Thursday, December 30, 2010

Ski School

With Todd home from work this week, tons and tons of snow, and beautiful, 30-degree weather, Daddy wanted to take the kids skiing. He's gone to a nearby hill (definitely no mountains around here, but it's enough to impress the youngsters) the past two winters with Amanda and Elisabeth. This year, Benjamin was insistent he, too, was going skiing. To you and me, this would seem ludicrous. But, as is so often the case in his life, Ben exceeded all expectations:

As the girls did, Ben took the full Ski School class, with other kids in his age range. Due to the age breakdown, Elisabeth somehow ended up with her own, private instructor-- but, would you expect anything less for that one? Amanda was the youngest in her Ski School group, so I think that helped push and challenge her. They had their morning lesson, took a snack break, and returned to the slopes. Ben made it down the littlest hill maybe three or four times before he was ready to call it a day. He reported some other boy in the class was the one who kept falling down. Ben also had a huge crush on his instructor.

The girls think they're pretty hot stuff now. They can put on and take off their skis by themselves, they've mastered the J-bar, and they feel pretty confident whipping down beginner and even intermediate runs. Amanda only fell off the chair lift once.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Cashing In

Gift cards always create fodder for interesting stories in Krinkeland. My kids each got a gift card to Target for Christmas. The cash they got as gifts went in the bank. (Elisabeth asked the teller whether her money went in the same "jar" with her sisters' and brothers' or whether it got its "own jar.") But, the gift cards, I told them they could spend.

We made it all the way until December 28 before the pressure got too great. Since Dad is off work this week, he went along on the spending excursion. Soon, I had four crying children in the toy department and a husband wandering solo around electronics.

Now, the crying wasn't what you think. First, the baby-- she was hungry and tired and entirely unimpressed with the gift card concept. (We saved hers for another time.) The other three weren't upset because they wanted things that were too expensive or anything like that. They just couldn't decide. Especially Elisabeth. Always Elisabeth.

Libby and Amanda wandered up and down aisles, picking up items, carrying them around, but when I asked, "Is that what you want?" and suggested it was time to go, the panic set in, over and over again. Benjamin actually made his selection in a fairly expedient manner. It wasn't what I would have chosen, but it wasn't my gift card. The problem came when Dad returned to us and told Ben, "Don't get that. It's dumb."

Things reached a whole new level of ridiculous when Amanda remembered the One Spot, the dollar-section at the front of the store. Ridiculous became downright insane when we got to that area and saw the 50% off clearance signs. Yes, double the crap for their money.

In all, we spent an hour in the store. Here's what we left with:

Webkinz Lil Kinz fish
Orbeez ("squishable balls that grow in water")
manicure set
big pack of gum

(See if you notice a pattern.)
Webkinz Lil Kinz fish
Orbeez ("squishable balls that grow in water")
Toy Story socks
Snoopy Christmas socks
big pack of gum

3 packs of lip gloss
desk blotter with calendar
pocket datebook
plastic handbag
2 big packs Tic Tacs
Reese's Peanut Butter Cups

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Sleepover

What's Christmas vacation without a sleepover?! I'd been promising my kids (hoping they'd forget-- but they didn't,) so I decided just to get it over with. It's not that I'm opposed to sleepovers, or other peoples' kids, or anything like that... I'm just not the quintessential Sleepover Mom. I don't do hair or makeovers. I restrict movie-watching by screening for all areas of appropriateness. I'm not crafty. I believe in bedtime. Needless to say, my kids would have been much happier had the sleepover been at another family's house. But it was our turn.

We had three third grade girls, two first grade girls and two boy preschoolers in the house overnight. All in all, things went remarkably well. There was no bloodshed. There was very little crying... and that only came from the kids who typically cry, anyway. The weather was nice enough for everyone to play outside. We ordered pizza for supper and had donuts for breakfast, so there wasn't much opportunity for complaints about the menu. Everyone slept.

There was still plenty to giggle about:
*Todd was the cool parent because he played "Linus & Lucy" and "The Maple Leaf Rag" on the piano while everyone danced.
*The seven-year-old girls claimed their four-year-old brothers held them down and shoved snow in their mittens.
*One of the older girls was having an especially difficult time settling down for the night. I inquired whether she had ants in her pants and she said, "I'm just naturally fidgety."
*That same eight-year-old came to me in the morning and asked me to repaint her fingernails because she'd chewed off all the polish during the night.
*When I was sweeping the floor after breakfast, one of the eight-year-olds walked down and asked, "What are you DOING?!"
*The little boy cried coming out of the bathroom and told us, "I forgot to push it down! The stream was going straight, but then it went everywhere!"
*Upon drop-off at home, the first thing the little boy told his mom was, "Amanda called me 'Dummy.'"

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Picks & Pans

Our children were blessed with a ridiculous bounty of gifts this Christmas (not that that makes it different from any other Christmas.) We are still unpackaging, assembling, battery-ing, programming, sorting and putting away. But, according to the early returns, here are the winners and losers:

Thumbs Down
Moon Dough
micro remote control cars
Fin Fin Friends

Thumbs Up
remote control monster truck
American Girl Bitty Twins
Reese's Peanut Butter Cups Miniatures

Thumbs WAY Up
cardboard box

Saturday, December 25, 2010

And to All a Good Night

I was ready to post my usual Christmas letter-- a brilliant, snarky diatribe on my absent and absent-minded husband, my witty but mangy children, and the testy trials of everyday life in Krinkeland. I was going to rail on about Todd's frequent business trips to Europe that nearly required me to take a Sister Wife... our battle with an obscene stomach bug and the way I single-handedly boosted the stock market by buying out Clorox... my kids' vast abilities to string together four- and five-syllable words, but only to describe farting... You know it all. If you so choose, you can read about it the other 364 days of the year. Today, I'm letting go and keeping the peace.

Christmas, this day, is a blessing-- God's gift of love to us all. I feel it so strongly, after two full, fun, warm, tasty, hectic, beautiful days of celebration with family. Show God's love to others. Be a hugger. Hold your tongue. Have patience. Go out of your way to be kind. Expect nothing in return. (Yes, this is my advice to myself, but, if it applies-- and it does apply-- feel free to heed.)

Merry Christmas to all!

Friday, December 24, 2010

A Santa Pause

After a full, exciting Christmas Eve day and, well, eve, with one side of the family, we rolled into home base, carted the children up to bed, unloaded the car, and prepared to do it all again tomorrow with the other side of the family. During said preparations, it was discovered that a crucial component of the video camera was back at the in-laws'. Hmmm... Krinkeland's first Christmas morning without video documentation? I was willing to risk it-- but Daddy Dearest wouldn't hear of it. Dear Lord, please keep him safe as he navigates the snowy streets late tonight. I need him back here so we can act out a couple verses of "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus."

All this, after earlier today I overheard Elisabeth plotting: "I'm just going to stay up tonight and catch that ol' Santa in the act!" The Little Brother, who clearly has a future as a parole officer, broke in, "BUT HE KNOWS WHEN YOU ARE SLEEPING! HE KNOWS WHEN YOU'RE AWAKE!"

Wish I knew if they were asleep or awake. Guess I'll have to tiptoe down the hall to check. Here's hoping they are-- and that I sleep like the Sweet Little Jesus Boy.

Merry Christmas. God bless us, everyone.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

A Christmas Miracle

It was a long day.

It began with a late night last night at Todd's company's Christmas party. (Officially, it was a "holiday" party, but we all know the truth.) This morning, I set out with my parents and all the kids to see Gua, my grandmother. It's a long drive, and they, too-- all of them-- had had a long night with a wild and crazy sleepover. After a short, guilt-laden visit (guilt that I don't visit more often, guilt that I don't stay longer when I do visit, guilt that other relatives are so intricately involved in her care and companionship, guilt that I feel guilty,) the drive home was even more trying.

Mom and Dad dropped the kids and me at Todd's work, so we could do a little grocery shopping and wrap up the last of the Christmas shopping-- because, there's nothing like taking four over-tired young children to fight the day-before-Christmas-eve crowd at Costco. Amazingly, they did well. We even got everyone fed and were on-track for a smooth ride home and an early bedtime.

Back in the car, back on the road, it started snowing... AGAIN. The conditions deteriorated rapidly. At the four-way stop near our house, Todd slid into the back end of the truck in front of us. Thankfully, no one was hurt. And, oh, happy day, the only damage was to our vehicle.

Once home, Todd unloaded the car while I carried the boxes of food to the kitchen and the kids tore open today's arriving Christmas cards. The kids then got distracted by more excitement-- the delivery of two huge boxes to our front porch. Alas, it was only more speakers for the den, which is apparently becoming a haven for the deaf and bass-obsessed.

I walked through the kitchen to corral the children one more time, when I smelled fire. I looked over to the counter and saw smoke coming from a large cardboard box. Out of surfaces, I had set down one box of food from Costco atop the electric cooktop. In doing so, I must have bumped the burner knob, and the box was on fire.

Speaking volumes of my character, I swore at the top of my lungs, but, I otherwise kept my cool, removed everything from the heat source and turned off the burner. The entire house is bathed in a haze and reeks of smoke. But, thanks be to God, the only damage was some singed canned goods and a burn mark on the wall. I'll take this as my Christmas miracle.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Isn't Garbage Supposed to Stink?

I am a loyal customer of Glad Force Flex garbage bags. Yeah, they cost more, but Krinkeland generates a lot of garbage, and the Queen takes out the trash only when absolutely necessary. That makes these bags-- which are stronger and do hold more-- a must. But, something is amiss.

I popped open a new box of trash bags last evening and immediately noticed something was not right. I read the box and discovered these Glad bags were laced with a Febreze scent. I don't know if I mistakenly grabbed the wrong one while wrestling the buttered monkey back into her seat in the cart, or if I just had a coupon and could not pass up the discount. But, even though I am not nearly as scent-sitive to odors as my dear mother, I immediately noticed these bags stink.

Now, instead of smelling of leftover food and the occasionally nasty diaper, my kitchen smells like leftover food, nasty diapers, and fake flowers. It reminds me of when I was a child and someone would spray air freshener in the bathroom and Buppa (my grandfather) would remark, "Someone crapped in the lilac bush!"

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Storm Before the Storm

The kids have taken to asking me, "How many days, how many hours, HOW LONG TILL CHRISTMAS?!" And, every time they ask, I think, Not long enough.

We all remember being children and how Advent seemed endless... We just couldn't wait for the Big Event. Then, as adults, more so as parents, the speed at which the holidays arrive just seems to accelerate every year

This year, I'm in limbo. I'm all akimbo. I'm acting like a bimbo. One of my friends sent out a text this morning that all her gifts were wrapped and under the tree and she was ready to go. Another responded that her family had just gotten a Christmas tree, it wasn't yet decorated, and she couldn't start wrapping until she finished shopping. Depending on the time of day, I could fall into either category.

I know it's kind of my go-to excuse for everything, but I kind of want to blame it on the weather. We have had SO MUCH snow! Flakes the size of popcorn kernels are assaulting the driveway as I type. Haven't we been "worried" more than once in recent years about whether there would be a white Christmas? This year, I'm already concerned that it will still be a white Memorial Day!

It has been nice to use my deck as a walk-out freezer. But I don't have much time left to assemble and disseminate the remaining cookie trays. What I really want to do is dig into that double batch of brandy slush that's chilling next to the bin of Christmas cookies. Then, if the wrapping didn't get done-- would I really care?

Monday, December 20, 2010

Somewhat Suck-y

I have found a flaw in one of Krinkeland's favorite toys, that is The Barbie Bissell Go Vac. I'm sure I've previously written in praise of the Barbie Vacuum. It's one of those random toys I picked up one holiday season-- I think at Menard's-- that turned out to be a real gem. You see, it's a toy... but it actually works! So, when the little elves follow me around "pretending" to clean-- they're actually sucking up crap in the carpeting!

All toys should be so useful-- and long-lasting. We've had this thing for at least five years, and it still works. In moments of crisis, when Mommy's vacuum cleaner has been on the fritz, the Barbie Vac has saved the day, picking up all the junk on the front door rug so visitors don't think we live in a barn.

Today, however, a glitch: It turns out the Barbie Vacuum is capable of sucking up Cap'n Crunch... but not the Crunch Berries.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Attitude of Gratitude

At a Christmas get-together with some neighbors and school friends this weekend, we played the infamous dice game. It's getting to be a party standard around here, I tell you. All the prizes were wrapped; some packages contained items appropriate for children, others for adults. One friend thought it would be fun to lump everything together and play in one big circle with everyone. That might have been fun, but the group was large, and the hour was late, and the kids, well, they were kids.

You can guess where this is going: Once the gifts were unwrapped, the stealing had occurred, and the final bell rang, some of the children still ended up with adult gifts, or just plain didn't get what they wanted. Some were unhappy with their winnings, and some serious whining, lobbying and pouting followed. That same mother was quite embarrassed that one of her children was acting so miserably. She later apologized that her kid was "ungrateful." I, personally, thought nothing of it. Her kids were no better or worse behaved than any other kids.

What was funny is she went on to hold up her child to the Gold Standard, which, in this instance, was apparently my child. She marveled what a gracious boy Benjamin was, how excited he was with his travel-sized can of shaving cream. Ben was thrilled with his booty... But that's not because he has better manners than another kid-- it's just because he's weird.

Someone, please, tell the boy:
1. You don't have whiskers when you're four.
2. You never have whiskers on your eyelids.

Meantime, in keeping with the Christmas spirit, the older girls spread a little holiday cheer this afternoon, performing with their piano/voice studio at the local nursing home. It wasn't my idea, of course, but Auntie Teacher's. And it was pretty cute:

Friday, December 17, 2010

A Christmas Program to Remember

Feast your ears on some sounds of the season, courtesy my kids, their classmates, and their wonderful music teacher, at the annual school Christmas program:

It was a huge highlight that Amanda was chosen to play the handbells. "It's a real privilege, Mom," she told me. She also told me that at the first rehearsal she thought her bell was broken... but it turned out she just didn't know how to play it correctly.

You may notice the Lovely Libby (second row, third from right, red dress) delivers her entire performance with her left ear turned toward the audience. This was, apparently, because her family was in the front row, and she didn't want to look at us.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

More Holiday Scenes

This time of year is always so hectic, there are some things I've been meaning to show you-- but I just haven't had a chance. So, here is the abbreviated version, in pictures:

this year's tree (no ornaments on top third, due to Daddy being in Germany and Mommy being sick in bed)

Elisabeth's angel display

naughty toddler on the stepladder

cookie baking

a not-really-sick Libby cuddling with Grandpa

Amanda and friend-since-birth Lucas

Benjamin and preschool teacher Mrs. W., who is moving away this week and taking son Brodie, Ben's co-conspirator

And, I don't really have the full story on this last one, but suspect it would take too long to explain, anyway. Click here to see our long-time friend Warren, dancing on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show." Nothing says "Merry Christmas" like an old, gay man prancing around in an ugly sweater.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A Star is Born

OK, so it's basically the same preschool Christmas program we've seen now for five holiday seasons in a row. But, never before have we had the *star!* The morning was truly enjoyable... My kid didn't exactly sing on most of the songs, but, hey, he sure looked the part! Madeline rocked out to "Jingle Bells" in the pew, and Oliver kept piping up with, "There's Benny!"

Here's the opening number, "Away in a Manger"-- where you can see my son really *shines* and does actually know the words:

And, here's the closing number-- where Boy Child doesn't sing at all. I must say I've never felt more violated after being audience to "We Wish You a Merry Christmas":

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Ode to the Holiday Pie

Each year at this time, the Canadian Pacific Railroad Holiday Train rolls through our town, bringing Santa and Christmas carolers and collecting donations for local foodshelves along the rail line. Here is a YouTube clip of what the train looks like (not my video):

Anyway, my kids looove to go and see the Christmas train. However, it arrives before the time Daddy gets home from work, and, also, the past couple years, it has come on bitterly cold evenings. Those factors make it pretty much impossible for me to bundle up four children and go stand along the railroad tracks to wait for the show. Last year, my sister and I got smart. About an hour before the train was due, we showed up at McDonald's, which is situated right next to the train tracks, directly across from the depot stop.

We got tables by the window and ordered supper for all the kids. Then, we could watch the train arrive without risk of frostbite or lost children. This year, we stuck to our plan. Unfortunately, our idea had spread, and the place was packed. Still, we staked out the scattered tables we could find and continued with tradition. Grandma and Grandpa P. were there, too... because it is really fun to see the little faces light up when the decorated cars pull in. And, I invited my friend and her children, since her husband is out of town and I know what that's like.

Here's the point of my story: After we ate, Grandpa offered to buy dessert, and I agreed he should, since I noticed the sign advertising "Holiday Pies are back!" And, McDonald's Holiday Pies are yummy! They're a seasonal thing, and possibly regional, too... which I learned the hard way last year at this same time, when I tried to order one apple pie and one cherry and found out there was no cherry because before Christmas McDonald's offers *for a limited time* Holiday Pie.

It should be said that pies at McDonald's are not the same as when I was a kid. Remember-- they used to be deep-fried... that crispy, bubbly crust wrapped around the hot, gooey, cherry filling. Yeah, now they're baked, which is not nearly as satisfying, plus, I'm sure it's not much better for you. When will McDonald's quit pretending to be healthy? We all know the truth.

So, this Holiday Pie: It's a cookie-like pie crust, dusted with sugar and sprinkles, with warm vanilla custard inside. It. Is. SO. Good. For reasons unbeknownst to humankind, Grandpa bought 16 Apple and Holiday Pies and then followed the rest of us around, offering them up. Madeline had one. When we met up with Daddy later, he said she smelled like a doughnut. What's not to love about that?!

I took home the remaining Holiday Pies, ate one for a bedtime snack and the other for breakfast. Before typing this, I tried to look up the Holiday Pies on the McDonald's website, but they're not listed. I'm guessing it's part of that seasonal/regional thing. I did look up the Baked Apple Pie and found it contains 250 calories and 13 grams of fat-- and that one has fruit in it. Curse you, McDonald's Holiday Pie!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Neither Rain, Nor SNOW...

Because of the blizzard-- yeah, that's what news organizations are calling it, a blizzard. I'm calling it, "Come on, people, remember where we live! Let's not go all 'Kate-Plus-Eight-in-Sarah-Palin's-Alaska!' Grab a shovel and get on with it!" Anyway, because of the blizzard, my People magazine, which usually arrives on Friday, did not make it to the mailbox until Monday. Talk about a long weekend...

What Does It All Mean, Anyway?

You know how when you enter information on some websites (like when you want to make a witty comment to one of my even wittier posts through blogger) you have to retype the "security code" in the box? I know this has to do with making sure you're a real person and not a computerized telemarketer, or something... but it always freaks me out. I mean, the letters are fuzzy and all helter skelter and sometimes there are weird geometric backgrounds. What if I can't decipher the code, and I am a real person?

Even when I do see the letters and attempt to retype them, I often get the giggles... because, who comes up with these things and what do they mean? I know, it's all computer-generated, too, and officially a bunch of nonsense, but when I read/type some of these "words," I chuckle about them for the rest of the day:
oery sinspose
gorfin firty

Where's my Little Orphan Annie Secret Decoder Ring when I need it?!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Christmas With Old Friends

We had our annual Christmas party with Todd's dear friends-- the ones he met in high school (or, in the case of one, elementary school;) the ones to which he still turns today. Every time we get together, we marvel that we are no longer the "children"... and that we now have more than a dozen children amongst us! (Yes, most of them are mine.) It is fun to watch our kids become friends, to reminisce on the past, and to wonder what the future holds.

There is always too much food, and too much drink... though we are all getting too old and are too busy refereeing children to fully partake. Still, at some point, the day deteriorated to this:

Nice Day for a White Wedding

We plowed through two-foot snowdrifts, braved blinding winds, got dolled up to dash out on the ice-- all for our friends Jen and Jon who got married today. No one can predict the weather, and they handled the big-time storm in stride. Congratulations to the bride and groom. Wishing you many years of happiness together-- may you weather whatever comes your way!

Check out this local news link, too. Oh, the stories you'll have to tell your grandchildren!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Little Stinker

Madeline threw a royal tantrum this morning, when I would not permit her to eat her weight in Reese's Pieces. Think I'm exaggerating?

After lunch, she redeemed herself by going poopy in the potty chair for the first time! Benjamin had a sit-down right alongside her, so he thinks he taught her. I am not silly enough to think this is actual potty training; it's just that she is my fourth child, so I recognized the signs, pulled down her pants, and put her on the pot.

As we all know, when a child is trained at a young age, it's actually the mother who is trained. I have better things to do with my time than to lock us in the house and refuse to leave for weeks on end, while following Madeline around and asking every five minutes, "Do you have to go?" Plus, I have three other children as evidence that kids eventually get trained, no matter what approach the parents take. So, give our track record, I can safely assume Madeline will be fully potty trained sometime in the next 12 to 18 months.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Measuring Up

When people become parents, they marvel at the sudden and profound love they feel for their child(ren.) I hear new mothers remark something along the lines of, "Now, I know how my mom feels about me." That's all true, of course. But, what sometimes amazes me is how much other people like-- even love-- my children.

Maybe it's because I never really saw motherhood as my goal. Maybe it's because I was the kind of kid who always wanted to hang out with older people. Maybe it's because all the free time in the first five years of our marriage was devoted to socializing with other non-parents, so I was rarely around other people's kids. Whatever the reason, I've never considered myself a "kid lover."

Sure, I adore my nephews. Sure, I notice when other people's offspring are particularly clever, or beautiful, or well-behaved. But I don't go out of my way to dote on children as a general population. Still, some people do. And, now that I am a mother, I really, really appreciate it when I see the genuine care other grownups show to my little people.

This is most realized in the experiences and interactions my children have without me. Their teachers tell me complimentary things about them. Coaches cheer them on. Babysitters share funny stories or ask questions about things the kids did or told them.

I notice this particularly with Benjamin. I really think he's one of those kids who is "a different kid" when he's away from his mommy. His preschool teacher will ask him to read something unusually difficult, like other kids' names, and he will do so without batting those long eyelashes. The medical specialists we see always take lots of time to talk directly with Benjamin, leaving no doubt he is the most important person in the room.

Today, it was Pam. You've read about her before; she's Ben's developmental adaptive physical education teacher. They spend a half-hour each week, one-on-one, doing exercises to improve Ben's strength and to counteract the lag he has with his peers due to his low muscle tone and large head size. Ben doesn't much like to exercise, because it's hard. But Pam finds ways to engage him, and she is always encouraging him.

When Benjamin brings Pam candy for a treat, she shares. One of Ben's favorite activities is to put together and then run through an obstacle course, so that's pretty much what he and Pam do every week now. This morning, Ben stowed away a tape measure in his jacket pocket. He was so excited about that tape measure. He couldn't wait to show Pam. I couldn't figure out what he was going to do with a tape measure in gym class, and I hoped it wouldn't be a distraction from the work he was supposed to do, but, it was early in the morning and we were late, so the tape went with Ben and that was that.

When I picked up Ben after his class, Pam handed me this report:

She and Ben measured everything with which they had come in contact, including all the equipment in the motor skills room. They also measured the work Ben did-- how far he could jump, what kind of incline he used for his sit-ups. And they didn't forget to measure the other important stuff, too, like the diameter of the elevator button and the width of one M & M.

Love my kid-- you have a friend for life, in me. I would give Pam a kidney. Of course, Tape Boy would be right there to measure my incision... and Pam's... and the bed rails on our gurneys...

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


Grandma bought for the children those cardboard advent calendars; behind each door is a little chocolate shaped like a different Christmas item. We've never had these before-- just the cloth kind that hangs on the wall where we move a marker from one numbered pocket to the next. Each morning brings new excitement as the children line up at the kitchen table to uncover a bit of sugar to go with their already sugary breakfasts. Today, Benjamin opened the little paper door and exclaimed most excitedly, "Oh, hey! It's chocolate! Wow!" What was he thinking the last six days?

Monday, December 6, 2010

The St. Nicholas Caper

Today is the Feast of St. Nicholas/St. Nicholas Day. I know this because my children attend a parochial school, and they came home, talking about the St. Nick play and how they put their shoes outside their classrooms and later found them filled with treats. When I was growing up, we never celebrated the Feast of St. Nicholas. I don't know why-- we just never did. I asked my husband, who also attended parochial school (though a different denomination from our kids') and he said yes, they celebrated St. Nicholas Day: "That was the day Santa came, so we could save Christmas for JESUS!"

Amanda asked us at supper whether our family would be honoring St. Nicholas (translation: Could she leave out her shoes and expect to find them filled with presents?) I told her we were all in favor of St. Nick, but she had already celebrated at school and she should not expect to add any new practices to our roster of family traditions, certainly nothing involving more gifts. Soon after, a friend of mine called, and wanted to know whether St. Nicholas had yet visited our house. I gave her the same speech I had given Amanda; she pretty much called me a "party pooper" and hung up.

Not 15 minutes later, the doorbell rang. As they typically do, the kids clamored to answer the front door. They opened it to find no one on the porch, but a bag full of goodies at their feet. St. Nicholas had been there!

The kids were so excited and surprised and puzzled. They spent the rest of the evening talking about who could have done that and how they got away with it. Their leading contender is the middle schooler who played the part of St. Nicholas in the school drama. I suspect I have a good friend with frostbitten ankles.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Bathing Beauty

I know this won't surprise many of you, but I don't often take baths. I DO often bathe-- I just mean a shower suffices, so I don't waste a lot of time floating around in the tub. But, once in a while, especially for that really fun task of leg shaving, a bath is a necessity.

I never take a bath while Todd is away. I'm sure it's a skill mastered by other women whose husbands are gone a lot. But, I worry: What if one of the kids starts crying? What if I accidentally drown or get electrocuted? What if the boogeyman comes in and spies my bits?

Todd returned last evening from Switzerland and Germany. This morning, as I stepped out of the shower, my husband commented, "So, I see you're going European." Guess it was time for a bath.

As he put the children to bed, I ran the water for my bath. While the tub was filling, I changed one more load of laundry and stood folding it on my bed. Todd walked by and asked, "Oh, did you draw a bath for me?" The next thing I knew, he was in it!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

One Child

Aunt Lisa took Amanda and Elisabeth for their annual sleepover extravaganza, which somehow led to Benjamin being invited to a special night with Grandpa. That left me and Madeline, home alone. At her age and maintenance level, no one is clamoring for an overnight with the toddler. That's OK by me; the house was clean and the laundry was caught up and I was looking forward to some Mommy-and-Maddy time.

But, it turns out having one little kid at home is kind of boring. I mean, she's cute and all, and busy enough to keep me hopping. We shopped online; she fake-cooked for me in her fake kitchen and I fake ate it; we played catch; she touched all the other kids' toys; I gave her a bath and kept her from drinking the water. Still, when you're used to the chaos of four children, one seems like a cakewalk.

I think Madeline was as bored with me as I was with her. She kept looking at me like, "Where's the entertainment? Why aren't you making faces at me? Calling me names? Ripping toys from my hands? Teaching me to do things I shouldn't?"

Now, in no way are these remarks intended to disparage the one-child parent. Going from no children to one child is like entering a parallel universe. I remember. It's hard. When my new niece or nephew (I think it's a niece... but I typically guess wrong) arrives next month, my brother and SIL are going to be in a world of hurt-- in a good way, I mean.

But it's different when you've already gone from no children to one, from one to two, from two to three, and from three to a thousand. Then, going suddenly back to one seems like a walk in the park... like a dull walk in the park. At one point, I spied Madeline running with a sucker in her mouth. The mommy alarm bells went off: *"No! Running! With! Sucker! In! Mouth!"* But, before I got to her to stop her, another thought entered my head: "Hey, if she falls and hurts herself, I'll just take her to the Emergency Room. I don't even need to call for back-up for the other kids. It's just us. I got this. Run on, Wild Child, run on."

I did eventually confiscate the sucker-- not for the running, but because it was Madeline's third of the day, and because I never did figure out where she got it.

Friday, December 3, 2010

What Brown Does for Me

You know how when you have a personal connection to a certain job, it makes you react differently? For example, everyone says that once you've been a table server, you always tip better. I think we all have those kinds of situations to which we can relate.

As you may know, my brother wears that snazzy, brown uniform and drives the big, boxy UPS truck. I've been thinking of him so much, with both the holiday season and the nasty weather upon us. Because of my bro, I try to be extra-nice to any UPS guys I meet, letting them go ahead of me at the convenience store checkout, holding doors when they're pushing their big dollies, that kind of thing. But, I gotta admit, our UPS guy is kind of a weirdo. He seems determined to have zero contact with me, dropping packages in odd locations around my house and high-tailing it back up the driveway even as I quickly open the door. I don't have a dog, and I do wear a bra. All I want to do is say "thank you," and give him a candy bar and a can of soda. Is that so creepy?

Yesterday, I happened to be standing right on the other side of the front door when the UPS guy's helper (yes, they're so busy this time of year some of the delivery people get helpers) deposited a package on my front steps. I could clearly hear him yelling to the guy back in the truck, "Is this the right place? Do you think this is the house? Should I just leave it? Oh, well, I'm just gonna leave it." Not exactly instilling confidence in the receiver, but... it was the right house, and he was just delivering one more dumb computer thing my husband ordered.

Today, when Benjamin and I were headed to preschool, we passed a UPS truck that was so loaded down, it actually had a matching, brown, logo-ed U-haul-type trailer hooked to the back of the truck. That guy was doing double duty! We giggled all the way to school, but said a little prayer that Uncle Ted didn't meet the same fate.

Be kind to your UPS guy. On one hand, he may be my brother. On the other hand, he may just be a nasty man who doesn't care where he leaves your crap.

Mama Drama

On Monday afternoon, Todd left suddenly on a trip to Germany and Switzerland; the doctors his company works with got some cases on the docket so it was time for more human experiments-- that, or his other family was in some kind of crisis. On Tuesday morning, I woke up, got out of bed, and thought, "Whoa, I'm sick." I managed to get the older girls on the bus (though Elisabeth's shoe fell out of her backpack as she was heading up the driveway) and the younger children in places where they could not harm themselves, and then I laid back down because I felt like you-know-what. After an hour or so of telling myself, "You are not sick" and having little success in the mind-over-matter department, I called my mommy. Much as I'm sure she didn't want to, she came.

I told my mother I was sure I had the same stomach bug the kids had had, so I expected by mid-afternoon I'd be coming out of it. I really, really didn't want her to get sick. I told her just to shut me in my room and I'd come out when I was better. Ha! She handled the children and the household beautifully. I did not live up to my end of the bargain by recovering quickly.

By early evening, Mom had called the nurse line and sent Dad to their house for an overnight bag. My continuing, ah, bathroom-related maladies, pounding headache and shakiness suggested I needed medical treatment. I pulled another good one by asking Mom to take me to Urgent Care. I was trying to save the Emergency Room for the really sick people, but I soon discovered Urgent Care was actually for people who do not urgently require care.

Upon entering the clinic, I was so weak I asked to sit down at check-in. The receptionist took a couple quick shots of Purell and then called for a nurse and a wheelchair. We took the carpool lane through the waiting room and almost went right into the exam room-- just one detour to the scale. Hey, I lost three pounds in one day! There is an upside to this! By the time the on-duty physician's assistant entered the room, I was feeling so poorly I really couldn't lift my head. I still can't tell you what she looks like.

I did my best, while at my worst, to explain my symptoms and my situation. I said I was sure it was the same stomach bug my children had, but that it was imperative for me to get better so I could take care of them. The PA ordered lab tests requiring a blood draw and a urine sample, because the only thing more fun that being dehydrated is having someone attempt to extract fluids from your dehydrated body. Sure enough, the tests revealed absolutely nothing, except that I actually was capable of becoming even crankier.

The PA described my dehydration as "mild," ordered the nurse to give me two shots of Zofran in the tush, and sent me home. On the way out, it just so happened our pediatrician's nurse was also leaving the clinic. I said hi to her and she stopped. "Andrea?" she asked. "Oh, my God. I passed you two other times and absolutely didn't recognize you." OK, that sounds kind of dramatic, but it reinforced how I was feeling, especially since that very nurse had seen me exactly one day earlier for Madeline's well-baby visit. She went on to describe, in detail, the evidence of my dehydration and basically suggested I had not gotten the kind of treatment I needed.

That nurse advised me to head to the hospital but told me I would again have to wait, go through triage, etc. I said I would probably just go home and ride out the night-- and she wished me well and promised to check on me in the morning. On the way home, I checked with another friend who is an ER nurse and she told me she could go either way on whether I should come in. She also gave graphic details about all the bugs they've been seeing, including a recent patient who was so sick she had pooped on my friend's shoes. Yeah, I didn't want to be that lady.

The next morning, I was expecting a follow-up call from the PA who had seen me in Urgent Care, but, first, I got a call from the pediatrician's office. The nurse asked me if there'd been improvements overnight. I said the shot did make me stop barfing but that was about all the good news I had to report. She again suggested I come in and seek further treatment. I thanked her for checking on me but told her I was sure I'd feel better if I just got some more rest. Five minutes later, she called again. The nurse told me she had talked to the pediatrician-- yes, my kids' doctor-- and they both agreed I needed to come in to get treated for dehydration. She said she'd see me herself. So, I went.

I managed to take a shower without passing out, and I told Mom I thought I could handle the clinic by myself. By 10:00 on morning number two, I had lost another three pounds. My pulse rate was high and so was my blood pressure. I was settled into a procedure room and given constant IV fluids over the course of three hours. The nurse told me it would be a good sign when I felt like I had to pee. That never happened. But, when the bag was empty, I was deemed to be looking "a little better" and I called my mommy to come and pick me up.

My parents took care of my kids the rest of Wednesday. On Thursday, my mother-in-law took over, helping to care for the little ones and clean up the house. Today, I am finally starting to return to the Land of the Living. I even left the house, running a few errands and then dropping off some donations at the girls' school. I got there just in time to see some poor, little girl break into tears after puking in the lunch line. It's an epidemic, I tell you.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Big Talker

Here I was, feeling all high and mighty about how I handled this year's bout with the stomach flu... And then I got it. There is much more to this story, including how my parents saved the day and how the pediatrician's nurse saved my life. But I'm still recovering and need to use what little energy I have to sterilize stuff.