Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween!

It's another one for the record books.

My Little Pumpkin

I meant to post this yesterday, but time got away from me.  Madeline had her preschool Halloween party on Wednesday (because she doesn't go to class on Thursday.)  She was very excited to attend, and chose this too-large princess dress, tiara and wand from the hand-me-down costume box.  On the way into school, Maddy asked, "Does this dress fit me all right, Mommy? Are any of my body parts hanging out?"  I said she looked beautiful and royal, but, upon inspection of this photo, I realize a turtleneck might have been just the right touch.  Oh, well.  Fourth kid.  She's lucky I remembered the Halloween party and the treat bags and actually got her to school at all.

When the class was over, Madeline's lovely teachers lined up all the students in their costumes so the adoring parents could file into the room to take photos.  I took a bunch on my phone, but there wasn't one where my kid was sitting down or facing the right direction, so, let's skip it.  At the very end, they "sang" the classic "Five Little Pumpkins."  My parents still have a cassette recording of me at about the same age reciting this beloved chant.  Here's a link to Maddy's class song:

Yeah, my kid is the one chewing her wand and NOT singing.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Politician In the House

Amanda has been elected to the middle school student council.  She sure is excited about being chosen to fill a leadership role.  She is so sincere in her goals.  I have faith she will work tirelessly to represent the best interests of her constituency.

It's too bad politicians grow up.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Grandparents' Day Highlights

The children just celebrated Grandparents' Day at school-- a highly anticipated and much revered annual event.  Grandparents P and R were in full attendance, for the traditional lunch, themed music concert (this year: dance tunes) and the school-wide fun and games.  Grandparents' Day is one of the very few events in the school year for which I do not regularly volunteer; that is because my children have made it clear that there is no room for MOTHER on GRANDPARENTS' DAY, so I should butt out.

Because of an odd sequence of events, the sort of which happens regularly in Krinkeland, or, I might guess, in any home with four children, I did end up being at school for the music portion of the day.  Here are my favorite memories, relayed to me before, during and after Grandparents' Day:

One day prior to the big event, Grandma visited her chiropractor, who is also a friend and a school parent.  He told her he had seen the final rehearsal for the program and he was very impressed by the quality of Amanda's singing solo.  "Amanda, Dr. Warren told me you did a great job on your solo-- I can't wait to hear it!" she said.  Amanda, looking confused, replied, "Grandma, I don't have a solo in the program."  "Oh, sure you do," Grandma encouraged, "Dr. Warren heard you, loud and clear."  Amanda reiterated, "Grandma, I do not have a solo in the concert.  What Dr. Warren heard was supposed to be the whole middle school singing-- I'm just the only one who came in."

At the actual concert, Madeline and I were standing back.  As the whole middle school filed on stage, with our big girl in the center of the front row, Maddy hissed, "What are all those big kids doing on stage with Amanda?"  (My sentiments, exactly, by the way.)

When the middle school started to sing "La Bamba," Maddy exclaimed, "Hey, I remember this from 'The Little Mermaid!'"

After the kids returned home, they sat at the kitchen table relaying highlights to me.
Grandma: "During lunch, Benjamin's girlfriend stopped by to visit."
Girls: (squeals and kissing noises)
Mom: "Girlfriend?!  WHO?"
Ben: "Ellen."
Grandma: "Yes, it was Ellen.  She is a nice girl, very friendly and chatty.  She's really cute, too."
Ben: "I hate to tell you this-- but she really is."

Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Decoy

This hunting decoy washed up on the beach at my parents' house, and Madeline rescued it amd claimed it as her new pet.

We have had the "It's not a duck, it's a goose" discussion.  We have also had the "If there's 'lake stuff' coming out of it please don't set it on the couch" talk.  Next up was the "Do not drag the decoy across the wood floor" lecture.  But, tell Madeline she cannot keep the decoy or that a plastic goose is not actually a PET?!  


That's the stuff of which Krinkeland legends are made.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013


It was only a matter of time, but it has happened.  I am no longer needed.  My opinion does not matter. My words go unheeded.

I expected the middle schooler to begin turning to her friends; I just pray she knows I am still always here. The next child has pretty much ignored my advice from day one.  The boy assumes I could never understand, never be right because I am, well, not a boy.  But the youngest-- the youngest is my baby, and, at four-years-old, still believes I hold the keys to the kingdom.  At least, that's what I thought-- until today.

As Madeline strode into the gymnasium and peeled off the layers for gymnastics class, I encouraged her to remove her rigid, plastic headband with the sharp teeth and the large, plastic peace sign affixed to one side. "You should take that off, too," I advised.  "Put it in your cubby so it doesn't get lost when you are doing gymnastics."  Maddy shook her head.  "You really don't want to wear that during tumbling," I pushed.  "It will be uncomfortable, hurt, even."  She grasped the headband and held it to her head.  "Honey, take off the headband.  You have a ponytail to keep your hair out of your eyes.  Put the headband here and it will be waiting when you get done."  Madeline refused.  "It might break!" I called, as she turned and stomped away from me, headband in place.

Maddy was the first child to rush to her coach's side.  As she knelt and leaned in, the coach said, "Madeline, that is a beautiful headband, but it will hurt to tumble in it and you don't want to break-- why don't you go put it in your cubby?"  Maddy nodded enthusiastically, popped up, and headed for the waiting area.  I stood stupidly, wondering if I should thank the coach or kick her.  In passing, Madeline stopped and shot me a look that clearly said, "WHAT were you thinking-- letting me wear this headband to gymnastics?!"

Can I resign and retire now?

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Rules for the Walk

Wear your most impractical coat.

If at first the dog does not get his leash entangled in the scooter, be sure to entangle the scooter in the dog's leash.

Stop for lots of hugs.

Hover over every clump of wet leaves and call, "Hello, in there!"

Chase chipmunks.

"Mommy, whenever we see garbage, we have to yell, 'Ahoy!'"

Upon return, visit the swing set, and "pump, pump, pump your legs and save the pushes for Lucia!"

Definition of Murder

Hi, it's your friendly, neighborhood pro-life wacko here!

Here is one of those disconnects I have never understood-- and the defense attorney actually makes my case.  Why IS it two counts of murder if someone kills a pregnant mother... but perfectly legal, as well as socially acceptable, for a pregnant mother to have an abortion and kill her baby?  Even "unlawful abortion," which is the legal claim from the story below, carries a much more lenient punishment.

Man accused of killing pregnant wife claims fetus' death was abortion

If you have trouble with the link, here is the story by Liz O'Connell for Bring Me the News:

The Apple Valley man accused of killing his wife who was 15 weeks pregnant in March is seeking a reduced charge less than a week before his trial is set to begin.
Roger Holland, 36, faces a pair of first-degree and second-degree murder charges in the deaths of 37-year-old Margorie Holland and their unborn child.
Defense attorney Marsh Hallberg claims the death of the fetus was an abortion, not a murder, and is seeking to have the murder charges related to the fetus’ death dismissed, the Pioneer Press reports.
Halberg says the law barring unlawful abortion — ending a pregnancy without consent — is the proper fit if what Roger Holland is accused of and has a less-severe punishment.
Halberg also claims that the murder charges in the death of Margorie Holland encompass the death of the unborn child because the rights of a fetus fall in with the rights of the mother, the newspaper reports.
In response, Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom says there are distinct differences in the two laws and calls Halberg’s claim “offensive and legally unsupported.”
On the morning of March 7, police found Margorie Holland at the bottom of a stairway at the couple’s Apple Valley townhome. She died an hour later at a Burnsville hospital. An autopsy revealed Margorie Holland died from injuries consistent with strangulation.

I have a friend who lost her only child when her abusive ex-husband threw her down the stairs while she was pregnant.  My friend obviously lived, and escaped.  So, so many years later, she somberly describes the baby's death as a different kind of escape.

Domestic violence is sickening and intolerable. 

Abortion is domestic violence, too.

I am pro-life because I respect the rights of every human to be on this planet, from conception to natural death.  It is not up to me to judge the so-called value of a person's life.  I know life is INVALUABLE.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Chilly Willy

I am just warning y'all (see, I'm actually Southern at heart) now: If it stays this cold for the duration of the fall and winter, you are going to read nothing but WHINING for the next six months.

Five snowflakes flew yesterday, sending Krinkeland into a tizzy.  Madeline shed actual tears because I had not yet dug out her snowpants.  Benjamin ripped all the tags off his new snowclothes and then swish-swished around the kitchen.  It seemed every pair of mittens was missing one.

My attempts to assure the children there was no need to dress for real snowfall (because there was no real snowfall) were completely ignored.  Finally, I just gave up, dug out the bins of boots and scarves, and set to dressing the little ones so they could "go out and play in the snow."  In the typical pattern of my life, I got the two bundled and turned them toward the door, when Ben looked out the window and saw the fair-to-middlin' flurries had come to a halt.

"Nah, I guess I'll just go play on the iPad instead," he shrugged, and left a Thinsulate wake behind him.

I HATE winter.

Mourning Connor

We mourn today with our cabin neighbors, the Prothero and Seashore families, on the death Sunday night of seven-year-old Connor.  That boy could light up the beach with a brightness that outshone the sun.  His departure leaves heartbreak.
(I just came across a newspaper article from earlier this month about Connor and his fight.)

Friday, October 18, 2013

Being True

Today Todd and I celebrate 17 years of marriage.  Celebrate, honor, mark, cross off another year, look forward to the next year...  Marriage is all of those things.  People sometimes joke about the traditional vows, which we pledged to one another, by the way, but there is a lot of truth:
Sometimes there's so much worse, it's hard to see the better.
He works hard to make us richer, but family life can become poorer, as a result.
We've had sickness and we've had health.  When you're as rotten of a nurse as I am (the worst), it can be tough to keep alive the blessings while killing the germs.
I LOVE and HONOR my husband and know there is no better man on the planet for me, but sometimes my flowery thoughts all seem to happen when he's at work... and then he walks in the door and gets an earful that doesn't sound very honoring or loving.
But we did promise to be TRUE to each other, and that we are.  That we are.
As a coincidental pre-anniversary celebration, we had dinner last evening with our favorite newlyweds, Kailee and Chase.

(photos courtesy Adam Kennedy Photography)
Kailee and Chase yesterday celebrated two months of wedded bliss.  Though they are busy young people with jobs and lives, they never cease to make time for our children.  And our children ADORE them.  They ask after them and talk about them constantly, particularly Elisabeth.  It is so ridiculous that this was an actual telephone conversation in our house yesterday:
Friend: "Libby, can you come over and play tonight?"
Libby: "NO! Kailee and Chase are coming to dinner!"
Friend: "Oh, that's right!  I'm so sorry, I forgot."
Other fourth graders are aware of who these people are and what an important day it is when they come to our house.  True story. 
After dinner, they all piled on top of one another on the den sofa (even the dog) and turned out the lights to watch the first part of their wedding video:
from Joel">">Joel Morehouse on Vimeo.">Vimeo.>
(video courtesy Joel Morehouse)
Beautiful people.  Beautiful wedding.  Beautiful life.
I love you more and more, Todd, and will keep working hard to be the wife you deserve.  Happy anniversary!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Sick Kiddos

Will you join me in praying for these amazing children as they face stunning health challenges?

Connor, 7, our cabin neighbor on the lake, is battling an aggressive brain cancer.

Evelyn, 8 months, the baby of a school family, is preparing for her to undergo heart surgery tomorrow.

Elli, 15, the friend of a good friend, is taking on a rare and debilitating diagnosis of Juvenile Huntington's Disease.

I know these children... Or their parents... Or their siblings... Or their friends... Or simply their stories from prayer requests I have received.  Thank you.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Who Doesn't Like a Good Butt Joke?

I love the way my little girl puts things, and she always has plenty to say after her beloved gymnastics class: "We did everything with Dora today. Dora went everywhere with us.  Chelsea is a big fan of Dora-- she had to hold her every time."  Elisabeth and I were riding in the car home with Madeline when she tried to tell us that story, and more.

M: "Way-nah wanted to hold Dora."
Mom: "Who?"
M: "Way-nah."
Mom: "Elena?"
M: "No! Way-nah!"
L: "Layna?"
M: "No!"
Mom: "Lena?"
L: "Leia?"
M: "No! Way-nah!"
Mom: "Oh, Raina?"
M: "Yeah!"
L: "Wait-- did you say Wiener?"
M: "Weiner? Weiner?! Who would ever name their kid Weiner?!"
Mom: "No one, Madeline. No parent would ever name their child Weiner."
M: (nodding) "OR... Buttock."

Tuesday, October 15, 2013


From the time I thought about being a mother (which pretty much began when I found out I was expecting our first child), I always imagined it would be such fun to have twins.  Now, I have a number of friends and acquaintances who actually do have twins, so I recognize how crazy that sounds.  I think part of it is because we were nearly 30 when our family began and I figured I was short on time.  Another part comes from my overachiever-more-is-better mentality. Also, I had the idea because of Todd's family tree.  Todd's dad is an identical twin, and Todd also has older uncles (his dad's brothers) who are identical twins.  Somewhere in my brief, elementary study of genetics, I got it in my head that this meant Todd's generation was due.  Todd is one of the younger cousins, so most of the babies are already here, but there are no twins.

When I became pregnant with my fourth and final child-- Madeline Kate, to the lineage tracers-- it was a different kind of pregnancy from the others.  The main difference was that for the early weeks and months, I was so, so sick.  I had always been fortunate to have fairly symptom-free pregnancies with the other children (apart from the massive weight gain-- is that a symptom?) and I was not sure how I was going to make it through the first trimester with this one.  I had a hard time lifting my head from the pillow, and, even then, only moved enough to next have trouble lifting my head from the toilet seat.  This went on for a number of weeks, both before and after the double lines showed up on the stick.  With a toddler, a preschooler and a first grader also in my care, it was a tough situation.

I tried to give myself pep talks: "This is what other women go through every time!  Quit thinking about it and stand up!  Maybe you won't get so fat this time!  This is what happens when 'advanced maternal age' kicks in!  Dummy!"  OK, so the pep talk is not my strong suit.

Finally, when I really felt at the end of my rope, I made an appointment to see my obstetrician.  I was only nine or 10 weeks along, so this was early for a first OB visit, but I planned to plead for some nausea medication, or some sedatives (for me or for the children.)  After the usual lab work and a brief, dynamic-free chat, the doctor took me in for an ultrasound.  As he passed the wand over my belly, he soon said, "Ah, well, I see why you have been so sick!" 

He pointed over one spot on my abdomen and there on the screen I saw the blob with the flashing blob in the middle.  "There's your baby-- congratulations!" the doctor proclaimed, and, in the next breath, "Now, over here..."  He slid the ultrasound wand slightly and continued, "This is another egg that was fertilized, but I can see this embryo is no longer growing.  Since your body doesn't know that yet, it is trying to accommodate two babies, and that is why you feel so awful."

The doctor was straightforward and, while not happy, clearly focusing on the positive in his findings.  He went on to explain to me that since I was so unwell, the usual next step would be to perform a D&C; HOWEVER, since I was still pregnant with a thriving baby, that would not be possible, because, obviously, such a procedure would kill that baby.  He also explained that I was at higher risk with this pregnancy because, should my body elect to miscarry this one baby in the natural way, it would take out the healthy baby with it.  The plan instead was to just wait, and watch, and wait, and hope that instead of miscarrying, my body would be able to reabsorb the other embryo and my pregnancy continue "normally."

I understood everything the doctor had said, but I processed none of it.  He asked if I was OK, and I shrugged and said, "I guess."

Alone, I got dressed and walked out to the car.  Once in the driver's seat, I called my husband from the parking lot and told him, "Well, I found out why I've been so sick."  I explained what the doctor said and waited.  In a plain voice, the babies' daddy replied, "Twins.  Twins would have been nice."  I shrugged and agreed.  My husband told me he loved me and hung up the phone to go back to work.  I don't remember crying.  I don't think I called anyone else.

I was so focused at that time on keeping alive the baby I had, but I also felt helpless, because there was really nothing to do but wait.  I didn't tell people I was pregnant.  Part of the reason was the anticipated response to the announcement of a FOURTH child.  More than that, I didn't want to tell people and then have to un-tell them if I lost this baby, too. 

Finally, family on both sides could stand it no longer.  I mean, I looked like death, I was already fat, I was making excuses not to do things and pawning off my kids on other people.  "WHEN are you going to tell us?!" my mom finally burst out when we were out to dinner one evening.  "Well, it's kind of complicated..." I began.  "Oh, my gosh, it's TWINS!" my mom interrupted.  "Well, it was..." I welled up.  Then, I composed myself and told the story.  I later told it similarly to my siblings, as Todd shared the news with his parents and sister. 

We got on with things.  The pregnancy did continue, somewhat normally, though I did have to see high-risk specialists, get frequent ultrasounds, and have a level II ultrasound and genetic counseling.  I was about six months along before we could no longer see the other baby on ultrasound.

On the day I delivered Madeline, things happened slowly and then very quickly.  Hers was a somewhat complicated birth and she was in a bit of distress, though, obviously, everything turned out beautifully.  There was a lot of commotion in the delivery room.  At one point, my nurse leaned down and said, "Are you OK?  You seem sad."  I replied, "Just overwhelmed."  It was simply the most honest description I had-- I was overwhelmed by what had just happened, and by who was now here, as well as by who was missing.

Life went on.  Life goes on.

I never told the other children about the missing baby.  I knew I would at some point, because it could someday be a matter of their own reproductive health, but they were so young, and I didn't want to scare them.  Also, I didn't have to tell them.  There was still a baby. 

Some of my friends knew, because it came up in conversations related to their own experiences and losses.  I know a LOT of women who have lost babies.  One is too many, and I know many more.  I am uplifted by their strength. 

My husband and I did not sit around mourning the baby.  There was never any time.  It never seemed right.

The following year, for my birthday, Todd had designed for me a mother's ring, with dazzling gems for each of the children's birthstones.  Inset in the band next to Madeline's sparkling diamond is another, smaller diamond.  I cried when I saw the ring, which is quite possibly the most thoughtful (not to mention expensive) thing my husband has ever done for me.  "I can't believe you included the other baby!" I said.  "I wasn't even sure you remembered."  Todd shot back, "Remembered?!  How could I not remember?  It's my child, and, besides, you talk about it all the time."

He didn't mean anything by it, but his words chastened me.  I didn't want to be that woman-- the one who cried, the one who monopolized conversations, the one who sucked the joy out of the room, the one who bemoaned what wasn't instead of focusing on what was.  And I did acknowledge that even though I thought I did not often speak of my miscarriage, I must have been talking about it more than I realized.  I was reminded when my SIL was expecting and I suggested a name and she replied, "Yes, that's a good name, but I would never use it, because I always think of that as your baby's name."

I received this news more than five years ago.  I do not walk around in a gray haze, weeping and wishing for what is not.  I do think every day of my baby who is not here.  I believe any woman who has ever suffered a miscarriage does.

Now, I do not-- in any way-- compare my grief to that of parents who have had children get sick or have accidents and die, those whose babies were born with genetic conditions "incompatible with life," those whose babies have been stillborn, or even those who have suffered late-term miscarriages or multiple miscarriages.  Then again, I do not understand why there should be a comparison for grief at all.  I love my baby the way mothers love babies.

Today is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day.  It's part of Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month.  It's also Breast Cancer Awareness Month and Down Syndrome Awareness Month, and a month of some other causes.  Other issues get talked about more.  I don't know why.  This is not a secret, but, sometimes, it does get treated that way.  I sometimes feel it is not something I should discuss.  I don't want to make a "big deal."  I can feel silly, as though my experience is so minor compared to what some other women have had to endure.

Last month, my entire extended family took part in a memorial walk in honor of my nephew Michael, who died in his mother's womb on April 9 of this year.  His birthday should have been September 9.  The morning of the walk, as I stood at the registration table, gave all our names and gathered all our t-shirts, a volunteer asked me, "Has anyone directed you to our baby naming table?"  "No," I chirped, "but I don't need to go to the baby naming table.  I'm just here for support today."  I meant that.  This was for my sister, for her son.

A short time later, as we all lined up at the start of the walk, my mom turned and surprised me by asking, "Did you name your baby?"  I blinked behind my sunglasses and shrugged.  I was walking for Michael.

In the car as we left the park later that morning, I was emotional and I let that out by unfairly jabbing at my husband.  He had run the 5K instead of walking with the rest of us.  "We had a nice time, a nice talk, enjoying being together," I said.  "You were off all by yourself.  Did you even think about why we were here?"  He replied quietly, "Of course, I did, Andrea."  But I couldn't let it go.  "Really?!  What did you think about?"

"Trust me, Andrea, I had a very thoughtful, spiritual time, running through the woods, all by myself, in this heat," Todd said.  "I thought about Michael.  I thought about (another friend's baby who died.)  I thought about Madeline's sister."

When I say bedtime prayers with my kids, they always "God bless" Baby Michael in heaven and Auntie's other baby in heaven.  I am not even sure how or why they know my sister suffered another miscarriage, 10 years ago, before they had other children.  Maybe it's just the way they always heard my prayers and picked up on them.  When they say that, I always silently "God bless" our baby, too.

The children will know, because there is no reason for them to not know.  This is not a secret; it is part of our family history and it's part of who I am.  I imagine that's why I finally share this story here.  I post about so many of the other things that happen with our family; it seems a gaping hole to never have recorded this chapter.  Also, miscarriage is extremely common.  Maybe you've experienced one yourself.  If not, you know someone who has.

It's estimated one in four women has a miscarriage, stillbirth or infant loss.  20 percent of all pregnancies end in miscarriage.  Death is part of life.  It is sad.  We do go on.  The babies are never, ever, ever, ever forgotten.

If you should ever suffer such a loss, don't be afraid to tell people.  Ask for prayer.  Ask for help.  And if someone you know and love, a sister or a friend or a fellow school mom, loses a baby, HELP HER.  Show up.  Support her.  Listen to her.  Pray for her.  Let her hurt.  Send her a note.  Offer your services with a meal, a chore, an errand.  If she wants you to leave her alone, she will tell you.  If that happens, leave her alone... but always come back. 

I know a family who lost their first baby to SIDS and, at their daughter's funeral, a colleague hugged the mommy and whispered in her ear, "You just go ahead and break.  We will all be here to help put you back together."  If you feel you need support regarding a baby loss, please contact the Missing GRACE Foundation for counseling, support services, educational resources and more.

I don't know if the baby I miscarried is a boy or a girl.  I am looking forward to getting to heaven to find out.  With the twin thing, I have always kind of assumed it is a girl and, obviously, Todd has, too, from his "sister" reference on the walk day.  The baby's name is Margaret, and I would have called her Maisy.  But, just in case, the baby's middle name in Joshua.  Margaret Joshua.  Everyone wins.  No one wins. 

Sorry, Baby, that's just the kind of nut you got for a mother.

Every night, when I tuck each child into bed and turn out the light, the last thing I say is, "Thanks for being my little girl (or boy.)"  Each urchin generally chirps back, "Thanks for being my big mommy!"  I am thankful.  Thanks for being my baby.  Mommy loves you, and Jesus does, too.

"'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'"
(Jeremiah 29:11)

Monday, October 14, 2013

To Bethie On Her 40th Birthday

I have another post all ready for today, but I guess I will sit on it while I continue to think.  However, I have lots of other fun stuff to write about, and today's headline is this :

This is me and Beth this past summer.  Even though she is OLDER than I am, she always looks better-- "well put together" is how I describe Beth, with good hair, and thin, oh, and thin.  That could be because she stopped at one kid instead of four, but I suspect it also has something to do with healthy living (note the water bottle) and lots of yoga.

Beth and I met and became fast friends when we were 12.  Since that time, we have celebrated a lot of birthdays together, and many more apart.  Many things change over the years, but some things never will:

*Even though much of the rest of the world calls her "Elizabeth," she will always be "Beth" to me... except when she's "Bethie," and that is mostly only when I am imitating her mother from a funny story Beth used to tell involving bra shopping at Dayton's department store.
*Much like me, Beth reads great books, recommends great books, and buys great books for the kids.
*Wherever we are in the world, we must put down the car windows and sing LOUDLY along whenever Billy Joel's "The Longest Time" comes on the radio.
*I will never divulge what happened at that one field party (which was totally not our fault) or that night at Dan's house (which was totally our fault.)
*I will never forget that weird guy Beth dated who refused to put the key in the ignition until all seatbelts were buckled.  Also, he was very large and his car was very small, which made me feel like I was living in a cartoon strip.  Wait, why was I on this date?!
*No one loves the Blow Horn as much as Beth and I do.
*I still giggle when I think of Beth wrapping up leftovers from the garage sale to use as door prizes for my wedding shower.
*Rarely, but occasionally, she asks my advice on parenting and family matters, and the best I can tell her is the truth: I don't know, either.
*Beth has made interesting friends, held interesting jobs, lived interesting places and set interesting goals for her life.  That's admirable.
*We still remember all the code names.

Bethie, I hope you have had a glorious 40th birthday and the year ahead is a real banner year for you.  I know the next time we meet, I will be hitting that milestone, too, and I take comfort in seeing how fabulous you make it look.

Happy, happy birthday, Beth!  Jesus loves you, and I do, too.

Friday, October 11, 2013

We Are the Champions

This was the unusual scene yesterday in Krinkeland:

OK, the bumps on a log are not that unusual around here... What was unusual was this collection of fair-weather fans and what they were watching on the TV across the room: the WNBA playoff final game.  Todd and I are so far from being jocks we cannot even be considered athletic supporters.  One recent Sunday afternoon we famously strolled around a massive furniture store, wondering why we were the only shoppers in the place; finally, we heard one commission-deficient salesperson grumble to another about the punishment of having to work while the Vikings were playing.  So, yeah, we skip watching sports.

In choosing sports in which to participate, we have tried to steer our children toward those lifelong, individual, general-fitness-type activities, such as swimming and tennis and golf.  They want to play team sports, like softball and basketball.  (Luckily, no one has even suggested a breach of my one absolute rule: NO HOCKEY.)

Thankfully, our extended families are well versed in these sports... So our kids get some correct guidance that way.  And, as we already know, Todd can watch YouTube videos to teach himself anything, including how to coach little squirrels on the basketball court.  Seriously, those young boys in particular are like blobs of Silly Putty: they bounce all over the place, somehow get stuck where they shouldn't be stuck, and soak up your words to use them right back at you.

Grandpa P. is especially good about encouraging the kids in their sporting endeavors, and, ever since Amanda and Elisabeth began playing basketball, he has made it a point to take them to see higher-stakes games, especially professional ones.  So, my girls are big fans of our own Minnesota Lynx.  They have jerseys and posters and autographs.  Sometimes, they even ask about a score or pay attention to highlights in the news.

Grandpa is the one who cued in his granddaughters that the Lynx were playing for the national championship, and could win it for the second time in three years.  Last night, for the final game he just invited himself over to watch it with the girls.  I made the popcorn and then escaped elsewhere to clean something.  Todd popped in and out of the den.  I think he felt some obligation to watch the game and bond with the others.  He did argue with them about whether they were watching ESPN in HD and how they should turn up the surround sound.  And, every quarter or so, he would retreat to the piano bench and pound out a little Elton John.  This all seems much more typical for us.

The Minnesota Lynx did win the championship.  The girls whooped it up all the way to bed, which had to happen immediately because it was a school night.  They were very excited to "witness" the win, even if just by sitting next to Grandpa on the couch.  I guess he is our Missing Lynx.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

"I Still Believe"

Last evening, Todd and I went to see a touring production of one of our favorite musicals, "Miss Saigon."  I consider the show a true musical theater and it's right up there on the list of all-time greats in my book.  Now, technically, I would have two lists under this banner: MOST IMPORTANT (great style, well written, crucial themes, famous for sparking social discussion/action) and FAVORITEST (make me feel good, carry awesome memories for me, pivotal to my life with musical theater.)  So, here they are, but not necessarily in this order... and also you need to assume that I could put some titles on both lists, but I won't, because now we are overthinking:

Miss Saigon
Next to Normal
Jesus Christ Superstar (Todd is more of a Godspell fan)
Les Miserables
Evita (which Todd hates, by the way)
The Sound of Music

Anything Goes
The Music Man
Guys and Dolls
Nunsense II: The Second Coming
Billy Elliot
Bye Bye Birdie
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

A know there are a lot of really well known, beloved, sometimes controversial musicals that did not make either of my lists.  Maybe I haven't seen them/don't know them, and maybe I just don't like them.  This is not open for debate... make your own lists.

Even if you do not know the story of "Miss Saigon," you can probably guess that it carries with it plenty of controversy.  This is not the focus of this post, so I am not going to go into it, EXCEPT to say I think the very reasons many people criticize "Miss Saigon" are exactly why the show should be produced-- and seen.  The program from this Ordway production even includes "Beyond the Stage" resources for those wishing to research further this story from the Vietnam War and how some view its portrayal on stage:

"'Welcome to Dreamland;' Power, Gender, and Post-Colonial Politics in Miss Saigon" by Eleanor Ty in Essays in Theatre, November 1, 1994.

"Challenging the Asian Illusion" by Gish Jen in the New York Times, August 11, 1991

"Gripe: '"Miss Saigon" is a Celebration of Stereotypes' by Dorinne Kondo in the Los Angeles Times, February 18, 1995

Apart from the cultural/racial/historical issues, I see this show in a very different light than I did the last time I saw a major production, which was before I had children, before I was even married.  Motherhood has a powerful emotional pull.  Furthermore, leave it to me to cue in on a "save the babies" theme, as I was more fully drawn to the pro-life push in the plot as it relates to (please forgive the derogatory term from the musical) Bui-Doi.

My favorite song from "Miss Saigon" is the first duet between Kim and Chris "Sun and Moon."  I love it so much that years and years ago, when a friend asked me and Todd to sing at her wedding, I talked her into including this song, in a Catholic church no less:

Yet, in all this, the "star" of "Miss Saigon" is The Engineer.  Todd was not as enamored with the actor we saw perform last night.  I have no argument against it being a dazzling and pivotal role.  It's just that I must be more of a romantic.  Give me the base emotions over the spectacle anytime:

OK, after saying all that, I just have to say I am very disappointed by the lack of decent clips from this show on YouTube.  You are not getting the full effect.  But it is an amazing musical, with amazing music, and we had an amazing night.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

A Pumpkin Threw Up in Here!

I finally conceded to the kids' badgering and let them haul out all the Halloween decorations today.  I had really been putting it off, hoping I could stall them until, oh, November 1... But, no such luck.  That means I spent the hour before bedtime shoveling piles of costumes off my living room floor and back into their bins.  It also means I will have to take some time tomorrow to rearrange Benjamin's and Madeline's holiday decorating.  I may not have an eye for interior design, but I do know we could improve upon this:
And this:
And this:
(But only if someone actually wants to sit on the sofa.)

The older girls were more interested in torturing Jones by dressing him up in our array of doggy Halloween costumes.  He finally escaped, but not unscathed:
Poor, little pumpkin!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Angels Watching Over Her

We have had some crazy, busy times lately that have made it difficult for me to get around to blogging.  Today, though, I am focused on one of my crazy kids, and her crazy-awesome outlook.

Amanda is a colorful character.  I cannot imagine where she gets it from, but that girl lives in her own world, and has the vast vocabulary and dazzling storytelling skills to share her world with the rest of us.  As an added bonus, she, along with all the kids, attends a parochial school, where teachers and staff foster her spiritual development, which means she is getting great examples and awesome information from dedicated adults, in addition to what she gleans from her parents (thank goodness) and grandparents.

Now that Amanda is in middle school, it is generally just she and I who are up at that brutal hour when she has to catch the bus.  (Well, except for that one morning when I totally overslept and completely missed the morning with my firstborn... But, she doesn't seem permanently scarred, and, wonder of wonders, she did manage to just send herself off to school.  What am I good for, anyway?)  Over oatmeal, Amanda often reveals to me her dreams from the night before.  

They are always long, detailed, technicolor, quite-possibly-embellished yarns.  Usually, I hear about good dreams.  Sometimes, they are just odd.  Amanda rarely complains of bad dreams, and has never been the kid to stand sniveling at my bedside because of monsters under the bed.  However, the other morning, Amanda regaled me with this drawn-out explanation of a nightmare.  It was really gruesome and sad, and I was starting to wish I had been awake at the time to comfort her.  

Never fear-- Holy Girl to the rescue!

"I was really scared, Mom, and I almost came into your room to ask if I could sleep with you," Amanda said.  "BUT, then my guardian angel smacked me upside the head and told me to snap out of it!  That helped me settle down and we went back to sleep in peace."

Atta angel.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Oh, Happy Day!

The good-looking guy in the middle is my FIL, my husband's stepfather and, obviously, my kids' grandpa.  He is 60 years young today.  Recent times have been trying, with his cancer diagnosis and treatments, combined with some frustrating bouts of illness, but I know he is looking forward to this new year, this new decade... We all are... And I end this birthday of his joyfully anticipating the days ahead, filled with faithfulness, strength and peace.

“The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.” (Numbers 6:24-26)

Happy, happy birthday, Harlan!  Jesus loves you, and we do, too.