Saturday, January 30, 2016

Where Great Ideas Are Born

"Mom, I just got this brilliant idea while I was on the toilet--"

Man, if I had a dollar for every time someone in Krinkeland uttered that phrase...

"OK, it begins when we put Jones on a zip line--"

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Middle-School-Mom Stress

Oh, this came across my newsfeed today and, oh, how real this is. We are having the middlest kind of middle school week here in Krinkeland-- boys, behavior at school, behavior at home, grades, the emotional roller coaster, all of it. Thanks for the validation, CNN:

Remember, now, that I am currently Mom to two middle-school girls... And there are more coming. Pray for me, please.

Hey, in each photo, they're with the same cousin... And she will one day be a middle-schooler, too.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Shared Peeves

In many ways, my husband and I fit into the cliché oil-and-water description: as different as night and day. Of course, we see eye-to-eye on the things that matter, and we love and respect one another, and we keep working at it, so, still married. Over time, the differences seem to make us laugh more than cry. 

At the same time, it is entertaining to see how we grow together through the years. In 2016, we begin each weekday early (Ha!) with an hour-long CrossFit workout (Ha! Ha!) followed by a trip for coffee (Ha! Ha! Ha!) This is all insanely funny... And absolutely true. We also talk to one another in the car during these escapades. Todd has often been known to observe-- yes, one of the few ways in which he's observant-- that "EVERYTHING irritates you!" I suppose that's true; I am easily irritated. Some things do not bother me at all... But, it's a short list. Conversely, Todd is rarely bothered. Most things roll off his back, if they ever even come close to him in the first place.

So, here is another thing that makes us smile... And makes for interesting conversations... 

Todd and Andrea's SHARED Pet Peeves
*ajar doors, especially on kitchen cabinets
*entitlement turns at 4-way stops
*restaurant servers who are inattentive to beverage refills
*poor grammar and spelling in professional writing
*ongoing dings from text message notifications
*the phrase "very religious" 

Steer clear of these and you are golden in Krinkeland! What's fun is we continue to find new ways to annoy one another.

Monday, January 25, 2016

My Mascot

Hands down, my favorite thing about really-young youth sports is when the coaches let the players choose their team name. They gather 'round and soon ideas, one more ridiculous than the last, erupt from the huddle. Over the years, I have faithfully cheered on The Dolphins, The White Huskies, The Lightning, The Flash, The Red Road Runners and many more. Why not?

I had a good giggle last year when basketball season began and Madeline came home in her blazing jersey, telling me her team name was Orange Crunch. A bit odd, but they were kindergarteners and I was certain it made sense on some level in their weird world. I went with it,
cheering on those Crunchers until a coach explained he was actually leading Orange Crush. Oooh... Well, my kid is not  a soda drinker, so it was lost on her.

This year, they've done it again. I sat in the bleachers at practice when the coach (Three cheers for volunteer coaches! Todd made it one year with the youngest age group and had to come home every Saturday, take Advil, and lay on the sofa, "Like herding cats.") So, Madeline's coach said, "Girls, we need to come up with a team name. What would you like to be called?"

"The Tigers"
"The Leopards"
"The Snow Leopards"
"The Snow Cheetahs"
"The Blue Cheetahs!"

They voted. The team had spoken. Yet, when Madeline was playing with a friend today, I distinctly heard her explain, "My team is called The Blue Cheetos!" Her brother chimed in, "No, I'm pretty sure you're The Blue Cheaters!"

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Wonderful Winter Wonderland

Today is one of those rare days when I actually don't hate living in Minnesota in the winter. It's our niece Lucia's fifth birthday, and she got the most perfect 30-degree day to celebrate! All the cousins went sledding and ice skating, dragging along the grandparents, aunts and uncles in the fun.

It was a really fine day, and I can't wait to see what the whole year brings for this little girl! Happy, happy birthday, Lucia! Thanks to you and your parents for including all of us in the fun.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Why Remember?

This is one of those for posterity posts:

My kids are in love with this song, especially Benjamin. He plays it and sings it all the time. It is so annoying, I really wish the song would go away forever. But I know one day it will and I may even think back and miss it. So, here it is.

Monday, January 18, 2016

All Heart

Benjamin had his echocardiogram and heart checkup today. It's been a couple years since he has seen the cardiologist, so I guess it was time. The results are stable and unchanged, which is good. This news still doesn't make going to the heart clinic any easier.

On the way to the speciality clinic this morning, Ben kept referring to his testicles and "getting neutered" which led me to believe he didn't really know anything about cardiology at all. We have always had a family policy of not making big deals of medical things and just taking issues and their accompanying questions as they come. Since he didn't ask, I didn't really tell.

Through his extensive doctoring in infancy/toddlerhood, Benjamin was found to have a dilated aortic root and a bicuspid aortic valve. What this means could range from "nothing much" to "Holy, Hannah!" Thankfully, over time, his condition has remained unchanged and he is asymptomatic. That was once again the doctor's report today.

The echo took a while, and the technician took great care with Ben, narrating what they were seeing on the screen, particularly when it came to those
valves. Benjamin had commented that his teacher had a new heart valve, so the woman conducting the echo showed Ben each leaflet and how they were working on each of his valves. He also giggled a lot about the stickers on his chest and the jelly on the wand. And he watched cartoons.

During our wait between tests and exam, I did ask Benjamin whether he knew why we were there ("not really") and whether he wanted to know ("not really... wait... I guess".) I found a model of the heart and explained about all the doctor visits when he was younger and how tests showed one part of his heart was a little bigger than it should be, and how, while most heart valves open and close with three flaps, he has one valve where two of the flaps are kind of connected. I reinforced that he was perfectly healthy and had a strong heart, so the doctor was just watching him to make sure nothing changed. Ben said, "OK."

His cardiologist came in, chatted with us for a while to get up to speed, gave Benjamin a thorough examination, including checking all of his pulse points (which Ben found hilarious) and sent us on our way, with orders to visit again when he is a TEENAGER. Naturally, there is a sense of relief when the doctor says, "Nothing's changed. He's stable." But, the weight remains with, "Still measuring slightly above the norms, and those leaflets are just slightly fused." 

There's a little part of me that dreams every clinic visit might end with, "Well, there's no sign of anything amiss. He is cured! Cancel all future appointments and never think of this again! A giraffe waits to carry you off into happily ever after!" (I don't know if people can ride giraffes, but I have read they are very speedy creatures. Also, horses freak me out.)

I know it's silly to fantasize about vanishing heart defects, especially when our boy is so stinking healthy-- and cute. I also know "Nothing Is Impossible with God." I also know I'm supposed to "Let Go and Let God" or maybe just "Let It Be." Just confessing the human failings... the reality of parenthood... how Satan strikes fear in hearts... how we would love your continued prayers of thanksgiving, for ongoing health and also for peace.

I'm really needing to feel the peace after granting the boy's afternoon wish to go to Dave and Buster's. I am certain all those electronic noises and flashing lights raised my blood pressure! 

Look at these three-- all pieces of my heart-- with their winnings, which cost a mere $56.

Hours and hours later, Benjamin asked me, "Mom, if those parts of my heart quit working right and made me sick, how bad would it be? I mean, would it be really bad?" I said, "I don't know, Honey. I've never had to ask because we've always had good reports. I know you're fine and I pray you will always be this healthy." So, he was thinking about it, too. I pray I can restore his confidence and help maintain his health and strength, while we both "be still and know that I am your God."

Her Father's Daughter

Yesterday, I needed to retrieve Little One from an adventure with Grandma. I didn't want Grandma to have to drive all the way to our house, and I was too lazy to drive to Grandma's to pick her up, so we met in the middle, at a convenience store, for the kind of exchange I imagine goes on in situations of shared custody. (I pray I never find out for sure.) What I am trying to do is set the scene:

We were parked, car running, in the lot, when Grandma pulled in behind us. She helped Maddy out of her car, along with the girl's overnight bag, cookies, coloring pages and other good loot. We opened the back hatch of the van and put in her treasures. Madeline said extensive goodbyes and thanks and got buckled into her seat in the back row. Though the air was frigid, Grandma leaned into the open back door and spoke with each of the other children. I'm guessing it was at least five minutes of interaction. 

We drove out. Grandma drove out. Our car followed hers down the road for a mile or so before she turned off. We continued through town and out onto a country road. After maybe 10 minutes had passed, Amanda looked up, cranked her head around, and asked, "Hey, when did Maddy get in the car?!"

No joke.

I don't live in other families, but I honestly wonder why a paternity test is ever needed. I know I am raising another generation of Todd.

"Hey, Amanda, did you know that's a real baby you are holding?" Just kidding. It's our tiny friend Felix. She knows him and already loves him. In fact, during this meeting, she told Felix's parents, "That's a five-star baby you got there." Because that's not weird at all, either.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Is It Me?

I have never Googled myself. I see no need. I feel like I already know what would appear (city council minutes, links to community theater websites, hometown newspaper articles, a bunch of people-search scams) and what would not (naked photos.) I long ago surrendered to having some type of internet presence, because, though I adore privacy, I believe it is impossible for each and every private person's identity to not somehow, some way make its way online. Since my life is pretty much an open book, I do not care. However, a recent online accident incited a new kind of search, and I find it kind of fascinating.

I was working on social media for one of the businesses I assist, and I had to use the Facebook search bar to tag someone in a post. When I typed in the person's name, which was not a common one, six different profiles came up under the same name. So, I had to study photos and read their "About" sections to determine when I had found the correct person's account. That made me so curious to look up Andrea Krinke. Here are the Facebook profile photos of other people who share my name:

Andrea Krinke looks like fun! 

Thursday, January 14, 2016

And the Grief Goes On

I spent some time today in my daughter's eighth-grade class, speaking with them about a journalism-related project on which they are embarking. For one of my examples of storytelling, I showed the students this locally shot and produced story of a school music teacher:

Sweet, right? Not earth-shattering, but very sweet.

Before the students arrived and my talk began, the kids' teacher and I were discussing the game plan and reviewing the examples. She told me, "When I saw the video of the music teacher, I cried." Really-- that sweet? Maybe I am missing the sentimentality gene... She continued, "Today is the 16th anniversary of the death of my first husband, and he LOVED The Beatles. He LOVED The Beatles and their music. He listened to The Beatles all the time, had all their albums lined up, and then arranged all the following albums from John's, Paul's, George's and Ringo's subsequent solo careers. He would quiz me, 'Which one is this? Who sings that?' And I never knew. But I know now. It was well-timed, but sad, to hear that music. I miss him."

16 years. She is newly married. She has grown children. She has a successful and fulfilling career. She misses a love lost 16 years ago.

The things we didn't know... But we know now...

I have never meant to turn this into a blog of grief. I simply write about what's going on in our lives. These days, grief is a part of our lives, as well as woven through the lives of so many we love, know, and meet. Be merciful with one another. Share the suffering, along with the joy.

Sunday, January 10, 2016


You know, for the longest time, I didn't think Todd and I had that much in common.  Yes, I realize that is a ridiculous thing to say about someone after dating him for three years and being married for 19.  I mean, clearly/obviously/hopefully, we must have had some similar interests and outlooks, in the first place, to be drawn to one another; and, we want the same things out of life and we have the same vision for our future.  All true.

Still, I have noticed over the years that Todd prefers to go to the movies while I would rather read books.  I would rather stay home or just hang out with family, whereas he is always up for a party, a get-together, an activity, a crowd.  Todd is a DIY dream (nightmare) and I prefer to hire experts in the areas in which they are experts.  We have a hard time vacationing together, because he likes to go, go, go and I prefer to sit, sit, sit.  I don't even like popcorn, and Todd could comprise his diet entirely of it.

And what passions do we share?  The Lord, of course, and our children, and the World's Cutest Dog, and the water, and being with our families...  But what else?  The go-to "Let's hop a flight to JFK and catch a weekend of shows" is super-fun, but not at all realistic.

Interestingly, by the grace of God, as time goes by, we grow more together.  A couple years ago, Todd decided to expand his photography/videography hobby by making a promotional video for his company.  It seemed pretty logical that, with my journalism education and experience, I would partner with him.  We did it, we turned out a solid product, and we didn't kill one another.

Then, about a year ago, some friends of ours conned us into visiting a new gym for a free trial week.  Todd and I both, coincidentally, got "hooked" on CrossFit.  Now, we begin our weekdays-- all of them-- with a 5:00 alarm.  We crawl out of bed and into our workout clothes and make our way to the box together.  After a hard workout, lifting and rowing and whatever else is in the WOD, we get coffee together and get on with our day.  This part of the partnership was unexpected, but it's so nice.

Now, we merged those two joint interests with what could be the first in a series of videos about the CrossFit gym.  (Check it out by clicking the link.)  Life is funny and fun.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Remembering and Knowing and Loving

The longer we are all around, the more people we know and love and lose. This is so true for me, and I continue to learn more about me and about grief and how we are changed by loss. Today-- though you may think it silly-- I had a bit of a revelation about family members who have died and how their absences impact my children... And this is something for which we are going to need your help.

Out of the blue, it dawned on me that I lost my grandma (my dad's mom-- my mom's mom is still blessedly with us) shortly after my sixth birthday. Grandma fell ill and died a few days later.  I have vague memories of that week, of the funeral, of the time in Grandma's house with extended family.  But I don't remember HER.  I know she was amazing.  I believe she loved me.  I have heard the stories and I have seen the photos.  Yet, I was a little girl... I don't remember how my grandma smelled, what it felt like when she hugged me, whether she liked a particular candy or other vice, what was her favorite thing to cook.

The realization gripped me.  It reminded me of the movie "Beaches" when Barbara Hershey's character Hillary is very ill and dying and her young daughter Victoria sits near her and comments, "We have the same hands."  It sends Hillary into a frenzy of digging through family photographs to find a picture of her own mother's hands so that she can remember.

Sadly, a number of our friends and acquaintances have already lost a mommy or a daddy, to accident or to disease, and my heart breaks for those children.  I know they are always thinking of the parents who are no longer physically present in their lives.  I look at photos and talk about them and ask lots of questions.  I would want to remember.  They would never want to forget.

In this moment, I was actually thinking about my own baby.  Sweet Madeline, at the age of five and then six, lost both her paternal grandfathers.  These men ADORED their youngest granddaughter.  That is not an overstatement.  They lively joy she brings into a room cannot be ignored.  I can see their smiles, hear their chuckles. watch them shake their heads and wipe their eyes.  This child exudes love.  Grandpa R. and Grandpa K. soaked it all in and gave it right back.

I want Madeline to know what.  I NEED her to know, really know, and remember how much her grandpas loved her.

Maddy comes to me multiple times each day, sticks her thumb in her mouth, leans into my body and mumbles, "I need love.  I'm all out of love."  I kiss her.  I hug her.  I squeeze her and I don't let go until she says, "OK, I'm good now," and runs off.  Until she comes back for more.

Please give her the more.  Please remind Madeline just how much her grandfathers loved her and why.  Help her to know it and feel it and smell it and taste it.  And you, you who also love Maddy, fill her up with your fierce love.  For however much time any of us has together, make her memory deep and full.

Thank you.


Little Scientists

I have my fourth child in first grade this year, and this remains my all-time favorite science project:


Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Telling the Story

I sometimes help with class projects at the kids' school, particularly, due to my professional background, where the focus is on writing, storytelling and/or journalism. I have been reviewing some materials in advance of a presentation to eighth grade, and I came across one of my favorite stories:

The title of this piece is "A Tough Teacher's Alter Ego." I think I love it so much because it combines some of my favorite things. Both my parents were teachers. Babies, particularly sick ones, need all the love and support they can get. And it's awesome whenever teenagers get some kind of revelation that adults are real people. Share the love with me and enjoy.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Two Little Words

I have an interesting relationship with the phrase "thank you."

I know, I know, leave it to me...

The words "thank you" have been rolling around in my head all day, giving me pause, and reminding me always, at all times and in all situations, to give thanks.  THANK YOU.

Thank you for Arnie's new heart.
Thank you for K&C's new baby.
Thank you for my sister's healthy pregnancy.
Thank you for the success of the CrossFit gym, and for the health and fitness afforded to us.
Thank you for friends supporting each other in times of grief.
Thank you for the man who, when I offered to take his cart in the Aldi parking lot, refused to take my quarter in exchange.


That was just today.  That was not all of today.

When I say "thank you" puts me in a funny place, what I mean is that I don't seek out or thrive on the thanks of others.  Manners are very important to me.  I try to always send thank-you cards and I drill the children from an early age to say "please" and "thank you."  Yet, when someone approaches me with words or gestures of thankfulness, I tend to shrug off the attention.  It is not a feigned humility.  I just seem to live by this philosophy (and I've been known to utter it aloud, though this flies in the face of my pledged commitment to manners): "Don't thank me-- just get out of the way."  As rude and crass as that sounds, I simply mean to say that I don't do the work for praise or gratitude; I just do it because I am able and it needs to be done.  I consider it thanks enough if others clear a path or refrain from setting obstacles to the work getting done.

I have enough self-confidence-- maybe too much?-- to know I've done a good job and to be satisfied with that, whether or not others acknowledge it.  But is that the truth, the whole truth?  I found myself reflecting today on how good it feels to receive thanks.

We were a bit flustered this morning.  OK, I was downright irritated.  The kids had been home on Christmas vacation for nearly two weeks.  Fun times were had.  It was time to go back to school.  Much of this past weekend was spent at home, preparing for reentry.  Naturally, I discussed with the children such pertinent items as completed homework, dry snow clothes, and hot or cold lunch choices.  I asked, "Are you ready?  Is everything ready?  Are you sure you're ready?"  Yet, still, at 15-minutes-to-bus time, Madeline said, "Mom, I can't find my eye patch! Do you know where it is?"  Lazy Eye has that thing hooked to her glasses six hours a day, nearly every single day.  But she didn't have it this morning.  And I truly had no idea where it was.  We turned over every logical leaf, but the patch did not appear.  I scolded Little One, stuffed a backup patch into the pocket of her school bag and adjusted her hat. Before dashing out the door, she turned and fiercely hugged my thighs: "Thanks a lot for helping me look, Mom."

An hour earlier, Elisabeth, already off to school, texted me the kind of text I get about once a month: "Mom, I forgot my glasses on my dresser again.  Can you please send them with Ben?" Those two fight like raccoons over garbage, but have somehow negotiated this peace agreement when it comes to her glasses.  Benjamin found them, carefully zipped them into a padded pocket of his backpack and promised to deliver them to Libby's locker down the middle school hallway.  I texted her back, "We got you covered!" But she was already in class by that time, so her phone was turned off.  When the school day ended and the phone was powered up, the middle school girl texted: "THANKS!!!"

After getting the kids' dinner on the table this evening, I set out to make myself a salad.  I typically make supper for everyone, but things have been a little trickier since Todd and I began a new nutrition plan and our needs and likes are not the same.  This time, I was trying (translation: inventing) a new recipe that involved roasting pears.  Since I was roasting one, I figured I would go ahead and roast two and see if my husband liked the salad invention.  He did.  We both did.  I mean, come on, it was a salad, so, whatever... By the time Todd got home and ate, the kids had all dispersed and I was washing dishes.  Todd got up from the table, cleared his plate, came over to me and said, "Thank you for supper."

He has done that every night, for every meal I have cooked for him, for 19 years.  It doesn't matter how much thought went into the dish, or how tasty the food was or was not, or for what else he might be irritated with me. Todd always thanks me for cooking.

It feels good to be thanked.  If we are honest, we all want to feel appreciated, to be recognized, just a little bit, for our contributions to the day, the home, the family, the planet.  I'm not too proud to admit it.  The feeling just makes me want to work harder to make sure others know I am THANKFUL for them.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Truth in Years

"Mom, the past year has been really good to you. CrossFit has been good to you. You look AMAZING. I mean it. You could pass for someone in your twenties..."

"...I mean... until I get a close look at your face."

Friday, January 1, 2016

Break from the Homebodies

We have been having great times at home all week... Just sharing new gifts, completing projects, running errands, visiting loved ones. I can tell our time should be coming to a close, however, and the work/school routine should resume, because we are also getting on each other's nerves! Here are some exchanges just from today:

"Ugh, I don't want to go back to school. It's so stupid. All we're learning about in health is 'setting goals.'"
"What's so bad about that? I think you could benefit from some goal-setting strategies."
"Great! What are they?"
"To stay alive and to not kill anyone."

"I need to get out of here. I am tired of the abuse by everyone in this family."
"Seriously? Abuse?! By EVERYONE? Please give me an example of how your father has 'abused' you."
"Well, he told me to set my goals high and not settle for mediocre."

(Lounging on bed in towel)
"Mom, I have been waiting for two weeks for you to find me the pajama bottoms I want to wear."

"And don't you ever try to sleep in my room again!"
"But... It's my room, too."