Monday, April 30, 2012

Celebrating Three

On Sunday, only one week behind schedule, we celebrated the third birthday of Madeline Kate.  I am not feeling 100%, so I will keep this brief and add photos later (I hope.)   Madeline was thrilled with the idea of a party to celebrate her fabulous little self.  All the family joined us, excepting one set of grandparents who are vacationing in Hawaii.

We stuffed and rigged up an Easter-clearance pinata and that provided the afternoon's entertainment for the kids, as well as some heart-stopping moments for the supervising adults.  Thankfully, the cousins all just talked loudly and carried a big stick.  We had dinner together, though, prior to the party, whenever I asked Maddy what she wanted to eat at her party, she just said, "Birthday cake."

The three-year-old was super-excited when she figured out there were presents, ALL FOR HER!  She really got into the gift-opening this year, tearing into package after package and really playing with her new things.  Among Maddy's favorite acquisitions: a kid-sized wooden lounge chair, a remake of the Fisher-Price cash register we had when we were kids, and Melissa and Doug magnetic dress-up dolls.  What more could a girl want?!

Snoozing, Moaning and Reading

I have not been feeling well these past few days-- "probably a virus," the physician's assistant I saw in urgent care diagnosed with total lack of knowledge, experience or compassion.  Anyway, it's not strep throat; she didn't need to be smart enough to ask a nurse to stick a swab down my throat-- I did that on my own.  All I want to do is sleep.  However, as all you mothers know, this is not actually a viable option when you are charged with caring for young children.


The two little ones, after spending last night at Grandma's, did take hefty naps this afternoon, and I laid down, too.  While I was waiting for them to settle, though, I read.  Laying around and reading is about the only other thing I feel like doing this week.  A couple of days ago, I finished the book "Heaven is Here" by Stephanie Nielson.

Her book is a lot like her blog; I read it, so I liked it.  It does offer a lot more background into her upbringing (idyllic,) her marriage (idyllic,) her family (yep, you guessed it) and her survivial and healing from severe burns in a plane crash, seemingly possible because of all the other idyllic factors.  It's still an amazing story... and she shares lessons for all.  Read it.  I bought the book if you want to borrow mine.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Jokester

The two big girls were even more wound up than usual. Riding around in the car with them, running errands, had the added benefit of free-- albeit loud-- entertainment. They sang songs. They danced in their seats. They told stories. They did imitations.


After approximately forever, they finally stopped talking at the same time. I welcomed the respite, and sighed a happy sigh when Elisabeth piped up from the back seat: "Hey, Mom, did you hear about the kidnapping in St. Cloud?" she asked. "No," I answered, horrified. "What happened?!"


Libby paused, then deadpanned, "He woke up."


Got me.  Good.


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Friday, April 27, 2012

Lactose-Free Zone

Add it to the list of interesting ailments in Krinkeland: We are now experimenting with a lactose-free diet for our oldest child. Amanda's stomachaches are back in full force, and, while the pediatrician does not seem overly concerned with my child's discomfort (seems like pain to me) she is suggesting we try something new.  The doctor also thought constipation issues might be back in play, which is frustrating, since I do try to stay on top of this issue with all the kids... especially after reading research about how basically no Americans get enough fiber in their diets.

So, Amanda started complaining on Saturday that her tummy hurt, and nothing we tried seemed to make it better.  Sometimes, it has seemed she is just mildly uncomfortable, but still functioning.  Other times, I have found her rocking back and forth and moaning.  That is frustrating and worrysome to any mother, I am sure.  I have difficulty accepting the idea that 20-30% of all elementary-school-aged kids have unexplained abdominal pain. Yet, that statistic has been quoted to me by our pediatrician and by two different gastroenterologists.

Mostly Well Children

We've been giving the old health insurance a good workout this week.

Amanda has been complaining mightily of tummy aches.  This seems to be a somewhat cyclical problem, something I hear about on-and-off, for days or weeks at a time.  When her complaints, lack of appetite and energy, and general look of discomfort continued into a fourth day, I took her to see the pediatrician.  There was a lot of talk, some lab work, and an abdominal x-ray, but no real answers.  As long as the pain and problems continue, we will go back to the gastroenterologist.

In the middle of the week, Benjamin and I went to see his favorite orthotist, to get his SMOs checked out.  With his low muscle tone and very reflexive joints, Ben needs foot-and-ankle braces to properly align his feet and to support correct growth and movement.  There is insurance coverage for these devices, but he must get new ones whenever he experiences significant growth, and they do carry a hefty co-pay.  Thankfully, even though Ben had been complaining for about a week that his braces hurt and I suspected they no longer fit, the orthotist was able to take some measurements and add some pads for adjustment and we did not (yet) have to order new braces.

That same afternoon, I took Elisabeth to a consult with a pediatric ENT.  It has troubled me that each time Libby gets strep throat-- not constantly, but three times in the last calendar year or so-- she requires multiple courses of different antibiotics to get rid of the bacteria.  Also, since birth, the girl has been a mouth-breather and a serious snorer.  My concerns were twofold: (1) the impact to her body from taking more, stronger antibiotics; and (2) serious health concerns from strep bacteria taking up long-term residence in Libby's little body.  We have had two family friends deal with the damage and lasting effects of rheumatic fever-- it's really scary!

I need not have worried, which, by the way, is my favorite kind of news to get.  The doctor said we are not even close to the threshold of criteria for tonsil removal, and he would even be hard-pressed to make an argument for adenoid surgery.  Admittedly, his is a very conservative approach, but I was not begging for my kid to be cut open (needless to say, neither was she) so everyone won!  The doc said he suspected the reason she is having trouble kicking the strep is due to the long-term effects of antibiotics on her body from her bladder issues, and he suggested a different antibiotic should Libby get strep again.


Potty Party!

This has been such a wild and busy month here in Krinkeland!  Beginning with Holy Week and Easter, continuing through the arrival of Jones, Madeline's birthday, Elisabeth's dance recital, school fundraisers...  In the midst of it all, Madeline finally decided to ditch the diapers-- and the pacifier.  Well, she decided to ditch the diapers and we decided the pacifier had to go.  She did turn three this week, after all... and the plug has already taken a toll on the teeth. 

Poor Maddy still asks for her "Nukkie" when she is tired, but has cut down on the whimpering when the request is denied.  She is exponentially more thrilled with herself on the potty front.  When we passed the diaper aisle in the store today, she told me, "No diapers at our house.  I big girl.  I wear underwear."

As is tradition with my parents and all their grandchildren, after a week or two of no accidents, Grandma and Grandpa treat the WHOLE family to a "potty party" at Chuck E. Cheese's, in honor of the newly trained.  Tonight was the night!
Other than crawling around in the disgusting tubes and going down this slide, Madeline pretty much spent all her time and ALL her tokens riding 'round and 'round on that little toddler clock.  She had the whole deal down-- putting in her coin, climbing into the seat, fastening her seatbelt, and yelling, "Whoo!  Whoo!" as the metal chair slowly swung her side-to-side.  The only fit she threw was when I pulled her away from the fun-- to go to the bathroom.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Oh, What a Feeling... She's Dancing on the Ceiling!

I was not one of those girls who fantasized about being a mother.  I don't remember playing "house" much as a kid, and, even though I babysat to make cash as a tween/teenager, I honestly cannot say I delighted in the little ones nipping at my ankles.  However, when Todd and I met, fell in love and decided to get married, we did discuss the possibility of children and agreed we would welcome them lovingly if/when they came.

Yet, there's one thing we did not discuss (it would have been a fruitless conversation, anyway, as it was completely out of our control:) I assumed that IF I ever DID become a MOTHER, I would mother BOYS.  Boys just made more sense to me.  I didn't do hair or makeup, I hated girl drama, I thought boys' toys were cooler and boys' clothes were simpler, I found sporting events more tolerable than pageants.

That thought just stuck with me, and, when I did become pregnant with my first child, we refused the ultrasound gender news, choosing instead to be surprised.  In my mind, though, it was already decided.  We painted the nursery blue and filled the closet with denim overalls.  So, imagine my shock when the baby was born.  You can plainly make out my first words on the delivery room video: "It's a WHAT?!"

You all know how this part of the story ends: three girls, one boy.  It has been, and continues to be, an interesting ride.  My first child must have sensed my deep-seated insecurities about mothering girls.  She prefers blue jeans.  She plays with the boys.  She keeps her hair simple.  She waited until age 10 to begin rolling her eyes and muttering, "Whatever."  My second child, as you might expect, is at the opposite end of the feminine spectrum.  She changes her clothes five times a day.  Her favorite toys have always been baby dolls and Barbies.  She covets her friends' nail polish colors and begs to have her ears pierced.  Then, there's the whole point of this post: DANCE CLASS.

Elisabeth dances.  She has been twirling and stepping to the music in her mind ever since she could walk.  And, pretty much ever since she has started to talk, she has been asking to go to dance class.  And, I have said, "No."  To many of you, I am sure this seems harsh.  I fully admit that my views are biased, tainted, and potentially untrue.  But they are based on what I've seen, what I've heard and what I've experienced in my own life.  The moves.  The music.  The costumes.  The makeup.  I worry about the sexualization of little girls.  I worry about them comparing themselves to each other.  I worry about body image issues.  I worry about the time commitment.  I worry about the costs.  I worry about pressure.

The simple answer was to say, "Play basketball.  Let's sign you up for a theater camp.  Take piano lessons instead."  That worked for a while, but Libby never stopped asking about dance.  As both Elisabeth and Amanda got more interested in theater, I started to consider the dance possibilities.  I wasn't thinking of either girl as a dancer, but as an actor who could benefit from some training in movement.  And, yes, I fully realize I was projecting my inadequacies onto my children; I wish I could dance.

After a lot of thought, a lot of research, a lot of discussion, and, yes, even some prayer, I signed both girls up last year for a low-key dance class.  I figured this would give them a bit of an introduction to basic styles and steps, and hopefully satisfy the "need."  For Amanda, that was definitely the case.  She completed the class, but then stated she never wanted to go back, because, "dance makes my legs hurt."  Truer words ain't never been spoken.  Yet, when it came to Libby, it appeared all I had done was awaken the beast.

I chose the studio where the girls began dancing, based on lots of research and recommendations, because people described it as "high class and low pressure."  I wanted Libby to satisfy her need to move, and certainly to learn skills which I could not teach.  I did not want our lives to be filled with late-night practices, weekend competition trips, sequins, and red lipstick.  I made my concerns clear to the owner of the studio; she listened.

Last fall, Libby began taking a weekly ballet/jazz/tap class for girls in her age group.  It soon became the highlight of her week.  All the work and all the fun was leading up to one performance:  the spring recital.  That's what we-- all of us: parents, siblings, grandparents, godparents, aunt, cousin-- experienced this past weekend.  Three hours of kicking and shaking, moving and grooving.  Some of the costumes, some of the numbers, some of the songs lived up to my expectations of modesty and moderation.  Some did not.

I suspect this will be an ongoing discussion within our family and with the studio owner/dance instructors/choreographers.  But I do not suspect we are done with dance.  One look at the grin on my girl's face and you know we will have to find a way to make it all work:


"Walking On Sunshine" tap routine


"Conga" jazz routine


"One Moment in Time" ballet routine

Drive-In

Some days, a lot of thought goes into a blog post topic. Other days, a topic just presents itself:
Todd and I awoke this morning to Benjamin reporting, "There's a strange car in our driveway." I was really foggy, having been up with Madeline (but, interestingly enough, not Jones-- that fact figures into this story) quite a bit during the night. I kind of ignored my son... until one of his older sisters came to say the same thing, just before taking out the dog.

Todd was getting ready for work, wandering around in a towel as he does most mornings. He spied out of the playroom window (now you know our trick) and said, "They're right. Must be the assessor. Has it been six months already?" I don't really know why Todd thought that, as 7:30 in the morning would be pretty early for a government employee to be on the job, but Todd and I never pass up an opportunity to complain about property taxes. I am sure the assessor is a perfectly lovely person-- he goes to our church-- still, enough is enough.

I told him to go out and talk to the assessor before he rang the doorbell and awakened a still-sleeping Maddy. Todd, Amanda, Ben and Jones headed out the front door. In just moments, I heard Todd call, "Kids, go back inside! Andrea, call the police!"

Yeah, so this "strange car" in our driveway was outfitted with all kinds of gear, including one of those car breathalyzers the driver has to breathe into before driving. Also in the car, a pretty nice bed setup, with Goldilocks still snoring, in the back seat. Todd kept looking out the window and talking with the police dispatcher, while I tried to keep the kids away from the windows.

Of course, while all this was going on, the school bus pulled up. Todd stayed on the phone and walked the older girls to the bus. The occupant of the car was stirring and appeared to be getting dressed... but he was taking his sweet time, and made no effort to talk to Todd-- which was just fine with me.

Within a few minutes, not one but two of our local peace officers also pulled into the driveway. Dude was still there. The officers talked to the guy, even cuffed him for a while, then gave him a ticket and sent him on his way.

The story was that he passed the breathalyzer test this morning, but the police suspected he had been on some other kind of substance. He told the officers he was homeless, and had been going to see "Nancy." The officers believed neither part of that story, but couldn't arrest him because he was clean at the moment. He was ticketed with trespassing on our property, and we were told he would be immediately arrested if he ever returned to our property or if he was found somewhere drinking and/or drinking and driving.

One officer cuddled with the puppy, complimented Todd on his "Bush Cheney '04" bumper sticker, and left a whole role of badge stickers for the kids. I sat on the couch, freaking out.

I have said before, how odd it is to live where we do: Though this is a safe, small town where everyone knows everyone else (and everyone's business) coming in and building a home where we did feels like living in a fish bowl. The lot is small, the road is busy, and the lake brings boaters in the summer and snowmobilers in the winter. When we meet new people, we find they often already know where we live-- they describe the color of our house, the look of the driveway, the proximity to that goofy roundabout in the road, or our piano in the front window. It's uncomfortable.

All I could think this morning was: Why did he stop at our house-- and come all the way down the driveway? How long was he here? What would I have done if I'd come across him while taking out the dog in the middle of the night? What if the guy meant to break in but was too drunk/drugged? What if the kids had gone outside alone (as they do most mornings?) What if he comes back? What if he liked it here?

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Where Did the Weekend Go?! Where Did the Toddler Go?!


Today, my youngest child is three. I've hardly had a moment this weekend to absorb that fact-- much less to celebrate with Madeline. Luckily, being three, Maddy doesn't care too much. She was content with a family brunch, a few presents, and thirty or forty rousing rounds of "Happy Birthday to Me!"

There will be a party with family, next weekend. Until then, Daddy and I are rejoicing in what makes three terrific:
*being potty trained (finally!)
*dressing herself in the most colorful outfits
*picking her own nose
*still speaking her own language and making her own rules, but being perfectly clear when she states, "I love you soooo much!"

We woke up this morning well aware we had a three-year-old in the house (she was squealing some kind of joyful good morning at the puppy) but still feeling the effects of last night's school fundraiser. The theme for this year's Spring Fever event was "Back to the Prom." Since Todd and I did not know each other in high school, we took the chance to turn back time and relive our youth.



As always it was a fun night, a good excuse to dress up and act silly, and a great way to raise money for a wonderful school. We are always so thankful for the dedication, support and friendship that comes from that building and the people in it.

This afternoon, we were blessed to attend the First Communion mass for our oldest nephew, Kazmer. It was a long, but lovely, affair... one Madeline and Benjamin slept through, but, hey, at least they were quiet in church! We are so proud of Kaz and so excited for him to take this huge step in his faith life.

As if we hadn't already done enough for one weekend, we then headed to Elisabeth's dance recital. This weekend was her first opportunity to perform, since beginning to take dance lessons, and it was obvious she had a ball! The whole dance world is foreign to me, so I didn't volunteer to help, but I did manage Libby's ballet bun in her hair (with a few tricks of the trade from the professionals,) so I guess now I can add Dance Mom to my resume. We are very proud of our dancing princess!

Friday, April 20, 2012

A Day at the Museum

I went along on Benjamin's preschool field trip to the Minnesota Children's Museum. It's actually been quite a while since we've been there... You know, visiting a children's museum is something that sounds like great fun when you have one or two small children. When you have four, visiting a children's museum sounds like torture. And, it is, kind of-- at least, it is when you're as tightly wound as I am. But, I had forgotten how cool that place is, too.

Benjamin had a blast!

His favorite area was the Ant Hill in the permanent Earth World exhibit. Ben wasn't the only one-- that place was teeming with preschool drones. We also spent a ton of time in the visiting Grossology exhibit. A name like that requires no explanation. Like any average boy, he gravitated toward the make-your-own-fart center. Many thanks to his father for passing along the attraction-to-toots gene.

I enjoyed trailing after my son, watching him watch the other kids, observing the way he thinks, plays, interacts. I think maybe we should have field trips more often-- except without the bus ride part.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

All the Stuff Kids Don't Know

There's a lot of stuff kids don't know. For that matter, there are a lot of ignorant adults roaming the planet... but that's a topic for another post. I am thinking about how children of different ages don't know about certain things because those things are simply outside their small realm of existence.

For example, when I was a small child and first learning to read, I used to have silent, still, mini-panic attacks in the backseat of the car whenever we would drive by a road sign that looked like this:


I trembled in my vinyl-clad seat, worried about what would happen as my father drive right on, without even slowing down or glancing aside, into the "No Passing Zone." But, WE HAD JUST PASSED THAT SIGN! DROVE RIGHT PAST! RIGHT INTO THE FORBIDDEN ZONE!What would happen next?! I envisioned something out of a Roadrunner cartoon. Even though that cliff never came, I never fully relaxed until I figured it out. Luckily, that did happen before I got to driver's ed.

Kids also say things they don't understand. They pick up words and phrases from eavesdropping on adults and use them in inappropriate and hilarious ways. Benjamin's latest is, "Isn't that crazy?!" I don't know where he got it, because I never say it. I mean, the only thing I describe as "crazy" is me, and by "crazy," I mean, "certifiable." But Ben uses the phrase all the time, in ways that make me certain he has a lot of living to do before he develops some concept of "crazy":
"Mom, Savannah wore blue socks today-- isn't that crazy?!"
"Mom, Dad's watching the movie too loud-- isn't that crazy?!"
"Mom, Jack told me he has two dogs-- isn't that CRAZY?!"

I distinctly remember being young, in elementary school and undergoing an IQ test. I think the story goes that my parents had a friend who was a child psychologist, or something like that, who wanted to practice giving IQ tests. Or, maybe that's just the story I made up in my head. Anyway, I got my IQ tested.

If you've never undergone that process, it's a weird one: sequencing, critical thinking, Rorschach tests, and word association. In the word association section, I was supposed to say the first thing that came to mind, after the tester uttered a word. She said, "bat" and I replied, "belfry." Now, for those unfamiliar with the term, "belfry" refers to a bell tower or a medieval siege tower. There's no reason for a young child to know that word. And I really didn't. It's just that one of my mother's favorite expressions was, "She has bats in her belfry!" (Translation: "She's loony, nuts, cuckoo.")

So, this set-up brings me to another amusing thing done by a Krinkeland kid: We were riding in the car and Elisabeth was going on and on about these books she likes to read, the A to Z Mysteries by Ron Roy. (Now, I am not recommending these books, because she zips through one in about an hour and never seems to start any engaging literary discussions around them... but, she likes them and she's reading, so, whatever.) Anyway, Libby was talking about which titles she's read, what she's reading now, and which ones she plans to read next.

She kept coming back to "The Yellow Yak-It." I wasn't really listening that closely, but Amanda must have been bothered. Because, after Libby said "The Yellow Yak-It" three or four times, Amanda asked to see the list of titles on the back of her sister's book. Libby, sensing she might be in the wrong, refused, and a fight broke out. Finally, the bigger and stronger Amanda pried the book from her little sister's fingers and read, "'The Yellow YACHT!' I knew you didn't know what you were talking about! That word is 'yacht.'" Libby tried to maintain her position, explaining she was pretty sure it was "yak-it" because that's what all her friends said.

Finally, I intervened and quietly agreed the word was "yacht" and it meant a big boat used for sailing races or just riding. The oldest, having to have the last word, "Yes, a 'yacht' is one of those huge boats you can sleep on. I get why you were confused, though, Libby. That word is French, or German."

p.s. At that moment, I giggled to myself, but just told Amanda I really didn't know the etymology of "yacht." Then, when we got home, I looked it up and found varying sources saying the word was English, Dutch or Norwegian. This just goes to show my children do know enough to start their own website.

She's Talking with the Girl in the Mirror

I set Madeline on the bathroom counter so I could brush her hair. She was sitting cross-legged, facing the mirror, and I barely had the brush to her head when Maddy started a conversation with her reflection:

"Hi. Dis me, and dis my mommy. My Beh, my Manda, my Widdy, my puh-puh-- dey all downdairs. Dis my new shirt. It pitty. It 'parkle. My mommy six my hair. I pitty. I sooo pitty."

The girl in the mirror echoed back Madeline's sentiments. Don't we all.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Training for Two

You know how, when you have a baby, the minute that newborn arrives, your previous younger child instantly gets a lot older? As far as I know, that's just the way the mind works: your baby is your baby until he or she is not the baby anymore. I remember the feeling so distinctly with Amanda, when she first came to visit Elisabeth and me in the hospital. My firstborn was only 18 months old-- barely a toddler herself. But, when she climbed up on the bed and helped hold "Bebe Libilith" for the first time, well, she became the Big Girl.

I am here to attest the same is true when the baby is a puppy.

Now, I know the difference between a canine baby and a human one. I am also aware that Madeline, who turns three next week, does not actually fall into the "baby" category. Except, she IS my baby. So, there.

Since Maddy is the baby, and everyone knows it, she certainly has been milking the baby thing. She's my only child to have a pacifier... and she still has one. I'm not proud of it, but it is what it is, and I will rip it out of her mouth sooner or later. Maddy also has not gotten potty trained. She has dabbled in the experience here and there for the last year-and-a-half, but she has been unwilling to commit.

Anyone could argue that Mommy is actually the one who has been unwilling to commit. And that is true. For good or for bad, my philosophy is, when the kid wants to go, she will go.

That brings us to this past weekend: In comes Jones the puppy, and in comes Madeline in underwear! Yes, I am simultaneously training a girl and a dog. Though both are doing really well, here's the scorecard:

ACCIDENTS
Madeline 2, Jones 3

BEING APOLOGETIC FOR ACCIDENTS
Madeline 2, Jones 0

INDICATING A NEED TO GO
Madeline 466, Jones 0

MAKING IT ALL NIGHT
Madeline 4, Jones 2

Jones has issues that do not affect Madeline, particularly, an inability to speak and a tell-tale wet wiener; Madeline has issues that do not affect Jones, particularly, a propensity to put both legs into one leg hole of her panties. I clearly have my own issues, because I chose to post at length about the bathroom habits of my child and my pet.

Monday, April 16, 2012

"Smash" On!

With all my brain cells occupied with play productions, puppy and potty training, I haven't spent much time blogging about the other fun things in life, like television. As I've explained before, the television is never on during the day in Krinkeland... but I do have that DVR programmed to the hilt, recording things all day and evening so Todd and I can take it all in once the kids are in bed.

I must say, I have gone from series to series to series. A couple years in, someone, probably my SIL, got me hooked on "Grey's Anatomy." But I dropped that one and never looked back when an episode last season so clashed with my personal beliefs. (Yes, I had WAY more trouble with the plot than when it centered on sleeping with coworkers, Post-It wedding vows or other ridiculous drivel.) "Glee" also kind of lost its appeal this season; I still find lessons in it, but it's gotten really nutty, too, and not nearly as entertaining as in the beginning.

I moved on to "Downton Abbey"-- talk about the other end of the storyline continuum! I still love it, but the Abbey is on hiatus, so I will have to wait for another season. So, enter: "Smash." Have you seen it? Do you love it?!

Talk about mixing two loves for me: musical theater and television!

Can't wait for tonight!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Divine Mercy


In addition to being Tax Day and the birthday of one of Amanda's best friends, today is Divine Mercy Sunday. I know I don't talk up Catholicism as much as I should, but the Divine Mercy message comes from the revelations and messages to Saint Faustina from Our Lord Jesus, as recorded in her diaries. The Divine Mercy Chaplet is a beautiful way to honor in prayer God's everlasting and infinite mercy.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Baby

Here, I had been thinking our family was complete... I was too old to become a mother again... I didn't have the energy or patience for another baby... BUT, my husband and my children convinced me I was wrong. Announcing:

Jones

Yes, we have a puppy. This has been in the works for some time, but, still, it happened sooner than I was planning. There is so much I can write about:
*why kids "need" a dog
*how we settled on this breed, this color and gender, this time in our family's life
*the effectiveness of the oldest child's fierce lobbying
*the experience of simultaneously potty-training a puppy and a two-year-old
*how wonderfully nutty dog breeders are
*naming a dog when six people have a say

However, right now, I am thinking I better get some sleep, because I expect the baby to keep me up tonight!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Happy Birthday to Who?!

Today is my sister's birthday: Happy Birthday, Sis! (I never call her "Sis," by the way-- chalk it up to a blogger's use of artistic license.) The kids and I called her this evening and sang "Happy Birthday" over speaker phone. Can't imagine a better gift.

I've noticed something odd about my almost-three-year-old and the way she sings the "Happy Birthday" song. In many ways, Madeline's speech is still difficult to understand. But, even when her words are difficult to decipher, she is amazingly consistent. We can't figure out what she's saying, but she says whatever it is over and over again the same way. In the year or so that she's been talking, she has always sung the last lines of "Happy Birthday" like this:

"Happy Birthday AHN-UH-KAY-SHUN, Happy Birthday to you."

No matter whose birthday it is, that's what we get. What the heck is she saying?

Monday, April 9, 2012

Bumper Cars

I am not a fan of bumper stickers. For me, bumper stickers fall into the same category as tattoos, nude photos and keeping diaries: they're just so permanent. I do not permit the children to put stickers on the furniture or on the walls. So, why would I muck up a vehicle that I'm probably going to have for a lot longer than those things?

I think about how much I dislike bumper stickers every time I drive my husband's old beater, glance in the rear view mirror, and see the "Bush Cheney '04" sticker in the back window. Why, oh, why, did he stick that? Then, there's my MIL's bumper:

Now, the bumper sticker itself is kind of fun, kitschy, old-school; but the placement clearly says, "A five-year-old stuck this to the back of the car." (He did.) On the upside, I can always be certain it is my in-laws' car, and not a lookalike.

Today, I was driving behind an older, compact car with a license plate that read "H4CH3R." (That should have been my first sign.) Along the trunk were three bumper stickers:
"If you don't vote, you can't whine"
"Mellow Mood"
"You can talk to me, but where will I put the barf?"

I understand the meaning of the first sticker. But, then, it seems contradicted by the message on the second. The third, I just plain don't get. Oh, I forgot to mention, that one also had a picture of a bunny on it.

Why are these bumper stickers on the back of this car? Why do I care? What am I supposed to think about the car owner because of these messages? Can you get a sense of people by what you read on their bumpers? Should you?

Now, I don't mind those bumper magnets, because... they're not so permanent. That can also be a problem. I lost my "Pray to End Abortion" magnet in the car wash, after I forgot to remove it from the back of the van. The other van still sports the "Birthright/Free Pregnancy Tests" magnet. That's the one that causes Elisabeth to remark, "Oh, great-- We get to ride in the 'Birthright' van." Can't you just wait till she's a teenager?!

Wonder what Libby's going to be sporting on her bumper someday...

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Happy, Hoppy Easter!


Wasn't it a wonderful Easter Sunday?

Our day started too early, as holidays do when the house is full of excited youngsters. We caught Madeline at about 11 p.m. last night, actually jumping on top of her sleeping brother and stage whispering, "Wake up, Ben!" After Daddy threatened her within an inch of her life, Maddy finally settled down and went to sleep. We figured we were good until at least 7-- which would have been nice, since Todd stayed up watching movies into the wee hours... it's as though he can't help himself!-- but the children had other ideas, and were ready for the egg hunt to begin shortly after 6 a.m.

Elisabeth had the toughest time finding her basket. It was actually in the garage, in the back end of one of the cars! Benjamin is the one who finally suggested she look there. No one knows how he came up with that idea, but we are all now seriously suspicious about some connection between Ben and the Easter Bunny.

Said Bunny brought each child some kind of building set. Duplos for Madeline, Legos for Benjamin and Elisabeth, and Snap Circuits for Amanda. After a full day of circuit-building, I think we can safely say this is one cool toy. Todd kept saying, "I wish I had this when I was a kid... I wish I had this when I was in college!"

We attended a really lovely Easter mass, from Todd's favorite opening hymn, "Jesus Christ is Risen Today" to a homily to which we all could relate to beautiful Easter clothes, brass and other instruments, and lots of friendly faces. We did have to make one trip to the bathroom, where Ben pilfered an emery board from the Birthright basket on the counter, and then spent the rest of the service filing things-- and sisters-- in the pew. But, overall, it was a beautiful morning. I couldn't really even bring myself to grumble about making my way outside church through a dirty road improvement site in open-toed shoes.

Since we had our Easter celebration on Palm Sunday with the Rs, today it was off to the Ps. By the time we arrived, the kids were starving. (Chocolate for breakfast will do that to you.) So, we sat down to a huge lunch pretty much before anything else. Grandma made a last-minute menu addition-- meatballs, as well as ham-- and, boy did those kids eat both! She also made the yummiest macaroons... Someone had five after stuffing herself full of Easter dinner.

Once we were so full we could hardly walk, much less run, it was time for the egg hunting and basket finding. Kids first, then adults. All our kids are old enough to "get" it now, so that was great fun. Even my goddaughter Lucia was on the hunt-- and we know it won't be long before Elias is trailing after the others!

The kids divided their loot and then were banished for some down time so the adults could partake of our annual Easter Grab. Is this something I have previously explained? If not, it's sort of like a version of the Dice Game: My parents hide numbers in eggs, and the same number of gifts as there are eggs. We find the eggs and then play the game according to which numbers we each have. Number 1 chooses the first gift and opens it. Number 2 can choose a gift from the pile or steal the gift from Number 1. This continues until all the gifts are opened.

Some of the prizes are really awesome; highlights this year included Target gift cards, shavers, a first aid kit and sunscreen. Some of the prizes are not-so-awesome, like plastic rain ponchos and sand or glass marbles to fill vases. But, I guess it all depends on one's perspective. This year is definitely the best Grab to date; I think everyone was thrilled with the distribution of riches-- I know Todd and I were, and we had the fewest numbers! Most of all, we laughed a lot.

I hope this Easter finds you all filled with joy and wonder at the gift bestowed on all of us by our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

"For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 6:23)

Friday, April 6, 2012

A Sudden, Sad Loss

We received, just a day ago, the most bizarre and horrific news: Elisabeth's Faith Formation teacher, who also happens to be a neighbor of ours and a school mom, has lost her sister. Jennifer died from traumatic injuries received when her van accidentally backed over her. Jen fought valiantly, as did the surgeons who tried to save her, but her wounds were irreparable.

Our thoughts and prayers are with Jill and Jeff, who are mourning a sister, along with their girls, who have lost an aunt. We honor, too, Jill's and Jen's parents, who are also parishioners and neighbors on the lake. Lord Jesus, keep them all in your tender care.

Bad Dye Job

My dad came over this week with his carpet cleaning machine and made our carpets look brand new (almost.) Yay, Dad! Yay, clean carpets! I say "almost" brand new because nothing is ever brand new in a house with four little kids. You bring in something new, and it is trashed before the day is out. I actually have a one-day goal for general house cleaning, as in: The kitchen floor just got scrubbed. Can we go ONE DAY without spilling milk or pizza sauce or milk or orange juice or milk? We rarely make the goal.

So, the carpets, in general, really needed to be cleaned. But, specifically, Madeline has been working her magic around the house, and, in the past two weeks, she poured out a whole bottle of nail polish on the big girls' bedroom floor, PLUS she broke free from her kitchen restraints and splattered the den floor with yogurt. It has not been a good time for Madeline, or for Mommy.

In both instances, I went to work on the stains immediately. I got out our small carpet scrubber. I let spot remover soak into the stains. I did online searches for cleaning tips and tried hairspray, vinegar, nail polish remover and Goo Gone. In both rooms, the stains shrunk and faded, but they did not go away.

So, Dad came over with his mega-machine, and went to town on the spots. Both scenes have improved dramatically, but not gone away completely. Here's the fascinating-- and scary-- thing: Sally Hansen nail polish, in a midnight blue color, came out of the carpet BETTER than Yoplait GoGurt in a punch flavor/pink color.

Think about that the next time your kids want to eat that crap.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Desperately Seeking

I am so tired of looking for other people's stuff, specifically, electronic devices belonging to my children.

I don't know why I'm even bothering to post on this topic. All you mothers are in the same boat with me. We all know it's not our responsibility to find things our kids lose, and we all know it's part of our duty as parents to teach children to be accountable and responsible for their own things, but we all look for their stuff, anyway. You know you do it, too. Don't lie. It's Holy Week.

At the moment, it's a missing iPod. This is the one kid who hasn't yet lost an iPod. I know it's in the house or in the car-- it doesn't go anywhere else. What I don't know is why the kid doesn't know where it is. The kid plays with the iPod. The mother does not.

It bothers me when stuff is missing. It bothers me so much I can't get other things done until the thing is found. I can't sleep because I am thinking about where the thing might be. I will tear apart the house until I find it. And then I will confiscate the iPod until the kid promises to be more responsible.

Yes, I am well aware this problem could be solved by not purchasing expensive electronic devices for children. All you know-it-alls can just save your breath, because that's not the point. If it wasn't an iPod, it would be a textbook, or a library book, or a glove. Kids lose things and they do need to learn how to be accountable for their possessions.

I guess what I'm asking is, HOW? I mean, is this something you can teach? Something they just have to learn the hard way? A personality trait that some have and others simply do not? Isn't that why men get married-- so they have someone else to find their stuff for them (or to blame when something is missing?) Or is that just why my husband got married?

I am not immune from the problem. I constantly lose things-- track of time... my temper... my train of thought...

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Peroxide

I noticed the shower grout was really nasty, so I set out to clean it. I typically turn to a straight-up Clorox bleach solution for such jobs. But, while digging through the cleaning supplies, I remembered one of those chain emails I received about the wonders of peroxide for cleaning everything from toothbrushes to radiators. I decided to give this peroxide thing a try. I grabbed an industrial-sized bottle purchased at Costco the last time I was recalling this email on cleaning tips, and I poured the peroxide into a spray bottle, and I sprayed that shower grout up and down and all around.

The grimy grout lines started hissing and bubbling. Sounded like it was working... that, or those three little Rice Krispie dudes had invaded my shower. I left to do something else important. When I returned, the grout looked a lot better! It really worked, and without any of that chemical smell. So, chalk one up to the chain email! Tomorrow, I'm going to clean the toilet bowl with a can of Coca-Cola.

In other housekeeping news, the big girls and I cleaned out their closet and cleared all the corners of their bedroom. I am thinking it will be a wasted trip for the "Hoarders" TV crew. Can you tell-- I have a new philosophy to work my kids so hard over Spring Break that they can't wait to go back to school.

Monday, April 2, 2012

The Wrinkly and the Scaly

The kids and I, along with Grandma and Grandpa P., set out this morning to visit my grandma, my mom's mom, my kids' great-grandma. You all know her as Gua. Gua she is and Gua she was today. It was a long drive, and a trying time in the car with all the offspring. But, it was good to see her, and always something I recommend: Go see the old one in your life. Those 1914 models don't hang around forever, you know.

We enjoyed our visit and lunch with the Gua, and we were not excited to get back in the car for the trek home. But eyes definitely widened when Grandpa pulled off the freeway and followed Grandma's directions to The Reptile & Amphibian Discovery Zoo. Apparently, Grandma had heard about this place on the news and had wondered about it on numerous trips past the site.

Well, the adorable Amanda nearly shed her own skin when she figured out where we were going and what was inside. You see, this particular reptile zoo was the ultimate experience for Amanda because, not only does it house alligators and lizards and other cool things, but it is home to a former pet snake of Justin Bieber's. I cannot make this stuff up.

EVERYONE loved The Reptile & Amphibian Discovery Zoo. Except for the fact that it was hot and stinky, it was pretty cool. There was a lot of screaming and pointing and jumping up and down-- all signs the stop was a hit. Benjamin belted out a big, "THANK YOU, GRANDMA!" And I suspect Amanda will be spreading the word all over town. Come on, now, Justin Bieber's snake.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Early Easter

Palm Sunday is the day we traditionally celebrate Easter with Todd's mom and family. It's so nice to "spread out" the holiday and not feel rushed between two (or more) homes/celebrations. Today was a beautiful day.

We went to church with the Rs... got the kids dressed up in some pre-Easter finery and watched them whip each other with palm branches. In all seriousness, I think every year the gravity of the sacrifice really hits home on Palm Sunday. Knowing what Jesus endured, for ME, what the Father sacrificed, for ME-- it really gets me in the mindset for Holy Week and looking forward to Easter Sunday.

Back at the ranch, there was egg- and basket-hunting before the big dinner. The kids were so funny, the big ones alternately helping and beating on the little ones to get to the loot. I swear, they got more candy than you can find in the Easter aisle at Target, and Madeline snuck "just one more Tootsie Roll" than I could even count.


Our meal was delicious, and as plentiful as the Easter baskets. Grandma made ribs and ham, two favorites of the kids of Krinkeland. After we ate, and sort-of cleaned up, it was egg decorating time. Grandma and Grandpa always go way overboard on this front... but it doesn't do any good to argue with them, so I don't even try. 15 dozen eggs. That's the way they roll. The children actually got more coloring on the eggs than on themselves this year, so, who can complain?

Madeline went down for one long nap while the others played Clue, blew bubbles outside, and read books. After Maddy finally got up, we headed to the park. Things got pretty intense in a game of tag around the playground with Daddy, and we all pushed Maddy on the swings until our arms nearly broke.


Tired and spent, we all called it a day. Now, we rest up for Holy Week and all that lies ahead.