Friday, June 29, 2012

I Sound Weird



So, I used a voice recorder app on my phone to record my lines, scene by scene for the musical, hoping doing this (and listening over and over) will help me learn my part. It's a far-from-perfect solution-- but the best I can do for myself-- largely because I enlisted my children to read the other parts in each scene, and neither makes a very convincing "Rooster" or "Grace Farrell." But, hey, they tried.

It's also hard to listen to how I sound. I know everyone always says that... and I know the way my recorded voice sounds to me is actually how it sounds to others... but that sure isn't the way it sounds to me inside my head. I am really annoying.

I wish I sounded like Kathy Bates.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Grandpa's Hands: Stress Erasers

Today brought with it a fair share of challenges-- nothing major, just: we're-late-for-day-camp-the-puppy-pooped-on-the-floor-where's-my-other-shoe-since-when-don't-you-like-green-Jello-this-meeting-makes-me-nervous-the-cable-modem-still-isn't-working-how-am-I-ever-going-to-learn-my-lines-it-is-too-blasted-hot-outside-when-are-those-lazy-morons-coming-back-to-fill-in-this-dangerous-and-ugly-trench-they-dug-in-my-front-yard:

At some point in the afternoon, I did get it through my thick skull that I needed to simplify-- easier said than done-- but I did take a couple evening options off the table, and assured the children that after Benjamin's t-ball game we would go home and relax.  I was still feeling overwhelmed and anxious as I herded my brood to head home from our last activity.  Then, I looked up and saw this:
My 10-year-old, strolling through the park, hand-in-hand-in-hand-in-hand with her grandpas-- a moment that reminds me why I'm here and "makes it all worthwhile."

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Jumping for Joy

After a really long, involved, arduous, ridiculous ordeal (which, incidentally, is just indicative of the way we do most things here in Krinkeland) we have one of those really awesome water trampolines installed in the lake, off the end of our dock.  It carried with it a huge price tag, and will also bring its fair share of issues (near-death experiences, annoying neighbors breathing down our necks to try.)  Anchoring it in place also required the labor and patience of a whole legion of friends, relatives and neighbors.  But I will be thanking all of them for a long time to come, because, I can tell you: That thing is SO fun!

Photos?  Oh, sure, I was jumping in the lake with my camera.  Just close your eyes and imagine. 

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Top Dog

Arms entwined around the puppy's neck, Madeline peeked over the top of his head and asked, "So, Mom, do we get to keep Jones?" I am unsure why she thought he might be here on trial, but, since we got the dog around Easter, the rest of us surely feel as though Jones is part of our family, always has been, always will be.

He is only five months old, and still exhibiting lots of puppy-type behavior. However, from his calm temperament to his few house training accidents, I feel fairly confident in saying Jones just may be the best dog ever. Yes, I am biased, and no, I do not want to jinx things. But we just love this pup.

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Monday, June 25, 2012

The First 40 Minutes

I had a really weird spot in my morning.

After packing up the children and dropping Amanda, Elisabeth and Benjamin at YMCA day camp with their friends...

...I got back in the car and drove Madeline to her first gymnastics class for three- and four-year-olds.  The significance of this classification is that her previous class (for two- and three-year-olds) required parent participation.  With a twirl of her tutu, Maddy was off to tiptoe and tumble.


And I was A-L-O-N-E.

10:00 on a Monday morning, and my arms were empty and so was my car.  With the exception of having a babysitter for some pre-arranged purpose, that kind of thing never happens.  It was a real milestone.  It was also a huge, flashing sign that my kids are growing up.

What did I do with the time?  Well, it wasn't much, of course.  I took my time leaving the gym, just in case my baby needed me.  (She didn't.)  Then, I picked up a fountain soda at the gas station and returned a stack of books to the library.  I spent the last 10 minutes thumbing through my "People" magazine, and I was waiting when the door to the gymnastics studio opened and my baby girl bounded out, declaring, "I'm hungry!"

And Mommy was back on duty.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Hit Me!

Hey, I just happened to scroll through this thing and notice we are over 100,000 hits.  Way to go, people!  I must be really interesting.  You must need a hobby.

Summertime, Summertime, Sum, Sum, Summertime?

Summertime, and the livin' AIN'T easy!

It's barely officially summer, but things are so busy here in Krinkeland, I haven't even had time to think about blogging, much less actually set these fingers to typing.  And, tonight, I have one of those bonfire-smoke hangovers, so this is going to be brief.  Here are the highlights:
*"Annie" rehearsals-- How will I EVER learn these lines?  And NOTES?  And DANCE MOVES?!
*vacation bible school-- Sure, I will lead the masses in non-catchy lyrics set to videotaped movement.  Who wouldn't?  (Note to self: Steer clear of next year's volunteer sign-up.)
*t-ball-- It's become partially-teed ball; Benjamin has had two "hits" off of coach pitches!  And sometimes, he even stands up while in the field.
*Rave-- Todd's third attempt at a water trampoline is finally anchored to the lake bottom off the end of our dock.  The ordeal involved: a father, a brother, two ever-patient friends, a knowledgeable neighbor and a PDF of his detailed anchoring diagram, another neighbor with actual experience using the other neighbor's anchoring system, an acquaintance with scuba gear, three trips to Menard's, a mother holding down the house, another mother and father removing the children, and more than eight straight hours of labor (on just the first day.)
*progressive dinner party-- It's wonderful to have friends.  It's lovely to have an evening by the lake hosted by someone else; five someone elses is even better.  I won't be ready to be met at the dock by another mai-tai anytime soon.
*friends from far places-- Todd's longtime friend Justin, Justin's wife Solongo, and their kids are on their annual pilgrimage to Justin's homeland, all the way from their home in Mongolia.  The visited today, along with another bunch of friends we don't see nearly often enough.  It was a gorgeous day.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Plenty

We had some extra kids for lunch, for which I whipped up an amazing meal of take-out pizza, fruit and chocolate milk.  As I was getting everyone situated and served, one of the children asked, "How many pieces of pizza can we have?"  The question threw me.  First of all, in my family of general non-eaters, I am more likely to get the question: "How much do I have to eat?"  I chuckled at that and gave a little prayer of thanks that I was feeding children who were actually interested in eating.  Now, I know these children well, and I am certain they do get plenty to eat-- there's another reason to be thankful: kids who have everything they need.

Do you ever think about that?  I mean-- really think about it?

We have plenty.  We have more than plenty.

I was fortunate enough to grow up in an upper-middle-class home, with two parents, including a stay-at-home mom who later became a working mom.  From the tales my mother tells, I know there were some tight times, where Dad and Mom "pinched pennies" and "borrowed from Peter to pay Paul" to "make ends meet."  But, as a child, I never knew it.  My siblings and I needed nothing, never truly went without.

Because of how our household operated, how my parents budgeted and saved, I think I grew up with a pretty healthy respect for money and a desire to stay in financial good standing.  I am sure I have previously mentioned that, during the first five or six years of our marriage, before we had children, Todd and I saved my entire salary... just put that paycheck in the bank, and lived off of what my husband made.  We did this in anticipation of someday having a family and not wanting to ever be dependent on two incomes. 

Even through tough economic times, my husband and I have done well.  I am a self-proclaimed bargain hunter and cheapskate, and I make no apologies for that.  And, as much as I complain, "Todd always wants everything for a dollar-- but it has to be the best," I appreciate the way he explores different avenues and negotiates, negotiates, negotiates with our bottom line in mind.  It makes no sense to me that we should pay more than is necessary for anything.

All that said, we in Krinkeland go through money like water.  It costs a lot to run and maintain this household.  Yes, admittedly, we do indulge in luxuries like lake toys and housecleaning and, the latest-- in-ground lawn sprinklers.  With four children to clothe and feed, and only one income, we do not save as much as we used to.  Still, this food thing really resonates with me: I buy and we eat whatever we want.  Because we can.  It's stunning.

I go grocery shopping every week, with additional trips for milk and bananas.  Before I go, I read the weekly ads, I clip and sort coupons, I make a list.  I have some idea in my head of how much I will spend-- whether it will be a BIG trip or just the essentials or just the good deals.  But, when I get to the grocery store, I don't think twice about putting extra items in the cart.  When I get to the checkout, I always know I can cover the bill.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Funding Life

I've had a rough go as of late with the friendship-fundraising dynamic.  You know-- when a friend is involved in a cause and asks for donations to said cause.  This is the season for walks and runs and other such events... I want to support my friend... and I understand why the friend believes so strongly in a given cause... BUT, if the organization receiving funds has practices and/or philosophies to which I am morally opposed, well, then, I cannot give my money.  It's a struggle, but it's an issue I must continue to tackle if I want to be able to sleep at night.

The hardest part is that the causes are GOOD causes, seeking things we ALL want, particularly in the medical arena: a cure for cancer, treatment for Alzheimer's disease, early detection and prevention of birth defects.  Furthermore, my friends have deep ties to these causes-- they've lost spouses or parents to disease, they've had to bury their babies.  Thankfully, my friends are intelligent and compassionate people who understand when and why I cannot give money to a particular cause... and I always find another way to show them I support THEM, whether it's giving a gasoline gift card to get them to the event or sunscreen and specialized socks to wear for the walk.

Often, someone will ask me to donate to a cause and I am unsure whether the organization stands for the same things for which I stand, whether it will be a good steward of my money, whether it is the best vehicle for achieving the desired results.  As you already know, my issue is LIFE; I am only able to back organizations that support all human life, from conception to natural death.  Often, non-profit and research groups-- which may seem completely unrelated to abortion or euthanasia or the pro-life movement-- end up having funds wrapped up in those issues.  So, before I say "yes" or "no" and certainly before I give my credit card number, I have to do my research.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Village

I am feeling especially thankful tonight for having the kind of friends and family that we, fortunately, share. We have been reminded so many times in the past week or two how helpful and thoughtful others can be, and it is heartwarming.

In the scheme of life, a broken foot is such a minor setback. However, in a household with four kids and their summer activities, a puppy, a community theater musical production, and a backyard lake-- well, then, that broken foot creates all kinds of trouble and makes the one with the broken foot feel helpless and useless and downright cranky.

Since it happened, two sets of grandparents have picked up the babysitting, as well as Madeline-herding at t-ball games and helping Todd pack up the little ones after those games. I posted on Facebook that I was looking for someone to take care of our lawn, and my dad showed up the next day. Our house cleaners cut me a deal on window-washing.

Two friends have now asked about our boat and other water toys, and have offered wholeheartedly to come over and set things up for us. The other evening, we were out in the yard, hauling and putting away some stuff. A friend driving by turned around and parked in the driveway, remarking, "Looks like you could use some help."

Now, I never mind swapping babysitting duties with a friend, or driving a friend's kids home. Still, I am even more willing-- excited, even-- when I know in my heart the help is not only appreciated, but reciprocated.

Warm fuzzies all around!

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Monday, June 18, 2012

Make You Laugh, Make You Think

There are a lot of things going through my head right now, plenty of topics on which I could post. But, I'm tired, and I'm in that cycle of cruising the Internet with no particular destination. I have noticed a lot of really cute pictures and quotes posted by Facebook friends, so I am just going to share some of them with you:






Sunday, June 17, 2012

Being Dad

A number of years ago, probably when I was a new mother, I remember catching a talk show where Dr. Phil was trying to resolve some conflict, repair some relationship, and the "doctor" said something to one of his guests that has stuck with me, something about which I have often thought, and which I have occasionally requoted-- to men.  I don't remember the exact words, but the sentiment was: "Being a man is hard.  You have a lot of roles to fill, a lot of hats to wear.  This is not 1950-- You can no longer expect to bring home a paycheck, and, in exchange, spend the rest of your time in 'your chair' with a newspaper and a scotch."  I did a quick Google search and believe I found the actual material here, if you are interested.

He was referring, of course, to working mothers and the changing roles and labor divisions in relationships and households.  But, more than that, I believe Dr. Phil was referring to FATHERHOOD.  In moments of exasperation, I have been known to point out to my husband, "They're YOUR kids, too!"  The sentiment behind that is something like, "Tag, you're it!"  But, the larger point is that our families really, really need men.  I NEED a husband and my children NEED their father.  So many things in life, this man does as no other person can.  It's a huge responsibility and a respectable burden.

Today, on Father's Day, I honor my father, my fathers-in-law, my brother, my brother-in-law, and many other loving men in our lives, for stepping up and fulfilling ALL these roles.  It is not easy... and no one ever said it would be.  Still, I know, at least here in Krinkeland, being Dad can be a thankless job, even less revered than being Mom!  I respect my husband for being a father-- for setting the example in faith and church life; for choosing the best school for our children; for funding dance class and piano lessons and gymnastics class and VBS and Y camp and basketball camp and t-ball and Build-a-Bear excursions and birthday parties and new tennis shoes; for cuddling; for answering uncomfortable questions; for zooming out of work to make it to every t-ball game; for agreeing to be in the community theater production so he would have the chance to be on stage with his daughters; for offering healthier eating choices; for researching Raves and other fun toys; for attending puppy training; for being DAD.

I love you, Todd.  Thanks for being my kids' dad.  I can't believe I just quoted Dr. Phil.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Big Bang Theories

Famous words between the three-year-old and the five-year-old at the annual city fireworks display:

B: "I bet fireworks and thunderstorms do not mix well."
M: "Whoa!"
B: "That's not a big one; I'll show you a big one."
M: "Whoa!"
B: "Where are the ones that go up and blow up?"
M: "Whoa!"
B: "Is the finale when the fireworks all go crazy?"

M: "Really, really whoa!"
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Thursday, June 14, 2012

Name That Tune

I know you know the melody (because I am playing it) but can you pick out the lyrics?

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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Fractured

Todd has broken a bone in his foot.  It is his first broken bone in nearly 40 years on the planet.  Strange, huh?  He is not handling it well.  I cannot blame him.  It stinks.  I will not write much more, because I am not sure who reads this and I certainly don't want to embarrass him (or them.)  Please, though, pray for Todd-- for healing and strength and patience.  His whole body is sore from trying to maneuver on crutches; his brain hurts from trying to decipher the different medical opinions; and his generally positive outlook on life is certainly suffering.  It goes without saying that the crankiness is wearing on me, too!  I don't hold this against Todd-- I just feel badly that I can't fix it, and I share his frustration for being dependent, slow and ornery.  So, you can pray for me, too.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Hatless in the Field

During this evening's t-ball game, Benjamin lost his cap.  I don't know what happened.  One inning, he had his cap; the next inning, no cap.  All the team members have matching caps, so, presumably, one of the other kids picked up and put on Ben's cap.  We still don't know where it is.  You would think, at the end of the game, if a kid walked over to his mom wearing a cap, when he or she previously had NO cap, that the mother would say, "Hey, that's not your cap.  Put it back."  However, judging by the way the other kids hunkered down in their caps and the other moms stuffed caps into their purses, I guess the other mother just said, "Nice work-- way to score a new cap!"


Anyway, once Ben lost his cap, he was DONE with the t-ball game.  Boy just sat down in the dirt and quit.  In the interest of full disclosure, the missing cap has not been my son's only obstacle to t-ball-game-completion.  On other days, Benjamin has also quit due to heat, wind, hunger, and exhaustion.  I do not see a long future for Ben in t-ball.  But, I don't care.  Those saintly coaches continue to encourage, and I'm just thrilled my boy shows up and plays along, when he does play along.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Pray to End Abortion.

The most powerful speaker at the Birthright International conference was this woman.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

When Mama's Away

I have just returned from the annual Birthright International convention in San Francisco.  While there, I learned some interesting facts and met some fascinating people.  For those who do not know, Birthright is the oldest crisis pregnancy agency in the country.  I am a volunteer counselor and a board member for the chapter in our area.
me and my friend Julie, the director of our office

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Times, They Are A-Changin'

Elisabeth and Amanda had their last day of school for the year.  So, we now have a third grader and a fifth grader in the house.  (At least, that is now how they refer to themselves!)  Amanda was home for less than an hour before she started complaining she was bored.  This afternoon, however, was not the time to launch into any new projects or to make any big plans. 

Summer will get into full-swing for us here at home next week.  In the meantime, we're packing and traveling.  All four kids get to go to Grandma and Grandpa P.'s tomorrow, while I head to San Francisco for the Birthright International conference.  While I am gone, Todd will also help my brother and SIL move into and get settled in their new house... and I think they are also going to put in the yard this weekend.  Plus, he'll have all the kids.  And, please, don't let him forget about the puppy!  I am sure Grandma and Grandpa R. will help out, too.  Lots of excitement in the air.

It's a small blip on the calendar of life, but still high-stress in Krinkeland, since Mommy never goes anywhere!  Once I got bags packed for all the kids, I had to figure out what I was doing for myself.  My friend and traveling companion has informed me it is currently below freezing in San Fran, and we can expect temps in the 50s and 60s all weekend.  So, I am packing about twice the clothes I originally planned.  And four books.  Todd has been laughing at me as I've asked whether I can take a laptop... how much shampoo it's legal to take... what about fingernail clippers...  does this really count as a carry-on?

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

My "Little Girls"

The original movie version of the Broadway musical "Annie" came out in 1982. I was seven years old. Along with every other seven-year-old girl in 1982, I wanted to BE Annie. My best friend Jessica and I spent hours, perched upon her window sill, looking lost and forlorn, belting out "Maybe."  A few years later, I began to pursue my interest in musical theater, acting in my first shows and developing a hobby and a love that would stay with me, one I would share with my husband and pass on to my children.

I never did get the opportunity to play Annie or, more realistically, any of the orphans.  The show fell out of fashion for a time, I think, and then, I fell out of amateur theater, to focus first on a career and then on raising a family.

This summer, our local community theater is staging "Annie."  When they began advertising for it, I admit, the seven-year-old that lives on in me yearned to be a part of it.  And, what do you know-- I just happen to be raising an eight-year-old and a 10-year-old who both have a great interest in community theater!  I fully own up to the fact I projected my desires onto my children; they have a number of theater opportunities for this summer, but I was pulling for "Annie."  Ultimately, they had to first audition and get cast, and then decide whether they wanted to be a part of it.

Maybe you can guess where this story is going... maybe not.

Today, we got the call: Amanda was offered a part as an orphan, and Elisabeth was asked to play Molly.  It is quite an accomplishment, because dozens of girls auditioned and few were cast.  I asked the girls whether this was how they wanted to spend their summer, reminding them of other commitments and opportunities, the demanding schedule, the work ahead.  They answered in unison, "Yes!  Yes!  Yes!" 

Monday, June 4, 2012

Setting the Stage for Success

We are in summer theater season in Krinkeland, which, now that I think about it, maybe makes us not so different from hockey families...  Anyway, my two older girls have now auditioned for two community theater summer musicals.  Both have been cast in one, and are awaiting news on the second.  I will not even get into the explanation of how it is that they tried out for two shows.  It is a stupid story, should never have happened, and is all my fault.  Hopefully, in short order, they will commit to one (it is quite possible they will not even get cast in the other) and begin rehearsals.

What I am thinking about tonight is the power adults have to encourage children.  Grown-ups, do you know this?  Do you really recognize it?  Kids want to learn, do, succeed, excel.  They want you to notice.  They need you to say so.

One of my friends, a fellow school mom, recently posted on Facebook a congratulatory message to all the graduating eighth graders of our middle school.  She honored them as a group, for being fine human beings, and wished them well as they head to high school.  Her message was so heartfelt, another person commented that my friend must be a great teacher.  She's not a teacher!  And her oldest kid at the school is a first grader!  She just shares in the pride of knowing these children and sharing in their growth.  Like we all do.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Another Graduation Day

Today, one of my closest friends saw her firstborn graduate from high school.  I can't imagine how she's holding up...  I am emotional enough for the both of us-- and I wasn't even present at the ceremony!  It's just that this particular child is so significant: he made us all grow up, taught us all to be parents.  I mean that somewhat figuratively...  I am not one of his parents, and I did not consider myself a grown-up when he came into the world.  As a good friend, I was just along for the ride.  For him, though, for them, what an accomplishment!

At church this morning, mass was also dedicated to our local graduates.  Those members of the congregation wore their gowns in the school color of purple, so they were pretty easy to spot.  The longer we live here and the older our own children get, the more people we know.  It was fun to have our own, little chance to recognize these "big kids," too.  Just before mass began, I was watching a couple rows in front of us, where one of my friends turned to her graduate and gave him what seemed like a serious look.  Then, I saw her mouth, "I love you."  Mom pursed her lips and nodded, returning her attention to the front of the church.  Fierce love.  Mama love.

I turned and looked down the pew at my own future graduates.  Well, we did have a preschool graduate, just last week.  My oldest child just happened to be wearing a sundress in the exact purple shade of the graduation gowns.  I blinked, trying to shake the emotion and, at the same time, stop time.  I know full well the years pass as instants, and soon I will be standing next to a graduate, then another, then another, and another, admonishing them all with my fierce, mama love.

Friday, June 1, 2012

The Athletic and the Artistic

Amanda and Elisabeth had their Track and Field Day at school, followed by their annual piano recital in the evening.  I was fortunate to be there for both, as opposed to their father, who had to be in Germany.  I'm pretty sure I won the coin toss on that one (not that it was an option for me to speak at the meeting in Dusseldorf.)  It was an exhaustingly lovely day.  Here are the highlights:









To see Libby's piano performance, click here.
To see Amanda's performance, click here.