Monday, November 28, 2011

Greeting Jesus

Ever since we moved to this house, which is on a pretty busy city street, I have been wanting one of those light-up, outdoor Nativity scenes. It just always seemed like a good thing to have, and a good place to have one. But, I have been too cheap to buy one. The only store in our town that sells the set is Menard's, and it's close to $100 for Jesus, Mary and Joseph. I've checked the after-Christmas clearance, but Menard's never marks down the set... just packs it up for the following year, I think.

Well, lucky me-- this fall my mom found a nearly perfect set at a garage sale, and even bargained the seller down to a mere $8! This past weekend, while Todd and the kiddos were on their eight-hour tour to the Christmas tree farm, my parents and I set up the Nativity set, along with some light-up deer (I don't have any other animals) on our front porch. I am no designer, but I think it looks OK.

Here's the really fun part: Madeline has noticed the figures on the porch and she adores them. She talks to them out the window, and never neglects them upon our departure from or arrival to the driveway. Maddy calls out, "Bye, bye, BeBe Jesus! See you soon!" Later, she follows up with, "Hi, Jesus! We home!"

Just one of the many reasons we say, "Love that kid."

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Liberty from Holiday Stress

The past few days have been a whirlwind of activity for our family: celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday, participating in the post-Thanksgiving shopping rush, getting the Christmas tree and starting to decorate our home, working on a do-it-yourself home improvement project (the kitchen backsplash-- photos coming soon,) having visits with friends, and sending Todd off on his most recent trip. In the middle of it all, I had a little asthma attack that kind of knocked me down... leaving me breathless, literally.

So, it has also been a good weekend for me to practice staying calm. After everyone went to bed last night, I sat in the living room and zoned out, staring at the beautiful Christmas tree lights, and thinking about nothing except how, as a child, I used to lay on the couch and gaze at the tree and be excited for Christmas. I think I stared so hard last night, I kind of fell asleep. But, really, maybe that's what I needed-- and how bad can things get, anyway?

With Todd gone, I had an epiphany this evening of how easy my job as Krinkeland chef can become: I realized that Kraft Macaroni and Cheese is the only meal all four of my children will eat with any degree of regularity. So, from now on, that's all I'm going to cook. Today, we had it with green grapes and carrot sticks. Tomorrow, red grapes and celery sticks...

After exerting myself over a hot stove making that gourmet meal, I plopped in a chair and let the children put all the ornaments on the tree, all by themselves. Madeline nearly broke her neck climbing on the step stool. Two ornaments got broken. There are no decorations on the top three feet of the tree. Who cares?

When I got tired of listening to them boss each other and bicker, I herded the kids upstairs and through bath time. While I was bathing and putting to bed the younger two, the older two were left to their own devices. I mean, really, what kind of mischief can two little girls make with iPods?

Friday, November 25, 2011

Black Friday Bust

After last night, I am about ready to throw in the towel on that wacky Christmas shopping tradition. Granted, the Black Friday Shopping Derby has never been sanctioned by the calm, the rational, or the sane. But, since I am none of those things-- and neither is my mother-- we've always had kind of a good time doing a little early-morning bargain-hunting. OK, OK, so we spend more time drinking coffee and laughing at all the other crazies, but, it's tradition!

This year, when so many stores announced they would open at midnight, or even earlier, Mom and I agreed it might be easier to go out for a couple hours at night and then go home and still get some sleep, rather than get up at 4 a.m., shop, and then have to power through the rest of the day. Apparently, we are not the only two people who thought this was a good idea. It was MAYHEM.

At our first stop, anything I was remotely interested in buying came into the store in short supply and was apparently promised in "tickets" doled out to bargain seekers (mean ones, at that) who had lined up who-knows-when. I took a packaging box to the face and an elbow to the solar plexus. I still managed to find one desirable item worth purchasing and then wound my way through the most ridiculous maze to the checkout that I considered going home right then and there.

But, I am not that smart.

We had a similar experience at the next store, but there, other people's rudeness, laziness and stupidity ended up working to my advantage. Don't ask.

Mom and I made two more stops before calling it a night, and those mostly involved standing in line and standing in line. I truly do not have a grasp on how many hundreds of people were queued up outside of Target. You'd think the Pope was at the entrance. Well, hopefully not, based on some of the outfits we saw...

Upon returning home, around 3:30 or 4 a.m., I discovered my husband was still up working on the tile in the kitchen. I was kind of wishing I'd stayed home and worked with him, so you know that's not the indicator of a fun shopping trip. But, that won't stop me from trying again tomorrow!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Toting Two-Year-Old

Madeline walked through the kitchen once, carrying a guitar stand. On her second pass-through, the guitar stand was gone, and she had replaced it with a toilet plunger. I'm not waiting for the third trip!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Caller, State Your Business

So, I know there are more pressing issues in the world right now, but I just have to vent about one thing that's really bugging me: I find it SO annoying when someone calls me and leaves a voice mail message to the effect of, "Hi, please call me." When you do this people, I think one of two things: (1) you are mad at me and I don't know why, or (2) you are going to ask me to do something I do not want to do.

Since you bothered to leave a message, why not include in said message the purpose of your call? If you are seeking an answer to a question, ask the question and I will call you back with an answer. If you need something from me, make your request, and I will do my best to fulfill it before returning your call. If you are just calling to chat, say that... and I will wait to call you until I have time to "just chat."

I will return your call. I do that. I was raised with manners. I try to use them. I will call you back even when I don't want to call you back. I will even return a message that says, "Call me." But I will not be happy about it, and it will take all the self-control in my manners to not go, "Uuuuhhh!" in your ear when you answer my call.

By the way, I also don't screen my calls. To those who call me frequently, you may not believe this. However, it is common when the phone rings for me to have my hands full of wet laundry or poopy diaper or spilled ketchup or Clorox wipes. I try to get to the phone. Often, I do not make it. It's a similar situation with my cell phone. I have it with me, but it's usually somewhere in the cavern of my handbag. Have you seen that thing?!

Oh, and another point, while we're at it: I might not answer your call if I am on the other line with someone else and there is not a convenient point in the conversation for me to interrupt the other person and ask him or her to hold. Again, this is about manners-- I don't want to make the other person wait while I talk to you when that person called first. Leave a message stating the nature of your call and I will call you back.

If I don't call you back, do not take it personally. Chances are, I did not get your message. Do not leave a phone message with my nine-year-old... or my husband.

And, it's A-OK with me if you do NOT leave a message at all, if there was not an actual purpose for your call. Then, I will not call you back. On a related irritating note, DIRECTED SPECIFICALLY AT MY HUSBAND, if you do not intend to leave a message, please hang up and disconnect the call before the voicemail recoring begins (before you hear the "beep.") Every day the voice mail icon shows up on my cell phone, but when I call it, it's typically a one-second "click" from the man I love. Why?

It's really not that difficult to leave a specific message, and it saves a lot of time and agony, in the long run. Quit being so secretive. People all over the place are constantly spewing tons of information on Facebook and Twitter and silly blogs like this one.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Project

12:37 p.m. decision to take on tiling the kitchen backsplash
12:38 p.m. changing into official tiling clothes
12:39 p.m. cleaning off of the kitchen counters, with talk of "that d*** rooster"
12:40 p.m. beginning of the hauling out and assessing of supplies
12:42 p.m. foreman asks worker bee whether she is sure this is the tile she wants
1:00 p.m. argument over backsplash parameters
1:05 p.m. Google image search for "million dollar kitchen backsplash"
2:13 p.m. first trip to Menards
2:42 p.m. second trip to Menards (without child)
3:35 p.m. Google search of "how to tile kitchen backsplash"
4:04 p.m. phone calls to Home Depot, Lowe's and The Tile Shop
5:30 p.m. tile saw test run #1
5:40 p.m. run for Chinese food
7:04 p.m. search for flat-head screwdriver
7:09 p.m. round-up of four Phillips screwdrivers in junk drawer
7:15 p.m. turn off power to kitchen outlets before using screwdriver
7:30 p.m. tile saw test run #2
8:05 p.m. vacuuming of kitchen counters to clean up mess from "prep"
9:30 p.m. worker bee reminds foreman of the upcoming holiday, his next business trip, and the cookie-baking day plus two Christmas parties slated for said kitchen
9:43 p.m. third trip to Menards
10:10 p.m. ordering of tile saw blade on Amazon

OK, so no backsplash yet... but some other really great things DID happen today, including:
*the season's first snowfall
*a visit from our friend Kailee who brought images from our family photo session (They're coming in the Christmas card, but I'll put some on Facebook, too.)
*the baptism of nephew Elias Jon Francis!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Libby's Commandments

Elisabeth's teacher had sent an email reminder of a test tomorrow in Religion. So, when Libby got off the bus, I asked her about homework and suggested we review the material for the test. "Oh, we don't need to do that, Mom," she told me. "I already know it all." I challenged, "You already know EVERYTHING there is to know about religion?! Well, then, you can teach me, because I think I still have a lot to learn."

Libby backpedaled, that, no, she didn't know everything about God, but she did know all of her material for the test, because it is on the Ten Commandments. I asked Libby whether she could recite all ten of God's commandments, but she corrected again, "No, Mom the test is only on the really important commandments, like, 'you shall not kill' and 'you shall not steal anything that belongs to your mother and father.'"

Yeah, I'd say she's ready.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Not Meteorologist, Nor Geographer, He

The news was on when Benjamin walked through the room and stopped to take in the weather report: "Hey, Mom, guess what? In East Dakota, they got 30 anchors of snow! Isn't that great?!"

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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Dancing Floor

Look what we found at the mall today! (Yeah, we don't get out much.)

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Leafing My Religion

The team of Dad and Benjamin spent much of the weekend cleaning up leaves and readying the yard and house for winter. At one point, the little opportunist said, "You know, Mom, Dad and I are going to be working out here for a long time. So, when it's time for church, you and the girls can just go ahead without us."

Nice try.

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Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Wizard's Sneeze

I went to the library this morning to pick up some reserved books. Amanda and Madeline were with me. While there, we noticed a sign for a puppeteering workshop going on the very same morning. I mean, really, who doesn't love the library for, in addition to all the reading material, this very thing? Fun, educational, free! So, I left Amanda at the library for a couple hours and returned later with all the kids to watch the puppet shows the children had created.

So, the disclaimer is: This is one of those posts that exists just because I am a mom, making record of whatever it is her kids do. That's all I'm saying about this puppet show.

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Story of My Life

I came home this evening, after a few hours out with friends, to find laundry piles lining the hallway and my washing machine in pieces. In theory, this is a good thing, because the machine has leaked for months now... and I have been nagging the "man of the house" to get it fixed. But, alas, he cannot call an appliance repair expert as a normal person would. Instead, Todd scrounged around the Internet for deals and how-tos... ordered the part on eBay... and then sat in the laundry room with the laptop window open to YouTube instructional videos.

Needless to say, this is not the first time I've witnessed such a scene. It is not even the first time this week. Nor will it be the last.

After rounding up all the children and putting them to bed-- because it was waaay past their bedtime; Madeline looked up from her plastic kitchen with droopy eyes mumbling "Mommy's home" from Nuk-plugged lips, while Amanda zoned out on the couch muttering "They got the python" to Animal Planet on the TV-- I put up my hair and slipped into my pajamas. Then, I wandered back to the laundry room and asked, "Do you need my help?"

Now, this was nothing more than a courtesy question, something along the lines of, "Did you save any room for dessert?" But, Todd's head snapped up and he responded, much too quickly and much too cheerfully, "Yes!" Crap.

Well, I guess I could sit and keep him company... or hold something... or go get him a cold drink. All part of my wifely duties, right?

My husband picked up the plastic tray that dispenses laundry detergent and fabric softener and said, "I need you to find the small, plastic parts that fell out of this." Okay... I looked down at the floor of the small room and into the corners-- where could the pieces be? "No, not in here," Todd said. "The parts are out there." He gestured at the window. Okay...

Todd explained-- quite logically in his mind-- that there was a little bit of water pooled in the bottom of the detergent dispenser, so Todd, in his infinite wisdom, cranked open the screen-less, second-floor, laundry room window and dumped out the water... and the little, plastic pieces that fit into the tray. They fell (were pushed, really) out the window, presumably down somewhere in the massive leaf piles that have blown up against the side of the house from the neighbor's yard. Or, possibly, the parts could be stuck inside the air conditioning unit. There was only one way to find out.

I know what you're wondering: How loudly did I laugh in his face? What wretched name did I call him? The imprint of which tool is adorning his left cheek?

Nah, I did it.

I made vows, didn't I?

I put on my fleece, and a jacket over that, and some big, clompy shoes, and I found a flashlight, and I went outside, and I walked around my house, and I navigated the steep hill and the landscaping rock and the knee-high leaf piles. I found my rogue washing machine parts.

Back inside, I rinsed off the plastic pieces and delivered them back upstairs. I could hear the thoughts in my astonished husband's head, "I can't believe she did it?!" Already on a roll, I laid down on the laundry room floor and fished out three screwdrivers from underneath my nearly reassembled washing machine.

That's how we do Friday night in Krinkeland.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Thanking a Teacher

With Thanksgiving creeping up on us, the kids are getting plenty of opportunity to give thanks and express gratitude for all the blessings in their lives. They talk about this in school and elsewhere. Madeline's tumbling class even had a Thanksgiving theme today. (And, yes, she is the class turkey.)

My sister and I have both adopted daily measures to make sure our children recognize how lucky they are, and to thank God for their blessings. At suppertime for her family, bedtime for mine, each family member shares "Three Good Things" about the day. I think my sister even couches it more specifically, as three things for which each person is grateful-- but, you get the idea. In Krinkeland, we were all giggling at bedtime, after I said one of the greatest things about my day was Grandma's Rice Krispie bars... and, then, the kids had to stop Daddy who was still going on with his list after item number six, tickling Benjamin and Madeline.

I could sing "Songs of Thankfulness and Praise" all day long. I probably should, as it would keep me from being dark, sarcastic, pouty, critical, whiny, snarky and bitter. I'll work on that.

Right now, however, I must give thanks for my children's school. There are many wonderful things I could say about it, but, above all, I am eternally grateful for the wonderful people in it. My children are cared for and loved in this place. I know it every day, I really do... but, today, I am reminded by an email sent from one of my daughter's former teachers in that school. Which teacher? Which child? Irrelevant. Here is part of the teacher's note, followed by part of my response:

Have I told you how much I miss your daughter? I still get her “Hi!”, but truly miss her daily excitement and love of school.

I wish I could take credit for the Little Light that is my child. But she shines so brightly, independent of me, often in spite of me. It is her gift. Like you, I just try to stand closely enough to bask in her beams.

Giving thanks with a grateful heart.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Works of Art for the Workplace

Benjamin's main hobby of late has been coloring. He really likes to color and he really has been churning out the art. Ben does not like to color alone. He goes to the computer and prints out coloring sheets and colors, colors, colors pictures for his grandparents, his teachers, his aunts and cousins, and everyone else he loves. Then, he signs his name at the bottom (Benjamin, these days, not simply Ben) and folds up each picture and stuffs it into an envelope for delivery. Yes, we buy printer paper and envelopes in bulk at Costco.

While Todd was waiting to review Amanda's math homework with her, Benjamin was badgering Daddy to color with him. Todd acquiesced. I suspect he really likes to color. Lots of adults do, finding it therapeutic. I often find Todd's mom and Ben in the middle of a big Color Fest. I know Grandma would agree to pretty much any harebrained idea Ben put on the table, but she has also told me she enjoys coloring. It makes sense, an outlet for her to express her creative side.

For me, this would not be the case. As a kid, I'm sure I spent plenty of time coloring... but I don't really remember. As an adult, I have trouble sitting still long enough to truly concentrate on coloring. If I do concentrate, I become self-conscious and anxiety-ridden. Am I pressing too hard or not hard enough? Am I making sound color choices? Do the tones harmonize with each other? Is my picture an accurate representation?

Todd seemed to have a good time coloring with his son. As with anything, he exhibited patience and competency and attention to detail. When father and son had both completed their coloring projects, Ben asked, "Dad, what are you going to do with yours?" Benjamin, I am sure, had a mental roster of family members and friends in queue to receive his masterpieces. He must have assumed Todd had a designated recipient, too. When Todd said he didn't have any plans for his artwork, Ben-to-the-Rescue had a solution: "Daddy, why don't you give your picture to one of the guys at work? I bet they'd really enjoy that."

Can't you just see it?! Why can't we all share childlike innocence and joy? Maybe the world would be a better place if grown men colored pictures and delivered them to their coworkers at the office.

Guys at Work, this one's for you:

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Ol' Pie-in-the-Face Game

I'm breaking my own rule about not posting photos of kids in the tub, because this one is too cute. The two-year-old asked over and over again, for at least a half-hour, "You want pie?"

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Car Shopping with 4 Kids

'This one smells like peanuts."
"That car has a surgical table in the back-- that's handy."
"We should just trade in our van for six go-karts."
"I would get car sick in this car for sure."
"If we got this car, we could have two more babies."
"We should get Daddy the car that smells like peanuts."
"Can we take this (test) car back now? PLEASE?! My blanket is in our old one!"
"This dealership has a gift shop. Weird."

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Satisfying the Sweet Tooth

Between school parties, after-school activities, grandparents' gifts and plain, old-fashioned door-to-door trick-or-treating, my children have amassed enough candy to build the witch's house from Hansel and Gretel. I am a total socialist when it comes to Halloween candy... After all their sorting and trading and (ugh!) eating last evening, I dumped the kids' collections into big mixing bowls.

For the next few weeks, I will dole out a piece here and a piece there-- after-dinner treats or bribes for completing tasks around the house. Larger quantities of candy will disappear as I send freezer bags full with Todd to work. (I suspect the candy never makes it out of his car.) And, yes, Todd and I will eat the candy after the kids are in bed.

The funny thing is, everyone wins-- or everyone loses-- with Halloween candy in Krinkeland, because the kids like totally different things than the parents like. All the kids ever seem to be after is something fruity and chewy and sticky and sour... to which I say, Yuck. My children were bummed the "Pop Guy" was not out last night. I'm pretty convinced it happened the first time by accident, as in, some single guy pulled into his driveway after a trip to the grocery store and realized it was Halloween when costumed kids started ringing his doorbell, so he opened a case of soda and started handing out cans. Still, my kids look forward to that unique treat every year, and this year his house was dark.

Upon the gremlins' return and thaw, Todd and Grandma P. dug through buckets last evening, searching for Nut Goodies and Salted Nut Rolls. The kids asked, "What's that?" And assured the elders they could have "whatever those are" if they found any. They didn't. So, here's my list of the Best Halloween Treats, also known as What Mommy Finds, Mommy Eats:

1. Heath
2. Twix
3. 3 Musketeers
4. Peanut Butter M&Ms
5. Twizzlers
6. Reese's Peanut Butter Cups/Pumpkins/Miniatures
7. Snickers
8. Kit Kat
9. Milky Way
10. Skittles (but really just the red ones)

I follow this with my list of the Worst Halloween Treats:
1. Pixy Stix