Thursday, September 29, 2011

Amanda for... What?

No one in Krinkeland is short on opinions, but, when Amanda began stumping-- totally unprovoked and for no apparent reason-- I couldn't help thinking it sounded like a campaign speech:

"I really hope technology doesn't go too far. I mean, I think technology has gone far enough. I wouldn't hope for too many more advances in technology, because I think then things would just be too 'techno.' And I wouldn't do good with too 'techno.' About the only change I would make would be to have cars run on watermelon juice, so we don't have to rely on fossil fuels. Oh, and no people should go hungry."

I don't know what she's running for... but she has my vote.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Big Brother in a 2-Year-Old Girl's Body

My toddler reminded me today to wear my seatbelt. To be fair, what Madeline actually called from the backseat as I started the car was, "Uh-oh, Mommy, buckle!" But, since she and I were the only two in the car and she was already securely strapped into her seat, how else could I take it?

Now, please don't take me for flippant, or dumb. Seatbelts save lives. I know that. I wear mine. All the time. You should, too.

But, maybe it's the libertarian side of my husband whose ideals creep into my thoughts at times like these: "Holy cow! A two-year-old is already controlling my personal actions." Indoctrination starts early.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Ballerina Girl

I sat outside the dance studio this evening, swelling with equal parts pride and envy, as Elisabeth stepped her way through ballet, jazz and tap class. The piano music was loud. The teacher's instructions were encouraging. Though this was Libby's third class of the season, I marveled from my seat over how I had ended up there.

"No Dance" was previously one of my motherhood absolutes. There were only two, really: No Dance and No Hockey. I still cling to "No Hockey." I cherish my garage door windows too much, but not nearly as much as I cherish my kids' teeth... and our savings for retirement. Still, I'm glad I stopped there with the absolutes. If I was one of those parents who walked around spouting, "McNuggets will never cross my children's lips," or "My son will never play pocket pool during story time at the library" or "My daughter will never go to church with peanut butter in her hair"-- well, then, you'd be laughing at me more than you already do.

I did not have dance lessons as a child. I'm sure cost was one reason, but the bigger reason was a loftier one: My mother opposed the way dance studios adulterated little girls, with sequins and makeup and hip thrusts. (And that was in the 1970s!) I was raised with standards, and they stuck.

Once I got to be middle-school-aged or so, I became interested in musical theater. In that arena, I soon learned I could act and sing as well as most kids my age, but I COULD NOT DANCE. Now, I don't place the blame solely on lack of formal instruction. (Hello, genetics?) Still, in all my years of being on stage, not an audition goes by that I don't wish I knew how to dance. And don't give me that "you're never too old to learn" crap... I've had a few dance lessons in my adult life and they were DISASTROUS. I think the ship has simply sailed on that one.

When our children got to be school-aged and were old enough to express their own interests, Libby started asking to go to dance class. I put her off with promises to research area studios and hoped she'd forget. She didn't. I signed her up for gymnastics, which she loved, but it was not dance. She started piano lessons, but she still wanted to dance. Once she had a couple community theater and Saints on Stage musical theater productions under her belt, I knew I was doing Libby a disservice by denying the girl dance lessons.

I spent a great deal of time discussing this with other mothers (including my own.) I surveyed Dance Moms and Non-Dance Moms, alike. I talked with two very close friends who live in different states, both of whom have daughters who dance. After consulting a number of mothers whose kids go to school with my kids, we found our way to one local dance studio that seemed to be not-so-much-like-all-the-rest: lots of variety, small class sizes, low pressure, modest costumes, modest moves.

Since both have had their turns on stage, I encouraged both Amanda and Elisabeth to take a summer intro. to dance session, which they did. After the four-class sampler had ended, Amanda declared she'd had enough of dance and would not be returning. When I asked her why, she said, "My legs hurt." Ah, this one is my child.

But, Libby loved her time in the dance studio, and could not wait for fall to come so she could return. She is taking a very basic, weekly class with girls her age and relative ability level. They get the basics of ballet, jazz and tap dance. I guess the true test will come with the recital in the spring... but that is some time off.

For now, Libby just loves her dance class, and I love the fact that Libby has something that is uniquely hers. Since the two older girls are only 18 months apart in age, they have been somewhat lumped together since Elisabeth's birth-- matching outfits, shared bedroom, tag-alongs on each other's birthday parties. With Amanda as more of the leader and Libby as more of the follower, the older sister tends to dictate what the duo does or does not do.

Libby's eagerness to dance off on her own was reason enough for me to widen my view and write the check. I even bucked up for new shoes, tights and leotards, ordered from an actual dance supplier. Of course, in true Libby fashion, she disregarded it all to bound off tonight in a purple, velour, garage-sale tutu. That girl is dancing with herself.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Pumpkin Guts Everywhere!

It looks like a jack-o-lantern threw up in my living room.

With Daddy gone (do I have to keep typing AGAIN?!) and the kids begging, it seemed like a good time to drag out the Halloween decorations... even though it's not officially October. With the boxes of decorations came the boxes of costumes, and so begins the month-long game of dress-up.

I'll tell you what, though-- Better than any bribe or any threat (yes, save your comments-- I know those are ineffective parenting techniques, and you know they sometimes happen, anyway) dangling the carrot of "maybe we can get out the Halloween stuff" was a really great incentive to get toys picked up, laundry put away, homework done, and piano practiced. Why can't every day be 35 days before Halloween?

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Going Through the Boxes

It's that time of year again: Time to go through the boxes. You know, where I empty out the kids' dresser drawers and closets and pack up all the clothes that are too small, too ratty or too ugly. Then, I get out the plastic bins of hand-me-downs from the basement, as well as the tubs of new stuff I've been stockpiling since the previous sizes.

Here's the thing: Getting out the new clothes is kind of fun. So, I did that part first. However, I can't put them all away until someone goes through the kids' dressers and closets and cleans out all the cast-offs. That is not fun. So, who's in? I could really use some help with all the piles around here.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Key

I know I have been writing about Benjamin a lot lately, but sometimes it seems he's the only person in this house who likes to talk to me. Moody girls.

Today, he found a stray key. I believe it is our house key. I do not know why it was on the bathroom counter. One of the many mysteries of Krinkeland. Anyway, our exchange over the key was a bright highlight in an otherwise very gray day:

Ben: "Mom, what's this key for?"
Mom: "It's the key to my heart."
Ben: "Mom, naw..."
Mom: "Yes, it is. That is the key to my heart, and you, my son, are holding it."
Ben: "This cannot be the key to your heart (pressing it up against his chest.) Mom, how could it even get through your skin to unlock your heart? No, this is not the key to your heart, Mom."
Mom: "You are holding the key to my heart."
Ben: (holding the key a little lower) "Mom, you are wrong. This key won't even unlock my belly button-- and there's already a hole there."

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Two Wrenches in the Plans

It's amazing how one little problem-- or two-- can really gum up the works for a day.

This morning, I was emptying the dishwasher while the kids ate breakfast. Todd was getting ready to leave for work and commented that Amanda had made the bus, while Elisabeth had not. I said, "Yes, I'll have to drive Libby to school when I take Ben to preschool." Benjamin added, "Yep, right after you take me to see Pam." Crap! I had totally forgotten that adaptive phy. ed. started again this morning.

In about 15 minutes' time, I got myself showered, Madeline out of bed, Maddy and Ben and me all dressed and everyone in the car. We were only about five minutes late for gym class-- and Pam pretty much expects us to always be late, anyway, so I was feeling pretty good. But I couldn't shake the late. I was basically late for everything... everywhere... the rest of the day. My clock was just off.

As if that wasn't bad enough, Amanda burst in the back door this afternoon announcing, "Mom, guess what? I broke my glasses!" Ugh. Again, not a huge deal-- but to pack in a trip to the eyeglass shop in an already full agenda? It wouldn't have been such a priority except she has school photos in two days, and she looks mangy enough as your typical fourth grader without grinning into the camera with a big wad of tape on the side of her glasses.

Well, let's just say we did it. What's more, the sample frames they had in the shop were a different color than the ones Amanda ordered-- bronze instead of purple... and Amanda decided she liked those better. So, she's keeping the more neutral frames. Bonus.

Now, I just gotta get off this treadmill and get some sleep... so I can do it all over again tomorrow.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Benjamisms: He Knows Not What He Says

The door to the kitchen pantry squeaks, and I purposely have not WD-40-ed it, because it's like an alarm, alerting me to snack marauders from wherever I am in the house. As I was folding laundry upstairs, I heard the tell-tale squeak, followed a short time later by the familiar crinkle of individual snack wrapper:

Mom: "Who's eating?"
Ben: "Me."
Mom: "WHAT are you eating?"
Ben: "I don't know... but they sure are good."

For the record, it was a little bag of cheddar cheese Combos-- and they are good.

Today, Benjamin and his preschool classmates were to bring fall-themed items for show-and-tell. Ben brought one of the apples, picked off the tree in our yard that was planted in honor of his birth. But he was more excited about the things the other kids brought:

"One kid brought his caterpillar that was as big as your finger-- not my finger, but yours, Mom! Then, this other kid brought a caterpillar, too, but it was smaller. And (one boy,) he brought his hockey kit. You know, all that stuff? Wait-- is hockey that game where you hit that small thing with that other long thing and it goes somewhere?"

Some kids have athletes for parents... Some kids have us.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Benjamin Blu

Benjamin has been walking around all week, randomly spouting, "And sometimes I pee in the birthbath!" He's quoting the movie "Rio"... I hope.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Prayers, Please

One of my FILs (yep, I get two) has been diagnosed with esophageal cancer. Please send prayers Harlan's way as we receive more test results and formulate a treatment plan.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Long-Distance Day

Todd asked me out on our first date the weekend before my 19th birthday. Then, on my birthday, he sent me this gorgeous, very large bouquet of flowers. I still remember the giggles around my house because my parents and siblings were not entirely sure who sent them. (It had been a good summer.) But, I knew.

A few weeks later, I packed up and returned to college; he did the same. Shortly thereafter, Todd celebrated his 21st birthday without me. My absence for that birthday was due to the distance between our schools, the fact that I was underage, and the reality that I wouldn't have wanted to witness that spectacle, anyway.

That's the last birthday we spent apart.

Today is Todd's (fill-in-the-blank) birthday, and he is away. It's not even for a fun reason-- he's working. Now, my husband and I are no Paul and Linda McCartney:

Paul on spending every night with Linda (not counting their time apart when Paul was in jail in Japan): "I always think of Linda still as my girlfriend. That's how we started out in the '60s, just as friends. Whenever I was working late somewhere, I just never fancied it. I thought: Well, I could stay overnight in this posh hotel, or I could go home to Linda. And it was always the brighter of the two options: Yeah, go home to Linda. It was just I liked being with her, quite frankly." (Source: USA, 1998.)

We are often separated, by career demands-- not by choice, because he's on another continent-- not because I've banished him to the guest room. Still, it feels so wrong to have him not be here, so we can celebrate with him. Of course, he's not missing much: a few hastily wrapped gifts of really fun items like undershirts and shoe shine sponges, handmade cards, a lopsided birthday cake full of finger swipes. Yeah, I guess he's missing everything. And we are missing him.

Happy birthday, Honey, and many, many more.

"How lucky am I to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard."
--A.A. Milne (Winnie-the-Pooh)

Sunday, September 11, 2011

I Remember

Just like the rest of you, I remember vividly where I was, what I was doing on 9/11. It is my generation's "Where were you when Kennedy was shot?" It is a day no one will ever forget. This year, my view of the event changed, not only because of the wide media coverage surrounding the 10-year anniversary of the terrorist attacks, but also because it is the first time my nine-year-old child has asked about that day.

"What happened?" Amanda recently came to me. What a question. I explained the events of the day as simply as I could. I used words like "tragedy" and "evil" and I told her who did what, without infusing too many gory details into her already panicked mind. Amanda took it in, and seemed more satisfied with answers, than with the bits and pieces she had picked up from television promos and school bus conversations.

Then, she did the math: "Mom, if this happened 10 years ago, weren't you scared? I mean, weren't you scared for the baby in your tummy? You must have been pregnant with me." I told her the truth-- I was, and I was.

I was producing local television news in the fall of 2001. I was about four months pregnant with my first child, but my bosses at work were still uninformed. I was sitting at my desk in the newsroom, watching the quad screen (four network channels at once) and building my rundown for the noon news. On the Today show, I saw video of a big fire at a really tall building in New York City. I'd been watching this out of the corner of my eye for some time. For whatever reason, the scene had my full attention-- when I saw, live, the second plane hit the second tower.

Within literally minutes, I grabbed my notes and headed for the control room. Even halfway across the country, we were on the air live inside of an hour, and I stayed in my chair in that control room for at least 10 or 12 hours straight, helping to lead news coverage from the airport and the Mall of America, coordinating interviews with government leaders and more. My colleague-friends came to see me from time to time, slipping me sandwiches and cookies and telling me to remember my child.

As though I could forget.

Early in the day, while I was running back and forth between the newsroom and the control room and the tape room, my mother, a middle school teacher, left me a voice mail message: "Andrea, what is going on? I'm here at work, and we don't know anything. But parents are calling and showing up and saying all kinds of crazy things." It was one of the only times I heard true fear in my mother's voice.

When I got home that night, exhausted in every way possible, I said to my husband, "All I kept thinking today was, 'What are we doing?'" When he asked what I meant, I explained, "I mean, how can we bring a child into this world? With all this going on? What's going to happen? There's no way to know. It's scary." Well, you know my husband, and you know he had a comeback: "That's exactly why we bring a child into the world now. I mean, apart from the fact that the child is already coming... We are living proof of faith in America. Nothing can get us down."

I passed along that message to my daughter, too.

This tragedy will never be forgotten. We honor the victims in the way we live. We support the rescuers by acknowledging their heroism and praying for their healing. God bless America.

Friday, September 9, 2011

I Can Hear You

Sound travels on a lake. When you live along the shore, with the houses close together, as we do, you hear things. Of course, when someone is yelling at the top of her voice, there's no blaming the water.

On this beautiful summer-fall afternoon, as I sit working on the computer next to an open window, I clearly hear this:

"_____, quit yer pouting and get yer a** out here!" (_____ is four years old.) "I mean it. I am so tired of yer g**d***ed blubbering. Knock it off. I am so sick of this s***! You can't just walk off and go inside. I said, git yer a** out here! I mean, really, d*** it. Have some manners, for G**'s sake."

Yes, she is the mother. But, hey, at least she's teaching manners.

This incident reminds me of certain, ah, discussions I have from time to time with my husband. He invariably hisses, "Would you lower your voice? Do you want the neighbors to hear you?" And I yell, even more loudly, "YES I DO! Why should I be the only one who knows what you're really like?!"

Guess I could use a little work in the manners department, too.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Cabbage Patch Kid

As school wrapped up in the spring, Amanda's third grade teacher handed out small, pottted cabbage plants. It was part of a national program to get kids interested in vegetable gardening. I am sure most of the cabbage seedlings went straight into the compost pile-- but not Amanda's. She expressed her desire to grow an award-winning vegetable.

She wanted to plant the cabbage in our yard... But we don't have much of a yard. Amanda said she would plant it in a pot, but I didn't think cabbage would thrive in a container. I suggested Grandma's vegetable garden. There it went, and there it flourished.

Now, to be fair, Grandma and Grandma's green-thumbed neighbor definitely did more of the day-to-day care of the cabbage plant. But, Amanda visited it regularly, prayed over it, asked questions and offered suggestions. It worked. At the end of the summer, we had this:

Amanda dubbed the cabbage "Phil." We took these photos and the stats on the cabbage-- he weighs anywhere from nine to 11 pounds, depending on the scale-- back to Amanda's third grade teacher, who sent them off to the national contest. Regardless of the final outcome, Amanda is so proud. Coleslaw, anyone?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Pedal Pusher

Daddy says Madeline doesn't know how to pedal. Auntie Ellen says that's a three-year-old skill, anyway. Mommy has the proof:

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

School is Cool

Ah, the first day of school...

This year, we have:

a second grader and a fourth grader

a post-graduate-level preschooler

a sad and lonely two-year-old

All the kids were excited to start off their school year, and you won't find any Mama Drama in Krinkeland. Sure, I'll miss having them around all day, but I am excited for all the academic adventures ahead! The best part of my day came when the girls bounded off the school bus in the afternoon and Elisabeth-- yes, Elisabeth-- pulled me inside so she could sit me down and show me her first-day papers.

What more can you ask for than, "Today I felt super duper good?"

Saturday, September 3, 2011

What a Ride!

Elisabeth turns eight in one week. With the holiday weekend and the start of school and Daddy's travels, it is a tough time for a birthday. But, celebrate we must. We told Libby she could invite one or two friends for a special outing. She chose the local amusement park, Valleyfair.

I thought my kids were crazy about rides, but, these fellow seven-year-old girls were maniacs! We all had a ball! All the rollercoasters... every waterslide... any ride for which they met the height requirements... There was no stopping these Wild Things!

Just to add to the day's adventure, upon our arrival at the park, I received a text message from our beloved babysitter, informing us that Madeline was running a fever of 104.5 degrees. So, we had a lot of running back and forth and rearranging and jockeying about, but, everyone kept their cool, and the babysitter and Grandma were both big helps. Maddy does not have strep throat or a UTI-- it appears to be one of those weird, 24-hour viruses that keep us parents on our toes.

By day's end, we were not on our toes. We were hardly on our feet. But it was definitely a day to remember.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Old-Time Photos

One of the kids recently commented, "Mom and Dad were born way back in the 1900s." Further proving the point, Elisabeth found an old high school yearbook, began paging through it, and commented, "Boy, Dad, when you were a kid, photos were still in black-and-white." Todd explained that was not the case-- it was just cheaper to print the book that way. Libby did not buy it.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Can't Sleep

Actually, I have no trouble sleeping... never do... just put my head on my pillow and close my eyes. However, when other members of my family cannot sleep, they are compelled to wake me up and tell me, "I can't sleep." Then, I can't sleep.

I was in bed, worn out, just winding down around 10 p.m., when Elisabeth padded down the hall, dragging her blanket behind her. We'd spent the last hour, maybe two, going 'round and 'round about some medical tests scheduled for her for the morning. They were not optional. She was old enough to know what was going on. It wasn't going to be fun for anyone. Libby finally calmed down enough to tell me her concerns, and to present a list of demands for making the test-taking as tolerable as possible. I took notes and assured her the plan was reasonable and I would be happy to be her advocate at the hospital-- if only she would go back to bed. She did.

As I breathed deeply and began nodding off, the telephone rang. It was Todd. I looked at the clock and saw it was just after 10:30 here; that's 5:30 a.m. where he is. Todd often has trouble sleeping when he's traveling for work. The factors: the time change, the demanding work schedule, missing his family, European hotels often not having air conditioning. So, I talked him through it the best I could and told him to pray himself off to dreamland for a couple more hours.

That's what I did, too, until-- I heard wandering feet near the door to my bedroom. "Mom, I can't sleep." 1:52 a.m. Benjamin. I knew Ben was exhausted, after a long and busy day, but he gave me every excuse in the book: tummy hurt, legs hurt, thirsty, hungry, not tired, wanted to do puzzles, wanted to play on the computer, wanted to watch television.

We got the drink. We turned on the TV, where Ben finally believed me there is nothing for a little boy to watch in the middle of the night. This went on for a while. A long while. Finally, we struck a deal where he would go back to his own bed and try hard to go back to sleep, IF I would set the alarm on his Nintendo DS so he would know when to get up. Deal. (Wink, wink.)

Ben was snoring. The clock read 5:06. I eventually went back to sleep. Right around 7:00, Madeline opened her door and called, "Mama, want out!"