Friday, January 31, 2014

Slow Genius at Work (Lack of Punctuation Purposeful)

The pyramid builder is at it again-- lining up rows and rows of red Solo cups along one wall, in front of the window, trying to make his most magnificent tower to date.  He has to keep stopping, though, to accommodate his meltdowns every time the cups fall.  It is interesting to watch, because they keep falling in the same place, at about the same point in the process.  "Help me, Mom!" he wails, every time the cups tumble and scatter.  But I don't-- partly because the physics portion of my brain never developed, and mostly because the only thing I want to happen with those red Solo cups is for them to get picked up and put away so we can sit down to dinner.  He begins to build anew, sniffling all the way, when suddenly he has his lightbulb moment and pauses: "I know, Mom! I know how to fix it! I know what to do! I will start building at THIS end instead of the OTHER end!"  I slowly nod, failing to see the logic, "Okaaay, but what makes you think that will work?"  "BECAUSE, Mom-- it's the OTHER end that always falls down!"  Genius.

Thursday, January 30, 2014


There are some qualities and talents my kids are not likely to have, skills they are not likely to develop, careers they are not likely to pursue-- all just based on who their parents are and the gene pool from which they are made.  Probably, we are not growing sculptors or painters, professional athletes, hair stylists, or mimes.  Todd and I are not overly athletic, artistically minded or quiet.  The kids do have scientific minds and a love of music, among other qualities, from their father.  They get their stubbornness from both of us.

Because I am their mother, my kids are likely to be GOOD SPELLERS.

Today, Elisabeth finished in second place in the fourth grade spelling bee!  She got out on the word "produced" after she added an extra "u."  We are so proud!

Amanda got out early in the middle school bee, after she got shot a zinger: "truly."  (There's a longer story here about how Amanda spelled the word, and why she thought she might have been correct... But it exposes our family as the reality-television watchers we don't like to admit being... So, we are not going there, and, if you can figure out how things went down and why, well, then, you should be ashamed of your TV habits, too.)

And, yes, the spelling bee takes place as part of Catholic Schools Week, when the kids cast off their uniforms for fun dress-up days.  So, they typically look ridiculous in the photos.  That kid's mustache, however, might be real.

Chicken Allergy

Madeline: "Mom, I thought you were allergic to cats, but it saw you around a cat once and you didn't even sneeze."
Mom: "Yes, I am allergic to cats, but there are a lot of factors: how many cats, how clean the home, how close I am to the animal, etc., and I don't tend to sneeze so much.  It's more that my eyes water and itch.  I itch a lot from my cat allergy."
Madeline: "Oh. I am allergic to mouses. If I saw a big mouse, I would want that cat to get it.  And CHICKENS. I am very allergic to chickens.  Chickens scare me."

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Small Snack, Big Dreams

Getting close to the time to leave for gymnastics class, I reminded Madeline to get dressed in her leotard and grab a snack.  She came to me holding an apple and asked, "Can I pack this in my lunchbox?"  I told her 4:00 was not exactly lunch time, and she should just eat her snack now, and then we would have supper after gymnastics.  

Her little face crumpled and her shoulders sagged.  "You really want to pack the apple in a lunchbox, huh?"  I asked.  Madeline nodded solemnly, "Yes, the big kids always pack their snacks in their lunchboxes."  I smiled, sighed and zipped up the apple alongside Little Sister's big-kid aspirations.  

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Love is Louder

My kids love to watch inspirational videos by Kid President and, I gotta say, this one is especially great:

Monday, January 27, 2014

Our Furry Toddler-Teen

The children were all thrilled to have the day off from school, officially due to frigid temperatures and up officially because it is Jones's second birthday!

Naturally, there was a celebration, with gifts and cupcakes.  Yes, Amanda found a dog cupcake recipe using ingredients from our pantry.  We also made "human" cupcakes, even though we nearly tricked Daddy into trying the dog ones.  There were also plenty of dog-year calculations, and cute comments about Jonesy being a "teenager."

I cannot believe our puppy is two already... At the same time, it seems as though Indiana Jones Zadano has always been here.  My kids are pretty lucky to grow up with such a sweet dog!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Ben the Builder

It's that time of year when Todd and a handful of his fellow theater volunteers spend Saturdays in the garage and wood shop, constructing set pieces for the upcoming Saints on Stage production.  I just try to stay out of the way, mostly because I have no skills in this arena, and can only be helpful by keeping the kids out of their hair.  This, I can mostly do, except when it comes to the boy.  

Benjamin just LOVES being out in the shop with Daddy and "the guys."  He will sort screws, hold boards, fetch screws, whatever is required to earn membership in the club.  Ben also asks to build things, and regularly gathers up scrap materials for his creations.  Todd came in after an afternoon of building, shaking his head: "Ben built a house out of scraps of foam.  It's pretty good.  You should go out and see it."  I shrugged him off.

This afternoon, Ben asked Dad to bring in his "house" from the garage so he could decorate it.  Todd looked to me for approval.  I was envisioning a cross between a Barbie bed and a shoebox diorama, so, I shrugged and said, "OK, just for today."  They came in with this:

Todd told me Ben did (obviously) have access to a cordless drill... But he was not permitted to use a saw to cut any pieces of foam board, so he just had to try different scraps and fit them together.  He made a solid, square, kid-sized house, complete with a floor, back door and skylight.  All by himself.  He's seven.

Am I unnecessarily dazzled?  Maybe my perception is scrambled, because, also this afternoon, Ben's 11-year-old sister told me she is "getting less afraid of the oven."

Naturally, we all have different strengths.  Two of Ben's sisters jumped in to help him decorate the foam house, but he was on his own on the back end where he christened the structure:

Fart Ben's, long may you stand!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Headlines on the Godson and Goddaughter

It is a proud day for Auntie Godmother.

We have just returned from the birthday bash celebrating three-year-old Lucia.

Isn't she amazing?  I mean, can't you just tell from the photo?  She planned a menu of quesadillas and tacos, perfectly executed by her parents.  She did have a couple fancy wardrobe changes.  The cake is a mess because she required the center piece containing the purple frosting balloon.  As we left, Lucia was in the middle of opening up and mixing the pieces of every gift she received.  It's good to be three.

To add to my seam-busting, this morning my godson Solomon received the sacrament of First Reconciliation.  I was not present, as I am told aunties in the confessional are highly frowned upon.  However, Sol and I did chat on the phone last evening, to quell any jitters:

A: "Don't worry, Sol.  You got this.  It's going to be awesome!  Just stay calm and remember: However things go, it'll be perfect.  The details do not matter."
S: "What do you mean?"
A: "I mean, it doesn't matter if you're nervous."
S: "I know. I'm not nervous."
A: "It doesn't matter if you remember the prayers."
S: "I know the prayers."
A: "It doesn't matter of you get the order of things wrong, or forget some of the sins you wanted to mention."
S: "I won't forget."
A: "OK.  Good talk, Solomon.  Go get 'em!"

That's my godson helping my goddaughter with her birthday gifts.  (He didn't want to pose for any post-reconciliation shots.)

Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Cribbage Game

B: "Grandma, want to play cribbage?"
G: "YOU know how to play cribbage?!"
B: "Yeah.  Of course."
G: "OK."
B: "I'll set it up."
G: "We only get two cards?"
B: "Yep."
G: "I think we get more than two cards."
B: "Nope, two cards."
G: "Okaaay."
B: "I'll go first-- three and three is six.  I win!"
G: "This is NOT how you play cribbage."
B: "Well, will you teach me to play cribbage, then?"

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Protect Life.

 Well, I'm nothing if not predictable...

I began reading this book today called "Wave" by Sonali Deraniyagala.  It is a memoir of a woman who was vacationing in Sri Lanka when the tsunami hit on December 26, 2004.  She survived the wave, but it swept away her husband, her two young sons and her parents.  It is a frank and gripping tale and I will finish the book, but not tonight.  After tucking in my own children and my sick-with-a-bad-cold husband, I cannot face the darkness, the loneliness and the grief within the pages.

The book is a tale of a lifetime of love-- lost.  It is about the beauty of life, ached for after it has been stolen.  Though the author's body miraculously survives the natural disaster, her mind believes her life, too, is over, for who is she without her family?  Her soul is lost.

Today marks the 41st anniversary of the legalization of the taking of lives of the unborn in this nation.  We, who have the opportunity and obligation to protect the most fragile amongst us, have been granted the "right" to end those lives.  Abortion not only stops a beating heart, it wrenches the hearts of a desperate mother and broken father.

I implore you: Pray to end abortion.

Oh, and, since he seems to be a popular guy, here are 13 Quotes from Pope Francis on the Sanctity of Life.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Can I Honor MLK If I'm White?

Well, if today is Monday, it must mean my kids have the day off from school.  (Sorry, but that's the way it's felt lately-- looong winter!)  It is the day our nation recognizes Martin Luther King Jr. Day.  I read a number of different articles and items that mark the day from different angles.  The one that struck me most was this: "Most of You Have No Idea What Martin Luther King Actually Did."  (Click the title to read the article, and the link should actually work since I am posting from the PC and not my iPad.)

I come at this a lot of different ways-- as a Christian, as a mother, as a staunch conservative who is also a bleeding heart liberal on certain social issues, as a former journalist pledged to objectivity, and, as the undeniable WHITE WOMAN.  There is much I would like to write here, but I will not.  Somewhat out of fear.  Possibly out of ignorance.  Out of reverence.  I will comment only to say the piece is obviously well written, because it really gives a reader something on which to chew.  The question then becomes: Once we are done chewing, what do we DO with it?

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Sometimes Snow and Ice Is Nice

It was one of those rare, beautiful, winter days when I actually don't hate living here.  It was "warm" and sunny and the kids could not wait to get outside, play on Grandma's and Grandpa's luge run, and slide around on the ice.  I am thankful for fresh air and time with some great kids, including a nephew who hits double digits tomorrow!

The weather gremlins warn the next wave of misery blows in tonight... so don't expect any more flowery crappy from me tomorrow.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Dressing My Best

We have reached a really fun stage in Krinkeland.  It is called "Uh, Mom, what are you wearing?"


It has been going on all week, and received the most attention yesterday, when I took her to her gymnastics class wearing sweatpants, a ringer t-shirt screen-printed with a picture of a circus elephant, and the same purple cardigan I had been wearing for three days.  "What?" I grinned, and pulled her more closely, tightly to me as we entered the building.  Today was a close second, because I just could not get warm and I showed up to the school for play rehearsal in jeans, a long-sleeved t-shirt topped by a hooded, bedazzled sweater and another cardigan (the very same version as the purple, but in beige) over the top of the first sweater.

My 10-year-old, in her state of perpetual mortification, has repeatedly offered to select my outfits for me.  She has tried to insist, really, but I have held firm, "Thanks, but I think I have it.  Yoga pants go with anything, right, Honey?"

I have waded through a lot of poopy diapers and kitchen floor spills for this time.  I have earned the right to wear what I want and embarrass the crap out of these kids.  It feels good.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Snap Decision

We are, somewhat slowly, believe it or not, venturing into the high-tech realm with our children.  I do not claim to have all the answers (or even have any idea what I am doing) and I am sure we have made and will continue to make mistakes.  But we are making deliberate decisions and doing the best we can.  Our PC is in a common area of the home.  When the kids got devices such as Nintendo DS hand-held video games and iPods, Internet access was disabled.  We have a family email account and one iCloud shared amongst our various devices, so we can monitor all the messages that come and go.  And we talk about cyber-safety, etiquette, and common sense ALL THE TIME.

I try to read up on what the kids are into and the accompanying warnings about various security concerns.  Thankfully, I also have one very tech-savvy friend whose advice I seek on pretty much everything.  But the vigilance is a full-time job.

This week, when our 11-year-old once again asked for a Snapchat account, I said, "No!"  Here's one version of the explanation as to why not: Read it.

I later discovered through my regular monitoring what the girl had wanted to share through a Snapchat account.  It's this:

You're welcome.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Like Father, Like Daughter

With a middle schooler in the house, the dynamic has somewhat changed-- you know, because she knows absolutely everything about everything, yet the hormones are turning her into an airhead.  We have eye-rolling.  We have ignoring.  We have blank stares.  We have pouting.  This evening, while discussing some behavior issues going on with her class at school, I discussed something about myself:

While my husband adopts this authoritative tone, says, "Quit being a moron," and walks away, it turns out, I am the parent who drones on, lecturing and laying guilt trips, discussing and discussing, giving examples, and replaying the stuff that wasn't worth mentioning in the first place.  

Thanks, Dad-- it's genetic.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Fetch Face

With musical rehearsals now underway, this is the season of Go!  Go!  Go!  Today's agenda included: driving to and from school (three times); gym; perpetual adoration; preschool pick-up; rehearsal and basketball practice.  All those calendar items mean I should have spent my brief, afternoon moments doing something productive, like fold laundry or start dinner.  But how could I say "No" to this face?

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Where, Oh, Where Has My Husband Gone?

 Now, I know my words may indicate otherwise, but I actually believe I have been pretty patient through this extended Movember experience.  Todd wanted to do something he had never really done his whole adult life, and that is grow a beard.  I dislike facial hair in all forms.  Clean-shaven is just my personal preference. 
Still, I remain an advocate for each person doing whatever makes him-/herself feel good.  For some time, I grew my hair long (and I might do it again) even though my husband clearly prefers shorter hair.  So, glass house, no stone.  HOWEVER, November has come and gone by a good month-and-a-half. 
Recently, Todd has begun changing things up, methinks moving back in the baby-faced direction.  I missed getting a photo of the goatee, which was at least neat and trimmed and reminiscent of some people's college days.  Then, it was this:
Followed by this:
And this:
Creep Face scared the crap out of our nieces at dinner:

Well, Eloise was mostly focused on sucking the Cool Whip off her pie, but, trust me, she was scared.
I just want my husband back!  If I had wanted to marry Magnum P.I., I feel fairly certain I could have made it happen.  And, if Todd shaves and then feels a loss, we can get him one of those stick-on jobs from the dollar store, which is what his 'stache looks like, anyway.

Friday, January 10, 2014


Lest you doubt when life begins, or the value in each and every life... Lest you question the lasting effects of abortion... Lest you think people are unable to change... Lest you deny the power of forgiveness... Find a half-hour and watch this:


Thursday, January 9, 2014


Right at bedtime, my littlest one bent down to pull on her pajama bottoms and smacked her forehead on an open bathroom cupboard door.  Madeline wailed.  So little and tired and wounded.  I picked her up and stood rocking her, shifting my weight from foot to foot.  Maddy put her thumb in her mouth and her head on my shoulder as her sobs slowed.  I had one arm rubbing her back and the other holding her up from the bottom.  I looked in the bathroom mirror and noticed how her legs dangled to my knees.  My baby, so big... but still so fragile.

As I laid her into her bed, I started thinking about Madeline and all of her siblings, and how they'd each had kind of rough days in their own ways.

This afternoon, Benjamin came out of the dentist's office and stood before me, mouth drooping on one side.  Two more cavities filled.  A crown.  A sealant.  He had been brave, but he looked put through the wringer.

Elisabeth, too, was peaked and curled up on the couch by supper time, after having survived her first day back to school following surgery.  She looked so small and pale sitting there.  I worried I had tried to will her well, and had pushed her too much.

Even Amanda, my suddenly big girl, had some trying times in her day.  This morning, as I watched her get on the bus at the end of our driveway, the driver behind the wheel of a big pickup revved the engine and sped around the stop bar, as the red lights flashed.  I was livid, and Amanda later told me she panicked a bit, too, even though she was already safely on board the bus.  That was her rude start to a day of classes, followed by musical rehearsal, and capped by swim practice.  It's a lot.

As I tucked each child into bed tonight, I thought of my role as Protector.  I know these are my children for only a short time, but I believe the Lord entrusts me to do right by them, to love them, to teach them, to encourage them, to keep them safe.  I pray I will always do just that.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Horse Face

With school closed for two days due to brutal cold, daily activities in Krinkeland have been a challenge.  The kids have played a lot of board games, put away a lot of laundry, made a lot of bracelets, and watched a LOT of TV.  My kids are total TV hounds, anyway, and they absorb and spit back the commercial content with alarming accuracy.  The other day, Benjamin asked me for a Chillow.  "What's a Chillow?" I asked.  "It's a pillow filled with water so your head always feels cool."  I replied, "Oh-- NO."  Ben retorted, "But, Mom, it fits perfectly inside any suitcase!"

So, today, Amanda put in her two cents about a product pitch:

A: "So, there are these dolls called Equestria Girls."
M: "Yeah?"
A: "Yeah, they're, like, dolls for horse lovers."
M: "Well, that makes sense, since the word 'equestrian' means having to do with horses or horseback riding."
A: "Well, that explains a lot... but what it doesn't explain is why anyone would want a doll with a horse head-- and a tail."

True, that.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Warm Memories of a Cold Day

The last time I remember the governor of our frigid state declaring all schools closed due to dangerous cold temperatures, I had a lot more fun than I'm having today.

In the interest of history, it turns out then-governor Arne Carlson closed schools two other times I do not remember, in 1996 and 1997.  I was probably just working those days... and I guess I should remember, since I was working in television news.  Yet, if I had a dollar every time the weather in Minnesota made news, well, then, I'd be on a beach somewhere right now.

The day I remember the governor shutting down schools statewide, including the University of Minnesota, was January 18, 1994.  (No, I don't actually remember the date-- I am not gifted that way-- I looked it up.)  The weather geeks report the morning air temperature was -26 degrees in the Twin Cities, with a wind chill of -48 degrees.

But I didn't feel a thing.

That weekend, I had been home visiting from the University of Wisconsin-- Madison, where I was a journalism student, and, where, incidentally, we never got school called off due to the cold.  It was never as cold in Madison as it was in Minneapolis.  I don't remember if I didn't have any Monday classes or if classes had not yet begun for the new semester or what, but I do remember I had my first new-to-me car, a 1987 Ford Escort station wagon dubbed "The Silver Bullet" by my cousin Emily, and that gave me a license to make my own schedule.

After leaving my parents' home, following a relaxing visit where my laundry was done for me, my meals were cooked for me, my oil was changed for me, and my tank was filled for me, I had one stop to make on my way back to school: I wanted to visit my boyfriend of six months at his apartment in the University of Minnesota's Dinkytown area.  I had met Todd the previous summer, while he was transitioning his studies from a small school in Arizona to the big U.  In the fall, shortly after we began dating, I returned to Madison, where I had an apartment with two friends, and he rented a tiny, third-floor walk-up, studio apartment in an old house near campus.

I don't know if the announcement had already been made, or if we heard it after I arrived at Todd's, but I do remember the fun and freedom of an unexpected day off.  (Well, he had a day off... I'm pretty sure I was playing hooky.)  His apartment was so small, the kitchen appliances were toy-sized, and two wooden chairs, a drop-leaf table, a bed and a bookshelf comprised all of his furniture.  I don't even remember the place having a bathroom... and I am beginning to wonder whether he actually shared one out in the hall with another tenant.  That seems unbelievable, but who thinks about something as ordinary as going to the bathroom when you're in looove?

The house was a dump, and was later torn down, but that attic studio was so cozy, so warm, I could have stayed there forever.

I probably watched Todd study that day (he was always studying)... maybe we waved and called to the neighbors across the alley... I'm sure there's some other stuff I shouldn't put in print, like K-I-S-S-I-N-G, but probably not much, because I will have forever burned into my brain the photos of his mother, his grandmother and his sister that were the only decorations on his bookshelf-- strategically placed there by one of the women in his life, I'm sure.  They worked.

I know that day we left that little house, too.  Of course, we did.  We were hearty Minnesotans, as well as stupid college kids and loopy young ones in love.  Plus, Todd rarely had any food.  We would have had to go out for food.  And beer.

Eventually, I would have packed up, warmed up the Silver Bullet, and been on my way.  We would have had a long, drawn-out, possibly teary goodbye.  Then, I would have driven the 270 miles back to school, until one of us could make the trek to visit again. 

I'm not one to wax nostalgic much about the past.  That's mostly because I don't remember the past.  I blame motherhood for robbing me of the ability to remember much of anything, anymore.  But I also don't dwell on what was because I prefer to believe something better is always just around the corner, and that's a good way to live. 

However, I will always remember that day.  It's more of a feeling than an event.  It has a color about it for me, a warm, golden glow, combined with the pale green paint of that house on Essex Street.  Utter contentment.  I was enough.  He was enough.  Life felt good.

With schools closed across the state today and again tomorrow, it's a different feeling with its own aura.  Arctic temperatures or not, Todd had to return to work after being off for two weeks over the holidays.  I've so far packed 26 boxes of Christmas decorations, done six loads of laundry, changed three beds, and broken up 94 fights amongst my four children.  I bundled up to take the dog out.  I didn't bundle up to take the garbage out, twice, and I regretted it.  But I also let the kids gobble up leftover pizza and leftover Christmas cookies for lunch, and felt a sense of relief my 10-year-old must finally be recovering from surgery when she asked to do her homework.

I am contented staying in and protecting my children from the dangerous conditions.  I just wish my boyfriend was here to share it.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Another Day in the Process

We ended up taking our Elisabeth back to the hospital this afternoon for IV fluids and pain meds.  This came after much consultation with her surgeon's office and our many medical-profession friends.  While her father and I knew (also, she knew) what needed to happen to stay on top of pain and dehydration, it just wasn't happening, and she got so weak-- and whiny-- she just couldn't pull herself out of the hole.  A shot of fentanyl, two bags of fluid and a Tylenol later and she had new color, new alertness, and a new ability to walk all the way to the parking garage.

Libby also got a new pain prescription and, so far, all this really seems to have made a difference.  Libby settled down and slept all the way home from the hospital, and, once here, demanded her first food this week... And then she actually ate some of it!  She has lost more than 6 pounds since. Monday's surgery, so this seems significant.  She is still struggling with the pain and yucky sensations associated with this surgery, and we know it will be some time before Libby is "better," but at least we are hopefully past the stage where she's been unable to life her head from the pillow, telling us, "I'm not gonna make it."

Who knows-- maybe Elisabeth will soon be well enough to start on her homework?!

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, snow clothes and boots are piling up, along with the laundry, and Christmas is everywhere.  I will get a handle on things-- someday.  As an unexpected bonus, the gigantic Christmas gifts that are still in the living room doubled as punishment vessels this evening: "Go sit in your kayaks and have a time out!"

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

One Sip at a Time

We are trying to keep our girl, who is walking the border of dehydration, out of the hospital.  It is not easy.

So many family members and friends-- particularly those in the medical profession-- have visited or called these past two days, telling us how horribly traumatic this tonsillectomy/adenoidectomy/uvulectomy surgery is.  They have warned her recovery will be slow and painful... It clearly is.

Elisabeth is 10 years old-- old enough to know and understand what she needs to do to heal, but young enough to obstinately battle all that is difficult... And, right now, it's all difficult.

She and I spent the day on the couch, while Dad and the other kids visited Grandpa and Grandma K. for the annual Christmas celebration.  It was a good reason for our pity party.  But we know these days will soon be behind us, and will turn sunnier and healthier.  Until then, Libby will be mad at me for posting this photo... But I want to remember all of it.