Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Deep Thoughts by Madeline Kate

"We should really go on another surprise family trip someday, like the surprise trip we took to Disneyworld, except the surprise is that Amanda pays for it."

"Why do they spell Costco (she pronounces it COHSSS-co) with a 't'?"

"Mom, you should know, when I grow up, and you come to visit me someday, there might be a camper or an RV parked in the front yard."

"I'm gonna grow my hair all the way down to my butt and never cut it or trim it."
"Why so long?"
"I mean, I'm gonna grow it until it's half in the middle of my back and half not. I don't really know how to 'splain this... But that's when I'll cut it."


So, tons of mommy posts float around social media, and, frankly, most of them sound pretty much the same to me. Some are funny and some are whiny, but pretty much all reflect a collective experience. I usually just scroll on by, thinking, "Yep, that's how it is-- so what?"

I made a conscious decision-- actually, Todd and I made a series of conscious decisions, with some serious, long-term planning-- to be a full-time Mom to the children of Krinkeland. And aren't they lucky?! I would not undo or change that decision. I am doing nothing perfectly, or even well, frankly, but I believe my family is operating as well as it can be. It is hard. Maybe that's why I'm always writing and talking about us moms helping each other out and giving each other a break. 

Yet, I read this today and it got me. I was just reading along... And then, all of a sudden, I was crying. It was the part about MY FAULT:

"I woke up covered in mosquito bites. After finally getting the kids settled in bed- my three-year-old had to fake poop for a full ten minutes before bed until I finally pried his crying body off of the toilet- I crashed, emotionally speaking. 

After being a bitch to my husband I went outside and sat on our stoop in the rain. It was black outside and the rain was falling in heavy, pregnant drops. Lightning flashed and I counted, like I did when I was a child: "One one thousand, two one thousand, three one thousand, four one thousand, five one thousand, six one thousand" until the thunder cracked to see how far away it was. I don't even know if that really works. 

I didn't feel the mosquitos feasting on me as I sat there in my sweats. The only thing I felt were my clothes getting heavy from the water. In hindsight, it was poetic. I had nothing left to give anyone so the insects took my blood. At least that was one snack I didn't have to prepare. 

It wasn't a bad day. I took good care of my children. I fed them cereal and fruit. We went to the market. I drove to activities. I took them on a walk down a dusty country road and we even blew bubbles in the park. 

That was the sweet stuff. 

The hard part? I broke up more fights than I can remember. I wanted to scream, "Just leave each other the f*ck alone!!!" but instead played the part of referee. I cleaned up too much poop. Even a small amount is too much when you're in a public bathroom scraping it off of pants. I took them to the grocery store and foolishly allowed my three-year-old to use one of those small carts for children that were designed by Satan himself. To him, he wasn't in a grocery store. He was on a race track and those were aisles, they were obstacles that needed ramming. The looks I got. 

 I forgot the bananas my husband takes to work and drove to a fruit stand 15 minutes away because I couldn't bear the thought of going back in after the commotion we'd caused. 

In the summer it's much easier to parent when you're outside, but one can only spend so many hours at the park. One can only hear about a six-month old boo boo ( a fully healed boo boo) so many times and pretend to care. One can only handle so many tantrums a day. One can only comfort so many teary faces before they feel like an empty tube of toothpaste that someone refuses to throw away, rolling up the ends to force out what's left. 

Then of course there was dinner time: the ultimate test of parenting. My three-year-old sat in my lap, the only place he eats right now. I'm ashamed to admit that I just stared at the wall and barely spoke. 

And then it was all over and I was in the rain, just trying to breathe.

I don't even think the kids are the hardest part. The hardest part was feeling like it was my fault. It's my fault that they fight, it's my fault that he tantrums and is a lunatic these days, it's my fault that I didn't find a reasonably priced summer camp before the spaces were gone, it's my fault that he won't eat unless his body is flush against mine. It's all my fault that they're a mess at bedtime. It's hard because of me. Other mothers have it worse and are doing it better. 

"Or," a small voice said to me this morning as I furiously scratched my bites, "Maybe it's just hard." 

Maybe it's hard to dump love and attention on small people who don't even notice, much less reciprocate. The truth is, I like being around my kids. I like having them home, it just also kills me every day. I know one day they won't all be in my living room forever, they'll be out in the world with their own friends and jobs and I treasure this even though I'm barely getting by. Even though at the end of the day I only have enough energy to sit in the rain with a hoodie covering my hair and my head on my knees. 

Today needs to get going. I need to pour milk into cereal bowls and find underwear for people. I'm scared of what the day's going to put me through and grateful that I get to go through it all at the same time. Maybe that's what motherhood is. Maybe it's just hard." 
--Bunmi Laditan

I don't know why I'm sharing this. Maybe I want to look back and remember... maybe I'm hoping it won't always be so hard... maybe I want to be grateful for the hard... 

I am grateful for the hard.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Funny Things They Say

We went to visit my grandma today, the first time I've been to see her since she moved into an assisted living facility last month. It did my mind and heart good to see her somewhat settled in a safe place. Of course, she said plenty of funny things, like, "Guess I have to get used to living with the old people now." She's 100.

I think when you're 100 you pretty much have license to saw whatever you want-- and she does-- so I just laugh. Yet, I also found myself thinking about the other end of the spectrum, and how, when I first started blogging, I could fill so many posts with funny things the little kids said. Now, they're all getting older, and, one might think, wiser, but... No. They still say funny, silly stuff all the time. And, most of those times, I don't think they even know what they're saying.

Amanda came out of the bathroom and commented on the hand soap with the Star Wars decoration on the bottle: "Mom, do you think that soap really smells like Darth Vader?"

Benjamin: "Oh, no, it's another one of those buttocks commercials!"
Grandma: "That's Botox, genius."

Let Us Pray for One Another

Do you believe, as I do, that God created each of us for love? That we are called to care for one another, which in turn, leads us to love with the Lord? Do you pray for others? Do you ask other people for prayers? Do you ask people how you can pray for them?

I read this news article today, and, as Tim Tebow-- a Christian and professional athlete-- is well known for his faith walk, I must say I was not surprised. But I do consider the item a call to action. I have a friend who is dealing with some sudden, scary health issues. When she asked for help with child care, I said "yes," no questions asked. But, when I later returned the child to her, I asked, "What is going on with you? Is there a specific way you need me to pray?"

And, she told me. And, I pray.

Please join me in praying for my friend, that her test results are better than feared, that next week's surgery goes well, and, above all, that she feels the peace of Christ in her mind and in her heart. (Philippians 4:6-7) Who and what are you praying for, and how can I help?

Thursday, June 23, 2016

On Love and Marriage

There have been all kinds of "Happy Anniversary to Us" posts showing up on my Facebook feed this month. I guess June is a popular month to get married. I have a friend who just got married... So did a teacher at the kids' school... And we just attended a couples' shower for a teacher who is soon to be married. I also saw this post, and it struck me a bit because, well, first of all, it's true-- for Todd and me and for most couples, I think, if we're honest:

No June wedding for us... But Todd and I, too, will, in a few months celebrate 20 years of marriage, and we will celebrate all that comes with it.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Holey, Holey, Holey

Haven't I been wondering about this for years? Yes, yes, I have. Didn't I just throw out a bunch of shirts for those pinholes around the belly button? Yes, yes, I did. Is the answer still a bit of a letdown? Yep.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Doing the Best We Can

I have said it before, and I am certain I will say it again, because, with time, this only becomes more true: The older I get, the less I know.  What I mean is that with the passage of time, the meeting of friends, the increasing breadth of experiences, I am less certain about things.  Most things.  I become more steadfast about a few opinions in a few key areas... And about everything else?  Well, I just don't know anymore.

I am OK with that.  I actually think it's a good thing.  I appreciate my belief that I do not know all, and I welcome others' input and try to stay open to their viewpoints.  Even when I disagree.  Especially when I disagree.  We do not have to see eye-to-eye on absolutely everything to like and to respect one another.  How boring would life be if we all just went around nodding all the time?

Some of my favorite people have different political views, different religious beliefs, different parenting styles, different fashion and beauty styles, different alcohol preferences.  I find them interesting and refreshing.  Often, I learn something. 

Many days, it seems my one wish is for everyone to encounter others with that same kind of openness and acceptance.  The world would be a far different place if we all just took deep breaths, looked at our fellow humans, and thought-- no, truly believed, "We're all doing the best we can."  And, then, we could all hug.  Or maybe just high-five... that's more my style.

I know I am doing the best I can.  Sometimes (often) I mess up.  I try to not make the same mistakes over and over again.  I know my own intent, and I am crushed when others guess or suppose my intentions.  I have a good heart.  Most everyone I meet does... We sometimes just don't carry them out in the most effective/compassionate/careful (fill in the adjective of your choice) ways.  But we're not doing that on purpose.  We're doing the best we can.

With the Lord's help, and with each other's help, we will get there.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Like Butter

Yes, it has been exactly one year since our beloved grandfather, stepfather and father-in-law died.  Sometimes, the loss feels so new and raw, as when I think about asking Harlan what's going on with one of the apple trees in the yard or when I see a photo of his always-smiling face.  Other times, it seems we lost him so long ago, and I am sure that is because so much has happened in the year since Harlan's death.  Yet, when I think of him and his battle with esophageal cancer, I immediately also think of Todd's dad and how it will be nearly two years since he died.  It's been more than a year, and two years, and three years since we lost our beloved nephews.  Time marches on, marked by life's events and by death.

As I was thinking of Harlan's tender spirit, and praying for his dear wife and daughter and son and his adored grandchildren, an analogy (with some backstory) came to mind.  Please bear with me:

Well more than 20 years ago, before any of us knew Harlan, when I was finishing my undergraduate degree, my sister-in-law Lisa and I were roommates for a time.  One morning, Lisa observed me making toast and asked, "Aren't you going to put any butter on it?"  I said, no, I never buttered my toast, because I was also spreading jam and/or peanut butter, so the butter really wasn't necessary.  Plus, I really didn't want the extra fat or calories.  My future SIL looked at me as though I'd grown another head, and advised me I really should butter the toast.  When I asked why, she replied, "Because butter makes toast better."  I shrugged and we both went on our ways.  But, the next time I had toast, I thought about what Lisa said and I first buttered it before adding jam.  It was really good.

So, it came to me: Harlan was butter.

Harlan was a staple in most everything-- home, family, church, University of Minnesota Extension, 4-H, extended family, longstanding friendships, the neighborhood, the community.  Once you had Harlan, as once you had butter, you would not ever go without.  He was smooth.  He was versatile and flexible.  Harlan added a layer of richness, sweetness over everything.  Sometimes, he could be firm.  Other times, he was easily and thinly spread.  Often, you wouldn't even notice Harlan was there... But, then, you would surely notice he wasn't.

There's another layer to this analogy, and I share it not to poke fun, but because it's true and it's LOVE: My mother-in-law adores butter.  We have joked she might not be able to survive without it.  But, truly.  Butter is a mainstay of her kitchen and of her table.  In the years following bariatric surgery, butter actually played a somewhat therapeutic, if not medicinal, role in what she could eat.  She has introduced butter to my kids' palates in ways I would not have considered (remember, at one time, I did not butter toast.)  I have noticed many times over the years that a little bit of butter seems to make a big difference for my MIL. 

For everyone.

Also today, I was making cupcakes because it is my mother's birthday.  I'm a lazy cook and even less of a baker, but I learned long ago that all our family members are snobs about one thing: frosting.  Nothing out of the can for these sweeties.  Mom commented on the frosting right away-- it was a mild, lemon buttercream.  I whipped it with a considerable amount of butter.

We are a butter family.  No margarine or whatever else here.  There is butter on the table at every meal, and I always have a few extra pounds of butter in the freezer.  Like butter, Harlan made an impact without always being the center of attention.  When butter is on sale, I stock up.  So was our time on Earth with Harlan; so are our memories still.  We stockpile them, pull them out, discuss them, carry Harlan with us.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Hankering for "Hamilton"

Well, we fought it as long as we could, but Amanda's constant listening and pushing eventually got us all hooked on the Broadway soundtrack of "Hamilton." It's no surprise this show won all the Tony awards and is sold out for, like, years or something. It is incredible. The music is undeniably addicting. This one is my favorite right now-- sick, I know-- and Madeline and I were listening at a very high volume in the car:

She asked me from the back seat, "Mommy, what kind of subject am I?" I tried to explain, in seven-year-old terms, the difference between a monarchy and a democracy and assured her she was no kind of subject at all. She seemed to completely miss what I was trying to say and pressed on, "No, what subject-- like, am I math?"

I love that kid.

The song ended and she requested a replay: "Mom, can we listen again to "I'm Gonna Kill Your Friends and Family?"

I know. I know. I do love that kid... And she deserves a better mother.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

B-Ball in the Dairy Aisle

The boy went grocery shopping with me today, and I asked him which kind of shredded cheese we should get for our omelettes. He said, "Kobe-Shaq cheese." I made Benjamin repeat himself three times. I clarified, "Oh, you mean Colby-Jack!" He shrugged and said, "Me and Jacob call it 'Kobe-Shaq.'" I may worry Daddy and I are not educating our children in all aspects of life/recreation/pop culture... But, thankfully, Ben's friend is a big basketball fan!

Monday, June 13, 2016

Broadway Babies

I watched the Tony Awards last night because I love Broadway, and especially because my oldest daughter has gotten me hooked on the music from "Hamilton," which, as it turned out, yep, basically won everything. The awards ceremony also took place hours after 50 people were killed and as many more injured in a mass shooting at a Florida nightclub. With emotions heightened in the wake of such an evil tragedy, those participating in the broadcast as well as those watching had a somewhat different approach to the night-- it was both more subdued and more passionate. I loved host James Corden's opening monologue:

This is the part I REALLY LOVED:

"To every future leading man who's making his debut,
In his fifth grade class of 'Peter Pan' as Pirate Number Two,
To every future dancing queen whose feet are set to fly, 
At the Tiny Toddlers tap routine next Sunday at the Y,
To the theater kids from anyplace with stardust in their eyes, 
Of every color, class, and race, and face, and shape, and size,
To the boys and girls, transgenders, too, to every Broadway would-be,
Don't wonder if this could be you, it absolutely could be!"

Yes, the message applies to all and everything, but I think it is a good way to describe why I am a big fan of youth theater and especially why I encourage my own children in their performing endeavors. I believe in them. I believe in everyone.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Baptized in Water

Today, we were blessed to witness the Christian baptism of our beautiful, baby friend Mikko. He is the son of our friends, coaches and CrossFit gym owners Dean and Giane. We feel fortunate to have them in our lives, and to be honorary auntie and uncle to Mikko, since they do not have any family in this country. The little boy brings everyone such joy, but, particularly today, for his baptism, he was all smiles and giggles, clearly ready and relishing the gift of the Holy Spirit!

For posterity, here is the whole, lovely sacrament:

Getting Seussy!

I cannot remember if I have posted about this yet, but the three older kiddos decided to put themselves out there and audition for the SOAR Regional Arts summer musical production of "Seussical." They were all cast, along with three of their cousins. With a shortage of men, Dad's arm was even twisted into joining the production. Rehearsals began last week. They are having a ball!

This weekend, they joined other cast members to walk in the Albertville Friendly City Days parade and promote the upcoming show. It was just one of the highlights of a full, hot weekend!

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Pie in the Sky

Madeline and Grandma made a pie. Why? Because Maddy wanted to do it.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

School's Out for Summer!

bunch of great things happened today, but I think the headline reads: IT'S THE LAST DAY OF SCHOOL! The kids had been counting down for some time (and I'm sure the teachers had, too) and I fully confess I have been looking forward to the change of pace, the presence of the kids, the excitement of fun! Maybe tomorrow we will all be at each other's throats, but tonight we are thrilled.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Tracking and Fielding

The kids wrapped up another fun track and field day at school. After the middle schoolers got rain on Friday, today's weather was beautiful! In an odd turn of events, Madeline and Benjamin ended up on the same white team this year... And, I was coaching purple! One more day till summer vacation, and I know we are all looking forward to it!


Sunday, June 5, 2016

The Kickballers and the Kickballers-Not

It appears the fam has begun a new tradition for after dinner at Grandma and Grandpa P.'s. The kiddos and the daddios play kickball! I cannot imagine what this is doing to Grandpa's beloved lawn, but watching them play is certainly good for the soul! The ball gets stuck in a tree... a three-year-old keeps running the bases regardless of the action on the field... an uncle's flip-flop goes flying... a toddler interferes with his toy weed whip... a godfather pegs off his beloved goddaughter...

No one keeps score or knows the outcome, because that's really not the point.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

End of Eighth, End of an Era

With a final track and field celebration, this weird and wonderful girl wrapped up eighth grade and said goodbye to her elementary-middle school days. I have a lot of not-fully-processed thoughts about this (and, of course, more than my fair share of feelings for a mom) but, mostly, I am grateful for the gift of this eldest daughter and I am excited about all the future holds for Amanda. Her final year at the small, parochial school we chose has been filled with challenges and changes, for both of us:
*Coming down with mononucleosis in the fall meant missing a lot of school. Her grades suffered, as did her friendships.
*Amanda exercised her leadership muscles. Sometimes this was done in a positive way, as she was student council president. Other times, she got the blame (and took it) for leading her classmates into non-productive territory.
*She really found ways to grow in her Christian faith. The theology teacher was a favorite, very firm but fair and loving... At least, that's the way Amanda took things. 

*Amanda got interested in boys. Well, there was one boy, for a while, a nice boy-- yet, this mama is quite thankful they eventually decided to "just be friends."
*She had the lead role in a musical production. Amanda was scared, and sometimes felt unworthy, but she worked hard and proved herself to her fellow cast mates, the directors, and the hundreds and hundreds of audience members.

*Amanda grew. She grew and she grew and she grew. As of this writing, she and I are the same height (5'6") and, at a size 8, she has long since passed my shoe size. Her walk is graceful, her hair is long, and her eyes shine into her soul.
*She has had to handle issues I do not recall from the times of junior high-- friends concerned about sexuality and mental health; assisting others in instances of bullying even to the point of death threats; identifying the value of her place as a female in the church; death and departure of friends' parents; judgment by other friends' parents; and more, so much more.
*She went out for the public middle school track and field team. There, Amanda made new friends and reconnected with others in the community. She also discovered she throws a mean shot put.

I could go on... And on... But, basically, what I'm trying to say is: I'm just so thankful to be Amanda's mom.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Eighth Grade Graduation

We have just returned from the graduation mass and banquet honoring our firstborn and her class. No, it's not a "real" graduation yet-- rather, eighth grade-- but, for kids who have been together, learning and growing in the same school, since kindergarten, it is a huge step. Teachers talked about our Amanda Noel, president of her graduating class, being ready to go to high school. Amanda still says she is "not sure" but, indeed, she is so ready. Todd and I are proud of her and thrilled for her. 

The only thing is: We are not old enough to be parents of a high school freshman.