Thursday, February 28, 2013

Happy Talking

I know I say this all the time, but three- and four-year-olds are my favorites! My littlest kiddo is aware of and involved in the world around her. She is (for the most part) able to communicate her needs and desires. She is starting to understand the reasons behind things and sometimes even follows directions. She plays alone or with others and she is quick to offer bountiful affection.

She also talks ALL THE TIME. Here are some actual examples of out-of-the-blue, completely unprovoked statements by my three-ear-old, all uttered just today-- really, I took notes:

"When I grow up, I'm gonna have a baby in my tummy, because I'm gonna be a mommy, because I'm a girl. And Eli (cousin) can be a daddy, because he's a boy. Boys have wieners and girls have vaginas. I LOVE vaginas! And I love meatballs and noodles!"

"I picked this family when I was in heaven. I said, 'These peoples look like they have lots of fun!'"

"I love dogs! I love kissing! I love kisses from my dog!"

"I don't really like to read the books at school. I'm going to bring my own books. I can read those better."

"I want to fly a helicopter. I think I can drive a helicopter. Mom, do you push a pedal to make a helicopter stop?"

"Dad is my favorite. All the time. That guy just cracks me up!"

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

A Positive Spin


These signs are hanging all over my kids' school as a reminder of their Lenten observances. Nice, huh? Not my idea, but I wish I'd had it.

Coincidentally, I have been thinking a lot lately about the great similarity between COMPLAINT and COMPLIMENT. They are nearly the same word... But require very different decisions and bring ultimately opposing results. Choose wisely, Grasshopper.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Pre-Preschooler

We took Madeline this evening to the preschool open house at the kids' school. She was so excited to finally have her turn to GO TO SCHOOL! It's no surprise that Mommy is not ready to send her, and I am relieved the first day of preschool is more than six months off. I am not sorry I did not send her to preschool this year, which I could have done... But I did feel a little bit guilty, just seeing how much fun she was having in the classroom. A few parents and teachers who know our family did comment they could not believe Madeline was already old enough to go to preschool, so that made me feel a little better.

It also felt good that Maddy's siblings were excited to attend the open house with her. I wanted it to be a special event just for her, but I was glad they wanted to show her around and show her off. I am pretty sure she will have no trouble setting foot in a classroom come fall. Here is Madeline's review of the preschool preview:

"It was weally fun dere. And dey have a sand box dere. And dey have two kitchens dere. And dey have Pway-Doh. And I am going to have so much friends! And dere is a weally tute animal which is a pet which is in a cage and he runs aroun' on a wheel all the time!"

Why We Care

Last week, our pastor gave a homily to the kids at school mass focusing on the Gospel passage where Christ explains why we must all feed the hungry, clothe the naked, care for the sick. He illustrated this by placing a picture of Jesus on the torso of a young girl, reminding everyone to think of the Lord in how we treat one another. It is powerful, effective, and simple to bring up again and again while correcting my children.

Today, a friend sent me the following column because it reminded her of her son's life, and the life she had for too short a time, caring for him:

Tim Carney: An awful loss, a beautiful life, a daunting task
(from the Washington Examiner 2-24-13)

Nothing can prepare you for seeing your one-year-old nephew in a casket. Nothing can take away his parents' agony. And nobody could have expected how much good work this helpless baby would do in 14 months.

John Paul Kilner was born with an advanced case of spinal muscular atrophy. Nearly paralyzed at birth, his body deteriorated further as he grew.

My sister-in-law Elena and her husband Pat brought JP home as soon as possible, and began the 24-hour a day job of keeping him alive. Someone was always at JP's side, monitoring blood-oxygen levels, suctioning mucus through his tracheostomy tube.

If Elena's younger sister Suzanne (now a nurse) or a hired nurse named Donnisse weren't on duty, either Pat or Elena did without sleep.

Daily saving the life of an immobile kid with a fatal disease raises some fundamental questions. What is the point of such a life? Which raises the prior question: What is the purpose of any life?

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Pat and Elena are devout Catholics from strong families, but their answer to this question can't be set aside as some teaching in the Catechism. It's a truth written on the human heart.

Jesus said that the two greatest commandments are to love God and love your neighbor. This is our purpose. This view is not uniquely Christian. It's understood in other religions and in secular worldviews.

In this regard, John Paul lived a superior life. He exuded love. Before he lost control of his facial muscles, he beamed smiles that made grown men sob. Babies can love those around him with the pure, unconditional love we all should show.

Also, JP drew love from others. Neighbors, relatives and strangers cooked meals and gave time, equipment and money to help the Kilners. JP's brothers and sister showered him with affection. And Pat and Elena sacrificed immensely to care for him.

Before the wake at St. Patrick's in Rockville, during an observance called Stations of the Cross, we read a Gospel passage in which Christ explains our duty to feed the hungry, clothe the naked and visit the sick.

"Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine," the Lord says in this passage, "you did for me."

Clearly a call to charity, this is also an exaltation of parenthood. Even moreso, this exalts the work of caring for helpless JP.

Tribulations both reveal character and form it. JP's struggles revealed his parents' heroic virtue and fostered virtue in others.

Pat and Elena saw John Paul as a blessing, and they generously shared that blessing with the world. They took him wherever they could, in a chair rigged with a ventilator and an IV. Elena shared wider, by penning hopeful, contemplative letters to John Paul every few weeks, which she posted on a blog.

One friend of mine, who never met the Kilners, read the "Letters to John Paul" blog. She wrote me, "John Paul's story made me want to be a better person."

John Paul continued shaping souls even in dying. A priest at St. Patrick's took confessions during and after the wake. He commented afterwards that he heard some of the more honest, searching and contrite confessions he's ever heard.

More than 500 people attended the beautiful funeral. One non-Catholic mourner was moved so much by the Mass she told Pat, "Now I understand why you're Catholic."

John Paul, who never spoke a word in his life, was the greatest evangelist of love, faith, virtue and hope I have ever met.

I don't think Pat and Elena foresaw all this as they sacrificed and toiled for JP. They just did what was right, understanding the "incomparable worth of the human person," in the words of JP's namesake, Pope John Paul II.

Father Drew Royals, Pat's high school friend, gave the homily. He said to Pat and Elena, "You saw so clearly that John Paul's life possessed a dignity that was radically equal to that of everybody else. His medical condition was simply the battlefield upon which this young warrior-prince would carry out his campaign."

At the funeral Mass, we mourned a calamity. The pain of JP's death pierces the heart, again and again.

Also, we thanked God we were blessed with John Paul for 442 days. Fr. Drew reminded us that "this blessing carries with it a great responsibility."

"If our love for this little one has enlarged our hearts," Fr. Drew said, "then that means that now we must love all the more. Your work is not done."

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Living a Bad Sitcom

While riding in the car this evening, one child called out, "Uh-oh, Mom, my nose is bleeding!" I bent to find my purse, as the other children yelled, "Hurry! There's blood everywhere!" And, "Yuck, the blood is dripping on the dog!" OF COURSE, the nearly always present packet of Kleenex was nowhere to be found in my purse... nor was the one in my tote bag. I rummaged around one more time, as the shrieks from the backseat escalated, and I had a moment of genius-- or panic. Without another thought, I unwrapped a maxi pad and handed it back. The kid pressed it to the leak. It worked amazingly well. And no one ever said a word.

But they're going to write a book about me someday. I think I pretty much sealed that fate.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Pray Some More

"I have been driven many times to my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had absolutely no other place to go."
--Abraham Lincoln

Well, it's gotten so I dread opening the newsletter from school administrators, as, literally, every week, there are new or renewed prayers for the ill and hurting in our faith community. Since we've already established prayer works, I am passing along requests from my prayer list to you:

*for Evelyn, born Feb. 15
*for Wade, continuing to battle a recurrence of soft tissue sarcoma, with strength and grace
*for Janelle, battling breast cancer *for Teri, battling ovarian cancer
*for my FIL, recovering from a dangerous sodium imbalance
*for Mrs. F., battling ovarian cancer
*for Ms. S., Amanda's teacher, recovering from knee replacement surgery
*for Brody, with pneumonia and respiratory problems
*for the FIL of Mrs. S., hospitalized with a fluid buildup following open heart surgery
*for Teigan and his family, awaiting the results of a developmental screening
*for bullies and their victims

"Praying in faith is not an inner conviction that God will act according to our desires if only we believe hard enough. It involves believing that God will always respond to our prayers in accord with his nature, his purposes, and his promises."
--Alvin VanderGriend

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Whichy-Poo

Now that most of Madeline's speech can be easily understood, that girl is cracking me up more than ever. She has this odd, formal manner of speech, frequently and awkwardly using the word "which." For example, instead of asking, "Can I please have some orange juice?" Madeline says, "I need sumping to drink which is orange juice!"

She is also extremely observant. She seems to notice more things in more detail than any of my other children did at this age. While riding in the car, Maddy will comment, "Look at the way the sun is shining on the snow! Everything is so sparkly!" It seems every drive has me remarking, "You know, you're right!" I love this about her, and I hope it never goes away.

Of course, her mouth and her curiosity do get the best of the three-year-old, too. Today, we visited Grandpa K. in the hospital (more in that in a separate post) and we were there for a long time, encroaching upon her nap time. Maddy eventually got bored and started wandering toward the hallway, hovering in the doorway to Grandpa's room, while Grandma and I kept talking to the doctor. A social worker who was familiar with Grandpa and his family stopped to chat with the wee one. She asked, "Is that your grandpa in there?" Madeline shook her head and answered, "No, but I like chocolate!"

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Bully Project

When this "Bully" documentary came out, I remember other mother-friends telling me I needed to see it. I made a conscious decision to NOT see it, because I knew I wouldn't be able to handle it. This weekend, I rented it, and finally worked up the courage this morning to watch it. Well, I was right about one thing-- I know myself: I could not handle it.

The thing is-- this movie changed me. It is changing the way I view my children and other people's children. It is changing the way I view interpersonal relationships. It is going to make me more proactive; I have never been a shrinking violet about expressing my opinions, and I feel strongly about how people treat one another, even though I fail in this regard every single day. Still, I have not said enough, or done enough, to stop bullying.

It's not that I've never thought my children could be targets for bullies. It's not that there is no possibility any of my children could ever be bullies; I certainly hope not, and that isn't behavior that is ever tolerable in our home, but even good kids do bad things sometimes. My "issue" with bullying, if you want to call it that, is that it seems to be the current "hot" phrase among parents, educators and child care professionals. Like Montessori, ADHD, non-BGH-treated milk, Thimerosal... It seems the well-meaning and well-educated fixate on certain topics, elements, diagnoses, and that one factor seems to monopolize the child-rearing world.

So, I fully admit that sometimes when I've heard a teacher or a student talk about "bullying" I have done the mental eye-roll. I've thought: Is it really bullying? What's the other kid's role in all this, because there are always two sides? Did anyone actually get hurt? What about the perpetrator's background, because this must come from somewhere and we must be compassionate? Aren't kids just jerks sometimes? Why can't we all do as Jesus said and just turn the other cheek?

Then, I watched this documentary.

I cried, violently. I thought I might vomit. I waffled between forcing my children to watch the film and breaking it so they never could.

This movie documents children... God's children... could be any of our children... who are mocked and berated and tormented and beaten, just for being who they are. They are victimized over and over, first, by bullies, and, second, by adults who DO NOT PROTECT THEM. Some of them are parents who do not know what is happening to their children, because the kids do not tell. Some of them are teachers, bus drivers, administrators and law enforcement officers who call the problem too complex, or who promise to follow up but do not, or who say there is simply no way to stop bullying.

Bullshit.

This movie taught me that what makes it BULLYING is how the victim feels. In one scene, an assistant principal intervenes after she sees two boys going 'round on the playground. She asks them to apologize and shake hands. The bully smirks and holds out his hand, but his victim refuses to shake. The principal dismisses the bully but continues talking to his victim, telling the boy, though she knew they did not get along, "He was trying to apologize. Because you refused to shake his hand, that makes you just like him." The boy retorts in tears, "No I'm NOT! I don't HURT people!"

With another boy, the filmmakers actually took footage to his parents and school administrators of him being punched, choked, and stabbed with a pencil on the school bus, because they feared for the boy's safety. The parents were devastated, because, though they asked the boy every day how school was, he never told them how bad it was. When they met with an administrator, she told them she had ridden on the victim's bus and all the students "were angels." Still, she promised to take care of the situation, and the mom said, "That's what she said last fall."

In addition to following the ongoing stories of victims, the documentary also deals with families who have lost children to suicide due to bullying. One father props up his wife as they walk into the funeral of their 12-year-old son, telling her, "Come on. You can do this. Let's go tuck him in one more time."

See the movie. The trailer does not tell the whole story. I dare say it even paints a rosier picture than the truth. Watch the documentary and take to heart these precious children's stories. Then, do something about bullying.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Foot Fix

I told my in-laws tonight I was going to write a book about them. I am still chuckling over my MIL telling me about how the girls played beauty shop, where one applied makeup to her sisters and grandma, and the other was in charge of pedicures. "It was wonderful! She even shaved the rough skin off my heels, with one of those ped-o-files." Before I could decide whether to scream or laugh, my FIL firmly butted in, "No, that did NOT happen. I would NEVER allow one of those in the house."

Friday, February 15, 2013

The Drop Box

My sister shared this trailer on Facebook today, and I just cannot get it out of my head.



According to the official website, negotiations and plans are currently underway for a Summer 2013 release date. Something everyone should see, know, understand, help.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Lenten Sacrifice

On this Ash Wednesday, our family spent some extra time around the dinner table, discussing Lent and looking forward to Easter.  Catholics are big on Lenten sacrifices, fasting, and the like.  So, we also talked about what we would give up for Lent... the purpose of sacrifice to the Lord... making choices to improve our lives for the long run.

One child said she was going to focus on avoiding gossip.  Another said she was going to try really hard not to argue with her siblings. Benjamin declared, "I'm giving up candy for Lent!"  A sister pointed out that would mean skipping all of tomorrow's valentine treats.  Things got really quiet after that.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Bulking Up

One of the headlines to come out of last week's specialists' appointments for Benjamin is a renewed focus on weight gain. One doctor, in particular, was very concerned about Ben's extreme thinness. We do not, at this point, know whether there is some genetic reason for his low weight. (Looking at his parents, you would not necessarily think so, but, I assure you, we were both skinny kids. Really. Ask our moms.) But the thought is, for some reason, Ben's body requires more calories, fat and nutrients than others of similar age and size.

If all of this has a ring of familiarity, it is because you were following Krinkeland a good five years ago, when a different set of doctors had the same concern. We put Ben on a calorie-dense, fat-rich diet, paying special attention to what, how much, and how often he ate. Ben did gain weight, found himself a spot at the bottom of the growth chart, and just hung out.

After months of an expensive and lifestyle-altering diet, and slow but significant weight gain, I, as the main shopper, cook and feeder of this household, started relaxing a bit. We always had different choices available for Benjamin to snack on, but we stopped pushing them as much. I got told last week the laid back approach was not working and was challenged to step up my game. Yesterday, there was a long and educational conference call with a new dietitian. Today, I went to the grocery store.

Here are some of the staples of our son's eating plan:
*peanut butter
*Boost Kid Essentials or Pediasure nutrition shakes
*greek yogurt
*2% or whole milk
*trail mix
*eggs
*spreadable, flavored cream cheese
*powdered milk (to sprinkle into other dishes)

There are lots of rules, too:
*snack no more frequently than every two hours, to encourage feeling hungry
*drink a nutrition shake right before bedtime
*focus on plant-based "good" fats like olive oil, margarine, and avocado, instead of animal fats like butter and bacon; this is very important due to Ben's family history of heart disease and high cholesterol

The goal is for Benjamin to gain one pound a month over the next six months, so he can hit 44 pounds shortly after his seventh birthday. It seems like a lofty plan, but I put it out there to elicit support and encouragement (just as people do when they have a goal to lose weight.) Here's to beefing up Benjamin!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Playing Auntie

While running errands, I stopped for a little visit with my gorgeous and hilarious nieces. Their mother recently returned to work from maternity leave, so I figured their father may have his hands full with a three-month-old and a newly two-year-old. Madeline and I are not of any real assistance, but I am hopeful we at least offer a nice diversion. Plus, seeing his niece (my daughter) in action gives my brother a glimpse of what he's in for a year down the road. Example:

Madeline: "I want a cupcake."
Ted: "Well, it's almost lunch time. How about we have some lunch first and then you can have a cupcake?"
Madeline: "How about we have a cupcake first and then I won't be hungry for lunch?"

The fact that I have that type of exchange approximately 1,200 times a day at my house makes me appreciate all the more my younger nieces and nephew. Plus, now that my family is past certain stages (being challenged by two-piece puzzles, making airplane noises to encourage eating, high chairs, potty chairs, little-kid chairs) I really enjoy going back to those places.

On Thursdays, when three of my children receive piano lessons from my sister, I cherish the "conversations" I have with my 16-month-old nephew Elias. He says it all with his eyes, and his toothy, little grin, and the way he sits on my lap and turns pages in his beloved books. Eli still cuddles. Eli doesn't talk back. Eli says "down" when he means "up" but it's cute and not at all confusing.

So, today was my time with the girls. Lucia and I had an excellent conversation about "girrrrrls" and how Daddy and Jonesy are not girrrrrls. We practiced flushing the toilet. And I never tire of watching her trail after her beloved Maddy, learning, for bad or for worse, everything a big cousin has to teach.


I especially enjoyed my time with Eloise. Between influenza and snowstorms, it had been weeks since I got to hold the youngest member of our extended family. We laid on the floor staring at dangling toys and swatting them. I gave Eloise a bottle. I helped her father change her in what was definitely a two-person job. Then, I rocked her to sleep. Is there any feeling more incredible than cuddling another life in your arms and watching her relax and doze off, in total comfort and trust?

I could have held her all day. But my mommy tendencies won out over my auntie tendencies, and I eventually laid down Eloise because I believed it was best for her. Still, cradling that precious bundle poked at that part of me that misses having a baby. I wish I'd held mine more... rocked mine more... not been in such a hurry to put mine down. And I am thankful for opportunities I have to love up the babies in my life.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Snowbound

There are many things I wanted to do today, in particular celebrate with the fam my nephew Solomon's seventh birthday... But the snow storm put all that on ice. We made it no farther than church and back, but it was nice to be home, too. Even on a lazy, snowbound day, the kids found plenty to do: go sledding with the neighbor kids and the dog, practice piano, write out valentines, make blanket forts...

Jones's snow balls (to replace the ones he left at the vet's office last week)


Amanda fielding an IT call from Grandpa


Elisabeth writing a dictionary


Madeline stealing iPad time

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Weekends at the Theater

This time of year, Krinkeland is all wrapped up in helping put on the annual musical theater production for Saints on Stage, the extra-curricular theater program we help run out of our kids' school. This season, we are doing "Guys and Dolls Junior." Amanda, Elisabeth and Benjamin all have roles; Todd is designing and building sets and designing lights; Grandma R. is the director; Grandpa R. and Grandma P.

You can find one or all of us doing something play-related pretty much every day of the week. My car sits outside in the cold because our entire garage has become a scene shop. He basement is collecting props and furniture and other assorted might-needs. Bags of fabric and snacks and copies are piled by the door in preparation for the next trip to the stage.

Today, in between runs to basketball games-- Amanda and Libby both had great showings where they hustled on the court and each scored multiple times; Ben, well, mostly stayed on the correct court and was sometimes even facing the right direction-- we were with other volunteers working at school. There is so much to be done to stage a production of this magnitude, and we are blessed with lots of dedicated volunteers who help make it all happen. (Plus, the kids got to play "Extreme Hide-and-Go-Seek" in the dark, empty school rooms.)









Thursday, February 7, 2013

Belly Button Man

Today was Benjamin's annual "look-see" with the geneticist. I don't believe "look-see" is an actual medical term... but it's what I call it when the genetics director and others on her staff line up and examine my son. We also had an appointment with a pediatric endocrinologist, our first since he was a toddler, to look into whether there is a medical reason for Ben's extreme thinness and somewhat small stature.

I am still processing everything that came-- or did not come-- out of today's visits... So, there is not much to say, other than that my son is healthy, just as healthy as he was before we saw these doctors and they started asking lots of pesky questions: How is his eyesight? Does he get frequent ear infections? What does his grandpa look like? Have you ever noticed this white stuff at the back of his throat? Are his sisters short? Does it take him longer than other people to recover from being ill? Does anyone else in your family have his same eye color? Has he been dehydrated or required I.V. fluids this year? Is it OK if we take some photos to study and show our colleagues after you leave? Is that applesauce on his pants?

Yes, I hope and pray that you never have to spend time in the genetics department discussing yourself or someone you love... someone you created out of love and grew in your own body, someone you know to be absolutely beautiful and brilliant and magnificent in every way... but someone who is described, kindly and compassionately, by the experts as "atypical" and "unusual" and "distinctive." We get a lot of "distinctive," which is just a synonym for "uniquely perfect," but I sometimes need to remind myself of that.

Benjamin does an excellent job of reminding others how uniquely perfect he is. Case in point: Belly Button Man. When each and every nurse, doctor and lab tech asked Benjamin to remove his shirt today, he or she was greeted by Belly Button Man. Unbeknownst to me, prior to the appointments, Ben had colored all over himself with blue Sharpie. He does this quite often, and usually tells me he is practicing for when he grows up and can get a real tattoo. I believe it.

The boy had dotted his arms and torso with blue freckles, had drawn flowery latticework around each nipple, and had drawn a funny face around his belly button. "What is THIS?!" the first doctor exclaimed, nearly dropping her stethoscope. "Oh," Ben shrugged, "that's Belly Button Man." Then he squished together the non-existent sides of his non-existent belly and had Belly Button Man talk to the doctor.

I was equally mortified and proud... which is a combination I seem to encounter frequently in motherhood.

Now that I was in on the joke, I began to look forward to each subsequent medical professional asking to examine Ben and requesting that he remove his shirt. The geneticist took photos of Belly Button Man to put in Ben's chart. Diagnose that!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Good Eats

In third grade, they've obviously spending time learning about nutrition and diet. Elisabeth has been keeping a food log, which is an excellent idea for her, but not for reasons you may think. The girl does not eat. Unless it's chocolate or ketchup, she just does not have much interest in food. However, if the teacher is keeping track, Libby does a better job of eating, particularly breakfast and snacks, which she typically prefers to skip. And, there is a part of me that does not want to push food on her-- As a nation, we overeat and we are overweight. If she is not hungry, why press it?

Still, the flip side to that is it is important to learn nutrition and how to make healthy choices. Bodies do need protein, vitamins and minerals to grow and develop properly. Libby came home earlier this week with a menu planned for a healthy family dinner, and she asked when we could have it.

We had it tonight.

This was Elisabeth's menu:
Skinless chicken breasts
Kidney beans
Rice
Carrots/celery/jicama
Strawberries
White milk

Yeah, the kidney beans threw me, too... But she said, "I thought they'd be interesting and I wondered what they taste like." Once we had made all the dishes, Libby insisted on portioning each plate, so we were all getting the correct amounts of each food. Then, she told her siblings and father, "Once you eat everything on your plate, then you can have seconds-- but only then." There were some wrinkled noses, though none of the items was new to our table... Just maybe the combinations or the preparations were new. Libby later bargained some down to a few bites or "just try it."

Everyone ate the chicken and the strawberries. Benjamin loved the entire meal, and praised it and its creator. Good boy.

I tell you, it was just nice to have someone else come up with the menu for once. Isn't that what we mothers/home cooks are always saying-- I don't mind cooking if someone will just tell me what to make?!

After dinner, I asked Elisabeth, "Since everyone tried our meal, and did pretty well, do you think it would be OK to have ice cream for a treat, or would that be too unhealthy?" She deadpanned, "No, I think ice cream would be all right."










Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Love Songs, by Joel

On a regular basis, Amanda asks me, "Mom, who is your Justin Bieber?" What she means is: Who was your first pop star crush? Whose music were you really into when you were my age? Who was the guy who made all the girls swoon?

I always have to think... And then she doesn't like my answer.

I mean, thirty years ago, at least in my home and my town, the music scene was not as prevalent as it is now for my kids. At age 10 or 11, I was just beginning to have an awareness of music stars. I got my first boom box, and the first cassette tape I had was Madonna. So, I tell Amanda, musicians like Madonna and Cyndi Lauper are some of the first artists I liked. But, they did not make me swoon. My best friend and, later, my little sister were very into Michael Jackson, but, even way back then, I found something creepy about him. The music of Prince was also huge... but the man was not.

No, when Amanda asks what she is asking, my most sincere answer is Billy Joel. I have always loved the music of Billy Joel. I don't care that he was old-- even then-- and terribly unattractive, with a train wreck of a personal life... A love of his music was pivotal in my childhood, formative years and upbringing.

I remember shortly after my grandmother died-- my youngest uncle, Scott, came to stay with us for a short time, and brought with him the "Glass Houses" album. He would stand next to my parents' stereo in the living room, wearing those big, foam-eared headphones with a curly cord that plugged into the receiver. Sometimes, he would uncouple the headphones so we could all hear the shattering glass sound effect and the music that followed. After Uncle Scott left, I remember my mom going to the store and buying her own copy of that album.

In high school, my best friend and I took in Billy Joel's "Storm" tour... Nosebleed seats in a gigantic arena, but we did not care. Joel did a handstand on the piano, and we screamed our guts out. "And So It Goes" was a popular ballad around that time, and I remember all the boys vying for a solo in choir, because they thought it would get them chicks. (Yep.) my friend Beth and I would drive around with the windows down, belting out "The Longest Time." There is not a better time than that.

Then, in college, there was the road trip to Chicago for "River of Dreams." I can't remember if I actually went or we just talked about going, which is sad... Joel just kind of dropped off the radar after that.

But his music has always been around our home, and I can never get enough. We have two, huge anthologies of his sheet music in the piano bench. I often wonder why there is not a Billy Joel station on the satellite radio. And I make references to his music all the time, like thinking maybe my brother and his wife could name their baby Leyna.

Today, the Amazon box was waiting by the front door, holding a collection of fun goodies, but, most prominently, a CD, "She's Got a Way: Love Songs." No, it's not new Joel music, but just a new collection of some oldies, but goodies. And, hasn't he proven himself enough? Well, there are some weirdo choices on this compilation, and some notable absences, but the CD does contain one of my all-time favorite Billy Joel songs, "You're My Home."
Enjoy. Feel young. Be someone's home.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Learning Her Letters


At least we have some time before this one goes to kindergarten!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Showcasing Our Girls

This weekend was the annual fundraising talent showcase at the kids' school. Both our girls took part. We had the opportunity to be proud.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Let Him Leave

Do you ever feel as though your real life is something akin to the plot of an international action story?  Yeah, well, me neither.  But something very real and very troubling is happening right now, to a dear friend of ours. 

We know him to be an honest and upstanding husband and father, and an excellent engineer and business executive.  He began telling us, during his family's visit to our home last summer, about his current work situation and the different levels of government discord, dysfunction and corruption he and his company face.  He had concerns then, which have since come to play out just as he feared:

Minnesota businessman barred from leaving Mongolia
Justin Kapla, a businessman from the Twin Cities area, is asking Minnesota's U.S. senators to lift a ban that is preventing him from leaving Mongolia.
         By Ed Stych Web Producer- Minneapolis / St. Paul Business Journal
 
A businessman from the Twin Cities area is asking Minnesota's U.S. senators for help in getting a ban lifted that is preventing him from leaving Mongolia.
Justin Kapla, who grew up in Elk River and is president of a Mongolian mining company called SouthGobi Sands, said the government is not allowing him to leave because he is a potential witness in a corruption case, The Associated Press reported.
Kapla's father, William Kapla of Forest Lake, said Sens. Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar and Rep. Michele Bachmann are working on the case.
In his letter to the three members of the Minnesota congressional delegation, Justin Kapla said the Mongolian government acknowledges that the alleged corruption happened well before he arrived in Mongolia, but the government won't let him leave so it can hold someone responsible if the investigation finds any wrongdoing by the company.
William Kapla said his son, who has his wife and two children with him, is free to work in Mongolia but not leave.
"Would you want to sit in a country with an exit ban so you couldn't leave? What if an emergency happened at home?" William Kapla said. Mongolia is a land-locked country in Central Asia, bordered by Russia to the north and China to the south.

This is an American citizen, and to some extent, we should all be afraid as his freedom is threatened.  As the business blogger who first broke Justin's story notes:
The U.S. Embassy in Ulaanbaatar Mongolia 2013 Investment Climate Statement on Mongolia states:
Regularly reported since 2010, Mongolian public and private entities continue to abuse the exit visa system to pressure foreign investors to settle civil and commercial disputes... Neither current law nor regulation establishes a clear process or time-table for settlement of such issues. Nor does the law allow authorities to distinguish a criminal and civil case when detaining a person. In fact, the Mongolian government maintains the right to detain foreign citizens indefinitely without appeal until the situation has been resolved.

I share this with all of you not out of morbid fascination, but because we never know who might be able to help.  This story is now circling through business and more mainstream media outlets.  It is believed media pressure may be helpful to the situation with the Mongolian government.  And, if nothing else-- better yet, with EVERYTHING else-- PRAY.  Please pray for Justin, his wife and their two children.  As Justin wrote to us today, he's just trying his best to get out of there.