Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Just a Country Mouse.

I love visiting big cities.

...for the first time, someone apologized for swearing in front of me. And it was just Aaron and the baby and me, not me and the two small children. Many times people have sworn in front of them right here in Fargo, and no one seems to think twice about it. Also, the people in Chicago were trying to parallel park, and the curser was the girl on the sidewalk trying to guide the driver - her back was to us, but the passenger in the car saw us and said sorry - then she turned and apologized also. I thought it was fairly warranted and said so.

...was told 'congratulations' by several people. Granted, Adam is a gorgeous baby who spent most of his time smiling and batting his mile-long eyelashes, but somehow random strangers don't spew this joy when you are towing around two other kids. Maybe they just figure childbirth and baby-ness is old news at that point. It was nice to be able to fully absorb Adam for himself. employee at Crate & Barrel even asked Aaron how he liked being a dad! I think we were both a bit confused, but he said that he liked it fine. Pause. Then I blurted out, "We're not newbies, though! We have 2 other kids at home." The clerk was a bit stunned. I'll take that as a complement that we look young enough to be first-time parents. Not that we look clueless about kids in general.

...Lots of doors were held open for Adam and me, and I loved the power of pushing a stroller on a bustling sidewalk. It felt like Moses parting the Red Sea. I don't think I ran into anyone.

...Our fancy hotel, where the conference was held, didn't have free wi-fi. Whaaat? It had a business center STILL without free Internet. In fact, there was NOTHING free at the hotel. (This is my excuse for not posting earlier!)

...Revolving doors and strollers do not mix.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Big Head Baby Goes to Chicago

Aaron, Adam and I headed to the Windy City last week for a conference for Aaron's work (yay, compensation! Free plane ticket for him, free hotel, some free's the way to travel!) and a visit with my sister Ruth and her bear of a hubbie, Tim.

I've been to Chicago before, including a trip all by myself last summer, but Aaron has never been there. And he wanted to do "touristy" stuff. Our hotel was directly across the street from the Hancock Center (4th tallest in Chicago, 100 stories...) so we started there...

Wednesday I dragged Aaron up and down Michigan Avenue, but we only spent about $7 at Walgreens - on travel size baby wash and lotion for that bath we never got around to giving Adam. Thursday Aaron headed to his conference, and I headed out to buy some of that stuff we saw the day before. Adam got pushed around a LOT and had many admirers, his mother among them.

The American Gothic statue is in front of Ruth's work building, near the Loop. We met Ruthie there and then walked to Millennium Park and picked up some lunch. (Those of you familiar with downtown Chicago may be getting an idea of how much I walked - for the rest of you, it was a LOT.)

We liked The Bean! Officially known as Cloud Gate.

That afternoon Uncle Tim walked us down to Navy Pier. He and Aaron took on the flying swings, but we decided that the biggest Ferris wheel I've ever seen would have to wait for a clearer day.

Supper that night was the famous Chicago-style pizza at Pizzeria Due (the 2nd of Uno's Pizzeria, founder of the chain). As Aaron said, most of our touristing revolved around food. And walking. At least for me. Which is how I justified eating most of our Ghirardelli banana split that night.

The overcast day lent itself to a Batman-esque effect over the Hancock.

Friday was a much sunnier day and we made the most of it with a light lunch at The Signature Lounge on the 96th floor of the Hancock building.

I did even more shopping, but not much buying, and after the conference wrapped up, we headed up to Ruth's office again to meet her and Tim. Aaron got a quick tour of Millennium Park, and then we headed to the Harry Potter exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry. I'll have to post that photo another time! There was tons of cool costumes and props from the HP movies, but we weren't allowed to take any photos. However, there WAS a display outside of a certain car...anyway. We had dinner at a family-style restaurant in Chinatown, and then headed to Ruth and Tim's apartment, our home base for the rest of the weekend.

Saturday was more relaxing - we had the morning to ourselves, making our way (unassisted!) to Gloria's Cafe for Colombian food for lunch. Ruth and I did some secondhand/vintage shopping that afternoon and then a Thai restaurant for dinner. (See what I mean about the eating? Pretty much nonstop.)

Sunday was our day of departure, and Ruth ran/swam/biked a triathlon! Tim took us to the farmer's market in their neighborhood (Logan Square) that morning and thankfully Ruth made it back in time for a quick goodbye before we had to run off to the airport.

Adam was very nearly perfect the entire time - sleeping on the plane and whenever he got hungry and I couldn't feed him. He slept much better at night, probably because he was going to bed several hours later than usual. I even got to sleep until 9am two mornings!

All in all, it was a great vacation. We were happy to spend some time with Ruth and Tim and see the world they live in. But Oh! are we glad to be back in ours, including those two other kids, who got some awesome time with Grandma Claudia and Grandpa DJ.

More posts to come!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Praising God! (In school.)

So, this kindergarten that Leah goes to is a branch of a Christian school in the area. When I asked Leah about her first day of school, the first thing she mentioned was the prayer circle.

The whaat?

"The prayer circle is where Mrs. D asks if any of us wants to pray out loud. I didn't want to."

At this point I'm trying to wrap my brain around a prayer circle at school. You see, I went to a public school. Attended 2 different colleges, one public and one private (although not Christian). Taught in the public schools for 4 1/2 years.

I spent my teaching career trying to walk the fine line between openly being a Christian and respecting the whole separation of church and state thingy. On the first day of school I told all my students about my faith, and that I expected them to respect it as I respected theirs, and not use the Lord's name in vain. Once you set that as the line, there's a whole lot of other words that they automatically know are off limits!

I occasionally played Christian songs while my students worked, albeit covert songs without "Christ" or "Jesus" actually in them. Amazingly, and irritatingly, the only student to object was one from the youth group with which I volunteered. (!!!!)

I mentioned attending church and working with the youth group whenever I legitimately could.

And still, when my daughter comes home from school singing songs about Jesus always being there for her, or how they are a new creation in Christ just like butterflies start as caterpillars, it throws me for a loop.

They are going on a field trip to the grocery store next week as they talk about nutrition, and the Biblical theme is the Fruits of the Spirit. Of course.

There is a Bible verse that they have to memorize each week, and I have volunteered to be one of the moms to listen to them recite on Friday mornings. Individually, in the hallway, with a plus, checkmark, or O next to their name. This is official, ya'll.

Also, about those verses. They start off with, and periodically return to, easy ones, like "Jesus said, Let the little children come to me..." (Matt 19:14a) But then. There are selections that are two verses. Or a whole psalm! People. Seriously. I doubt that I could memorize some of these things. But moms of past kindergartners assure me that they will be able to do it. Insane.

So anyway. Aaron grew up in a Christian school, but I am as new to this whole thing as Leah is. More so, in fact, since this is all she knows. I am sure she will grow up with much more knowledge in her faith, and hopefully a stronger faith. And I am thanking God (in the school and outside of it!) that she is able to attend a school such as this one.

Entertaining, yes. Predictable? Um, no.

Ben almost broke my nose last week. I was sitting on the couch, leaning my head in my hands, elbows on my knees, and he decided he needed a hug and propelled himself across the room like he had been shot from a pistol. He made a direct connection with my schnoze. I heard a crack, saw stars, and even cried a bit! Ben apologized, and even kissed it to make the owie better. But you know what? That didn't work so much as you'd think. I didn't think it had been broken, but the cartilage was definitely put to the test. Thankfully, there was no swelling, bruising or black-eye-like symptoms, but it was sore for several days.


Our TV remote went AWOL for a couple of days lately. We checked the usual hiding spots - down the cushions of the couches and underneath the couches. No remote.

Then I checked the less likely hiding spots - drawers in the end tables (too small to be used for anything other than hiding things) Drawers in the built-ins (empty thus far, and nothings ever been hid in them...but I keep checking anyway). No luck there either.

Finally, I start to think like a kid. Where do my kids hide things? When I clean, where do I find their stash? Then I had it.

For Leah's dress-up birthday party, Aaron brought down the full length mirror from our bedroom so they could check out their outfits without running to the bathroom. It is *still* in the "big room", propped against the wall. Every so often I see a pile of cars back there, or play food (No real food. Yet.)

Bingo. There was the remote, looking all at-home in its new location.


My kids are great sleepers. Not sure how it happened, but they both go to bed really well, with little-to-no arguing. They generally sleep from 8pm until 7am, and even if they wake earlier, they are pretty good about staying in their room until 7. Every once in a while (or more) we'll have one or both come in our room at night - Leah will have had a bad dream, or Ben needs his blankets adjusted (!!!!). They will be escorted (or just sent) back to their bed, and all is generally well.

My kids are also ACTIVE sleepers. Ben seems to work up a good sweat while sleeping - like, more than he does playing. I periodically wash his pillow because it grosses me out, and his dark blue pillowcase actually has salt marks on it from the evaporation of sweat. I have found him half off his bed, sideways on his bed, and even upside down once.

Leah doesn't sweat as much, but I find her in crazy positions, too. Sideways is quite frequent, even in her twin bed. Thank goodness she has a bed rail, or she'd be on the floor every night (which has happened more than once when at a hotel). Last night was probably the funniest, though - not only was she sideways, her leg was on top of the bedrail and hanging over it. How in the world someone can sleep like that, I don't know. Maybe they count on their mommies checking in and repositioning them. Luckily for them, that's what I do every night before going to bed myself.

Just for the laughs.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Gaining her approval.

Towards the end of Leah's first week of school, she got in the van and said, "Whew! That was a hard day of kindergarten!"

I asked her what made it so hard. She said, "We had to do TWO sheets of cut and paste!" She went on to explain that cutting was hard 'cause she has to keep the scissors open, not closing the tips. Tough, indeed. I assured her that with practice she would get better at cutting, and after she mastered it, she could do many more art snowflakes! Lots of snowflakes!

So a week later I asked if the scissors thing was getting easier. "Yeah, it really is!"


Also, an update on a previous post: Leah now loves soccer. She had back-to-back games this weekend, on Saturday morning and Sunday evening. After practically forcing her onto the field for the first game (which may or may have included outright threats), she was clearly having a blast and even admitted it afterwards.

Sunday I made sure to phrase the news in a positive way - "Leah, you get to play soccer again today!" Maybe it was because we were in front of some of her friends and she didn't want to look like a huge brat, but she did a happy dance and yelled, "Yes yes yes!" And I thought, "Praise the LORD. The whining is over!" And it seems to be. We may survive the next 5 weeks after all.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Looking forward to the Olympic version.

Leah had her second soccer practice today. I had this big idea to try soccer this fall after watching her kicking the ball around last fall and this spring. She leans towards my end of the athletic spectrum - that is, the end that sits in the stands and cheers. Or reads a book at home. Whatever.

Anyway, in my ongoing battle against my share of Leah's genes, I'm consciously trying to encourage her in any active pursuit. Gymnastics has been a favorite, and we'll return to it after this 6-week soccer season is over.

And hopefully that will be soon. By all the champion-level whining that goes on before and after, you would never believe the fun she appears to have on the field! Because, seriously, the complaining is epic. It starts as soon as soccer is mentioned, continues until she hits the grass, and then starts as we walk back to the van. She has declared that she likes practice, but doesn't like games. Of which she's played exactly none. We have lectured, explained, and commanded. Basically, we are now at "We paid, you'll play, you don't have to ever again".

I realized today that of her teammates (all kindergarten, all girls) she's pretty much the only one wearing regular sneakers, not soccer shoes. But seeing as we have to practically physically drag her to practice, I'm not investing any more cash than necessary in this activity. She got a generic ball (not a pink one) and yellow shinguards (not pink, but yellow is her favorite color - and gender neutral!)

Her practices are at 5:30pm on Thursdays. That is a totally ridiculous time for us. Our two options were either have dinner ready by 4:30 so we can leave by 5, OR eat at 7pm when we get home. Instead, we (meaning I ) have decided that instead of making everyone (meaning me) crazy and anxious, we will eat fast food or takeout afterwards. The season is only 6 weeks long, and we usually eat out at least once on Thursdays anyways - it's Aaron's day off, so I make it mine, too!

Today we had McDonald's at the mall. On the way out to the van, Leah started in with the negativity again. I gave up on cajoling.

"You know, it's really too bad that complaining isn't a sport. 'Cause you'd do great!"

Leah paused, and then laughed and said, "Yeah!"

I've said it before, and I'll say it again - sarcasm is totally wasted on the young.

Let's all wear black (shorts).

Now that it is almost a full two weeks past Labor Day, the unofficial end of summer, I'm starting to reconcile myself to the fact that summer is on the way out. The only thing wrong with this is that it just showed up about a month ago. I mean, here in the north central plain states summer is usually short-lived - but thanks to the flood in the spring (oh, and the blizzards, too) and then a cool, rainy June, and then a July that hovered around 75 degrees...summer has been especially fleeting.

I haven't minded too much, honestly. I love temps in the 70's, and having not to excuse my post-baby self from swimming is fine by me. The garden is yet to be developed, so I can't complain there, either - the farmer's market seems to be filled with plenty of goodies.

But still. The summer has it's own joys, and in the fall I like to reflect and make sure that we have savored it properly. Here's what we (or the kids, at least) have done:

- Penny & Pals concert (or two)
- fishing in a canoe with Grandpa DJ
- swimming
- kabobs on the grill (my goal was once a week for awhile)
- sprinklers
- street fair
- ice cream truck
- bike rides
- oh yeah, had a baby
- picnics at the park
- steaks on the grill
- fresh salsa
- Medora Musical
- trips to visit family
- played on the new swingset
- popsicles
- Red River Valley fair
- farmer's market

Ah, summer. It's been nice knowing you.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Grand, Indeed.

Even though my grandma lived 6 hours away from my family, I was lucky enough to have a great relationship with her. Maybe it was my love of musicals. Maybe it was our shared interest in cross-stitching. Maybe it was that I was the oldest grandchild and a girl, thereby offering that female child she never had - the blessed woman raised 4 boys. (Personally, I think moms of 4 boys have a ticket straight to heaven.) Whatever the cause, the result is a tight bond.

When one of my dad's cousins got married in Chicago, I got to go with Grandma, just me!, for a week or so. We went to museums, the Lincoln Zoo, and the Arlington race track. The trip was lovingly preserved in a scrapbook and given to me for Christmas, which would mark the start of my obsession with preserving my life experiences.

Mom, Grandma, and I went to a preview weekend at Cottey College in Missouri, a school owned by her beloved PEO's, the organization that Grandma and her two sisters are members of. I fell in love with the place and attended for two years. (It's a two-year school.)

While going to college in Grand Forks, a mere hour from Grandma in Park River, I visited with Aaron and a friend or two. After getting married and moving from Bismarck back to Grand Forks, we spent a few more weekends there.

One memorable weekend was Easter 2002. Aaron had to work, but I was off work for spring break. Also planned was a road trip to Cottey College for the reunion weekend. Having some extra time and a self-sufficient husband, I headed to Grandma's. We watched a musical every night and enjoyed dinners of popcorn, oreos, and Coke. Mixed with some olives for veggies! I went with her to her quilting club and lunch at the cafe. It was very fun.

Somewhere in the middle of these visits, I decided that I should bring my own shampoo and conditioner and just leave it there so I wouldn't have to pack such bulky, drippy items. Until this summer, I thought she just left those bottles (yes, the same ones!) out in the guest bathroom. We spent the night up there for the 4th of July, with my parents going up a day early and coming home a day after us. Mom stopped by our house when they got back in town, and popped her head in with this know-it-all-smile on her face. "Did you forget your shampoo?" she asked.


"Oh! We thought you left these at Grandma's..." and there were the 2 old Finesse bottles. Apparently Dad had been using the guest bathroom for a couple nights before we got there, and the bottles weren't there until we showed up, so the logical conclusion was that I had forgotten them.

Grandma has been lovingly and attentively anticipating my arrival with this special preparation for almost 10 years. I love you, Grandma!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Ducks on Bikes

So we took the kids on a bike ride tonight. And yes, I said WE, not Aaron. It was our first family bike ride since Adam joined the group, and it was an adventure.

First of all, I really wish I had a photo of us all. Aaron lead, pulling the bike trailer with Adam in his carseat. I believe the baby spent the entire time clutching the red strap for dear life. Leah and Ben were on their two-wheelers, and I brought up the rear. (All of us were properly helmeted, of course.)

We were of course presented with several obstacles. Before even moving, we had to establish the riding order. Leah and Ben both wanted to be first, and for some reason they insisted that Aaron was the only parent worth trusting. For about 10 minutes, either or both of the kids were shrieking, "Daaaaddy! Daaaaaddy! Waaait!" As if the point of a bike ride is to stand still. Also as if there weren't another parent directly behind, physically preventing them from being left behind in any way. I felt totally invisible.

After the kids finally get in the groove of moving forward, we had to stop because Leah had an issue with her bottom. As in, we were stopped on the sidewalk along a very busy street, and she's acting like her undies are pulled up to her chin and she's trying to dig them out. I took her on the other side of the trailer and did a little investigating. She was wearing a skort (one of those awesome skirts with built in shorts), and had managed to acquire (while still at home) small amount of sand inside her underwear. (no, I did NOT pull her pants down in public.) Can you imagine? No wonder the poor girl was uncomfortable!

Our destination was the mall. After crossing a major intersection (4-way stops are great!) we managed to lock all four bikes together at the "fish-tank" entrance of the mall. The kids watched fish while I tried really hard not to appear too judgemental of the 2 teenage couples sitting next to me cuddling.

The return trip included a stop at a new local restaurant, Casa Ramos. If you had told me two years ago that we would willingly take these particular kids to a Mexican restaurant, I would have laughed at you. The decor is totally up the kids' alley, with its crazy rainforest theme. The food, not so much - no kids menu, and you remember Leah's aversion to sauce and spice? Thankfully, they customized the enchilada and taco for us. Everyone enjoyed their dinners -even, and especially, Leah. Who'd have thought?

I like to think we made a lot of people's evenings a bit happier, with our little parade. But all that warm-fuzziness was destroyed by Ben's hysterical yelling and mad pedaling as Aaron left the parking lot a few feet too far in front of him. Seriously, kid, is there a more embarrassing way to depart?

Shortly after that performance, he got a taste of pavement. It was his first and only on that trip, which in itself is pretty exceptional. The culprit was the downhill slope to that 4-way stop corner. Also contributing, the fact that he still hasn't figured out how to brake by back-pedaling and insists on using a dragged foot. We decided to walk the bikes across the street, because I didn't trust him on that decline towards major traffic.

And we all made it back to our nest safely and happily.