Friday, November 30, 2012

A Little More Surgery

My FIL who is my husband's stepfather, my kids' grandpa and the love of my MIL's life is in surgery this morning to repair a large hernia. It is not planned as a "big deal" and we expect him home later today. But please join us in praying and cheering him on. The love of friends is the best medicine!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Working in My Dreams

Recently, I have begun having dreams I am back working in television.  I am certain the reason is that a former colleague has been posting plentifully on Facebook for the past week, because she is sick and in need of prayer.  (So, please keep Sonya and her battle with the nasty Crohn's disease on your prayer list.)  She was in my most recent dream, working the job she still works, a similar job to the one I held in the years before I became a mother. 

Amusingly, my husband was also in the dream, also working as a newscast producer.  When we were both climbing in our careers, we used to discuss how different our jobs are.  I still occasionally give him jabs about what it must be like to have a job where "you just sit at your desk/work table/lab/operating room and think for months on end."  Yes, for good or for bad, being a line producer is a very different kind of work, because I always had to turn out a product every day-- the same product, of the same length, hopefully of good quality, by the exact deadline, every single day.  If my husband produced newscasts, he could probably only turn out one a year, or so, but I have no doubt it would be amazing (and severely right-leaning.)

The field of journalism is more of a lifestyle, and it's the kind of passion that never really fades.  I loved what I did.  Now, that doesn't mean I always loved the people I worked for... and I certainly did not love the demanding, inflexible, non-family-friendly schedule... but, it was what it was.  And, since I knew I could not be a good television journalist as well as a good wife and mother, I chose.

I know I chose wisely, and I have not looked back.  I do not regret for one second choosing motherhood over television.  But that doesn't mean I don't miss it.

Since our youngest child is three-and-a-half, I have begun thinking about what the future might hold for a potential career.  Sometimes, acquaintances who learn about my "past" ask, "Do you think you will ever go back to TV?"  I answer honestly, "No."  One reason is simply that technology and processes change on a daily basis, so, having not worked steadily for more than a decade makes me a dinosaur.  But I know I could learn and re-learn.  The more complete reason is that a career in television is not conducive to a healthy family life, and I will always have a family.

I guess, if something changed with my husband's work, that could open up the options for us... but that is unlikely.  It is certainly possible that I could do contract work in certain venues, or work as a freelancer for more local television, radio or newspaper outlets.  That's not the "big time" but it is employment and it is a way to write.

So, that gets me further down the road of possibilities, toward answering the real questions: How can I make money and write?  I am sure there are many ways to do this... but I do not seem to be very good at discerning the options for myself.  Someone should bring them to me.

Todd says I should write a book.  I do not really feel there is a book in me, which I imagine must be a prerequisite for writing a book.  Maybe a lot of short stories-- I have A LOT of short stories.  But I don't really know of anyone who made a lot of money writing short stories, even a lot of them.

Even if I did have a book inside of me, I am sure it would not be about kid wizards, and, if there's one thing I've learned, it's this: If you're going to write a book and make money from it, it should be about kid wizards.

Now is the time in this blog post when I am going to assign you homework:
1. Pray for Sonya and all who suffer from Crohn's disease.
2. Find me a job that involves both writing and making money.
3. Come up with an outline for my book, on some topic as hugely popular as kid wizards.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

What's Really Importanant

Madeline has this classic stall tactic at bedtime:  Moments after she is tucked in and the lights are turned out, she gets out of bed, walks across the hall and announces, "Mommy, I have something very importanant to tell you."  I tell her whatever it is can wait until morning, but she assures me it cannot.  Here are some of Maddy's "importanant" proclamations:

"What are we doing tomorrow?"
"I just want to say 'good night' to Jonesy."
"I need to go potty really, really bad."
"Benny is making noise with his feet and keeping me up all night."
"I need a drink really, really bad."
"What day do I have dance class?"
"I just had a bad dream."
"I just need to 'nuggle for one minute."

It's really annoying... and pretty darn cute.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Baked


I am not sure why this photo is so blurry... might be butter on the lens!
 
I spent the day with my siblings and my parents, mixing and stirring, melting and dipping-- and laughing, a lot-- as we baked Christmas cookies and made candies in our annual tradition.  At a meeting this evening, over a plate of fresh treats, a couple friends asked incredously why I would ever bake Christmas cookies without my children.  "What do you mean?" I asked.  "We purposely plan our baking day for a time when most of the children are in school.  Why would I bake WITH my children around?!" 
 
Their answer: tradition.
 
Well, if holiday baking with kids is a great tradition, then who celebrates the beloved tradition of scraping frosting off the backsplash?  Or, the age-old practice of throwing out burned cookies no one wants to eat?  What about the favored habit of wiping up colored sugar from the floor?
 
Here's a Christmas cookie tradition in which my children do get to participate: eating them.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

A Tree-mendous Day

Todd and the kids... and Grandpa... and Auntie... and the cousins... formed their annual Christmas Tree Club and headed out to the tree farm today in search of The Chosen One.  It was a particularly long and arduous task, but I am tired of needling my husband on this one, so I will leave it at that.  I stayed with my nephew Elias, who was a delight despite his snotty nose and stinky pants.  After my BIL got home from work and relieved me, I returned to my house to wait and wait with Jones.

Finally, the hunters and gatherers made it back and brought with them a beautiful bounty of boughs!  Jones had no idea what was happening-- did try to eat it, did not (yet) try to lift his leg on it.  The tree missed the ceiling by about 1/8 of an inch (not exaggerating) prompting my husband to declare, "See, I knew I cut off too much!"  After lots of twisting and turning, primping and getting poked, the tree was up. 

Next came the annual debate over white versus colored lights, which really isn't much of a debate because the Krinkeland patriarch, who has the job of putting on the lights, always flat-out refuses to consider the more colorful option.  But we did get that thing lit.  I am pretty sure we strung a record number of Christmas tree lights this year, prompting a run to the store for two more strings... and, then, another run to the store for two more strings.

Then, it was time for the ornaments.  The ornament-hanging duties fall to the woman and children.  So, I gave each kid a step stool and a box of pretty things, and I sat back to watch.  Sure, the ornaments are concentrated in clumps at certain heights.  Sure, some of them keep falling off the bottom of the tree.  Sure, we have so many ornaments you can hardly see the tree.  Sure, the dog tried to eat these, too.  But, hey, I always think a Christmas tree is a pretty accurate reflection of its owners.  In this case, it's an eclectic, aging, hand-me-down, junk-laden, stressed-out, hot mess...

But it looks pretty good in the dark.

When we finally all sat, cuddling on the couch and admiring our work, the older kids had a chance to show how they'd been coaching their baby sister:
"Madeline, what is Christmas really about?"
"God and Jesus."
"Yes, and where is Jesus?"
"In my heart."
(smug expressions all around)

I rightfully praised my little angels and we sat in silence for a few moments.  Then, Maddy broke the peace with an audible sigh: "This would be just perfect... if only we had some presents!"

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Being Thankful

Today and every day, here are some of the things for which I am thankful:

*my FIL's continued return to health
*my husband's job, and his dedication to it
*how much all my children love to hold their new cousin Eloise
*medical professionals who care for kids, especially those treating Lucia's broken foot
*my kids' school and everyone who works in it
*all the Birthright volunteers, particularly our Teen Ambassadors
*the sudden snow-- declared a "lizard" by Oliver-- that sent everyone outside to catch the huge flakes
*my nice care with its heated seats and satellite radio
*10 new family members in 10 years!





HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Health Happens

I have been thinking this "interesting twists" in my children's health... and how I deal with their "symptoms" and "treatment."  (I am putting a lot of things in "quotes" in this post because none of the "conditions" I'm discussing are at all serious or even very worrisome, but, still, they are on my mind.)  Specifically, I've been asking myself: Is it harder for me, as a mother, to handle the situation when my child is going through something I have also personally experienced; or, is it more difficult when a child has something I have never faced, and so I have no concept of it?

A few days ago, I took Amanda to see an asthma and allergy specialist.  She has had this chronic cough; plus, with basketball season again underway, she seems to be getting winded, occasionally it's significant enough for Amanda to take herself out of the game.  While Todd and I were on vacation, a couple of other people commented on her wheezing, so I took her in.

I was diagnosed with exercise-induced asthma when I was in college.  At the time, I was part of an ensemble cast in a musical theater production that involved very intense singing and dancing.  As rehearsals progressed, I was struggling more and more to catch my breath.  The combination of a label, an inhaler and self-awareness brought my symptoms under control almost immediately.  To this day, asthma is the perfect excuse for me to avoid exercise... and, as long as I remember to dig out my inhaler and take it with me on those super-cold days.

So, when the doctor took note of Amanda's symptoms, conducted a couple basic tests and said, "It sure sounds like exercise-induced asthma-- let's try an inhaler," I was less-than-shocked.

I mean, I don't want any of my children to be sick, or uncomfortable, or "suffering" in any way.  And, heck, Amanda tends to be my healthiest child.  I certainly would be happy if Amanda never had to bark that raspy cough or gasp for air or experience the drowning feeling of an asthma attack.  Then, there's the element of guilt-- this is a hereditary condition, so is it my fault Amanda has asthma?  Still, living under the same label has served me well.  I have to say I lead a pretty full life, exercise-induced asthma and all.

Contrast that with yesterday's scene at the dentist's office with Benjamin.  This appointment was a follow-up to the one he had earlier this fall.  Two months ago, Ben had to have extensive dental work, including a crown on a broken tooth.  What six-year-old needs a crown?!  As previously reviewed, the kids' pediatric dentist (along with another I've consulted) believes Ben has significant tooth decay resulting from the high-calorie diet we pushed in toddlerhood.  At the time, that seemed a small price to pay for putting weight on our "failure-to-thriving" son.  Now, however, it feels like a nightmare.

This week's visit was to finish up the work that could not all be completed on Ben's little mouth during the previous appointment.  The dentist had already done the major work; this was just to be "two quick fillings."  When my tear-stained son was returned to me thirty minutes later, the dental assistant explained that one of the fillings was simple, but, in the other tooth, the decay went all re'the way into the nerve, so Ben had to have an "unexpected, mini-root canal."  WHAT?!?!

This kind of news makes my head spin.  I really have a hard time wrapping my brain around the dental work.  I, myself, have "good teeth."  Sure, they were crooked and buck and required braces, but I have maybe three cavities in my whole face... and I'm not even religious about flossing.  I have never (knock on wood) needed a crown, much less a root canal.

I hate that my son has to be in pain and look forward to more likely dental issues.  I hate that I can't really tell him what to expect or how to respond.  I don't like not knowing.  Am I frustrated that Ben did not inherit my good teeth?  Am I mad or embarrassed that maybe he did have good teeth but we deliberately wrecked them by opting for the steady stream of Pediasure?

Of course, ask any parent worth her weight in jelly beans and she or he will tell you, "I would gladly go through this (fill in the trial) so my child would not have to."  We will also always say we are doing the best we can, where we are, with what we have.  And, then, I guess, we hope and pray that is enough.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Sleeping at School

The four biggest kids in Krinkeland are out of the house this night, and on an adventure.  Amanda, Elisabeth and Benjamin are attending an all-school sleepover, the students' reward for making their fall fundraising goal.  Since Ben is only in kindergarten, he needed a chaperone to stay with him.  I told him he was out of luck-- unless he could get his dad to agree.  The boy clearly has a future in politics, or used car sales... as it is just Madeline, Jones and I tucked into bed here at home.

The phrase "all-school sleepover" carries about as much appeal for me as "relatives moving in" or "annual exam."  When I asked a teacher friend on the fundraising committee why on Earth they would offer such a prize, she said, "Because the children love it."  See why I didn't become a teacher?  See why my kids are in the best school ever?

Maddy and I went up to school for a bit, to get all the kids and their gear settled.  While there, I tried to walk around the building and snap some photos for the school yearbook.  It's not only that the kids get to stay at school all night-- there are all kinds of fun activities planned: crafts, crazy hair styles, nail painting, board and card games, movies, snacks, face painting, karaoke, gym games, more snacks, stories, tie-dyed t-shirts, still more snacks.  While wandering the halls, I tempted the children with my own suggestions:
"I think a good prize would have been more Math Facts."
"Have you taken your turn in the Rosary Room?"
"I wouldn't spread out your sleeping bag so close to that poison ivy."
"Quit playing that video game and write a thank-you letter to your parents-- they donated all that money so you could come here tonight."
"Hmmm... no one took me up on my suggestion for a scapular-making activity."
"Hey, who wants to come home with me and fold laundry?"
"No, we're waiting for next week's sleepover-- Didn't you hear?  It's going to be two nights."
"Wait a minute-- why isn't the priest here?!"

Monday, November 19, 2012

Kindergarten Celebration


I had the opportunity to volunteer in Benjamin's kindergarten classroom this morning.  While I am very involved in our church and school, being a part of the school day is rare for me because I always have at least one more little one at home.  But, for one-time events like today's Native American celebration, I ship the shorty off to Grandma's and go to school.
 
I could not do it every day, and I think all good teachers-- especially my kids' teachers, especially kindergarten teachers-- are uniquely gifted, blessed and deserving of admiration.  It was really fun to be there today, though, to be a part of the excitement and to get a chance to interact with all of Ben's classmates.  I was leading a game of chance that involved pattern identification with a little bit of addition.
 
The best part was having the opportunity to talk with each and every kindergartner, to call them by name and to ask them questions.  And, boy, did they have a lot to tell me:
 
"Wow, I think God wants me to win this game!"
"Why would God want me to lose?!"
"I know what you're gonna say: 'It's just a game.'"
"Do you want to know my whole, long name?"
"Next thing, we are going fishing-- but not real fishing."
"Can I may sharpen this pencil?"
"My mom is helping today because she is an expert at corn."

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Why I Love This Kid

One of the greatest things about being a parent of a three-year-old is being able to see the world through such young eyes.  Everything is exciting to her-- even (especially) the car wash.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Give It a Twirl


Today I took Amanda and Elisabeth to see their first ballet.  It is something I've been wanting to do ever sing Libby started taking dance lessons, and especially since I've been learning more about the importance of ballet technique as a foundation for all forms of dance.  Through a local program, I ended up getting free tickets to a regional performance of "The Nutcracker," so, this was it!
 
Our family ended up with a totally overbooked Saturday-- something that happens more and more the older the children get, as well as the closer we get to the holidays.  So, while I had planned on our whole family attending the matinee together, it ended up that I took the two older girls, as well as the two daughters of some family friends.  We made our way into the theater and found our seats, and I read to the girls the plot outline, so they would have some idea what to expect.  They listened and commented appropriately, but I still had the sense they did not grasp what they were about to see.
I then explained, "This is like a play because it tells a story, but there is no dialogue and no singing-- only dancing."  That shut everybody up. 

Considering age and lack of experience and the distracting spectacle of being there, I think all the children did really well.  They were twitchy, but stayed in their seats (and the first act did run really long.)  I repeatedly answered the question, "What's happening now?"  But each time it was whispered, and each time it came from a different child.  At intermission, I asked if anyone wanted to leave, but no one did.
Personally, I find ballet pretty boring.  I admire the form and the movement, as well as the costumes and backdrops, but I usually end up just staring at the ballerinas' feet-- dancing en pointe is truly an amazing art.  But I love to expose my children to something new, especially in the arts.  I love that they can go into school on Monday and say over the weekend they "went to the ballet."
 
Maybe some day we will be going to watch Libby dance in the ballet... and, yes, I will be careful what I wish for.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Hostess Hubbub

I am really kind of surprised about all the hullabaloo surrounding the Hostess shutdown.  I mean, I like junk food as much as the next guy, but I can't remember the last time I had a Twinkie, and I sure have never bought them for my kids.  Whatever.  Not life-changing for me or mine.  Now, if Diet Mountain Dew went out of business...

Still, all the chatter today on Facebook has been amusing.  Here is my favorite picture:


And, here is my favorite comment:
"Another company will likely buy the rights to produce them. I'm all for healthy food, but really, Twinkies are going to be key during the Zombie Apocalypse."

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Butter Rum Cake with Praline Crunch

As I state regularly, I am not much of a baker.  I'm not good at it, and I don't like to do it, so I never get any better, either.  You just have to have so many ingredients on hand, and you have to make precise measurements, and you have to time things.  Forget it.  Cooking is so much better.  Throw some stuff in a pot, taste, throw in more stuff until it tastes good. 

On our annual Christmas cookie baking day-- which is right around the corner, by the way-- I am the designated dishwasher.  And that is all right with me.

However, we had new neighbors move in to the house next door while Todd and I were on vacation, and my rudeness has been nagging at me, since I have not popped over to say, "Hello."  (I crack myself up, imagining I am the kind of woman who could/would "pop over to say, 'Hello!'")  But, I did need to find out if we are living 30 feet from pedophiles or puppy killers, and I figured I'd better take something with me as a welcome gift.

When the last neighbors moved in, I was out-to-here pregnant with Madeline, so I think they got Costco cookies on my initial pop-over visit.  This time, there was no excuse-- a nice, cool day, supper already ready to go in the oven, one kid napping, three kids in school.  So, I decided to bake a cake for the new neighbors.

Even a non-baker like myself has a few go-to recipes, things I can throw together when necessary, without risk to taste buds or overall well-being: apple crisp, box-mix brownies, Mrs. Smith's pies.  I have a couple favorite cake recipes of my MIL's.  They are really jazzed-up cake mixes, but they taste good and they definitely are more than just a box mix.  I decided to make the neighbors a rum cake.  I've seen some teenagers around the joint, so I figured maybe they could get a buzz off the glaze.

CONNIE'S RUM CAKE
1 super-moist yellow cake mix
1 box vanilla instant pudding
1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup rum
1/2 cup cold water
4 eggs
3/4 cup chopped pecans

Glaze:
4 Tbsp. butter
1/2 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 oz. rum

Beat together the first six ingredients for two minutes.  Grease and flour a bundt pan, sprinkle pecans in pan, and pour mixture over pecans.  Bake one hour at 350 degrees.

For glaze, mix first three ingredients.  Bring to a boil, and add rum.

After cake is baked, remove from oven (can you tell she wrote this just for me?)  Poke holes with a fork on top of the cake; drizzle glaze over top of cake.  Remove cake from pan while still warm.

I made a few changes to the recipe this time: The vanilla pudding was too far down in the box stack, so I decided to use butterscotch.  And, I couldn't find the chopped pecans, so I substituted praline crunch ice cream topping.

Also, I was all out of that baking spray that has the flour built-in.  I used regular cooking spray and thought about getting out the actual flour canister, but ultimately decided against it.  That was a bit of a mistake.

After the cake was baked, I flipped the pan onto the platter... but it did not come out.  After some unusual machinations (better left undescribed) I did get the cake out of the pan, no worse for the wear.  But, after all that hard labor, I was really wondering if my altered creation was any good.

So, I decided to cut myself a slice.

It was excellent!  I highly recommend Andrea's Butter Rum Cake with Praline Crunch.  It took some creative slicing and arranging to make the cake appear untouched for the new neighbors.  When I went next door, it took forever for a teenaged girl to come to the door.  Another teenaged girl lurked in the shadows but never emerged.  I'm pretty sure they were already drunk.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Rollin'

This is the week for parent-teacher conferences.  With our oldest child in fifth grade and three kids now attending the school, this has become a familiar routine, and the teachers are familiar with us.

Todd and I went from classroom to classroom, reviewing report cards and projects, asking and answering questions.  Many of the themes we heard were repeated from teacher to teacher, child to child.  And these were good things: "very bright," "eager, enthusiastic and helpful," "good friend."

The classroom teachers for two of our children shared similar stories about the kids showing a little bit of attitude when it came to things they did not want to do: They roll their eyes.  These examples were conveyed to us in the same lighthearted manner, with smiles and chuckles, and not too much time spent discussing this "issue."  In each instance, it was obvious the teacher did not want to upset or worry us about our child's behavior; at the time, we commiserated ("That's just like at home!) and moved on.  Later, a specialist or two also casually mentioned the eye-rolling.  Again, with a shrug and a little laugh, the concern was diminished.

On the way home, I started to steam a bit.  I was the mother of Kids with Attitude, and I did not like it.  Sure, we might witness some of that sauciness and obstinacy at home.  The sign above the door should read, "Krinkeland: Home of the Strong-Willed Child."  Naturally, I want my children to be well behaved at all times, in all settings, under all circumstances.  But, I probably do give more leeway at home.  I mean, who isn't going to whine about putting away laundry?  Plus, they're my kids, and no one is paying me to teach them things, so they're easier for me to ignore.

It is important to me that my children are respectful and courteous to everyone with whom we share the planet.  Respect toward adults is particularly important.  We have one friend who insists the children call her by her first name-- I still bristle.  In so many instances in daily life, I coach my children: "You don't have to like it, but you do have to be polite."  So this eye-rolling thing is not OK.

Back at the ranch, I lined up on the couch the three school-aged children.  Now, only two had been accused of being eye-rollers; as for the third, no teacher had mentioned anything, but I do occasionally see it at home, so I decided to lump together the lecture for all.

"You know we just came back from conferences with your teachers.  I have your report cards here, and we will look at them in a minute.  You have all earned very good grades and your teachers had complimentary things to say about you.  Dad and I are proud of you, and you should be proud of yourselves.  BUT, there is one thing I want to discuss: Some of your teachers told us that when you are asked to do something you don't want to do, you sometimes roll your eyes at them.  That is rude and disrespectful and completely unacceptable behavior."

The room erupted.

From the two accused eye-rollers:
"WHAT?!  I would NEVER roll my eyes!"
"I didn't do that."
"The teacher is lying!  I do not roll my eyes!"
"I don't even KNOW HOW to roll my eyes!"

From the other one:
(dropped jaw, fixed pupils, gray pallor, soft voice)
"Are you sure my teacher said that about me?  I know how bad that is, and I really don't think it is something I would ever do."

I just lifted my eyebrows and shrugged.  There was no going back now.

I reminded that child that wherever one is-- out in the world, at school, at home-- it is always important to treat adults with honor and respect.  That child swallowed visibly and nodded gravely.

The other two just rolled their eyes.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

After All These Years



Children of the '80s as we are, Todd and I both love the band Journey. My younger siblings are relentless in their ridicule of the way Todd "cranks" the Greatest Hits when we are out on the boat-- every time we are out on the boat. And his close friends, the same ones he's had since high school, know it doesn't take many drinks for Todd to wander over to the piano and pound out a classic tune or two. It's part of his charm.

Still, somehow, somehow, I'd never heard this much more recent Journey tune until today. I was listening to a light rock station (love that Sirius XM radio) when it came on... and it got me thinking, about a cover band playing this song at the party for Todd's and my fiftieth wedding anniversary. We will have our "first dance" while our children and grandchildren hang their heads in embarrassment.

A faded wedding photograph
You and me in our first dance
Our eyes are closed
We're lost in one sweet embrace
Since those days the world has changed
Our love remains the same
God knows we've had our share of saving grace

And I'm proud of all the blessings
You have given me
The mountains we have climbed to get this far
You learn to take the laughter with the tears
After all these years

You make it feel brand new
After the fires that we walked thru
Against the odds we never lost our faith
In a house we've made our own
Where our children all have grown
Precious moments time can not erase

Make a livin' up and down the gypsy highway
Seasons that we've beared to share apart
Somehow in my heart I always keep you near
After all these years

After all these years
You stood by me
The days and nights that I was gone
After all these years
You sacrificed, believed in me
And you stood strong
Cause with our love there's nothing left to fear
After all these years

After all these years
You stood by me
The days and nights that I was gone
After all these years
You sacrificed, believed in me
And you stood strong
Cause with our love there's nothing left to fear
After all these years

Monday, November 12, 2012

Bragging Rights, Or Not

I acknowledge a blog is a public declaration of personal thoughts and information.  As I have stated on many previous occasions, I do think about my words before I send them into cyberspace, choosing what to share and what not to share.  Things get a little hinky, however, where my life overlaps with the lives of others.  Take, for example, the recent birth of my niece-- the births of all my nieces and nephews, for that matter.  I want to publish that information as it relates to ME, as in, "Look at this baby!  She is the MOST INCREDIBLE and that makes me the World's Luckiest Auntie!"

Case in point:
See what I mean?

Still, I recognize and try to honor the fact that, in that example, maybe her parents do not want ME to broadcast the birth announcement.  Or, at least, maybe they want me to wait until they've told the people they want to tell, in the way they want to tell.  I may be busting at the seams with pride, but I do get it.

No one scolded me or anything, and, when it comes to new babies at least, I think my siblings have pretty much given up the hold on their privacy, because I just can't keep the adorability (totally a word) of these children to myself!

Just a sampling:
 
 

 
Who could honestly blame me?!
 
I totally got off on a tangent there, bragging about my extended family's remarkable gene pool, but, now that you've seen the evidence, I am sure you understand.  At the moment, my point is this: Every day I have all kinds of prayer requests, needs and wants of others on my heart, and I want to share them with you because I know you pray, too.  But it is not always my business to share the "stuff" of other people, so, I ask instead, that you please send tender thoughts to all those who are feeling overwhelmed, who are sad, who have health concerns, who are suffering loss, who are brimming with thanksgiving.
 
Amen.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

What I Learned in Cabo

We are home now and back to reality... and laundry.  It was a lovely, relaxing week on vacation for Todd and I, and we know fully, at the same time, it must have been a chaotic week here at home.  Our deepest thanks to all the family who stayed with our childen (and our annoying puppy) throughout the week.  Our kids had a great time, and we knew they were in good hands... but the time you gave to Todd and me was a greater gift than I can even describe.

As with any adventure, the return trip offers time for reflection.  Here are some of the valuable lessons I take away from the week in Cabo San Lucas:

The first class section of the airplane has an open bar, hot towels and many rounds of food; but it also has small children and serial coughers.

There are few delights greater than unexpectedly running into relatives, friends, friends of friends, or just other visitors from your home state.

Many women wear string bikinis; a few even look good.

Seeing Mommy and Daddy on Skype sometimes makes kids cry.

2-for-1 drink specials at the swim-up bar=unplanned naps in the sun=sunburned cheeks

Any trip with Todd must include at least one visit to the movie theater.

When you go to bed at a decent time and sleep all night, it's actually fun to wake up and get going at an early hour.

"Get going" can actually mean putting on a bathing suit, walking out to the pool, laying out on a lounge chair and cracking a book.

It's really unnecessary to pack many clothes when you're just going to lay around all day in a bathing suit, anyway.

Speed limit signs really offer only vague suggestions.

Watching for whales swimming in the sea or crabs scampering across the rocks is actually enthralling entertainment.

It is impossible to hear the phrase, "Hey, honeymooners, come look at my junk" and not grin-- and one cannot be sure whether it's the "honeymooners" or "look at my junk" that does it.

Seeing children selling gum (and much harder substances) and begging on the streets is completely intolerable to a mother.

Regardless of the bountiful sunshine, the breathtaking vistas or the luxurious accommodations, my husband would still opt for a vacation that was "less Mexican."

Without the stresses of caring for four children and a dog, cooking, laundry, shuttling kids to activities, bedtimes and wake-up times, volunteer commitments, other chores, repair projects, and endless to-do lists, I can be a really delightful wife.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Returning

Tomorrow, Todd and I will pack up from Cabo San Lucas and head for home.  It has been a lovely, relaxing week, filled with lazy days in the sunshine and laid-back dinners at night.  We've caught up on sleep and conversation, and have done all those cliche things like take long walks on the beach.  If we did not miss our children so much-- and, if we didn't have a new niece waiting to be squeezed-- we could stay a whole lot longer.  No arm-twisting required.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Eloise

I think it is safe to spread the word by now: I am an aunt!  Again!  We have a new niece!

Eloise Jacalyn was born late in the evening on Monday, November 5, which happens to be Ted's and Kristin's wedding anniversary.  She was 8 pounds 11 ounces and 21 inches long.  Since I am here in Mexico, we have not yet been properly introduced, but I did get a good, long look at Eloise via Skype, and she is luscious.  I cannot wait to munch on her cheeks.
This is the whole fam.  What could Big Sister Lucia be thinking?!  I cannot wait to get home and squeeze them all!  Congratulations to the family of four!

Family Dinner

Todd and I had dinner this evening with my Uncle Jeff and Aunt Evie.  Yep, here in Cabo.  Nope, they don't live here, either.  And, nope, this is not something we planned.

I posted a line or two on Facebook at the start of our vacation.  Soon after, my uncle, who I learned is a Facebook "lurker," commented that he and his wife also just happened to be on vacation here!  It was just such an odd coincidence: a somewhat unusual time of year to travel here, the fact that we live halfway across the country from each other, the reality that we never would have known about the other except for Facebook.  Naturally, we made plans to meet up.
This is a photo of me and Jeff earlier.  We didn't really take any tonight... too busy talking, I guess.

We had the loveliest time at dinner tonight.  They are well into their second week in San Jose del Cabo, and Aunt Evie visits here somewhat regularly on girlfriend trips, so they knew all the good spots to go.  They took us to an Italian restaurant called La Dolce.  Everything we ordered was excellent.

Everything about the evening-- excepting the mariachis and the flower seller, which I could do without-- was excellent.  I enjoy spending time with my uncle, with any of my parents' siblings, really.  They've always been good to me.  Jeff, in particular, is open with affection and support-- and we were both just so thrilled to make this happenstance connection.

We enjoyed hearing about their children-- my cousins-- who are young adults, already.  Of course, we also talked about our children; we asked about how things worked for them, raising their kids, and we took their advice.  Plus, we have that lifelong family connection, where I can ask Jeff about his upbringing, and actually know all the people he mentions; my dad is one of his older brothers.

It was a good night.  A highlight of the trip.  And a reminder to keep secure those family ties.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Beachfront Politics

It's really amusing how priorities and perspectives change with age.  Todd and I booked this trip back in January-February.  In scheduling it, we knew we wanted to get through a busy summer on the lake, we knew we needed to get a few weeks into the school year so the kids' schedules would be set, we thought it would be nice to get away sometime around our anniversary, but we didn't want to miss all the kids' fall activities-- in particular, Halloween.  So, the first week in November it was; with a click of the mouse, the vacation was set.

Later, my sister-in-law and brother announced a pregnancy, with a due date falling right during our vacation.  Since the trip was already a done deal, I begged her to keep her legs crossed until our return.  No dice.  Baby made her debut last night; I met the baby this morning via Skype.  But more on that in a subsequent post.

It was months before Todd and I realized we were going to be out of the country on Election Day.  This is a big deal, and so, so odd for us.  Todd is a total political junkie-- I mean, junkie.  He listens to talk radio, he follows FOX News, he reads the opinion pages, and he rants and raves at every turn, all year long.  I, on the other hand, used to work in television news.  Election Night is like Christmas and and Independence Day and Superbowl Sunday and Black Friday all rolled into one.  Everyone works on Election Night in TV news.  For a number of years, even after I had children and was "retired," I was called back to work the election coverage.  It's that big of a deal.

So, I really had to wonder where our minds had gone when I began putting together all these pieces.  I kind of laughed at us, thinking we must be getting old and complacent.  We cast our absentee ballots before we left, and we have heard lots of discussion around the resort on that topic.  But, now, the day is here, and our true colors are shining: Todd spent the entire day at the swim-up bar, where he lobbied the bartender to keep the television on FOX News.  I have the laptop here, ready to surf the results, from local to national.

We are who we are, wherever we are.  Did you vote?  There's still time.  God bless America.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Where Would You Go in Cabo?

Human beings are creatures of habit-- some more than others, but, we all are.

As much as I would love to say I have a passion for travel, that is not exactly true.  I absolutely am excited about seeing new places, meeting new people, experiencing new things.  But I really struggle with the unknowns of travel:
*What if we don't make our connecting flight?
*What if the resort we chose is awful?
*What if I eat something that makes me sick?
*What if someone gets hurt?
*How can I make them understand me without looking like an idiot?
*How stupid is it to rent a car in Mexico?
*Do I care about being the only girl in a one-piece bathing suit?
*What kind of tab are we racking up at this swim-up bar, anyway?

Suffice it to say, if I had to travel by myself, I WOULD NOT.  I just wouldn't.

Thankfully, God gave me a partner who is much more adventurous and self-assured in most areas.  He stopped today to ask for directions, while I put my head down in the rental car; he came back and said, "Well, the guy didn't speak English, so I really wish you had been there to translate.  The only word I understood was 'Tropicana.'  But here is the map he drew."  Todd will argue with the car rental agent or ask the waiter three times, "Which drinks are two-for-one?"  I just tag along, and it works.

Still, even a seeker like Todd has his limits.  Saturday evening, we had slept, well, not at all, and were beyond hungry, but didn't really know where we were or what we wanted.  We got in the rental car and drove from our resort toward Cabo San Lucas.  The signs on the highway said 90 km/hr, but most of the cars were going 130, at least.  The road was hilly and windy and really dark.  There were huge potholes and cliff drop-offs.  By the time we finally got to the edge of the town (more like a city,) Todd and I were both feeling apprehensive.  We began making a lot of turns that did not seem to take us anywhere... and we giggled at what we saw.  Here we are, at the southern tip of the Baja Peninsula, on a dark, dusty route, and we come over a hill to:  Costco.

Of course, we went.
It was the same Costco as anywhere... sure, the packaging was in Spanish and the prices in pesos, and Todd and I were the tallest, palest people in the building, but it was Costco.  Right down to the snack bar where we shared a chicken bake and some Coke Light.


We thought the kids would get a kick out of the price sign... Rice Krispie treats seem outrageously expensive, until you do the pesos to dollars conversion.

Once we got that out of our system, we drove back to the resort and vowed to be more "authentic" in the morning.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Mommy's Week Off

Todd and I are officially on vacation in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.  Well, actually, I think our resort is in San Jose del Cabo... I keep getting confused, and there is a funny story about that, but I will save it for another day.  Today, all you need to know is we are gone for the WHOLE WEEK, which is a BIG DEAL for ME.
 
Now that we are here and settling in and beginning to relax, I know it will be wonderful, but I miss the children a LOT, and it was EXTREMELY DIFFICULT to leave them.  (Are you getting my EMPHASIS through the use of CAPITAL LETTERS?)  Last night, as we were packing up to leave, they all had their individual versions of meltdowns.  One child cried and cried and threatened to "just never let go" of our hug.  Another gave me every fear and concern and possibility of a problem, vowing to not sleep until we returned, and letting me know-- in no uncertain terms-- that I would not soon be forgiven for this clear act of abandonment.
 
I know the children are in good hands.  I know the children will be well cared for.  I know the children will have fun in our absence.  I am not worried about something happening while I am gone; surely, something will happen-- with four kids, it's pretty much inevitable.  What I AM worried about is something happening while I am gone.  It's not that the sickness or injury or other as yet un-conjured problem would occur; it's that it would happen to one or all of my children and MOMMY WOULD NOT BE THERE FOR THEM.
 
Motherhood is not the kind of job that comes with two weeks' annual vacation (or even one.)  There is a reason why mothers do not punch time clocks or take holidays.  Mommy=always.  It was hard to leave because I did feel like I was abandoning my children, turning my back on my duties, walking off the job.  And, it didn't help that most of my children said things to make me feel that way...  However, the one who gave the others the pep talk-- the one who said, "C'mon on, guys.  Mom and Dad deserve this.  They need to rest and get rid of their stress.  Don't you want them to have fun, too?"  That child may be the one I worry about the most.  Brave face and big helper, but she's still my baby, too.
 
So, you don't need to send along the jabs about "what kind of mother am I?" because I have clearly already taken them.  You also don't need to prop me up that "you deserve this" and "mommies and daddies need to make time for each other first" because no one deserves a vacation and, yet, I know how important it is to place focus and value on my relationship with the father of my children.  We are blessed to have the financial resources to be able to do this.  I am honored that my husband values me enough, too, to make it happen.  We have had love bestowed upon us in great measure by all the family members who have stepped up to care for our babies while we are gone.
 
That means it's time for me to get off the Internet and make the most of this! 
Todd enjoying a check-in margarita, or three. 
Aren't we nerds, still walking around in our jeans and tie shoes?!
Some of the resort pools, overlooking the Sea of Cortez.


The view up the beach, around the bay.

 
They set up for a wedding on the beach.  Todd and I watched from our balcony, and then walked down to get a closer look.  We lounged in chaises and held hands while the couple recited their vows... and then we fell asleep.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Listy, Listful, Delistous

I am busy making lists.  Usually, I like making lists... it's helpful, soothing even.  But these are lists for the family members who will be taking care of our children... and our dog... and our home... when Todd and I go on vacation in TWO DAYS.  So, these lists are making me crazed.  That's all for now-- back to being crazed.

p.s. I have no qualms about telling you we are going on vacation, because I am not worried you will break in here and take all our good stuff; here's why: (1) our stuff isn't that good; (2) many of you do not know where we live, anyway; and (3) Grandma will be here at the house, and I have no doubt she could TAKE YOU OUT.  DO NOT THREATEN THE GRANDCHILDREN!