Friday, May 31, 2013

Day Care

Today was Track and Field Day at the kids' school.  Since that is Dad's absolute favorite day of the school year-- no, really, he takes a vacation day from work to coach a team for Track and Field-- I was off the hook for volunteering.  Instead, I agreed to watch the little ones of a couple other friends, so they could volunteer at school, too.

Shortly after the girls arrived this morning, I thought, Gee, this is fun.  Why didn't I ever do any day care, or at least a regular babysitting gig?  I mean, the kids were so cute and smiley, and they were saying funny things, and they were playing well together.  They even agreed on a TV show, which I sanctioned because the poor bunnies looked as though they were still waking up.  I could still get my dishwasher loaded and my laundry started.  AND, I had an excuse to not feel guilty about NOT being at Track and Field Day!

That good feeling lasted 20 minutes.

Then, the littlest one pooped her pants and it was a nasty, nasty diaper change.  (Maybe I was just out of practice).  All the while, the other one and I were having a revolving conversation that went like this:
She: "Can I play on your iPhone?"
Me: "No."
She: "When can I play on your iPhone?"
Me: "Never."

I tried to corral them in the toy room, especially because I didn't really trust the toddler near the stairs.  They wanted me to play Barbies with them.  They served me imaginary tea and then told me I couldn't drink it because it was too hot.  They insisted on playing Cranium.  They whined they didn't want to watch television on the little, tiny 32" tube television, which was actually the only TV Todd and I had for, like, the first decade of our marriage.  They had ridiculous arguments like:
Thing 1: "Hey, I have this show on my TV at home."
Thing 2: "Nuh-uh.  It's MINE."
Thing 1: "Well, I am Doc McStuffins, and you are Jake and the Neverland Pirates!"

And one of the kids followed me around, constantly.  I would be changing the laundry and would turn around and there she was.  "I just want to be by you."  She wasn't crying or clinging, and didn't seem to be missing her own mom.  She was just there.  I typed an email and she watched.  I folded laundry and she sat amongst the piles.  I rounded the corner and heard her call, "I am looking for you."

We got ready to go outside, but the sunscreen application and shoe strap fastening nearly did me in.  I didn't have enough arms to push them all on the swings, or to keep them from toppling off the play set and killing their fool selves.  Our garage is stocked with six Big Wheels and five scooters, but the girls instead duked it out over two bubble cars.

I tried to switch gears for snack time, but they just sucked down full-octane juice and got their second wind.  I plopped down in a lawn chair with Hay Day on the iPad, but it was really hard to play while holding the device over my head, out of reach of sticky fingers.  I started responding with vacant gazes and "do whatever you wants."  I made a Mommy Returns countdown on the driveway in sidewalk chalk.

It is imperative I point out these are perfectly lovely children.  Really, adorable and entertaining, and very enjoyable in most all situations.  The problem is ME.  I have the patience of a hummingbird, the tolerance of a pop star, the tenderness of a round steak.  I would be a really crappy babysitter.  I hope I didn't do any permanent damage... And I hope their vocabularies are too limited to adequately tell their mothers what I was like.

Thanks to these dollies for helping me to cross off the list one more possible career.




Thursday, May 30, 2013

Checking Out

I really don't like this time of year.  It's so hectic, with all the running around to games and recitals and programs and ceremonies and meetings and competitions and shows.  As for school, the kids seem totally checked out.  They shouldn't be checked out; they're still going every day and heaven knows they have plenty to learn... But the last weeks of school seem to be made up of all fun and games.  It can't be because of the weather, because that has been awful (and is likely contributing to my crankiness.). Who knows-- maybe the teachers are checked out, too.  I saw this today and cracked up, because, unfortunately, if I was a teacher, this is probably the kind of junk I would pull:

http://www.buzzfeed.com/jessicamisener/33-teachers-who-got-the-last-laugh

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Easy-Peasy Desserts

As I frequently state, I do not care to bake.  It is too complicated, too precise, too fussy for me.  My idea of "baking" is to buy frozen cookie dough from the soccer team's fundraiser, break up the blobs, throw them on a cookie sheet and then underbake them by a minute or two.  That is the lesser of two evils in my oven; if the cookies are not under-done, they are burned and blackened.

Though I do not enjoy baking, I do enjoy dessert.  I enjoy serving dessert when we have guests, and I enjoy eating dessert.  And dessert cannot always be ice cream.  (Sometimes, in Krinkeland, ice cream is the main dish.  True story.)

To further the mission of dessert for all, I share Dessert Recipes So Simple Even Andrea Cannot Screw Them Up:

Easy Angel Food Cake
(Courtesy my sister Ellen, who got it from someone else)
Mix 1 box angel food cake mix (just the powdered mix) with one can undrained crushed pineapple.  Pour into 9x13 pan.  Bake at 350 for 35 minutes or so.  Serve with fresh berries and whipped cream.

Cheater Cobbler
(Courtesy my friend Anita, though others have shared similar versions)
Dump 2 cans fruit pie filling, any variety, into a 9x13 pan.  Sprinkle the mix of one white or yellow cake on top.  Drizzle across that one stick melted butter.  Bake at 350 until mixture is gold and bubbly.  Serve warm with ice cream.

Lemon Mousse
(Courtesy Paula at Sterling Drug)
Mix one container Cool Whip with tablespoons of prepared lemon curd from a jar, to taste-- more for tartness.  Spoon or pipe into prepared puff pastry shells.  Serve chilled.
My MIL has a similar, yummy recipe using instant pudding and Cool Whip, with cracker crumbs and melted butter as the crust.
My mother invented her own recipe involving a pie crust filled with three jars of lemon curd, topped with homemade meringue, and baked.  That results in the richest lemon meringue pie imaginable.  By "rich" I mean almost painfully sweet and thick to consume, and I also mean bank-breaking because those jars of gourmet lemon curd are not cheap!

There you have it-- "easy-peasy," as my Madeline would say.

Monday, May 27, 2013

To Remember

Even though the weather was yuck-o, chilly and dreary, and, because of it, we did not even manage to get the boat in the water yet, we still managed to enjoy ourselves this long holiday weekend.  There were play dates, a wedding shower, some long overdue cleaning and organizing projects, and lots of fishing.

We celebrated this:



And had a lovely visit from some favorites:



Oh, and then, there was a little more of this:

This Memorial Day, I pray (because it is always just a good idea) for:
*veterans, past and present, who guard my freedom and yours
*loved ones who have gone ahead to prepare a place for us, particularly Michael
*Daisy Jo Holland and her family (http://minnesota.cbslocal.com/2013/05/27/family-friends-releasing-balloons-to-honor-daisy-jo/)
*health and safety of baby C
*safe delivery of a baby-on-the-way
*dear soon-to-be-married couples
*smooth travels home for our dear friends

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Let's Go Fishing!

True, this holiday weekend has brought Crock Pot weather, not grilling season, but, even with the gray chill, we are still gearing up for summer at the lake.  Both here at home and at my parents' place, the kids have been bringing in all kinds of fish, from right in the shallow waters around the dock.

Amanda said she brought in about a dozen pan fish herself today (and she's one of the cousins who can actually count!)

But it was Madeline who won the prize for reeling in this big, ol' bass!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Morning Requests I Prefer to Ignore

"Mom, can I have an ice cream sandwich for breakfast?"

"No?  OK, chips, then."

"Can I just wear these pants, Mom?  They are NOT THAT dirty!"

"I want that yellow cereal in the black box!"

"Can you babysit my tiger?"

"Why didn't you wake me up earlier?"

"Why didn't you let me sleep later?"

"But I LIKE the lopsided braids."

"Do NOT let her go outside! It's my turn to be FIRST at the bus stop!"

"Mom, smell my hands."

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Graduate

I attended nephew Oliver's preschool graduation today.  I know, preschool graduation is not a real "thing," but let us put that aside for now.  The joy of being a stay-at-home aunt is that I get to witness every, possible, little event in the lives of my nephews and nieces.  With six of them running (OK, one rolling) around nearby CousinTown, as my children have dubbed the neighboring town, I do bounce from event to event as much as I am able, squeezed between all the "things" my own children have going.

Oliver goes to a small, lovely, church preschool, run by two saints and attended by the usual gaggle of smiley, sticky youngsters.  They had a sweet, little graduation ceremony, the kind I have witnessed on many previous occasions (three kids, two nephews, ongoing tally) so I was a little surprised at myself when the program began and I got choked up.  But, I guess it shouldn't have been much of a surprise...

As the children filed into the sanctuary, and I spotted Oliver near the end of the line, I had one of those epiphanies of blessing and immediately had to fight back tears.  Oh, yes, fight the tears, because there is nothing more odd or uncomfortable than a random auntie crying at preschool graduation.  

In that instant, my mind went back to May of 2008, when I spent a day here and there, over a few weeks maybe, visiting that same place to pick up big brother Kazmer from preschool.  Mommy was in the hospital, on bed rest, but knowing that premature delivery of her unborn child was pretty much a certainty... It was only a matter of time.  I would walk in, toting toddler Solomon, and the very same preschool teacher would greet me with concerned eyes, asking, "How is she?"

Right at the end of Kazmer's preschool year, Oliver was born.  He was early, tiny, and sick.  Now, look at him:


This weekend, Oliver will turn five years old. There is nothing tiny or sick about him.  I don't even hardly ever think about how Oliver's little life began... and I am sure his preschool classmates were unaware and would have been unimpressed, which is just as it should be.

One phrase-- from where in scripture?-- keeps going through my head: "The Lord giveth and The Lord taketh away."  There are many things about life I do not know, but I do know this boy is a gift, given to all of us from the Lord.  I am not even his mother so it is probably weird I am writing all of this stuff... but it is a blessing to me to be able to know Oliver and to love him.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Sonny Boy

I just overheard Madeline proclaim, "I'm so proud of you, Son!" to Jones.

I know where she got it-- from me. By "it," I mean the moniker "Son," not "so proud of you," because I am rarely proud of the cute, but hairy, little monster who makes mischief all over my house. Jones is sitting next to me, chewing on a Wet-Nap, as I type. Still, I know the four-year-old hears me say "Son," but what I don't know is where I got it.

Benjamin gets called "Son" by me all the time. Sometimes, it's a term of affection: "I love you, Son." Sometimes, it's a reprimand: "Sooooonnn." Sometimes, it's simply a substitute for his name, but I am not sure why, since "Ben" rolls off the tongue just as easily. It is definitely a way to distinguish the little boy from all his sisters, I guess.

My husband does not say "Son." I do not recall my mother or my father ever calling my brother "Son." I'm pretty sure my sister does not address any of her boys as "Son." And, I'm certain I've never called any of my girls "Daughter," nor would I; that sounds weird.

The more I think about it, the less sense it makes-- Why would I call my son Son? I'm beginning to think maybe I played in the NBA in a former life... or was a rap artist... I looked to YouTube for answers and inspiration (who doesn't?) I did not find any film or television clips that would explain my odd tendency. However, I did find this sweet song:

Monday, May 20, 2013

Farming Season

At our house, we have become addicted to the game Hay Day.  The kids, Dad and I all have virtual farms going on our iPads and iPods.  We have crops to plant and harvest, animals to feed, orchards to tend, cargo ships to fill.  It is a problem.  And now, a friend has turned our children onto the sister game by the same company, Clash of Clans.  Ugh.  We are weak.  They are fun.  Consider yourself forewarned.

http://www.supercell.net/games/view/hay-day

Saturday, May 18, 2013

IT Advancement

Todd bought some kind of new gadget for our computers.  I don't know exactly what it does, but it is some kind of memory/storage device that holds 7 terabytes, which I understand to be a LOT.  This small, rectangular piece of equipment is going to keep safely, at any location, forever, all of the home movies and still photos ever taken in Krinkeland, and it is going to allow us to download tons more apps and songs and videos onto our iPads and iPods.  

It is an amazing world we live in, I tell you.

Still, my favorite thing about this new, black box is that when the big girls asked Dad what it was, he told them it was a mini-refrigerator to chill his single can of Diet Mountain Dew.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Celebrity Dog

Jones got to be Special Visitor in both kindergarten and third grade.  There was some lobbying,  as well, for fifth grade, but I told that student pet owner she was a little old for show-and-tell. It cracks me up how proud these kids are of their pet, and how excited their friends get to see Jones, even though most have previously met him and many have dogs of their own at home.  It is sweet.

The ride to school with the dog in the car prompted Amanda's bright idea that there should be a Pet Day at school.  She said all the kids could bring their pets (or stuffed animals) for a day of animal education and activities.  Elisabeth told her sister, "That would never work-- because some people have birds for pets." Interesting rationale... but at least it stopped the big one before she took her pitch to the administration.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Banded

We attended our first school band concert this evening.  At other events throughout the school year, the band makes a few, brief appearances, but this was the program devoted solely to instrumental performance.  Neither Todd nor I have prior band experience, save a few high school friends who played in the jazz band and all those big bands that march past our lawn-chaired site at the annual Buffalo Days parade.  Still, when Amanda expressed an interest in playing the trombone, we were not about to stand in her way; we figured we would enlighten ourselves and, in the process, become Band Parents.  

Unfortunately, I have not heard Toot One out of that trombone in about three months.  So, I am now beginning to consider the possibility that Band Parent is not what I was meant to be...  Well, maybe with one of the other three "musicians."  In the meantime, click on this link to enjoy a little springtime serenade:
Amanda is second from the right, with the hot pink sweater over her flowered dress.

La Bamba!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Harriet's Wisdom

Elisabeth's class is reading "Harriet the Spy" by Louis Fitzhugh.  It is always a beloved unit for the third graders, one where they study maps of New York City, conduct scientific experiments, try old-fashioned recipes and spy on others in the school building.  Libby sometimes asks me to read the book with her-- or to her-- and, when I do, I am struck by how challenging the book is to read, particularly the vocabulary.  I am also always left with the opinion that Harriet is one smart cookie with the wisdom she imparts:

"There are as many ways to live as there are people."

"Life is a great mystery.  Is everybody a different person when they are with somebody else?"

"When people don't do anything they don't think anything, and when people don't think anything there's nothing to think about them."

Ole Golly: "You know what?  You're an individual, and that makes people nervous.  And it's gonna keep making people nervous for the rest of your life."

"Sometimes you have to lie.  But to yourself you must always tell the truth."

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

What She Said

I have been even grumpier than my usual grumpy self today.  On the first nice, HOT day of the season, I was cooped up at home with two kids with the stomach flu.  I couldn't even keep all the windows open, because, by kid-afternoon, it was so hot and they were even more miserable.  In addition, since it was the first really warm day, the may flies hatched.  So, even when I escaped the sick house to sit outside with the well ones for a bit, I got swarmed.  The only thing that kept me smiling was my little one and her words of wisdom:

"You know you're gonna barf up when your throat gets all squeezy."

"Mom, do your eyes make those drips when you yawn?"

"Mom, I think the words in my head before I say them."

"Mom, every pretzel is a real pretzel."

Monday, May 13, 2013

Taking It All In

There has been much in the news today-- some personal, some global-- that is weighty, impactful, powerful:

This happened.

This happened.

I just read about this.

Nobody can get enough of this, but I guess it's really only a freak show.

A very dear friend found out her dad has cancer, and they could both surely use your prayers.

One of my kids told me she hates me and her father... and I'm fairly certain she means it, so we could all use your prayers.

Most people who read this blog know already where I stand on, well, almost everything.  I am not interested in commenting on these issues.  I just ask that you read, research, understand and act, in whichever way you feel compelled to do so.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Mother's Day Is What You Make It

Did I have a wonderful Mother's Day?  Let's see...

It began shortly after 3 a.m. with a six-year-old crying that his stomach hurt. 
But he made it to the toilet every single time he vomited.

An hour later, still awake with the patient, the four-year-old came in crying that she was scared, and I laid down to soothe her demands of "snuggling," only to be whacked in the face on a regular basis until the sun came up. 
But, eventually, she did get up and depart the room, and, after a short but refreshing nap, I awoke to breakfast waiting.

After dragging around for most of the morning, the girls got themselves dressed for church and in the car on time; however, upon arrival at church, I discovered the nine-year-old's dress was barely long enough to cover her bum. 
But, she was wearing a beautiful necklace and shoes.

The little girl announced, in the middle of mass, "Excuse me, I just farted!" 
But, the only witnesses were good friends sitting behind us.

My husband stayed in bed till noon, "taking care" of the sick kid.
But, at least he wasn't on a fishing boat or in a hunting blind.

That same husband passed the morning iPad to iPad with our son, spending every coin I was saving up for my Hay Day cake maker.
But, when he saw the look of disappointment on my face, he did sheepishly apologize and point out the new grove of fruit trees on my cyber-farm.

Sickness derailed our plans for the day. 
But, I still managed to see my mom, as Todd did his.

One child insisted on practicing piano in the nude, and, when I pressed for modesty, she retorted, "Well, it's not against the law!" 
But, she did allow my standards to prevail, after I pointed out the large picture window and traffic passing on the street.

Though I did "milk it" by my standards, the day still involved some cooking, some cleaning, some refereeing, some laundering, some herding and some caretaking, which my 11-year-old pointed out seemed a terrible injustice.
But, I got to spend my Mother's Day with everyone responsible for making me a mother-- and I cannot think of a better day than that.
 
“Motherhood is a choice you make every day, to put someone else's happiness and well-being ahead of your own, to teach the hard lessons, to do the right thing even when you're not sure what the right thing is... and to forgive yourself, over and over again, for doing everything wrong.”
Donna Ball, At Home on Ladybug Farm





Saturday, May 11, 2013

Dance, Dance, Dance


I spent the day with my Elisabeth and the rest of her dance team and the rest of the "Dance Moms" at a large dance competition.  I am still very conflicted about this choice of hobby for my darling daughter... But it is also difficult to put a damper on this much joy.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Field Trip Facts


I accompanied Amanda's fifth grade class on a field trip to a county park.  It was a cold, wet, somewhat miserable day.  But that did not stop the learnin'.  Here are some of the lessons I gathered:
Teamwork works.  But girls will cheat to win.

Regardless of what they say or how they look. 11-year-olds are definitely still children, and they act like children.

Everyone can find something cool in the wild.

The town we live in is named for a fish, not a mammal.

Bald eagles are amazing.  Everyone finds them amazing.  Sometimes, seeing one fly overhead is the only think that will make two dozen fifth graders shut up.

Driving a four-wheeler definitely raises the cool factor for a teacher with a lame leg.

There's safety in numbers.  (And, a boy can be guilted into chivalry... especially when he is a bit sweet on my girl.)

Kids must name all animals, even temporarily captive turtles, right, Scooter?

There are more than 40 species of mosquitoes in our state, and mosquito eggs can survive for five years before hatching.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Joy

I just told Madeline to go downstairs and scold the other kids because they are not in bed yet.  (Yeah, I have to have my minion do it because I was on a field trip all day that put me in a county park, in the cold and the rain, with two dozen fifth graders; so, a few minutes ago I sat down and now I cannot get up.). Anyway, Maddy said, "No, Mommy, it's not time for bed yet."  I reiterated the time and thought to myself how annoying spring is, because the days get longer and the activities get busier, but the kids-- and the parents-- still need the same amount of sleep!  But Madeline insisted, "We can't go to bed until we have our Joy."  What?!  I repeated what the little one said, thinking I heard wrong.  Yes, Maddy explained, "It's time for our Joy.  You know, when we all get together and run around and play tag and Daddy catches us and then we laugh.  And then we have a bedtime snack."

Now, I really cannot go downstairs myself and get the kids.  I guess I will let them have their Joy.  Plus, I have to wait till I stop crying a little.  Tears of Joy.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Driveway Derby Diva

To find out why I love:
*the kid
*the weather
*the Big Wheel
*the iPad

Monday, May 6, 2013

I Can Only Imagine

Madeline has an imaginary friend named Bright Leaf. She sometimes calls him by his nickname, Brightly; with her four-year-old accent, the two names are indistinguishable, but Maddy will sure let you know if you hear her wrong. Bright Leaf is a male, lightning bug-type creature who hopped onto Maddy's shoulder and followed her home from the toy aisle of Walmart one day. At least, that's the tale she's sticking with.

They play well together, though Madeline is always the director, and, if she does get sick of him, she tells me Bright Leaf fell asleep. Sometimes, he accompanies us on errands and visits around town, but often he departs mid-trip, when Maddy uses her "magic" to dismiss him. (Yes, she chants, "Miska-mooska-Mickey-Mouse!")

For a while, there was also an imaginary friend named Mermaid. She was always under foot-- or under rump-- getting sat on by a sibling in the car. Mermaid morphed into a mermaid named Allie. But we don't hear much about her anymore.

From what I remember, my sister Ellen, also the baby of our family, was also the only child in our family to have an imaginary friend. Maddy plays so well by herself... I guess when you are the last one, left behind, you cultivate relationships however you can.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Snapshots

I have a few "big" blog ideas going, but they would take a lot of thought, and I am tired, and a LOT of typing, and I am on the dumb iPad screen "keyboard," so those will have to wait. I am also all fired up and ticked off about something, but I have decided against putting it into a blog post, lest it turn into some bad version of a Dear Diary entry. Instead, let me just share, in no particular order, some of my favorite photos from the past week:









Friday, May 3, 2013

First Dance


That's my 11-year-old and her friend, heading out to Middle School Activity/Dance Night at school. The fifth graders were invited, I imagine, to up the head count at such an event in a small school setting, and to get those kids excited about entering middle school in the all. That's all well and good, except-- it didn't hit me until minutes before the evening began that MY CHILD WAS GOING TO A SCHOOL DANCE.

All right, even in my apoplectic state, I could recognize that the word "dance" was probably being used liberally, even incorrectly. (And later I would find out my hunch was right.) What's more, the gathering was, of course, organized and supervised by teachers at the school. Still, my child was going to a mixed-gender social event, without me.

I would be embarrassed to admit how long I sat in the parking lot after leaving the girls at the front door.

Silly, I know... Why did my mind jump to a hypothetical and years-off Prom Night? Kids all have to grow up sometime and they constantly ARE growing up, every day and in every way. Yet, at the same time, it was as though a switch was flipped. My baby was taking time with her hairstyle, choosing jewelry, changing outfits a dozen times-- as evidenced by the trail of bedroom destruction in her wake:

Amanda also raided my closet, begging to wear three-inch stilettos. We compromised with open-tied, low-heeled wedges, which I agreed to let her borrow as long as she promised to pack her loafers, too. She cared about her appearance, listened to her sister's advice over mine, glowed under her father's compliments.

My baby.

After I sat in the parking lot for way too long, realizing there was no chance she would exit the building and elect to spend the evening at home with the rest of us, I drove home to my babies left behind. I walked the dog, because the dog walker was out for the evening. I thought about Amanda and I hoped she was having fun. And I hoped the girls were being kind to each other. And I hoped the boys did not show up.

I was genuinely surprised-- but a little relieved-- when the phone rang an hour before the end of Activity Night, and Amanda was on the line asking to be picked up. I asked if everything was OK, and she said, "Yeah, I'm just done."

A review of the evening, shared over ice cream cones, detailed that most of the girls from class were there, but very few of the boys. The concession stand ran out of candy. It was less of a dance and "more kids running around the school like maniacs." There is still time.