Thursday, September 30, 2010

Out of Control

I don't know whether Daddy is checking on us from Germany, but, if so, he's gotta see this: See how the children behave when I'm trying to ignore them?

Even the one-year-old is jumping on the furniture. And the eight-year-old is videotaping her! They are both so naughty. Don't worry-- I sent them both to bed without supper (or is it without their mittens?)... as soon as I stopped laughing.

Boob in a Vise

I did it-- I had my first mammogram today. I believe general medical guidelines say a baseline mammogram should be done at age 40. I'm only 36, but, with a family history of fibrocystic breast disease and a maternal grandma who had colon cancer, I'm considered somewhat higher risk. My doctor suggested the test when I was 35, but I was nursing a baby then, so, he said a mammogram would be "inconclusive-- and messy."

I had heard all the horror stories, mostly from my mother, who, after her recent test, filled me full of lines like, "How do you think it feels to have your boob clamped in a vise?" and "No, I can't stand on my tiptoes!" To tell the truth, I didn't have much anxiety about the whole mammogram scene. I have a friend who has such a prevalent family history of the really nasty breast cancer that she gets breast MRIs every six months and she's considering prophylactic mastectomies-- I'll save my anxieties for her. For me, this mammogram was really just another thing to cross off the list. At least, that's how I was feeling until I met Sherry.

Sherry the mammography technologist met me in the waiting area and showed me to her "torture chamber" (her words, not mine.) Sherry had a huge, fake grin on her face and it soon became apparent to me that Sherry had not taken her Risperdal this morning, because I found myself shut in a small room with, in alternating waves, Sherry the Sweet, Sherry the Stern, Sherry the Sentimental, and Sherry the Silly. She first said to me, "You look really nervous." I assured her I was not. I mean, I wasn't like, "Yippee! Boobie panini!" But, I was out on a beautiful day, with no children in tow, visiting an area of the clinic where I was unlikely to catch anything, and had plans with myself to peruse all the cute, downtown, "don't touch" shops once I was done with the test.

She next launched into a full-blown rant about federal regulations and how women lobbied Congress for my right to these mammography results. Sherry showed me the different colors of postcards which could be showing up in my mailbox in the next two weeks, and told me not to worry if I received a certified letter-- it was just the only way the radiologist could be certain my results reached me, and he was bound by law to see I got those results. Then, she made me sign on the dotted line and vow that I would pay for the mammogram if my insurance refused (since I am so young.)

Next, Sherry showed me to a changing area and explained the little cape/gown. I quickly changed "in private" which was a real blessing, since, the second I emerged, Sherry told me she needed to get a good look, the lay of the land, so to speak, and opened the cape to check me out. Then came all the turning and shifting and lifting arms and crossing arms and turning feet and squeezing, oh, the squeezing. It really didn't hurt so badly... it didn't... but there was so much pressure I couldn't help thinking, "What if my boob pops?" I could just picture myself, slowly trudging out of radiology, dragging a deflated boob behind me, like a day-old birthday party balloon.

Sherry changed topics, asking me about my children and feigning interest in the book I am reading. When it was finally time to re-robe, I just wanted out of there. I dressed in such a hurry, I forgot to put on that deodorant they'd warned me I couldn't wear to the test. In fact, I forgot about it all day long. While changing into pajamas I just caught a whiff of myself-- sorry, everybody.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Grinning Through the Bear It

Todd is gone-- again... Sorry to whine, but that's how I'm feeling this week. When Todd is traveling for work, I just kind of "hunker down" and coach myself to just make it through each day. Sounds terribly dramatic, I know, but, have I mentioned how much I hate it when he's gone?

Anyway, the weather this week has been beautiful. If Todd were here (man, I'm still doing it,) I know we would be working on getting everything out of the lake, cleaning up for fall, and winterizing. Since he's not, the kids and I have been spending time outside, just enjoying the sunshine.

I've taken the children to the playground and kept Daredevil Madeline from killing herself, time and time again. Yesterday, I finally caved to weeks and weeks of requests for Little Caesars pizza; we picked it up and sat at a picnic table outside the library and watched the sun set, before heading into the library to select books. Our public library is located on the most beautiful spot, overlooking the lake. I know if I mentioned it to Todd, I would get some loud and rambling rant on "government boondoggles" and why it is that a public building should sit on such a prime piece of real estate, when a private owner could probably use that land to make a good living for him- or herself. But, since Todd is gone (did I say that already?) I just sat and enjoyed the view... and tried to keep Maddy from choking on her Crazy Bread.

When I separate myself from the messes, temper tantrums (all mine,) and exhaustion, here are some other things that make Mommy smile:
*I sent an email to the girls' teachers, alerting them that Daddy was gone, in case either child mentioned something or seemed "particularly blue." I got back a response from Amanda's teacher: It is hard to imagine Amanda being “blue”, she lights up the room!! Enjoying her greatly.
*At the girls' school this morning, I happened to pass a bulletin board in the hallway that was titled "What Makes Our School Great" or "School All-Stars" or something like that. The board boasted 20 or so certificates, filled out by teachers, singling out students for outstanding behavior. There, on the board, was Elisabeth, and her certificate read, "For showing great respect to all."
*Madeline is slowly picking up more words, and, although she babbled incoherently and stomped around all through mass this morning, Benjamin and I are both pretty sure we also heard her say the word "owl"-- there was a picture on her shirt.
*I was one of the first mothers to arrive for preschool pick-up today. All of Ben's classmates were lined up and called to my son in chorus: "Bye, Ben!" "I'll miss you!" "Bye, Friend!" "See you Friday!"
*The sisters have been teasing Ben about having a girlfriend at school. The boy readily owns up to it and has been telling us his girlfriends are "Ashleigh and that really cute girl." When I asked his teacher, she said, "Oh, yeah, Jacklyn-- she is really cute." Jacklyn and her mommy sat by us on the wagon wide at the orchard... but I am not calling it a date.

Monday, September 27, 2010

A is for Apple, Apples are for Giraffes

Benjamin's preschool classes had a field trip to the apple orchard today. The trip was supposed to happen last week, but, what, with the monsoon and all, it didn't. Today was beautiful-- sunny and warm, the perfect conditions for strolling by the river, dawdling amongst the rows of fruit trees, sampling raspberries and local honey. Not that we did any of that.

Grandma P. came along on the adventure... weird, not having her be at work anymore. The orchard is well-staffed and well-run; they had programs and activities set up for the children. Everyone got to take a wagon ride through the orchard. And, we had one "class" where we got to taste different varieties of apples, apple cider and apple donuts (yummy!) and talk about how all were made. But, our group started out the visit in a tent, getting a lesson on "the trees and the bees."

A wonderful young woman used props and volunteers to explain how apple trees, and, therefore, apples, grow. She talked about the seasons of the year, sun and rain (and frost-- and how one cold hour in May wiped out much of this fall's crop,) honey bees and pollination, and harvesting and processing. She talked about the right way to pick an apple, how the ones on the ground are often bruised and rotten, and how farmers sometimes come and pick up the "bad apples" to feed to their animals.

When asked what kinds of farm animals might eat apples, one child said, "Cows." Another replied, "Sheep." The group went on, naming pigs and horses. Then, my brilliant Benjamin raised his hand: "Giraffes!" The funnier part was, the young presenter said, "You know, with this age group, I get that one every time." Funnier still, when I turned to give my mom the quizzical and embarrassed look that asked, "Is my kid the dumb one?" my mom leaned over and whispered, "Well, I did tell him we were going to see elephants today." See where I get it? My kids don't stand a chance.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Check Me Out

The good news is: More than 10 months after we had our family photo taken for the church directory, the books are finally printed and distributed to parish families.

The even better news is: Despite my phone call, written complaint and direct request to the photography company that our standard church directory pose be replaced with the one we had ordered for our Christmas card, the one printed in the directory is, in fact, the one where the babe sitting on my lap had pulled off the front of my dress. (Refer to the original post here.) Get a good look-- everyone else now has it in print, forever.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Sleeper Cell

It's one of those things I've seen on TV... about which I've heard other mothers tell stories... about which I've marveled and wondered... but, I've always thought, Not my kids. Not in this house. Would never happen. Would not happen. Until today:

Movie Mourning

Some friends offered to watch the kids for us, so, naturally, Todd and I decided to go to the movies. On the way out the door, my friend said, "Don't go to the movie theater in St. Michael." I laughed at her, of course, because the movie theater in St. Michael is the best one-- it's the biggest, has the widest selection of movies, has Diet Mountain Dew in the fountain machine, and even has a bar upstairs where you can buy real booze and take it with you into the theater. Above all, the theater is Todd's favorite... and movies are Todd's favorite... so that's really all that matters. So why wouldn't we go there? "It's closed," my friend said. "Bankrupt. Out of business."

I had to break the bad news to Todd. He didn't believe it. He looked up show times online. He checked all his movie apps for the news. Todd said, "I'm sure she's wrong. Let's just get in the car and drive over there." I told him I knew my friend was a pretty good source of information for that kind of area news, and said I would only drive 10 miles to the theater if he could first get a live person on the phone to tell him the shows were still rolling. Todd called the theater and got a recorded message that it was, indeed, closed.

We instead went to a movie at the little theater in our town. It was probably a pretty good flick, but I wouldn't know, because I had to sit through two hours of heavy sighing in my left ear... and only Diet Pepsi in the cup holder.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Bye, Bye Baby, Bye, Bye

I've been thinking so much of two of my beloved friends, both of whom sent their only children off to all-day kindergarten this fall. One made a definitive decision, with her husband, naturally, to have one child. The other, I believe, is still hoping and planning on more children coming into her family. Still, for now, both women have newly "empty" days, while their babies are off forging lives of their own.

OK, OK, I'm being melodramatic... but, when I've had a child starting kindergarten, that's how it's felt to me. These are both intelligent, talented, driven women who made significant changes in their careers and their lifestyles for the sakes of their children. They, along with their baby daddies, have juggled hours and duties so one parent could always be with the child. It's what any good parent would do, and I'm certain they have no regrets.

Now, however, the child is not with the parent. She is with a roomful of other children and another adult who suddenly becomes a powerful influence in that young life. The daughters of these women are bright, outgoing, engaged and engaging girls; I've heard they are loving school and I am thrilled for them. But, how odd it must be for their mothers to wait-- in a quiet house-- for these children to return and bring with them stories and songs of the people and events that fill their days at school.

I think of these women and how alike we all are as mothers. Then, I think about how different they are from me-- just how different their day-to-day lives are, as mothers to single children as opposed to four. When I send my babies out to the bus stop each morning, I am watching out the window with another baby at each side. Our rainy afternoons such as this are full of "help" folding laundry, assembling jigsaw puzzles, mopping up spilled milk, and negotiating naps (mine, no, I mean theirs.)

I'm not jealous of my friends... I don't think... nor do I suspect they are in any way jealous of me. I can imagine that day, down the road, when I put my last child on the bus. But, I'm not wishing for it to come too soon. When it does, I will turn to these friends to give me comfort and advice-- just as I hope I've given them.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Decking the Halls and Actual Rooms, Too

My house was cleaned from top to bottom this morning. So, it makes sense that this afternoon, we would trash it by getting out all the boxes of Halloween decorations. Sure, it's a week or so early. (My mother would never decorate for Halloween before October 1.) But, in my mind, all the surfaces had been dusted, so it seemed a good idea to fill them up with knickknacks and such before the dust settles again.

Plus, Benjamin is just so excited. He entered the house after running errands with me the other day, stretched out his arms and loudly announced, "Good news, everyone! The Halloween decorations are out at Target!"

At least three of the black-and-orange tote boxes are full of COSTUMES. Benjamin forgot until one of the lids came off that last November, hanging on a clearance rack, he found what he just had to be the next time trick-or-treating rolled around:

swamp monster (in case you didn't know)

When Amanda and Elisabeth returned from school, the box-emptying-decorating-mess-making was in full swing. In a flash, school uniforms were off and more potential Halloween costumes were on:




The gorilla sheds... and scares the poo out of Maddy. It's going to be a long October.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Decay

Strip me of my motherhood stripes. After years of repeated "looks good" dental visits, two of the children have cavities. Amanda lost her title of The Only Kid in Third Grade with No Cavities. (I have no idea whether this is true, but she has clung to the claim.) And, Benjamin has not one, but THREE cavities, all between his crowded front teeth.

I take full responsibility for this one. My husband is vigilant with oral health, brushing and flossing repeatedly throughout the day. Don't get me wrong-- I brush, and I even think that Sonicare thing has helped my gums, but I've always been told I have "good teeth" and I've never taken excessive time or care. Todd does his best to pass along teeth care tips to the kids, but, frankly, especially lately, he's not here. By the time the kids and I battle our way to bedtime, I'm yelling, "BRUSH YOUR TEETH!" and then making a trip through the bathroom to turn off the dripping faucet and wipe up the globs of toothpaste.

The dentist told the kids they need to do a much better job of flossing. That would actually mean they need to floss, period. Benjamin and I made a trip to the store to find non-mint-flavored dental floss. None of the kids can tolerate mint flavor. "Makes my mouth too spicy, Mom." Ben told everyone we met about his cavities and that they came from him not flossing. I wish the darn dentist had thought to mention the chocolate milk connection.

It will be super fun to take the kids back for their fillings. Benjamin screamed and cried through today's x-rays and cleaning. When I finally went into the exam area to speak with the dentist, Benjamin was picking out his prize. I chided him about whether he had survived the ordeal. The dentist said, "Oh, that crying you heard? That wasn't Ben-- it was me."

Best part about today: Bragging rights for Elisabeth.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Unkinked

My clothes dryer has not worked properly for a year or more. Clothes don't dry. I've certainly noticed this. I've done whatever I know to do to try and fix the problem: clean the lint trap, wash the lint screen, change the dryer settings, put fewer articles of clothing in each load, put more articles of clothing in each load (hey, you never know.) Nothing has helped.

I have, on forty or fifty occasions, mentioned the problem to the Krinkeland repair man, but the problem has never risen to the top of the priority list-- UNTIL we were due at a dinner date and The Mister's favorite jeans, cool jeans, THE ONLY JEANS THAT FIT were still damp and still tumbling. So, The Man of the House finally yanked the dryer away from the wall and, Voila! The vent hose was kinked. Once straightened, the dryer immediately started, well, drying.

Todd was so excited and proud of himself, he began drying load after load of laundry. As quickly as one could be taken out of the appliance, he was shoving another in. One problem-- he doesn't fold:

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Glory Days

Our church community took a big leap of faith this year, and expanded the annual fall festival into a three-day event, complete with live music, carnival rides, and fireworks. The goal was, of course, to raise money for the church. It was a huge undertaking, and I'll be curious to hear what the final numbers are. Our kids, however, loved every minute of it.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Celebrating Seven

Today is my grandmother's actual 95th birthday. We had Gua's open house birthday party a week ago. As I already mentioned, it was a lovely event, full of family and friends and laughter and memories. I gotta tell you though, today is a bit of a relief. I mean, the woman is 95. I hate to be the pessimist, but who could be sure she'd make it? She's healthy, amazingly so, actually, but still... 95. Anyway, today, she is really 95. At the rate Gua is going, I suspect we'll be celebrating many more birthdays.

In Krinkeland, we did celebrate a birthday today-- Elisabeth's. Since we had traveled to Gua's party on Libby's actual birthday, it seemed fitting we should have a "party" for Elisabeth on Gua's birthday. We've opted out of the traditional birthday party scene, and instead told Libby she could invite one friend and choose whatever she'd like to do for a day of fun. She immediately chose her "best friend" Rachel, and (well, really, her sister) lobbied for the inclusion of Amanda and cousin Kazmer. Still, one carload of kids is certainly manageable.

We visited Build-A-Bear and left with Kristin the Panda, Lola the Bunny, Isabella the Bear, and Wolfie the Wolf. Then, it was on to Chuck E. Cheese's for pizza, games, and germ collection. I think the new seven-year-old had a pretty fun time. Did I mention the highlight was riding the escalators at the mall?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Call Me Betty Crocker

The kids wanted to bake a birthday cake for their dad. I am mostly a straight-out-of-the-box-or-better-yet-Costco-makes-a-good-cake kind of baker, but I figured a cake was the least I could do. I started thinking about the cakes I like: Mom's coconut cake, Axel's Tavern's Death by Chocolate, Black Russian Cake, Rum Cake, and Skor Bar Cake. Those last three are jazzed up cake mix recipes, all from the Central Lutheran Church cookbook, a regular go-to in my kitchen.

I don't even know if you can buy Skor bars anymore, but Heath Bars work just as well, and are my absolute favorite candy bar (along with 3 Musketeers and 100 Grand bars-- please let me know about any cake recipes involving these.) But, Todd is less of a toffee man, and more of a peanut butter cup guy. So, I "tweaked" the Skor recipe and came up with a real winner. To CLC women Brenda, Sue and my MIL (whose cakes I have all enjoyed at one time or another,) this one's for you:

Original Skor Bar Cake
1 box yellow cake mix with pudding
1 1/2 cups water
1/3 cup oil
2 eggs
1 small box instant chocolate pudding

Frosting
1 cup powdered sugar
2 Tbsp. melted butter
8 oz. Cool Whip
3 crushed Skor candy bars

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix the five cake ingredients. Grease and flour 9 x 13 pan. Pour batter into pan and bake 35-40 minutes. Cool.
To frost, melt butter and add a small amount of powdered sugar and stir. Add remainder of the powdered sugar. Add Cool Whip. Spread on cooled cake. Sprinkle with crushed candy bars. Keep refrigerated.


New Peanut Butter Cup Cake
Follow same cake ingredients and baking instructions above.

Frosting
1 cup powdered sugar
2 Tbsp. melted butter
8 oz. Cool Whip
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
2-4 Tbsp. milk
1 bag Reese's Peanut Butter Cups Miniatures, minus 3 for each child to eat one (unwrapped and chilled, then chopped)

To frost, melt butter and peanut butter together. Gradually mix in powdered sugar. Add a few tablespoons of milk, as needed to thin mixture. Fold in Cool Whip and stir gently until well mixed. Spread on cooled cake. Top with chopped peanut butter cups. Keep refrigerated.

Yummy!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

I Wish You

Today is my husband's birthday. What can I say about the Birthday Man? Well, there's a lot I could tell you, and some things I could not. Actually, most anything I could tell you-- I think I know pretty much everything there is to know-- but some things I would not. (There's a reason they call this a "sacred union.") Let's just leave it at:

Birthday Wishes for My Husband
*realization of dreams
*meeting of professional goals
*completion of projects
*perspective

The Less Lofty List
*sticky kisses
*clean underwear (may it be ON whenever a child barges in)
*buttered popcorn and Diet Mountain Dew
*time to enjoy the view

The happiest of birthdays and a successful, peaceful coming year to my best friend.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Stupid Is As Stupid Does

I entered the kitchen to make supper and discovered the Crock Pot was ON, on the highest setting, EMPTY. (Did I ever tell you the one about the mom who set the timer for her kid's time-out punishment by turning the microwave ON? Even I am not that dumb.) Realizing I must have absent-mindedly plugged it in when I took it out of the cabinet before nap time, I calculated it had been on for a good 2.5 hours. After saying a silent prayer that no people or property had been damaged by my mistake-- and cursing myself for the energy waste-- I decided all was not for naught: Since the slow cooker was nice and hot, maybe the soup would get done that much more quickly.

I opened a can of room-temperature chicken stock and poured it into the hot pot. Immediately, I heard loud popping sounds, followed by sizzling. Never the best science student (would this be chemistry or physics?) it hadn't occurred to me that the differences in temperature would cause the crock to crack and break apart. Now, I had one hot mess on my hands.

Many towels, hot pads and curses went into the clean-up... And then I still had to get rolling on that soup. Hungry kids do not appreciate an innocent mistake, or a good joke-- even at their mother's expense. I share this story with all of you so you can feel better about whatever stupid thing you did today. At least you're not me.

Which Witch is Which?


The little ones and I were shopping at our local Target, where Benjamin started trying on Halloween masks. "Look, Mommy, I'm a witch!" A fellow shopper turned and commented, "Just like your mommy!" She must have seen the fire in my eyes, because she quickly identified herself as a community theater buff. Good thing-- I was getting ready to deck her.

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Latest From the Boy's Mouth

Benjamin: "Mom, the most terrible thing happened. I heard about it in school today."
Mom: "What?!"
Benjamin: "There's this girl in my class, and she has a pool in her backyard..."
Mom: "Uh-oh."
Benjamin: "And that pool is one of those big ovals, the really deep ones, with the blue sides..."
Mom: (with fear and trepidation about the drowning or near-drowning story to come... wait, I didn't hear anything on the news, the moms weren't huddled outside the classroom... maybe he's going to tell me about an animal meeting a watery fate?) "Yeah..."
Benjamin: "Mom, this is really awful-- HER DAD TOOK ALL THE WATER OUT OF THE POOL!"

Benjamin: "Mom, when I was a baby, did I suck my thumb like Maddy, or did I suck my finger like I do now?"
Mom: "You always sucked your finger."
Benjamin: "Well, when I go to sleep, I actually suck my thumb and I sleep with my eyes open-- like the dinosaurs do."
Mom: "How do you know that's the way dinosaurs sleep?"
Benjamin: "Libby told me."

And, this one, I have to record for posterity, because I know I'll forget it someday: Every night, every single night, approximately five minutes after he's been tucked into bed, Benjamin gets out of bed and walks down the hall to our room. Then, he says, "Mom, I have to tell you something: Mom, in a little while, come into my room and check on me. And, if I'm awake, cuddle. And, if I'm asleep-- go away."

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Their Best Side?

It was suggested during Gua's birthday party that we should get some photos of the Woman of Honor and her four children, since one has not been taken in recent years, and since all the siblings are rarely in the same room. Well, I'm not sure whether Gua is going to want to use one of these for her Christmas card photo... taking a decent photo of the five of them was about as easy as getting a picture with all my children looking in the same direction:












Saturday, September 11, 2010

Another Birthday Girl (Woman)

Today we celebrated the 95th (not a typo) birthday of our only living grandparent, the (in)famous GUA. She doesn't actually turn 95 until next week... but this is the day the family, and the hall, were both available. My aunt and cousins who live near grandma did all the work. I just showed up and tried to keep my kids from licking the cupcakes. It was a lovely day-- I sure hope she liked it.

Freebies

Amanda was entertaining us at the dinner table with one of her colorful and windy tales. The punchline was, "When I was little, I thought everything that was 'On Sale' was actually FREE!" Todd shook his head and dispensed the dadly edict: "Nothing in this world is free." Then, he thought better of it and corrected himself, "The only thing in this world that is totally free-- no strings attached-- is God's love." Amanda chewed on that thought for a few moments, and then added, "Well, that... and the samples at Costco."

Friday, September 10, 2010

Seven

Today is Elisabeth's seventh birthday. Seven. Wild.

I remember when I had Elisabeth, I was miserably hot and huge and tired of being pregnant... but, I was still hoping to make it past Labor Day, far enough into September that there would not be a question about when this child would start school. With the two children just 18 months apart in age, it was important to me to try to get them two years apart in school. We did succeed in that department.

Now, Libby's birthday always falls during such a crazy-busy time of year. It's the first week of school. Daddy's birthday is right around the corner. And, this year, we had the added excitement of a 95th birthday party for Elisabeth's great-grandma.

We managed to squeeze in a family breakfast, along with a visit from Grandma R., followed by gifts. Then, Daddy drove the girls to school, which was a special treat. In the afternoon, I took Libby's request of Popsicles for a birthday treat to her class. Then, we all packed up and headed south in preparation for my grandma's party the following day, so Libby's big birthday bash included a hotel stay, more gifts, more fun, and the (in)famous Fruity Pebbles cake, with her cousins and Grandma and Grandpa P.

I cannot believe our Elisabeth is seven years old. We so enjoy watching her grow and change and become the person God wants her to be. And we adore her. Happy, happy seventh birthday, Elisabeth Connie!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Cooties

On the second day of school, Amanda came home with a note that one of her classmates has HEAD LICE. I know, I know, it can happen to anyone. It's not a sign of something, and I'm not supposed to think anything. Our home was infested once when I was a kid. Todd says they got it, too. But I couldn't help letting out a big *SIGH* which translates to, "Ugh. No. Eeew. Gross. Please, don't let my kids get head lice."

Of course, Amanda came running into our bedroom this morning, telling me her head itched. I took her into the bathroom and examined her extensively under bright light. Then, her father did the same. The coast was clear... but I still feel the creepy-crawlies, too.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Splitting Threads

Benjamin walks around here in his underwear, all the time. I don't know where he got the idea this was acceptable. (OK, I know perfectly well where he got the idea, but I long ago vowed not to use this blog to bash my husband.) Anyway, Ben informs me he cannot nap with his clothes on. He cannot dance with his clothes on. Much to the chagrin of his sisters, he sometimes takes his meals in his undies, and he regularly watches television that way.

When we have company or when we leave the house, I insist on clothing, and Ben complies. So, it generally only gets to be an issue whenever someone stops over unannounced. And, since I'm not worried about what Grandma thinks, or the UPS guy, it's really not an issue.

In addition, all my children are always HOT. They get this from their father, and, over the years, I have tired of fighting it. All the research says one cannot become ill from being under-dressed in the elements, and they are smart enough to come in before frostbite stage hits.

Still, when I do try to speak common sense in the wardrobe department, I am always met with opposition, especially from the boy. Often I ignore him. Sometimes I demand he do as I say. Today, I was feeling playful, so I engaged him as he laid out his negotiation. Have you ever tried to negotiate with a four-year-old?

Mom: "If you want to go outside, you have to get dressed."
Ben: "How about just a shirt?"
Mom: "No, you must wear a shirt, pants, socks and shoes."
Ben: "I'm not wearing long pants; I'll wear short pants."
Mom: "I wouldn't recommend that. It's 65 degrees and the sun is going down. You're going to be cold."
Ben: "I'll bring along a sweater, just in case it gets chilly."
Mom: "A sweater will cover your arms, but your legs will still be cold."
Ben: "No, they won't."
Mom: "Yes, they will."
Ben: "FINE! Then, I'll wear a hat!"

Another First Day

Benjamin had his first day of pre-k this morning. He woke up early, excited to go. After we got the older girls on the bus, we packed up and headed to Ben's preschool. He had a new backpack, which he had secretly stuffed with markers and a full-size Etch-a-Sketch ("You never know, Mom.")

Once we got to Ben's preschool, he immediately fell into his routine of hanging up his jacket and backpack and going potty. He greeted both his teachers and found his name tag on the table. Ben seemed equally delighted and irritated that he is one of THREE Bens in his class this year, but it didn't stop him from trotting off to play Mr. Potato Head with one of the other Benny Boys.

Madeline wanted to stay at school, too. Sniff. They all can't wait to get away from me.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

One Day Down


BEFORE

When the girls returned home, Amanda exclaimed, "I can't wait for school tomorrow!" I'd say that's a pretty fair indicator of how the first day went. What else did I find out?

Amanda gets to be a third grade "buddy" to a kindergartner. This is a true sign of maturity. According to Amanda, she will fetch the girl when it's time to ride the bus, and generally show her how to behave, as in this morning's assembly. Daddy, unfortunately, asked Elisabeth whether she gets a buddy. No, she's too old to get one and too young to be one. It's every Libby for herself in the first grade world.

The highlight of the all-school assembly was the introduction of the Peanut Table. According to Amanda, this is a designated table in the lunchroom where anyone can sit (it is not exclusionary) but no one can have peanuts, peanut butter, or any foods with nuts. She did not choose to sit at the Peanut Table at lunch time, nor did Elisabeth. In fact, both girls admitted they did not know where the Peanut Table was... Amanda surmised it could be just an "idea" that did not actually get put into action yet. Still, this was better than the grasp of one of Amanda's fellow classmates, whose mother called me, laughing hysterically, because her child had just explained about the new "Penis Table" where you could only sit if you "don't like nuts."

Amanda also got her first daily planner... And I got my marching orders to sign it every day. Oh, joy.

Homework included finding a chapter book for D.E.A.R. (Drop Everything And Read) which Amanda thought was the coolest acronym ever.

Are you noticing all the First Day of School headlines came from Amanda, and nothing from Elisabeth? That's right. That's the way it went.

AFTER

Monday, September 6, 2010

The Eve of the First Day of School

It took a long time for all the kids in this house to go to sleep tonight. Excitement in the air... School starts TOMORROW!

I spent much of the day thinking of other mothers like me: Are they excited about a return to the school-year regimen? Are they weepy about their babies leaving them? Are they scratching their heads in confusion over how their children got so old, so quickly?

The girls' new shoes and backpacks are lined up by the front door. Amanda has an additional bag of "locker stuff." That's the headline for her year: Third graders get LOCKERS instead of a cubbies. We had to make a special trip to the store for Amanda to get one of those magnetic locker mirrors. However, once we got there, she decided she'd rather have a magnetic message board. She has scoured our house and Grandma's for every cute magnet, photo frame, and mini-organizer to outfit her little space in the school. Amanda will not be lonely, because her locker will be filled with photos of her siblings, and even a framed one of her godmother. (No, she didn't want a picture of me.)

I took one more look at Elisabeth's "All About Me" book. (See one of the weekend posts for an earlier reference to this.) I was thinking she is really ready for first grade, as I noticed the good job she did with her printing, and writing so many words, which she hadn't asked me to spell. But I had to shake my head at the page where Libby described things she likes to do with various family members:
With Mom: Go to the gas station.
With Dad: Go see movies.
With other family members: Go swimming at water parks.

I'm setting my alarm for extra-early. The camera is out. Daddy will be here to see them off on the bus. Benjamin and Madeline will be a little lost, but they'll get over it. It's time for school!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

One "Wicked" Weekend


Well, I got my birthday gift. Gifts. Todd and I shipped off the kids to Grandma and Grandpa's and headed out for a night on the town. I even wore a dress.

We were going to see "Wicked." First, though, we used some of those reward points on our credit card to check into a hotel near the theater. It was very nice, but a bit on the wild side for us-- lots of mirrors, neon lights, and nightclubs pulsing with bass, sequins, and implants. We went to dinner right next door to the theater, at Solera. The tapas restaurant is one of the foodie-brain-children of a former friend and classmate of Todd's. I'd say he's doing OK. We'd been meaning to visit the restaurant for years, but this was the first time we actually got around to it.

After dinner, Todd gave me another birthday gift. This, I was not expecting. It is something about which I had recently started hinting, but I was making the suggestion for, oh, maybe, ten years down the road, NOT NOW. I am not complaining. It is quite possibly the most beautiful, thoughtful gift I have ever received. The next time we're together, please ask to see it.

Then, we went to see "Wicked." It was, well, WICKED. Yeah, yeah, it was the touring company show, and not Broadway, and some schmucks will tell you that's not the real thing. Coincidentally, I have discovered some of the harshest professional theater critics are actually the most mediocre community theater actors. The show was incredible, as in on-the-edge-of-my-seat-did-you-see-that-did-you-hear-that-is-it-over-already-I-will-never-forget-this INCREDIBLE. I'm including the particular bootleg You Tube clips below because they are the actual actors we saw in the roles of "Elphaba" and "Glinda." Enjoy. We really, really did.



Normal

We have now received all the results from Benjamin's latest roster of GI tests. All NORMAL. Check. Check. Check. Check. This should set a mind to rest. However, in light of these results (or lack thereof,) Ben's gastroenterologist is now recommending he undergo an endoscopy.

So begins the next round of pushmi-pullyu. We sought this specialist because his pediatrician expressed concern about his lack of weight gain. We, too, had noticed the issue and were also concerned. The specialist met us, examined Ben, and agreed there was reason for concern. She ordered a battery of diagnostic tests, to hopefully find the source of the "symptom." (Is skinniness a symptom?)

The tests did not reveal a problem. And, now, the doctor wishes to probe further. However, this next test is more invasive and riskier. Todd and I agree we would not permit it unless the doctor had compelling reasons for ordering it. What conditions is she still considering and hoping to rule out? What are the odds of finding one of these conditions through this particular test? Are there other ways to detect such conditions?

Yeah, yeah, this is not a productive discussion to have with you. We'll talk to the doc. In the meantime, please say an extra prayer of thanksgiving for the health of our son.

Blessed

When we attended Open House and met the girls' teachers, Elisabeth's teacher sent home an assignment with instructions: to fill out the "All About Me" booklet and return it to school as soon as possible, as the book would be shared with the class on the student's birthday. Since Libby's birthday is during the first week of school, I told her to fill in the pages right away.

She was doing pretty well with personal details such as hair and eye color, even her address and telephone number. (She made her 5s backward, but I think most six-year-olds do that-- not ruling out Ivy League acceptance at this juncture.) Then, Elisabeth got to the page entitled "Special People to Me." It had a picture of a house and boxes where she could, I'm guessing, either write in names or draw pictures.

Libby snickered, "Only four spots?!" She shook her head and got to work, as I explained she could put more than one person in each box. Meantime, I immediately teared up, thinking about how many people Libby loves, how many people love Libby. And, I couldn't help but wonder (already knowing the answer) about children who might not have enough people to fill those boxes.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Reset

When Todd returned home today, I said, "The dishwasher is on the fritz again-- can you please diagnose and repair?" He responded, "Well, did you try unplugging it and plugging it back in?"

That seems to be the solution to absolutely every fix these days: Since everything is computerized, just reset. When I complain, "My phone is no longer receiving emails," my husband says, "That's because you never turn it off and give it a chance to reboot." When the girls told their dad tonight, "The Playstation won't let us play," Todd suggested, "Go back in the den and turn off the PS3 and the TV, wait a few seconds, and then turn them back on." I get the exact same advice whenever the computer freezes up, or the telephone, or the camera.

The fascinating and irritating thing is-- it usually works. This suggestion always seems so WRONG to me. To my non-technical brain, if something is broken, it's broken. Turning it off and back on again shouldn't do anything to "fix" it. But it does.

This has given me yet another idea for a reference book. I'm thinking of putting out a whole line of really short "How To" books. So, this one would be called, "How to Fix Anything Electronic" and would contain the one sentence, Turn it off and turn it back on. Other tomes in the series:

"How to Salvage Any Meal"
Ranch salad dressing.

"How to be the Perfect Parent"
Remain childless.

"How to Balance Career and Family"
You can't.

"How to Keep Your Man Happy"
Sex and a sandwich, and not necessarily in that order.

"How to Cope with Negative Feelings"
Decide to stop feeling like that.

"How to Have Great Teenage Sex"
Wait till you're a married grownup.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Weathering the Storm

Dear God,

I know you have much bigger things on your plate, but I also know you are all-powerful, so this should not be a huge request: Could you please stop making it thunderstorm over our house in the middle of the night? My oldest child is fiercely afraid of thunder, lightning, wind, hail, and driving rain, as well as the remote prospect of tornadoes, straight-line winds and flash flooding. And, even though we try to reassure her of their impossibility due to our geography, she is equally worried about hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis, landslides, sandstorms, and volcanic eruptions.

Whenever you start that a-rumblin' in the wee hours, it only takes a few minutes before bare feet start pounding down the carpeted hallway. Her daddy and I tried to be understanding-- at first. We took her back to her bed and cuddled with her, or Daddy slid over and let her climb into our bed until the storm passed. But, there have been a lot of storms lately, Lord, and we are losing our patience.

Now, our daughter demands her father get up and "check the weather." In the beginning, that meant turning on the television and watching for those little warning crawls at the bottom of the screen. Now, however, we have one of those satellite dishes, which immediately quits working in weather events. That freaks her out even more, and she demands Daddy pick up the laptop and go online to access real-time satellite images.

She has even begun waking up her sister and brother. I'm not sure if this is purposeful or accidental, but, when there were three little persons lined up at the bedside, quivering and clutching blankies, I was triply bothered. But, it was Daddy who roared, "The weather is fine-- GO BACK TO BED!" We know this is not the best approach, but, we are weary.

It is somewhat understandable, God, a natural fear. I know this, because, last night, after issuing his order, Daddy rolled over and said, "To tell the truth, that thunder 'freaked me out,' too." So, if it is not too much to ask, for Amanda's sake and for Daddy's, could we please have a quiet night tonight?

Love,
The Queen
(no disrespect to Mary)

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

One Fair Day

With some parts for work on order and the weather forecast beautiful, Todd announced he was taking the day off and taking the family to the State Fair. Knock me over with a feather. But, if Daddy's willing to forgo a day of work in favor of family time, I have no choice but to go along. And, as much as I despise fairs, it was a gorgeous day for one. Highlights for the members of Krinkeland included the Miracle of Birth Center, the Butterfly House, and the parade: