Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Let the adventure begin!

Did you know that God answers prayers?  Even prayers we don't actually pray? 

This summer, I was getting a bit discouraged about this blogging business.  I had big goals and dreams when I started about three years ago, but haven't seen real progress in building a reader base, and with the summer months, even those numbers were slipping.  Of course, I haven't been reading anyone ELSE's blogs, either, so I tried to blow it off as a seasonal thing.

But still that sense of failure nagged at me.  In retaliation, my fear of being a quitter would start up.  So it went, back and forth, for several months.  I finally decided that if I was going to be happy, I needed to stop relying on traffic and comments to deem my blog a success.  It had to be for me and my family.  Since blogging is, essentially, my form of journaling (more about that later!), it's where I record all the little things about my kids as they grow up.  Other people may not be so compelled to memorialize every. blessed. detail, but I am and always have been.  I decided to continue blogging just for my family's sake.

And then my amazing friend CB stepped in!  She recommended Modern-Day Jane to a local woman who works for Forum Communications, based here in Fargo, but covering about 35 newspapers in a tri-state area.  This woman, Tracy Briggs, has asked me to join the Forum's website called Area Voices, and then she'll promote Modern-Day Jane as a featured blog!  This means that those 35 newspapers could choose to list MDJ in their papers, in whatever section they like.

Basically, I was recruited.

And after looking around at some of the blogs on Area Voices, I can see why.  Most of them are political (Freethinkers, anyone?) or sports oriented, and a lot are just selling stuff.  I have only found a few that are about family life, and those are well done...mostly by people who work for Forum Communications!  There appears to be a big opening for "normal" mommy bloggers (an oxymoron if I've ever heard one.  Like talking about poop and wiping snot all day is normal).  I'm going to step in a take a chance.

Area Voices uses WordPress software, which I've heard is superior to Blogspot. If this whole thing doesn't work out, I'll probably stick with WordPress anyway.

My biggest concern, naturally, is that some of you reading now won't follow me to my new site.  PLEASE come with me!  You don't have to login to Area Voices or create an account there to see the new Modern-Day Jane page, but you CAN, of course, and it's super easy.  ALSO, be sure to change your "favorites" link to the new page and Google Reader, etc...  I'm not deleting this version of MDJ, so if you forget, you can come here and link to the new site.  No new posts will be put here, however.

My biggest regret?  Area Voices does not have a function for "following" a blog, so no longer will I have your friendly faces keeping me company in the right hand column.  I will truly miss your silent (and maybe even inaccurate) voice of support. 

One other, smaller regret?  Losing my hyphen.  For some reason, the Area Voices site does not allow punctuation in their URL addresses.  My blog address is now http://www.moderndayjane.areavoices.com/ , but the blog will continue to be Modern-Day Jane, with the hyphen, thankyouverymuch.

I'm excited for a new challenge, and new readership possibilities!  Already I've had a new comment, which may or may not rub you the wrong way, if you've been a reader here and have a feel for my parenting (and writing) style.  I

Can't wait to see what's around the bend!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

I'll be sure to get a photo of that, too.

One more thing I forgot about Ben.  Lately, he's been quite the diva, changing his clothes at least once a day.  As a result, his laundry pile is twice as big as Leah's.  Here's an example:

Ben: (wearing a T-shirt & that's it.  I had just given him a new pair of undies.  Also was wearing sweatpants previously.) Mommy, I'm too hot.  Can I put on shorts?
Me:  No!  It's too cold out! You are FINE.
Ben:  I'm hooooot.  I want shorts!  (Repeat MANY more times.)
Me:  Fine.
 
After about FIVE MINUTES, he comes down with a different T-shirt and flannel pants, also new undies.  Um, NO.  I pointed out that T-shirts are pretty much the same warmth, and the pants are STILL PANTS.  Also, sent him back up with the undies.  Explained that he had a whole day's worth of clothes in his hands.  Listen, I'm just trying to save the earth by reducing my laundry load.

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This weather is throwing things all out of whack for ALL of us.  The mornings are around 40 degrees, but the afternoons are in the upper 60's.  Leah has been going to school in capris and T-shirts, but also with socks & sneakers and a jacket.  This seems to work for her, but Mr. Diva has been changing from pants to shorts somewhere around 3pm. 

Which is fine.  For about 2 hours, until the sun starts to go down.

Tonight, for example, we were all outside.  Aaron, Adam and I were wearing pants and jackets.  Leah is wearing her clothes from school (capris) and Ben is...in a t-shirt and shorts.  Shocking!  The ticked-off mosquitos were enjoying the free meal, I'm sure. 

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I really want to tell you about all these cute things that Adam is doing lately, but since I don't have photos of them, it seems kinda cruel.  So I'll work on that, and get back to you soon.

He's now holding his own cup  - YAY - so my next request is that he start talking.  Now.   That would be sooo helpful.  Because the crying tantrums? NOT so cute.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Down by the Seaside (not really)

Leah has had this thing lately where she thinks she's right all the time.  And that would make us, her parents, wrong.  This is annoying for two reasons:  1)  SHE'S USUALLY WRONG and 2) I know I get to look forward to this for the rest of my life.  This is what some people might call karma.

Here's an example of a recent conversation - remember she rides home from school with another mom and her kids:

The parents:  Leah, when you ride home, do you sit in the middle?
Leah:  No, I sit in the back...
Parents:  By yourself?
Leah: No, next to Sarah.
P: So, does anyone sit behind you?
L: Yeah, I guess B sits behind us, and J does too if he's with.
P:  Sooo....you sit in the middle.
L:  Hehe, I guess I do!

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Ben's thing lately has been nudity.  We've had some backsliding in the poopy training area after a fairly good several weeks.  This has naturally lead to many changes of underwear.  He's more than eager to have clean ones, but it seems to take for-EVER for him to put them on. Like, I have to remind him about 20 times to PUT THE THINGS ON. 

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MY thing lately has been cleaning out the sandbox.  Not of toys, although that's happened, too


And not of sidewalk chalk, although I've gathered a lot of that as well.


See all that pea gravel surrounding the sandbox?  Yeah.

I've spent a couple afternoons out there with the boys, sifting sand through a toy sifter, tossing the pebbles back out.  It's been oddly satisfying work.  I can see progress begin made, even though Adam has been trying to help by tossing out perfectly good sand.

Now I'm just trying not to think about how my two afternoons of work could be erased in 30 seconds. 

Denial.  It's every mom's best friend.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Free desserts also appreciated.

The stars aligned just right today.  I remembered to turn on the radio to a talk program I like AND had enough quiet in the house to listen and not go crazy.  I even tried to call in, but by the the skies must have shifted and the kids started yelling.  Or maybe it was just that at 11:30 my boys turn into hungry gremlins.

The radio program is The Christopher Gabriel Show, and we are lucky enough to be friends - IN PERSON- with both Christopher & his amazing wife Wendy. Their oldest daughter, big C, was in Leah's class last year, and although she's being homeschooled this year, it has not changed the fact that Leah and big C are cut from fairly identical cloth.  Little C is a bit younger than Ben, and keeps things lively.

Anyway, CG always teases that I don't listen to his program.  But it's nothing personal - I don't really listen to ANY radio while at home, but if I do, it's his.  So there.

Today I caught that The Christopher Gabriel Show was going to be discussing a restaurant that had hung a sign saying, "Screaming Children WILL NOT be tolerated!".  Apparently the restaurant has seen an increase in traffic, rather than the my predicted decrease.

I have no problem with people not wanting to listen to a screaming kid.  It's not like I personally enjoy it, either.  And if a kid IS screaming, and the parents are ignoring the child, then yes, go ahead and point out the fact that they are in PUBLIC and maybe they might want to try to parent, hmm?

If a kid is screaming and can't be consoled, most reasonable parents will leave until the child is calmed down.  And if you have a child prone to screaming fits, I don't think "eating out" is at the top of your list.  We are currently in the phase of Adam's life I like to refer to as "the no-restaurant zone".  Since Adam was about nine months old, we have avoided restaurants except when traveling.  Oh, we still eat out once in awhile, but it is much rarer than before.  This is purely for our convenience - babies from about 9mo- 18 mo are just a pain to feed away from home.  They are messy, eat specific foods (peas but not beans), and tend to have an attention span of approximately 3 seconds.  Also, they have NO patience for waiting for food to arrive.

If we DO decide to go out to eat, we take turns walking Adam around the restaurant sight-seeing (which may be more annoying to some patrons, but can you not smile at his drooling, grinning face?  I don't think so.)  We also bring snacks and let him play with the crayons and kids' menus that are provided at the restaurants we frequent.  Also, we hand him spoons and butter knives.  But we have learned not to let him play with the creamer cups.

But still.

Here's my problem:  Does this sign give you a general warm feeling about this restaurant?  Um, no.  Not as a parent, but even just as a human being.  "Will not be tolerated" is not a phrase that I associate with "Come on in and let us serve you!"

Also, if screaming children will not be tolerated, I would hope that the following would not be tolerated, either:

1) Obnoxious laughing (the kind you can hear across restaurant)
2) Swearing
3) Dirty jokes
4) Excessive alcohol consumption

and also, from the restaurant itself (as long as we're making rules!)

1) rudeness from staff
2) having to track down the check so we can leave
3) a sticky seat...or table

But I don't like to dwell TOO long on the negatives.  Here are the things that I LUUURVE about past restaurants:
1) servers who talk to the kids and seem to genuinely enjoy them
2) being given extra napkins - and even an extra plate!
3) drinks refilled without us noticing

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What do you think about the "no screaming kids" sign?  Would you go in with kids?  Or without kids?  Have you had a really great experience at a restaurant lately?  What made it great - one thing, or lots of little things?

Friday, September 10, 2010

Thumb leaning towards green-ish

I was raised by a mother with not one, but two green thumbs.  There may have even been a few greenish fingers in there too, and if it happened to be pea shelling time, that was very literal.  Our garden was a quarter of an acre, and was fueled by 100% people power. Okay, a tractor tilled it up.  But from there on out, the planting, watering, weeding (and weeding and weeding), and of course harvesting, was all done by Mom and us four kids.  A few times we had friends join us for snapping beans - there were bags and bags of them - 8 kids and 2 moms going at it!  Insane.  And then the freezing and canning started.

This may give you some insight into why I feel like gardening is something I must do.  Even if my own personal feelings lean more towards the ambivalent than the passionate.


Adam tests out the dirt in the new garden bed.  He got a bath afterwards.


Aaron built me these gorgeous garden beds.  We had some in our old house too, but with the move in the middle of the summer, and then Adam being born in June last year, the gardens got delayed a bit until this year.

I start out strong - choosing which veggies to plant, buying the seeds, and even making a chart of what will go where.  Leah and I planted those garden beds this year, and it was every bit as picturesque as I'd always imagined - mother and daughter bonding over putting these little capsules of potential into the warm earth.  We quickly decided that beans were a better choice for her first planting experience, rather than lettuce - hence the random lettuce growing on the side of the yard!
Aaron wisely put the garden beds along a sprinkler line, and put new sprinkler heads in so that with a turn of a wheel we could water just the garden beds (not even the whole lawn), and not have to fight the mosquitos to do it.

Oh yeah.. The mosquitos.  Those nasty buggers are one of the reasons for the lackadasical progression of my gardening.  One hand was picking, and the other was smacking and swiping as fast as possible.  Makes you appreciate the "gathering" part of "hunting and gathering" a little more - it becomes a contact sport.

Because the beds are raised, weeds aren't too much of a problem.  When it comes to harvesting...you'd think I'd be a little more excited.  But after the 10th day of having salad twice a day, the enthusiasm, it tends to wain a bit. 

It's too bad that those veggies don't pace themselves out more.  I might be more happy to see them.  But none are more welcome than the snow peas.  Raw or cooked, we eat 'em up!
Adam approves the snow peas.

And the dirt. Again.  But isn't he just ridiculously cute?

And beets!  They are the size of baseballs, or even softballs.

At some point at the beginning of August, Aaron usually accuses me of being a hypothetical gardener and claims that he's doing all the work, and usually he's pretty much right.  So I step up my gardening and try to justify planting another one next year.  As much as I might get tired of the overflow (green beans at least 3 times a week for a month?  Um, SURE!), I love being able to go pick the veggies for dinner.  Plus, the carrots taste WAY better than store-bought.  Next year, I'm trying leeks.  No beets, though.

Maybe.  We'll see how I feel.

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To what degree are you are gardener?  Apathetic, lukewarm, or fired up?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Things I wish my kids would learn:

Adam:  How to talk.  He could at least use the few basic signs we've been modeling for him the last 5 months.  This would be oh-so helpful, but since Ben didn't start talking until 2 yrs, I'm not holding my breath.
            How to hold his own cup.  The problem is that he's got his mother totally whipped into holding it for him about 95% of the time.  I've seen him do it himself, but if I'm at all in the vicinity, there's a bunch of "uh-uh"ing and even HOLDING THE CUP out to me.  So clearly those paws at the ends of his arms work just fine.

Ben:  This one would seem obvious - poop in the toilet - but I have to say that he has really improved!  In fact, over the past month, the only accidents have been when we were on vacation or had a babysitter that one time.  So basically, if we are at home and in his regular routine, he does great!  Now to work on those other occasions...

Leah:  My girl is so smart!  She's loving first grade, and now that we have started our carpool (another neighbor mom brings her home) so am I.  But she really needs to learn to tie her shoes.  And again, the fault lies mostly with her mother.

You see, when other parents were teaching their kids to tie their shoelaces, I was blithely buying sneakers with velcro and not really worrying about tying at all.  That was all fine until she need new shoes for tennis lessons this summer.  And there just wasn't a very good selection of decent athletic shoes in her size, much less a choice with velcro.  ALSO, Aaron has mentioned several times that those velcro shoes don't tighten up enough to stay securely on the foot (as demonstrated by both Leah and Ben losing their shoes on the soccer field).

So we got honest-to-goodness tennis shoes with laces.  And I did work with Leah a bit on tying, but she definitely never hit the mastery level.

Now Leah has gym class 2-3 times a week, and because it's a small gym that gets used for a lot of activities (like, EVERYTHING), the kids need to keep shoes at school so they are clean for gym class.

After the first day of gym, I asked what she did about her laces.  She said, "Well, Jordan tied one, and Caleb tied the other."  Oh dear.  The second day, her teacher tied them - and mentioned that she should learn to do it herself- and then Blake tied one in class that had come undone.

Clearly, we have a problem.  I pointed out that she really needed to learn to tie her shoes, and she offered a solution:  "I know how to tie knots!  Why can't I just tie a double knot?" Um, 'cause there would still be laces dragging on the floor.  "How about a triple knot?  Or a quadriple knot?"  Nice try.

Unfortunately for this particular step of independence, Leah has no pride issues about asking for help.  I said, "Wouldn't it be silly if you had to have another kid zip your coat for you?", and she answered, "Actually, I had to do that today because it was tricky!"

She gets away with this because she's so much smaller than the rest of the kids, I'm sure.  She tends to become a class pet.

One who need her shoes tied and her jacket zipped.  At least she brings her own food and is house-trained.

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What step of independence do you remember learning?  When was it obvious that you (or your child) needed to learn that skill?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

So far, all limbs are intact.

Friday was one of those days.

Sometimes Aaron comes home and asks, “So, what did you do all day?” And sometimes all I have to contribute is: “I kept three kids alive! Isn’t that enough?!”


But that day I would have to add, “I BARELY kept three kids alive.”

The list of victims started with Ben. We had overnight guests, including 2 boys. Ben and the boys were running around, of course, and at one point, Ben threw himself back onto the ottoman. Which happened to be pushed up against the fireplace hearth. His head made contact, crying ensued, and Mommy gave out hugs and kisses. A few seconds later, he was off running and playing again. Another few seconds later, and my palm was sticking to my keyboard… with blood. Is it bad that I first checked my white shirt before calling Ben back? The back of his head was bloody in an area about the size of my palm.

In one of my more genius parenting moments, I chose a dark colored washcloth to blott his hair, knowing that if he saw the blood, his crying (which had started again) would quickly turn to panic. After getting cleaned up, he seemed fine – I couldn’t find the cut, and it stopped bleeding on its own, so I figured that stitches wouldn’t be necessary.

We managed to get through the rest of the morning and naptime unscathed, but the day’s next victim was poor baby Adam. We were all outside, and he decided to take a stroll on the sidewalk. Unfortunately for him, I foolishly attempted to “help” him by holding his hand…which only prevented him from catching himself when he fell. One bloody lip was the result, but it quickly developed into a swollen lip worthy of many inquiries from an amazed father. “WHAT did you do? HOW HARD did he fall?!” I assured him several times that Adam had fallen from his own height – I hadn’t dropped or thrown him. Thankfully, a neighbor friend was there in case a witness is ever needed.
Oh, and he's cutting his two top canine teeth, hence the immense amount of drooling going on right now.  I'm not sure if the runny nose is related to teething or a separate symptom, but basically his face is oozing liquid 80 % of the day.  And apparently his face is mosquitoes favorite food.

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Saturday we headed to the Cities to visit my brother, his lovely wife, and their 2 adorable boys, David (20 months) and Henry (2 1/2 months).  Needless to say, all three mobile boys quickly became best buds and bitter rivals.  Especially concerning a particular toy motorcycle, which was threatened with several time outs.

Sunday morning the injury streak started again, with Adam crashing down a couple of steps onto a hard floor.  The result was a bruise the size of a finger on the side of his face - MY finger.

Throughout the day, I kept insisting that it seemed to be fading and not getting too dark, based on my own experience that deeper bruises don't show up immediately, as Adam's did.  Aaron was doubtful, and continued to question my parenting skills.  I have to admit, my track record for the weekend did not look good.

Later Sunday morning, SIL Jess and I ventured to a park with all five children.  Within minutes, Ben pooped in his underwear.  Thankfully, there was a portapotty nearby, so we got him changed quickly.  After about a half hour of playing and snacks, the kids wanted to move over to the swingset.  As I hoisted Adam and all my gear (jackets, purse, diaper bag), Adam belched and up came some of the crackers.  Thankfully, that was pretty much all it was, but it managed to hit my pants, sweatshirt, and the diaper bag.  Lovely.

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Monday morning I went to Super Target with Leah to pick up some shoes & leggings for her, and lunch for everyone. (If we had a Super Target here, I think I would buy myself California rolls on every visit.)

When I returned - which was NOT two hours later, as Aaron insisted, Adam had a NEW BRUISE on his face!  This time, an inverted V on his forehead.  Our guess was that he fell on one of the blocks he'd been carrying around.

As we drove home that afternoon, we'd glance back at Adam passed out, leaning forward in his seat against his straps, drool running down his chin, face covered in bruises and mosquito bites, and just marvel that we hadn't been to the hospital yet.

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This is the kind of photo that is responsible for all those younger siblings out there:

Adam sat and "read" books while Henry played.



And this is what happens when the baby is removed. 


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Progress

School has started. So that's it. It's all done. It's all she wrote. Summer is over.


Except for those last few 80 degree days that we may still have, and Aaron might be talked into putting up the inflatable waterslide one more time, or at least to hook up the slip & slide. Folks, we may not ever have a pool, but we DO like our water!


Leah has returned to school, with no immediate plans for homeschooling. I still think she's a little disappointed though, especially when she heard about how the boys and I all took naps the other day. It was the first hint I've had from her that school is tiring -she said, "I wish *I* could take a nap!" The girl hasn't had a nap (except during extended travel or sickness) since she was about 3 years old!


I informed her that although this week I've been hauling the boys into the school to walk her to class in the morning, next week I would like to just drop her off. "Disgruntled" would be the best way to describe her reaction. Not that I can blame her too much - there are WAAAY more kids here than at her school last year (same school, different campus), and last year the oldest kids were 3rd graders. Here, it's up to seniors.


What makes me so much more comfortable about this is that I personally know quite a few of those big kids, and Leah even knows several from VBS and other church functions. I also know that a handful of those students have a particular gift for working with kids, and are kind enough to help her if needed.

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Ben has started his "schoolwork", also. He did his first lesson wearing only a t-shirt and undies. Aaron asked why, and I explained that he had asked earlier if he could wear only undies, and since I was waiting for him to poop, I let him. And what is the point of homeschooling if you can't do your lessons in your underwear? I ask you.



It was either the comfort of not wearing pants, the cuddling and one-on-one with mom, or the confidence that comes from knowing all the material, but he enjoyed it so much that he got upset when I said we were finished. The next day we took naps instead, and I got earfull for that, too! Yesterday we had a lively discussion on markers vs. crayons, read a Bible story, learned a memory verse, and read a few storybooks. Today Ben talked Daddy into doing schoolwork while I was out for a bit, and got to randomly pick what pages to do. He chose the review pages at the end of the book, and seemed to get it just fine.

Oops.

This year may be a big self-esteem boost for him, but is that so bad, really? He has started to write his own name, which stuns me, since a few months ago he refused to even TRY to write any letters. I have also learned, via the evaluation section, that although Ben can identify the alphabet in capital letters, but not in lower case, and neither can he recite the alphabet. Something to work on!

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Adam is walking, people! Have I neglected to mention that lately! The child waited until after his 1st birthday to start crawling. But in the last couple of weeks he has rapidly improved his upright motion. The best part is the huge grin on his face the whole time. You just know he's bursting with pride at his mad walking skills.

He rarely crawls anymore. He may not get from point A to point B without falling a few times, but he gets right back up and continues on. When he walks towards you, however, be ready to catch him...he walks just far enough, and then falls the rest of the way.

Because no matter how cool independence is, a hug from mom or dad is worth a tumble!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

I've been reading, not writing...

More reading has probably been done this summer than any other project. Kinda sad, huh? Especially since this weather has been nearly perfect. Before you start scolding me about how I should be getting outside more (guilty), let me assure you that most of that reading has happened after the kiddos are in bed. And a lot of that has actually been after 10pm, which is officially TOO LATE.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

By now you (if you are a reader, anyway) have probably read the first two books of this trilogy. And if you haven't, you probably should, especially if you like post-apocalyptic and/or young adult fiction. Most of us in the book club were nearly fanatical about the first book, including our member E who was hesitant to read it for fear it would be "gross". I assured her it wasn't, and after reading, she agreed.

Which is odd, since it's basically about kids killing each other for sport.

The formula would look something like this: Survivor + Lord of the Flies+ The Lottery+ The Truman Show. But despite the sum of it's parts, the story is told in such a way that lets you like the main character Katniss, instead of being repelled by the brutishness. Of course, you are SUPPOSED to be repelled - just enough to hate the government that is behind the whole insanity, but not enough to close the book.

And that is the hardest thing to do. I read this first book, and the second, Catching Fire, in about 1 1/2 sittings each. The third (and last!) book, Mockingjay, came out a few days ago, and I can't wait to dig into it. And can you please tell me WHAT the point of pre-ordering a book on Amazon is if I can't get it immediately?

Of course the movie will be coming out shortly. And I'll probably be in line for that, too. I love me a good series! (As a disclaimer, I should admit that Aaron was not so enthralled, and actually preferred the Twilight series for plot AND writing style. But since he's so good with the kids and doesn't hassle me about mowing the lawn, I'll keep him around.) (Just kidding, honey. I love you!)

Romancing Miss Bronte by Juliet Gael

A couple of things right away:
1) This author has the most romantic-sounding name. I kept thinking it was the name of a character.
2) I felt like a total sucker for picking this book off the library shelf. "Hey, are you a middle-aged woman who likes Jane Austen and a good romance? I wrote this book just for you!" In fact, I almost put it back just to show it who was REALLY in charge. But it turns out they profiled me perfectly.

And it wasn't that bad. It is a the fictionalized story of the three Bronte sisters, based on letters and biographies available. Charlotte becomes the main character, since she outlives the other two ladies and publishes the most popular book of the three, Jane Eyre.

The most interesting thing about the writing was how the author told the story from a 3rd person perspective, but let us see characters thoughts, and then turned to a narrator talking about future events. Odd, but smoothly done.

At Home in Mitford by Jan Karon

Yeah, this is one series that's been around for quite awhile. So long, in fact, that my mother-in-law not only read them all, but has already donated them to a library...or somewhere. Several of the book club ladies are fans, so when I found Book One in a used book store earlier this summer, I grabbed it. Our trip to visit Aaron's family out West provided some lovely unoccupied time to check it out.

And....nothing really happens. There are lots of little escapades and such concerning Father Tim and his flock, but the connecting link is his flowering romance with a neighbor lady. Oh, did I mention Father Tim is 60 years old? So this is definitely NOT falling into the "bodice ripper" category...no offence to you 60 year olds out there. I don't want to know who are.

This book also spends a lot of time talking about food. I honestly never noticed this oddity of novels until I read a review of Twilight that pointed out how often Meyer describes Bella cooking dinner for her dad. WHY do we need to know what fictional characters have for breakfast, lunch, and dinner? Just weird.

I spent an entire day reading this leisurly little book. And I enjoyed it. Also, I find myself daydreaming about the next books that are waiting for me in the church library...

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

This was a recent book club read, and since it's been on the best seller lists and every other book club is reading it, this is also old news, probably.

But the news is: It's great! This was another that I read in about 2 sittings, even with Southern dialect and alternating points of view. It takes place in Jackson, Mississippi in the middle of the civil rights battles of the 1960s. We all enjoyed it.

Unfortunately, we all also had a hard time staying on topic. Instead we discussed:
- making your own vanilla extract with vanilla beans and vodka
- bear attacks in Yellowstone Park (including the fates of the bears, zoo vs. euthanasia, the possibility of the bears having a mental illness...which S. suggested would make them "bi-polar bears")
- homeschool vs tradition schooling
- uniforms, pros & cons
- popularity & how kids dress (CB declared that professors' kids were flat out of luck...)
- danger in unfamiliar locations - which was actually prompted by the book (and S's quote "There's a reason we don't carry our important papers. 'Cause they're important!")
- racial impact of Arizona's immigrant law (Wow, did this one cause dissension in the ranks!)

And another prompted by the book - and used as a distraction from the previous topic -
- beauty treatments. And breast enhancement/reduction surgeries.

Because no book club meeting is complete without some discussion about boobs.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Mr. Sensitive

My new motto for Ben: THIS IS NOT SOMETHING TO CRY OVER.

Examples falling in this category:

Shirt is inside out.
Can't find other shoe.
Adam is in the same room.
Told to go sit on the toilet.
Underwear doesn't magically appear in the bathroom when needed.
Underwear is inside out.
Dad is ready to leave before you are. (No, he will NOT leave without you. Yes, you should have gone potty 5 minutes ago when I first told you!)
Leah is not playing Little People with you.
Have to finish dinner.
Have to finish a carrot before being done with dinner.
Have to finish the meat before having seconds of noodles.
Food dropping on the floor.
Mud on your legs.
A fly is in the van.


I'm really trying not to use the phrase I heard a lot growing up (not necessarily said to me!): "Stop crying or I'll give you something to cry about!"

But it's hard, friends.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Also, he's kinda cute.

Another thunderstorm in the middle of the night. Another visit from Leah, wanting to sleep with us. This time, she agreed to sleep on the floor next to our bed. From now on, if a thunderstorm is predicted, I'll be prepared.

Last night Ben also had one of his few bed-wetting episodes, requiring a visit from Mommy to help change pj's and put a towel over the wet spot on his bed.

For the record, our/my evening looked like this:

11pm - to bed
2:30 - up to help Ben
4:30 - up to get Leah settled on the floor
7am - Adam up (and this is the child who has been sleeping until 8am lately)

Thankfully, Daddy got up with Adam and the rest of the kids, so I got an extra hour of uninterrupted sleep.

And I have friends with preemie newborns, kids with feeding tubes, and MULTIPLE children who wake up from storms. All in all, I count myself lucky.

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The other night for dinner I thought, "Huh! I have several items in the fridge that might work together well in a salad!" Leftover grilled chicken, lots of salad greens, Mandarin oranges... it sounded promising.

And it was, until I decided to add to the mix the chow mien noodles (which were moved into this house, I'm fairly certain, making them at least 2 years old). And then shred some Parmesan cheese. And use Cesar dressing.

And that, my friends, is at least two moldy flavors too many.

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If you are a fan of Modern-Day Jane on Facebook, you got hints of this next bit yesterday. If not, what are you waiting for?! You are, like, TOTALLY missing out.

As I'm sure I've discussed before, Leah and Ben were not only remarkably easy babies, but they were also remarkably SIMILAR babies. And then we had Adam. He seems bent on breaking my every expectation of babyhood.

When Leah was born, I bought a tube of diaper rash cream. Just to be prepared.

I used the same tube for Ben. There was still about half left when Adam came along! And now we've been through about 3 more. The kid seems to be constantly on the verge of a mild rash, and it occasionally flares up. (Doesn't seem to be allergy related, since he got even while exclusively nursing.)

At the most severe, we decided to stop the zinc oxide based cream (which wasn't helping anyway) and instead try something petroleum based. For the last several months, Vaseline has been our diaper-changing companion. It seems to help, and bonus! makes poo come off his bum much easier.

If only it came out of clothes that easily. Yesterday we found Adam in the Vaseline container, with the stuff up to his elbows. And on the carpet. But mostly, on the front and diaper area of his outfit, as if he was trying to put it on himself. Aaron was the last one to change him, and swears he put the cap on the container. If that's so, our baby may be an evil genius.

He's also figured out that pressing buttons on the CD player will get a magnificent reaction from his sister and that ketchup makes almost everything taste better.

In his favor? He is definitely the best of the three at sleeping in new locations. Yesterday he even napped at a friend's house for a while. I never would have attempted that with either of those other two kids.

So I guess we'll keep him around.

Monday, August 9, 2010

No mean ladies on bikes, either.

We drove straight through Tornado Alley TWICE last week, but only saw a tornado once we got back to North Dakota. There we were, driving the home stretch, discussing whether or not Ben had pooped his pants yet, and Aaron turns his head and says, "There's a tornado over there!" And I'm all, "Whaa?"
It was so weird because the weather around us was totally fine. Sun shining, everything. I don't know what I expected...flying cows, I guess. Or flying SOMETHING.

But of course I grabbed my camera. The photos aren't the best, but we sure didn't want to get any closer. Aaron's parents were driving ahead of us and had stopped in a nearby city for supper - the sirens were going off and fire engines were in the street ready for action. Fortunately no one was injured although two farmsteads were destroyed.

On the news that night it was reported that the tornado was on the ground for 20 minutes. We probably saw most of it, including the end where it went back up into the clouds. It was only once we were past the storm that we could see how scary that big cloud actually did look. And a few days later it was determined to be an EF4 tornado.

On a scale of 5.

Yeah. I'll stay 20 miles away, thankyouverymuch.

What, you're still here?!

I'm not even going to try to catch you up on all that has been happening around here. I know I've left you out of the loop, but I honestly feel that you will survive just fine, mostly by living your own lives.

Today, Adam spent almost the entire morning in a full-out tantrum. Wailing, sobbing, rolling on the ground, you name it. After the first 10 minutes or so, he dragged himself over to me (I had left after five minutes of the drama), pulled himself up on the chair, made those hiccupy gasps that indicate a return of self-control, and reached his arms up to me. How can a mommy resist? He sat on my lap for a long time, just relaxing, and occasionally giving me hugs and resting his head on my shoulder. Worth the previous torture session? Yes.

Too bad we were doomed to repeat this scene the rest of the morning, with mommy being less and less of a sucker. Lunch was followed by a 2 1/2 hr nap, which again, almost made the saga worthwhile.

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Also, Adam is pretty much a one-nap kid now. The mornings can get a bit rough, but if we do an earlier lunch, we all survive in one piece. Of course, this is all because he's been going to bed about an hour later than usual and then waking up an hour (or more) later than usual. School is going wreak havoc with this great schedule.

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Now that I brought it up, what exactly ARE we doing about school, anyway? My nerd of a daughter is actually disappointed that we aren't going to homeschool this year. Apparently what sold her on the idea was my explaining that we could do school anywhere, even on trips. She chimed in, "Yeah, so when we're at a hotel, Ben and I can do our homework there!" Tell me, what kind of future does a kid like that have? One of being stuffed into lockers and having her books pushed onto the floor. Better homeschool her just to save her from herself.

And we just might - but not this year. I need more time to convince myself and feel prepared and educated about all the options for curriculum and activities. This year, we will indeed be making the MUCH longer commute to the other campus. Time to figure out some carpool options.

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Aaron and I flew the coop last week and drove down to Kansas City to see his brother JJ and SIL EJ, and of course our niecy-poo MVJ. It is a 9 hour drive (we stopped overnight on the way down), and we were only there for a day and a half, but it was a great trip. For one thing, it was lovely to discover that we still like each other. With 3 kids running everywhere, it's so easy to get wrapped up in the day-to-day annoyances. It was also good to have time to really talk about things...like homeschooling...without interruptions.

And it is HOT in Kansas City. I went to my first two years of college at Cottey, just an hour south, and the heat and humidity had me reminiscing about serving as an Orientation leader. And hauling luggage up 3 flights of steps in August. With no air conditioning. I have never been so glad to live in North Dakota. Just saying the name feels like a tall drink of lemonade in this kind of weather.

It was sooo fun to spend time with MVJ (now a very charming 18 months old) without my own kids to take care of. What a blessing that she likes me! I was able to carry her periodically, giving her poor mommy a break (seriously, EJ, you need to pare down the diaper bag!) Her kisses are precious, and really the best way to wake up is to have her climb onto your air mattress. Being a truly indulgent auntie is such a wonderful joy.

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We have more adventures planned for this week, so tune in later on! Maybe I'll even post some of photos of the tornado we drove next to on the way back from Kansas! (No flying cows. Sorry.)

Friday, July 30, 2010

Back to School. Maybe.

Just a few short months ago, I was so confident in Leah's educational future. She would continue to attend the Christian private school through graduation, unless she decided at some point that she would like to try public school. Then there would be a discussion.


But it turns out the discussion is happening now. Because of the 10 kids in Leah's class, 1 is repeating kindergarten, 2 are going to public school, 2 are switching to the other campus (ours is just preK-3rd, the other is K-12), 1 may be homeschooled, and the other is a big ol' question mark since the dad lost his job recently. The leaves Leah and 2 boys as the only "for sure"s from her class.


And that is NOT a full class, my friends.


There are several options:


1. 1st grade will most likely only be offered at the other campus, which would require a MUCH longer morning and afternoon commute. Our commute is already complicated by a baby who could be napping during pick-up times.


2. We could attend the other campus, but carpool with another family.


3. Leah could attend another Christian school, which happens to be very close to the one she attended last year, so our commute would be similar.


4. We could homeschool.

Just to be clear, homeschooling is neither a foreign nor a favorite concept around our house. Aaron was basically homeschooled for a good portion of his elementary/high school education, and even *I* was homeschooled for my kindergarten year. We have many friends who homeschool and love it, including potentially Leah's best friend from class last year and neighbors across the street.

Keeping Leah at home has many positives:

1. We'd save a bundle of cash.

2. Our schedules would be waaaay more flexible...no worrying about how late Adam sleeps or when he naps. Vacations could happen whenever we want. (Can you say 'Disney World in October'? Yessss.)

3. Leah is a self-motivated learner - meaning, she could basically learn in a box. Homeschooling her would be a breeze. We could probably do her classwork super fast, and she could move at her own pace.

4. I could supplement the normal 1st grade curriculum with stuff she's interested in, like Spanish. (Heaven help us all if we go that direction. Professor Brown would be horrified at the thought of my teaching ANYONE Spanish.) And of course, I COULD do this regardless of our decision.

5. This could be a good intro to homeschooling for Ben, who may actually require it, especially if he hasn't figured out the whole pooping-in-the-toilet thing by kindergarten time. I may do a preschool curriculum with him anyway, just to make sure he's ready for school in a year.

Of course, there are a few negatives as well:

1. I would be in charge of Leah's education. This might be a positive for others, but it totally overwhelms me. I like trusting someone else to make all those decisions, as long as I trust the decider.

2. Leah loves school. Last year she adored everything about school: her teacher, her classmates, learning about God, and doing the schoolwork.

3. I feel loyal towards her school, even though we've only attended one year. Lots of my friends work there or have kids there, and our nephew graduated from there.

4. Leah is a great kid to have in a classroom. From my former-teacher perspective, she is a good influence: excited about learning, but respectful of others. Her teacher last year said she was a good friend and helper to others in the class, and actually told us we couldn't take her away to homeschool when I mentioned it!


5. That self-motivated learner part? Worrisome. I'm not a super fan of skipping grades (although I have seen it work out just fine.) But the possibility of her going to college at sixteen scares the stuffing out of me.

6. Have you ever tried curriculum shopping before? Oh my word. I get stress headaches just thinking about it.

7. Oh yeah, then there's that whole "having only two kids for most of the day" part. I was kind of looking forward to that.

8. I'd probably still be going a lot of places where Leah would end up being the only kid her age, stuck with a lot of little kids. She'd get used to it, yes, and would adapt, but it would still stink.

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So. I have lots of lists, but no conclusion. Aaron thinks that I might love homeschooling, but I'm not so sure. And if I DO love it, that would require a whole reconfiguration of our future as imagined by me. What a pain.

I don't really want to hear all about your decision, either! That's so unfair, I know, since I just made you listen to all this gobbledegook. But even though homeschooling/private school/ public school worked wonderfully for your family, EVERY FAMILY is different. So your experience really has no bearing on ours.
But please, feel free to tell me how you had doubts and questions, but your kid turned out intelligent and normal anyway. Tell me how kids are resilient, and one year couldn't possibly damage her entire life. Tell me to breathe. Tell me to continue encouraging her learning in any way I can, even if it becomes the focus of my own life. Tell me it's okay to let my life completely revolve around my kids. Tell me that the most important thing is what is the best option for MY KIDS, not the best for me, or the school, or everyone else's kids.

So why am I telling all of you this? Because you've probably had some concerns and issues regarding your child's education, and if you haven't yet, you will. At some point. Especially if you think you have it all figured out.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

We did almost lose a wading pool once, though.

Last night we got another big lightening and thunderstorm. Why do these storms (our 3rd biggie of the summer) never come in the afternoon? Why always at 1am? Leah must have some input on that, since she's decided she's afraid of thunder and must sleep with Mom when a storm hits. I think she just likes the cuddling and can't sleep, but who am I to argue?


When any severe weather hits these days, I find myself getting a jolt of adrenaline, and not because I have dreams of being a storm chaser.


It's because I grew up on a farm.


This farm is in western North Dakota, where mild weather is an unheard of thing. It's never rather warm - it's sweltering. It's never dryish - it's parched. It's never kinda wet - it's sopping. It's never cool - it's chilly. And that's just the summer! The amount of perfect summer weather can be measured in hours, usually between 6 and 8 in the morning.


During the time I lived on the farm, the area was experiencing a drought. For about five years, the rain was so minimal that the garden was constantly being watered by us, not nature, and there were actual prairie fires. You know, like in Little House on the Prairie. That we beat out with towels. (Nevermind that they were usually lit by a spark from our burning garbage. Just as scary, my friends!)

Because the house is about a century old and of course has no air conditioning, the windows were almost always strategically open.

The few times it rained, it never sprinkled - it downpoured. And so the cry would go out from my mom: "Shut all the windows! Get the laundry in!" and all four of us would fly out of the living room where we were slavishly watching TV reruns and slam the wood frames shut, and then run out to yank the jeans and towels (and undies, and socks...) off the clothesline and into baskets to haul into the house.

At least once we got hit with a huge windstorm, in which we added to that list of emergency precautions: grab everything that isn't nailed down, or it'll end up in the next county.

Hail added another dimension: nothing to do but survey the damage afterwards. Farmers dread hail like no other weather induced failure - with a drought, you KNOW the crops will be poor. But hail takes an otherwise promising yield and pulverizes it in mere minutes.

Aaron sometimes wonders, when it starts raining really hard, why I whip my head around to the windows, even though we usually have them shut to preserve the precious air conditioning. If only he could see the list in my head: Do plants need to be brought in? Is there anything outside that shouldn't be? Is everything secured?

And of course, because we are city folk, the answers are usually: No. No. Yes.

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Any memories of severe summer weather? Thankfully we never had a tornado that I remember - but we may have been down in the basement a few times.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Or maybe I'll just have a Sprite.

I really REALLY want to, but I'm not gonna. I'm NOT gonna bi- I mean complain - about how the kids have been sick and driving me crazy (those are separate things. Sick kids are great - they sleep a lot.) You don't really care very much out the "check engine" light coming on in the van or how the air conditioner needs a new circuit board, but really just needs to be replaced. (It's a whopping 5 years old.) And I'm positive that you are tired of hearing about poop, so I won't mention how Ben had a major (#1 AND #2) accident tonight, two feet from the toilet. And how I totally lost my temper and had to apologize afterwards.

Instead, I'll tell you the positive things that have happened lately:

1. Leah did her Sand Art project which she received as a birthday present, and it went surprisingly well! It looks good, and the mess was contained to the newspaper workspace - outside.

2. We have fun things planned for the next 3 days, and 2 of those involve dinners that I don't have to worry about.

3. Adam can climb steps REALLY WELL.

4. Aaron put up our new baby gate today. Here's hoping that at least Leah can figure out how to open it!

5. Leah and I de-cluttered her room.

6. I got both kid bedrooms dusted, and the whole upstairs vacuumed. (If this sounds like your typical morning, please note that these duties happen maybe twice a year.)

7. Tomorrow I get to leave the house (with kids, of course) since we had a fever-free day today! Woot!

8. A friend made a special trip to bring me a new pair of sunglasses!

9. And another friend made a special trip to bring me coconut M & M's!

10. Have I mentioned that I have awesome friends?

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But still...

Tonight, as I was arguing with Ben to get him to finish eating last..freaking...bites... of supper and trying to satiate a whining Adam, Aaron announced that he was going to tennis. In 15 minutes.

"Fine. (deep sigh) Go ahead. Come home whenever you want." (We go for dramatics at our house.)

"Sweet. I'll be home at 10."

"Okay. Then I'm leaving."

"To go where?!"

"Somewhere that's open at 10."

He then pointed out the obvious that I would have NO CHOICE but to purchase an alcoholic beverage, since the only places open after 10 around here are bars. No offense, honey, but DUH. I'm hardly what you'd call a drinker - or even a social drinker - but sometimes, that "daily margarita special" sign on the Mexican restaurant just down the street looks pretty darn tempting.

Friday, July 23, 2010

The last half of last century was okay, too.

Today has been spent waiting for the rain to fall. And it just keeps clearing up and getting cloudy all over again.

In between trying to predict the weather, Ben got sick. I knew something was off when he had a total meltdown at a friend's house because the boy was chasing him with a squirt gun. After he had said "Stop!". How dare that child act like a perfectly normal 4 year old boy. Sheesh.

Ben's meltdown was not an angry one, however. It was a sobbing, emotional mess. Something was up.

After he refused to eat his lunch because people were looking at him, I convinced him to let me take his temperature. That confirmed my suspicions: 99.9. Not an official fever, but not normal, either.

He took a nap right away, then ate some of his lunch, and then finally took some medicine (in juice with a straw. Difficult.) Before meds, temp of 100.3. After, he's outside playing in the sandbox.

I love living in this century.

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Manny

Our nephew Marlin has been staying here for a couple of days, so of course I took advantage of him and left him home with the baby while I ran some errands. (Oh, did I mention that he's 21? No, I'm not leaving the kids with an 8 yr old!) He doesn't seem to mind too much, and actually plays with the kids.

After the errands, we loaded up and headed to a wading pool. These wading pools are awesome - clean, staffed, lightly populated, parks next door, and FREE. So if you have to leave after a half hour, it's not too big of a deal.

We have made some great trips to the wading pool, but today was, sadly, not one of them.

Minor Catastrophe #1: I forgot Adam's swim suit. I DID remember the swim diapers, which would have made this a MAJOR catastrophe. The main problem was that his swim suit includes a shirt. And as Adam's auntie Korina says, "We've got to keep his marshmallow skin looking like a marshmallow!" I doused him with sunscreen twice, but he was still starting to look a little pink towards the end. This evening, though, he looks okay.

Also, this baby LOVES the water. All the kids loved baths from their very first one, but Leah and Ben were both pretty wary of pools and lakes. Adam, however, has shown no hesitation, not even depending on the temperature of the water. He has a blast.

Minor Catastrophe #2: I brought 3 towels. This doesn't sound like that big of a deal, right? Well, what do you do when an emotionally distraught 4 yr old wants one to get "warmed up"? If you are me, you get in a stupid battle of wills. I lost. The 10 minutes of sobbing and his gibberish attempts and asking for what he wanted finally wore me down. Then he had very specific (of course) requirements for how EXACTLY he wanted to be warmed up. I SOOO don't care. Gah!

Minor Catastrophe #3: Trying to locate all our swim toys when it was time to go. We couldn't find our squirty toys ANYWHERE. And since I knew pretty much everyone who had already headed out, I really didn't think they'd gone home with the wrong kid.

The pool staff girl rescued us. She went over to the filter box, reached past the flap, and pulled out a watering can and THREE of our toys. Mostly I was relieved that when I'd spotted one earlier, gone to that area of the pool, and then couldn't find it, I wasn't delusional.

Minor Catastrophe #4: Ben tried to balance on top of a swim noodle. On the concrete. While wrapped up in a towel. FAIL. He landed directly on his knees, then fell onto his side. Much crying ensued.

Of course, there was a ton of extra-minor catastrophes, such as keeping the sun out of Adam's eyes while getting him into, and then out of, his swim diaper, making sure he didn't drown, refereeing the kids (so glad the Manny was there, so at least they were entertained!), and making sure everything got back in the bag to go home.

While we were heading back, I told Marlin the Manny: "I haven't taken all three kids to the pool by myself yet..."

Him: "There's no need for further explanation."

And at that point I stopped feeling like a wuss. It finally sank in that it may be a matter of survival (mine, Adam's, or Ben's) to have another adult-ish person with me. At least until Adam can walk and be trusted slightly out of arm's reach. So another two years. Gah.

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Minor catastrophes at the pool? Which have made you happy to leave the pool to the relative calm of home?

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Best Way To.... (a week in review)

....locate the nearest gas station: see the flashing "empty" on your gas gauge.

....make a trip to the zoo even more exciting: almost run out of gas trying to get there. The van said "0 miles per gallon" when we were within sight of the pumps. Some heavy praying was going on in the passenger seat (probably driver seat, too) which thank God was answered "Yes!".
....get a boy to poop on the potty: design incentive trips such as a visit to the "big" zoo, and going mini-golfing/go-carting. It took a month and half for Ben to "earn" (10 poops) the first trip, but in a week he's half way to the second one! Do you know how happy we are?!!

....be motivated to clean your house: agree to host several different groups of people in the same week.


....get a lot of things done: drink coffee. And (for me, at least) turn into Liz at turbo power.
....find the sleeping capacity of your house: agree to host several different groups of people in the same week. At one point, 4 adults and 1 child. At another, 3 adults (no couples!) and 2 children.

....be rudely woken up: is by a kid other than your own. Niece MVJ woke me from a much needed nap by banging my cell phone on my face and sticking her fingers in my eyes. Yes, I woke up, and No, I wasn't crabby! If it had been my OWN sweet child...that's another matter altogether.

....finally sort and file that huge pile of papers on your desk: discover a random water drip from the ceiling nearby. After about a half cup leaked out, it stopped, with no apparent source or repercussions, other than the complete clearing of the counter underneath. So weird.

....find a lost child: have friends in the media. Thanks again, CG.

....keep track of your kids: go it alone. When Aaron and I took the kids to the street fair, we lost one (and found him again). When I took them by myself to the OTHER fair in town, they were all accounted for at all times. Because there wasn't another adult for me to assume that they were with.

....identify all the potential choking hazards in your house: volunteer to babysit a friend's baby. Somehow all the things that Adam COULD be eating (but somehow hasn't yet) leaped out of the shadows before baby Asher showed up.

....keep children entertained: agree to house an adult nephew for a few days. So great! He's a free manny! The big kids WILL get their hair cut this month after all!

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It's been a great week, full of family and fun. What events happened in YOUR house last week? Here's hoping for another several days of summer perfection.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Here's your sign.

Yup, it's summer. And we've been awfully busy having fun. I have lots of stuff to tell you about, but first, I have to tell you about one of my Terrifying Parenting Moments.

This week is the annual Downtown Street Fair. The fair (crafts and other similar items, lots of food!) covers about 7 or 8 blocks of Broadway, is 3 days long, and is supposedly the largest event in North Dakota. We packed the kids in the van and headed down there at about 10:30 this morning, the first day of the festivities.

And there was NO parking. No FREE parking, anyway. In the past we've been able to find a spot on a street and walk a few blocks, but there was NOTHING. So we used a parking ramp, spent a buck and didn't have to walk as far. Might be a new tradition!

Anyway, we actually bought a lawn ornament (rock/ re bar sculpture) that I've admired in past years, then watched a magician, chatted with a few friends, ate a funnel cake while watching a juggler, and in general had a good time. After a few more blocks we turned around. At one point Aaron and I admired some metal wall hangings and then noticed Curious George outside the Fargo Theater. Since Ben is kind of wary of oversized characters (and really, who can blame him?!) we walked by. About half way down the block, I realized that Ben was NOT holding onto the stroller, as I'd thought.

Last I remembered, he was holding MY hand by those metal wall hangings. Slightly worried, I retraced my steps.

No Ben.
I ran back up to Aaron, looking at all the little boys on the way: No Ben.
Ran back to the theater: No Ben.

Went to the other side of the booths and ran up a ways: No Ben.

Found Aaron again, who so helpfully said: "You still don't have him?" NO BEN!

At this point I went into full panic mode, and was imagining going home with only two kids, telling my parents, issuing an Amber Alert...you get the idea.

I was on the way to check the juggler's crowd when I ran into a friend Wendy who's husband is a radio personality. While I did some more running and scanning of small children, he got it on the air, and soon after Wendy found me and told me they had him.

THANK GOD. And I did, several times.

A lady handing out stickers had asked Ben where his mom was, and then kept him with her until two police officers joined them. At that point they heard the radio broadcast (I think - the details are a little fuzzy) and waited for me. Praise the Lord for Wendy and her hubbie, Christopher Gabriel. Knowing they were at the fair, I actually had thought, "If I can only find Christopher, I know we'll get Ben!"

Ben, of course, was totally fine. He didn't look upset at all, and had a police badge sticker to show off, as well as other stickers for him AND his siblings (isn't that sweet? He insisted on handing them out when reunited with the other half of the family.)

I held tight to his hand for the rest of the walk back to the car, and didn't even argue too much when he wanted to buy a marionette that I know I'm going to spend hours untangling.

I love him THAT much.
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What really kills me is that mere minutes before losing the child, I had been stroking my ego, thinking about how great it was that we could take 3 kids to a street fair and be fine.

That fourth kid? Not gonna happen, I'm thinking.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Oh TOODLES!

The Fourth of July is traditionally a holiday that we spend with Aaron's family. It used to be that two of his sisters lived in the same small town where his parents own a motel - convenient! We could all gather there, get free rooms, and have our own space. Even better is that the motel has an apartment below the manager's house, and we've claimed it as our residence when in town, by right of having the most small children. Believe me, having that extra bedroom and a place to watch TV when the baby is sleeping makes a world of difference in the quality of our vacation.

What do the kids like best? The virtually unlimited Disney channel. Also, Adam can eat whole grapes and pluck them right of the stem! How handy is THAT?


Yes, I outfit the family in matching outfits. Kinda. Mine was the only one not coordinated, but see how I hid behind the kids? My blue shirt blends in perfectly! MUAH HAHA!

But this? This is the future "world's most patriotic baby" photo contest winner.

I was sure that Ben and possibly Leah would be watching the fireworks from the house, but my nephew A's girlfriend W saved the day. Ben started the weekend being afraid of her, but as you can see, that didn't last long. It helped that she was nice, played with the kids, and is rather pretty. Ben learned a new word - girlfriend- , though, after he kept calling her A's "babysitter". Can you blame him? The only non-family girls of that age that he knows have been paid to hang out with him. Now, if A starts doing the same, we have a problem.


Instead of hiding in the house, the kids spent the evening covering their ears. And waiting for these ginormous sparklers to burn out.

Breaking the first rule of sparklers: DON'T POINT THEM AT EACH OTHER. Unfortunately, there are about 12 other rules after that one. But how many trips to the emergency room did we have? Oh yeah - ZERO. Boo yah!
On the way back home, we stopped for lunch at Perkins. And for some crazy reason, after sitting for almost 3 hours and sleeping for two of them, Adam didn't want to sit in his high chair and play the good baby. No. He wanted to be climbing around and touching everything in sight.
This included the sugar packets and creamer cups. I kept a close eye on those packets, sure that he'd try to get them into his mouth. But he lulled me into complacency, and while we waiting for our orders, there was a loud popping noise, followed immediately by milk spraying everywhere.
The aftermath:

Guess those sharp teeth of his are good for puncturing as well as eating. Speaking of, he's currently cutting his 11th tooth, which will make his 4th molar. He ate almost an entire tuna sandwich today - that would be TWO slices of bread. He's also going up the two steps from our sunken living room, and generally tearing apart anything he get his hands on. It's so much fun! (And that was said without an ounce of sarcasm, I'll have you know. We love him THAT MUCH.)
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Did your parents dress you up matching for holidays? Have you had to seek therapy for residual issues from that experience?
Have your children (or did you?) caused any explosions? How long did they take to clean up, and did they require more than a stack of napkins?

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

He doesn't like peaches, either, except in pie. But I'M the picky one.

First of all, the kids' photos today were a huge success, as were the bird t-shirts. I will post photos soon, and maybe I'll even talk Tara into making them the photos on my masthead. (Is that the right word? Dooce uses it, but I'm *ahem* not quite to her caliber. I mean the top of my blog page. You got that, right?)

Now to play some catch-up with past events. Over the weekend of the 4th, we spent one night at our family farm so that I could attend some of my 15th high school reunion, and oh yeah, it was the town's 125th anniversary.

Mom and Dad have been going out to the farm about every other weekend to get the house ready to be lived in full time...by them. A big BOO to them moving. But a HECK YEAH to them having Cousin Camp at the farm in the summer! I am already planning to leave the two big kids there for a week next year. (Assuming, of course, that their house here in Fargo sells soon.)

They have been making lots of preparations, but thanks to some less-than-stellar renters, it still has a long way to go. Especially in the way of furnishings, since they are currently maintaining two houses.

While we were there, the kids slept on an air mattress and did just fine, despite the 90+ degree heat during the day. I love how adaptable they are growing up to be!

Adam and his parents did not fare so well. Thankfully, Aaron let me sleep in the next morning, and when I finally got out of bed at a luxurious 7:30am (ha! haha!) I found the entire family outside. Watering plants.


And yes, the kids are in their pajamas. You have to understand that this activity made up a large portion of my existence on the farm. Watering, weeding, dusting "ledges", and hanging out laundry. Oh, and watching "Full House". How we suffered.

Then Aaron informed me that Leah had already pumped five (FIVE!) buckets of water and only stopped to holler, "I need more buckets!". She is a water-pumping prodigy.

PUMP water, you say? What century are you living in, you ask? On the farm we have this obscure thing called a WELL, and that's where we get the water that we use to water plants in the massive garden, of which Mom thankfully only planted half this year. I took this photo last year when we were silly and snuck onto the farm and even into the house on a trip to the West.

Then we went in to the reunion activities. I had been at the big concert in town the night before - Gwen Sebastian. I'm going to do a little bragging here, but she was about 3 years ahead of me in school and her little brother was in my class. I liked her because she was nice to me (that whole class was pretty great). And she's a superstar! It was a great concert (the woman sang both Sarah McLachlanAND White Snake. Can you say "range"?) and lots of folks from school were there, although it seems I missed a few that were on my list.

So anyway. The reunion. What can I say? It was good in that I felt like a mature, confident adult, not the self-conscious, nervous dork that I was. People have not changed that much, and maybe I'll just leave it at that. There are some that I'm hoping to stay in contact with, and many that it will be good to catch up with in another five or ten years. By then we will be less encumbered by small children, and hopefully get more uninterrupted conversation!


My Grandpa Henry maintains and curates the Hebron Museum, so it's his prerogative what goes into it...and wouldn't you know it, these two paintings by his son, my uncle Jim, made the cut. Although I'd personally prefer to have at least the cow one on my wall, I guess the museum is a good second place. Don't you love how enthusiastic Ben looks? Did I mention it was HOT? Inside the museum it was probably about 80 degrees. Yowzers.

I contributed to the local economy by buying a couple of beautiful glasses at the antique store Yesterday's Keepsakes (you can't just go in there and spend 30 minutes and not buy SOMETHING!), some pottery at Dacotah Clayworks (Robin almost feels like family, my mom and grandpa talk about her so often!), and three kuchens at Lapp's Grocercy & Bakery. Yum. Never have I been so glad that Aaron doesn't like rhubarb.

Tomorrow: super cute 4th of July photos!

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What happened at YOUR reunion? (I know some of you had one this year...)

How did your parents torture you? (As in, what chores did you have to do all. the. time.?)

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Photographic proof is coming.

We had a busy weekend filled with a class reunion, family, and traveling with 3 small children. I have lots of cute (and I mean SUPER cute) photos to prove it. But am I blogging about any of those things?
No.

I spent all evening appliqueing matching t-shirts for our annual kid photos tomorrow. And once again, my mom gets the blame.

My original idea was to put the numbers 1, 2, and 3 on shirts for the the kids to wear in their group photo. Then I made the mistake of telling Mom that, and of course she had to go all Martha Stewart on me. Her suggestion? Birds.

One large bird (swan) for Leah, 2 medium birds (owls) for Ben, and 3 small birds (chickadees?) for Adam.

And I WENT for it! This is what I cannot believe. Now I have three incredibly cute shirts and no blog post written.

Thanks a LOT, Mom. I love you.