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 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.

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.


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?

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.

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?!! 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. 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!

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 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.
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


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.)
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 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!


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?

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.