Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween Sights

Today will go down in history as "The Halloween Amanda Lost Her Glasses." Aah, life with children.

When heading out to go trick-or-treating, Amanda slipped her eyeglasses into her jacket pocket, because, she said later, she just felt the glasses did not go with her costume. Naturally, when one is a nine-year-old girl dressed as Justin Bieber, one does not wish to appear inauthentic. Amanda is not old enough to go trick-or-treating without an adult... but she is old enough to run screaming down the sidewalk, with a friend on each elbow, just far enough and fast enough to make it appear as though she is not with her younger siblings and her father. She did just that.

At some point in the two-hour excursion, Amanda's eyeglasses fell out of her pocket. She did not notice. She did not notice until she stopped at the next door neighbors' house before returning home and wanted to put on her glasses before entering our house. No glasses.

Amazingly, it did not take Amanda too long to fess up. While her friends and siblings were sorting Snickers from Skittles, my first born sidled up to me on the couch and, in a low voice, said, "Don't be mad at me because it was an accident-- but Ilostmyglasses." Of course, I was mad. And I reacted. And it didn't take long for all our guests to exit Krinkeland. And, as well they did, because the Halloween Witch was making an appearance.

Amanda and Dad took the flashlights and the car and canvassed the area in question to the best of their ability. No dice. When they returned home, Daddy put to bed the other three overtired, over-sugared goblins, while I lectured Amanda. I knew it was fruitless, but I was really ticked.

We talked about formulating a plan to look for the glasses and what we were going to do if we didn't find them. Then, I said, "I'm going out to look again. Are you coming?" I'll give the kid this much-- she knew the right answer to that question.

Each of us took a bright LED flashlight and went foot by foot along each side of the sidewalk, up and down the street where she last remembered having her glasses. After nearly an hour, a man jogged up to us and asked, "Are you, by chance, looking for a pair of prescription eyeglasses?"

He said his wife had found the glasses by the candy bowl on her front porch, and, when he saw us out with flashlights, he made the connection. Amanda was sincere in her thanks and appreciation. I hugged that stranger right on the dark street, I did.

Now, lest you think the frustrating eyeglasses story comprises the whole of the Krinkeland Halloween, I can assure you we made many more fun and enjoyable memories:

*Madeline was so excited to go trick-or-treating. She didn't necessarily understand the concept, but played the part of the trained monkey well enough to say "trick-or-treat" and "thank you" at each house. Then, at each and every house, she would turn and run back down the walk, yelling, "I got CANDY!"

*Grandma R. went on her usual Halloween hike with her son and grandchildren, and, as usual, she went in costume. This year, she was a friendly ghost. You could plainly see that by the big smiley face on her white hood. However, being that she was wearing a white hood and a white sheet, there was, unfortunately, something strongly Klan-reminiscent about her outfit. We tied a big pink bow at the top of her hood and that seemed to help quite a bit. Still, Grandma was the first of the entourage to return to the house, saying simply, "I was scaring people."

*Grandpa R. sat on his perch, tabulating trick-or-treaters to the house, as I requested. At the end of the evening, we'd had 17 young visitors. That does not really explain how we went through 45 large candy bars.

*Lucia, my nine-month-old niece, came over with her parents for a first-ever round of trick-or-treating. The loveliest ladybug around, she didn't hit too many houses, because the homeowners soon saw through the scam-- they clearly were NOT giving candy to a baby who has no teeth, but to her parents.

*Grandma P. put on the Justin Beiber wig, and actually pulled it off.

Happy Halloween! Who wants to try getting these kids up and on the school bus in the morning?

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Cut Up

It happens this way every year in Krinkeland-- the last-minute carving of the pumpkins. It's no surprise really... the dad around here, when he is around here, can be a bit of a procrastinator and a bit of a perfectionist. And, as far as pumpkin carvers go, Dad is all my kids have. Just the thought of pumpkin guts, much less the texture or the smell, makes me gag. That's probably why I put off the selecting of the pumpkins until we're up against the Halloween deadline. Maybe I think my kids will forget and we'll just be able to avoid the whole pumpkin carving scene this year. Yeah, that's not going to happen.

So, it was long and grueling, but we have our 2011 Works of Porch Art, lined up and lighted just in time to greet trick-or-treaters.

It's no surprise Elisabeth found an outline of a chipmunk to carve into her massive pumpkin.

Madeline couldn't really choose a template on her own, but her ears sure perked up at the mention of Minnie Mouse.

Benjamin, also true to form, requested Patrick from SpongeBob Squarepants, and Daddy delivered.

Naturally, Amanda is much too original to subject her unique pumpkin to a standardized stencil, but she based her silly-yet-traditional jack-o-lantern face on this.

Hope they make you smile! (All they made me do was scrub pumpkin bits off the kitchen floor.)

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Really, Ridge?

I was catching up on my "The Bold and the Beautiful" tonight-- a week's worth of episodes recorded and waiting-- and, now, I have just one message for the show's creators, or, more specifically, for the wardrobe stylists:

Soap operas are fantastic creations. For that reason, I tolerate A LOT-- pregnancies in 50-year-old women, marriages between stepchildren, people coming back from the dead... BUT, I cannot and will not accept Ridge in a lavender scarf.

Judging from all the blogging on this topic when I Googled it to find a photo, I am not the only one who finds the purple scarf ridiculous. I mean, isn't it difficult enough to take a man seriously when his character's name is "Ridge," he's been married to the same woman at least three times-- along with a number of others in between, and his cheekbones are more prominent than those of the fashion models for whom he designs dresses?!

Friday, October 28, 2011

She Needed that Hole in Her Head

When you're the only kid in first grade who hasn't lost a tooth, you are an island, I tell you. But, to start second grade and STILL have all your baby teeth... Well, according to my eight-year-old, it's a fate worse than death. Thankfully, today we can take that stone off Elisabeth's neck:

I cannot recall the last time this girl was so excited! Let's hope the Tooth Fairy does not disappoint.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Best

I got nothin' today that compares to the video my sister sent me:

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Namesayer

For months, now, I have observed that Madeline does not say her own name, nickname, anything. For some time, she really did not say many discernible words at all, so that was just part of the lack of speaking. Sometime around her second birthday, she did began to talk a little more-- and now she talks a lot, sometimes even in the family language, sometimes in her own, unique native tongue-- but I remember telling the pediatrician at Maddy's last well child visit, "She still doesn't talk much. And she doesn't say her name. She doesn't call herself anything."

I remember each of the other children as toddlers making some approximation of their own names-- "Ama," "Wibby," "Benny." Finally, Madeline started saying "me" and "mine," which took away my concern and replaced it with annoyance. What mother hasn't heard toddler choruses of "Mine, MINE, MINE?!"

Still, one of us will ask Madeline pretty much every day, "Hey, Maddy, what's your name?" (Get it? There's a big clue in the way we pose the question.) Up until now, she has just smiled and said nothing. Today, however, we got our answer. Madeline stood tall, put her hands over her ears and yelled, "MAD KINKY!"

I am so proud.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Toddler Whisperer

I was fascinated by the most interesting sight this morning. Madeline was throwing a fit. Not interesting. I was helping Amanda write a book report and Elisabeth was trying to help Maddy get a drink. To the best of my understanding, the tantrum had something to do with juice and yogurt smoothies and Maddy saying she wanted one thing but screaming and throwing herself on the ground when she got that thing. It was a pretty typical two-year-old tantrum.

I thanked Libby for helping and told her it was OK... I didn't understand what Maddy wanted, either. Since there was no serious problem and the little one wasn't in any danger, I said we could just leave her alone until she calmed down. I went back to Amanda's homework, and here's when the fascination began.

Libby went over to Madeline, who was thrashing around on the ground. She does this thing where she gets on all fours and "crawls" along the floor, dragging her forehead, which I'd think would cause rug burn, but, not yet. Anyway, the big sister sat on the floor, a safe distance from screaming Maddy, and began talking to her in a soft voice. I couldn't hear what she was saying, with all the yelling. Then, Libby stood up, and gently covered Madeline's whole body with pillows and blankets. She went and got a pacifier and handed it to her, talking calmly all the time.

Then, Libby just sat next to her sister and waited. Within a minute or two-- fantastic recovery time for the toddler-- Madeline sat up, pushed the pillows off, and handed the pacifier back to Elisabeth. Then, Libby said, "Ready to play now?" Maddy stood, took her sister's hand, and off they went.

I think they understand each other.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Our Moral Majority

Benjamin: "Maddy, throw away the wrapper from your Froot by the Foot."
Madeline: "Why?"
Benjamin: "Because it's garbage."
Madeline: "Why?"
Benjamin: "Don't throw it on the ground!"
Madeline: "Why?"
Benjamin: "Because that's littering, and littering is a sin! Don't you know that?! We're going to church!"

Five minutes later...
Benjamin: "Mom, is littering actually a sin?"
Mom: "Well, it's not the right thing to do-- but the bigger sin was hitting your sister three times over the wrapper."
Benjamin: "Oh."

Five minutes after that...
Amanda: "Yeah, you should be more concerned about sins that hurt other people, Ben."
Benjamin: "Like what?"
Amanda: "Like hitting."
Benjamin: "What else is a sin?"
Amanda: "Adultery."

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Table for Four

Both Amanda and Benjamin had social invitations that took them outside of Krinkeland for the evening, so that left Elisabeth and Madeline with Mom and Dad. Being down two kids is a pretty good reason to get some errands done, so we went shopping. I know, trying to tick off a tasks list with a two-year-old and an eight-year-old may seem like unnecessary torture to many of you, but, as someone who occasionally takes all four children on the monthly Costco run, two kids seems like a walk in the park.

Actually, with four young children in our family, Todd and I often take the divide- and-conquer approach. Of course, this applies to the times when he is not traveling... but, it is common on the weekends for him to head to Menards with two of the children while I hit the grocery store with the other two. Naturally, there is jockeying for which two-- and the right answer to that question depends on the nature of the errand, the length of the errand, the time of day, how much sleep each got the night before, and a cacophony of other factors that change with the wind.

Sometimes we do things on our own, too, and "stick" the other parent with all four, as when I volunteer at Birthright. (Would I really be able to counsel a woman in a crisis pregnancy with my four hoodlums hovering about?) Other times, I will run an errand and take just one child with me. Elisabeth, in particular, loves to come along whenever it is just her; she craves that one-on-one attention.

So, this evening, after one-too-many shopping stops, the four of us went to dinner. We let Libby pick, which was fun for her, though not so much for us. (Applebee's-- ugh.) It was weird, though, walking into a restaurant and getting seated at an average-sized table. Yes, I could actually listen to one of Libby's stories from beginning to end. Yes, we noticed how much milk Madeline drank before her food arrived (a lot!) Yes, it seemed there was less fighting, jockeying for position, complaining, and overall mayhem.

As whenever I am out with just a couple of the children, I can't help but think, "So, this is what it would be like if I only had two kids." It does seem simpler, calmer. But I miss the absentees. Our family is not complete unless everyone is present and accounted for.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

In Case I Go Missing...

We took some supper to Grandpa this afternoon. He is home from the hospital (yay!) but preparing to return tomorrow (boo!) to begin radiation and chemotherapy. I so appreciate you keeping him in prayer.

Anyway, Todd came and met us after work, so we had two cars at the 'rents' place. I left ahead of the rest of the crew, to be sure I'd be home in time to meet Amanda's return from a birthday party. Upon arriving at an empty house, I was struck with the question of what to do with myself: Start tomorrow's laundry? Nah. Hunker down with that good book I've been trying to plow through? Nah. Eat ice cream straight out of the carton? Nah. Shave my legs? Bingo.

Before going upstairs, I couldn't resist putting a note on the door:

To Amanda,
Come in. I am in the bathtub.

To Axe Murderer,
Do not come in. I am not home. Try the neighbors'.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

An Anniversary Homage

Happy Anniversary to the man who:

*works his tush off but never sees his family as burdensome
*doesn't yell when I hit the side of the garage with the car
*has a new philosophy for fall yard work that involves doing nothing until the last leaf falls
*shares my passion for Diet Mountain Dew, calling it "nectar of the gods," and never fails to comment on the quality of the mix in the soda fountain
*never complains when he comes home to a disaster area
*knows exactly how to order my Blizzard at Dairy Queen
*explains algebra slowly and simply, with the patience of a saint
*finally gave up on trying to get me to take shorter showers
*when chastized by me for "spoiling" the kids, replies, "How can you 'spoil' with hugs?!"
*always has room for popcorn
*pushes the children to try new things
*believes the emails from Michele Bachmann are personal messages to him
*spent our anniversary running the carpool between swim team practice and dance class
*forgets many things, but never forgets to send flowers
*puts up with a lot of me-- I can be A LOT-- and actually seems to enjoy it

Here's to 15 years more... and 15 after that... and 15 after that...

Monday, October 17, 2011

Doubly Plugged

I was down the hall, reading to the big girls at bedtime. Another door creaked open, and this is what poked out:

Based on this photo, what are the chances of Madeline giving up the pacifier any time soon?

Sunday, October 16, 2011

So Simple

I realize how simplistic the following thought is... but, maybe it isn't...

I keep playing over and over in my mind something I read a few days ago-- the Day 17 intention for the current 40 Days for Life campaign:

May all understand more deeply that the pro-life message is rooted in the two basic truths of life:

There is a God;
He isn't me.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Cancer Coaster

When Todd and I were young and childless, we took a vacation to Walt Disney World. We both love roller coasters, and this is a pretty good destination for that kind of desire. At one of the Disney resorts, we encountered the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster. At the time of our trip, more than a decade ago, this particular amusement ride was a novelty and a big deal. The cool, new thing was the coaster used the force of a supersonic F-14 to accelerate from a stand-still stop to high speeds-- right at the start. We got strapped in, heard our safety instructions, and were then, accompanied by rock music, shot forward at breakneck speed. That's how the ride began.

The roller coaster metaphor has been used and overused to describe many of life's experiences, and, in fact, life itself. However, from the moment my in-laws received Harlan's cancer diagnosis, he-- and the rest of us-- have been launched on just such a ride. I kind of expected a "typical" roller coaster ride: the waiting in line; the anxiety as safety harnesses latch; the slow rolling of the train; the click-stop-click-stop of the painfully slow-building rise; a huge, stomach-losing drop; ups and downs, twists and turns, and more ups and downs; the disorientation of being flipped upside down; the rest of life passing in a peripheral blur; a few more bumps; and, finally, a gradual slowing to the end of the ride, followed by steps onto firm ground, and a walk into the future. But, what Harlan has gotten, what his family is riding along with him, is the Rock 'n' Roller Coaster.

Before anyone could even wrap thoughts around a diagnosis, and before Harlan and Connie could fully settle on a medical team and a treatment plan, Harlan entered the hospital for a "routine" procedure-- placement of a port and feeding tube-- that would "help" him better handle the pending cancer treatment. In the eight days that have followed, complications have kept Harlan in the hospital, off any kind of food and drink, in pain, and out of patience.

This afternoon, the dear man underwent his third surgery since last Tuesday. Follow Harlan's story here. Please keep Harlan in your prayers-- that his mind will rest, that his body will heal, that he will soon recover enough to take on the next big battle: cancer itself. Pray, too, for my MIL, who is Harlan's dedicated best friend, spokesperson, comforter and hope. God be with them both.

Monday, October 10, 2011

A Week with Freckles

Benjamin left preschool last week with a new friend-- in his backpack. It was the class mascot, a stuffed dog named Freckles, and Ben was charged with caring for him and entertaining him for the week. What a week it was to have Freckles!

Freckles visited Grandpa in the hospital.

Freckles waited for Elisabeth to finish her dance class.

Freckles went along on the field trip to the apple orchard.

Freckles did pretty much everything Ben did... he even learned to drive the toy race cars around the track, and sat with the family at the supper table! We enjoyed having Freckles spend the week with us. I will enjoy even more passing him off to some other family-- that's the last thing I needed was to keep track of one more thing!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Elias Arrives!

Meet the new man in my life:

That's my nephew, Elias, about an hour old in the photo. He was born just before noon, weighing in at just a hair over 7 pounds and 20 inches long. He definitely looks like the rest of the family, but his coloring appears fairer.

My sister looked lovely as ever... and boy, were his brothers and cousins excited to meet Elias! We are all thrilled he is here and he is healthy. Oh, and, once again, the boys outnumber the girls in the grandkid count on my side of the family.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Un-October

Here is a partial list of the week's activities, things I never expected to do in October, in the Upper Midwest:

*Running the air conditioning
*Wearing dresses with bare legs
*Watching the kids wade in the lake
*Visiting the orchard in shorts, and still being hot
*Watering the mums twice a day-- at least
*Seeing TV alerts for thunderstorm watches

I am not complaining about the weather... I hate the cold. But, it's weird, isn't it? Every time I go outside and feel the warm wind against my face, I think "Santa Ana," and that's not a phrase we use much in these parts.

Friday, October 7, 2011

National Lampoon's Midwestern Vacation

Hey, look-- Cousin Eddie is staying down the street from my sister's house:

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Dueling Field Trips

In a moment of Mommy Genius, I signed up to chaperone Elisabeth's field trip and Benjamin's field trip... without realizing they were both scheduled for today. Now, normally, that would not be a HUGE dilemma-- I would just call in the reinforcements. However, this week: one set of grandparents is on vacation; another set of grandparents is in the hospital; my sister is due to have a baby any minute; my brother is adjusting to his first week as a stay-at-home dad; and, any mom I know in this town is pretty much slated to go on one field trip or the other.

In reality, chaperoning neither field trip was mandatory. Benjamin's was his second to an apple orchard, this one for his other preschool class. Libby's teacher had to put a limit on the number of chaperones due to space restrictions. But, my kids are young enough that they still want Mommy to come along on fun outings with their friends, so, why wouldn't I take advantage of that?

My solution: DADDY. Thankfully, Todd is home this week, and, in a rare move, I told him he just needed to take the day off and go. In an even rarer development, he agreed. Since Grandpa got the first orchard visit-- and since that trip was shorter, requiring fewer hours for Auntie to watch Madeline-- I went with Ben.

We had a wonderful time at Fall Harvest Orchard. The weather has been unbelievable. We took a tractor ride around the orchard and surrounding fields and learned all kinds of random facts about agriculture and horticulture and farm animals. Ben crawled in the corn bins and hopped through the hay. The only low spot was when Ben got scratched by a farm cat. He did receive numerous warnings, from me and the cat, but some boys have to learn the hard way.

Oh, Libby's field trip was to see a play. Where are the photos? You'd have to ask that chaperone.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Monstrous Creation

Every day after school, the girls and I go through all the papers in their take-home folders-- homework, completed worksheets, notes from the teacher, art projects. We make piles of what needs to be completed and returned, what requires review, what can be pitched, what must be saved. Based on the content, I'm guessing this one was some kind of a math assignment for Elisabeth... but it really made me giggle:

I especially like how much Libby's monster weighs: 400,000,400,000,600,000,100,000,800,000,900,000 pounds

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

A Soda Drinker's Lament

Today, Superamerica abandoned the summer-long fountain soda deal. It had been going on for so long, I started thinking it was a permanent change. But, alas, the 32-ouncer that was 59 cents is now $1.09. Bad day... week... month for this, SA.

Monday, October 3, 2011

To a Happy Birthday and a Return to Health

Happy birthday to my FIL, Harlan! I specify because, yes, I have two. This guy married my MIL just a few months after Todd and I were married... so I especially feel he and I share a bond in coming into this family at the same time. We are in it together!

Now, I don't make it a habit to give shout-outs to anyone and everyone on their birthdays-- but this is a special one. You already know that Harlan has esophageal cancer. Next week, he begins aggressive radiation and chemotherapy treatment. But, first, tomorrow, he will have surgery to place a port and a feeding tube. Please pray that all goes smoothly, and follow Harlan's cancer journey here.

Yes, this will be a big year, filled with change. Some of the changes will be temporary, some will be permanent. We are all learning as we go... And I have faith that Harlan, and the rest of his family, will all come out stronger on the other side of this.

Please join me in wishing Harlan the happiest of birthdays, and many, many more!