Thursday, August 29, 2013

Must Be an Almost-10-Year-Old's Sleepover Party!

*Jumping on the water trampoline
*Tubing until they all go flying
*Chicken nuggets and mac & cheese
*Self-decorated "candy cake"
*Trick candles
*Tie blankets for a craft
*One-finger piano masterpieces
*Nail polish and lip gloss
*Dancing
*Truth or Dare
*Lots and lots of screaming



Wednesday, August 28, 2013

A Wing for Each Kid

We made it through a busy evening of open house activities at the kids' school.  This year, Madeline will be in preschool three mornings a week in the same building.  That puts our family in the interesting position of having one student in each wing: Madeline in preschool/kindergarten, Benjamin in primary, Elisabeth in intermediate and Amanda in middle school.  It's going to be quite a year!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Complimentary

Dear Convenience Store Clerk,

In the absence of a shift manager (and because I fear you may actually be he,) please permit me to critique your mouth's performance from behind the counter as I approached to purchase my fountain soda.  I feel an obligation to do this to save you from future embarrassment and hopefully, God willing, to assist you in some day securing a mate.  I am guessing that most of your experience talking to women has come as you sit across from your mom at the supper table.  I can help.

When you asked, "How are you today?"  I responded, "Great!"  I did this for two reasons: First, it is a psychological game.  If I say I feel great, maybe I can actually make myself feel great.  After all, I have no real reason to not feel great, so I say it out loud, as a reminder to keep on the sunny side of life.  Second, I have found most strangers prefer a response of "great" to a more accurate descriptor, such as broke, or constipated, or rashy.  I assume you must subscribe to one or both philosophies as well, because when I asked, "And how are you?" you shot back, "Fantastic!"

Before I could nod and give my usual line, "Just the soda," you went on, "And you look great today!"  I smiled and said, "Thank you."  Then, things ventured into uncharted territory-- for your mouth, I mean.  You kept talking, "I mean, you really look amazing!"  I said, "Thank you," even though it was obvious to the seeing human that I did not look amazing.  Sure, I was wearing a dress, which I do often, particularly on hot, summer days.  I do this to appear feminine without having to do anything to my hair or wear makeup.  I also wear dresses because I don't like squeezing my butt into shorts and then spending the day dancing around the thigh creep.  Plus, in steamy weather such as this, the natural ventilation from the skirt is a win-win.

Still, most honest people would profess I looked like a sweaty, puffy, 39-year-old, with frizzy, colored hair and chewed gum sticking off the side of my sandal, decidedly un-"amazing."  You knew it, too, I think, as you rambled on and caught yourself, "Yeah, well, I just figured I would say that because NO... I mean, not TOO MANY people have probably told you that today.  I mean, have a lot of people told you that you look amazing?"

You kept up your grin-- at least, I think you were grinning behind that bushy beard-- but you were caught in the worst of all compliments, the pity compliment.  Really?!  NO ONE ever tells me I look AMAZING?  That's where you're wrong, honey, because I have a little boy, too, and he thinks I'm as beautiful as any of the flighty, sticky-fingered starlets in first grade.  Even my four-year-old daughter looked me up and down as I toweled off this morning (WHY is SOMEONE ALWAYS in my bathroom when I emerge from the shower?!) and commented, "Nice ba-boobies, Mommy!"

Did you assess me from across the room and decide I was trying too hard, was too dressed up for a trip to the fountain soda machine?  Do you think the ice machine was my only stop of the day?  And did you not see me pulling up in the minivan?  Wouldn't that have been your first clue I am not all into appearances? 

Still, my mama taught me well, and I responded with the only correct response, "Thank you."  Let that be a lesson to you and everyone you meet and anyone reading this: The only appropriate response to any compliment, no matter how sincere or how fake, how exaggerated or how under-played, how natural or how downright bizarre, is, "Thank you."  Just smile and walk away.

That's what I did.  But, as I turned and walked away, I thought, You should have just stuck to, "That'll be 74 cents."

See you tomorrow.  I'll be the one in the amazing dress.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Weird Weezie

Presenting: The only baby in the history of ever to like wearing one of those awful infant life jackets!

Isn't she the best?

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Oh, They'll Pass You By, Glory Days

We have just spent a busy, fun, HOT weekend at our church's annual community celebration Glory Days.  Between watching events, participating in events and working at events, we were hoppin' from Friday afternoon, until we collapsed late this afternoon.

Todd and I worked the bingo room this year.  It turned out to be a very popular place, possibly because we were there... more likely because it was air-conditioned.

Both older girls were great big sisters, helping the younger ones on the rides.  Here, I swear, Elisabeth is hugging Madeline-- not choking her-- on the slide.

Amanda and Libby each took shifts working the children's games.  They like kids just a little bit... And little ones love them!

Speaking of little kids and love, Benjamin never had a shortage of female companions.  This is pretty much how he always rolls... But I thought it was especially cute that he and friend Kate happened to dress alike.

Todd ran one hot 5K race and finished, alive.  Thank heavens.  Ben followed Daddy's lead and took part in his first kids' fun run, a half-mile field race.  We were proud and amazed!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Boy's Got Talent

"Mom, you have GOT to come see this!"
 
"Mom, you will not believe what I just made-- it's my best work yet."
 
"Mom, make sure you tiptoe, and don't slam any doors.  You have to see this!"
 
"Mom, come now and see this!  You are not going to believe it.  Close your eyes.  This way... this way..."
 
 
"Mom, can you believe it?!"
 
"Mom, I had to use two step stools, but I did it all by myself!"
 
"Mom, isn't it AMAZING?!"
 
"Mom, do you have the number for the Guinness Book of World Records?  Do you think you could call them?"
 
"Take a picture, but don't cut off the top!"
 
"Mom, it's 13 ROWS OF CUPS!  I know no one else ever made one this big."
 
"Mom, I couldn't quite find enough cups, so I had to dig some out of the garbage."

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Party!

Amanda has just finished hosting her second boy-girl social event. Her first was when we invited the entire kindergarten class bowling for her sixth birthday.  Today, she invited her entire sixth grade class over to swim and go on tube rides.  Daddy and Uncle Ted manned the boat; a fellow mom and I managed the beach, food and drinks.  We had perfect weather and a lovely day.  We feel fortunate she goes to school with sweet kids from nice families.  Bring on middle school!  (But, not just yet... Mommy's not ready.)

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Jefferson Was Right; So Is Robertson



I am not trying to justify the time in my life I waste watching "reality" television, nor do I think Duck Dynasty's Phil Robertson is a particularly appealing human being, neither in the looks department nor in his public speaking style.  However, there's no arguing with the founding fathers:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aDzgYCg4aVQ&sns=em

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Whirlyball

A week or so ago, Todd and I got our first invitation to play WhirlyBall.  Have you tried it?  The description on the web page is probably much more accurate and thorough than anything I could provide, but, basically, it is like playing five-on-five lacrosse while driving bumper cars.  It does not require a ton of strength or skill-- but everyone definitely gets better with practice.  If you are not good at other games or sports (see: Andrea) you will likely also not be good at WhirlyBall; but, as long as you are not on a team with overly competitive brutes, you will still have fun.  Also, there is a bar there. 
 
We played WhirlyBall to celebrate my friend Julie's birthday.  Not only is she years and years younger than me, she is also prettier and taller and thinner.  Most importantly for WhirlyBall, she has really long arms.  Some people. 

Sunday, August 18, 2013

The Day After

The kids have been fairly horrid all day, no doubt coming down from yesterday's wedding high.  I mean, I don't think a single person today told them how cute they are.  There are a bunch of different directions I could go in today's post-- mostly I am thinking sweet things, like how Elisabeth commented today, "I really wish I could have a hug from Chase right now" and how the kids asked if they could Skype the newlyweds on their honeymoon in Kauai.  But, I am not going to go into detail right now, mostly because I am tired and sick of sitting at the computer where I've been wrestling with photos for some time.  So, let me leave it at this:

I think it's wonderful that these young adults have such a bond with my children to include them in this big event.  Yes, it's special for the kids, something they will remember always:


But Kailee and Chase would not have asked them to be part of the wedding unless the kids were equally important to them.  Trust me, I know:

Have a wonderful honeymoon and a beautiful married life, Chase and Kailee!  And may children continue to bless you throughout your years together.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

On Her Wedding Day

You'd think I was the bride: I've been awake since 4:00.  To be fair, it was not nerves nor excitement that woke me, but a child crying, "It's dawk in my woom, and I wan into a box!"  That was followed by her brother, hissing loudly, "Just come in my room.  I'm awake, anyway.  Let's talk!"  Why anyone was up and wandering around at that hour is beyond me; I can only think the effects of their medication wore off.  Just kidding.  When a neighbor's dog started howling, HOWLING around 5:00, I considered taking an Ambien myself, except then I would probably sleep way past the kids' call time for wedding preparation, and the bride would be displeased.  Also, we don't actually have any Ambien.  And, as seems to be a theme in my life, I continue to be amazed at how the other parent snores contentedly through all of this.

As I toss and turn, I am thinking about today, the wedding day of Kailee and Chase.  Since it is unlikely that the Mother of the Flower Girls will make a speech at the reception, I figured I might as well share my thoughts here.  I did not ask their permission to blog about them.  Then again, I have always been more about forgiveness than permission.

When we moved to this town, this lake, this home, it was quite an adjustment-- for everyone.  We built our house on a small lot between two preexisting homes.  When you live on a nice lake, in town, shoreline is at a premium and, despite our best intentions to not be the bullies on the block, we did end up setting our foundation about 30 feet from the neighbors'.  We took away long-standing trees and occupied the long-used beach.  Though the next-door neighbors had every reason to be annoyed and resentful, especially after living through nine months of construction noise and dust, they never showed it.  Our neighbors were nothing but friendly and accommodating to us.

Shortly after we moved into the house, the family living closest to us stopped by to visit, bringing brownies and welcoming wishes and their two high-school-aged daughters.  We had two preschool-aged daughters, a two-month-old son, an obnoxious dog and an unfinished house.  To say I was overwhelmed is an understatement.  Their visit was mercifully brief. 

As our neighbors prepared to leave, I assessed the girls, who were old enough to drive and have lives of their own, but kind and well brought up enough to take the time to visit us, anyway.  Their mother also happened to be a professional child care expert, which made my question a slam-dunk: "Do either of you happen to babysit?"  The older girl, Kailee, pointed to her younger sister, Chelsey, and said, "She does!"

And so it went for a time.  Whenever Todd and I had social plans, and the grandmas were tapped out, which was pretty much each 5th of Never, Chelsey would stay with the kids.  She was fun and loving and fun-loving, and later parlayed those qualities into a brilliant career as an elementary teacher; my children adore her.  Living 30 feet away, we would see Kailee coming and going with her friends, and with boys (gasp!) and she, too, was always lovely but busy.

Then, Kailee went off to college, and there seemed to be a bit of a shift.  Once in a while, the kids and I would send her little gifts and notes in the mail, just because I remember being in college and I loved to get mail.  When Kailee visited home, she would sometimes stop to say "Hi" and, occasionally, she would take a couple or all of the kids out for ice cream or to see a high school play.  Eventually, she switched schools to one closer to home and began babysitting for us, too.  Chelsey graduated from high school and went to college in another state and was physically out of the picture, except for welcome holiday visits.

For a couple summers, Kailee taught swimming lessons to my children and a few others in the lake at our beach.  I remember asking her, thinking it was a long shot as she was so busy, and she replied, "I love your kids and it is really important to me that they are safe in the water, so, yes, I will teach them."  I tear up now just thinking about it.  See how emotional it is being the Mother of the Ring Bearer?

Because of my advanced age and profession as Mother to the Masses, I have always thought of myself as more parent to Kailee than friend.  However, since I know she has amazing parents of her own, I also know she really doesn't need me in that role.  But I always wanted the girls to know I did care about them and their futures, that I was proud of them, that we all loved them.  We do.  I have been pleasantly amused at the joy brought by Kailee's visits to our home since her high school graduation and transition to adulthood.  A couple times a year, mostly during holiday breaks, she, or her sister, or she and her sister would call or send a text message and stop by to see the kids.

They would get mauled by the monsters and catch up on the news around here-- yet another baby, yet another goldfish-- and, of course, they would fill us in on their lives.  Some of it.  That's where that parent part comes in, I'm sure, and that's OK.  Yet, also, there is the not-parent part.  When Kailee told me about her plans for a tattoo, I could just smile and say, "That's nice."  A couple years later, when, if not exactly expressing regret, Kailee made a passing comment about the permanence of tattoos, I could just smile and say, "Yeah."

But the other thing Kailee-- occasionally Chelsey but always Kailee-- would do is bring boys to meet us.  I was amused, but, at first, I didn't get it-- I mean, she certainly wasn't coming to me for approval, though some of them were really cute, and I hope I wasn't too creepy when I let her know that.  Along the way, the girls' parents moved across town.  I can only assume it was to escape us.  So, maybe, at least in part, they were visiting because they missed their old stomping grounds.  Plus, I figured, on some level, the children are just good entertainment.  Some days, when I am not sobbing or drinking heavily, I even find them funny.

Every six months or so, Kailee would stop by with a new guy.  I hope I am not exaggerating this fact, but that's how it seemed.  They all seemed like decent guys, at least from the brief meetings we had, and I think she knows I would not have been able to keep my opinion to myself if one was truly yucky.  Kailee would introduce us, but I would nearly never call them by name, because I was always afraid I would forget and use the last guy's name.  Each guy would exchange polite conversation, chuckle at the kids, and be on his way, never to be seen again in Krinkeland.

Maybe part of Kailee's plan to was to test the boyfriend, to see how he coped with sticky fingers, strange smells, and inappropriate questions.  Kailee was always open about her future desires to get married and have children.  Well, sports fans, we are about as real as it gets.  Was he going to grab a Kleenex and master the booger or run screaming into the night?  Maybe I'm wrong... I never asked her, and it doesn't really matter now, because there will be no more men, no more first visits, no more tests.

At one point, Kailee told me, "I'm not going to bring any more guys to meet you until I have a ring on my finger."  Okaaay.  I'm guessing she got embarrassed when one of my kids said, "Hey, I thought you had curly hair!"  Or, "What happened to that other guy?  He chased us better."  I didn't care one way or the other; it was her life.  As long as we would still see Kailee, everyone was happy.

Not six months later, during one of those holiday breaks, our family was eating at a local restaurant when we spotted Kailee sitting in a booth across the way-- with a new guy.  She and I had a brief meeting midway between the two tables, where I inquired about the young man smiling shyly and peering out beneath the shaggy bangs.  Kailee told me he was her boyfriend, someone from town, someone with whom she had been friends for a long time, someone whose parents lived on a lake, someone she really liked.  "I know, you can't introduce me because there's no ring," I said.  I recall Kailee saying something to the effect of, "Oh, yeah, he's the one-- I'm just not sure he knows it yet."

Kailee did eventually break down and bring Chase to our home.  He, obviously, did eventually give her a ring.  He vowed to gladly swim through shark-infested waters to bring Kailee lemonade, or whatever adoration looks like in their world.  Total adoration is what I wish a mate to give each of my girls, including this girl.

Then, they came to visit last Christmastime, with the BIG question:


My children have been fitted for their fancy outfits and have asked all their inane questions.  (Yes, the flowers are real-- don't touch them!  Yes, you may wear 11 strands of plastic beads, but you must take them off for photos.  No, the dog is not invited to the wedding.  No, you cannot ride on the party bus with the "big kids.")  Kailee even joked with our oldest daughter about how she will one day be able to babysit Kailee's and Chase's children.  Gasp.  One day.

First, today: the day.  THE WEDDING DAY.  It is a big day that starts the married life of these two, with their easy smiles, their fun natures and their sweet, sweet love.  I wish them every happiness, and just enough challenge to keep them strong.  As for today, I just hope my kids don't screw it up.

"Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.  But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.  Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.  But how can one keep warm alone?  Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.  A cord of three strands is not quickly broken."  (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12)

Friday, August 16, 2013

The Weekend of Magical Thinking

This weekend is the wedding of these dear friends:

(Sorry, Amanda took the photos and they are all blurry and eyes-shutty.)

The children all have roles in the wedding of this, their former babysitter, swimming lessons instructor, and neighbor... someone who remains for them a guidance counselor and friend.  They are pretty jacked up about that.  Today, they practiced:




Benjamin was super-happy to carry the ring box and to prove to his little sister he will actually get to wear a fancy suit, and not a fur suit.  Madeline previously tried to rub it in his face that Ben had gotten the bum end of the deal by being the "ring bear."


For part of the rehearsal, they were somewhat quiet and almost still.  Then, they crashed the groom's dinner:


Yep, this is gonna be some wedding!

Earlier in the week, Elisabeth and I were out and about, and we stopped by the reception site, which is the groom's parents' home, to say "Hi" and to get a sneak-peek at the decorations.  Everything was coming together "just so" and Libby was absolutely thrilled to have an insider's view.  As each adult showed Libby a different aspect, from the twinkling lights to the candles in jars to the crafty signs and napkin rings, to the person all made the same comment, "Isn't it magical?"

Magical.

Libby soaked it all in, nodding wide-eyed.  I had to agree.  Yes, a wedding event can be magical, and decorations certainly set a magical tone.  Yet, making a magical marriage involves absolutely no spellbinding hocus-pocus.  The MAGIC in a marriage is:
*honoring the choice of this person above all others, and choosing to adore him/her
*putting someone else's needs and wants above those of the self
*determining to love the other, even under unlikable conditions
*knowing tomorrow brings new joys and new challenges
*acknowledging there is no perfect, magic marriage

All these things and more I wish for our friends tomorrow, on their magical wedding day.  I will also consider it magical if all the kids, their father, and I make it out alive.


Thursday, August 15, 2013

Dancing King

We had some friends over to swim at the beginning of the week and, when Benjamin got cold, he wrapped up in a towel and came to sit near where I was talking with the other mother.  I reminded him about a Beginning Broadway dance camp he would be starting the following morning.  After he warmed up and returned to the water, my friend turned to me and said, "I'm really glad you didn't talk about that in front of my son; he would have given Ben a hard time for taking dance."

Really?

Now, these are great people, awesome parents, good kids... but, really?  In this day and age, with a broad understanding of the amazing benefits the arts have in our lives, we are still going to label things that way?  You're not a "guy's guy" unless you play football (or plop in front of the TV and watch football, drink beer and fart?)

Huh.

That's not how it works in Krinkeland.

When I told my husband Ben wanted to take the dance camp, he never asked, "Why?"  Just, "How much?"  Obviously, live theater and performance art is in our kids' blood.  You will remember that me and The Mister met doing a community theater musical.  If you've ever seen us at a wedding (or a club!), you also know he can dance.  And, you know I can't.  Maybe that's why, even though I hate the pageantry and over-maturation of dancers, I seem to cave when a child expresses an interest in dance.  Plus, this dance camp was totally a Guy Thing.  Ben took it with two of his MALE cousins, who are obviously being raised in a likewise arts-friendly home.

The other side of this argument would suggest Ben is interested in dance as a Girly Thing because he is being raised in a home with three sisters.  I am not saying there is no truth in that.  Benji occasionally asks to have his nails painted when the girls are getting theirs done.  He sometimes allows his arm to be twisted into Barbie role-playing.  (Hey, someone's gotta be Ken!)  It is a little bit unavoidable.

Yet, when I was in junior high and high school, one of my closest friends was a boy who had four older sisters.  I can tell you now, as I could tell you then, that boy had a leg up on the competition when it came to getting the girl.  Any girl.  I maintain that being raised in a house with all girls gave him insider knowledge.  And, that kind of knowledge will serve my son well-- SOMEDAY-- with the ladies, I am certain.

For today, however, Benny has only his moves:

(Ben is on the far left, in the gray tank top.)

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Beach Date

It was our day to host a play date on the lake.  Nothing special... Just a open invitation to school and church friends with young ones, some leftover food, a few dozen life jackets, and plenty of head-counting.  Once the sun quit playing hide-and-seek, the cool morning gave way to a beautiful afternoon.  

Another friend with a lake home, who is always generous about opening it to the masses, often says, "I promised God, if we got this place, I would share."  It was the perfect day for just that.





Tuesday, August 13, 2013

It's Not All About You

Just a regular day with the regular stuff in it... As I unwind for the night, however, I am reminded of that message:  It's not all about you.  And, for once, I am not even thinking of myself.  And that is kind of the point.  If we could all-- and, yes, fellow females, I am talking to you... Sorry to stereotype, but it is true-- if we could all just stop assuming that every little comment, look, and real or imagined slight is about US, the world would be a sweeter and simply happier place.

It's not all about you.

I am trying to instill that in my children, particularly in my girls.  There seem to be certain personalities that are more susceptible to this kind of paranoia and self-pity.  But it is so unproductive. Dangerous.  Sad.




It's not all about you.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Conversation With Young Boy Regarding Kayaking

M: "You must stay between the two docks, and do not go past the Rave."
B: "I don't know, Mom. Where the water takes me, the water takes me."

M: "Are you having trouble steering?"
B: "No, I just don't know how to make it go in a different direction."

B: "Well, if I go under the dock, I guess that's not a bad thing."

Little sister declared from the end of the dock: "Don't worry, Ben-- you are not in danger; you are in TROUBLE!"

Friday, August 9, 2013

Photo Bomber

There is one child who, much more than the others, loves to steal my phone or iPad and use the camera to fill the gallery with photos of herself: