Friday, August 31, 2012

Bedtime Battles

I'd like to blame it on the blue moon... but I know better.  I've been telling myself for at least a month, now, that we need to get into a better bedtime routine to start putting the kids into more of a school schedule.  But, then, they'd find a good movie on TV or the weather would be especially pleasant for an evening boat ride, and the children would all be up too late again.  Of course, the older two, at least, have no trouble sleeping till 9:00 or 9:30 in the morning... but, come next week, that's way past the time they are due at the bus stop.

This week, though it may be too little, too late, I have finally started pushing for earlier bedtimes.  It's happening gradually, and with some success... but, tonight, well, tonight has been a disaster.

I thought I was doing all the right things-- planning for an early supper and then taking the children to a park to run around.  Even after a stop for frozen yogurt and some gazing at the moon, we were still home and ready for bed at a decent time.  Everyone was scrubbed, read to, tucked in, and left in the dark by 9:00.  Thinking ahead to busy school nights, that's not too far off from the Krinkeland ideal.

However, tonight, laying in the dark has apparently had nothing to do with sleep.  The big girls-- who have declared their "own" rooms all summer but have still never spent a night in separate beds-- shut the door at the end of the hall and then, I think, cranked up their own dance party.  But, they were in bed, or at least on it, so I didn't bother to get up.  Also, did I mention I'm reading a really good book?

Instead, I focused on the younger two, who, these days, share the bedroom across the hall from mine.  I fielded the usual requests for water and trips to the bathroom, laying down the law that whatever else would have to wait till morning.  Then, they, too, closed their door, but, since I earlier confiscated the video games, the camera, the toy cell phone and the key chain that makes fart sounds, I didn't immediately suspect trouble.  It was about 30 minutes later, after increasingly frequent clicking noises, that the daring duo burst out of their room in a nighttime raid.  I confiscated their plastic arsenal and sent the hoodlums back to bed.
Things seemed to quiet down after that, and I was nearly ready to close my book and make my nighttime rounds, when those two stinkers sauntered out again.  They had NOT been settling down for sleep; rather, Benjamin had been perfecting a Balancing Stacking Boxes on His Head act.
Taking his photo was probably not the best disciplinary tactic, but, seriously, Daddy was not going to believe this!

Things are finally quiet now.  No, wait-- toilet flush down the hall... But I know these kids (and, therefore, their parents) are going to be dragging next week.  Now, the puppy is sleeping peacefully and I don't want to get out of bed to put him in his crate...

Thursday, August 30, 2012

No Limits on Life

I've been thinking-- with the upcoming presidential election, with certain proposed constitutional amendments, and the like-- about controversial topics and how fired up people get regarding issues involving money, marriage, and, of course, my biggie: life.  What's interesting to me is how wildly intelligent, educated, well read people throw out the window all rational thought and means of reasonable and effective conversation, because passion takes over.

On this front, I am as guilty as any, but it is something on which I am really working.  I realize that if we can simply remove emotion, the personal back story, our feelings from the debate forum, and focus on the facts-- the issues become crystal clear.

I recently learned of this woman's story.  Even if you "feel" differently about abortion, read her arguments, and ask yourself if Rebecca Kiessling makes sense.  It is sensible, logical, fair.

Rebecca Kiessling will be speaking at a Birthright-sponsored engagement in Alexandria, Minnesota on Wednesday, September 26 at 6:30 p.m. at Discovery Middle School.  The event is free and open to all.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

A Fair Evening

On a last-minute whim on Monday, we decided to hit the State Fair.  I'm sure I've posted previously on the topic of the Great Minnesota Get-Together... and how and why I hate it... but how Todd loves it... and how, even though I hate it, I feel this compulsion to take our children for the annual experience.  If you haven't heard the extent of my Fair background, I would be happy to share it with you sometime, over a few glasses (bottles) of wine.

Anyway, coming off of a big weekend, and heading into a heat wave, with Todd on his way out of the country, I figured we were kind of missing the fair boat this year.  But, then, Monday was a beautiful day... the kids were whining about having nothing to do... and I had pre-purchased discount tickets that couldn't just go to waste.  So, we waited until after Madeline's nap, took Grandma and Grandpa with us, and then picked up Todd at work.








Though it was hot, and the whole park-and-ride scene was somewhat trying, it turned out to be a fun time at the fair.  We did an abbreviated loop around the grounds, still hitting the high spots and making time for the must-sees on everyone's list.  Oh, and we ate a lot, too.

School Daze

We've been gearing up and heading back to school here in Krinkeland-- kindergarten orientation was yesterday and open house was this evening.  I feel so fortunate that my children like school and are excited to go back.  In some ways, I will miss having them around and will miss the relative freedom of our days... but I am excited to get back to a regular schedule and, mostly, I am excited for the new opportunities that will greet all of them.
It was very difficult to get a photo of fifth grader Amanda, because she never stood still long enough and mostly all I saw was her backside as she walked away from me with her friends.  Late in the evening, however, she did take her brother to visit the hermit crab in his classroom.

This is Benjamin with his kindergarten teacher.  After hangin' with his homies last night and getting a trial run on a REAL SCHOOL BUS, I believe Ben is finally excited to start school!

Elisabeth was one of the first to arrive in her third grade classroom, and I couldn't get her out of there!  When I finally returned to take this photo, her teacher told me the girls were "just dishin'."
 
I only wish Daddy had been able to attend these fun events... so I post these photos hoping he will "spy" on Krinkeland while he's traveling.  We're pressing on till Tuesday, the first day of school!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

What a Day!

By this time (late afternoon) in a day like today, my only response to anything else that comes my way is likely to be, "Are you kidding me?!"  It's just been one of those days.  In the handful of hours since Todd left for Germany:
  • Todd called to say he'd forgotten his noise-cancelling headphones.  I offered to drive and meet him to give them to him, but he said no (which was gracious, since I was still in my pajamas and two kids were still asleep.)  Then, he called twice more to tell me his flight was 15 hours long, with two layovers, and he wasn't in first class for the international leg and it was going to be really hard to get any rest without his headphones.
  • It began raining three minutes after I left the car wash.
  • I came home from the store without the three items for which I went to the store.
  • One girl got invited to sleep over at a friend's house; but, after accepting, she began whining that she wasn't sure about sleeping over.  I still don't know how that one will turn out.
  • The three older children made so much noise that the youngest never did take a nap.
  • The boy, up way too early, had a total mid-afternoon meltdown that led to the breaking of a shelf in the refrigerator and culminated in me forcing him to take a nap-- for which I will continue to pay tonight.
  • I locked myself in the bedroom with a pile of laundry to fold and all I could find to watch out of like 400 channels of television was a rerun of "Ghost Whisperer."
  • Dad's not here for kindergarten orientation.
  • People have put crazy crap on Facebook that makes me worry and stop everything to pray for them-- is that their intent, and do they know what they do to me?
  • The dog pooped on the floor.

There have been some bright spots: I stumbled upon a killer deal on Diet Dew.  And... well... I guess it's been just the one bright spot. 

It's the kind of day when complaining does no good.  (No, I know-- complaining really never does any good.)  If consulted, my mother would tenderly remark, "Well, what did you THINK it would be like?!"  But, the fact of the matter is, when an adorable, if nervous, young man got down on one knee and flashed a diamond in my face, I did not THINK about lengthy and frequent business trips... or apple juice battles... or poop on the floor.

Did you?!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Glory Days

We spent pretty much all of our free time this weekend at our church's annual festival, Glory Days.  It has all the usual trappings for fun, fellowship and fundraising-- and we like to think we contributed plenty to both!  I'm too wiped out to write much more right now... so I will just leave you with some of my favorite images.
 
 
 










Friday, August 24, 2012

Freedom

We are slowly and gradually undergoing a major change in Krinkeland: the Shift to the Sibling Sitter.

This past spring, Amanda turned 10 years old, and then took the Red Cross babysitting course through our local community education program.  Since the minute she "graduated," she has been begging to babysit.  This is where the struggle begins.

On one hand, Amanda is exceedingly responsible, conscientious, and confident.  I have no doubt she is capable of supervising her brother and sisters, of making good choices, of being careful but still lots of fun.  She has always been a rule-follower and a rule-enforcer; this is just her nature.  Amanda is also naturally a people-pleaser, so I know she would do a good job as a babysitter, if, for no other reason, to receive the praise of being a good babysitter.

On the other hand, she is only 10 and headed into fifth grade.  Every time Amanda asks to babysit, I have to bite my tongue to keep from asking, "Yeah, but who will babysit you?"  I just feel like the world is not a place where 10-year-olds can be in charge of anyone or anything.  I've felt this way since the day I became a mother-- and, yes, an overprotective mother at that.  My children have never had a really "young" babysitter.  For years, it was only grandmas, grandpas and aunts.  After I had my third child and we moved to our current home, we started utilizing the neighbor girls, who were already both in high school, by that point.  Plus, their mother-- who also happens to be a child care professional-- was next door.  Just this summer, I asked a middle schooler, a good girl we know from school, to sit for a few evenings while we were at play rehearsal.  She did well; I was still a wreck.

On the other hand, I babysit for all kinds of families, beginning exactly at age 10.  I was an industrious neighborhood babysitter, sending out flyers, packing my own toys, showing up early and staying late.  The kids loved me (probably because I was hardly older than they were... also because I had the same people-pleasing personality as my firstborn.)  Looking back, I cannot believe these parents left their children in my care.

On the other hand, she has to learn sometime, right?  Who does Amanda know better than her siblings?  Plus, it is a really awesome, though foreign, concept-- the idea that I could leave the house and do something without four kids in tow, and without paying someone well above minimum wage or obligating a grandparent.

How many hands is that now?

So,  we have begun, little by little, leaving Amanda in charge.  It hasn't been more than 30 minutes, an hour tops.  She hasn't yet babysat all three kids.  I haven't left her at night.  She hasn't had to cook anything, bathe anyone, or put anyone to bed.  But, I have run out to get some milk or to return the library books.  Today, I went to pick up Elisabeth from a play date, and Amanda and Benjamin stayed and watched television while Madeline napped.

Slowly, we will get there.

It's an odd sensation, suddenly being able to leave your child alone, after a decade of taking her everywhere.  I feel scared and excited and melancholy and anxious and uncertain.  We will adjust and it will be a wonderful thing.  On to the next phase... just not too quickly. 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Rollin' In

We have had such an odd season weather-wise in these parts.  It began with ridiculously early, ridiculously warm temperatures in April and has just continued.  The last week or so, in the midst of what is usually considered the "dog days of summer," things have been unseasonably cool and just, well, lovely.

Today, however, felt like a weird and cranky weather day, which, by the way, definitely led to weird and cranky children. The clouds rolled out... the clouds rolled in... it rained a bit... the rain stopped... The sun had already long since set by the time the storm finally hit; but, before the storm began, we were treated to a wonderful show in the sky:




Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Opinion Piece

I had my second pedicure this year.  Really makes me wonder if I am actually turning into a girl after all this time.  Still can't say I enjoy the experience of soaking my feet in a germ-laden communal bath as a man armed with a cheese grater goes to town on the soles of my feet while gossiping in another language right in front of my face about my calloused heels... But, with all the sandal-wearing I do, pedicures just might be a necessary part of life.

I went because one of my lovely and blessed friends wanted to take me out and do something nice for me.  (Incidentally, that's the same reason I had the last pedicure-- different friend, but same justification.  Don't I have a great life?)  It was an excellent opportunity for my friend and me to catch up.  While we have very different personalities and different approaches to interpersonal relationships, we have very similar outlooks on life, as well as similar opinions on most major issues.  We talked about some of those... we gossiped a little, too... but mostly we just laughed.

During our talks, though, I had a chance to share some of the opinion writings I've recently read, and broadcasts I've heard-- things that have impacted me and are still making me think.  Maybe you'd like to be in on them, too?

Letter to Non-Believers by Shane Claiborne

Miraculous Story of Life

Monday, August 20, 2012

Dollar Drawers

OK, so money has been a little tight in Krinkeland... between paying for landscaping projects, babysitters during the play, summer entertaining-- not to mention school tuition, uniforms and supplies... we are scraping the bottom of the budget barrel. Still, I think we can find the funds somewhere to invest in new boxer shorts for Todd. It's a necessity.

P.S. What happened?!


Sunday, August 19, 2012

Kindergarten-Bound

This weekend we had the privilege of hosting a picnic for the kindergarten families at school.  We've been in gear-up mode around Krinkeland, preparing Benjamin for the fact that he WILL ACTUALLY go to kindergarten THIS YEAR-- no ifs, ands or buts.  After having felt like a fish out of water when our first child began school, I really wanted to organize a simple social event to "bring new families into the fold," so to speak.

Though it was the morning after my class reunion, I still managed to kick it into high gear (with the help of my husband, of course) and sort of get ready for the event.  It was all very low-key... say "Hi," grab a sandwich, watch the kids swim.  The families who were able to make it did just that.

It was a lovely day, and a great opportunity to simply kick back and chat.  I hope the kindergartners had as much fun as I did!

Why Kids Are Not Invited to Class Reunions

My children were thrilled to learn I was attending my class reunion, mostly because it meant they got to have a sleepover at Grandma's and Grandpa's.  Amanda, at least, understood the concept of a high school reunion.  I think it helped when I came home with a DVD version of our graduation festivities.  All the kids could pick me out right away.  Here are some of their more memorable comments:

Amanda: "Mom, were you the only one without big hair in high school?"
Mom: "Possibly."
Amanda: "Did anyone at the reunion still have big hair?"
Mom: "Possibly."

Elisabeth: "I can find you in every picture.  You look exactly the same.  Except, you used to be pretty when you were young."

Elisabeth: "Was your old boyfriend at the reunion?"
Mom: "Which one?"
Elisabeth: "Any of them."
Mom: "Well, yeah, I guess."
Elisabeth: "Did you kiss him?"

Benjamin: "Why isn't Dad in any of these pictures?"
Mom: "Daddy wasn't in my high school class."
Benjamin: "Oh, so was he at home waiting for you?"

Elisabeth: "Did anyone at the reunion have more kids than you?"

Amanda: "Did anyone from your high school class die?"
Mom: "Yes, we've lost a number of classmates since high school."
Amanda: "Oh.  Did they all die of old age, then?"

So, I Went

This weekend marked my 20th high school reunion.  I was on the fence about attending the event, for a number of reasons:
  1. We have a lot going on and making it to the reunion involved a lot of schedule-juggling.
  2. Of the few close friends with whom I maintain relationships since high school, none was going.
  3. With such a busy family, is it really necessary to make time to see people I haven't seen for 20 years and likely will not see for 20 more?
  4. I was afraid I wouldn't know anyone.
Now, listen, I realize that last one probably sounds silly, but allow me to explain.  I graduated from high school 20 years ago (hence, the occasion of the 20th class reunion.)  In the past two decades, I have: gone to college; gotten married; buried loved ones; made at least five significant career moves, as well as some lesser moves; made approximately nine residential moves; given birth to four children; raised two dogs; and picked up more wet towels from the floor than I care to admit!  (Sorry about that last one... just stepped over a damp, terry cloth mound on my way to the bathroom.)  So, a LOT has happened since the three years I spent roaming the halls of a so-so institution, and all of those life experiences seem to make the high school years fade into the background-- and isn't that an OK thing?

Furthermore, age and motherhood-- especially motherhood-- has turned my brain to mush.  You know this because I've said it before, and you know it because it's happened to you, too.  I did not fear remembering others because I was a super-cool-nose-in-the-air-won't-stoop-to-your-level kind of "mean girl."  I was also not the kind of social outcast who spent her lunch hours locked in a bathroom stall.  I fell somewhere in the middle, which, I believe, is what most of us can say, if we're honest.  No, instead, I feared remembering the names of former classmates because I often cannot remember the names of my own children.

Well, when I did decide to attend, and made it to the reunion sometime after dinner was over but before most people were too drunk to carry on conversations, I had barely set foot in the door when this smile cast a ray of sunshine in my direction:

That's Cheri.  I remembered her.  I knew her.  And I realized I would ALWAYS know her.  We met shortly after I moved to the town from where I graduated, became half of a tight foursome that wreaked some serious havoc throughout the land (yard forking, basement-movie-make-out parties, yeti crossings, watching lots of Headbangers' Ball on MTV, clearing grocery store shelves of Little Debbie Oatmeal Cream Pies and Pringles) through our junior high years. Even in high school, where our interests and other friendships took us in different directions, we remained involved and supportive in each other's lives.  She saw me in musical productions.  I sang at her wedding.  We still send Christmas cards, and intend to get together more often than actually happens.

From that encounter, the evening just completely snowballed.  I never moved more than 30 feet from the entry way.  Classmate after classmate approached me and said how glad they were I was there.  Again, it's not because I was Homecoming Queen or The Drunk Girl Who Took Off Her Pants at That Field Party.  It's just because everyone was in the same boat-- aging, and anxious about remembering and being remembered, and excited to catch up!

So, that brings me to reason #3.  (Remember that list way back at the top of this post?)  This is the biggest reason I am so glad I attended my 20th high school class reunion.  Yeah, life could totally go on as it has been, without my ever seeing any of these people again, and it would be fine.  Really, it would.  It has for the past two decades.  But a very astute classmate made this observation: The middle school and high school years are so brief-- just a glimmer in time of most lives-- yet, they are so significant because so much happens during those years.  The term "formative years" is no joke.  Between going through puberty and learning (or figuring out) a lot of truths about the world and navigating who we are versus who we want to be, A TON OF STUFF happens in a few short years.

That's why this is important.

Looking into eyes that are exactly the same, save a few, cute wrinkles at the corners, we are all transported back in time, to those days before 20 years' worth of stuff happened, before we could even have imagined 20 years' worth of stuff.  But, I would not be where I am now, who I am now, without those early-years experiences to form and shape and sharpen.

Sure, there was a lot I didn't remember.  I said a few silent prayers of thanksgiving for name tags.  Occasionally, a story was told and I just smiled and nodded politely but cluelessly.  But, more often, a classmate would catch my eye or open his or her mouth, and I would be assaulted with a barrage of memories.  With no one did this happen more profoundly than this woman:

That's my childhood BFF, from the day we moved in across the street, which, incidentally, is a very convenient location to find a BFF.  Jenny is getting married-- next week-- to that guy, so wish them both the very best in love and life.  Once, Jenny and I were 10-year-old neighbors figuring out all kinds of things about love and life.  We still knew each other's childhood pets' names, and inquired about cousins who would only occasionally visit to play with us.  Jenny and I very accurately, but differently, described each other's home lives... and what we liked about each.  I realized that Jenny spoke about my childhood in the same terms that I am working hard to provide for my own children.  "Your mom was always there; your parents were always there.  You had siblings and homemade cookies and there was always something exciting going on.  I loved to be at your house."

We carry with us those memories... long past age 10... long past high school... I am hoping beyond the 20th reunion.  I am glad I went.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Purge

I am purging stuff out of my house... another round of decrapification. (Yeah, add that one to your dictionary, spell check.) In the past two days, I have taken three carloads like this to area thrift stores. There's been so much stuff, the woman working at one told me she would prefer I not comeback with more until her workers have a chance to sort. But I am not waiting; there are another dozen boxes already packed to go tomorrow.

Todd was impressed when he got home, but maybe a little scared, too.  Like, WHY all the cleaning out?! Is one of us going somewhere?!

Well, if you have ever been in our house, you know why. It's too full of too much stuff. I think I hide it pretty well... but don't open a cupboard at risk of an avalanche!

The basement is the worst. This unfinished wasteland of our two-story house is literally a dump. When we moved into this house, life was crazy. We had a brand-new baby, along with a three-year-old and a four-year-old. There were lots of projects to make the home liveable... and life just kept turning.

It's been six years. From time to time, I go down to the basement to dig through a still unpacked box, looking for another collander, or something. When I buy something and don't want to deal with it, down it goes.

The basement is also home to all the usual household stuff that needs storage-- Christmas decorations, hand-me-downs, paint cans. Plus, we stow extra lake gear there; where do you keep your portable fish house?! But, when I have a whole level of a house for storage, things get out of hand. Piles grow. Messes spread. Stuff multiplies.

We would, someday when we get rich, like to finish our basement. So, that's all... I'm getting to work.

Of course, while I'm clearing out one level, the kids are trashing the other two. Story of my life.


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Sleeping, Not Sleeping, Observing Sleep

After dozing in front of the television for a couple hours, I spent the rest of the night tossing and turning... thinking about all the things I could do better.

I know, I know, spare me the lecture.  One of the reasons I screw up so much is because I try to do too much.  I'm not supposed to volunteer for all this stuff and get all these bright ideas; I am supposed to stay focused on the Big Prize.  GIVE IT ALL TO GOD.

The thing is: God gave me all these children, God loves us all, but God does not babysit.  I am well aware of this, from the time I told the four kids to just stay put while I ran some errands and the Lord would watch over them and keep them safe.  When I returned, there was a police officer at the house, and I was, like, "What do you mean 'unattended?' Jesus was babysitting!"

OK, so that never happened, but can you imagine?!

After a couple hours' of rolling around, I decided to get up and get to work on some of the stuff that was bugging me.  I did some work on the computer for Birthright and for school.  I moved around a few boxes in the basement.  I prayed.  I checked on all the children.  I played some sudoku on my phone. 

A few hours later, I decided to try sleep again.  I had just lain down and gotten settled when I heard footsteps coming across the hall.  I stayed still to see what would happen.  Madeline padded around to my side of the room, but, then, boosted herself up on the foot of the bed and crawled up the middle, right over to Daddy.  Todd, without cracking his eyelids or seeming to break a snore, opened his arms and widely reached for the baby.  She laid her head on his chest, closed her heavy lids and resumed thumb-sucking with excessive slurping.

That is love, I thought.  Trust.  Faith.  Watching two people I love in full comfort and peace with each other, it set my mind right at ease, so I could finally get a little sleep.

Well, I would have... except for all the kicking.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Eye of the Beholder

Today was Spa Day in Krinkeland.  Elisabeth painted my toenails... and my fingernails... and then she styled my hair.





I was grateful someone cared about my appearance, and let her carry on until it was time to change the laundry.  Then, it was time to make supper.  Then, shortly after I put supper on the table, it was time for me to grab my laptop and my purse and head out to a Birthright meeting.  As I got settled, a friend and fellow board member made some comment that reminded me I was decked out in glitter and hair bows. 

I explained the look was courtesy of my eight-year-old future stylist. 

She told me I was a good mom for going out in public looking like that.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

A Dog's Life

Today's rain put a damper on our outside project plans, so it ended up being a pretty lazy afternoon.  Daddy napped with Madeline, Benjamin flitted from electronic device to electronic device, I finished my book club novel, and we all sorted shoes.  (It's the kind of thing that only happens in Krinkeland-- I am raising shoe fiends, and every so often we have to go through their baskets and weed out the too-smalls and the don't-likes to make room for the new hires.)

I, as any mother does, kept getting up to attend to one chore or another: changing the laundry, emptying the dishwasher, etc.  But, I noticed that no matter where I went, the kids all pretty much stayed put-- especially the hairy baby.  Jones has acclimated to this family just as I knew he would.  Sure, he's a puppy and he does puppy stuff, like chew on shoes and nip and jump up to try to get our attention.  But he has also taken to his training well, and he is so attached to the children.  Every night, he goes to bed with Amanda and Elisabeth... settles right down at the foot of the bed... and Todd has to go in late at night to rouse him and take him down to his crate.
This afternoon, he waddled on over to Amanda, who was laying on the floor watching a show on her iPod, and laid his head on her chest.  After a while, I noticed he moved to curl up under her arm.  They spent hours that way.  It's good to be a dog in Krinkeland, and we are glad to have him.

On a totally unrelated note, when I was scrolling through pictures on my phone to find that one of Jones, I also saw this panoramic Todd recently took of our home from the lake.  It's cool, isn't it?  And really cool a mobile phone has that kind of capability.  What a world we live in!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Friendship, Friendship

We had some friends visit yesterday.  I am hesitant to say too much about it, not because they are secret agents, or anything, but just because they are very private people and I respect that.  My friend has been to this blog exactly once-- in the early days-- and told me that reading it felt like peeking in my windows, and she didn't intend to do it again.

So, this is not about them... it is about me.

It is about honoring friendship.

There is value in spending time with people who know you, really know you, and comfort in them being part of your life.  These people know who Todd and I are; they remember from where we came; they respect where we are; they honor where we intend to go.  We have similar values, like outlooks, common ground.  We can discipline each other's children, wash each other's dishes, finish each other's wine-- and never have to be on guard that we are doing it wrong.

This is a friendship borne in childhood for two of us, and has grown with the addition of spouses, who, thank God, we all like, and further spread to six children between our families.  Where we were once neighbors and each other's regular double-dates, we now live five hours apart... and with demanding careers and even more demanding children, that doesn't leave much opportunity to be together.  So, the time we do have is precious to me.

And too brief.

I was so happy to know they were coming.  The whole day-- I enjoyed picking up the house, baking the cake, chopping the vegetables, making the last-minute soda run.  When they finally arrived, I savored it, or tried to.  I gave myself mental reminders to not talk too much, because I really wanted to hear what was going on with them.  I didn't answer the phone because I didn't want to be interrupted.  I took photos because their family is precious to me.

I mean, wouldn't you want to spend as much time as possible with this face?!

Soon, too soon, it was time to go.  At the end of the long week, the travelers were weary, the hard-working husbands were wiped out, the kids were whiny.  And, so, they left.  When my friend hugged me, she said, "I know."  That's all.  And she does.

After the family departed, we put the kids to bed and then I was cleaning up. "What's the matter with you?" Todd asked.  "You seem weird."  Very perceptive on his part, considering he never commented on any kind of change in me when my grandpa died, or when I sent one of the kids off to kindergarten, or when I was in labor, or when we discovered that drunk man sleeping in our driveway.  Still, maybe in those scenarios, it was obvious what was "wrong" with me.

I just miss them.

This weekend, they are still in the area, attending a family reunion, which was the "real" reason for the visit.  I know they are busy, and having fun, and seeing lots of people who also enjoy being in their presence.  But, I am like that 11-year-old boy who used to Rollerblade back and forth in front of my house all Saturday morning... just hoping for another chance to see them-- soon.

"Friendship," said Christopher Robin, "is a very comforting thing to have." --A.A. Milne

Friday, August 10, 2012

A Toothy Subject

Well, I am kind of over my dental rage...  See how time does that to me?  But, since I promised, here's a recap:

All four children had their semi-annual dental checkups and teeth cleanings on Thursday.  It is quite an ordeal to take all four kids to the dentist at the same time; and, it is really an ordeal to schedule all four kids for dental appointments at the same time.  In this instance, we ended up having to go to the main office, about 40 minutes from our home, instead of the preferred satellite office, about two minutes from our home.

Between the traveling distance, the never-ending roadblocks due to construction, and my general disdain for the area in which the dental office is located, I was in quite a mood by the time we arrived for the appointments.  Then, it turned out the front desk was staffed by Grumpy, Lumpy and Nasty, and I had to give them the finger under the counter while faking patience in regard to answering stupid questions about each child's middle initial.  Then, the dentist, who is kind, jovial, and kid-approved but generally overly familiar, came out to the waiting area and began loudly asking another patient's mother about her husband's job loss; there was mortification written all over her face, and all over my face, too, because I know I was staring out of embarrassment for her.  Then, before one child could be called back for a cleaning and exam, all four had to go to the bathroom.  We barely returned when one of the kids told me she had to go again, "Number two this time, Mom."

Even with an efficiently run office, it takes a good hour for all four kids to get through their dental checkups.  We were headed into the ninety-minute mark when the hygienist called me back to meet with the dentist.  He told me all four kids are lovely examples of humanity.  Three of those lovely examples are cavity-free; the other one needs three more fillings and a crown, because one of his teeth broke.

I try not to be a Drama Mama about stuff like that with my kids, but I confess I nearly cried.  Benjamin has had a number of cavities, but we have so far chalked it up to his regular Pediasure consumption, especially at bedtime.  Ben has drunk these high-calorie "milkshakes" on a regular basis to help with his weight gain and nutritional intake.  We have always been aware these drinks are also high in sugar, but we figured we were willing to risk a little tooth decay in favor of overall health.

However, with so many cavities (and no evidence of any of them six months ago) coupled with the broken tooth, the dentist's diagnosis is, "Ben just has bad teeth."  This is not the kind of news I take well.  I know things happen to kids, things we often cannot control, but I am a woman of action.  When something happens, tell me what to do to FIX IT.  The dentist shrugged.

I told Elisabeth to pull her mug out of the prize box, and tried to keep Madeline from pinching her fingers in the door to the waiting area, as I stopped at the desk to make Ben's next appointment.  Ms. Terse-Tone-Fake-Smile-Thinking-Bad-Things-About-Me informed me the next available appointment was SEVEN WEEKS AWAY.  I asked her whether she thought it prudent and reasonable for a six-year-old to be walking around with a broken tooth for the next seven weeks.  She shrugged.

I called her curse words, but I don't think she caught on because I said them in Latin.

It was a really bad morning.  I still have no solutions-- probably, there are not any for Ben's teeth, except to take care of them the best we can and hope for the best; and, as for the delay in the appointment, I am thinking of defecting from the pediatric dentist and just taking the kids to Todd's and my dentist.  But my head still hurts too much to do that yet.

Walking on Sunshine (Breaking and Entering)

I have lockout rage.

I have just returned from a long, nighttime walk with a neighbor and friend.  OK, it was actually a somewhat short walk-- because I had a painful stitch in my abdomen from walking with a belly full of my MIL's lasagna-- followed by a long talk on her front porch.  Anyway, I returned home at this late hour to discover I was locked out of the house.

Lately, this seems to happen to me with much more frequency... and it is very annoying.  It occurs, in part, because my three-year-old has a habit of playing with the doorknob lock buttons.  But, in larger part, the cause is my paranoid eight-year-old who is fearful of most everything these days.  No matter how many times I assure her I will lock up when I go to bed for the night, she insists on making her own rounds and double-checking the latches.

That's what she did tonight while I was walking.

I knew something was amiss when I walked down the driveway and discovered all the exterior lights had been extinguished.  Luckily, I walk with a flashlight.  The front door, purposely left unlocked by me, had been deadbolted.  The garage door would not open with the code (I suspect the batteries are dead on the keypad) and it really didn't matter because I was fairly certain someone would have also locked the door from the garage to the house.

The sliding doors and the french doors on the back of the house were also locked tight.

I am choosing not to divulge where I did find a key to the house and on which door it worked, because I may need that information again at a later date... and you will not.  But, suffice it to say I am now pissed, when I should be going to bed.

And to think, I spent the entire afternoon, evening and night winding down from my dental rage-- the topic about which I had intended to post.  I will save that for tomorrow (later today) when you can find out how annoying it is to spend all morning at the dentist with four kids, after being severely detoured by road construction, and while trying to have polite exchanges with witchy workers at the dental office only to discover you can look forward to more of the same because your six-year-old needs three fillings and a crown. 

Unbelievable.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

What She Says

Madeline is at that really fun age where she talks more and more and picks up expressions she hears others using.  Now that we can understand her better, she constantly has me grinning, if not in stitches, with the funny things she says.  Among Maddy's favorite expressions is, "What a wonderful day!"  She says it more like "wunnerful" and she proclaims it pretty much every day.  When I hear that, how can I not agree?

She also talks to the dog, all the time... no doubt repeating things she's heard the rest of us say: "Whaaat a good boy, Jonesy!  You a good boy?  Yesss, you such a good boy, Jonesy!"

This evening, when we returned home after a run to the store and a stop at my brother's family's house, we walked inside, and Madeline peeled off her shoes and socks and declared, "It's SO good to be home!"

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Ravenous Reading

If you are in my book club, STOP READING NOW!  I am going to blog about two books, one of which is sure to be my next club pick; and the other of which I am going to convince someone else to choose-- because I am reading some really good books!  But, if you are in my book club-- Wait, why are you still reading this?!

Last evening, I finished "Jesus, My Father, The CIA and Me, A Memoir... of Sorts," by Ian Cron.  It is the story of a boy growing up in the 1970s, believing his father is just a violent alcoholic, but later finding out he is actually a mean, drunk CIA operative.  It is funny and serious and about a whole lot of things.  It is full of good quotes and poignant moments.  My favorite thing about it is the memoirist's insight that people fall into two categories: those with on-off switches and those with dimmers.  Just think about how that classification could apply to all arenas of life.

Today, I began "Let's Pretend This Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir)" by Jenny Lawson.  I only have a couple days to read it before it's due back at the library, and, in fact, I nearly dumped it into the book return slot without even opening it.  That would have been a HUGE MISTAKE.  In the first 20 pages, I laughed so hard I cried-- twice.  Both times, I was sitting in the eye doctor's waiting room; I mortally embarrassed two of my children and may have indicated to the other patients that I am mentally unstable. 

I can't find a way to cut-and-paste, and I really want to retype pages 10 and 11 where she describes cleaning a deer.  But that would be a big waste of time, when I could be reading.  (So just go to the link above, click on "Look Inside" and "First Pages.")

Back to my book!

Un-Brace Yourself

In anticipation of shopping for school shoes, I took Benjamin for a visit to our friendly, neighborhood orthotist. I figured it made sense to get his ankle braces checked before purchasing shoes to fit said devices.

As some of you may remember, or not, Benjamin has been wearing braces on both ankles since about the time he started walking.  The kind he wears are called SMOs (supra malleolar orthoses,) specifically, this model.  SMOs aim to correct the foot and ankle alignment in people with low muscle tone, and they also try to correct pronation, both of which are issues with Ben.

Such devices work with varying degrees of success over a period of time/growth.  They are not a "cure;" they don't always "work;" there is no "proof" of their success, other than not wearing them for a time and seeing if the "patient" continues to have a steady gait and makes good progress in the level of activity he desires.

The braces are cumbersome, hot, and difficult to put on correctly.  Ben has never been able to master them on his own, and the grandparents have required continuing education.  I had discussed with various professionals ways to handle the braces in the school setting, and we had decided that there would have to be some training with his kindergarten teacher, who would then have to pass on her knowledge to the phy. ed. teacher and possibly a playground volunteer or two.

With school starting, there is also the whole social issue.  So far, Ben has handled himself with the average grace and poise of a six-year-old boy.  If another kid notices his braces and asks, "What are those for?"  Ben has one of two responses: (1) "They're braces for my feet that help me run faster" or (2) he shrugs and walks away from that kid.

Still, Todd and I have agreed: As long as the braces have a positive, evident, physical effect, we will continue to make sure Benjamin wears them.  But, once we (and the orthotist, and the physical therapist, and the adaptive phy. ed. teacher, and the pediatrician) believe they have reached the end of their usefulness, away go the SMOs.

So, here we are.

30 days with NO BRACES.  Then, we will go back to the PT and the orthotist and see if they think our boy is still holding his own.

I hope it goes well... because it would not be fun to wrestle Benny's little feet back into those things.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Things I Keep Meaning to Do

Sometimes, I just gotta write it down...

*Have Benjamin write his birthday thank-you notes.
*Clean out the car.
*Pull out all the weeds in our landscaping rock, especially bordering the neighbors' yards.
*Take in the new uniform shirts to get the school logo embroidered on them.
*Sign up to work at the church festival.
*Get the carpets cleaned.
*Take, like, three truckloads to Goodwill.
*Have my friend Steph come over and pick out paint colors for the main living areas.
*Check the warranty on the exterior paint, which has totally faded on the front of our house.
*Go to a game at Target Field.
*Take in a concert at the Minnesota Zoo.

Changed all the burned out lightbulbs today-- at least, the ones I could reach... who wanted 10-foot ceilings, anyway?  That's progress.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Not Buying It

Solicitors regularly come to my door.

This happened even before we moved to this home on a busy city street.  In our last subdivision locale, I got Girl Scouts with their cookies, hockey players with their Christmas wreaths, school students with their wrapping paper.  It has been my long-standing policy to buy whatever a child is pushing; if they have the determination to come to my door and make a pitch, I will generally write a check. 

With adults, however, it's a different story.

I will never forget being a young, new, at-home mother and dashing to the door to prevent a second doorbell ding during the baby's naptime.  There on my front porch was a scrawny, rumpled-looking, middle-aged man with a spray bottle.  Before I could say "Hi" and "'Bye," he launched into this dazzling yet totally unbelievable pitch about this miracle cleaning solution he was hawking.  When I started shaking my head, he said, "Wait!  It's totally safe-- non-toxic, too!"  Then, he sprayed the bottle in his mouth, swallowed and grinned.  I shut the door, and left the salesman there, on my front porch, drinking his miracle solution.

This afternoon, a meeting of school volunteers turned luncheon turned swimming play date was just wrapping up at my house, when, as I walked a friend and her children to their car, a young man came down the driveway toward us.  I pegged him immediately for one of those door-to-door magazine subscription sellers.  I've never spent the time or energy to figure out their game, and I'm not quite mean enough to report them to the folks at city hall, but this kind of character has approached me in the past and has always left me with an uneasy feeling.  I don't mean the general, "Uh-oh, someone is at the door and I don't want to answer because I know I don't need whatever he's selling but I'll feel bad if I say 'No.'"  I mean more of, "I'm quite sure what's being pitched here is unethical, if not downright illegal.  I don't want to engage this person and I don't even want him or her to set foot on my property.  In fact, I feel an urge to call the police."

Sure enough, the young man calls out, "Are you the lady of the house?"  My friend and I both look at each other and then back at him, as we both shake our heads.  "No," I said, "She's just leaving and I'm the babysitter."  He totally did not buy it.  But I think he knew in that instant that I was not buying, either.  "You're the babysitter?" he asked.  I nodded.  "Well," he went on, "Do you want to buy any magazines?"  I didn't even get the full pitch, which, if memory serves, has something to do with earning enough money to get back to Cincinnati or to earn tuition for college in Tampa.

I just smiled and said, "No, thanks.  I'm not interested."  The conversation deteriorated from there:

Him: "What's your problem?"
Me: "There's no problem.  I'm just not interested in buying magazines.  I wish you luck, though."
Him: "Why are you being so rude?"
Me: "I'm not being rude at all.  I just said I wasn't interested but I wished you well.  You are being rude by continuing to press on, in front of my friend and her children."
Him: "I'm not rude.  My dad is a pastor back in Chicago."
Me: "That's nice.  I would like you to be on your way now."
Him: "Why you gotta be that way?  I didn't do anything to you!"

At that point, I turned and walked away, ushering the others to their car.  Moments later, the young man was stopped by a police officer at the roadside.  It was all I could do to refrain from marching down the street to tattle, "Yeah, he was badgering me, too."

And, now, I'm off to check that all the doors are locked.  Again.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Knotty Style

After my hair-stylist-friend washed away the Hannigan gray, she offered to braid my hair.  Yeah, when it's 900 degrees outside, I really do want all this hair off my face and neck.  When I got home, Madeline told me, "I weally, weally wike you hair, Mommy.  I wike dat pony, wike my ponies.  Who did dat, Mommy?  It so much pretty."  My MIL said she really liked my hair this way, too-- said it made me look so young... like Pocahontas.

I took both comments as compliments. 

Elisabeth was in awe of the technique; she is always asking me if she can practice "be-raiding" my hair.  Some of the older girls in the musical cast spent their down time teaching Libby some cute tricks.  Unfortunately for Libby, my friend can do my hair in about five minutes, whereas it takes my daughter a really long time to "be-raid."  Sometimes I still sit for her, anyway, pretending I am a Barbie doll while she twists and turns and brushes out the tangles.  Maybe I'll let her start dressing me, too. 

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Tolerance

My husband and I were talking at dinner this evening-- that's what we do when they kids are gone, actually have conversations-- about my upcoming high school reunion, whether I will attend, whether he will go with me, what the chances are of my good friends from high school attending (nil, on that, by the way.)  He started asking me about certain people we knew and with whom we socialized when we were younger, and why it is that we are "no longer friends."  I said it's not so much that we were friends and now are not friends as much as that we have simply developed divergent lives, whether it involves marriage or raising families or where in the world we live or the kinds of professional schedules we keep, or whatever.

Just as I wrote yesterday that my friend Beth and I are on similar life paths (marriage, motherhood, belief in the value of a stay-at-home parent, focus on family time, conservative values, etc.) there are other people with whom I simply no longer have things in common.  But that doesn't mean I dislike them, or are intolerant of them, or wouldn't still welcome their friendship if circumstances fostered that.

Anyway, I guess this kind of brings me to this: Why can't we all just get along?  As Dr. Laura always used to ask her callers, "Do you want to be right, or do you want to be friends?"  It sometimes seems people (and yes, I can definitely be one of those people) just want to be right-- but at what cost?  One of the things that has really stayed with me through my training as a Birthright counselor is that there are many ways to make a life, many ways to be a mother, many ways to live.  My way is not the only way.

And we can hold our views about what is "good" and what is "right" without condemning those who make other choices.  Regarding a current hot topic, I think this guy's opinion pretty much sums up things.  Now, I am not advocating for this man... don't even know much about him... in fact, I googled him and read enough to suspect he might be a nutwad from a Love and Hugs megachurch.  But I like what he said. No matter your favored side of the proverbial coin, just think about it.