Friday, January 30, 2009

My Boys

At this moment I have two little boys on my lap.

One, aged almost three years, is currently in a phase where he likes to wake up from his nap, and then fall asleep lying on a parent figure for another 20 minutes to an hour. He especially likes having his back rubbed.

The other, aged 21 weeks (gestational) likes to kick his mother as soon as she sits down. If there is any parental cuddling involved, baby boy is not above kicking dad, too. Baby Magnus is a mover and a shaker, and I'm mostly enjoying it, for now. Heartburn has started to set in, especially in the evenings, and I need to adjust my back every time I stand up. But you know what? I haven't thrown up this entire pregnancy, so I'm not really complaining, ya'll.
Here's another belly photo for you all - Seriously, this is way WAY bigger than I was with either of the other 2 kids at this point. Remember, I'm only half way through!

Also, I asked Aaron to chop my head off on purpose. I couldn't figure out exactly what expression I should have on my face - happy? mad at the size of my belly? (More accurate, but not especially attractive, either.) And I never seemed to be looking at the camera anyway.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

President Obama, if you're out there...

I was visiting with a mommy friend today, and between the two of us we solved all the problems of public schools. Of course, neither of us currently work in the public school system (although I used to), or even have children in it. Obviously.

Here are my fixes. Now, I'm not saying this would fix all the problems - uninspired teachers and uninvolved parents will still be out there. But here's a good place to start:

1) Uniforms in all public schools, all grade levels. Uniforms help remove the stigma of socio-economic levels that can distract kids from learning and cause behavior issues. I say help because kids who are interested will still be able to identify whether your white button-down shirt is from Gap or Walmart. But, in addition to making labels a little less important, uniforms also eliminate one of the non-educational roles of teachers: policing the dress code. Gone are the distractions of too-short skirts and shorts (one reason teachers LOVE winter) or whether or not a T-shirt slogan is appropriate.

Uniforms also help make back-to-school shopping easier on parents' wallets. Finally, you have a good reason why you shouldn't buy the latest trend or the fashionable brand. And uniforms could be as basic as a solid shirt and unadorned khakis. White and navy are not the only options.

2) Nine weeks on, two weeks off all year long. Schools that already have this schedule say that kids retain information better, so that the first month of school isn't wasted in reviewing. Also, it's easier for parents to schedule family vacations around the school breaks, meaning that kids are missing less school time. Teachers should love it, since it would be fairly easy to plan a 9 week unit, or two 4 or 5 week units. It's a fairly natural break for lesson planning.

This change, of course, would affect innumerable aspects of American culture. But if kids got a better education, wouldn't it be worth it? "Because it's always been this way," isn't a good enough reason anymore, when the current school calendar is based on the primarily agrarian society that is no longer in existence - at least not the way it used to be.

3) Single sex classrooms. This idea makes some folks go completely nuts. They act as though if boys and girls don't see each other in the classroom, they will totally forget how to talk to each other.

And maybe that's a good thing.
But seriously. Single sex education has been around for a LONG time, and the human race has continued to proliferate. And I'm not proposing separate buildings - or even separate classes for all grade levels.

Let's say you start with 6th grade, when the hormones are starting to flow. And in the experimental phase (to convince parents their kids won't turn into social morons), there is one section of all-girl and one section of all-boy English (or science, or math, where there is a proven disparity between achievement of the sexes). See how things go.

I'm willing to bet that if teachers are excited about the idea, both boys and girls will benefit.

But how will they learn to interact appropriately, you ask? Hmm. Is THAT what kids are going to school to learn? Or maybe, possibly, you could learn that on your own in the hallways and in all those extra-curriculars kids are participating in these days. Or after school. Or weekends. PEOPLE! Kids will seek each other out!

It is totally reasonable that not all classes would be single-sex. But why should they be at all?

Research has proven that in general, boys and girls learn best in different ways. Girls tend to excel in an interactive group setting (which is the general trend in education right now) and boys tend to do better in a more lecture-type setting (which is how education was in the 50's - when boys were at the head of the class). Boys are also motivated by competition and achievement. If a classroom teacher were to take these different learning styles into consideration in a single-sex classroom, I believe that both boys and girls (but especially boys) would show improvement.

Girls will benefit by gaining confidence in subjects like math and science, where they typically let boys take charge.

I am not the first person to think of these changes - if only I were! There is research to support these proposals, and some charter schools have already explored them.

If you know someone with some influence (ahem, that would be you, Mr. President) pass these on! And give me full (yet undeserved) credit. Thankyouverymuch.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Today In Brief

- Shoveled snow while kids played in it. We were outside for about an hour. I am not normally an outside kind of girl, so this automatically makes me feel like a good mom.

- None of the children's privileges were revoked today! Hooray!

- Dooce's 2nd baby is due within days of my third, but my belly is about 2 months ahead of hers. That may have something to do with the fact that she has an unusually long torso, and mine is unusually short. Ain't anatomy great?

- Ben slept on me for about an hour after his nap "ended". I'm trying to commit those moments to memory for when he is a stinky 13 yr old who wants nothing to do with me.

- Our new front door should be installed next Tuesday. If it's 20 degrees or warmer. I'm not holding my breath.

- Have been looking at closet organizing systems online. The word "closet" is beginning to lose it's meaning and look ridiculous to me.

- Leah read her Bible verse for Awana tonight. For reals. She read it! The teachers are having to cover it up, because she cheats on the memorizing.

- Are rice krispie bars an appropriate snack for kids who have nut, milk, and egg allergies?

- What ARE marshmallows made of, anyway?

- Until the big digital switch and/or we get cable, we currently have 3 separate options for getting in a specific channel. None of them worked for PBS today, though. Had to watch a video.

- Last night I cancelled 3 magazines to which I don't remember subscribing. Got us a refund of $60. Aaron is not as excited as he should be - probably because I pointed out that that was 3 months of cable.

That is all. Good night to you.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Adding to the Toolbox

Lately, I feel like I've been in a bit of a parenting rut. I'll tell the kids to do something, they ignore me or disobey, and then I yell and threaten a [deleted for personal safety]. Then I feel like a crabby, angry mommy, and not the calm, loving one I'd LIKE to be.

Aaron always tells me that I have to take away privileges. The only problem is, a lot of those "privileges" for the kids are what make MY day easier, too. Take away TV time? Or a playdate? Or a MOMS Club activity? No thank you, my friend.

Time-outs, similarly, usually only inconvenience me. I can't exactly assign a time-out when Leah is dawdling getting ready to go in the morning. Time-outs work for fit-throwing, or sibling in-fighting. Run-of-the-mill disobedience? Not so much.

So. I am trying something new.

Yesterday when leaving the library, I specifically told the kids not to walk through the snow. They were wearing boots, so the temptation was great. However, I didn't want snow to be tracked into the van and possibly damage the books. The kids, Leah first of course, walked through the snow. And then didn't get out when scolded. GRRR.

My line of action was to say, "Well, I'm not reading you any books before lunch because you disobeyed me." Usually after a library visit, we read several of the selections before eating - not yesterday, though.

And then, last night, I told them to start cleaning up to get ready for baths. They ignored me, and after several reminders, I informed them that they would not be getting toys in their bath that night.

The trick for me, it appears, is thinking of the immediate next task at hand, and then remove whatever little fun thing the kids usually do for it. It may end up being no music in the van, or not getting to choose their own breakfast cereal (which could easily bite me back in the form of a refusal to eat).

Or, as I threatened at bedtime when I was again being ignored in my request for them to stop jumping on Leah's bed and brush their teeth, no book before bed. Leah is getting the idea of this quickly - she said, "Ooh, that's a good one!" as she hopped off her bed and headed into the bathroom.

I don't even feel the need to warn ahead of time. Hopefully the kids will learn that whether or not they've had a second chance, something bad could happen, so it's best to listen to Mom the first time. Today at church I didn't even have anything in mind, but when Leah was showing signs of not listening, I just said, "Are you not obeying me?" and gave her my best Mommy look. She shaped up pretty quickly.

Anything that helps me keep my emotional outbursts at a minimum is a good tool to have.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Meeting of the Minds...what's left of them.

We met Saturday evening to discuss the epic Middlemarch. Present were 6 members.

Only a small number of us made it all the way through (the small number being 2?). Others did one of the following: watched the 7 hour BBC movie version, read the first 100 pages, read all BUT 100 pages in the middle, or skimmed it & read the Cliffnotes. I'm not naming any names.

Points of discussion on Middlemarch:

1 - It's long. Like, really, REALLY long.
2 - We debated George Eliot's point of view on religion, since the most "religious" character ends up being pretty rotten.
3 - Causaubon was emotionally stunted. Mostly "because he's spent 30 years in his library writing", thinks Lyz. R says, "That's WHY he spent 30 years in his library!" It seems to be a vicious circle. Lesson? Get out more, people!
4 - Both Causaubon and Lydgate got married with some pre-tty idealistic feelings about marriage and their fiancee. Turned out poorly for both.
5 - Mary Garth and Jane Eyre: both plain, but also both intelligent, honest, forthright, and principled. This is why we love them so.
6 - How amazing is it that Rosamond could be so incredibly selfish and spoiled?
7- Mr. and Mrs. Garth have an wonderful relationship - the movie doesn't seem to do justice to Mrs. Garth.
8 - Eliot is known for her feminist ideals, and yet she holds Dorothea up as a completely happy woman as she becomes "simply" a wife and mother. Could it be possible that the original feminists just wanted women to be valued for those roles? Not necessarily to leave them behind?

Other topics discussed, unrelated to the novel or anything else, really:

1 - The balance of cats. Rocking chairs seem to be an especial danger.
2 - Vaccinations, and how they serve a public (as well as personal) good.
3 - The danger of mixing mothers and real estate.
4 - CSA's (community supported agriculture) and how belonging may force your family to eat new foods.
5 - The "sexing up" of the classics by the PBS Masterpiece squad is unnecessary and a bit disturbing.

Several members brought books to offer as future selections. In order to simplify the process, we decided on the following genres, and tried to line up the offerings within them.

Adolescent Lit: Tale of Desperaux and Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo
Contemporary Lit: Tallgrass by Sandra Dallas, People of the Book, Road to Cana by Anne Rice
Classic: Tess of the D'Ubervilles by Thomas Hardy, Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton, Brideshead Revisited
Non-Fiction: Animal, Vegetable, Mineral by Barbara Kingsolver, The Glass Castle, Reading Lolita in Tehran
Historical Fiction: The Other Boleyn Girl (or other similar book by same author)

The reading schedule for the next three months IS:
February 20th : Tale of Desperaux (and if you have time - Because of Winn-Dixie) by Kate DiCamillo
March 13th: Tallgrass by Sandra Dallas
April 26th: The Other Boleyn Girl (or other similar book by same author - watch for updates)

The next two books chosen should be from the classic or non-fiction genres, although not necessarily the books above.

Happy reading!

Random Bits

At lunch today, my almost-five year old daughter was doing some wondering out loud:
(background info - I've purchased a few cups for the kids that have floaty thingys in the side of the cup. Until all the water leaks out of that compartment, and then they just sit there. But this is a newer cup.)

Leah: Mommy, why do these things go up when the cup's right side up, and down when...
Me: Don't! AUGH!

And that is when she turned the cup over to see what they did when the cup was upside down.

Spilling (or basically pouring) her milk on the table.


Also today, I saw some wedding photos of a childhood romance of mine. My oh-so-gracious responses? "He looks old. Do I look that old?" and "I'm waay hotter than his wife."

Yep, I'm mature. And clearly, I never would hold a grudge for 20 years. Surely not.

Friday, January 23, 2009

One Cool Game

Usually I only rant about products and services, but I thought today I'd try to be more positive and give you a rave.

Have you heard of this game, Animal Scramble?

I've seen it in a couple of different magazines by now, but I also saw it before Christmas and got it for Ben. However, Leah is the one who actually enjoys it. I think Ben would like it by himself - maybe Leah is too competitive for his almost-3-year-old skillz?

So, it works this way: You put out the 4 cute animals. Then the giraffe will say, "I'm GREEN!" and the kids runs over to the parrot and and puts the giraffe over the top of it. Then the giraffe will give clues to another animal. Super fun!

The giraffe keeps track of how fast you go, and you can put the 4 cuties anywhere you want - oh, would this be a sneaky source of exercise for my couch potato daughter? Wha -ha ha!!!

There are also different game options with increasing level of difficulties, making it possible for the littler guys on up to their early school age sibs to play. Kids can play by themselves or with friends.

In short, this may be the world's most perfect kid game.

Sadly, though, our version proved dysfunctional after a couple of games, and it wasn't the batteries. A few weeks ago I finally got around to calling the company (since I bought it through Amazon) and left a PHONE MESSAGE, which the recording said would be returned in 3-5 days. It's been longer than that, but I finally got my call today, and after describing my issue, the guy said they would send us a new game. Wonderful!

Only thing is, I'm a bit impatient. Target also carries this game, and I bought another one there just yesterday. I figured I'd keep the second game for a birthday gift. For, maybe, let's see, a couple of special twins we know? CRYSTAL! Don't go buy it!

Gender Issues

Whenever I ventured to ask Leah whether she would like a brother or a sister, she would giggle and say, "I don't know!". I took this as a good sign - she loves her little brother, and she wouldn't be disappointed either way.

Ben wasn't asked his opinion until the night before The Big Ultrasound.
Me: "Ben, do you think our baby is a little boy or a little girl?"
Ben: immediately... "Boy."
Me: "Don't you think it would also be nice to have a little sister?"
Ben: "No. Boy."
So I guess we know where he stands on the whole issue.

Fortunately for us, as Ben was the only one with a definite opinion, the baby IS a boy!

The next couple of images are of the 3-D type, so don't get too freaked out. Ben's were waaay more creepy than these:

To interpret, that's the baby's facial profile, with his arms and hands raised in front of his face. If he looks a little bony, it's because he only weighs about 11 ounces right now! But he can kick hard enough to make my belly jump.

Here's a better one of his face:

Aww, for cute! At least I think so. That's his face again, and an ear.

You are all probably dying to know what we are going call the little feller until he's born. We tried "Mortimer", and that was Leah's favorite (after a mouse in one of her library books), but ended up with "Magnus". You may all refer to him as such until further notice.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Name Game: Benjamin

When we found out about 3 years ago that we were going to have a son, the whole name procedure began again. But this time it was harder, since I haven't been obsessing about boys' names since 7th grade. Also, even MORE boys in our families have Biblical names: for instance, one of Aaron's sisters has 2 girls and 2 boys. The girls? Meghan and Catharine (Katie). No problem there. The boys? Yep - Seth and Daniel.

We were left to going straight through a baby name book. I considered EVERY name, and threw a few at Aaron. When I got to "Benjamin", I was surprised. Why had we not considered this name before?! No relatives, no close friends' kids (at the time, anyway!) good Biblical character, means "son of my right hand", had merely slipped through the cracks.

Also on the short list was "Adam", but I never could get used to that one. It's probably because of my love of the musical Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. The seven brothers all have alphabetical Biblical names (Adam, Benjamin, Caleb, Daniel, Ephram, Frankincense (Frank!) and Gideon. Adam is the oldest of course, and the one that gives his brothers the bright idea of kidnapping their gals from town and carrying them up the mountain to their house in order to convince them to marry the boys. Except they avalanche the pass shut (and forgot the minister!) so the girls are stuck there till it melts. Adam's wife Milly kicks the boys out to the barn, the girls take over, and highjinks proceed. Of course, by spring they are all in love. But in the meantime, Milly and Adam argue about the kidnapping and he leaves to spend the rest of the winter at his trapping cabin. Never much liked him after that.

Anyway, Ben didn't end up with a name for at least 24 hours. We had pretty much settled on "Benjamin", but the middle name was more of an issue. We wanted another family name, and since Leah got "Elizabeth" from my side, it was only fair that Ben's come from Aaron's side.

Only problem? A string of rather unfortunate choices: Clarence (already two of them!), Marlen (already three!), Arne, and Elmer. Sorry to all the fellas out there with those names, but Ben wasn't getting any of them.

So we took the easy route and went with "Aaron". What? That's family! Um, yeah, it's also MY family - my brother's name. Oh well. It's still great!

This next baby? Well, we'll start things off tomorrow when we (hopefully!) find out the gender. Goodness knows we'll need the research, argue, debate, and scour the family tree.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Name Game: Leah

I love names. In high school biology, instead of actually paying attention to the teacher, I made a list of girls names in the back of my notebook. Alphabetically, I wrote down every girl's name I could think of. Useful, I know. I even wrote down the name I didn't like.

In college, this love of names was reinforced in my literature and theater classes, where it was pointed out that usually authors selected their character names deliberately, not just by plucking them out of the air. I LOVED this concept, and when presented with a new book or play, I'd eagerly head to my favorite baby name sites to see if the meanings corresponded with the characters at all. Usually they did. (I tend to be a bit analytical sometimes...)

So you can bet that when presented with an opportunity to name my very own child, I did not take it lightly. Oh no. I am NOT one of those people who can just choose a name because "it sounds nice." There needs to be plenty of thought and symbolism put into the choice.

OH, and Aaron should probably like it, too. This actually proved to be the first step in the culling process, which helped greatly since I tend to like just about every name under the sun.

And he does not.

We found out about 5 years ago that we would be having a daughter, and the Name Game started. We agreed that her name should be something Biblical, since our faith is very important to both of us. Also, Biblical names tend to be solid, classic names (well, a lot of them anyway) that would generally be thought well of.

OR, her name should be a family name.

Then we eliminated all the names of our nieces, my cousins, and our close friends and their kids. This took care of the majority of Biblical options. However, there was a NON-Biblical , somewhat family name we both liked: Nora. Aaron's grandma's name was Cora (and she was a piece of work, they tell me...I really wish I could have met her.) Nora spelled N-o-r-a-a is Aaron backwards. However. Norah Jones was really big at the time, and our last name is too reminiscent of that songstress to get by.

We also had, of course, the name "Leah" on our short list. A solid Biblical name unclaimed by anyone else we knew, it fit all the requirements. PLUS, it means "weary" (the poor lady had 10 sons, you know, even if she didn't actually give birth to all 10) AND I spent 5 hours pushing while in labor with my lovely daughter - who stubbornly chose her own unique position in the birth canal. Somewhere in that five hours, I decided that "Leah" it was.

Reader Noel mentioned possible literary references, and indeed, there is one. I had recently read The Red Tent, and although I question the accuracy of the relationship between Leah and Jacob in that novel, I loved that Leah was presented as a strong, independent woman, not the unattractive weakling that I had imagined from Sunday School. Also, and probably more to the Biblical facts, if Leah was the lesser loved sister, it would appear that God heard her cries of misery, and gave her that enormous amount of children to provide her with honor, affection, and caregivers.

Leah's middle name, Elizabeth, was already determined. And not because it's MY name, either - but because it is the middle name of my beloved grandma, Gail Elizabeth. I'm not sure how many generations carry it, but this name has some serious roots in my family.

I'm actually completely convinced that "Elizabeth" may be the world's most perfect middle name. Its syllables can help even out any awkward last name, and it is historical AND Biblical without being stodgy or out of fashion, or weird. And, of course, there are the limitless nicknames.

Like Liz. The world's most perfect first name.

(Ha! You knew I had to go there, people.)

Monday, January 19, 2009

Deep Thoughts on Parenting

As a disclaimer, I was totally open with Aaron that these conversations were going to end up on the blog.

Just after we left Ikea at 1pm, we stopped at Burger King and tossed the kids their cheeseburgers while we drove back to Dave & Jess's house. I was bellyaching about how easy that was, and how much more difficult it's going to be when we have the baby:

Me: Tell me again...whyyy are we starting over?
Aaron: You like babies.
Me: (deep breath!) You're right. I do. (pause) Do YOU like babies?
Aaron: Well, they are a lot of work. (pause) But I don't have anything better to do.

During the same drive, Aaron reported this conversation with my brother (who remembers it differently, but Aaron's version is funnier.)

Dave: How many kids are you guys going to have anyway?
Aaron: Three for now, I guess.

I suppose what makes this so funny to me is it's complete lack of helpfulness.

Aaron and I did a lot of remembering (or trying to remember) about our kids' babyhoods while holding baby David. I came to the conclusion that I may hold Ben more NOW than I did when he was a baby. No wonder the poor kid has attachment issues.

Also, I was pretty gunshy when changing baby David's diaper. Completely unwarranted, it turns out. Although he did manage to, immediately after receiving a fresh diaper, totally fill the sucker with poop. And 5 seconds later, spit up. It was an eventful 5 minutes.

It's a BABY!

We met new nephew/cousin David Jeffrey for the first time on Friday. Baby David was born on December 22nd, and was 6 lbs. 8oz. at birth - he's a peanut! He just had his 2 week appointment, and weighed a few ounces over 7 pounds. This is why he seemed soo small to me, besides the obvious fact that he is so small: both of my kids weighed about 7 1/2 pounds at birth. It is rather crazy how much difference a pound can make in a teeny babe.

I was lucky enough to hold someone else's new baby while expecting my own baby and while my belly is still small enough not to make it uncomfortable. (Leah took this photo with little set up from the 'rents.)

The kids loved "holding" baby David:

Don't worry, germaphobes out there: It only LOOKS like Ben kissed David on the eye. He really didn't. I think.

Ben has always loved babies, even when he was pretty much still one himself. He was positively obsessed with holding the baby, and had the profoundly unhelpful habit of bouncing on the couch next to me while I or anyone else was holding him. He would sit for a long time while holding the baby, though, and it was insanely cute to watch him gently touch David's feet or arms, or push his pacifier back in.

In about a year, these two will be fighting over/ playing with cars together. Human development is an incredible wonder.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

#6 or so

I mentioned in my last post that we will be out of town this weekend (which will REALLY throw a kink in my reading schedule...and I'm not even being sarcastic.)

We are going to visit my brother and his lovely wife, who recently brought into this world a new baby! Yay! A nephew for me in my own right! I inherited many lovely nieces & nephews when I married Aaron, and a couple have joined the family since our marriage - Leah and Ben are grandchildren #13 & 15 for Aaron's folks.

But. In my family they are #1 & #2. You can't beat that. Uninterrupted attention from aunties, uncles, and grandparents alike, no sharing toys... Unless, of course, you enjoy playing with your cousins or spoiling your siblings' children. Which now, we all get to do!

The kids are excited to meet their new cousin, and I can't wait to see my brother as a DAD. He seems to be taking readily to the task, already calling the baby "awfully cute" and describing in detail the contents of a poopy diaper, which Aaron rightfully recognized as THE step between being a guy holding a baby and actually being the FATHER.

So, where did #6 come from, you ask? Well, he's certainly not the 6th cousin, but this baby has the distinction and honor of being (about) the 6th generation David in our family. None of them have been Juniors, since they've all had their own middle names. And because there have also been cousins in generations past with that name, several of them weren't even commonly referred to as David (my dad has always been DJ - David John- and my grandpa was Urby, his middle name).

This baby is David Jeffery - both of his grandpa's names - and will be called David. And we can't wait to meet the little fella. Welcome to the family, Baby David.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Assignment: READ.

The Book Club chose this novel way back in October, and decided that we would discuss it in January, so that we would have all of December (no book!) and January to read it.

And what book could possibly deserve such preparations? Only Middlemarch, that 800+ page glory of George Eliot. A professor once told me that if I didn't (or couldn't) read War and Peace, I should at least read Middlemarch, if that tells you anything about the latter book. Yowzas.

Have I mentioned yet that I hadn't really started reading this book until a week ago? And that our meeting to discuss it is about a week away (and we'll be out of town this weekend?!) I figured that if I read about 50 pages a night I can get it done in time, but folks, I am close to saying something I've never been driven to say before: it may be physically impossible for me to finish this book.

And what, pray tell, is my driving ambition for giving it a shot anyway? Aaron and I came upon an interesting oxymoron: the wrath of Grace. As in, friend Grace from Book Club, who has already finished the book and is becoming worried that she read it in vain. Also, she and I are some of the main enforcers in the Club of regularly including Classics in our schedule - so I'd better carry my weight, right?

So far, I am up to about page 300, with 500 left to read. I am just starting to truly become interested in the characters. The Wikipedia article I linked to earlier actually had this quote: No author since Jane Austen had been as socially conscious and as sharp in pointing out the hypocrisy of the country squires. I found this ironic, as the actual reading of the novels is considerably different.

True, Eliot and Austen both use everyday life as a way to criticize the unfairness of the caste system as used in Victorian England, but whereas Austen fills her novels with humor and romance, ending with a wedding, Eliot has so far spent the first 250 pages of her novel introducing characters and setting up situations - including marriages destined to fail. In reading the preface, I remember something to that point: Eliot STARTS with the wedding, then illustrates what happens afterwards. I rather enjoy that philosophy...maybe in 400 or so pages less, though.

I have read a couple of Eliot's other novels, Silas Marner and Adam Bede (at least, I THINK I read this one...) and I really enjoyed them. They were also much shorter.

Anyway, enough of this lollygagging. I must read like the wind. LIKE THE WIND, I tell you!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Bucket List?

Aaron and I have been discussing some things that are making me crabby, so I'm going to steal this fun list from Stacie instead of writing my own post today. It kind of makes me depressed because a lot of them I haven't done, but I've never been to Europe, and that would eliminate about a third of the list, I believe.

Also, this list is a lot like Maggie's, so maybe I'll have to sit down and write a personalized one sometime. Because to be honest, a lot of these things I'm not that interested in accomplishing!

I've starred my own experiences, and just for fun, italicized the Europe ones. You know, to make myself feel better. You're also supposed to add one of your own, so I'll do that, too.

1. Started your own blog*
2. Slept under the stars
3. Played in a band * (school band counts I think)
4. Visited Hawaii* (when I was a baby. I'm counting it, darn it!)
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than you can afford to charity
7. Been to Disneyworld *
8. Climbed a mountain * (define "mountain"...)
9. Held a praying mantis
10. Sang a solo*
11. Bungee jumped
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched a lightning storm at sea
14. Taught yourself an art from scratch *
15. Adopted a child
16. Had food poisoning
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty
18. Grown your own vegetables*
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France
20. Slept on an overnight train
21. Had a pillow fight *
22. Hitch hiked
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill
24. Built a snow fort *
25. Held a lamb
26. Gone skinny dipping
27. Run a marathon
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice
29. Seen a total eclipse
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset *
31. Hit a home run
32. Been on a cruise*
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person *
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors
35. Seen an Amish community
36. Taught yourself a new language
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied*
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. Gone rock climbing
40. Seen Michelangelo’s David
41. Sung karaoke *
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
44. Visited Africa
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight *
46. Been transported in an ambulance
47. Had your portrait painted
48. Gone deep sea fishing
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling *
52. Kissed in the rain
53. Played in the mud *
54. Gone to a drive-in theater
55. Been in a movie
56. Visited the Great Wall of China*
57. Started a business *
58. Taken a martial arts class
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen*
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies
62. Gone whale watching*
63. Got flowers for no reason *
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma
65. Gone sky diving
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp
67. Bounced a check *
68. Flown in a helicopter
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy *
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial *
71. Eaten Caviar
72. Pieced a quilt*
73. Stood in Times Square
74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired/laid off from a job
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London
77. Broken a bone *
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle*
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person
80. Published a book
81. Visited the Vatican
82. Bought a brand new car
83. Walked in Jerusalem (not Europe, but close enough...)
84. Had your picture in the newspaper *
85. Read the entire Bible
86. Visited the White House *
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating (1/2*...I helped prepare)
88. Had chickenpox *
89. Saved someone’s life
90. Sat on a jury*
91. Met someone famous
92. Joined a book club*
93. Lost a loved one *
94. Had a baby **
95. Seen the Alamo in person*
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake
97. Been involved in a law suit
98. Owned a cell phone *
99. Been stung by a bee *
100. Seen Mount Rushmore in person*
101. Learned to play an instrument *
102. Kissed the Blarney Stone
103. Ridden a camel
104. Served in the military
105. Swam in a bayou
106. Helped with harvest *
107. Been arrested
108. Had more than one boyfriend/girlfriend at a time
109. Owned too many shoes*
110. Been pulled over for speeding *
111. Been in a car accident
112. Touched a real glacier*
113. Camped in Norway
114. Swam in the Iceland natural pools (heated by hot springs)
115. Been inside a cave
116. Drove a combine
117. Rode a horse *
118. Had a child puke/pee on you *
119. Held a baby pig
120. Helped deliver a baby animal
121. Climbed to the top of the world's longest suspension bridge
122. Slept an entire night in your car *
123. Driven a 15-passenger van.*

Okay, so maybe it was only 20% or so in Europe. Still.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Citrus & Salt

Here's your long-awaited pregnancy update:

Yes, I am feeling movement. And kicks, actually. Aaron has felt them too, so he knows I'm not just making it up.

No, I haven't had "morning" sickness. I didn't with my other kids, so I didn't expect it.

Yes, I know how crazy lucky I am.

No, my appetite is not enormous. Or wasn't until exactly my second trimester. Now I am ravenous about 2 hours after dinner.

YES, we are finding out the baby's gender. On the 22nd. You, internet, may have to wait a bit longer.

NO, we will not be sharing possible names. Although if you have some you'd like to offer, go right ahead. I may discuss eliminated names, just because I can.

BUT, we will be giving this baby a prenatal name. A WHAT? you ask? We called Leah "Mavis" until her birth (okay, and a couple times after. But that's it, I swear.) Ben's name was "Melvin". This one? Don't know yet - the names have been very spur-of-the-moment in the past. Although I'm leaning towards "Matilda" for a girl, since it's my late grandma's middle name, and we won't be using it (or her first name, Gertrude!) in any other way.

I have never had insane cravings, but when I was pregnant with Leah I ate a TON of citrus. Like, every day for lunch I had an orange. For several months. And I am not kidding, but that kid came out loving them. We have a video of her, nine months of age, slapping the table out of impatience while Aaron slices one up for her. She would eat almost an entire orange before she was a year old.

Ben, now. I didn't eat hardly any citrus with him. What I did eat (not that I recommend this, of course) was Hot Tamales. And chips and salsa. And whereas Leah won't touch anything with the slightest amount of heat, it doesn't seem to bother Ben. He even eats salsa. Of course, it helps that he can dip stuff in it - the boy likes his dipping.

Baby # 3 is a toss-up. I've been craving citrus AND Hot Tamales! And chips & salsa. And M &M's. And popcorn. So who knows? A junk-food junky with an orange juice chaser? Or finally a child with no eating peculiarities? ONE CAN ONLY HOPE.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Just a Little Snow

Even though we've had all this snow, the temperatures have generally been too cold to actually play in it. Aaron took Ben out the other day, and then a few days later I took both of them out - with the classic 15 minutes of preparation for about 20 minutes spent outside.

They had fun. This snowbank is about 3 1/2 feet tall, alongside our driveway. The bottom of the photo is the cement.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Gravity Calls

Leah has a peculiar desire to test the laws of gravity. At dinnertime. This has resulted in a couple of falls from her chair onto our tile floor. Usually she is fine, and once in awhile gets dinged enough to cry. Nonetheless, I am NOT a big fan of preschoolers randomly falling from their chairs while eating (or coloring, for that matter.)

Usually I sit across the table from her, reminding her to sit on her chair instead of leaning off of it like it's merely a suggested perch, or a bench about 6 inches wide.

Today at lunch, I sat next to the child. We had this conversation.

Me: Please sit ON YOUR CHAIR!
Leah: Whyyy?
Me: So you don't FALL ONTO THE FLOOR.
Leah: I don't get hu-urrt!
Me: But I don't like it! It scares me to see you just all of a sudden fall like that!
Leah: I'm holding on the table! And sometimes, when I put my leg over the side, my foot touches the floor so I CAN'T fall!

Here, Daddy decides to back me up, and has a short exchange with her about how people usually don't just fall off their chairs. What is hilarious to me about this whole thing, is that it would appear that we are trying to deprive her of some great source of fun - namely, crashing to the floor and getting a concussion. We are SO MEAN.

After lunch, as I'm clearing the table, I observe to Aaron that one of the worst things about her leaning habit is that it spreads a trail of dinner debris in about a 3 foot circumference - on the table, her chair, the floor...

On reflection, it appears that I may have the answer to this situation - ban reading materials at the table. It has become our habit to read the paper or a magazine while eating, and if we comment on an article, invariably the kids want to see the accompanying photo, even if there is none. This often involves leaning and standing on seats (only for the kids, usually). Hmm. Sounds like an experiment is in order.

Although I do have to explain that Leah seems drawn to a person sitting next to her as a magnet is to the fridge. Restaurant booths are the worst - she practically ends up in my lap. Some would call it endearing, or sweet. I call it claustrophobic.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Circular Conversation

Leah, tonight at dinner: "Yesterday on Elmo, he wanted to learn more about...teeth!"
Aaron: "Oh yeah?"
Leah: "And at the end, a wisdom tooth came on!"
Aaron: "Was he really wise?"
Leah: "What?"
Aaron: "Did he know a lot? Was he going to answer a question for Elmo?"
Leah: "Who?"

So THAT didn't go very far.

Speaking of dinner tonight, I was bracing myself for a fight with my son. Last night we had Johnny Cake (which I'm fairly sure is a racist term, but I'm going to use it nonetheless) which is cornbread with butter & syrup. Otherwise known as Comfort Food #1 in the Meberg family. We also had scrambled eggs. Leah ate everything. Ben ate eggs, then a Clementine and some yogurt, but refused to touch the Johnny Cake.

Tonight, we had chicken, leftover cornbread (no syrup this time) and steamed (well, frozen then microwaved) broccoli. Ben hasn't eaten plain pieces of chicken in quite awhile, and prefers his broccoli raw. I braced myself for yet another food fight.

And the kid stunned me. After demanding his favorite condiment of all time, Ranch dressing, he ate all the chicken, two helpings of cornbread, and pretty much all his broccoli. Leah did the same, except she also ate 2 helpings of broccoli. I was forced to pillage the cabinets for supplements for my apparently starving children. Granted, they both had gymnastics this morning, but they HAD had lunch and a snack since then!

Whatever, I guess. I'm just glad Ben finally ate some traditional form of protein.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

I want a freezer.

Yes, I KNOW that it's pretty much been minus zero temps around here for the last month or so. But really, I don't like depending on my garage as overflow for our chest freezer. The bag of chicken out there surely doesn't like it, either.

Let me back up. When we moved in to this lovely house, just one of the "discoveries" was that the fridge is extra-fancy. It is a counter-depth, glass front fridge with a vacuum-sealed door that at times could challenge a body-builder. AND it does not include a freezer section.

Thankfully we had a small chest freezer from the old house, so we put that in the space that the former owners had used for an extra-large upright freezer. And I started dreaming. An upright freezer...yessss, my preee-ciousss.... That lovely food-storage unit would solve so many problems.

1) The chicken could come in from the garage.
2) I would have at least a better chance of finding those smaller items - like packages of cheese, for instance.
3) The Schwan Man wouldn't think I was leading him on - "Really, sir, I'd order if I had room to store it!"
4) Aaron could bust out some cabinets next to the washer/dryer, we'd put that freezer in that space, and Abracadabra! We'd have a ton more space in our back entry. So. Easy.
5) When I'm craving a big pretzel (like now!) I could maybe have a hope of finding it. Without digging for half an hour.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Little Bits of Life

-- Ben has learned to spell. Now, before you call MENSA, here's what he spells: "E-R-E-O". He says each letter very clearly and quickly while you write them down. I looked at it, and was all, "Maybe if you changed the order a bit you'd get Oreo, but this...I don't know about this."

-- Leah the other night, after swimming at a hotel, "I am very very very very exhausted."

--We have had a house full of company lately. This is why I haven't gotten anything accomplished. Yeah. That's the ticket.

-- Ben's favorite power trip / use of new words: "Naughty! Mean!" On the up side, he will occasionally tell Daddy when he's done something naughty. Like today at lunch, after he spilled the milk from his cereal bowl (I KNEW there was a reason I usually clear them earlier...) AND the milk in his cup.

-- Aaron is possibly buying a snowblower from a coworker this week. This is officially the MOST snow we've ever seen in Fargo (weren't here for the blizzards of '97). Buying a snowblower is like a sign of the Apocalypse.

-- I made dinner Saturday for 3 extra adults and 2 extra kids, and then dinner last night for 2 extra adults (my folks). Salads were served both nights, wonder of wonders. (I usually forget about the salad option.)

-- Watched Tess last night. I have read the book, but it was several years ago, and I don't remember anything about it. Very annoying, therefore, that Aaron kept saying things like, "Is this a bad guy?" "What does she do?" "Don't you KNOW what happens?" and other comments to the point of me being a big faker for saying I'd read it. A big PHBBBT to you, dearest.

-- Ben spent half an hour outside playing in the snow the other day. Like, climbing up a 4 foot drift, and then sliding down on his belly face first. I have video. And photos. Which I will post later.

-- I started working on putting last year's Christmas photos into their album. Leah got the leftover photos (you know, from the collage of 4, I took one, she got 3) and I found a cheap album for her to put them in. She was Christmas-morning excited, folks. Sometimes it takes so little.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

My Baby

"He was finding that it was getting harder and harder to sit in Mama Bear's lap..." (paraphrased from here).

Our seat is the rocking chair Mom got me for Christmas!

Friday, January 2, 2009

My Resolution

I don't really make New Year's Resolutions - I make Next Baby Resolutions. You know, stuff I want to get done before "this baby shows up". These goals are usually scrapbooking orientated, or maybe home improvement goals (you know, for Aaron.)

While pregnant with Ben, my big goal was to finish Leah's baby (first year) album. I was way behind with it because we moved to Fargo when she was 6 weeks old, so of course I had barely done anything at that point. And of course, after moving it takes a few months to get the house established enough to begin working on the albums again, and by THAT point I had an active pre-toddler on my hands. So yeah. The baby album was sorely neglected.

Then Leah started gymnastics, and my mom was thrilled to take her! Ben was still taking morning naps for a while there, so I'd stay home with him and watch Regis & Kelly while I worked on Leah's album. I ended up doing the last pages of it about a month before Ben was due. Then I even got a couple pages in HIS baby album pre-done! I was impressed with myself.

This time around, Ben's baby album is done. Of course, he is almost 3.

Leah's baby album is still done (whew!) but I also want to do an album from her 2nd to 3rd birthdays, and then another from her 3rd to 4th - or maybe stick them all in one, and then start another album from her 5th birthday. IN ANY CASE, I have scrapbooked up until she was about 18 months old. Now she's almost 5. I am a bit behind.

Also, I just had developed almost 400 photos for our family album, which usually I try to keep updated to within a couple months. But if you've been reading here for awhile, you know that this year has involved a knee surgery (for Aaron, not me), two moves, and lots of family visits. Which is all fine - but I haven't developed photos OR scrapbooked since January, when I packed everything up to get ready to sell the house. Hence the 400 photos.

So, my goals? Here they are, to keep me accountable:

1) Catch up on my family album.

2) Get each of the kids' albums to within a year.

To take action on these goals, I had those photos developed (cause it's hard to scrapbook without them) and I'm planning an evening next week to have friends over to scrapbook. Now, to get those photos organized a bit...that's a goal for today.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy Holidays!

Here's my New Year's letter this year. Aaron said it sounded like I was writing a blog post - I told him that I had always written it that way, it's just that now I actually have a blog.

Friends and Family –
Don’t be too shocked, but you may actually receive this letter before the New Year. Try not to let it throw off your normal holiday routine TOO much.

This year has been very full, and I fear we will go onto two pages again, as we did back in ’04 when Leah was born and we moved to West Fargo. We put the house on the market at the end of March and left town for the weekend. We hadn’t really started looking at houses yet, of course. I’ve always kind of believe the cliché, “God only gives you what you can handle.” And it must be true, because God knew I couldn’t do months of open houses with 2 kids under 4 years – we got an acceptable offer after that first weekend! We didn’t even get a “For Sale” sign in the yard, folks – it went that fast. Too fast. We didn’t have a house to move into! Thankfully, we were able to rent my friend Caroline’s vacant but fully furnished home in north Fargo. We were there for about 2 ½ months until we closed on our new house in July. There is lots of remodeling/redecorating to do, too, but nothing too major. Aaron has worked miracles in the short amount of time we’ve been here. You should come get the tour!

Aaron has made sure we’ve used up our medical savings account. He had Lasik eye surgery in April, and then in May had his ACL and both meniscuses repaired in his right knee after re-injuring it playing basketball in January. This meant he was on crutches and off work for 6 weeks, starting about a week before our first move. God provided for us, of course, in the form of lots of help from friends and family. Thank you!

Leah is 4…and a HALF, as she insists. Her princess birthday party in May was quite the event, with all the girls coming dressed up. She was in Super Tots gymnastics this year, and although she’s the smallest student, she did finally learn how to do a backwards-roll – “You just go really fast!” We are trying dance (ballet/jazz/tap) this year, and she loves it, of course. Leah also started in the Awana program at church, and looks forward to it all week. These activities, plus other events in my MOMS Club keep her waaay too busy for preschool. She’s reading some words and doing addition and subtraction, so I’m not too worried about her academics. Conflict resolution, however, may be an issue for the kindergarten teacher next year.

Ben is completely and utterly a BOY. With the small exception of when he begs to play Pretty Pretty Princess – although he does demand to be the BLUE princess shoe. He loves to run, jump, and kick, and his favorite toys are trucks, cars and trains. Although at 2 ½ he seems to be ahead of his age group in physical coordination (we are concerned and shocked at what he attempts – usually successfully) he is definitely behind verbally. He was in speech therapy for about 5 months, and then we decided to take a break and see what would happen. He kept adding words at the same pace, so we haven’t gone back. Now he has quite the list of words in his vocabulary, and is starting to put 2 or 3 together, although pantomime and context are still very important! Ben started gymnastics this fall and absolutely loved it. Of course, it helped that Leah tutored him at home.

He frustrated by having to take it very easy on his knees this summer – he didn’t even go golfing until August. Hopefully some extra physical training will help him gain confidence and be able to go back to his usual winter activities of snowboarding and basketball. Home improvement has been a huge focus, as he’s painted quite a few rooms, replaced trim, and shopped for doors and carpet. He also fenced our backyard this summer, with some extra manpower from my Dad.

I am still active with my local MOMS Club, the women’s Bible study at church, and my book club. I am no longer a Creative Memories consultant, although I am still a devotee. Digital scrapbooking is my latest discovery! However, the biggest addition to my list of activities is my blog. I started it in January and now have over 300 posts and 50-some visitors a day! You should stop and visit – . Aaron and I both joined Facebook – along with the rest of my entire family, parents included. If you are there, find us! It’s a fun way to keep in touch.

We hosted Aaron’s family at Thanksgiving this year – 22 folks, including my parents and us. It was a great time, and the house lived up to our hosting expectations. We were also able to share the news that we are expecting another baby at the beginning of June! It was an exercise in self control for me to wait until 14 weeks to announce our pregnancy, but it was worth it for the shocked expressions on our friends’ faces. They couldn’t believe I had kept quiet for that long! J
My folks are both keeping busy– Dad retired from the Guard this fall, but started a new job, again as an aircraft mechanic. Mom is working as a med tech in a hospital’s lab, and keeps busy enough with that and her other projects that we sometimes go a week without a visit from her! They keep talking about moving out to the farm in Hebron, but I won’t believe it until they set a date. They enjoy their grandchildren too much. And we enjoy their free babysitting!

Aaron’s parents are also doing well. Clarence has actually said the word “retirement” although we have yet to see anything concrete happen. This summer he was re-siding their house in 30 mph winds, on scaffolding, holding sheets of Styrofoam! We kept waiting to see him sail past the window. Golfing is a major priority, which Aaron enjoys whenever they are together.

Clarence & Bobbie celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in December last year, and the family gathered in Lake Havasu City, Arizona to honor them. Eight of their nine children were able to make it, as well as two in-laws – me, and my sister-in-law Erica. It was a great (kid-free…thanks Mom and Dad!) weekend. I celebrated my birthday in July by visiting my sister Ruth and her husband at their new place in Chicago. A highlight was seeing the musical Wicked, even though we had nose-bleed seats. Did I mention this trip happened a week after we moved into the new house? And did I also mention that I have an incredible husband? Who even (with friends) threw a little birthday party for me when I got back? Thanks, honey!

There were also lots of smaller trips: to Minneapolis for our niece’s wedding reception and shopping at IKEA, and a trip out West to visit the Ranch and see the Medora Musical – which got rained/hailed out after about 45 minutes. We also spent a long weekend at my grandma’s in Park River for my cousin Kelli’s wedding. Leah got to be a flowergirl, and was positively overjoyed to be given a tiara to wear.

I’m hoping you have had an equally blessed year, knowing that the Lord loves and treasures you. If you are traveling through, give us a call – we’d love to have you drop in or spend the night. Or two.

God bless you and your family!