Friday, October 30, 2009

Calorie Burner

I have this problem with exercising. The problem is that everyone (media, popular culture, my husband) all think I should be doing some, so that, you know, I don't keel over from a heart attack at age 40. And I really don't like to be sweaty. Or in pain. So exercise is pretty much at the bottom of my "to-do" list - and those things at the bottom of THAT list, like dusting - are pretty much at the top of my "feel guilty about" list.

Aaron has tried to be supportive in the past. He has watched the children while I walk the neighborhood. Evidently we now have THE PERFECT neighborhood for this activity, since there are hordes of people walking/running/biking/rollerblading (I know, I didn't know people still did this either!)/walking the dog outside our house every day. Some even when the temps are below zero! Just crazy.

Anyway. I had good intentions of walking a lot this summer, but the whole pregnancy/post-baby situation didn't help. Neither did two children napping at different times. I have tons of excuses, shall I continue? No? Okay.

Our next idea was a Wii Fit. One was purchased before Adam was born and we caved and tried it out, even though it was SUPPOSED to be my birthday present at the end of July. SIL EJ recommended that I get myself registered on it while still pregnant, so I could set a target goal and meet it basically by giving birth.

Good idea! I set myself a goal of losing 25 pounds in 3 months. Hehe.

However, that Wii Fit has not had my feet on it very much. In fact, I think I have used it about 4 times, including today. Eeks.

But today? Today I used it for about 45 minutes, and burned enough calories for a whopping chocolate chip granola bar! You are sooo impressed, I know.

Would you be more impressed if you knew the obstacles I faced?

- couldn't figure out the sound for the first 1/2 hour session, so did it in silence
- oh, except for the constant whining from Ben that I wasn't playing the right game
- and Leah begging for me to play a different game
- then the projector turned off. Black screen.

So I picked back up later on, and Aaron got the sound going. New obstacles:

- kids running in circles around me
- Adam whining on the floor
- realizing I am hopeless at the balance games
- Leah falling off the couch and crying
- Ben sliding wooden puzzles pieces all over in front of me
- being "coached" by kids who can't put on their own coats most days

NOW, aren't you proud of my persistence? A granola bar never looked so wonderful.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Could be worse.

Here's how you know your kid is sick:

- before supper - "I'm cold," from the girl who refuses to wear socks in the house

- at supper - "I'm not really very hungry," and this without having had the usual 1 or 2 afternoon snacks

- after supper - "I'm tired, " a full hour before bedtime.

Leah was basically asleep on the couch when I got back from putting Adam to bed. The thermometer said her temperature was 101.4, so I put her to bed early, skipping bedtime snack and her shower, and started cancelling plans for the next day.

But surprise! I was anticipating the swine flu, but it appears that Leah was stricken with a milder bug, even though it bought her a day home from school.

Ben, on the other hand...

Before gymnastics he seemed warm and was a little whiny, but once we got there (a staff member took his temp for me - 99 degrees, and deemed well enough) and buddy Isaac showed up, he participated just fine. Afterwards, the whining started again, and when we got home he fell asleep for a half hour. By then he was really warm, but ate a decent lunch.

I conned him into taking some ibuprofen (mixed in juice and served with a straw! Which he refused to drink, and then drained when I left the room), and an hour later he announced, "Mommy, I feel better!" He even got outside for a little bit with Leah, and did some puzzles. But by dinner time he was fading and wanted to be cuddled. Aaron stayed home with the boys while I took Leah to Awana.

There was one weepy boy waiting for me later, and he again refused to drink any covert medicine. Healthy 3 year olds just DON'T ask to go to bed, either.

It's wishful thinking, I'm sure, but I'm really hoping that he recovers as quickly as Leah did and is fine in the morning.

Or at least, that he doesn't start oinking.

ps - or pass it on to Adam! Who has had a nasty cough for over a week now. Doc says there's nothing to do about it but wait it out. And wake up for every bout at night to make sure he's not throwing up from the hacking.

We are having a blast over here! (but not as bad as it could be, thank the Lord.)

Monday, October 26, 2009

Rant of a Book Snob

I finally read Twilight (by Stephanie Meyers). But I did not go willingly into that dark night! Oh no, I had to be dragged kicking and screaming by the rest of the book club who decided that it was too much of a phenomenon to ignore and chose it as our adolescent lit selection. Brief summary: Bella moves to the water-logged town of Forks and becomes obsessed with the gor-geous Edward, discovering along the way that he's a vampire, albeit a "vegetarian" vamp (only hunts animals, not humans, along with his "family"). Conflicts ensue, not the least that apparently Bella is the human version of filet mignon.

The book is not as bad as I thought it would be. That said, it wasn't fantastic, either. What it IS is compelling - as in, I got "sucked" in and read it in a couple of days. This kind of consumer fiction reminds me of The DaVinci Code - another quick, hard-to-put-down read.

Twilight is exactly the kind of book I would have been obsessed with as a teenager. Almost every teen lit heroine could fit this profile: average looks (or perceives herself as average), not a lot of friends, intelligent, reads a lot... This is (I believe) completely deliberate on the the author's part, simply because this could also describe most of the female READERS of teen lit. Bella fit this description, and yet Edward, this "god-like", mysterious, aloof boy, chooses HER as the love of his life. What girl (or woman, I'm not gonna lie) wouldn't fantasize about that?

A major point of our discussion revolved around this book as a "gateway drug". A big part of the conflict in Twilight is the sexual tension between Edward and Bella - in this book, at least (there are 3 more novels in the series), they do little more than cuddle and kiss, because of that teensy problem of Edward wanting to drink her blood. So although it's clean and moral, there's definitely a sexual element. Once girls are addicted to the sensuality of a novel like this, where will they look for their next fix? To the novels of Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters, whom Bella reads in the novel, which have a similar type of emotional pull? Or to Harlequin romance novels, which take the sensuality past the point of restraint?

There are lots of other points of discussion regarding this series, but I'll boil it down, in my personal opinion: Not as good as Harry Potter (by a long shot, actually), not as bad as Nicholas Sparks. If you like Twilight, read Jane Eyre.

Okay people. I read it! I did! And I don't hate myself or totally regret it. You win.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

No Worries.

Ah, the season of my aggravation has returned. First there's Halloween and the whole we-don't-celebrate-Halloween business. There was an article in the paper about Halloween-abstainers, and it appears that while it's okay to randomly not like the holiday (like, from a bad experience as a kid, or you just don't like dressing up), if you don't celebrate for an actual reason, and a religious one at that, you are just weird. So, we are weird.

Leah started complaining about not getting to go trick or treating, but it turns out that she just wanted candy. I've decided that we are comprising with our neighborhood - we will hand out candy, but I'm not decorating outside, and my kids are not going door to door. To make my kids feel less ripped-off, I let them each choose a bag of candy to hand out, and then they'll get a few pieces of it.

That is, unless we go to another non-Halloween family's house, and then they'll get several of those candies.

In addition to Halloween, there's also this somewhat-annoying season called Toy Catalog season. Remember how we only give the kids 3 presents at Christmas? And how we tend to (over) think every holiday tradition? And how my husband has been harumphing around the house about how the kids have too many toys?

So yeah, the kids drooling over the toy catalogs and "learning to covet" as Aaron says, hasn't happened quite yet. I thought we were close the other night, when I mentioned my Christmas wish list in Leah's presence. Immediately she wanted to make her OWN list. Of course.

I hemmed and hawed, and glanced at the pile of fliers from the Sunday paper... Leah got a sheet of paper and after writing "ChIsMis LisT" at the top, she said to herself, "Hmm, what do I want for Christmas?" My hand actually paused in mid-air, with the Fleet Farm catalog still in it. I thought, "Wait! She doesn't know about the part about looking through and circling everything you like? I DON'T have to give in?"

Leah continued, "A pumpkin!"

That's all that's on the list, so far. I think we'll be okay.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

On the Record

As Ben starts talking more and more, we are frequently surprised by what exactly he talks about. On one trip home from church, for instance, he pointed out that Daddy should go because the arrow was green. Uh, thanks kid. Aaron wondered how he learned that - but of course he's been asking me about traffic lights on the way to school every morning. And apparently he's been learning.

Yesterday he was telling me about steam. Maybe. The steam HE was talking about was the "steam" that happens when you throw "widdle wocks" on to more little rocks. I pointed out that it may LOOK like steam, but it's just dust. Then he argued, "No, dust gets on me hands, make me hands dirty," and that was it. NO Mom, dust is dirty. Steam is not. Conversation over.

There are two distinct sounds from my childhood that are ingrained in my memory. The first, piano music. Usually around 8am on Saturday. The other, the sewing machine rattling away.

My mother was the source of both sounds, and although I have yet to own a piano and take up playing again, I have been sewing more and more. The other day, friend J told friend A, "Oh, Liz is a big sewer! She makes hats and stuffed animals and..." Here I interrupted. I am NOT "a big sewer" and DO NOT want that to get around! That stuffed animal was a puppy-shaped floor pillow that I made for Leah as a Christmas present a few years ago. And it was less of a stuffed animal and more of a big freaking mess. Now, friend Crystal - she's a big seamstress. Anyway.

I made Leah a polar fleece hat last winter, when it was too late in the season to find one that A) matched her coat, B) covered her ears, and C) cost less than $10. Unfortunately, she lost that hat in a matter of weeks, so I knew I had to be prepared to make another this fall.

She picked out the print herself, and aren't you impressed? The set included the hat, a neckroll, and mittens (which are so small that she can't move her pinkies. Oh well - live and learn.)

In fact, I decided to make TWO hats, after I found a cute piece of fleece dirt cheap in the remnant bin.

All this sewing was done about a week or so before the monkey costume fiasco of this weekend. The other day she said, "Mommy! I can't believe you made Ben's monkey costume in ONE NIGHT!" And then, "And you made my hat, neckroll, and mittens in one night, too, didn't you?" Yes, honey, yes I did. Then she made my day: "Mommy, you are SUCH a good sewer!"

ps - On any slightly difficult sewing project, I have had the assistance of my mom. (She did the entire head of that puppy floor pillow.) Thanks for the help, Mom, and thanks for making me do all those insane 4-H projects.

These hats are super easy, and great projects for beginners.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Lesson Learned

I don't really watch TV during the daytime. I would love to catch Regis & Kelly, and maybe even Ellen DeGeneres' talk show once in awhile, but my kids are television addicts, and I feel a little guilty as it is for all the PBS they watch. Not that I'm doing anything about it, though.

Not only do I not watch TV during the day, but I also don't use the Internet for anything useful. Wait - did I just say that? I mean, OF COURSE reading blogs, "window" shopping for things I don't need and instant messaging friends is useful. I just don't read the news online, or educate myself otherwise.

And then there's Facebook, the most IMPORTANT reason that Al Gore ever invented the Internet in the first place. Important because apparently it provides me with more information than Wikipedia and combined.

For instance, Facebook, in the form of friends' status updates, is where I learned:

- President Obama referred to Kanye West as a jacka**
- the Twins won the League title and were headed to play against the Yankees...and that they lost.
- the Vikings were winning and eventually won against the dreaded Packers (I started off following this on CNN sports, but found Facebook faster!)
- President Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize
and most importantly, and much too late, that Old Navy had monkey costumes for $12.

This last bit of info was important because of a decision on my part to attend our MOMS Club costume fall party the next day. That afternoon I had asked Ben what he wanted to go as, and wonder of wonders! he picked something I could agree to! When "monkey!" came out of his mouth, I started picturing how I could make it, mostly because I didn't think I had enough time to track down one for purchase at a store, and also because Ben LOVES pretending to be a monkey, so I figured this could end up being a reoccurring theme.

To make it work, we took a family trip to Walmart, where I had tried to purchase some adorable monkey printed fleece a few days beforehand. I say tried because in the tradition of Walmart's excellent customer service, I could get NO ONE to come cut and price the fabric for me. Humpf.

Here are the components of Ben's costume:

- brown fleece for hat and tail (already had the hat pattern)
- yellow monkey fleece for pants (already had the pattern)
- tan flannel for inside of ears (already had it - in the flannel board box)
- brown shirt from Target (found it after the Walmart trip - took me 7 minutes from drop-off at the front door. Ha! Aaron said it would be at least 10. I win!)
- piece of monkey -printed flannel to put over the green dinosaur on the brown shirt (from fabric mom gave me!)
- paper-mache banana that I've had since my teaching days, knowing that you should NEVER get rid of a white elephant gift that is so versatile. (the gift was actually a large selection of faux fruits & veggies. Awesome!)

Here is a photo of the finished product, along with Ben's friend Isaac, the friendly blue M &M. Maybe eventually I can talk Ben into wearing the tail and get a photo of it. He only tolerated it for about 5 minutes, which I anticipated by not sewing the tail into the pants - I just left a gap in the seam to pin it into.

Leah once again wore the Sleeping Beauty princess dress that my mom made her for her 4th birthday. Getting good mileage out of that one! She would like me to tell you that the crown is from, where she typed in the "secret code" from one of her games and was rewarded with the crown to print out. She colored it, and I stapled it to a strip of construction paper. It is her new most treasured possession - that, and a ring from a vending machine at Perkins. I'll take it over $60 jeans, folks.
Photographer and good friend Tara snapped all these photos. Including at least 3 attempts at this one of Adam and me.

Aaron was astonished that I had 19 comments when I posted on Facebook that we were thinking about getting a food dehydrator and making apple chips (done and done!). And STILL I did not think to ask my FB friends about the monkey costume options out there. Oh well. Next time. As it is, this one cost me about $15 - but Ben has a new shirt in his drawer, and possibly a new winter hat! He wore that thing all day, even though our party was in a room that must have been about 80 degrees. THAT is a loved costume.

Thursday, October 15, 2009


I have this weird hangup from childhood. Thanks to my sister, who has an amazing head of hair, I cannot stand hair once it has removed itself from the source.

Let me illustrate further. I have thick hair. Like, the kind of hair on which my stylist always comments, "Wow, you have a lot of hair, don't you!" Yep. That's why the floor is covered. And why my head feels about 3 pounds lighter. Thank you very much!

But my sister - now SHE has a mane. Almost inhumanly thick. When we were little, and we played "beauty parlor", I couldn't get her hair into an updo, because it was too heavy. And people with a lot of hair -guess what?!- they lose a lot of hair! We had a hardwood floor in our bedroom, and I have a very distinct memory of vacuuming that floor. When I'd get to the area in front of the mirror, where she combed her hair in the morning, the floor appeared to move, so much hair was being sucked into the vacuum. Hair was everywhere - in all the drains, in the washcloth in the kitchen sink...everywhere.

But it's not like the rest of us were bald. My parents informed me of this in a conversation when I moved back in with them for the summer before Aaron and I got married.

Me: I was so happy to have my own bathroom! At least I knew that the hair on the floor was my own.
Mom: Yeah - and we didn't have any hair on the floor.


After getting married, Aaron took on the task of cleaning out our shower drain, because it practically made me gag. Yes, even though it was almost entirely my own hair.

And now? There's this aftereffect of pregnancy that is just lovely. You've probably heard that your hair gets thicker and fuller during pregnancy, right? Well, that's because you don't lose the hair that you normally would. It just hangs out on your scalp, waiting for....oh, about 4 months after you've had the baby, to drop out en masse. But not really, because the hair loss continues for several weeks.

Even Aaron noticed. He noticed because all of a sudden he was cleaning out the shower drain every other day, instead of once a month.

Because I have an issue with hair, I generally make it part of my getting-ready-for-the-day-routine to remove as many loose strands as possible. And lately that process has added about 5 minutes to my morning routine. And those are a precious five minutes when you are trying to get yourself plus 3 children out the door on time. Sometimes 5 minutes is the difference between breakfast or starving, feeding the baby or waiting until dropping of the kindergartner, putting a hat & mittens on the brother or telling yourself that he'll just be sitting in the van anyway...

Thanks a LOT, hormones. The next morning I'm hungry, Adam's hungry, and Ben's freezing, I'm blaming YOU.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

For this I spent 4 years in college?

Adam has started to blow raspberries, which is incredibly cute. He does a good job, spitting a considerable amount of saliva onto his outfit. We are getting close to the inevitable bib stage - the other 2 wore them for, like, six months before cutting any teeth.

We were at Target the other day looking at shoes for Leah. I had turned to see her latest glitter-covered selection, while the boys were in the cart. I heard a "Fbbtttt!" sound, and looked back at the boys. Then I realized that I didn't know if I should scold Ben for farting without excusing himself or congratulate Adam on the excellent raspberry!

Later, I was telling Aaron this story, and he responded, "Is THIS what your life has come to?" I guess he doesn't appreciate all the gory details of my day.

But it would be beneficial if he took note - later that evening, I actually picked a booger out of my husband's nose, I've spent so much time cleaning them out of much smaller schnozes lately. (It wasn't huge and I didn't have to dig. But still. Gross.)

Then there was the highly intellectual argument with my middle child:

"Would you like grapes or yogurt for bedtime snack?"

"Grapes and yogurt!!"

"No, grapes OR yogurt."

"Grapes and yogurt!"

"NO, grapes OR yogurt! One or the other!"


Friday, October 9, 2009


Ben has always been our sleeper. Leah was a good sleeper as a baby, but Ben topped her by sleeping through the night (like 11 hours through the night) at 3 months old. At about 18 months when Grandma was babysitting, he lead her to his crib when it was bedtime. He hardly ever squawked before going to sleep.

On top of all this, he has been a good napper, too! Leah was done with naps at 2 1/2, at which point she started to take "quiet times", listening to books on CD. My little man Ben was going strong with naps well past age 3. Even if he fell asleep in the van, we could transfer him to his bed just fine and he'd continue with the nap.

The fun and games began recently, though. Whereas previously laying him down for a nap was easy-peasy, there started to be some protest a few months ago. Then a few weeks ago he'd lay down for 15 minutes, then he'd come downstairs and say he wasn't sleepy. I learned my lesson with Leah - I spent more time fighting her about naps than she did actually "sleeping". So when he resisted, I said fine.

Okay, then, no more naps. He laid on the couch and rested while Leah listened to her stories, and it was going well. For about three days. Then the crabbies took over and we couldn't stand it anymore. He would nap if one of us slept with him - and depending on the day, this was good news! But not if Mommy had too much to do. And then there was the 15 minutes of crying and wailing when he woke up and discovered that the parent had woken and left the room before him.

Today was a "no nap" day. And at about 2pm, he says, "Me tiiired, Mommy." We headed to Target, and in the 10 minutes it took me to drive home at 4pm, he fell dead asleep. As in, Leah yelling in joy outside the van with the door open didn't disturb him. She left to go to friend Addie's house (the invitation which caused the joy), and I carried Ben into the house.

He slept on the couch for about half and hour until I woke him up. And it looks like we are back to naps. For at least another couple of days, anyway.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Prince of Power

A good friend has said that parenting is God's way of making her a liar - since everything before kids that she said "I'll never do ______", now with three kids, she, of course, has done those exact same things. For me, parenting is God continuously reminding me not to judge others. Last week at gymnastics, a boy in Ben's class was being very resistant to joining the class. His mom was down with him for a bit before joining the rest of the parents in the balcony to watch - then she went back down a couple more times to deal with him. And I confess, I thought, "Mom, you just need to leave him and let the teachers take care of it!" I also thought that she must be one of those "helicopter" parents, always hovering over their kid.

So now you know how Ben acted today at class.

It started off just fine. Things went significantly downhill once it was actually time to join the other kids on carpet squares. Suddenly, Ben clung to my leg with all four limbs. I pointed out that all the other kids were going to have fun. Trampolines! Balance beams! FOAM PIT. None of those possibilities were enticing. I walked him over to a carpet square. I took him out to the hall. I tried to leave him in the class and just high-tail it out on my own - which may have been more successful without an infant in a carseat to carry, also. (Thankfully, Adam slept through all the shenanigans.)

I cajoled. I threatened. I bribed.

Ben was having none of it.

We spent the whole class in the back of the gym watching the rest of the kids. Ben watched intently, but still refused to join in.

I have four guesses to why he acted this way.

1) Other kids were already there when we arrived, and seeing them sitting there made him self-conscious. He has been sensitive before about "people looking at me".
2) He was hungry. A snack was one thing he kept mentioning, but I'd given him one in the car on the way over and he hadn't touched it.
3) His friend Isaac wasn't there today - he was home sick- so without the familiar face, he was more self-conscious.
4) He's a big stubborn brat and wanted to pull a power play.

Aaron said I should have taken him home. I thought about it, but I also thought that might be perceived as a reward - too many toys there. Also, I was still hoping that at some point he would change his mind. At least give me points for persistence and optimistic thinking - and stubbornness. I guess I know where he gets it from.

Monday, October 5, 2009


We had book club here the other night, discussing Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen. Overall it seemed that most of us enjoyed the point of view of an elderly man, both for his recollections of circus life in the 1930's and the insight into the lives of the elderly. What we did NOT appreciate was the, um, detailed sexual scenes.

Anyway, we joked at one point that allowing a month between books was pretty much a moot point for me, since no matter how long the book is I pretty much read it in the last four days before the discussion date. We could meet every week, and not much would change about my reading habits! Of course, that is a slight exaggeration - David Copperfield and Middlemarch of course took longer. I mean, they are 800 pages long, and I DO have 3 kids to take care of. All in all, my husband is remarkably understanding about my cramming to finish a book at the last minute. My record is finishing 2 hours before the meeting. Eeks.

Today, the kids and I had lunch at the home of one of Leah's classmates. While we ate, the girls were telling the moms about their day, and C said that if they read 12 books in one night they would get a pizza! W, C's mom, and I tried to pick our jaws up of the table, and after a few more details, I recognized the Book It! program from Pizza Hut. I assured W that they had at least a week to read the books, not one night, for pity's sake!

At home, Leah got right to work. She read 2 books and wrote their titles on her log sheet herself. Then she got a pile from the shelf and went at it. As she burned through a couple more books, I reminded her, "Leah, you know you have a MONTH to read these books, right? You don't have to read them all in one night."

And she said, "I know, but I'm GOING to!"

Well, she didn't quite meet her goal, but she's half done. And now I know how to get her to pick up her dirty laundry: pizza.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

They're rethinking it, I know.

When I asked my parents to watch Leah and Ben while Aaron, Adam and I went to Chicago, they immediately said yes. Even though they were invited to a wedding in Bismarck the same weekend, they gamely said, "Oh, we can bring them along, it'll be no problem."

And we said, "Ooookay."

Here are the things my parents had to do while taking care of those two innocent children:

- taking Leah to school twice
- picking Leah up from school three times
- gymnastics for Ben
- Awana at church for both kids
- soccer practice for Leah
- meals
- putting them to bed
- changing Ben's diapers
- bathtime

Here's what they chose to do with those kids:

- drive 4 hours to Bismarck
- helped a friend pick apples and grapes (this turned into a full event - the kids did a good job washing grapes, evidently)
- stayed 2 nights at a motel
- took the kids to a wedding
- AND the reception (thanks to Auntie Jess, Uncle Dave, and cousin David for the extra entertainment!)
- AND the dance (which for them ended around 9:30pm)
- took them swimming in the hotel pool (including changing a poopy swim diaper...eeewwww.)
- drove another 4 hours back home

Clearly, these kind grandparents have lost their minds. With the last shreds of sanity, they said it all went well...except for that swim diaper fiasco, and the 1 1/2 hours between Jamestown and Casselton with Ben whined nonstop.

Another hopeful sign? They are contemplating telling Ben that he can't stay with Grandma and Grandpa again until he's in big boy undies.

And I say, go ahead.