Sunday, January 29, 2012

All the Standard Daddy Tricks

Madeline was pestering her siblings this evening, and Todd wanted to console-- and distract-- her. "Come here, Maddy," he soothed. "Do you want to play with me?" The two-year-old bounded after Daddy in the living room, where they played "steamroller" from wall to wall, back and forth, again and again, amidst peals of laughter, until they were both too dizzy to continue.

Then, Todd and Maddy jumped up, he picked up my baby and began tossing her in the air and catching her. Again, this continued, through giggles and gasps, until I was sure Daddy's arms would come out of their sockets.

After setting Maddy down and both of them catching their breath, Todd held Madeline's little hands in his and told his daughter, "Step on my feet, now, and we'll dance." Dance they did.

I heard Todd say to his daughter, "Stick with me, kiddo. I know all the good ol' Daddy Games." What did you play with your Daddy? Bet you still remember:

*walking up the legs and flipping
*hog pile
*"PIG" at the basketball hoop
*block towers
*the license plate game
*the alphabet game
*"I'm Thinking of Something"

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Path to Healing

I am sitting at Abbott Northwestern Hospital with my MIL, my SIL and my FIL's sister, as Harlan undergoes a complex but oh-so-necessary cancer surgery called an esophagectomy. Please pray for things to go well, for healing, and for peace of mind for all. There will be updates here.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

What's in a (Food) Name?

I call my kids nicknames that are food words ALL THE TIME.

Peanut Butter
Jelly Bean
Chocolate Chip

Do you think that's weird? Am I food-obsessed? I know it's not that unusual; my nephews have dubbed their baby brother "Cupcake." (His given name is Elias Jon Francis.)

I even think it's really cute when people give food names to their pets. I have one friend whose family dog is "Olive." The little ones in another family dubbed their beta fish "Cashew." Isn't that way sweeter than naming your dog after a conservative former president? (I can't imagine who would do that, by the way.)

What does this food name thing say about me? I'm going to get a snack and continue ruminating on the issue.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

One Singular Sensation

My brilliant goddaughter Lucia Marie is ONE YEAR OLD TODAY!

It seems just a moment ago she came into the world and into our lives. Lucia is smart, strong, sassy, and, of course, so beautiful. She walks, but only where she wants to go. She gives kisses, but only when she feels like it. She talks, but in a way only she can understand. Lucia has blessed all of our lives in countless ways, but most of all in the way she made parents of my brother and sister-in-law.

Happy, happy birthday, Baby Shushee! God loves you, and Auntie does, too.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Ben, Unplugged and Unclothed

I don't know what's sicker-- the fact that my five-year-old knows these songs, or the fact that I videotaped him:

Sunday, January 22, 2012

What I Learned at Walt Disney World

We have returned from our trip, whole and happy and mostly healthy. Taking the four kids to Walt Disney World in Florida was a big deal, it was a REALLY big deal for me. Even though I am crazy-busy and always have way too much going on, one of my main missions in life has been to minimize mess and minimize mayhem. For example, if the kids want to play with Play-Doh, I will tend to think, "Man, then they'll get Play-Doh crumbs on the floor... and their hands will smell like Play-Doh... and I won't be able to set the table... and they'll want me to play with them..." instead of just letting the kids have a ball with the darn Play-Doh.

Going to Disney World is a much bigger deal than rolling out dough.

Todd began talking about taking the kids on the "trip of a lifetime" shortly after Madeline's birth. It has taken him a good two years of lobbying to talk me into it. Don't get me wrong-- I've always been thrilled he was willing to spend the money and able to take the time and excited to do the planning for such an adventure. But, all I could think was:

"How could I possibly pack for that many people for that long a time?"
"What if the kids behave badly on the airplane?"
"What if they don't sleep?"
"What if someone gets sick?"
"What if the little ones can't keep up with the big ones?"
"What will I do if the kids whine? Beg? Pout?"
"How will the older ones handle missing school?"
"How can we fit it all in?"

Much of what I worried about-- actually happened:
*Madeline and I got a scolding by the four-year-old sitting in front of her on the airplane. "Your baby kicked my seat all the way to Florida."
*I often awoke during the night to Benjamin's barefoot steps padding around the resort suite.
*Madeline ran a fever one night.
*We went through all the sunscreen.
*Some of the kids ran out of clean shorts... or socks... or underwear.
*Using every coupon, discount and shortcut we could, we still spent a lot of money. A LOT.
*The zippers broke on two carry-on bags, causing multiple re-packings.
*We had so few sit-down meals that, at the character breakfast on our final morning, Amanda sighed over her Mickey-faced waffles, "Finally, real food."
*It rained.

Through it all, I survived. And we had the time of our lives. When the week was up, no one was ready to go home.

At the resort where we stayed, there was a huge technology conference. Every time we stepped out of the elevator, we were surrounded by tablet-toting suits. One day, walking through the lobby on the way to some fantastic destination, Todd grabbed my hand, and softly said, "You know, when I'm traveling like that for work, I see families on vacation and I always think, 'I wish that was us.' Now it is."

The following photos offer just a glimpse into our adventures. Just click on the link and then click "slideshow" at the top to scroll through. These are not all the photos... but they will hopefully give you an idea of the fun we had.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Status Report

I am not really planning to blog on this trip, as we are spending every moment together, making memories. However, right now, I am sitting on the hotel balcony while the little ones nap; Todd and the big ones are probably on Space Mountain for the umpteenth time.  I caught a few zzzzs myself and now am practicing being still.

The trip here went smoothly, but was long and draining. We are staying on-property, at The Contemporary Resort, right now; tomorrow we move to The Dolphin/Swan resorts for more space and quieter accommodations.

I have been so surprised by the children and their reactions to being at Walt Disney World. We videotaped them getting the news at the airport, but there wasn't much but stunned silence. Amanda and Elisabeth truly did not believe us.

During one cute 3-D movie at Magic Kingdom, Libby said over and over again, "This is awesome!" I got really emotional when the kids met Mickey and Minnie-- just feeling so fortunate that we are able to do this, that everyone is healthy, that we are incredibly blessed.

In quiet moments, I am posting little updates on Facebook. Check there, friends, and pray the magic continues for all of us.

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Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Day Has Arrived

In the early years of our marriage, Todd and I, along with another beloved couple, took a trip to central Florida. We had a grand time. The vacation included all the usual headliner stops: the Walt Disney World theme parks, Universal Studios, Kennedy Space Center, Cocoa Beach-- perfect destinations for us, as we were really just big kids ourselves. One evening, (probably after one too many drinks at Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville,) we got into an interesting discussion, each of us picking up where the other left off, that went basically like this:

"Some day, IF we ever have kids, we have to bring them here. But we have to do it right. Yeah, we should come at this exact time of year. Yeah, January is not hot, and there are no lines. Right-- and the kids have to be the right ages, old enough to be able to do everything, but young enough that it still feels magical to them. Yeah, like 7 and 10. We'll bring our kids here when they are 7 and 10. And we won't tell them where we're going. Yeah, we'll just pack them into the car and drive all night and they won't even know where we're going until we pull up to the gates of Walt Disney World. Yep, that's the way to do it... IF we ever have kids."

So, that's what we're doing.


And the kids do not know.

We can't totally follow the plan-- we have too many children for that. But, most of them are in the "right" age range. Keeping the secret during our voyage probably will not work, since we are flying. But, I bet we can make it to the airport.

Please pray for healthy, safe travels for us, and peace of mind for me.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Lost Art of Speaking Politely

If you know me, and you know what a steamroller of a human being I can be, it may surprise you to know one of my hot-button issues is manners. Being polite. Speaking well. Really, it should not surprise you-- being assertive is NOT contradictory to being polite. In fact, the two characteristics, when used properly, work brilliantly together.

Before Christmas, at a cute, little shop in my town, I found this book: "How to Speak Politely and Why" by Munro Leaf. It was reprinted in the last five years, after being originally published in 1934 under the title "Grammar Can Be Fun." When I saw the book, I had to buy it.

It became one of Benjamin's Christmas gifts-- he, the only boy in Krinkeland, is most in need of tips on manners and politeness. Ben wants nothing to do with the book. But, Ben could learn something from the characters in the book, such as THE WOBBLY NECKS, UH-HUH and UN-UN:

"Poor Wobbly Necks! They shake their heads and hod their heads and still no one knows what they want to say. Some one says, 'Would you like to go?' and they shout UH-HUH and UN-UN then Wiggle and Wiggle and Wiggle. But no one knows what they mean. While-- YES and NO are always happy. Everybody knows what THEY mean and THEY don't have to wiggle their necks at all."

Madeline, on the other hand, loves the book, and brings it to me to read all the time. Unfortunately, she and her lack of manners are not yet ready for the tips in the book. At the two-year-old stage, I would be thrilled if she would simply stop screaming and use a Kleenex instead of a sleeve. At the very least, it would be nice if she would use her own sleeve.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012


I was sick to my stomach when I saw this photo, taken by a friend who works in this building, the church where all of my children have attended preschool.

Is this really our small town? Is it really the 21st century? Do you sick punks even know the meaning behind this vulgar graffiti? Do you have any idea what it will take to remove your damage? Do you really think you could possibly negatively impact the lives of the good women and men who work here and who worship here?

Shame. On. You.

Seeking Answers

Here are some of the questions I've been contemplating of late:

*How many Crock Pot recipes can I devise, revise, and revive between now and opening night of the musical?
*Did I break the car wash at the new Holiday, or was it just a coincidence?
*If a two-and-a-half-year-old doesn't speak as well or as much as her siblings did at the same age, is that necessarily a bad thing?
*Could I schedule just one or two more things this month-- just to guarantee I never have time to urinate again?
*Why do some kids bite? Why don't other kids bite?
*If I hold my breath until I pass out, will I still have to finish folding the laundry?
*Why do so many grown-ups behave like middle schoolers?
*Out of all the states in the union, why choose Wisconsin for a state report?
*Why are men such babies when they're sick? Why do they continue to act like babies, even if no one babies them?
*What does it mean for my future if already a five-year-old has to teach me how to operate an iPod?
*Can a sinus infection be a permanent condition?
*Is it really so bad to lie to your kids?
*Who has time to document every moment of existence on Facebook, and why do those people think the rest of us care?
*Does Rick on "Pawn Stars" really know all that random trivia, or is it fed to him by a show producer?
*What if I had stayed a show producer instead of becoming a mother?
*Why Walgreen's?

Thursday, January 5, 2012

My Fate is Cast

The extracurricular theater group of which I, Todd and my MIL are all a part, has just announced the cast of this year's production, "Disney's Beauty and the Beast Junior." We had 105 students in grades K-8 audition, so it's going to be one, big show. Right now, I need one, big Excedrin.

Bye-bye, clean house. Bye-bye, home-cooked meals. Bye-bye, People Magazine. See you in the spring.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Plays and Politics

Not only was today the first round of auditions for Saints on Stage's "Disney's Beauty and the Beast Junior," but this evening is also Iowa's Republican presidential caucuses. I don't think the excitement level in this house could get much higher. Sad, but true.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Weird Winter

I stepped out of the car this morning and thought, "Whoa! This is what winter feels like. I had almost forgotten." The overnight wind blew in frosty air... something I would normally be used to and sick of by JANUARY. But, so far, this fall and winter have been so balmy that it gave me a start.

Now, I am not complaining. I hate winter. I detest cold... and ice... and snow... and gusty winds. I go crazy over icy, muddy tracks and footprints and layers of clothing and bundling kids to go outside against fear of frostbite. It really makes no sense why I live in the Upper Midwest. But I do love the summers here.

Still, the weirdest thing about the weather this time around is that our lake is not yet frozen. To look out the window, through the bare tree branches, and see open water is just bizarre. Even more bizarre, when we drove around the lake yesterday, we saw people walking on the ice. Just yards from open water, there they were, a pack of five or six people, including two little kids, on the wet, gray, thin ice. Bizarre-- and stupid.