Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Frumpy Frugality

1. Wear your clothes more than once. Funny story: I actually had this idea in second or third grade, when I decided that I would wear the same outfit every day until they "got dirty" - which I assume meant that I had gotten glue or marker on them, or something. Might have been one of the reasons my friends were few and far between.

Anyway. I read somewhere that you should wash whites after every wearing, but dark things, especially jeans, should be worn three times or so. And that was from the experts!

2. Get pregnant, wait 30 weeks, and after Braxton-Hicks contractions start, the baby starts stomping on your bladder every 30 seconds, and your hips & lower back hurt after standing for 10 minutes. You won't want to go shopping for at least 3 more months. Staying home watching television seems a whole lot more appealing.

3. Instead of going to the effort to make yourself a drink, just get water. It's better for you anyway, and takes a lot less effort.

4. No gym fees.

5. Makeup lasts forever if you only wear it three times (or less) a week. I've also read that makeup has an expiration date, and I'm sure my Mary Kay friends will be horrified, but I don't remember when I bought my foundation.

6. Grow your hair out. I also don't remember when I had my hair cut last. I think it was last summer before I went to Chicago - I definitely know I wasn't pregnant. By now, Aaron's haircut costs FAR outweigh mine.

So basically, if you see a waddling pregnant woman wearing dirty clothes, blotchy-faced, dead ended hair in a ponytail headed towards the bathroom, you won't need to question your guess.

It's me. Saving money.

Monday, March 30, 2009

The Search for Normal

Flood Update: The crest prediction has been lowered, and those who were evacuated have started coming home. The rest of us are breathing a bit easier, although still checking the basement periodically! Noel has been doing an excellent job summarizing each day's developments. The river is down quite a bit, and "non-essential" business should be opening up on Wednesday. Aaron goes back to work that day, too, although he's on call tomorrow night...his job should see little activity, though, since his workplace is one of the "non-essentials"... Technically, the essential businesses are grocery and hardware stores, gas stations and restaurants. I think Old Navy should be added. And TJ Maxx. I'm wondering how much more online shopping activity there has been in the last week, since we haven't been able to leave the house!

Just so you don't think we are out of the woods entirely: There is supposed to be a second river crest in mid-April once the melting gets really going. Hopefully it won't be as big as this one, though. It has been snowing all afternoon - huge, wet flakes that Aaron said he could feel hitting his face...plop, plop, plop.

While talking to a friend today I realized it's been awhile since I posted photos of the kids. Here they are, with some samples of the moisture around here this spring:

This was a snowbank right next to the garage. They are about 2 feet off the ground, enjoying the sun from the 35-40 degree day. Those temperatures led to...
...MASSIVE water puddles on the sidewalks. Massive FUN for walks. Rubber boots required, and falling not recommended. Ben now thinks that every time he comes in from outside he needs to take his pants off.

My friend also requested more photos of Ben. Ben doesn't like to pose. He'd rather see the photo you've already taken...or not. Bribing with candy is helpful, but not always available. Here is our handyman-in-training. Methinks a toolbelt would be more comfortable.

And I just couldn't resist adding this photo of Leah - I love her dress-up combinations. But OF COURSE the sparkly yellow leotard needs blue fairy wings!

We are getting small projects done around the house - no painting, though! I have been doing some scrapbooking, and the kids have gotten a new(ish) Little People set to keep them busy. We got to the library today, and yesterday broke our isolation by going to church and out to lunch with friends after. It felt good to do something NORMAL.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Word of the Day: MANDATORY

We were watching the news over breakfast, and Leah asked what "mandatory" means. Aaron explained that it meant that you have to do something...it's not a choice. Use it in a sentence? Don't mind if I do. "BRUSH YOUR TEETH - it's MANDATORY." This real-life context brought to you by Leah, who lately has been making the most sour faces at me whenever I ask her to scrub her teeth and get dressed. Apparently she's morally opposed. Who knows why.

But why the word "mandatory"? Oh, because of discussions of mandatory evacuations in parts of Moorhead, right across the (huge,ugly, annoying) river from us. Several of our friends here in Fargo have chosen to leave town, but we are still here. Meritcare started evacuating patients last night, and although they are not closed, they also don't really want people there. They specifically said they didn't want any preemie babies. This sent Aaron into thinking we need to leave home, in the small, rare, tiny chance that Magnus would decide to come early. Not that we think he will, but if he did, we would NOT want to be here.

However, I think we've decided that we're staying put unless the water or electricity go out, in which case they will probably evacuate the city. We bought a small generator and a space heater today, basically enough to keep the bare essentials going for Aaron - since the kids and I will probably be gone in the case of their use.

I had a minor emotional breakdown last night, and thankfully I have a patient, practical friend who "talked me down". (Yes, Lexie, can you believe that was MINOR?) But this morning, with some things decided for us, I feel better.

The dinner theater production I'm directing that was supposed to go on tomorrow and Saturday has officially been postponed, and our church has cancelled services and activities for Sunday. AUGH! I need normalcy, folks! The river is supposed to stay at crest height for almost a week - are we really going to live this way for another WEEK? Fargo/Moorhead has already cancelled classes for next week - hopefully the situation will improve and that won't have to be the case.

You may recall that for me, a routine and a schedule is MANDATORY. This is not good news for my personal well-being. The Red Cross had better bring in some extra psychiatric help if this does keep up for a week.

In other news: Ben counted to eleven today! He's been counting to ten fairly consistently, although he tends to skip the number 5. The kids are playing hide & seek right now, and he counted 1-2-3-4-6-5-6-7-8-9-10. Pretty good! Then he counted perfectly correctly all the way to 11. His enunciation could use some improvement, but we're concentrating all our miracle requests on that blasted river.

Mandatory: Keeping our sanity.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Concerns Big and Small

Big: Certain neighborhoods in the Fargo-Moorhead area are being evacuated. I'm talking Coast Guard boats taking people to dry ground. Pretty dramatic stuff.

Small: Our house being flooded. Although we may have the dreaded seepage and sewage spewage, our house is in one of the highest areas in Fargo, and is one of the places people would be evacuated to, if they don't leave town.

Small: If the city water is shut off, we are packing out bags and heading to the Cities. Family and friends there, consider yourself warned!

Big: Dikes are being built up another 2 feet, since most were built to withstand a 40 ft. crest, and now we are expecting 41 feet. Also, it is still snowing today and the temperature is about 20 degrees - not fun sandbagging weather.

Eensy-Weensy: Our girl Miss Clare is visiting us again today. She is doing great - eating well, took a good nap, roaming safely.

Small: Ben came down with a minor case of pink-eye. Yesterday we saw a trace of it in one eye, but I wasn't sure if it was irritation from my accidental poke I gave him while getting him dressed. He woke up a couple times last night, one time complaining about his eye, and this morning both eyes were faintly pink. When Leah had it last year, her one eye was bright pink. We've consulted with a doctor friend who said it'll probably go away just fine on it's own.

We did warn Miss Clare's mom before she brought her over, but really folks. Pink-eye is NOT the end of the world. Someone losing their house may be a bit higher on the list of things to prevent.

Small-ish: The upstairs did get their first layer of mud & tape yesterday. Guys were supposed to come today, but called to say they were sandbagging instead. We were kind of anticipating that. However, the small-ish concern is that our upstairs will remain a mess for at least another week or so. Oh well!

Big: Dinner! What to make?! I'm taking this opportunity to make myself clear out the cabinets a bit. Tonight, it's a soup mix I've been hoarding and beer bread - Tastefully Simple mix. Sounds good to me!

Tomorrow may be the day I FINALLY stop depriving my kids of playdough fun and just make some already!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Impending Disaster

Okay, so maybe that's a tish bit dramatic. But not for some people in the area, unfortunately. Like my sister's mom-in-law, JoAnn, and her husband John. If you've been reading the comments on the last couple of posts, you know that their disaster is quite a bit closer to actually impending than ours is. Like, say, in their driveway. Eeks.

I put a bunch of boxes on the ping-pong table last night (and managed to find the extra bobbins for my sewing machine in the process. Score! Do you know how annoying it is to only have ONE bobbin? Nope, probably not. You'll just have to trust me.)

Aaron plugged all our drains - sink, shower, toilet and floor drain in the utility room. However, the toilet's pipe is pretty corroded, and the hardware guy said the plug may not work at all, if it's too bad. Which means sewage spewage, possibly. I'm becoming more and more thankful that we haven't made any improvements to the basement yet, and I'm taking this opportunity to wash the bathroom rugs - and NOT return them.

The kids and I went out this morning and bought a battery-operated backup sump pump. Aaron said when he gets home from work today he'll be so excited to see my installation work. He also asked why I wasn't out shoveling the 6" of new snow off our driveway. Clearly, removing the toilet from its base (to install the plug) exposed him to mind-altering levels of sewer gas. They should warn people about the possibility of hallucinations.

We also trekked to Target and met some friends there, just to get out of the house, since all activities have been cancelled for the rest of the week. It was great - Target was practically deserted, so the kids had free run of the place. They even established a couple of "houses" in the Lawn Furniture area, until a couple too many heads got whacked by swivel chairs.

Now we are hunkering down. The peanut butter and bread supply has been refilled, so we won't go hungry. And I bought 5 bags of jelly beans, ensuring our blood sugar levels stay high. Let the battle begin!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

On Kids: Mine and Theirs

For review, we have two kids: Leah, age 5 years in just 6 weeks, and Ben, age 3 years in 2 weeks. They have been in separate bedrooms - until the last 5 nights. Demolition and reconstruction in Ben's old room (and the future baby's room) has moved them into Leah's room together.

Also, up until 5 nights ago, we had been on a nasty streak where one or both of the kids required attention from me (usually) in the middle of the night. For really stupid things. Like, "I can't find a good position to sleep in!" Are you KIDDING me?!

We were very apprehensive about them sharing a room. Should we put Ben to bed first, then send Leah in after her story and such? But it has ended up that we read them a story together, then tuck them in at the same time - and miraculously, there have been NO ISSUES. We even had 4 nights of uninterrupted sleep. Last night Ben did require attention once, but I'm not getting too excited about it - I wasn't sleeping well either. Maybe it was the lightening, the sirens, or the word "sewage" going through my head.

Anyway. The kids will share a room at least until the other bedroom is returned to normal, hopefully by the end of the week. And they may stay as roomies permanently, about 6 months ahead of schedule. They both seem to like having company, and I think Ben will be more excited about it once it's decorated (now it's really not) and is more his room, too. A few trains should do the trick.

I also have 2 other children here this afternoon while their moms are out sandbagging. Yesterday Miss Clare, one of our favorite 15 month olds, was here. Basically what I am finding out is how different kids can be when they come from other families, and reminders of how kids behave at different ages. For instance, I have already forgotten all the curiosity that goes with being under 2 years old. Also, that one extra child yesterday was about 3 times more work than the TWO extra are today - of course, they are 3 yrs. and 5 yrs. and basically self-sufficient. Although not nearly as cuddly.

More flood info: Even more activities have been canceled or rescheduled. The crest is anticipated at 40 feet, early morning Friday. I heard today that the river is a foot lower in Wahpeton (about 50 miles downriver? Someone correct me if I'm wrong.) than anticipated. Hopefully this means that the crest will be lower here as well.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Spring Stinks

All of our area is a little negative about Spring right now, and I happen to be joining them because it's interfering with so many of my OWN plans. I've never claimed to be a saint, what can I say?

Even those of you NOT from North Dakota in general and the Red River Valley specifically may have heard about the Flood of '97. It was the one that caused the mass evacuation of Grand Forks, and the whole area was declared a disaster zone. Yes, in North Dakota.

Aaron was out sandbagging during that flood, because UND had cancelled classes, and even ended up canceling graduation, which is one reason why neither of us walked through our undergrad ceremonies (we got married the day after mine, on the other side of the state. Wasn't a priority.)

I, however, was in my last semester at Cottey College and looking forward to transferring back home in the fall. While everyone else was all, "What? A flood in North Dakota? That's crazy!" I was crying, "My college is WASHING AWAY!"

That was twelve years ago. Dikes have been built, the flood plain expanded, and homeowner's flood insurance purchased. But we've had an awful lot of snow this winter, and it seems to be melting rapidly under our recent 40 degree weather. Plus, it started raining yesterday, is again, and more precipitation is expected this week - in the frozen or liquid state, we're not sure yet. Noel has done a good job summarizing things at his blog, so I won't try to get too technical.

For us, our main concern is seepage and sewer backup. Aren't those just lovely words? The sump pump should take care of the seepage. We weren't too concerned about the sewage aspect, since there isn't any carpet in the basement, just tile. Until a friend told me today about a Poltergeist-type scene that she experienced, where a 4-foot fountain of sewage came spewing up from their drain. Lovely. Consider our cover installed.

In the middle of the entire area going into emergency mode (the National Guard has been called in, there are police-escorted flatbed trailers hauling sandbags...seriously, it's like living in the middle of a disaster movie!) we are having some non-fun remodeling done on the house. Starting today.

This freakish winter has caused some water damage to our north interior wall upstairs, and the ceiling of that bedroom. It was Ben's room, so he's in with Leah for now - that's a whole 'nother post, folks!

Our buddy at Kallod Construction is fitting us in between other jobs and is replacing the Sheetrock and then finishing the walls for us this week. Aaron keeps saying he could do it himself, but I'm so relieved he's letting others do this project. The man needs a BREAK!

Another side issue for me is that I am directing a youth theater production at church. Our performances are next weekend, and most of my cast has been out this weekend sandbagging, and probably will spend a lot of time at it this week, too. The river is supposed to crest early Friday morning, so that's the deadline - fortunately? I'm having a difficult time with this - make my kids rehearse, or tell them to save their own homes and help others? Obviously there is a clear order of priorities, and it's not my own. But by Sunday what is done will be done.

Also, people have been canceling playgroups and all sorts of other get-togethers so that more hands will be available for sandbagging and keeping an eye on their own houses. That's great and all, but what about us preggos and other folks banned from helping?! What are WE supposed to do? This afternoon I'm watching a friend's little girl so that SHE can go help. I feel a little less guilty. Even though I'd probably get kicked out if I DID try to help - and Aaron said that if I went into labor right now, that would be more of a stressor (somehow!) on our current situation than any flooding would be on it's own.

So at home I sit. This flood is sooo inconvenient.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Article Review

I've read a couple of interesting articles lately. The first couple have been by one of my favorite magazine authors, Paula Spencer. She has written articles for Woman's Day, Parenting, and Baby Talk - all of which I've received at one time or another. If you have read anything by her, you can probably guess why I like her. She is an advocate of more common sense and less guilt - in parenting specifically, but in life in general.

The first article was in Baby Talk, which I actually read while waiting for my baby doctor appointment yesterday. It was all about how kids these days are being prevented from playing with honest-to-goodness sticks - you know, the ones made of wood that come from trees. This is one of my favorite quotes:

Certainly I don’t want anybody poking his eye out. Not that I’ve ever heard of this grisly fate actually happening. Google stick + accident + child. Afterward, you’ll be more careful around hockey sticks, swimming pool dive sticks, sticks of candy and kids sticking things in their mouths. But your basic tree-grown stick? Not a huge health risk.

I love it! Check out the full article - it's a winner for any common-sensical mom.

The other article of interest comes from our very own Fargo Forum, direct from the Associated Press. It tickled my funny bone, but not for intended reasons. And I'm sure I'm not the only one it affected in such a way.

This article reveals that some families are - gasp!- mowing their own lawns (oh that we had one right now that needed mowing, not shoveling...), doing their own laundry, and cleaning their own houses to save money.

SAVE money?

This is kind of like me telling Aaron that I "saved" him $20 because I didn't buy that extra top at some store.

The family in the article figures they'll "save" $10,000 a year by doing these previously hired-out services themselves. And what really kills me is that the Mrs. is a stay-at-home-mom. Really.

I can justify a housekeeper much more easily if both parents are working, or if it is a single-working mom household (of course, she'd have to be a pretty well-paid single mom...). But if you are a stay at home mom, I tend to feel that part of your job is maintaining the household - including cleaning toilets. The Mrs. in the article even admits that they were paying for someone to do things she was too lazy to do herself. At least she's honest.

Part of what bugs me about this article is it's obliviousness. How many Americans can list doing yard work, cooking at home, laundering their own shirts, and doing their own housecleaning as ways of cutting back? Those may be money-saving gestures for a certain tax bracket, but far more of us are thinking about buying food in bulk (for cooking at home, of course). Or, instead of paying someone to iron your dry-clean only shirts, do what we did years ago - only buy machine-washable wrinkle-free shirts. Catch them out of the dryer and hang right away, and you'll never touch an iron again. That, and invest in a bottle of Wrinkle Releaser - it is waaay cheaper than the cleaners.

But be sure to tell your husband how you are "saving" $30 or so a month doing that work yourself. And then add it to your own imaginary paycheck!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

It's THEIR Fault

This morning I had my 28 week baby appointment. I've gained four pounds this month - but I'm blaming at least one pound on my chocolate binge last night (Moo Tracks ice cream, a slice of Black Forest cake, and a KitKat. Yum.)
At the appointment, the nurse asked, as usual, "Do you think you'd be able to give us a urine sample?" My immediate instinct was to say, "NO! I will NOT pee in your cup! I don't WANT to!"
I told Aaron about this (after I DID, in fact, pee in the cup) and he decided that it's because I spend so much time with Benjamin, whose favorite phrase recently has been, "No! NO WAY!" One time Aaron asked why I was letting him get away with that, but since he was doing what I had asked while saying NO, I wasn't going to fight it.

So I got to thinking about what other lessons I could accidentally learn from my children.

I would insist that I could NOT pick up a mess without someone helping me.
My meals would be rendered inedible if any one item touched something else.

If anyone else in the house had their pants off, mine would have to come off too...and crazy dancing would ensue.

Puddles would be asking to be run through...nevermind the wet pants and socks.

If we happened to leave a store without buying me something, I would whine, cry, and refuse to zip my coat.

My nose would only need to be wiped if the snot interfered with drinking from my sippy cup.

I would wake up Aaron to fix my blankets, tuck me back in after a bad dream, help me find a proper sleeping position, or refill my water cup.

On review, maybe I'll stick with learning more parental-type lessons - like, that tissues, wipes and diapers should be in every room, and that pants and socks can be thrown in the clothes dryer. Now, about those sleep issues...

Monday, March 16, 2009

Shout-Out to Uncle Tim

Some friends of ours have a tradition where they go out for bagels every Saturday morning with a few other families. They've invited us, too, but we always seem to have plans going , or something. Not sure how that happens, exactly. I'm positive it's all because of my husband. Yeah.

Aaron was bemoaning the fact that we don't have our own little family traditions. Of course, we have things we do for certain holidays - for instance, we'll dye eggs on Good Friday coming up soon. He was talking more about smaller, more frequent traditions. Our kids are too young yet for a Game Night, or even a regular Movie Night, although we'll do that periodically.

However, we accidentally came across a good option for a new Family Tradition:

Eating dinner in the living room and watching America's Funniest Videos. Sounds good to me. Plus, it got Leah to eat a bit more of her casserole than usual. I swear, I'm beginning to wonder if that child is somehow missing her Norwegian genes.

What kind of "small" traditions does your family have? Please share, so I can steal your ideas!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Of Stains and Other Baby Business

I have spent the last couple of days going through my tubs of baby clothes.

That sounds terrible. Trust me, it's not THAT bad.

One tub is all baby paraphernalia - burp cloths, receiving blankets, bibs, and feeding stuff (spoons, bowls, bottles - of which I have WAAAY to many for someone who has never used them...).

The second tub is gender-neutral baby stuff. I'm not positive why I've stored it like this, but I always have. Lots of yellow in this one, and mostly sleepers and onesies.

The last tub is the true baby boy clothes, but it goes up to 6-9 months.

As anyone with more than one child knows, those cute little outfits may not remain so adorable after your sweet child has worn them...once. Twice, and you're pushing your luck. And some of my baby stuff has actually been worn several times by TWO DIFFERENT children.

Thus, my examination has been mostly to check out the stain situation. But I'm having a hard time determining how many stains are TOO MUCH. In reality, as I said before, after that baby has worn it once, it will probably be stained anyway. But you have a fresh, sweet, adorable new baby! Of course you can't dress that angel child in a onesie covered with stains!

And what husband doesn't love to be asked for advice? Along with the constant, "What do you think of the name Emerson?" "How about Walter?" I've been throwing out, now the poor guy gets to look forward to "Do you this one has too many stains on it?" Yep. I know. Aren't you jealous for his life?!

Fortunately, playgroup was at my house today, so I had two friends with whom to consult. We decided that stained white onesies are alright, because they generally go underneath other items. But the stained colored outfits? Those need to be retired. Along with pilly sleepers, and outfits that are too girly for a boy, and too boyish for a girl. Believe it or not, I've had several of those, too.

Like the black velvet bibs (as in, pants with straps attached) - with a green, red, and yellow train embroidered across the front? I think Leah wore it once - and now it's in the garage sale pile for someone else to try.

Of course, the main reason I'm going through the stuff in the first place is so I know what I get to buy. Which is another source of joy for my husband to consider.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

It Takes All Kinds

- The great thing about being pregnant is that although it may be ridiculous to buy cute clothes right now, it is NOT ridiculous to buy cute accessories. Necklaces, big jangly earrings, and bracelets can make you feel pretty if not downright glamorous while your belly is taking on a life of it's own. Plus, they distract people's attention from that protruding belly button.

- We have, a couple of times, watched some local? polka dancing on PBS. It is hilarious. Not only is it clear that the band thinks they are studs (especially that saxophonist!), there is this one particular couple. They have matching large bellies, and most of the time don't even touch each other with their hands or arms while dancing - they just kind of wiggle along with their bellies against each other. Today they were wearing matching zebra striped Zubaz-style pants with suspenders.

- Have now shopped in two different stores for Thomas party supplies for Ben's birthday. No luck. Am ordering online, where the site refuses to accept my shipping information, and instead keeps refreshing the page. Aaron says this seems to be more important to me than to Ben - he probably would have been fine with the Elmo stuff we saw at Kmart. But he had that last year.
AND, he's only been talking about a "choo-choo party" for the last EIGHT months. Clearly, the boy knows what he wants. And you only turn 3 once.

- Aaron is growing a beard. We have both been feeling neutral about it, but I'm starting to edge towards the anti- side. Mostly because it leaves me a lot less room to kiss him on the cheek, and also because I think he's trying too hard to fit in with the other men in my family, who have all turned into Grizzly Adams this winter.

- Before heading out shopping this morning, Leah was refusing to join us. Then she declared, "Alright, I'll go, but it will have to be tomorrow!" As if she was the Princess of Everything.

- Driving around town, Aaron asked each of the kids where they wanted to go. Leah didn't know where she wanted to go, but Ben declared, "Hot dog house!" Where he got that, I'm not sure. But it still makes me giggle.

As does the polka guy wearing lederhosen. In his 60's.
It was better than the Zubaz couple, though.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Smaller is Better

I am not a particularly "green" person. Yes, I insist that we recycle what we can. Yes, I try to reuse some of what we can (that includes garage sales!) Yes, I try to turn off our lights when not in use - even trying to get the kids into that habit.

But usually, if I'm doing something environmentally friendly, it's because it makes MY life easier RIGHT NOW. I am a selfish environmentalist.

But there's this one tiny thing that has really started to bother me lately. I think it has something to do with the pregnancy hormones - little random things can put my teeth on edge at any time, it seems.

Anyway. We know a couple who are around 50 years old, with no children at home...and BOTH of them drive huge Suburban-type SUV's to their respective jobs. The wife rides her bike to work in the summer, which is great and admirable. However, it also proves that she doesn't live that far from work. It is really starting to irritate me that she drives this enormous vehicle to and from work everyday -sometimes twice, if she comes home for lunch!

Part of my frustration with this situation is that I just can't understand choosing a big vehicle over a smaller one. Sure, big ones are "safer" - as long as you are the biggest one on the road or whoever hits you is smaller. We could all drive tanks, too. And, it is REALLY annoying to be waiting to turn and have a larger vehicle pull up and block your view.

But. I HATE parking larger vehicles. I like being able to make a tight turn quickly. I just feel more in control when I'm driving a car versus something big...even my minivan, which I confess, I pretty much love.

As great as minivans are for moms, we didn't get ours until I was about 7 months pregnant...with our SECOND child. We would have waited longer, but I was getting very uncomfortable, and had whacked my head on the door frame more than a couple times while getting Leah into her carseat. Of course, we could still be managing with a car. But it has been really nice to have that extra cargo space for our driving vacations (which are often, since we drive several times a year to see family who live 4 hrs.+ away from us) as well as hauling remodeling supplies...and yes, our purchases from Ikea.

We know several new parents who are buying a minivan with the arrival of their first child - I wouldn't recommend it, but it makes sense in each of their circumstances.

I, however, am dreaming of the day that I can go back to a cute little car...

Recent Conversation

Me: I was wondering if you'd pick something up for me at the grocery store before coming home...

Aaron: (suspiciously) What? Pictures?

Me: No...Oatmeal, so I can make cookies.

A: What kind of cookies?

Me: Those double chocolate oatmeal cookies...chocolate with chocolate chips in them.

A: Hmm, those are GOOD. I think I can pick up oatmeal.

Monday, March 9, 2009

News Flash: We ARE Negligent Parents

Case #1

Location: Home Depot
Time: weekday morning
Incident arousing suspicion: 2 children surveying the lawnmowers on display.
Employee reaction: Male staff in the vicinity tells the kids not to play on the lawnmowers. Also tells Dad that they shouldn't play on the lawnmowers.

Note: Children were not actually touching the lawnmowers - just looking.

Case #2

Same place, about 10 minutes later.
Incident arousing suspicion: 2 children laying on the bottom rack of the shopping cart as Dad is pushing it, Mom walking beside.
Employee reaction: Female clerk says something along the lines of, "Oh, kids, you really shouldn't ride there - you could get a finger driven over, and we'd hate to see you get hurt!"

Note: So would the parents. Which is why we had told them 2 seconds earlier to get out of there, and had merely pushed the cart an additional 5 feet towards the door in order to have more room for the hustling.

Note: To be fair, the employee probably thought we were going to push them right out the door riding on the bellies on the bottom of the cart - and only one with a coat on.

Case #3

Location: Hobby Lobby
Time: weekday morning
Incident arousing suspicion: almost 3 year old boy touching a wooden dollhouse
Employee reaction: Female clerk tells boy, "You shouldn't touch that. It could break." Mom is 2 feet away, looking at clearance items.

Case #4

Location: local hotel
Time: Saturday morning
Incident arousing suspicion: 2 children run ahead of their parents, ride the elevator down one floor to the lobby, turn corner, and are found at a large pillar in the lobby by their parents, following immediately after.
Employee reaction: None. A couple female staff across the room are giggling and watching.

Note: Mom and Dad visibly shaken, scold children for going ahead without them. Quickly herd children out the door.

Friday, March 6, 2009

One of My Many Soapboxes

The other day, I was talking to my lovely, caring, only well-intentioned mother on the phone. I had just told her how Leah had gone over to her friend Addie's house that afternoon, and she asked, "Do you watch her when she walks over there?"

"Usually - although I can't really see her the whole way because of the trees and curve in the road. But we call ahead so the other mom is waiting and expecting."

"Well, I would watch her. There's so many weirdos out there."

And Mom, I'm sorry I lost it a bit at that point. It really ceased to be you I was talking to, but rather a large chunk of the media and society in general that would like everyone to be in a constant state of fear.

You see, Addie lives FIVE HOUSES down the street. If I can't let my very nearly five-year old walk those FIVE HOUSES by herself, I may as well keep her indoors her whole life.

I really don't believe that there are truly THAT many weirdos out there waiting to pounce on our kids. A few, sure. But in broad daylight, in a fairly enclosed neighborhood? And that's not even figuring in that a lot of the perverts out there prey on kids they already know - not the random kid walking by.

At some point we as parents need to take a deep breath, look at statistics and our own common senses, and take the chance to let our kids empower themselves and exercise the skills that we've taught them.

I remind Leah each time she heads out to stay on the sidewalks, just in case she may consider cutting across the road. If there was a vehicle parked on the side of the road, or any adults standing around, you can bet I'd be watching closely. Actually, I usually do anyway. I'm mostly worried that someone will hit an icy patch and go up the curb. (Which, as crazy as it sounds, is probably more likely to happen than anything more sinister.)

Of course, I'm not first to feel this way. One of the most famous is Lenore Skenazy, who wrote the book Free-Range Kids and has a blog by the same name. I haven't read her book, and don't know if I completely agree with everything she has to say, but she has several good points. Our American culture of fear has reached new heights of controlling our lifestyles. Every violent, malicious act is immediately pounced upon by the media and shoved into our faces multiple times, with the effect that it seems that many more evil things are happening. They probably are to some degree, simply because our population is growing.

So there. I'm not sending Leah to the grocery store just yet, but for goodness sake! Is there anywhere CLOSER than her best friend in the entire world's house? It's a small step for this mommy, but a giant leap for my soon-to-be kindergartner.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Doing What I Can: Economy

Thursday is usually Aaron's day off. I completely adore the fact that he is willing to put his family ahead of his paycheck in this way (since of course he gets paid for 4 days instead of 5). I have come to look forward to Thursdays as a break in our routine and a bonus weekend day.

However, he periodically has to work Thursday anyway, and today his number was up.

If I stay at home and maintain the daily schedule, I tend to get a bit crabby and depressed. Instead, I usually take the kids and go somewhere out of the ordinary.

Today it was TJ Maxx, Hobby Lobby, and Sam's Club. (I can hear Aaron groaning as he reads this...) My kids are GREAT shoppers. They aren't even restrained in a cart the whole time! But I tend to avoid taking them shopping anyways - except of course for the grocery store and Target. THOSE places are necessary, people.

Anyway. We went to TJ Maxx first, as I figured that was the shortest trip, and the one where I wanted to do the most dawdling. We looked at purses for a bit (didn't buy any, dear!) and then cruised the household goods aisles. I love to peruse the odds and ends every once in a while, because to me it's like a new and refined garage sale - you just never know what treasures you will find.

I did insist that the kids either walk in front of the cart or behind it. Ben helped push, which worked well. Then he got away and was lifting the huge glass goblets on the aisle end display - not working so well! But we didn't have to buy any broken items, so it stayed peaceful.

I found tablecloths that match my kitchen colors. Yes, I have drawers full of very similar table coverings, but most of them are not large enough to cover our entire table - soon to be featured at a garage sale near you! There are two of them - one big enough for our dining room table, and another for our 6 -foot folding table. I was thinking, here, I think. $8 each.

Queen sheets, white, 300 thread count: $30.

Turquoise & brown striped towels, matching our master bathroom: $7 each.

A trip to the Maxx without incident: Priceless.

I made up for this dent in our credit card by leaving Hobby Lobby with only $23 in purchases, having fully intended to have spent more. (By the way, this little example of "saving" is why I drive my husband nuts.)

As I was taking my time looking at scrapbook paper, I remembered that I had snacks! The kids were relieved - anything to break up the boredom was welcome at that point. Carrots are pretty much the perfect shopping snack, by the way. They don't spill easily, don't make kids thirsty, and aren't sticky.

Sam's Club was similarly successful, thanks in part to strawberries and ice cream sandwich samples. Ahh, taste tests...such wonderful kid-bribing material!

Home again, home again, jiggity-jog...after employing my own version of a stimulus package. Gooo, America!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Fighting the Forces of Nature

No, the title is NOT referring to this ridiculous winter weather (although I have to say, I'm not complaining about today's temp of 30 degrees).

Instead, I am referring to the battle against my son's nature. That is, it is in his nature to love vehicles. It started with trains, specifically Thomas. He can now identify and name several of the engines, which is fun for us, since he really only started using names in the last 6 months and still only refers to Leah as "her".

Toy cars have always been around, of course, and he watched Pixar's movie Cars at his Uncle Mike's house (as he'll tell you) this last August. I picked up a single Cars car at a garage sale, and that along with the Wii game MarioKart (which we rented ONCE) have sealed the deal - cars are another fascination.

So much so that instead of continuing his insistence that he have a choo-choo birthday party, he started to switch it up with a car party. By the way, if you are surprised that his birthday has been a topic of conversation since last summer, you may have forgotten that he has an older sister. She's been planning her own big day since about two months after her last one.

Although it appears that he has again settled on a train theme. You know, since he has started insisting on looking at train cakes on the internet. And folks, there are a LOT out there.

Anyway. There is one specific result of his basic nature that I am willing to battle - and Aaron is willing to back me up, I believe!

This is it: NASCAR. I'm sorry to all you fans out there, and I know there are millions of you. I'm even more sorry for your possibly non-fan spouses and other family members. But here in this house? We are NOT fans. Of car racing in general - we're not just biased against a specific type. I'm sure there is a plethora of excitement and adrenaline involved with the "sport", but it entirely lost on us.

The other night, we were enjoying the luxury of our newly installed cable by flipping through our now clear-as-a-bell local channels...and caught the tail end of some race. We flipped by, but Ben insisted that we return to the "race cars!" We went back, against my better judgement.

Ben stared at the television, completely mesmerized. Then he rewarded the drivers with his new sign of approval - he gave a double thumbs-up and said, "COOL!"

I turned to Aaron and said something along the lines of, "HE MUST NEVER SEE THIS AGAIN."

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Just Doing What I Can.

While Aaron was busily painting the entry, and the kids were busily playing in the exact same location, I retreated to the basement.

To my cubby-hole craft room in the basement, to be exact. Did I take the opportunity to start organizing the boxes of supplies? Of COURSE not! I started decorating!

First to go up was my READING poster. You know, the ones they have in libraries...and only the best English classrooms. Mine says: Reading. It becomes you.

Maybe I should explain something here. Some you may be surprised by my choice of theme, thinking I would have something maybe more classically related - Austen or Dickens maybe, or even Lord of the Rings themed. WHY a chameleon?

Because it's as close to a lizard as I could get. And lizards are kind of my thing. Not REAL ones, of course - but toys, jewelry, pens, pictures...just about anything else. At Cottey (my first college) it was a pet name from my suitemates, and after that, many of my friends. By the time I graduated from UND, I had quite the little collection of the critters. My friend Dawn even gave me a photo of her puckering up for a huge lizard sculpture!

But where to put them? Aaron was NOT interested in having them in our house...anywhere. Finally I got my own classroom, and the lizards were firmly embraced by my students. They made their home on the top of bookshelves and behind my desk, and were our unofficial class mascots.

They have been in a box since my teaching days. Until now. When Aaron left me to my own devices.

Remember how I mentioned the plywood walls made the painting difficult? Well, they also make thumbtacks IMPOSSIBLE. Unless you hammer those suckers in, which is what I did.

Next up was a bulletin board, which I repossessed from Leah. Kind of. It had been in her old bedroom, but has since been in the closet along with all the other wall hangings without a home yet. For this thing, I found the laser level and did things somewhat professionally, and with few issues, other than the fact that the stupid nail WOULD. NOT. go into the wall. Aaron came down to help and recommended that I use a "real" hammer, not the small one with the nesting-egg style screwdrivers in the handle. Huh.

Real hammer in hand, it still took me at least 6 tries to get that last nail in. It would go fine for about a quarter inch, then stop. Whack, whack, whack, and...Whoops! There is goes, I heard it hit the floor.

Finally, I felt confident enough to put up a couple of little white shelves, also formerly located in Leah's old bedroom. I got out the laser level again, but despite my absolute precision, still had to move one nail over about an eighth of an inch. Three nails went in fine, but the last one for the second shelf proved to be my undoing. That thing would NOT go in, no matter how many times I whacked at that thing.

Aaron was again sought for consultation. I headed upstairs to placate a child, and soon after he followed. "What made you think that NAILS were the best way to hang those shelves? They're already pulling away from the wall - they'll fall off and hit you in the head!"

"Well, what else would you use?"



I got the drill, he got screws of the appropriate size off his workbench, and we headed down once again. I put in the first two, and again, it was so tight that it actually took Aaron pulling on the shelf to get it to fit right.

As I was getting the second set of screws ready to go, Aaron says, "Didn't you even center these over each other?"

"Yes! I took the laser level and made sure that this end was exactly over the other."

"Well, Liz, this shelf is way bigger than the other!" He then demonstrated that the top shelf is an inch longer. Which I now vaguely remembered from Leah's room.

"Oh...well, I didn't notice, and I don't really care."

"Geez, you're making me look like a master craftsman or something..."

That's it, dear! That was my whole intention. I hope you feel more confident in your abilities, since it is becoming painfully obvious that despite my dad's best efforts to the opposite, I should not be left alone with a hammer and nails.

Or screws.


Monday, March 2, 2009

Craving Approval

This weekend was full. Aaron had a four-day weekend, and spent 2 days of it sick, then 2 days painting. BIL Josh and SIL Erica along with baby Madeline made their first road trip to meet her next-oldest cousins and stayed with us Friday night. And I made significant progress on my next-baby goals! Here's more on all that:

Taste of the Future: The visit of baby Madeline gave us a teeny tiny taste of what's to come for us - Leah was a little jealous of the divided attention of her most attentive auntie and uncle, who still managed to do a good job of giving her that much-desired time and affection she so obviously doesn't get from her own parents.

Shortly after they arrived at our house, we girls decided to go to Target - leaving the boys to be lead by Ben on their own shopping excursion. This was Madeline's first shopping trip, and she was doing excellently until she filled her pants and was NOT happy about it. While Erica made the necessary trip to the bathroom with her, Leah and I looked around a bit. I've been taking every opportunity to get Leah and Ben ready for the arrival of this new sibling, so we had this little conversation:

- (As Madeline's new-baby cries recede into the distance) Leah, we're going to have a baby like that soon! What do you think about that?

- I don't want him in MY room!

- Of course he won't be in your room! Why would he be?

- Because you don't want him in your room, either!

Hmm, she has a point. This all stems from a discussion about Ben moving into her room so the baby can have his current room. Hopefully we'll be able to keep Magnus in our room for a few months at least, but as both of the other two have been loud sleepers, I don't have expectations of a year spent in our bedroom.

The entire time Madeline was at our house, I only heard her cry when she got her diaper changed. I keep telling Aaron I hope that Magnus is that good natured, but maybe we've used up all our good baby credits?

Painting: Aaron had recovered from his illness by Saturday, so that afternoon he started painting the accent wall in our entry. We had bought a full gallon, but probably could have gotten by with a quart - so I suggested he use up more of that lovely green paint in the main level half-bathroom. It was on our list, but not an emergency at all...but since he already had the roller and paint pan dirty...He and Josh took that on, and I tried to help prep the room. By bedtime we had a sophisticated new bathroom, minus a large towel rack that has always seemed completely useless to me.

Sunday afternoon he started the main color in the entry and upper hallway. All that is left now is the trim work - and lots of it, thanks to the chopped up wall space. I'll post photos when it's all done and decorated pretty-like!

Scrapbooking: Friday evening, after doing a newborn photo shoot for Madeline, Tara stayed to scrapbook a bit. Although pal Stacie was also over for a bit, I seemed to be the only one truly focused on scrapping - but that paid off for me! I finished 10 pages, which wrapped up that family album, catching me up to last June. The next day, I finally did the two pages I'd left in a previous album for my brother Dave and SIL's Jessica's wedding. It's only, like, two years overdue. No big deal, right?

Also, I'm starting a smaller album of our trip to Cape Cod for Aaron and Kate's wedding about a year and a half ago. Time to let go of the guilt and get these special times into books! Plus, they will all be here in May for the Fargo Marathon. I need to show off my handiwork! Because obviously, the intrinsic rewards are not nearly enough for me.