what they do, but my kids have a ball and come home really dirty.") and the camp was having an evening open house. I knew, due to other events on the calendar and the absence of my husband, that we couldn't make the hours of the open house, but I figured I could at least make a quick car tour of the grounds to check things out. We were met in the parking lot by the camp director, who was just beginning to assemble his troops for a debriefing before the big event. He offered to give me and the girls our own, private tour. The place was a dump, but, from the way he described things, it sounded like kid paradise. Libby now says she wants to go to camp, too. Where do we sign up?

Next stop, my friend Chris' studio, where I was excited to pick up the digital proofs from Madeline's one-year photo session. He also put together this sneak peek:

I know, I know-- cutest baby ever. There are many more photos than just these... It'll be tough to decide.

From there, we had supper at Grandma and Grandpa's and retrieved the other offspring. Then, we went to catch part of my BIL's spring choir concert. Due to budget cuts and I don't know what all else, his position as high school choir director has been drastically cut for the upcoming school year, greatly reducing musical opportunities for students. So, this was the last performance of the Elk River High School Chamber Choir. As an alumna of the Chamber Choir (1990-1992,) I find the whole situation sad. As a parent of hopefully arts-minded children, I find it disturbing.

As someone who stayed only until my youngest child started shrieking (22 minutes,) I am glad the day is over. All are in bed. That husband better be on a plane, on his way back here.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Really Bad At This

I would be the worst single parent ever. I know I've said it before, but that won't stop me from saying it again. Todd's "one night" business trip to San Jose will soon enter its fourth day. So, I guess everything's not working out so well for him, either.

At this moment, I'm feeling compelled to issue three important disclaimers:
1. I know he would rather be home with us. I'm not suggesting business trips are all fun and games. I respect the work my husband does and you better believe I like the paycheck he delivers home and signs right over to me.
2. I know I am the mother to all these children and it is my job, my career, my calling to raise them. All the time. No one else's responsibility. Mine.
3. I know being married to an engineer who occasionally must attend a conference or visit a vendor is not in line with being married to an enlisted man, a doctor, a police officer, a pilot. I am not making that comparison. I know how good I have it.

But, today, I am WORN OUT. The kids have gotten the best of me. I definitely think I am getting the worst of them. We are all out of whack, and we need DADDY! I especially do.

I could not be the wife of an enlisted man, a doctor, a police officer, a pilot. Todd and I talked about it before we were married. I didn't want to commit to someone who was not going to be physically present. Every day. All the time. Yes, sure, occasionally a meeting will go late. Of course, there should be an annual fishing trip with the guys. But, mostly, I need my husband and co-parent, my best friend and sparring partner, my lawn boy and back-of-the-head hair stylist, here.

I do not do well on my own. I lose my patience with the kids. I forget my list at the grocery store. I wash a red sock in the white load. I make frozen chicken nuggets and tater tots for every meal. I drink too much Diet Dew. (And you know it's a lot if I say it's too much.) I lay in bed at night and fret over everything, anything that could go wrong with the kids, with the house, with the car while he's gone.

Last night, as we started saying prayers, Benjamin tackled Amanda in her bed. With one flick of her femur, Amanda sent Ben flying and he whacked his head on the corner of the dresser. I felt like Lou Ferrigno as I tensed up and screamed "Nooooo", scolded both of them, checked out Ben's noggin and banished everyone-- including myself-- to bed. But, I lay there for hours, worrying whether Ben might actually have a head injury. And, if symptoms presented themselves during the night, which relative would I wake up and ask to come over so I could take Ben to the emergency room? And, would they be understanding of my need to drive him 30 miles further to the children's hospital because the local community hospital wouldn't be good enough for my baby? And would I call Todd to tell him what was happening or wait until I knew something? And what time is it in California, anyway?

It's just better when he's here.

p.s. I am now certain Benjamin does not have a head injury. The symptoms of being unable to find his shoes, whining, and being generally obnoxious began long before the fall.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Wipeout

I can't believe I'm saying this, but I'm ready for the kids to be on summer vacation. My kids are ready for summer vacation. They are WIPED OUT.

There was wailing and screaming and gnashing of teeth this morning when it was time to get them up and ready for school. Amanda complained her nose hurt. (If you read the sunscreen bottle closely, it does advise reapplication every two hours. Oops.) We had to put anti-itch cream on all the bug bites and comb out the tangles that come from falling asleep with wet hair because they had quick showers after spending the day in the lake. Libby scrambled to find "real shoes," after shuffling around all weekend in flip-flops.

With the early spring and beautiful weather, we have simply checked out of school mode already. And, that's bad, because there are still TWO WEEKS of class left. It's weird I'm complaining... because I am also the first to grumble at all the days off the kids get during the school year. Generally, I WANT THEM TO BE IN SCHOOL.

That's still true. It's just that the calendar now says "June" and I'm pretty sure the children's little brains and little bodies are already on vacation, anyway. It's so light outside so late into the evening, it's difficult to convince the children it's really bedtime. And they'd much rather ride bikes or go swimming than read or practice spelling words. Truthfully, I feel the same way. I'd rather let them help me pull weeds than have them practice piano. But, all this comes from a house that does have some semblance of a schedule. True, we are not as regimented as we should be, as we could be... But, every night, I am calling in the girls for baths and bedtime as the little neighbor girl grabs her life jacket to go on a pontoon ride or begins asking when someone at her house is going to make supper.

If things are like this at home-- just trying to get to school-- I can't imagine what it's like inside that building all day. I hope they're getting extra recess. The teachers need it.