Sunday, September 30, 2012

What She Heard

Upon hearing a car "peel out" in front of our house:

Madeline: "WHAT was that?"
Mom (deadpan): "That was someone driving in a very naughty way."
Madeline (even more deadpan): "Or... Or... Or... it could be Buzz Lightyear."
Mom: "No, I don't think it was Buzz Lightyear.  Buzz Lightyear is pretend."
Madeline (deadpan and stage-whispering): "Or, it could be a dinosaur."
Mom: "A dinosaur?!  But dinosaurs are extinct."
Madeline: "No, I saw them at the petting zoo."

Life-Affirming Weekend

I traveled this weekend with my friend, who is also the director of our area Birthright office, to the statewide fall conference.  It is an important annual event, and an educational one.  Upon my return, my husband and other well meaning relatives and friends asked, "Did you have fun?"

Well, no.

It was definitely not "fun" to hear a grown man, who is a husband, a father and a college professor, talk about the long-lasting effects of Post-Abortion Stress Syndrome.  What made him an expert?  Well, his suffering, for one.  It is impossible to not be moved by a man who cried and cried, describing his teenage self driving his then-girlfriend to a clinic to abort their first child.  He later went on to marry her and have more children, but also spent 20 years battling the demons-- both real and figurative-- that plagued him as a result of their decision.  We were all humbled by his story of pain and redemption; it offered the most compelling evidence I've ever heard that GOD FORGIVES.  Still, I will every day pray for their family, and their son Steven Timothy, who was, in his parents' own words, "martyred for our sins."

I did not have "fun" sitting in on a seminar by a Catholic priest with a PhD in medical ethics describe so-called telemed abortions and the women who have died after having them.  He talked about how technology is neither good nor bad, but, we must always remember, technology is handled by human beings... and that is how things can turn, for good or for bad.

Here's something else NOT "fun": taking part in a panel interview of college students, both male and female, and listening to their discussion on the challenges of being pro-life or chaste or devout in their faith or *gasp!* all three amidst a university culture that seems to work against those beliefs.  It was, however, a little bit fun to hear their enthusiasm and to believe that none of their detractors could dampen their spirits.

No, the conference was not fun, but it was important.  We left renewed and recharged for the task ahead.  We will continue to be there-- friends for those in need, for as long as you need us.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Ditched for Downton

As with most days, there are many things I could post about right now... some funny, some serious, some personal, some global.  But, as it is, before clicking over to Blogger I was on Facebook, and I just noticed an acquaintance posted a way to watch the beginning of Season 3 of "Downton Abbey" online.  So, instead of blogging, I'm going to do that right now.

Join me?

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Being Mindful

I have some weighty concerns bearing down on me this evening...

First, please keep Todd's dad, Arden, in your prayers.  After a week of troubling symptoms, including high and erratic blood pressures and heavy nosebleeds, he is hospitalized, to hopefully get to the bottom of the problem.  He has a history of high blood pressure and cardiac issues.  We have great faith in his medical community and ask that you pray for his anxiety to ease and for him to get adequate rest, so he can return to health.

The other concern has been the vandalism at our church and a number of other local Christian churches.  While the damage alone is undeniably troubling, that is not my greatest worry.  I've been more concerned about the story getting inflated and spun, with alleged motives thrown around like weapons.  People's views, personal opinions, or projections based on current political themes can slant the story, changing the focus and casting further doubt.  Indeed, with an arrest late today, that appears to be the case.  Here's the press release from our local police department:

With assistance from the FBI, on 09-26-12 at about 5:30 PM, the Buffalo Police Department arrested Wade Murray, a 30 year-old male from rural Buffalo, in connection with the poster and vandalism incidents at our local churches. The man, who has confessed to the incidents, is being held in the Wright County Jail pending felony charges of Criminal Damage to Property. We expect that the County Attorney’s office will file formal charges on either Thursday or Friday, and additional charges may be included based on their review of the case.

Based on our investigation and the statements provided to authorities, it is believed that the suspect acted alone, and that no other churches or other locations were affected. In addition, the suspect explained that he was motivated to commit these acts due to his anger with God over personal issues; there was no mention of, nor any indication of political motivations to the suspect’s actions.


Please, in this intense political season, let us keep our heads about us.  This nation is built upon the rights and privileges of having widely varied opinions on pretty much everything.  You are entitled to your views as I am mine.  Before you slam my views-- or what you believe are my views, be sure to educate yourself; make sure you know where I truly stand, and how that does (or does not) actually affect you.

Conversely, just because some dope throws rocks through church windows, let's not give him credit for anything more than being a rock-throwing dope.  Sorry for the name-calling.  That doesn't help, either.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Scratched and Cracked

When I was a little kid, my favorite joke was, "Are you PG?"  If the other kid said, "No," the perpetrator would reply, "You're not potty-trained?!"  If the other kid said, "Yes," the accusation was, "You're a pregnant teacher!"  It was a very frustrating trick on which to be on the receiving end, but I guess it's a lesson just as soon learned: You're d*^#ed if you do, d*^#ed if you don't.

Today feels like that joke.

This morning, Benjamin was scheduled for all that dental work.  You might remember back nearly two months, when I was so irate that, first, he needed so much dental work and, second, that we had to wait seven weeks for an appointment to have the work done.  Calls to other dentists for second opinions were fairly fruitless, because no one else had a sooner opening for a new patient.

So, today was Crown and Three Fillings Day.  While Ben has never previously been fearful of the dentist, he definitely sensed something was up and dragged his feet around the house, whimpering, while I got the older girls off to school.  He put up such a fight we were nearly late for the appointment-- the appointment for which we waited seven weeks!

Dodging boat trailers and other stuff in our driveway, I managed to back into the front porch and scratch up the bumper of the new car.  It was all my fault, and Todd is ticked at me, which seems reasonable.  But, I cannot figure out whether he's more annoyed about the damage I caused, or that I want to pay to fix it.  I have spent much of this day gathering quotes-- one from a local business and one from my dad's "guy."  We have some school friends who own a body shop and he is coming over to take a look at my stupidity tonight.  I told him his wife quoted me $20, but I don't think he found that too funny.

Back to Ben's dental appointment-- it was a disaster.  The doctor was unable to complete all the work that needed to be done, because he said he couldn't give Benjamin any more Novocain.  Ben cried and sobbed and wailed and whined all the way out the door.  (And he didn't even hear the part about needing to come back for a future visit.)  He kept saying, "My mouth hurts," but I think what he was really upset about was the way the numbing medication made him feel.  It did not occur to me to prepare Ben for that-- and I wouldn't have really known what to say, anyway-- so it's just another way I suck today.

Before we left for the dentist, Todd appeared surprised that we were going at all.  Back when the summertime checkup found these problems, I had explained the situation to my husband and had talked about getting a second opinion, finding someone who could do the work more quickly, weighing the pros and cons of having the work done at all.  But, then, the world kept spinning, and, barring another solution presenting itself, I kept this appointment.  Todd started asking me about whether Benjamin needed vitamin and mineral supplements, and whether the pediatric dentist bore any negligence in "breaking" Ben's tooth.

I was really feeling as though I could not win, here.

When I finally got Benjamin out of the dentist's office and into the fresh air, I figured he would calm down.  He did not.  I offered that we could stop back home to get him a clean shirt and a snack, but that then we would need to get him to school.  Upon returning home, with the boy still wailing, I called back to talk to the dental hygienist.  She told me Ben could eat soft foods, but nothing sticky, and should try to chew on the non-crown side of his mouth.  She also said it could take three to four hours for the Novocain to wear off.

This news was not well received.

However, after getting a second breakfast in his belly, Ben's mood did seem to lighten, and we did get to school.  The only real "win" I've had today is the realization (not the first time I've realized this) that my kid is in a school with an awesome teacher and an UNBELIEVABLE nurse.  These women are compassionate and kind and loving and oh-so-patient.  He is in good hands.

But his teeth still are not fixed.

Neither is my car.

And it's kind of silly for me to say, "I'll pay for it myself," when I don't have any income.

So far today, the only thing I can say is I'm glad I'm PT, but I'm glad I'm not PT.

Monday, September 24, 2012

McBummer

Madeline was such a good girl through all the Monday errands, I treated her to lunch at McDonald's.  Well, it was a treat only for her, as I immediately noticed McD's now has nutritional information (calories and fat content) for each menu item right up on the boards.  Even though I was already planning to order a salad, I didn't order the one I wanted, because it contained 100 more calories than the one listed below it. 

If you are thinking of going to McDonald's, I strongly recommend you don a blindfold before looking up and deciding what to order (unless you are using the drive-thru-- safety hazard.)  Better yet, before you go, you might as well do your research.  Click here for the chart.

Now you're not going.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Lost

We have a constant struggle in Krinkeland over finding lost things.  Apparently, I have been elected (though I am certain I did not campaign) Finder of Lost Things.  I know this is something all mommies do... but, I truly detest the omnipresent, all-consuming assumption by five other human beings that whatever it is, wherever it was last seen, however long it has been missing and to whoever it actually belongs, it is my obligation to drop everything, look everywhere and find it.

The only method I know is to teach my family members if they always return a thing to the same place, it will always be there when needed.  That's what I do... most of the time.  However, even if I get careless or I forget, I never expect someone else in this household to drop everything and find my missing possession.

But everyone else does that with me.  And, I am having a hard time instilling that sense of responsibility in my children when my husband is sometimes the worst offender.  I am not man-bashing here; it is just reality, and those who know him best particularly know that about him.  Todd is sometimes described as an "airhead," but I think it's more that he has so much on his min d that he has difficulty prioritizing and compartmentalizing.

Sometimes, I think, since the kids see me overturning couch cushions and going through drawers looking for Dad's car keys or his shoe, they just assume I will also stop what I'm doing to find their video games, piano books, staplers, favorite stuffed animals or whatever.  Though a missing item is not mine, not my fault, not my responsibility, the fact that it's missing does impact me and spur me to action.

Tonight, in an unsuccessful quest for a garage door opener, I found a wristwatch that had been missing for nearly two months. The offender KNEW EXACTLY where the watch was left, which is why the inability to find it had been so puzzling. The watch turned up in a TOTALLY DIFFERENT PLACE. The garage door opener is still "missing."

It is so aggravating.

When a child or a spouse asks, "Where is my ______?" I have tried various tactics:
  • drop everything and turn the house upside down
  • lecture and lay a guilt trip
  • designate homes for certain items
  • charge the loser some penalty to have the item returned
  • tell the offender to pray
  • throw my hands up and buy a substitute
  • ignore the question
  • shrug
Obviously, none of these works as I would like, or I wouldn't be continuing to vent about this issue.  Is-- better yet, WAS-- this a problem in your home and how did you solve it?  Pleeease share.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Nothing but a Hound Dog

I spent much of the day cleaning up and putting away after last night's little birthday party for my husband. (Thanks, friends and family, for a fun, laid-back evening.) While I was sucking up scraps and putting away platters, the kids were beginning to unpack the fall and Halloween decorations. They were not, however, interested in pumpkin placemats or spiced candles; they were rummaging through a few choice boxes of costumes.






Friday, September 21, 2012

Never Let You Go

I am up way too early this morning.  The reason I can't sleep-- well, it's silly, really, so I can't tell you because then you'll think I'm a bigger idiot than you already think I am.  But, anyway, that it is my concern.  Now that I am awake, I cannot get back to sleep, because I cannot stop thinking about, praying for, worrying about, hoping for the King Twins.

Nope, I do not know Mommy or Daddy, and, regardless of their prognosis, I will never know the King Twins.  They live in a different state and have lives unrelated to mine.  However, we are all related-- aren't we?  Someone I know must have posted a link or forwarded a prayer request or sent out a lifeline for this family, and I began following their story.

Last spring, Heather and Caleb discovered she was carrying conjoined twins.  The way the babies-- Adaline and Amelie-- are conjoined leaves too-little space in their torsos, and, thus, no lungs have developed.  Between them, the girls have just a sliver of lung tissue.  Thus, their prognosis for life outside the womb is very, very poor.

Later this morning, in about three hours, Amelie and Adaline will be delivered into their mama's arms.  They are already in the hearts of thousands.

With God, all things are possible, so no one can predict today's outcome, but, one way or another, the girls will be healed.

Different people have different ideas about God and suffering.  I certainly do not claim to have any answers, and I know the weakness of my faith makes it difficult to see this family's story as anything but tragedy.  Even though my rational mind knows these are God's children-- they are all God's children-- put into our lives for temporary care until they reach their eternal home-- my mommy heart breaks for Heather and Caleb.

I mourn so many babies who I wish, for their mommies' sakes and for mine, were here.  We miss every day:
Andrew
Jacob
Maggie
Grace
John
Trace
Grace
Frances
and all those children who are named in our hearts

Heather King is a musician who wrote a love song to her babies called "Never Let You Go"; you can download it for free here.  Please take time to pray for them today-- and to marvel at God's wondrous plan, even-- especially-- when we do not understand.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

My Actual Life

These are real things that happened to me today:

I returned a pair of too-tight jeans to Costco today, with the intent of picking up the next size along with my groceries. All that was left was two sizes too small or three sizes too big, but the price had been slashed in half. So, upon checking out, I returned to the customer service desk and re-purchased the jeans.

While I was comparing prices on paper products, Madeline started pushing the cart down the aisle. The first thing my ears tuned in to was the three-year-old calling, "Move, Lady!"

When I picked up pizza and breadsticks for my kids' supper, I asked the woman behind the counter for napkins. She bent down and offered two. I asked whether I could have more. She pulled out one. When I laughed and said, "No, really, I have four kids," she dug around and came up with two more napkins. I left then.

Do you ever feel like you're in the Twilight Zone, or on some reality television show?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Little Mommies

Possibly the most wonderful thing about having a puppy is watching the two older girls "mother" him.  This is really the first opportunity Amanda and Elisabeth have had to give unconditional love and care.  It might sound silly, since they do have a younger brother and sister.  But, for whatever reason, it's different with siblings.  Yes, I definitely see the love and care of the older children for the younger ones, but they also get annoyed with them, often over the tiniest things.  Maybe it's that they know Benjamin and Madeline are mine, just as they are mine.

But Jones is theirs.

He really is.  For all those true-jokes about how Mommy is really the one who cares for the pet, Jonesy loves these kids.  He watches them go off to school in the morning and waits for them to come home in the afternoon.  Jones is never calmer than when sitting with Amanda, watching television.  He cuddles with Amanda and Libby in bed at night.  Just last night, the girls had to get out of bed to tell Todd and me stories of the cute movements and noises the puppy was making as he slept.  They even took pictures of him with their iPods!

Even though Libby and Amanda sometimes grumble about Jones needing to go out again or needing to be fed again, they get up and do what needs to be done.  They always get up and do it.  If the dog has an accident or chews something he should not, the girls get frustrated with Jones, but their primary concern is always for his care (teaching him right from wrong and protecting him from my wrath!)




It makes me happy and it gives me hope to see a 9-year-old and a 10-year-old be so tender and loving in their care for another living being.  And, I think it makes Jones pretty thrilled with his life, too. 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Diet, My Style

I'm trying to lose weight.  It is not so much a diet to get skinny, as it is just a healthier way to go... at least, that's what I'm telling myself.  I mean-- the joke never gets old-- I'm still walking around with a baby belly and my baby is three.  I am tired of my clothes not fitting correctly and of buying ridiculous, drapey things to wear over my bathing suits so I don't have to be seen on the same stretch of beach with my body-builder neighbor. 

Plus, I ate an entire key lime pie last week. 

And I really like fast food.  I do like it, and I'm not afraid to admit it... I mean, I can't be the only one keeping all those joints in business.  I am not ready to give up the diet soda-- but, Chicken McNuggets I could probably do without.

Everyone keeps telling me it's harder to lose weight the older you get (yeah, I've noticed) and it's basically impossible to lose weight once you turn 40.  So, my window is closing.

I have realized that I do need to start paying attention to what I'm putting in my body.  I have one friend who gave up partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, which seems logical until you start reading labels and realize it's in basically everything.  Where we live now, some of my friends are real health-food nuts.  I try some of their suggestions... some are tasty, some suck, nothing has been anything my children or my husband would eat.

I was considering doing this nutrition program run by a friend's husband through their chiropractic office.  It involves a severely calorie-restricted diet, along with these supplements.  The main supplement is big talk these days, all over talk shows and Facebook.  I was thinking, This program sounds like it would totally suck, but, if, in the end, I lose the love handles, it might be worth it.  But, when I started doing some outside research and read what more traditional doctors have to say about it, and I got a little nervous.  The Mayo Clinic warned I'd be dead by Christmas, or something like that.  I still might do it, but I told Dr. Friend I need to read more of his literature and discuss further.

In the meantime, my research led me to some general eating and exercise plans.  I have been walking, and still need to step up things with cardio and weight training, but that will be the last piece of my wellness puzzle, because exercise is something I detest greatly.  I have been following some of the basic guidelines for healthier eating-- lots of dark, green veggies; no dairy; small portions of lean proteins; no starches; etc.  A lot of recipes emphasize white beans and pink beans for all their nutritional power; dietitians say fartiness is not a real concern, because the digestive system should adjust along with the diet.  Good to know.

Yesterday, I made a soup with cannellini beans and kale.  It smelled like gym socks, but it was edible.  My kids and my husband had a creamy broccoli cheese soup, which I also made.  It, too, had a somewhat tooty aroma, but I'm sure it tasted divine.

The best recipe I have found so far is Dr. Fuhrman's Skinny Shake.  It is so yummy, I have one every morning.  Even today, when I was in a hurry, I made time for the smoothie.  The recipe calls for:
  • 1 cup frozen strawberries
  • 1 cup ice
  • 4 oz. pomegranate juice
  • squeeze of lemon
  • Blend in a high-powered blender until smooth; add water to desired consistency.

As I assembled my shake this morning, two of the ice cubes would not fit in my Bullet Blender.  Since I did not have time for mixing and remixing and screwing things apart and back together, I left out those two cubes and, instead, while the shake was blending, I cut and ate a half-brownie the same size as the ice cubes, to make up for the missing volume. 

Also, I substituted a squeeze of lemon for bottled lime juice.  That's because I like lime better than lemon.  But, also, even though I bought a lemon just for this purpose, I was too lazy to cut it into small wedges.  And, also, I really dislike the sensation of squeezing.  It reminds me of childbirth and acne, which, thankfully, I did not experience at the same time; it also reminds me of incontinence, which, I am sure, will come soon enough.

Instead of water, I thinned the smoothie with vodka, because nothing goes better with lime juice than vodka.  Once I drank my skinny shake, I realized I was no longer in a hurry, and I no longer cared so much about losing weight.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Wait

It's not that I'm not blogging anymore; it's just that sometimes (OK, a lot of the times) someone else says it so much better than I can.  Here's what I read that got me today:  Waiting till the wedding night-- getting married the right way.  It's what I want for my children even though they can't possibly know what they want yet.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Fabulous 40

Today is my husband's 40th birthday.  Ha!  Ha!  He is celebrating with his lifelong BFF in Las Vegas, so I guess the joke is really on me.  The trip is his birthday gift, (along with a Romney for President t-shirt that still has not arrived weeks after I ordered it; I suspect Mitt just spent my money and is wearing the shirt.)

Since Todd is not here for his birthday, I will share with you 40 Things I Love About Todd:

40. Todd is nearly unflappable.
39. He knows his scripture.
38. It would never occur to Todd to not provide well for his family.
37. Todd is a great cuddler.
36. He is so patient in helping the kids with their homework.
35. Todd loves roller coasters.
34. Watching a movie with him is a physical experience.
33. He doesn't think I need makeup.
32. Todd is a very good driver in poor weather conditions.
31. He is constantly learning new things.
30. Todd always finds ways to save money (so he can spend money.)
29. He plays just a few piano songs with great passion.
28. Todd has fond memories of parts of life that are definitely not "fond," like junior high.
27. He goes to church every Sunday.
26. Todd doesn't complain about traveling for work, but he doesn't brag about it, either.
25. He always loves a party.
24. Todd wanted our children to go to parochial school.
23. It's OK if I do not cook; Todd's cool with a sandwich any day.
22. He's really good at picking out jewelry.
21. When he puts his mind to it, Todd can build or fix absolutely anything.
20. Todd is as excited about Amanda's trombone as she is.
19. His "hobbies" are all things that help our family or others.
18. Todd will eat any kind of leftover, as long as I put it on a plate and heat it up.
17. The crow's feet around his eyes are evidence of frequent smiling.
16. (Oh, that one's private.)
15. (Sorry, that one, too.)
14. Todd likes to shop.
13. He makes no excuses about his weird eating habits, like putting corn on his potatoes or chips on his sandwiches.
12. He respects my volunteer work as though it's a paying job.
11. Todd is not afraid to show affection for the dog.
10. Coming from him, "You need to loosen up," is a suggestion, not an insult.
  9. Todd keeps his mouth shut about my hair.
  8. He can lose weight whenever he decides to.
  7. Todd keeps the fish bowl clean.
  6. He has long nighttime conversations with our daughters on their beds, where they tell him things they would never tell me.
  5. Todd got a part for the dryer at 9 p.m. and fixed it the same night, so my laundry wouldn't have to pile up.
  4. He sings show tunes.
  3. He calls me "Honey," as though it is my actual name, but would never call me "Baby" or "Angel" or "Sweet Cakes."
  2. This guy can laugh at himself, like when he decides he "needs" designer jeans, or when he succumbs to styling his hair to cover his bald peaks.
  1. Todd knows what he likes-- and it's me!

Happy 40th birthday, Darling!  God loves you, and I do, too.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Flying Turtle

Elisabeth got this ride-on toy for her birthday, and she won't get off it!  She even rode it all the way to the park and back.  It's supposed to be a vintage toy, but I sure don't remember the Flying Turtle-- do you?



 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Bounty of Bacteria

After I sent my first child off to school, it suddenly hit me: "She's going to get sick." It wasn't as though show had never been sick during her first five years; but, since she had been home with me and traveling in our protective, little bubble, as long as I managed to keep her lips off the shopping cart handle, we stayed pretty healthy. Sure enough, once the kid started going to school, she started getting sick.

My children are generally healthy, and I always try to keep that in mind and give thanks. But I can never seem to get out of my mind what a petri dish that school is. It is just the nature of the beast-- the custodians and the teachers are all over the disinfectant; the nurse is a superior hand-washing instructor; the school supply lists always call for hand sanitizer and antibacterial wipes, and I know the desks and computers get hit every day... but it is just the nature of the beast.

All those kids are germ-carrying beasts.  They touch each other and breathe on each other and share things they should not share.  I mean, I am just assuming that's what happened... because two of my kids have strep throat.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Artsy-Fartsy

There were two new forays into the artistic world today here in Krinkeland.

In the morning, Madeline had her first dance class.  I know, I know, crazy.  She is three years old.  This is not so much about learning to dance as it is about giving the baby her own little thing to do, her own place to go.  Maddy has been jamming along with Elisabeth's routines for a full year, and has been begging to take a class of her own.

She is one of six three- and four-year-old girls in the class, and she got right in line and marched around with them.  The other mothers huddled around the window and talked about preparing their tiny dancers with stretches and drills on the ballet positions.  Yeah, we went to McDonald's for CinnaMelts and sausage and then strapped on the hand-me-down ballet slippers.  Whatever.

You have to admit, this is cute!
 
Secondly, Amanda got her trombone.  One of the many benefits of the kids' small, private school is that they have the opportunity to play in the band beginning in fourth grade.  Amanda considered this last year, but, ultimately, decided she did not want one more responsibility on her plate.  I suspect she spent at least part of the school year regretting that decision, as she saw-- and heard-- how much fun band was for her classmates and the older student musicians.

This year, at Open House, she led me over to the band instructor and begged me to sign her up.  I am certainly not opposed to band... I just know nothing about it.  I always thought it would have been cool to play the drums in the marching band (that's my favorite part of any parade) but I have about as great a sense of rhythm as most Catholics.

I also thought it would be cool to play the trumpet.  My best friend played the trumpet.  She suspected I didn't have the lips for it.  Well, this mouth is a vicious instrument unto itself, as you already know.  So, I just sang and continued to take piano lessons instead, and my dad never tired of his joke about playing the piano in the marching band.

So, Amanda met with the band teacher last week and reviewed some of her options in terms of instruments.  Amanda told the teacher she really wanted to play the tuba, or at least the bassitone.  The teacher told Amanda she probably did not actually want to play (or lug) one of those  instruments.  Ultimately, Amanda chose the trombone.

Todd asked whether there was some family loyalty in this decision, since Amanda has certainly heard the stories from her grandmother about her trombone-playing days.  Amanda said no.  I asked whether she was looking to become better friends with the two other girls who currently comprise the trombone section, but she said that wasn't it either.  When we pressed Amanda for the real reason she chose the trombone, Amanda said, "It's the easiest one to play, it's the smallest section right now, it looks cool, it can be used as a weapon, and, when I play the trombone, it sounds like an old man farting!"  What more reason could there be?
And, yes, naturally, when Amanda got home with her trombone, she marched outside and "played" it for passing cars.  Of course, she did.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Never Forgotten

On this eleventh anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, we remember.  We all remember.  How could we ever forget?

Amanda was having trouble going to sleep last night.  After hearing her get up and go to the bathroom, we were not surprised when she padded down the hallway to our bedroom.  She stood in the doorway, sighed, and then said, "I just have one question: Why did they do it?"

That question has come up a few times since the girls started school and got old enough to discuss in class the terrorist attacks, or to pay attention to the documentaries and anniversary news reports on television.  But it never gets any easier to answer.  On one hand, we all know the answer... on the other, how do we explain it-- especially to a child?

We all remember... will always remember... where we were and what we were doing when the airplanes struck the World Trade Center and other sites, how we found out, what happened next.  I would never claim to have been closely tied to the attacks-- I did not work in or near the city, nor did anyone I knew at the time; I have never worked in the armed forces or as a peace officer, though I honor those who serve; I do not personally know any of the victims.

I did recently read the book, "The Woman Who Wasn't There," which is the story of someone who faked being a survivor of the WTC attack.  Just now, while looking up the title of that book, I also came across a website in which the creator explains a conspiracy theory that 9/11 never happened-- there are no victims and it was all fabricated through trick imagery.  Sick.

However, I do remember that day from my perspective, working as a local television news producer.  Word had already traveled across the country and I was soon stationed in the control room, overseeing live news coverage.  During a super-quick commercial break, I dashed back to my desk and noticed the voice mail light blinking on my phone.  One of the messages was from my mother, who asked, "WHAT is happening?!"  This question, and the tone in which it was asked, shook me to the core.  My mom always knew the answer to everything...  If she didn't know, then what?

At the time, I was nearly four months pregnant with my first daughter, the girl who would, more than a decade later, again ask her father and me to explain "why they did it."  Eleven years later, so much has changed, and so much has stayed the same.  Even in this tumultuous political season, when battle lines are drawn and plenty of mud is slung, some things remain unchanged.  We are strong.  We are united.  We are Americans.
 Each year, our local fire department marks the 9/11 anniversary by flying a large American flag over the main street of town.  We will never forget.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Libby Life Lessons

Our Elisabeth is nine years old today!  All day long, filling out forms and writing checks, I kept writing 9-10-03 for the date... I guess the Birthday Girl was always on my mind!  And Elisabeth is always on my mind.  This girl makes me think.

Yes, I know most of you know her as "Libby," but, just in case you were unaware, her Daddy and I did name her Elisabeth because we love that name.  Elisabeth is named for two very strong women: my great-grandmother and my childhood best friend, along with a little Auntie Lisa and her Scandinavian heritage thrown in with the spelling.  Her name means, "God's promise" or "My God is a vow."

I do see all of God's promise in the beloved Elisabeth, on her birthday and every day.  And, today, I reflect on what she teaches me:
*that chipmunks need love, too.
*that one can never be too sparkly.
*that all one has to do is bat her eyelashes to get Grandpa to play beauty parlor.
*that she is actually paying attention during religion lessons.
*that it is possible to be that smart and that pretty.
*that one-on-one times are most treasured.
*that raw talent truly exists.
*that panic and passion and fear and anger and love are all intertwined.
*that I cannot always fix everything.
*that the toughest shells have the softest insides.

I was going to stop at NINE Libby Life Lessons... but that girl takes me to new levels.

Happy, happy birthday, Elisabeth!  God loves you, and Mommy does, too.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

City Mouse, Country Mouse

I am a country mouse.  This is my house:
(That's me, there, between the car and the boat trailers, in my driveway.  Silly husband must have taken the photo.)
 
 
My country house is comfortable to me.  It is not fancy, not a showpiece.  Inside and out, my home looks as though four children live here-- they do.  My home contains the things I like, even if they don't "go" with anything else.  My home is a work-in-progress, and the worker is my husband, who does everything to exacting standards, if not on a standard timeline.  That works for us.
 
I have always lived in outer-suburban or small-town areas.  I like the perks of this kind of living: big yards, lakeshore, familiarity, feeling of a close-knit community, church involvement.  Even during the many years I drove into the city for work, I always appreciated my commute home to the country, using that time to think about my day, solve problems, catch up on phone calls, listen to music, and decompress.  I also liked to be able to make the distinction between "work (city) life" and "home (country) life."
 
That is not to say I couldn't imagine myself living in the city, or that I don't understand the appeal.  My husband and I sometimes talk about what life will be like after our children are grown.  (Ha!  We never stop dreaming, do we?)  We love living on the lake, but we also recognize it is a lot of work.  Will we always want to do it?  Will we ever be "snowbirds" and spend part of the year in a warmer climate?  I asked Todd if he would ever consider getting a place in the south for part of the year or just keeping this big, lake house for our family "cabin" and then buying a condo in the city for the rest of the year-- a place where we could see lots of theater, walk to the farmers' market for our groceries, socialize without ever going outside.  He thought it was a terrible idea.
 
Today, my mom and I went on the Summit Hill House Tour.  It was her idea-- she has been on this walking-tours-of-the-city kick this summer-- and it was great fun.  On this beautiful day, we walked around Summit Hill and the surrounding neighborhoods; about a dozen homeowners who are part of this association opened their homes for self-guided tours.  Some were stately, historic mansions; some were just very nice, well kept old homes; others were redesigned and repurposed, from single- to multi-family or the reverse.
 
These homes were definitely in the city, but, within these carefully planned, fully regulated, manicured neighborhoods, we felt all the comfort of small-town living, within a major metropolitan area.  If we had an unlimited budget, and fewer ties to this way of life, I could totally do it.  This is the city house I would pick:
(I found out today this is called a Georgian Revival-- that's my style.  It even had an original indoor swimming pool... and a family with five kids lives there!  All those people going up the front walk would likely not be invited into my city house because they are strangers, but, if they were, they would have to take off their shoes just like they're doing in the picture.)
 

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Where's the Rest Stop?

The first words I heard this morning were, "Hey, Maddy, guess what?  I don't have to go to school for two whole days!"  That should have given me some indication of how the day was going to go with that kid and the others.  Between three children making it through their first week of school, Dad being gone a few days on a business trip, and the two older girls celebrating Elisabeth's birthday with two of her friends, everyone in Krinkeland is WIPED OUT.

OK, I started typing something else here, but it's not even making sense...  I'm just going to bed.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Fun with Friends

During this busy, busy time of year, Elisabeth's birthday falls. While not yet officially nine, this evening we took Libby, Amanda and two friends for a little celebration. Libby chose Build-A-Bear (again!) and then wanted to show her friends one of those self-serve frozen yogurt places. Full of sugar and fake fur fuzz, we returned home, where the sleepover is underway.


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Time, Time, Time

Todd is in Chicago for a few days this week, attending a trade show.  In theory, that should make things much easier, since his work travel generally takes him to Europe.  This trip is fewer days away, shorter travel time, little risk of jet lag, no worries about which cell phone carriers have service in which countries, no counting time zones to calculate "his" time.

In reality, it's all the same.  Kids miss him.  I miss him.  There's no one here to take the garbage cans up the driveway or get the dog to stop chasing his tail.

But, I've been thinking about the issue of time change today, and giggling.

There's a complicated story about today that I really don't care to explain, except to tell you Todd was doing some last-minute shopping this noon for something he really needed for this business trip.  Discussion with a store clerk centered on whether it would be better to purchase the item here in Minneapolis, or wait until he got to Chicago and visit the store there.  Phone calls went back and forth between the two retail stores, regarding selection and pricing and tax and all kinds of stuff.  Ultimately, though, it came down to Todd's short time frame.  (Isn't that always the case with Todd?!)  I warned that Todd would simply not have enough time, once he landed at O'Hare, to get to the downtown store and have the work done and the purchase complete before closing time.  One clerk chimed in about rush-hour traffic and a cab versus a train versus a car.  The other clerk said, "Yeah, and you have to remember what time it is going to be in Chicago."

OK, scientists, do you know where I'm going with this?  If not, click here.

Yep, it's the same time in Chicago as it is in Minneapolis.  Always.  And I can laugh at that, because I used to make the same mistake... and no one ever called me on it, either.

Years ago, when I was working in local television news, one of the many different hats I wore was Assignment Editor.  That is a job I did not much care for, nor was I really good at it.  But it had to be done, and the ladder had to be climbed.  The assignment editor (in large newsrooms, there are a bunch of them) has his or her finger on the pulse of what's going on for the day-- keeps lists and files of potential story ideas, events calendars, news tips, follow-ups, official contacts and responses, and more.

In addition to leading managers, producers, reporters and photojournalists in daily (sometimes hourly) news meetings, and then assigning reporters and photojournalists to cover various news stories, the assignment editor also keeps in regular contact with other affiliated news stations, to find out what they're covering for the day, and how the stations can work together to help each other gather more news.  On these daily conference calls with assignment editors in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami and elsewhere, much of the focus was on time-- what time an event was happening, how long the crew would stay, how much material could be gathered, how long it would take to edit, when it could be put up on a satellite for other stations' use.

I distinctly remember repeated exchanges with an assignment editor in Chicago that involved me saying "my time" and "your time," which, of course, it turned out was all the SAME time.  He must have thought, "How does this chick get the news on the air?  She can't even tell time."

I cannot really explain why I was so wrong, and was so certain in my wrong-ness.  I also don't remember how I finally figured out the right answer.  I think, in my mind, I was visualizing Illinois in the place of Michigan on a United States map.  I never was very good at geography or any of those social studies disciplines.  Boooring.

Because of my experience, I chose not to correct the man in the store.  And, I did not think to myself, "What an idiot."  Instead, I focused on the positive: "Nice tie."  (But I did wonder whether he was wearing a watch.)

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Learning Lore

These are actual things my children said about the first day of school.  (I'll let you decide which ones are factual.)

Benjamin: "My class is almost all boys.  There are only like four, five, six girls."

Amanda: "The boys in my class talk so much, they talk more than the girls.  Our teacher had to 'Shush' us, like, every five minutes."

Benjamin: "The music teacher had to make up names for us, because she has to get to know, like, 180 kids or something in our school.  Like, she called Charley 'Charley Chocolate.'"
Dad: "What did she call you?"
Benjamin: "Ben.  She already knows me."

Elisabeth: "I put my glasses on the minute I got to school and I kept them on until it was time to leave."

Benjamin: "Our new gym teacher is a man.  He's really fun."
Dad: "Is he young or old?"
Benjamin: "Young.  About as young as you."

Dad: "Did you like your new principal?  Is she nice?  Is she younger or older than Mommy?"
Benjamin: "Hmmm... older."
Mom: "No, she's younger than I am."
Benjamin: "Well, she acts older."

Benjamin: "I didn't play with anyone at recess. I just stood in the shade."

Amanda: "Math class was my favorite.  I really like my teacher.  Today we just looked over the book and then played this fun game, and then she told us we were not going to have any homework.  Most of the people in the class cheered, but my group is full of really hard workers and we said, 'Awwww!' But the teacher said not to worry because we are going to have LOTS of homework starting tomorrow!"

Benjamin: "All I ate for lunch was chocolate pudding."

Elisabeth: "All the cute boys in third grade are gigglers.  They had to be split up because all they do is giggle."

Benjamin: "This boy in my class has a 40-foot hammerhead shark at home for a pet."

Elisabeth: "It turns out Santa Claus wasn't actually our bus driver after all."

Benjamin: "(This one girl) is in my class in school, but I was hoping (her sister) would be in my class, because we're planning to get married, so that complicates things."

Elisabeth: "I'm glad my Bus Buddy (a kindergartner who lives two doors down) got picked up today, because, things were so messed up, she would have been really confused."
Mom: "That's why you are her Bus Buddy-- to help her and keep her calm."
Elisabeth: "Oh."

Benjamin: "Mom, can I be home-schooled?"

Monday, September 3, 2012

Last Day

Today was a wonderful Labor Day holiday. We were home. Just us. With no real plan other than to spend the day together. And that we did.

Now, the children are tucked into bed, ready to embark on a new school year tomorrow. It will be a year of growth and change, as they all are. The kids are excited and I am excited for them.  Tonight, I pray for our children and their classmates, especially our kindergartner, as well as for the little one who will not be going to school. I pray for their teachers, new principal, and all the adults who shape these kids' days.

Bless them all, and thank you for their glorious gifts!


Sunday, September 2, 2012

Which Words?

When I went off to college, I quickly learned to say "soda" instead of "pop," because my dorm mates from all over the country told me only people from Min-ee-SOH-tah said "pop."  To this day, my brain is still trained to say "soda," even though I'm back in Minnesota, likely for life.  But, I still am struck by different terms or pronunciations for the same words, based on region of the country, ethnicity, age, family tradition or cultural awareness.

This evening, I overheard my son say "criss-cross-applesauce" to describe the way he was sitting.  When I was growing up, the teachers said "cross-legged," because "Indian" had become decidedly un-politically-correct.  That got me thinking about "soda" versus "pop" debate; and, yes, I have traveled in parts of the southeast where they call it all "coke."  It turns out people study these things and put the results on this here Internet.  Huh.

What other variations do you know for words?

drinking fountain/water fountain/bubbler
duck, duck, gray duck/duck, duck, goose
pot holder/hot pad
rubber scraper/spatula/flipper (I know these are not the same, but the terms get used interchangeably.)

I know there are a lot more, but now I'm drawing a blank...

In college, I took a class in etymology, the study of word origins and the development of words.  You might think it was really interesting... but it really wasn't.