Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Stealing an Idea

Carmen over at Mom to the Screaming Masses posted about this today, so I thought I would too. Because I am about 1/32 as cool as she is.

Five classes I wish I'd taken in school:

Let's start with the basics:

Advanced English. My little high school had only one English class, and I was that kid reading a novel up until class started. Then, instead of following along while the class read yet another story out loud, I was flipping back in the textbook reading something else. So of course, when it was my turn to read I had no idea where we were. I also had the same English teacher all four years of high school. And because almost every class B school in North Dakota was the same as mine, I had no idea what I was missing out on until I got to my teacher education courses and realized that To Kill a Mockingbird was required reading in pretty much every school, except mine. I found it on my own in the school library.

How to Not Get Crabby When Your Expected Nap Doesn't Happen. Fairly self explanatory. But man, would that class have helped me today.

Make a Meal in 30 minutes with What You Have in the Pantry. What meal-preparer wouldn't wish for these credits? After this class, the next levels would be Make a Meal...Freezer, Refrigerator...Advanced course, Garage.

Math: Love it Forever! This class would ensure your fascination with numbers of all types. Never again would your head spin with the discussion of anything financial or statistical.

Foreign Languages are Your Friend. Again, one of those courses that would make it possible for the student to pick up a new language within days, no, hours! of exposure. Imagine the demand for this course...I could actually travel and not feel like a fool. And I really hate feeling like a fool.

Unending Creative Play for the Motivated Mother. For every mom who doesn't think they can keep up with their children's complaints of boredom, or desire for "something fun to do", this class will give you a limitless number of ideas for fun for your kids...with and without you. This is my second million-dollar idea. If ONLY it was possible. That would help.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

I'll show you mine if you show me yours.

Your Netflix queue, that is.

You weren't thinking anything naughty, were you?
Good. I didn't think so.

Here's what we've seen lately:

Dan in Real Life - Kind of like a Jane Austen story, but about a guy. Actually, that really sums it up! BUT, this hero has 3 kids (he's a widower - did you know that's the only word in the English language to which you ADD letters to make it male-specific?)

It's surprisingly clean, and really showcases Steve Carrell's ability to be normal and attractive, unlike one of our favorite TV shows, The Office. Dane Cook is actually likable as the younger brother, and the gorgeous Juliette Binoche is perfect as always.

Once - A modern musical, independent film. The pace is much slower than the typical Hollywood movie, but if you just sit tight and relax (and listen REALLY CLOSELY - the accents can get pretty thick) you'll enjoy this Irish film. What Aaron and I appreciated in this movie is that the characters don't take the obvious route, but rather the more responsible one. What a relief.

Oh yeah, there's a bunch of F*** bombs in this movie. With a heavy Irish accent, which makes me not mind them very much. But you are warned...the language is rough.

Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova are real-life musicians (no faking in his highly emotional singing or her beautiful keyboards...) and long-time friends (no faking the chemistry, either!) who won an Oscar for Best Song.

Now, people. I have heard that since filming, the two stars fell in love and are living together (BAH. but anyway...). However, in the DVD extras, Hansard emphasizes that they are NOT a real-life couple, but that they are friends. He does gush quite a bit about her, however. So I'm wondering if this romance happened after the filming of the extras? If you have a source to back you up, let me know. I don't want rumors, I want facts.

The Illusionist - There were, like, three movies about magic all out at about the same time. This is the one about the guy (Edward Norton) who is so good people think he is for reals, not just an illusionist. He's in love with Jessica Biel's character, a richie-rich. And there's also the requisite richie-rich bad guy who's really jealous. Paul Giamatti also has a nice role as the conscious-conflicted inspector.

The other similarly-themed movie we saw a while ago was The Prestige. Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale are more my type of leading man than Norton, and that story was impossible to predict. But, they are both worth seeing. Kinda dark, though, especially The Prestige.

Danny Deckchair - It's a story that's been told before, except for the whole part about the guy's lawnchair soaring through the sky, aided by helium balloons. He lands in a lady's yard, and they end up falling in love while he reinvigorates the entire town. The fact that it takes place in Australia makes it more original.

Despite the familiarity, we really liked this movie. Rhys Ifans has probably one of the best male makeovers I've seen on film, and Miranda Otto has a lovely role, co-starring her incredible hair. Don't recognize her name? She was Eowyn in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. And she was also in the TV series Cashmere Mafia, but we'll just forget about that one.

Again, there's some language here, again with a heavy accent that makes it more tolerable. Aaron also made the comment that foreign movies have more normal looking people - and it seems to be true, and make the story more believable.

We've seen some good movies lately. Have you?

Monday, April 28, 2008

I never was good at Tag...

By randomly searching other bloggers in Fargo, I found Jenifleur-de-lis, who has one of the most lovely blog names I've seen yet. And this random gal and I have a odd number of things in common...other than the fact that I'm married with two kids in a house, and she's single in an apartment. Other that that, we're like, totally the same. Except for the fact that she's an artist. And I'm not.

She tagged me.

Here are the rules for playing.......the rules of tagging if you are inclined to following rules {if rule following is not your bag, do as you please, but heed the warning: the next time i am at your house i will dip my finger into your peanut butter jar. it will be awkward for all of us.}

1. link to the person that tagged you.
2. post the {very important} rules on your blog.
3. list 6 very unimportant, random nothings about yourself {should be an easy one}

^ I can do cool/weird things with my toes and my tongue. Separately. Not together.

^ Bad grammar/usage can drive me nuts, and yet I really didn't understand the difference between good and well until Aaron explained them in detail - and we didn't meet til my junior year of college. Yes, I do replay certain rules in my head before typing. No, I don't judge you by your writing in emails or comments.

^ I feel guilty for not keeping in better touch with almost every friend I've ever had.

^ I really do love middle-school kids. They are hilarious. It makes me more sympathetic when dealing with them to remember that this is probably the worst period of their lives. And one they'll hopefully be able to block out, much as I have.

^ I love Reese's Pieces and PB & J sandwhiches, but really don't like peanut butter cookies or PB on pancakes or toast. I'll use a different knife if it's already been in the peanut butter. Also, I prefer the extremely chunky stuff.

^ I enjoy doing personality or interest inventories. Probably because they are in list form. That, and I'm self-centered.

Hasn't it been interesting to learn more about ME?

By the way, you are now IT:

Truth of Ruth
Nydam Press
The Maus House
A Season of Hope
The Nichols Family Blog

No tag backs!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Good Talent for a Realtor: Picking Locks

Yesterday we were again looking at "the old house". While Aaron and I conversed in the kitchen, the kids were busy inspecting every inch of the upstairs. Closet doors were opened and closed, and both Leah and Ben helped to matt down the carpet further.

Leah came running into the kitchen at one point, doing her goofy giggling, "Ben's gone!" I just figured they were playing. Riiiight.

About five minutes or so later I hear some wimpering coming from somewhere, and all of a sudden I realize I haven't actually seen Ben for a while. Realtor Dave and I start checking rooms, and find a bedroom door closed...and locked.

We called his name, but heard no answer. The door actually had a keyhole in the knob, so I tried all six of the keys left in the kitchen. No dice.

And then Realtor Dave got out a card from his wallet. After a few seconds of jimmying, the lock popped, and upon opening the door we saw Ben against the back wall. Not crying, just staring at us. With a full diaper.

Realtor Dave: "Well, no kidding. It was scary!"

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Brain status: Fried

Here's a list (of course) of reasons why I'm functioning at lower than normal brain levels:

1) We spent all of Sunday afternoon going to open houses. With the kids. Fortunately, they both took good naps while we took turns going in.

2) We found two houses we liked!

3) House #1: on a huge wooded lot. 4 level split, with no area big enough for an Estrogen Fest. Also, the space for a washer/dryer that's not actually big enough for them make me a little concerned about the forethought of the builder.

4) House #2: built in 1968, and has most likely original flooring and wall coverings. But, it is huge, in a good neighborhood, on a bigger lot (with trees), and has a cool 70's vibe to it. The built-ins are nice enough to keep. Not so with the Scottish plaid carpeting.

5) Did I mention the original kitchen in desperate need of an overhaul and expansion?

6) And that we are actually considering taking this all on?

7) Which will require the services of an interior designer?

8) Of which I know nothing about?

9) Leah has two playdates tomorrow, plus gymnastics.

10) Thursday (usually our day for looking at houses - Aaron's day off) I have a dentist appt., we have an appointment to discuss our church's building campaign, and Aaron has an eye checkup.

11) All before 2pm.

12) The kids are having their photos (click here - that's Leah & my belly!) taken Friday morning. Their mother has not yet purchased their shirts for the portrait together, or thought much more about it. (see items 1-11).

13) Leah's princess birthday is in 10 days. Here's her ideal schedule: Princess party (as Sleeping Beauty, natch) at 10am, lunch at Chuck E. Cheese, and the family over for a pancake dinner. I say two out of three is perfect.

14) In between the first and last items on her birthday schedule, I'm signed up to work at the MOMS club annual garage sale for two hours. For which I have not yet priced my 5 boxes of stuff.

15) Then there's the longer term issues of Aaron's knee surgery and resulting 4 weeks on crutches, closing on this house, and packing and moving to an undisclosed (and unknown) location. In exactly a month.

Good friend L. has volunteered to call and remind me of any events that may occur before we actually move into a house.


It has come to this.

I need a personal assistant.


Monday, April 21, 2008

I'm the Missus

Conversation at dinner tonight:

Aaron, reading the paper: Aren't see-through tops like this a little 'out'? Weren't they big two or three years ago?

Me: This is you saying this, Mr. Sweatpants?

Aaron: Listen, I know fashion, I didn't say I live it.

Leah: Who's Mr. Sweatpants?

Better than a Fence

Have a special gardener in your life? Maybe one that also has issues with their property line being infringed upon? Here's an idea for you.

You know, you can find just about anything on Craigslist.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Agents of Grace

In his sermon this morning, Pastor George talked about people who have been agents of God's grace in our own lives, those whose influence has brought us to this point in our lives.

I immediately thought of Pastor Terry Stoltenow, pastor of the First Baptist Church, where I attended during my years living with the folks in Hebron. Pastor Terry realized that I was basically friendless in our church. Oh, I was friendly with most all the kids, but we never did anything together. Nothing outside of school activities.

Another problem was that I was the only one in my grade at our church. Yeah. It was small. And because they always grouped two grades together for Sunday School, this meant that I was always the oldest or youngest in my class.

Pastor Terry decided to help me, and got me attending youth retreats in our region. Our church was so tiny and really lacked other interested in such activities, so the bus from either Dickinson from the west or Bismarck from the east, depending on where the retreat was, would stop and pick me up. And at camps and retreats I had so. much. fun. I met kids that didn't already think I was a nerd, and kept in touch with those friends via honest-to-goodness letters during the time between events. The other youth pastors befriended me and showed me that Christians could have fun, too, and even act pretty darn crazy. It was pretty thrilling to me, a kid who hadn't even realized there were such a thing as youth pastors.

I also re-dedicated my life to Christ at one of those retreats, the Snowball Retreat at Bismarck Baptist. I realized that although I had been living my life according to Christian morality, I hadn't been doing it because of love for Christ. I decided there that my focus would be on Him, and I would stop just going through life passively. I found my voice.

I started counseling at Crystal Springs Baptist Camp, and those couple of summers were some of the most fun of my life. I met more friends, some of them lifelong, and also began being comfortable talking to others about my faith. As a side benefit, my enjoyment of the role of counselor added to my determination to become a teacher.

Pastor Terry is always one of the first to come to mind whenever I think of people who have helped me on my path of faith. And also, when I hear this ridiculously sappy tear-jerker song, which thankfully isn't often. The only thing worse than an overly sentimental song is one that rings true.

Who has been one of your agents of grace?

Friday, April 18, 2008

Mommy Power

No, I'm not talking about caffeine again. And I haven't gotten hooked up with any Valium...yet.

Today has presented two instances of classic Mommy Power. You know, that power we wield over our children that makes them bend to our will. Occasionally.

Like today, as we were leaving our monthly MOMS club meeting. Those of us without places to be afterwards, and without children already too stir crazy to attempt it, we will sometimes go the McDonald's down the street for lunch. You don't have to be a mother for long before you learn to never ever say that restaurant's name unless you plan to either: A) teach your children that they can't have everything they ask for and brace yourself for 20 minutes of gold-medal quality whining, or B) actually go there.

As we are leaving the building, I surreptitiously ask MOM Amy, "Are you going out for lunch?" Amy says yes, she is, and when I (even more) surreptitiously ask where, she says, "MD's". I nod, and the plan is made. As we continue walking, it becomes apparent that most of those around us are also headed that way, so I ask Leah, "Hey Leah, would you like to have lunch at McDonald's?"

Leah: YES! Hey Amelia! (Amy's daughter) We're going to have lunch at McDonald's! Do you want to come, too?

Amelia: Yes!

Of course, if they hadn't been going, I wouldn't have mentioned it in front of Amelia at all. Everyone was happy, and the girls thought they were in charge. I love it. Sometimes this mom stuff is too easy, if you have some training as a spy.

Episode #2: The kids are playing in the backyard while I'm making dinner. From the window (which is open) I see Ben at his favorite game: dump dirt from the garden bed onto the ground. Since we're not living here much longer, we're not getting too worked up about it, but I don't want him to empty the thing either, so I yell, "Ben! Stop dumping the dirt on the ground! Keep it in the garden!"

He turns, looking rather surprised. His mommy, whom he can't see, is clearly omniscient. Better obey that lady.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

When can I introduce Anne of Green Gables?

While I was pregnant with Leah, one of my concerns was that she wouldn't be a reader. How on EARTH would I relate to a child who wasn't interested in reading? I couldn't fathom.

Fortunately, I didn't have anything to worry about. Before she was a year old Leah would look at board books on her own for a surprising amount of time. Now, being read to is one of her favorite activities, and instead of napping she has a "quiet time" where she'll either listen to books on CD (with or without the book to follow along!) or play with her LeapPad or Leapster. She is a girl after my own heart, but I think she may be waaay more into video games than I ever have been.

Uncle Dean technically gave this Dr. Seuss book to Ben for his birthday, but Leah has laid claim on it. She has figured out that rhyming words end the same way, and since she knows the sounds of all the letters in the alphabet, it's not a big leap to reading "Hop on Pop". And Ben took that seriously, apparently. He was laying like this on her for quite a while during her read-a-loud.

Ben, on the other hand, waited a bit longer to discover the joys of reading. He was just too busy to sit and be read to, but when I finally weaned him at 11 months, I replaced his nursing before bed with reading a book instead, and he took to it readily. Now he enjoys being read to almost as much as Leah does. And he's "reading" to himself, too...on our 10 hour drive back from Montana last summer (above), Ben spent a considerable amount of time looking at his favorite board books.

The photo above was taken Sunday morning, after he'd already spent a solid five minutes (which is like half an hour in non-toddler time) perusing the details of the Thomas the Train product sheet. He'd be on his back, staring at it, then roll over onto his belly and stare some more. The intensity was admirable.

Now for a gratuitous photo of Benjamin and his mommy:

Also. Ben is a really hard sleeper, and sometimes he wakes up from a nap, and then decides he'd just like a wee bit more sleep. We've all felt that way. But Ben just makes himself comfortable wherever he happens to be.

Update: Aaron is now glasses-free and seeing 20/20, according to his doctor. He did have a rough 6 hours after the procedure. Once his Valium fog wore off and this eyes recovered, he emerged. I keep contemplating if I should do Lasik too, but the image of him in the fetal position on our closet floor is pretty discouraging. And have you seen the movie "Minority Report"? I think I'll need the Valium about half and hour before signing any papers, and then small doses daily until the big day. Deal? Sign me up!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

No Records Today

A couple years ago I heard a voice. Not God, not my own, and it wasn't talking to me, so I was pretty sure I wasn't crazy.

It took me a couple minutes, but I figured out that it was the loudspeaker at the high school next door, and there was a track meet going on.

Today Leah wanted to go watch, especially after I explained a couple of the events. Which she's familiar with from watching Aaron play Olympic Games on Wii. This may sound sad, but it's better than some of the things she could be learning from video games! But I digress.

I pulled the kids in the wagon down to the track, and they watched fascinated for about 15 minutes. Also interesting to Ben were the runners on our bike path and every vehicle that drove by. And did I mention the dead leaves collected along the fence? Oh yes, they were vastly amusing to both children, who tried to throw them at me, but here was the current weather:

Conditions: Fair and Windy
Temperature: 67°
Dewpoint: 45
Relative Humidity: 45
Wind: Southeast 26 G38

Very few leaves hit me, needless to say. I think I actually saw Ben lose his footing in one gust. Our children have got to gain weight.

I did feel bad for the kids at the meet. The 100m dash and jumping events were with the wind, which would be helpful. But I don't think anybody else was going to have a personal best.

It was fun explaining the events to Leah - believe it or not, I was in track in high school. Granted, that was as a manager. Hey, don't judge. Someone had to keep track of times and make sure everyone heard the announcements! I did run in 8th grade, but somehow my lack of desire to cross the finish line before anyone else got in the way. I guess you need that. Whaddaya know.

I felt very smart today knowing track terminology, like "heat" and stuff. Also I was reminiscing to myself about how those HS track meets were just big social events. I mean, people like Andrea Focht (Miss Seven State Titles or something ridiculous like that) cared about running, but really it was a chance to see other kids from similar Class B schools. Not that I knew any of them...those were my shy days, folks. Yes, I had them!

But not today! I ended up chatting with another mom watching. Folks, this lady looked not a day over 30, yet it turns out she had a 16 yr old son at the meet, twin? 2nd grade girls, and a 4 yr old and 2 yr old sons with her. She said her house is a mess. But she looked very cute, so to her I say, Bravo. New record set in the event of Parenting.

Monday, April 14, 2008

...and giggling off to bed.

I really should be going to sleep. And I will be, just after I post this from Cute Overload. I'm telling you, folks, if you ever need some feel-good, go here.

Please go see this, as it has me laughing out loud to myself, which always sounds creepy. Especially when the wind is howling outside and everyone else is sleeping.

You just can't beat the combo of kids and animals to make for a cute and/or goofy scene. Just too much. Remind me to keep track of Ben at the petting zoo. Talk about building up immunity!

Ed: Try the CO link now. Sorry!

Green grass ain't bad, either

Things I'm liking this spring:

The Elmo tablecloth still on the table from Ben's birthday is the perfect camouflage for the the Hawaiian Punch jelly beans I got after Easter. I've been snitching them while Ben naps & Leah has quiet time. Shhh.

Garage sales - I've already been to one (extra big - community) and got a set of sheets for Leah's future twin bed for $3. I'm hoping to tag along with friend Crystal, since she may have this activity down to an actual honest-to-goodness science.

I can pack up our winter, coats, and the piles of hats and mittens my kids have accumulated. And sell their outgrown (or outgrown by next winter) stuff at the MOMS Club garage sale May 3rd! To make cash for garage sale-ing.

The prospect of not having to mow a yard this summer. With Aaron on crutches, that will probably be my job for awhile, and hopefully the rental place will take care of it.

Fresh produce with no personal effort involved. I signed up for a CSA (community supported agriculture) and have since seen articles about them in a fitness mag at my brother's and in Cottage Living magazine. I'm HIP!

Our fish finally died. What? You didn't know we had a fish? We did, for the two weeks since Leah's friend Lydia's birthday. Mom Valerie had the bright idea of handing out goldfish as the prize for one of her excellent games. I kept ours alive on saltine crackers until last night, when I decide to change the poor thing's water, which promptly turned it belly-up. I flushed it, and the kids haven't even noticed...good thing those swimmers have short life-spans. They are still longer than a preschooler's.

Tulips. I love tulips, and mine are about 6-8 inches tall already. They survived our TWO April blizzards, thankfully. I hope I'll get to see them again before we move.

Hope you are enjoying your spring, too! What's making YOU happy today?

and....Breathe out.

I know you've been holding your breath, Internet, so I'll update you on our house search.

That inspection we were worried about? Turns out it was fine, but the buyers hadn't put there offer on paper yet, so they were still having it shown. Also, it needed:

wallpaper removed in almost every room
new stove
new kitchen ceiling
and yes, new kitchen sink.

also, although the flooring on the main floor was nice, there was TURQUOISE carpet on the steps and upstairs hallway. And other lovely colors in the bedrooms.

And the basement? Oh, fine, except for the built in TANNING BED and sauna. And the family room that had been a dance studio - mirrored walls and a barre on one end. And large scary hooks in the ceiling that I'm hoping held boxing bags and not hunks of meat.

To be fair, it was a big house with a great yard, and it had good "bones", but if we put the $30,000 into it that it needed, it would outrank it's neighborhood. So, another pass.

Aaron and I had a date of sorts (left the kids at Grandma's & Grandpa's) and looked at open houses Sunday afternoon, after which we agreed a stiff drink might be necessary. Seeing as Aaron has never had an alcoholic drink, this was an exceptional situation. We didn't have that drink, of course, but we did try new Green Tea Ginger Ale. We are sooo bad. But that ale is goood.

I was so depressed about our housing search that I brought home with me a stack of blueprint magazines. Yikes. The next step is Prozac, folks.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Or maybe they just died.

A house we are looking at tomorrow used to be sold "contingent on inspection". It is now on the market, no contingencies. Reasons that could be so, other than that the inspection went badly:

1) Too much yard to be maintained by a single elderly woman

2) That elderly woman decided that 3000 sq. ft. was too much for her to vacuum.

3) On seeing the trees in the backyard, they decided not to take responsibility for raking them every fall.

4) Too much noise from the neighborhood kids.

5) All that foot traffic on the way to the nearby park was really making a commotion.

6) Too much counter space in the kitchen for a family of one.

7) The family of 15 couldn't fit in the 5 bedrooms.

8)All that space for socializing put too much pressure on the family to entertain.

9) Too many updates left nothing for the handyman husband to repair

10) The location left too little use for the family's collection of sports cars.

Anything else you can think of? Any reason will be considered, as long as it's not a reason why we shouldn't buy the house.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Overheard: Doctor's Office

Receptionist, on the phone: "Do you know if anyone has fed our children today?....Oh. Okay."

A few minutes later a nurse comes out and says to the receptionist, "So someone did feed the children, huh?" and then walks over to check on said "children"...the fish in the large tank in the waiting room.

Oh. Okay. I feel better.

Just a Friendly Reminder....

For those of you who know me in real life:

There are two things I'm trying to keep off this blog, in preparation for the horde of readers to come. They are:

1) our last name.

2)my husband's career.

Out of respect for my husband, I don't want this blog to affect him at work any more than necessary, and these are two things that are easily avoidable. If you could refrain from mentioning these items in your comments, it would be greatly appreciated!

For those of you who don't know me in real life:

1) we are not on any wanted lists...

2) Aaron is not in the mob.

Conversations with My Sweetie

(on the phone yesterday at noon)

Me: Are you coming home for lunch? Cause I have some news, and if you're not coming home I'll just tell you now.

- brief pause-

Me: I'm NOT pregnant, by the way.

Aaron: Haha, well that's good.

(this morning over breakfast)

Aaron: I don't think you'd like to be married to someone who was home more than I am.

Me: Me either.

Aaron: I'm right on the edge now.

For the record. I love that Aaron's job allows him to take time off pretty much whenever he wants...but he's not salaried, so he does have to work some if he wants a paycheck. He has Thursday off regularly, and this week had Monday off because he worked all weekend, and then took Tuesday off for Ben's birthday.

(Aaron would like me to explain that he also has to work some evenings & nights during the week, in addition to the dreaded work weekend. Also, those days off need to be requested 2 months in advance. It's not like he's Mr. Luxury over here, folks.)

Yes, SAHM's out there, I know I'm spoiled. All this, and a mom who lives in town and happily provides free childcare (almost) whenever asked. What more can a girl ask for?

How about the perfect house in the perfect location? Just sayin'.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Seriously, people.

I know there's snow on the ground, but it IS April. The wreaths and garland can come down now.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Barreling Into the Terrible Twos

Our Benjamin is officially a two year old today. Yesterday he got his hair cut AGAIN, and today was his big Elmo party, and we celebrated with friends and family.

Since I really am a teacher at heart, one birthday tradition I've started is writing a birthday quiz. Ben's is below, and I'll put the answers at the end, so you can see how well you did! If you are not an intimate friend of Ben's, don't worry. You can probably do alright by just guessing.

Ben’s 2nd Birthday Quiz

First, some review:
1) How much did Ben weigh at birth?
2) How many days before his due date was he born?
3) Who shares his birthday?
Now, some new stuff:
4) Ben loves to put on: a) his clothes b) shoes c) boots d)diapers

5) Ben likes to eat meat with: a) potatoes b)his fingers c)a fork d)Leah

6) Which won’t Ben eat? : a) rice b) pasta c) bread d)potatoes

7) How many haircuts has Ben had? : a) 0 b) 2 c) 4 d) 6

8) Ben’s favorite licensed character/theme is: a) Elmo b)Cars (movie) c)Dora

9) Ben is most shy of strange: a) women b)men

10) Ben cannot yet: a) jump with both feet b) stand on one foot
a. c) climb onto the couch d) swing a golf club right handed

11) Ben can usually be found with _______________ in his hands.
a) food b) his blankie c) two cars d) a sippy cup

12) Ben’s favorite game to play with Leah is:
a) run down the hall b) pull her hair c) golf d) tag

13) Ben’s first word was: a) puppy b) ball c) baby d) mama

14) Ben loves: a) babies b) cars c) Leah d) golf e) all of the above

Okay, students, be sure to check your work and pass your quiz to the person sitting behind you. Now get out your red pens:

1)7 pounds, 13 ounces (actually 12.9, but I always round it up.)
2)7 days. Just like his sister. Apparently I have a 39 week gestation period instead of 40.
3)Auntie Ruth and Uncle Aaron. Happy Birthday! (And congrats on the job, too, Ruthie!)

4)shoes. Boots you have to force on, and it seems that he thinks his clothes are on fire at times. Folks, we have a nudist in the making.
5) a fork. Oh, he'll eat it with his fingers, too, but for awhile he WOULDN'T eat meat unless it was on a fork.
6) potatoes. Don't know why. French fries are about the only type he likes.
7)4. Yes, I know. He should have had more.
8) Elmo. That furry red monster is like baby crack. They just can't get enough of him.
9)women. For some reason, strange women make him completely flabbergasted.
10) swing a golf club with his right hand. He ONLY swings left handed.
11)two cars. Like a security blanket, with wheels.
12)run down the hall. After waiting in a sprinter's stance for you to say "Ready, Set, GO!"
13) ball. And when was this first word? Oh yes. One month ago.
14) all of the above. He is a very affectionate child, and truly loves babies. Which is totally fine, until he sticks his finger in their eye. Purposefully.

Ben's favorite person in the world, outside of family, is probably baby P. who conveniently happens to be Leah's best friend M.'s little brother. Both kids plus Mom Stacie came over. I don't think the girls had one moment of fun, since M. kept invading Leah's THREE FEET of personal space with her blower-thingy. The nerve of the girl.

Every kid should have a photo of just them with their folks on their birthday. If only said kid would look at the camera. Note that gorgeous, homemade cake! Homemade, that is, with a boxed mixed, a can of white frosting, and a tube of red frosting. And some decor from Cake and Candy World here in town. But it's the thought that counts, right?

Ben loved it, and that's what counts, too.

He loved it right up until the whole crowd started singing "Happy Birthday". And then his fight-or-flight instincts took over, and he tried to burrow into Daddy.

Cue the presents. Once Ben got the idea that Mommy wasn't going to yell at him for ripping the beautiful newspaper gift wrap, he was obviously thrilled. This demonstration included yelling and jumping.

Our house has now been christened with our very first Tickle Me Elmo. The TMX version, no less. Before you start pointing fingers, I'll admit that I purchased Elmo myself, and at half price. Have you seen this dude? Ben has, and he's clearly concerned. Not only is Elmo half his size, he seems to be nearly alive. Elmo talks, laughs, bends over, falls on the ground, gets back up again, begs for a break, and even hiccups at one point. There is reason to be concerned, obviously.
The girls? Not so worried. Grandma GiGi even wants one of her own.

Folks, this is why parents give kids presents. Because your kids just don't give you these kinds of looks every day.

Monday, April 7, 2008

My Million Dollar Idea

Have you ever traveled with a child between the ages of 9 months and about 15 months? You know, that magical age when they are starting to develop their personality, their motor skills, and their desire to eat table food. Which they can't, at least not entirely. And what table food CAN they eat? Oh, pasta, peas, fruit, and cheese. Stuff that doesn't travel too well, at least not without a cooler, and at that age, you really don't need another item to drag around with you.

Here's my amazing idea. Take a vending machine, like this one:

and instead of sandwiches and other adult food, fill it with these items: baby carrots, apple slices, grapes (sliced?), cups of fruit cocktail type stuff, cheese sticks, yogurt (with spoons - BOTH my kids squirted the tubed stuff on the same meal), diced ham and/or turkey, some basic crackers, plain cooked pasta, and to drink, maybe those take & toss sippy cups with juice or whole milk.

Heck, even adults without kids might be thankful for basic healthy food on the go. Like in these places: airports, mall food courts, hotel vending areas, and children's destinations, like museums and zoos.

I even have a name: Ciao Baby. You, cause you pronounce it "chow" in food. AND, it means hello and goodbye, like "aloha"...but with bit more of a cosmopolitan feel.

If anyone knows someone in vending, feel free to pass my idea on! It wouldn't be hard at all to do, since most of those foods listed are already packaged individually anyway...

And if they wanted to pass on some of the millions of dollars they would make, heck, I wouldn't say no.

Details, details.

Leah yelled this afternoon, "Mommy! Where are you?"

I yelled back, "I'm on the steps!" (buried in Entertainment Weekly, which I usually end up reading cover to cover in one sitting). "What are you doing?"

Leah: "I'm just reading this Curious George treasury book that Crystal gave us!"

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Here's to Salty Ocean Breezes

The gals from tonight's MP (I guess they dropped the "Theater" part...) Sense & Sensibility spent a lot of time on cliffs overlooking a rocky ocean shore...which, by the way, never happened in the book. But don't get me started...this was a great adaptation, and although it's not entirely word-for-word, it does keep the important plot points and stays faithful to JA's intentions...and you know, folks, that's really the important stuff.
I really enjoyed it, and thought the parts were well cast. I love how this story has two sisters so close in their relationship, but so opposite in their display of emotion. Elinor doesn't want to reveal anything, and Marianne feels that if she truly feels a certain way, she should be free to show it. It's not hard to see a plot for a romance novel here. Just add a dashing cad, a stoic officer, and a tongue-tied clergyman, and you've got yourself a great start. All you need now is an enthusiastic mama, a nasty mother-in-law, and a few other materialistic ladies, and you're set.
All that salt air blowing the Dashwood skirts around made me think of our visit last fall to Cape Cod for my brother Aaron and SIL Kate's wedding. We got to go to the local beach a few times, which my little family enjoyed thoroughly. Let me share proof:
Leah loved the seashells, and we even managed to get some home. Safely.

Ben did what every little boy before him has done when seeing the ocean for the first time: tried to fill it with rocks.

My little wordless boy has always had an expressive face, and I'm just glad I caught this one! I can't believe what he can do with his eyebrows. Surely he takes after Uncle Aaron.

This is my "Super Mom" pose. Mostly because Ben really wanted to investigate the piles of seagull poop instead of take photos.

Auntie Ruth says it looks like Aaron and Leah are ready for their shift at Target.

This series of photos has already been hinted at by Uncle Aaron. Above is Ben happy, just moments before...

...tripping and falling flat in the water, just deep enough to thoroughly soak his entire front. He was not happy. And no, it was not good. But Mommy still had time to take a photo or two before hypothermia set in.

As you can see, there was no harm done, and Ben got dry clothes after the quick ride back to our temporary home. And really, a diaper and socks is all you really need.

Friday, April 4, 2008

The Reason for the Hyphen

Did you know that there's another Modern-Day Jane out there? Or more specifically, a Modern Day Jane, no hyphen. She began her blog only weeks before mine, so I have to give her kudos for being more on the ball than I. However, she has 10 total posts, and I have over one hundred. But who's counting?

Something that some of you may not know is that in college I was a theater minor, along with my English major. I loved theater, but I am no actress, ladies and gents. Oh no. I, alas, cannot memorize lines to save my life. There is a very long gap between my acting experiences...from high school (a max of 7 lines) until Salem's Christmas play last December (where I think I had 10 lines - Broadway, here I come.)

My specific expertise in the theater is directing - because there's nothing I enjoy more than a good bossing session. And I really do think actors/actresses are the coolest and most fun to work with, even if I can't be them.

I directed a one-act required for my minor. It was so fun. It was a play about a couple that was in the process of divorcing. They were trying to divide up their belongings, and in the meantime were reminiscing about all their shared experiences. At the end of the scene, the wife leaves, and as the husband is replaying a special song, you see her re-enter the room. Curtain.

At one point in the scene, the couple was supposed to kiss. I initially eliminated it because I didn't want to embarrass my extremely novice actors. However, during a final rehearsal, it became evident to me that the scene NEEDED that kiss. And they did it. Wonderfully.

I was so happy and excited and proud that I could create a scene that drew in those people watching - it's that joy that I feel after attending a really good play, one that makes me forget that I'm sitting in the audience.

Because I wasn't an actor, I found other ways to be involved with productions - I worked as Prop Manager for one show (a job NOT as easy as it sounds. You'd think inanimate objects would stay where you put them, wouldn't you?) and as House Manager for another. Working backstage is about as fun as you can get without actually having to be onstage.

Also, I really enjoyed studying the literary aspect of plays and discussing/analyzing them to death. Highly influential to this passion of mine was my theater teacher at Cottey College, Ms. Nancy Haynes, who was a costumer by trade, but also taught one heck of a Shakespeare class and made me more grateful for a C than I can ever remember being. Her tests are still in my files, partially because I was so proud of the grades I received, and mostly so I can look back at how incredibly hard her classes were and be amazed that I survived. They are a good example to me of what I can accomplish when I am properly motivated.

One of my life fantasies involves me living in a big city and working backstage for theater companies. So this MDJ chick. She is my alter-ego or something. Not only is she a believer (or so I assume in my optimistic fashion) but she is a costumer for the Metropolitan Opera! How freaking cool is that? Of course she is also a Jane Austen fan...she'd better be, or I'd be asking for her to step down from her blog name. Here she is, half a country away, living my dream. I hope she knows how lucky she is.

Meanwhile, I'll just appreciate my spacious home, clean air, lack of traffic jams, and the love of my own husband and two children so adorable that when we were at the mall tonight, as they were holding hands, teenage girls were ooohing and ahhing over how cute they were, and as they were going into a store, one looked over her shoulder and said, "I just want to LOOK at them!" Them's cute kids, folks.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

She's got that right.

Today, the weather was my favorite. 52 degrees and sunny, with just a bit of a breeze. And let me tell you, it's MUCH easier to be outside with an (almost) two & an (almost) four year old than with a one and a three year old. It's like heating soup on the stove versus in the microwave. On the stove, you may have less mess, but that's because you have to sit thisclose to catch it when it boils, whereas in the microwave you may have to clean up when it's done, but you can
w a l k a w a y and let it cook for a while on its own.

Anyway. Ben has FINALLY put on his rainboots. The child does not like to wear boots. The first time, anyway. We went through this with his snowboots, too. He refuses to put them on until you hold him down, kicking and screaming, and force them on. Then, THEN, when he discovers what he can do while wearing them, he gets this big grin and won't take them off.

He's into wearing the rainboots now, since when in them Mommy doesn't freak out when he splashes in the puddles. This evening, Aaron was out with them. Ben was playing so intently that he sat down while in the puddle.

Daddy was dragging him up the driveway to get changed, when Leah asked, "What happened?"
Dad: "Ben sat in the puddle."
Leah: "That's not good."

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

And she sounded so confident...

Saturday, standing in front of our national bird at the Minnesota Zoo.

I said, "Leah, what's THAT?" in that really suggestive voice parents use when they know their kids knows the answer and they're trying to get them to show off.

Leah says, "It's a BEAGLE!"