Saturday, December 31, 2011

On the Wall

In the house I grew up in, my bedroom was at the end of the upstairs hall. Along the wall of that hallway hung the framed school photos of me and my siblings. As my friends would walk to my room, or any visitor would head to the guest bathroom, many would stop and look at those photos.

I know our home was not the only one with such a feature. One of my high school friends had the same thing-- only magnified. The entire wall opposite the guest bath was lined with family photos, portraits, snapshots. My friend was the baby of the family, and the only one living there when we hung out. I loved to stand at that wall, and look at the photos of older siblings-- glimpses of the past. Many of the shots were funny, and I could imagine being part of those scenes.

We, too, in this house, have a long upstairs hallway leading to the kids' bedrooms. My husband is a fan of white, nail-hole-free walls... so the hall has remained barren these past five years. I've been thinking for a while, though, about at least hanging the kids' school photos in a line along the wall. Then, I made this collage of family shots our friend Kailee took this fall. I got another sign when my SIL gave Todd and I framed cariciatures of Amanda and Elisabeth for Christmas.

So, while Todd took the three older kids skiing and while Madeline napped, I enlisted my Friendly Neighborhood Handy Man (dad) to start the Krinkeland Family Wall. Some of the frames are from the last home's decor, but I wasn't about to go out and buy new... and I'm not yet daring or talented enough to just paint them. Still, I think the sheen is overshadowed by these, some of my favorite images of the kids.

Now, when our children have friends over, they will stop and look on the way to their rooms. The kids have already been grinning and giggling at themselves. Everyone loves the wall. Well, Amanda did comment, "I don't know... It kind of makes this hallway feel closed-in." But, what else would you expect from that one?

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Slow-Moving Bug

We've had this stomach virus making its way through Krinkeland for going on ten days now... and it still hasn't claimed all the possible victims. Someone gets sick like every third or fourth day. Just when I think we're in the clear and I can remove my face mask-- another one bites the dust.

Now, getting a stomach bug and being ill during the holidays is bad enough. But, when I hold the requisite 24-hour quarantine and then turn my kids loose on the world-- only to have another of them get sick 48 or 72 hours later... now that's just cruel. It's even worse that we went four days between the last two victims-- so we clearly got to enjoy Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with family. But, we may have unknowingly bestowed upon them the gift that keeps on giving.

Can we just be done already? Even following all the "rules," we've probably infected half the Western Hemisphere. The family schedule and previous commitments state we will be out in the general population again tomorrow. I give up.

Monday, December 26, 2011

The Day Changes

Days take turns, don't they?

The day after Christmas is traditionally a favorite one for me-- dedicated to sleeping in, tearing into all the new toys, hunting for screwdrivers and batteries, and catching up on laundry. We've already seen and celebrated with most. There's nothing on the calendar, nowhere to go.

All that was true about today, too... but, then, there were twists.

First, the sweater Todd bought me for Christmas was too big, and the store where he purchased it would only hold a smaller one for two days. As much as I enjoy shopping, nothing is less appealing than heading out with the returns crowd on the day after Christmas. I tried to get Todd to just go by himself and make the swap, but he thought it would be more "fun" if we all went.

Before we could formulate a plan and get everyone ready to go, my dear friend sent me a text message saying she was in the area, and asking if we could meet for lunch. We could. And we did.

Lunch got a little long... shopping got a lot longer... When I was fed up and tired of chasing kids, we all went to the car. I was trolling the news headlines on my phone when I read "2 Mayo Clinic Workers Die in Fla. Helicopter Crash."


One of the victims was a friend and former colleague of Todd's. Luis was a heart surgeon, with whom Todd had worked developing cardiac devices, before going to work in cardiac surgery at Mayo. He was flying as part of a transplant team. Our thoughts go out to Luis' wife Tracy and their two young children.


Please pray for them.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Countdown

The holiday season is flying by at breakneck speed. I cannot believe tomorrow is Christmas Eve. I should know it, however, because all the telltale signals of the frenetic pace are starting to show and to wear on me. Here are my signs the Christmas season is at its peak:

*got super-excited about snowflakes flying, until I had to drive through them
*bought a (new) Christmas gift on Craig's List and did not get murdered in the exchange
*forgot where I parked-- twice
*argued with the Toys R Us clerk about the definition of the word "sale"
*argued with the Kohl's clerk about the order in which she scanned my discount cards
*got caught in a cart whirlpool in the Costco cooler section and had to keep circling the strawberries until and eddy (I think his name was Eddie?) yanked me out to the bakery area
*flirted with the Costco clerk to get him to pack everything back in my cart before the frozen juice melted into a puddle
*told busy-bee kids, "You can't make up for all your grievances against Santa in one day!"
*drove around town delivering cookies here and brandy slush there (hope I didn't mix those up...) something I'd been meaning to do all month
*forgot to feed my kids lunch, but was then thrilled when they ate a huge, early supper
*didn't even have the energy to explain a sardonic nine-year-old's sense of humor to the elderly couple in Culver's who heard Amanda say she wished one of Santa's elves would die
*did all the laundry, all the cooking, all the cleaning while my husband "shopped" for eight hours and then called asking, "What do you want for Christmas, anyway?"
*abandoned the gift wrapping to drive around and look at Christmas lights, and allowed myself to be thrilled as the kids were

Our Little Naked Mole Rat


A couple months ago, I sent in Benjamin's preschool book order form with a request for this book: "Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed" by Mo Willems. I placed the order with the fleeting notion that the book may actually be about some perpetually naked thing deciding to finally put on clothes. Plus, we have other books by this children's author, and they are hilarious.

When the order came in, I got one of those raised-eyebrows looks from Ben's preschool teacher, but then she said, "You know, when that book came in and I read the title, I just had to read it. So, I did. It's very funny." I just smiled and said, "Oh, good." I really didn't want to explain.

You see, my son is, by nature, a naked mole rat. He never wears clothes... and, chances are, he never will, because I waffle between laying down the law ("Everyone wears clothes!") and just ignoring him. Benjamin does seem to understand the societal rules and does not balk at wearing clothes whenever we leave the house. It's just at home. Every time I turn around he has stripped down to his skivvies and is strutting around like he owns the place.

I know modesty is the best policy. Plus, really, nobody looks good just hanging out in his drawers. I simply get tired of fighting it. One of these days, Ben's older sisters will have friends over and someone will go, "Ewwww" or point and giggle, and maybe, just maybe, that will be the end of that.

Or so I hope-- because the book did not do the trick. Even better than anticipated, "Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed" is about one creature who, though naturally naked, chooses to wear clothes... and convinces others of his species to do the same. Ben loves the book, as do the girls. But, he has not heeded the message, and, instead, has now earned himself the nickname "Naked Mole Rat."

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Funnyk Wayp of Talkingz

Now that Madeline speaks-- with enunciation, pronounciation and patterns that most people understand-- I'm enjoying our conversations (on the rare occasions they are screech-free.) But, it's interesting... while I know all two-year-olds have amusing varieties in the ways they talk, I don't think any of the other children had this funny habit: Madeline adds extra consonants to the ends of words.

Instead of saying, "OK," it comes out like, "Ot-Kayp." Maddy will make "snack" past tense, "I wan' a 'nackd." And she pluralizes her hair bow as "prettys." She is just so clear and deliberate about it. I don't get it, but it makes me giggle every time.

Still, Madeline doesn't use this speech pattern all the time. In some instances she still leaves off the ends of words; she always calls her brother, "Beh" or "Buh."

Oh, and this doesn't fit into either speech pattern, but I want to remember it forever: She calls older sister Elisabeth, nicknamed Libby, "Widdy." Guess little kids mix up the "b" and "d" even before they can write.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

No Rest for the Weary

There has been a shortage of sleep in Krinkeland. We are really dragging. I think it is mostly due to the craziness of the holiday season; it seems there has been something going on every hour of every day. The rest of it... I'm not sure how to explain.

Madeline has been the worst, often waking two, three or even four times a night. I don't know if it's because: (a) we're trying to wean her off the Nuk; (b) she has a bit of a cold; (c) she's spoiled rotten... or all three! Maddy will stand in the gated doorway of her bedroom and yell, "Mommy!" over and over and over. When I come, sometimes she asks for a drink. Other times she begs for a Nuk. Often, she just demands, "Tucky in me!" Whatever she asks, I try desperately to fill the need so Maddy will settle down and go back to sleep-- and let me go back to sleep.

To be fair, Daddy has been home for a couple weeks now, and has definitely been trading off turns getting up with the toddler. But, there are two main differences between Todd and me: (1) I wake up, even when he gets up with Madeline; and (2) upon returning to bed, he immediately falls back into a deep slumber and SNORES. Therefore, I am getting considerably less sleep than he is (not that anyone is keeping track.)

Now, I fully realize I have posted previously about the lack of sleep in motherhood. I know this is not a unique reality, and I know it is unlikely to change any time soon. So, maybe I am just whining. But, also, I can't seem to blog about anything else today, because my sleep-deprived brain is not functioning properly.

I am not exaggerating-- I don't think we've slept for more than two hours in a row all week. It's like having a newborn in the house. I guess we will just be more conditioned for when number five comes along. THAT IS A JOKE.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

What I Learned at the Holiday Party

10. Even though there were no non-Christians present, to my knowledge, the boss still insisted on saying, "Happy Holidays!"
9. There's no stopping the shop talk.
8. My husband's coworkers are also well versed in his odd compulsions and obsessions.
7. While most people stereotype engineers as an absent-minded-overly-analytical-plaid-shirt-and-khaki-wearing lot, there must also be similarities in their mate choices: I was one of three wives in a black, cowel-necked, sweater dress.
6. Other families are also strained by the excessive work-related travel, but I must be the most vocal objector, as the boss singled me out for an apology in his annual speech.
5. Red Bull and vodka makes everything more fun.
4. We are not as young as we used to be-- none of us.
3. Even super-comfortable shoes get pinchy after seven or eight hours.
2. Todd always has to be the last to leave the party.
1. I need to be more careful of what I write; some of the guys occasionally peruse Krinkeland.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Radio What?!

My new car has that satellite radio. It is not something I would be willing to pay for, but I am happy to tune in to the free trial. It really is kind of a nice thing. I have my preset buttons programmed to: Christmas songs, '80s music, '90s music, Broadway, and the Catholic channel.

I saved the last button for my passengers, who, incidentally, no longer have a built-in DVD player for entertainment. I figured Radio Disney, which is categorized under "Family," would be a safe bet. WRONG.

While driving from one destination to the next, I turned on Radio Disney, and heard screaming tweens vying for tickets to a Justin Bieber concert. Seemed par for the course. When the music programming started up again, I nearly drove off the road. The song's first line was, "Let's get it on!" On Radio Disney. Nice.

I turned off the radio, and the girls complained. Fortunately, we were at our destination, so there was no further discussion. By the time we all returned to the car later, I didn't even think before turning on the radio. It was still tuned to Radio Disney, and I did not recognize the tune. The car has a screen in front, with a digital display of what's on the radio. It told me this song was being performed by Lady Gaga. Really? On the "family" channel Radio Disney? What ever happened to "M-I-C-K-E-Y-M-O-U-S-E?"

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A Maddy's-Eye View of the Manger Scene


Madeline likes to carry around this little baby Jesus from one of our nativity sets. This evening, as she was putting Jesus back to bed, she pointed out everyone else in the scene:

"Baby Jesus." (Points to Joseph.) "He Daddy." (Points to Mary.) "Dat Mama." (Points to the Little Drummer Boy.) "BRUDDER."

Of course, Maddy would think the boy standing next to the baby's bed, pounding on the drum, was the older brother. Welcome to our world.

Pitchin' the Paci... Someday

Yesterday was so busy, I felt as though I was being catapulted from one activity to another. Some days are just like that, I guess-- lots of days, this time of year. Anyway, one of the many *fun* activities on the agenda was a visit to the dentist... for all four children... at the same time.

This was Madeline's first visit to our pediatric dentist. When the hygienist called Maddy's name, (whilst Madeline was standing on a kid-sized chair and yelling at "Cars" on the big television on the wall) I offered to pray over both of them. But, the dental assistant assured me they'd be fine-- and they were... not a note of screaming from either of them.

Madeline's teeth are fine. No cavities. Keep brushing. Floss if we want, but not a pressing issue since the girl has gaps the size of Tic-Tacs between her chompers. HOWEVER, the dentist did say, "It's time to get rid of that pacifier."

I had written on the health history form that Madeline has a pacifier when she goes to sleep, and, if not, she sucks her thumb. I neglected to mention that she also has a pacifier in church, in the car, and pretty much any time I get sick of hearing her screech, "My Nukkie!" But, I guess the good doctor read between the lines. He said Madeline's back teeth are starting to trend inward and not line up properly from all that sucking.

The dentist suggested that if we can't go cold turkey, we should at least switch to one of those orthodontic Nuks. I said that's the kind Madeline has. He seemed stumped.

Now, more than an hour past bedtime, I can hear the ongoing dialogue between Maddy (in her room) and Daddy (in his):
Madeline: "Want Nukkie!"
Dad: "There's no more Nukkie."
Madeline: "Yeah, there IS!"

Monday, December 12, 2011

I'm Just Not Sayin'

I received a gracious thank-you note today from a friend. While never expected, it's always nice when someone offers appreciation for something I've done. The message contained in this note, in particular, however, really hit home. Basically, my friend was thanking me for something I did not do.

The general sentiment was, "I know you probably thought I was nuts for making the choice I did, but you never said so." She took my silence as a show of support. To Big-Mouth Me, that is the ultimate compliment, because I know, the vast majority of the time, I can't seem to keep from saying something, anything, too much everything.

I live a passionate life and I have opinions about everything. While I understand this truth about myself, it does not always serve me well. And it is something I work on.

Unfortunately, when you've been on the planet as long as I have and you know as many people as I do, change can be jarring. If I sit at a coffee party with friends, just listening to what they have to say, nodding and smiling, eventually someone asks me what is wrong with me. They're just used to me giving two cents on every topic.

So, it shot me in the heart when I read my friends note thanking me for not saying anything. The truth of the matter is I DID and I DO support her. That's also what friendship is. I had never actually made a conscious decision to say nothing; however, I had observed her getting lots of unsolicited input from others. But, if she takes my lack of words as a positive sign, I guess I'll have to keep my mouth shut more often.

Heaven knows, I seem to find myself in a heap of trouble every time I open it.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Making a List... Checking It Twice...

We set out to get some Christmas shopping done.

We ended up fighting the weekend Costco crowds just to print some photos Benjamin needs for preschool tomorrow.

Then, we stopped by a swim suit shop, and took an hour trying to find a proper racing suit for Amanda. (The chlorine has already rotted out the butts of the two she owns.)

Then, we spent another 45 minutes waiting to get waited on in the cross-country ski shop. It seems to my weakened and dim mind that we spent much of last winter shopping for cross-country skis that never materialized. I'm not sure why that is, but I do know no one in Krinkeland is any worse off because of it.

Neither photos nor racing suits nor skis are on anyone's Christmas list. I will attempt shopping again next weekend-- without my husband.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Elves on Shelves


Do you know about this Elf on the Shelf? I see from my online research he has been around for a while, but it is something kind of new to our scene. A couple of Amanda's classmates had them last Christmas season, and they apparently went on and on about how fun it was to have your own, little, magic elf in the house. A family with whom we are good friends got one at the end of last season, and that was it. Once the Christmas decorations came out this year, it's all I heard about-- Elf on the Shelf! Elf on the Shelf! When can we get an Elf on the Shelf? I'm asking Santa for an Elf on the Shelf!

Well, I had no plans to EVER buy an Elf on the Shelf, certainly not so close to Christmas... And, I guess I wasn't the only one who got tired of hearing about it. Grandma R. sent our way a couple of elfin dolls. The Norwegian call them nisses; the Danish say Tomtes-- same thing. These dolls carry old legends, but work similarly to the Elf on the Shelf. (You can read the Scandinavian history here.)

The elf is supposed to play with you, be a secret friend, perform magic and report back to Santa Claus at the North Pole on your good behavior leading up to Christmas. The tomte/nisse is a protector of the house, looking out and keeping things safe... and only causing mischief if s/he sees you misbehaving or something else is amiss.

Amanda and Elisabeth were very excited about the arrival of the nisse dolls, immediately dubbed them "Will" and "Lisse," and soon afterward started fighting about who was going to bring which for show-and-tell at school. Then, they took the nisse dolls over to their friends' house, so they could meet the elf, "Sam." There, things took a turn, when the kids decided together that Will and Lisse were somehow threatening to Sam, and so the elf would not perform his magic in their presence.

Sometimes, I wish I had the imagination of a child... other times, I just wish I had nothing better to think about than the crazy crap they dream up.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Found!

I found something this evening that has been missing for more than three months. Of course, if you'd asked me this afternoon, I could have told you I was going to find it tonight. This was undoubtedly true, even though I had no idea where to look for said item, had no hint where it had been seen last; no one had admitted to touching it, no one claimed to have seen it.

HOW did I know I would find it tonight? That's easy-- just this morning, I went out and bought a new one.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Dish Dilemma

Who among us doesn't do a little Christmas shopping for the self during this festive holiday season? Well, I've been planning a little treat, just for Andrea, but it is proving more difficult than I planned.

We had a few friends over last weekend and I broke out the Christmas china and matching glassware, a first since we moved into this house five years ago. You see, this home does not have a dining room, so we got rid of the hutch. It does have high ceilings, and the kitchen cabinets reach 10 feet. My Christmas dishes sit in the little cupboards at the highest height. So, I never bothered to get them out.

But, last weekend, I did. And I started thinking about how pretty they are. And I kept thinking about how I don't exactly have complete service for 12 yet, nor all the serving pieces. Because these Christmas dishes are expensive. A luxury. Plus, my in-laws used to own a gift shop, which made it mighty convenient-- and way more affordable-- to purchase pieces for my Christmas set. Plus, I got dishes for gifts.

That is all in the past.

There are no shops in my area that sell these dishes, but I know both the pattern and the maker are very traditional and well-established. Yet, even when I went online, I could really find any reputable sellers of my Christmas dishes. What I did find-- shock and horror!-- were all kinds of Internet rumors that the company had declared bankruptcy and these dishes would forevermore be in short supply. I can't verify the claims, because the company's website is only in Norwegian.

The opportunists have already monopolized eBay and Craig's List. But I'm not paying $150 a dish. I guess if I ever have another Christmas dinner party, only eight of you can eat... six can have mixed drinks... four can have wine...

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Stairdown

I wanted to live in a rambler (ranch house, for those not from these parts.)

When Todd and I built our first home-- a classic two-story with all the bedrooms upstairs, a main-floor laundry room, and walkout basement family room-- Me of Little Physical Exertion soon came to despise the stairs. All I did was go up and down the darn things all day long... carrying things up... carrying things down. I thought life would be easier if I could get rid of the stairs.

Then, we decided to move to the lake. To maximize views and living space on this tiny lot, we decided to build (drumroll, please) another two-story. So, all I do is go up and down the darn stairs all day long. Yet, I am used to it.

The home in which I spent most of my growing-up years was a multi-level split. With all the stairs in that home, my mother developed a cleaning and organizational plan I employ today. When picking up on one level of the house, I pile on the steps things that belong on another level. Every time I go upstairs, I pick up the pile-- or whatever I can carry from the pile-- and take it up with me. When I go downstairs, I take whatever is waiting at the top of the staircase and stow it below.

It makes sense to me. It minimizes trips to different parts of the house and helps direct items back to their proper places. I say multiple times a day, to the other people who live in this house, "Don't forget to take the stuff on the stairs and put it away." They don't listen.

The other five members of Krinkeland walk past those piles every time, every day. I have thought them imperceptive, inconsiderate, lazy. Turns out they may just be hard of hearing, or, more likely, hard of listening. Since my ears do work, and my brain receives the messages, I actually heard my sometimes-passive-aggressive husband tell the children, "Your mom must really like stairs. These stairs must be her favorite place. She is always putting stuff here. Why do you suppose she always piles so many things on the stairs?" I came around the corner and said, "As I frequently explain, the stuff on the stairs needs to go upstairs and be put away. I place it there so you... and you... and you... and you... and you can all take your things as you go."

He said, "Oh."

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Most Adorable, Annoying Christmas Song

I wasn't out for long this morning before I thought, I should have just stayed home. It was darn cold. The roads were slippery. Madeline wouldn't sit in the cart. The checker made one too many shoplifting jokes. But, we got through the errands and soon it was time to pick up Benjamin, and I was rewarded with this:

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Prayers for a Friend

Please pray for my friend, Christine. A mom by vocation, nurse by profession, and busy bee by nature, Chris has spent the weekend in the hospital, where she remains, in an immense amount of pain. Earlier this fall, Chris was diagnosed with rheumatic fever, the result of a nasty strep infection. On Friday, she began suffering even more painful neurological symptoms, which may or may not be related to the rheumatic fever. I ask you to please add Chris and her family to your prayer list.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Santa Stories

'Tis the season... for lots of Santa talk around our house. Madeline points out his likeness on every gift bag and toy ad. I have many times invoked his name to encourage good will toward siblings. And, with the ages of these kids, there are the questions about logistics and believability. On this front, I adopt and continue to live out my good friend's philosophy, "You must believe to receive."

And, we all know seeing is believing. So, here's where the problem comes in: Word got back to me Benjamin and another preschooler nearly came to blows in a heated discussion of transportation modes. The other kid claimed, "Everyone knows Santa rides in a sleigh." But Ben held his ground: "I saw him land in a helicopter!" Darn that extravagantly gimmicked Christmas tree farm.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

New Car

After my car blew up (the mechanic used a much more technical term, "puked") on Monday, and Todd got home from Germany as quickly as he could on Tuesday, we spent 11 hours on Wednesday car shopping.  We had a few hours of hope after a transmission shop towed the car and the guy said a couple of the potential problems could be fixed for less than a thousand dollars. But, alas, the problem with my tranny and other stuff carried a price tag of about what the car was worth.


So, back to car shopping... The good news was, Todd and I were both on the same page-- we didn't want to buy a car at all; the bad news was, we had to-- and with not a lot of options and not a lot of time. Our other vehicle was purchased as a commuter car when we were still happily childless. We couldn't come up with a feasible plan to transport four kids in a '99 VW Jetta, at least not without tying one to the roof.


So, we ended up purchasing another Honda Odyssey. It does not have a DVD player. It does have leather. It does not have a navigation system. It does have heated seats. Oh, yeah... This is Mama's car. It is black. Todd says it looks like a hearse.


It was a nice day with my husband. He did the negotiating and just let me sit and pout when I got tired of the games. We had a nice lunch together-- at a place that did not even have corn dogs on the menu.


Now, we just have to pray the Jetta runs for five more years.


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