Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Maddy and the Pumpkin Vine

Madeline had her kindergarten screening today at the Catholic school where she attends preschool and the other kids are in the elementary and middle schools.  It's kind of a done deal that Maddy will start kindergarten there in the fall, right?  I mean, she's the right age to go, with no clear deficiencies, and it's the school our other children attend.  Still, each potential student gets a time slot for assessment by the school nurse and kindergarten teachers.  I don't know exactly what they do-- ask the kid to recite the novena, track disturbing responses from Rorschach tests, shake her down for a big parental donation check, try and figure out if the little one is as weird as her older siblings... But none of my children has come out of the screening permanently scarred and each has seemed excited about the prospect of attending kindergarten.

Maddy told me about answering questions and balancing on a beam and cutting with scissors, but she came away most excited about (besides the bribe of fruit snacks) a little certificate she received with a perky poem and a single pumpkin seed taped to it:

"Mom, this is a real pumpkin seed from a real pumpkin!  And I can plant it in the ground and in I eighty days there will be a real pumpkin!  And then it will be time for kindergarten!  I just need some dirt and a bucket or something!  This seed is alive and it is going to turn into a real pumpkin!  And then we can pick it and bake it into APPLE PIE!"

Oh, yeah, this one is ready for kindergarten.

Make Your Own Magic

Madeline has been carrying around in a zipper bag this disc of white clay with seeds or beads or sequins stuck in it.  I think it's a project she made in preschool.  She told me, "Mom, this is magic."  I dubiously asked, "It is?"  "Yes," Maddy assured me.  "This can make your dreams come true.  You just tell it your wishes and they will magically come true.  What are your wishes?"  I said, "I wish for a clean house and well behaved children."  She gave me that askance glance,"Really-- those are your deepest wishes?"  "Yes," I was firm.  "That's all I wish for."  Madeline sat quietly for a time, clutching her clay.  After a while, Maddy started again, "You know, Mom, this isn't really magic... But if you want those wishes to come true, you just have to have a conversation about it."

Tuesday, April 29, 2014


I came across this blog post of another and found it to be a lovely and loving reminder, a picture of the most valuable kind of human relationship, a description of what I do, or try to do, through my work at Birthright:

That is all.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Fun with Fish

Mommy and Benjamin had a really fun day at the aquarium!  A darn long ride on a school bus... But a great time.  For the record, I generally try to avoid chaperoning field trips because, well, all the other kids... And the bus ride... And the gift shop... And having to pretend to be interested in learning things I already know or else don't even care about... But, my boy wanted me to go, and so I went.  His friends are pretty cool, too.  And cute.  They are all so cute.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Ice Out

Documented for posterity: Today is the day!  The neighbor's dock is already in, naturally, and we have already spotted one ski boat and two paddle boards.  Crazy Minnesotans.

Laid to Rest

Beloved Truman Mark was laid to rest today.  It was a day none of us is likely to forget, and one which all of us wish did not have to happen.  But we are grateful for the gift of Truman nonetheless.  A tiny boy, a brief life, a tremendous impact.  Truman will always be honored and remembered by those who love him.

Of course, a special boy who is also the son of two musicians should have his own song, played on the bagpipes by its composer, no less:

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Poetry in Motion

I stopped at school today and noticed my middle-school girl having lunch at a table full of boys.  This is not an entirely unusual occurrence, but it still gave me pause.  I made a mental note to ask about it later, just to make sure everything was OK.  I did ask, and the answer I got was, "Yeah, I just wanted to eat with the boys.  They are easier."  Again, this did not shock me, but I couldn't help but press on, "Why?"

As usual, I was sorry I asked, and so was Amanda, and she reluctantly gave up bits of information.  Today's middle school drama centered around poetry writing, and some girls voluntarily critiquing the works of other girls.  Amanda regaled me with tales of good poems and bad poems, and misspellings and misuse of words.  She said one girl wrote about noisy robins outside her window; another created a poem about mourning the loss of her dog.  All seemed pretty typical middle-school-girl stuff.

So, after my daughter got all that off her chest, I asked about her poetry.

M: "Who proofread your poem?"
A: "No one."
M: "Why not?"
A: "I didn't want anyone to proofread it.  I already knew it was perfect."
M: "Oh, so your poem was private?"
A: "No, I read it in front of the class.  We could or we couldn't, but most of those other girls wouldn't read theirs."
M: "So, what was your poem about?"
M: "Of course, it was.  I love you."
A: "I wrote a second poem for extra credit about auto-correct."

Beyond Wrong

These are the headlines of the pro-life community this week, not mainstream outlets, of course.  Maybe if they were burning whales... or mink...  I don't know what makes me more ill-- the news accounts or some of the following comments.  If you read this and you have some justification or some explanation that makes sense to you, I do not want to hear it-- it would make me fear and pity you.

I just... I think... I feel... I just...

No words, except: Lord, have mercy.  I know You have mercy on their souls; have mercy on ours.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

On Her Fifth Birthday...

She insists on a "birthday dress" but refuses to wear anything to hold back her hair.

She doesn't really need more of a party than lunch out with cousins, as long as she is the BIG cousin.

A Mylar balloon and a dollar-store kite are the definition of "dreams come true."

Birthday supper is her favorite meal of hot dogs, Kraft macaroni and cheese, and strawberries-- all dipped in copious amounts of ketchup.

Gift-opening is especially fun for the givers, because each reveal comes with a squeal and a bear hug.

Dessert is hand-picked (from the grocery store bakery) cupcakes with the "most beautifulest, rainbowiest icing."

The number-one item on her birthday wish list is a tiny, soft baby doll, who, naturally, gets named Truman.

My tiniest, softest baby turned FIVE today.  I am in disbelief and awe.  I love this precious one who is charged to my care, and I look forward to the dawn of each new day with her.

Happy, happy birthday, Madeline Kate!  Jesus loves you, and Mommy does, too.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Rejoicing on Easter

The Lenten season flew by... Holy Week was a blur... I know that's not the way it's supposed to be, but so it is.  I take my moments of contemplation where I can find them... And look to offer sacrifice and glory through my actions, because I seem to be in constant motion.

And today is Easter.  Glorious Easter.

The day dawned beautiful and bright and Christians rejoiced.  We rejoiced.  My family rejoiced.  In the midst of mourning and suffering, we sang glories.

That is how it is.  How it must be.  Resurrection made it so.

We rejoiced in the early morning, in the thrill of the hunt to find the Bunny's loot.

Todd and I rejoiced in these.

Grandma and Grandpa rejoiced in these, and still mustered up the energy for a lovely dinner, egg and basket hunts, the best-ever Easter Grab, and outside time with bikes and loons and ice going out.

The Big Kids rejoiced in the Easter Grab, an annual tradition that combines luck and laughs, where everyone comes out a winner.  

More than that, we rejoiced in my sister's presence and in the opportunity for us to be witnesses to her strength and, hopefully, distractions from her pain.

We even rejoiced in the children's self-directed drama of the passion.  (That's Jesus rocking the mullet wig.)

Todd and the girls rejoiced in the season's first Frisbee toss, even though we could not remember which girl used to call it a "furby."

The little ones rejoiced in the fun of blowing bubbles, though maybe not my brother who ended up with a sticky, sudsy scalp.

All the kids rejoiced in being barefoot, even as there were still spots of snow in the yard and ice on the lake.

And all the adults rejoiced in placing bets for our other favorite game: Grandpa or a Short Person--Who Falls In First?

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Truman Mark

Today I got a little bit of an idea of what it must have been like for our Lord to turn over his son Jesus to death.

We are an Easter people, but we are so sad.

My sister late last night gave birth to Truman Mark, at 24 weeks and 5 days gestation.  He weighed 1 pound 2 ounces and reportedly came out fighting.  Truman fought the good fight. This morning, shortly after he was baptized into the Christian faith, Truman's soul left his mother's arms to rejoin the angel chorus.

His parents got to meet him and love him up.  His grandparents and his brothers all had the chance to hold him.  My sister is sick and broken, in body and in spirit.
I marvel that one person can accomplish in hours what so many of us are working on for decades.  Well done, Tru and faithful servant.

Happy birthday, Truman! Jesus loves you, and Auntie does, too.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Some Things Are Worth the Effort

We have been having trouble getting Benjamin to settle down and go to sleep tonight, which is not surprising since he fell asleep before supper.  This is also not surprising, as it sometimes happens, and it turned out to be a blessing he was dozing because this flash snow storm had us stuck at home and unable to get to Ben's gymnastics class.  However, even after a mid-April, evening shoveling and sledding party, the snooze made it difficult for Ben to calm down.  Todd went back in after making the rounds with the others, and tried to tuck in our son, but then asked, "Why aren't you sleeping under the covers?"

I know why he's not sleeping under the covers. Ben is not getting comfy between the sheets because he does not want to have to make his bed again in the morning.  However, since Benjamin is a child, he does not yet recognize the value in such comfort-- it feels better to settle in between crisp sheets and under fluffy blankets.

It reminds me of an exchange I once had with my SIL, back when she was my future SIL and roommate.  I was toasting bread and commenting that I would not need butter since I was going to put jelly on the toast.  She advised I should use butter and jelly.  "Why?" I asked. "That's just a waste of calories."  Lisa said, "No, it's not.  It tastes better."


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Mommy Work

MMy sissy is in the hospital now, continuing to bake her little babe for as long as humanly possible, ideally for about three more months.

It's hard.

It's hard for everyone, but it's especially hard for her, being away from her other children, being unable to care for them and her home, and being prohibited from completing even the most basic of tasks out of fear of inducing pre-term labor.  These days, she's Incubator Mommy and she has to put aside all those other duties, as outlined in that sweet video that's floating around social media:
(I don't know why it seems to be so difficult to copy links on the iPad... You will have to copy and paste this into your browser if you want to watch it, I guess.)

Unfortunately, Ellen's poor kids now have mostly Grandma, Grandpa and Auntie doing that stuff while their dad is at work.  With me, things shake down more like:
*Auntie has to draw the line on snacks and TV time somewhere... But it's surely somewhere different (and better) than where Mom and Dad would draw.
*Auntie touches everybody's clean underwear and embarrasses the poo-poo out of the boys when she asks for help with the laundry sorting.
*Auntie goes outside to play, but she's the first one whining at the door that she's cold.
*Auntie offers pep talks to the two-year-old, assuring him he will survive the elevator ride at the hospital, so we can finally get to Mommy's room, and ride on the hospital bed A LOT.

The boys are holding up remarkably well, and I think we're all pretty lucky to have each other.  Plus, did I mention bed rides?

(The niece likes to snuggle as much as the boy does.)

We do iPads together, too.  Is that bad?

One of my friends sent along this sweet prayer, and I am sharing it with Ellen:

Do not look forward 
to what might happen tomorrow;
the same everlasting Father
who cares for you today
will take care of you tomorrow
and everyday.
Either He will shield you from suffering
or He will give you unfailing strength to bear it.
--St. Francis De Sales


This really happened today:

My middle schooler walked into the room, all serious and shaking her head.  With an air of solemnity, she announced, "I cannot believe I have been alive for 12 years and I just figured out 'Saturday' has 'turd' in it."

She is something.

Monday, April 14, 2014


After I got up and got everyone breakfast, sent the middle schooler off to school, and packed the lunch bags, I headed back upstairs to the bedroom... where my husband was waiting for me... to FINISH FILING THE TAXES.

Do. Not. Judge. Us. A hectic theater season, followed by lots of juggling to assist ailing family members, has left no time to deal with the regular tasks.  Plus, those itemized dedications for charity donations are killers.

Oh, who am I kidding?  Judge away.  We are always last-minute filers.  I think it's insane and idiotic that we file our own taxes, too.  But my husband, by his own admission, is C-H-E-A-P.

We were sitting, surrounded by receipts, when Madeline walked in and asked what we were doing.  I told her Daddy and I were finishing the taxes.

"TAXIS?!" she exclaimed. "Are we going to have to start delivering people now?!"

I'm not sure what is more absurd to her-- the idea we were starting a transportation company, or my explanation as to what taxes actually are.

Friday, April 11, 2014

That Kid

You know how there's one kid at preschool who you really don't want your kid to befriend? I am not talking about a kid who is violent or otherwise evil, or the one with the annoying mom to whom you don't want to get stuck talking. I'm just referring to the kid who seems a little, well, off.  It's more like you don't want your child to become friends with that one kid from whom your child might learn naughty words or behaviors, or from whom your angel might catch something.

Yeah, I'm pretty sure that kid resides in Krinkeland.

Driving to school this morning, my daughter declared, "Jonathan finally said he wants to get married to me forever and ever! And I kissed him!" When I said I hoped she was telling a tall tale and I reminded her there is no kissing in preschool, she said, "Of course there is! My teacher is fine with it!"

As we waited in the entryway for class time, my daughter was approached by a dear, little girl decked out in a frilly dress, tights, matching Mary Janes and a pretty headband. This girl had beautifully groomed hair and fingernails, a sweet smile, and an elfin voice. Her innocent eyes grew wider as my daughter-- clad in a t-shirt with skulls on it, leopard-print leggings that turned out to be tights because I could see her graphic undies right through the material, hot pink crew socks, and red sneakers-- regaled her with a colorful tale about her brother pushing her off the bed so she landed on her head. She followed that up with some other story I did not understand, but it involved repeated use of the word "poopy."  Then, she fell to the floor, rolled onto her back and kicked her legs in the air like some wayward crab for no apparent reason.  Finally, when it was time to walk into her classroom, she refused to hold my hand because, "Mom, you are a fart face!"

While all this was going on, the other girl's mom was mostly occupied with her baby.  When she did catch wind of the proceedings, she seemed to stand very still and close her eyes.  Maybe she was praying for me.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

A Day to Remember

On this day last year, heavy clouds hovered, wind whipped and snow fell.  My sister and my BIL received their son Michael and they said goodbye.  Michael's angel anniversary today dawned sunny, warm and bright.  This nice weather helped shine focus on the nice memories.  I am trying to remain grateful for the time Ellen had with Michael, instead of the time I wish she would have had and the time I wish I would have had.
Everyone knows little ones prefer the balloons and wrappings at a party to the gifts.

Happy birthday, Michael!  Jesus loves you and Auntie does, too.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Sick and Sad

Daddy left today for Germany.  We really should not complain because it's been a while since he's traveled for work.  Still, no one likes to see him go.  There is much going on with our extended family, there's (always) plenty of work to be done around the house, the kids' activities are picking up, we still haven't filed our taxes...  And, life is just generally nicer when he's here.

The hardest part, though, was watching him cuddle and say goodbye to one of our big girls who was not feeling feeling well, today.  That's the picture of heartbreak right there... And I'm not sure who's feeling worse.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Mobile Portraits

The kids are constantly getting hold of my phone and using it to take photos of me.  They are always bad, of course, taken when I am unsuspecting and from their odd perspectives.  As someone who generally does not bother with hair or makeup or sucking in, I find those qualities make the phone photos even more appealing.

Usually, I snatch the phone back and immediately delete the 50 or so blurry shots, including those of the lamp cord and those of the taker's thumb.  But, sometimes, I forget, and then I later come across winners like this one:

Just the other day, the children were oohing and aahing when I had curled my hair and put on lip gloss in preparation for an evening out.  So, I stood still for a little one to take my picture:

These showed the least number of chins... And suggested I might actually be not hideous, while still featuring odd, children's views, and showcasing the ever-present clean laundry piles and dusty ceiling fan.  I was contemplating using one for my Facebook profile photo-- you know, so those old flames from high school can see how well I've aged (like a merlot, I tell you) but then I found this much more typical one taken by my two-year-old nephew:

Wow.  I even amaze myself.