Wednesday, December 30, 2009

"I'm sorry, you must have my child confused with someone else."

"What's going on here, Mom?" my 7-year-old daughter asks in a commanding voice.

Frankly, I'm intrigued that's she noticing a change so quickly.

You see, earlier this week I started reading a book entitled, How to Have a New Kid by Friday.

Don't get me wrong. I love my kids and don't really want new ones (well, if the new ones came with owners manuals and big bars of chocolate, maybe...) but I admit I've had my moments when I was ready to pack 'em up and ship 'em off to anyone who would take them.

Simply put: I can't handle the attitude.

When they're little, it's the tantrums and the whining. When they start school they get tired, cranky and apparently lose the ability to communicate like a human being. When they're elementary age, they begin to believe they know everything. At every stage, however, they think they are the BOSS.

Of course they're nearly angelic for anyone else in authority. School teachers report a well-behaved student working hard to meet or exceed expectations. Sunday School teachers rave about how well they get along. Mothers from birthday parties comment about their good manners.

Huh?!? Where's that kid?

I get the one who forgets how to use a fork at virtually every meal, and can't seem to eat over their plate even if it were 3 feet in diameter.

I get the one whose photo is next to "sibling rivalry" in the dictionary, finding just the right action to completely set off World War III on a daily (or hourly) basis.

I get the one who refuses to take responsibility for their actions, and works hard to meet or exceed the pathetic excuse from 2 hours ago of why it "truly wasn't their fault."

So yes. When I saw the title of the book, I was more than just a bit curious.

And guess what? The book makes a lot of sense, and I understand why it can work.

So I begin implementing "the plan" the author proposes. And I have to admit, it is kind of refreshing.

Instead of a morning of exasperation and fits, there are boundaries.

Instead of time-outs and idle threats, there are loving responses.

Instead of a day filled with fights and screaming, well, there's still fights and screaming...but I'm handling it differently than I ever have. And it seems to be working.

We had a very tough day, but toward the end I think perhaps we achieved something...a desire to make tomorrow a better day. Genuinely better.

I'm not expecting my children to morphe into little cherubs with these parenting techniques, but I'd like to think we're on the road to recovery...recovery from a world where I felt so out of control that I had given up hope that parenting could be any different.

Because when my daughter asked that question, I felt like I was doing something right. And that maybe, just maybe, things were going to be okay.

And maybe...just maybe...

I'll recognize that kid their teachers rave Friday.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The doctor will see you now.

I am not a fan of doctors.

Now I'm not talking the person. Truth be told, the doctors I've spent the most time with are pretty nice people. But their job makes them...well, annoying.

I really dislike the fact that you have to go through an appointment before you can get anything. Need to see a specialist? Sorry, have to have an appointment with that primary doctor first. Need antibiotic? Sorry, have to drag your sick self into their office before you get any glimpse of relief.


It sure seems like primary doctors are passing just about everything onto specialists these days too. Got a sniffle that won't go away? Better go see the ENT doctor. Skin has patchy red spots? Better get to a dermatologist.

What happened? Did primary care physicians start getting sued like crazy so now they just reliquish all responsibility? Or are specialists sending them really big baskets of chocolate and muffins?

Seems like any visit to the doctor lately is a 30-30 plan. 30 dollars of a copay and 30 seconds of a doctor's time. Basically, you're left with a piece of paper and an appointment to see someone who may be able to actually help you. (And I emphasize the word 'may'.)

But then you go to that specialist appointment - you know, the one that took 3 months to get into in the first place - only to spend about 3 nanoseconds with the guy and have him say, "Come back in 2 weeks and we'll do some tests."

Huh?!? I didn't need a formal introduction to Dr. Earnsalot. One that cost me another $30, I might add. Would it be so wrong to actually take care of the problem on the first visit?

Problem is you expend so much time and energy trying to work the appointment into your schedule, only to find out you'll have to come back again so the dear doctor can actually do something.

My daughter had a procedure done this summer ...on the 2nd visit, of course. The first visit was merely a short chat with a doctor whose first language was certainly not English. In fact, Rachel kept asking, "How do you know what he's saying, Mom? He's not speaking English." I shushed her as my cheeks turned a lovely shade of crimson... where she was surrounded by nurses ready to put things into motion.

But we had to wait.

For yet another doctor.

Who pushed a button and then left.

ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?! I was in such a state of shock at what I just witnessed, I said, "Wow. I want his job. He walks in, pushes a button, exits, and collects his check." A couple nurses replied with nervous chuckles, and one just nodded.

So essentially the nurses did all the work but Mr. Whitecoat gets all the glory. So not fair.

Because I'm beginning to question the competency of today's physicians.

Case in point: the annual physical. We're supposed to get one of these every year - thus the term annual, hello. I worked for a health insurance company once and learned that 'preventative care' is what keeps health care costs manageable - the theory that if you see a doctor regularly so they can catch any problems, it saves a ton of money in the long run. Makes sense. So our insurance company encouraged one annual exam per year, covered at 100%.

Naturally, I send my husband to the doctor.

The nurse takes his vitals and asks him what he's there for.

"I'm just in for a physical."

She pauses.

"Are there any concerns you have?"

"No, not really."

"Okay, the doctor will be right in." Which is standard dialogue apparently, as it is what we hear regardless if the doctor truly will be right in - like THAT ever happens - or if there are 14 other patients ahead of you.

As he sits in the stark, cold exam room, my husband begins to hear voices outside the door.

"Why's he here?"

"He said for a physical."

"A physical? You mean there's nothing wrong with him?"

"He said he has no concerns."

"So there is nothing to diagnose?"

After painful silence, the door swings open.

To make a long story short, this doctor has no clue what to do with a patient only wanting an 'annual physical.' He literally asked my husband what he'd like him to do.

Um, gee. I thought YOU were the expert on this, doc.

Not that it comes as any surprise, but we were not billed for an annual exam covered at 100%. The guy dug up some tidbit to use as an ailment and jotted down a diagnosis, thus leaving our wallets lighter yet again.

This incident happened prior to children. Once you have children, the whole medical game intensifies.

Because, let's face it. Kids are germ magnets and if it isn't an ear infection or strep, it's swine flu or pneumonia.

I just wish doctors would do what makes sense. Let me come in with one kid, and then prescribe enough medication to cover all three. Frankly, it is only a matter of time before they all get it.

Or trust me that I know what is wrong with my kid sometimes and call in the prescription. Enough with this, "Come in for an appointment first" nonsense. Come on. Moms know. I'm not an idiot. One kid gets pink eye...two days later another one has red, goopy eyes. Duh. Would it be so hard to think I may actually know you need to call in the eyedrops prescription?

One day last Fall I had to literally beg for a new prescription for my daughter. She had an infection, so she was prescribed the typical antibiotic. Her face swelled up so much that she looked like the Elephant Man.

So obviously, I call the doctor.

"Her face is swollen? Well, are her eyes itchy?"


"Okay, well let's stick to this prescription and see what happens."

So I reluctantly send her off to school. (Fortunately, it's just kindergarten. Had she been in junior high she would never live this down.)

I do some checking on the internet and become convinced she's having an allergic reaction to the medication. I grab the Benadryl and head to her school.

Her eyelids are merely slits at this point.

She tips back the Benadryl and I pray she won't go blind by recess.

After I arrive home, I call the doctor and explain that my daughter cannot continue on that medication for another minute.

"Oh. Okay. Yeah, she's probably allergic."

Her nonchalance makes me want to reach through the phone and tighten that stethescope.

"I'll call in a different prescription."

I know people like to joke that doctors are "practicing medicine," but sometimes I think there may be some truth to that.

And that's annoying.

Because I'm a walking pharmacy these days, and I just wish someone knew how to fix the problems instead of creating more.

Monday, December 14, 2009

'Tis the Season to be Teary

Is there anything better than a children's Christmas program?

I don't think it is possible to walk out of something like that without a smile on your face. There is just too much entertainment!

My husband and I attended our two oldest children's Christmas program at church on Saturday afternoon. Prior to their debut, the preschoolers - now picture it...we're talking super cute 3 & 4 year olds - had their own little program of a handful of songs and actions.

Your eye naturally zooms in on the little girls in their adorable, frilly Christmas dresses. The velvety skirts and shimmery lace make you want to whip out your camera in haste...oh, wait a second. None of these kids is mine.

I put the camera down and enjoy the show.

And what a show it is. I applaude the mother who knew her daughter would be one to play with her fluffy dress and pull the skirt up, so she dressed her in a layered dress so the sweet girl only lifted the top toule layer. Whew...embarrassment evaded. Nicely done, Mom-of-fluffy-dress-girl.

But you can't overlook those dapper little boys, either. Vests, ties and sweaters that morphe them immediately into little men. And yet, you can take the boy out of the t-shirt and jeans, but you can't take the t-shirt and jeans attitude out of the boy. Even in their "Sunday best" they are poking at each other, grabbing ears and giving a good punch here and there.

They may be singing about the peacefulness of Christmas, but boys will be boys.

In this particular program, all the children were wearing shepherd head-dresses to go with the theme of their show. Albeit, cute. But not practical in every case.

By the time they got to the last song, there were a couple children whose headgear had gradually slid down over their eyes so they couldn't see a thing. Apparently they were told not to touch them because you didn't see them even attempt to adjust the slipping drape. What good, obedient little shepherds!

The problem with the headgear from my standpoint is that you can't always identify a child with one of those things on their head.

Case in point, a little boy in the back donning red and green plaid Christmas pants was a hoot to observe. My husband is pretty certain the kid was conducting a healing service in the back row as he had his hands gripped to the top of the boys heads next to him.

After the program, we came to discover those little plaid pants were sported by our very own nephew! It's good to know our attention was at least drawn to a relative!

Once those pretty little people marched off the risers, it was time for the 'big event.' Rachel and Caleb mosied on stage with the rest of the school-age kids and took their places.

I'm not sure what it is about seeing your offspring on stage, but for some odd reason pride wells up inside so strongly that it forces tears from my eyes. And they weren't even doing anything yet! They just walked in!!

The music they had practiced singing in the van for weeks had finally come to fruition. And it was awesome!

Incidentally, I don't know how the people who write these programs get their ideas, but they are incredible. Year after year they create such amazing entertainment. This ain't your Grandma's Christmas pageant of yesteryear, believe me. This is FUN stuff.

As the program comes to a close, it is time to present a live nativity...courtesy of the kindergarten class.

Which includes...


My son.

And here we go again. My little 'Joseph' steps into the stable and my eyes are too blurred from tears to tell if my camera shot is even in focus.

Am I proud? You bet.

But it's more than that.

It's the realization that my children aren't the size of Baby Jesus anymore and they can actually learn all the words to a bunch of songs.

And wear costumes.

And actually stand still. (Well, sort of.)

They're growing up and I know these Christmas program memories will be just that. Memories.

So I lift that camera again and start snapping pictures of my 'babies.'

Because that candy cane lawn ornament wrapped to resemble a shepherd's staff will only look like such for a short time - my son is growing and he will dwarf that staff in what will seem like no time at all.


Oh well. I'll always have pictures. And you can too. Check out my family blog at for photos and video from this entertaining event!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Don't let the cold freeze your brain.

I was really enjoying the 50+ degrees of November. And then I turned the calendar and God turned the thermostat down. Brrrrrrrrr. I was hanging up Christmas lights on Monday in gorgeous weather. By Wednesday, we were shoveling snow. I am continually amazed at how quickly we forget what winter means.

Cold weather means...

You will be unable to retrieve a mint from your purse while driving. Why? Because your gloves are so thick and bulky that grasping one of those morsels from its tin is impossible. (I know this because I attempted it this morning. Frustrating.)

Small children suddenly weigh 80 pounds more. Carrying Noah from the van to a building is the equivalent to an intense, hour-long weight room workout. Not only is his extra clothing adding to the weight, but my own puffy coat and gloves tip the scales, too. I am literally panting by the time I get indoors.

Since we're on the topic of children - drop-off and pick-up of my kids at school evokes a strong desire to just back up the U-Haul on school property. Backpacks, water bottles, gloves, hats, earmuffs, boots, homework, library books, show-n-tell items, the neat bubbles they got from the birthday kid, the classroom sink...okay, maybe not the sink, but you get the idea. And all of this stuff is weighing them - oh, who am I kidding?! It's weighing me down, I'm the pack mule for them - while swarms of children run screaming down the halls to the exit. Visualize my kindergartener finally getting a grip on his snowboots only to have a hyper 3rd grader run past and bump them out of his hands. AARRRRRRRRGH! School hallways are painstakingly narrow. We should just buy two sets of everything and leave one at school at all times. Enough with the traipsing back and forth for heaven's sake.

I also forgot how quickly fingers can freeze in 15 degree temps. I think to myself, "Oh, I'm just running into the gym. It's not far." Even if I get a close parking spot my fingers are nearly too numb to pull the door handle.

But what's the point of gloves or mittens anyway? I personally haven't found any that insulate enough to really do the job. I'm sure if I found some they'd be so thick anyway that not only could I not grab a mint, I would be rendered incapable of shifting my vehicle into drive.

Apparently people also forget that when it snows, it is inevitably icy. And that means you can't drive like a maniac anymore.

My outdoor excursions today only included a drive to the gym and back and some trips to school, but on each trip I either came upon a car that had been pulled over for speeding, or an accident due to road conditions. Come on folks. This is no time to put the pedal to the metal.

So the sad fact remains: winter is here. The cold. The snow. The ice. But it's not all bad. Think: Hot cocoa. Toasty fireplaces. Cozy slippers.

And frankly, the farther we are from swimsuit season, the better. After all, I just polished off two Christmas cookies without taking a breath.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Baby on the Brain

Seems like there are a number of pregnant or recently-gave-birth mothers in my social circle these days. And God bless 'em.

Because if there is one sure way to know you're done having kids, it's when you see those bulging bellies and think, "Thank you, God, that it is them and not me!"

Frankly, pregnancy to me is just the necessary evil in order to get the cute little baby.

Number one, I didn't particularly like the stress of wondering if what I'm eating is going to cause some defect in my child, or if eating too much chocolate would make the poor thing allergic.

Of course the weight gain was brutal. I added 50 pounds with every pregnancy - yeah, I blew by that whole 25-30lb healthy range around the start of my second trimester. And don't be envious of those women who only gain 10-15 pounds during their entire pregnancy. Because you need to realize it is because they were vomiting multiple times, every single day, for 9 months. Yeah, I'd rather gain 50 pounds then to spend all my waking hours in the loo.

And as cute as those maternity clothes are at the store when you're only 5 months along, by the time you move into your 7th or 8th month, you despise elastic waistbands and shirts with sleeves of any kind.

During my first pregnancy, we lived in Phoenix, AZ. Rachel was born October 2. Do the math. I was huge during the heat of the summer. NOT good planning. So I thought I would be smarter the second time around. I would be at my most uncomfortable stage during mild winter months.


Except Phoenix experienced record-breaking heat waves in March.

And I got cranky.

So I coped the natural way. I'd eat. Problem was, Caleb craved junk food. (Yes, I firmly believe it is the baby that asks for it, not the mother. Rachel was a cheese junkie, and to this day she loves cheese more than the color pink, so my theory is legitimate.)

So, cheese during pregnancy #1: 50 pounds.

Junk food with #2: 50 pounds

The third one I get to blame water retention. (Although Noah begged for potato chips morning, noon and night.) I had 'extra amniotic fluid' with him. What does that mean? Basically, that I ballooned up into what appeared to be a ready-to-give-birth-at-any-moment woman when I was only about 6 months along.

I would go to the gym and people would come up to me and ask me when I'm due. When I'd tell them, their eyes would bulge from their sockets, they'd shake their head and say, "Wow, I thought it'd be sooner than that."

Gee. Thanks. Just what a pregnant woman wants to here. Why don't you just come out and say, "You're enormous! Are you carrying a baby or an elephant? How much bigger can you get?!"

Quite a bit bigger, apparently. Let's just say Noah got his name because there was a significant flood at his arrival.

Oh, sure. Pregnancy's not all bad.

Your hair and nails never looked so good.

And....yep. That's about it.

So essentially you're trading your figure, your normal brain function, and your ability to watch a Johnson 'n Johnson commercial without bawling...for thick, shiny hair. I don't know about you, but I'm not crazy about that trade-off. Because all that extra hair will just fall out shortly after you bring that baby home from the hospital anyway.

And that's just what you need, isn't it? You're already cleaning up spit-up and poop on an on-going basis, and now you have a bathroom floor covered in hair. Super.

I will admit, as tough as the first month or so is with a new baby, it was always much nicer to have them on the outside. I really liked to look at my babies. Even when they're screaming and their whole face wrinkles up due to a gas bubble that desperately needs to pop, they're fun to watch.

Let's face it. Babies are just plain cute. I'm convinced God made them that way because when you haven't had more than 4 hours a sleep a night for nearly a year, it takes a cute little face beaming at you to keep you from stuffing him in a box to be shipped off to Grandma.

My mother has no idea how close she was to finding her boxed-up grandson in the arms of the UPS man.

I personally won't be one of those women later in life that always tells the young moms, "Oh, enjoy your babies. It's the best time."

I know they only say that because they have no recollection of it. They were too sleep-deprived to actually impart a memory into that brain. There's just no way.

No, they say it because babies are cute. And they only see them when they're cute. When the kid is screaming, the mommy typically takes them out of public.

I know this because one day I was attempting to print photos at the Walmart photo center and Noah was crying like there was no tomorrow. I was just waiting for them to print (which, literally only takes about a minute any other time, but when your child is screaming at the top of their lungs, the printing process seemingly drones on for hours) and a little old lady gave me a dirty look and said, "Aren't you going to feed that baby?!"

Bet she wasn't thinking, "These are the best times of your life, sweetie."

No, she was making me - and everyone else around us - aware that I wasn't cutting it as a mother.

This was a good time for a projectile vomiting episode, but to no avail.

Maybe the reason these women think baby days are the best days are because the most recent memory they have of their children is the teenage years.

And I suppose a wailing infant is no contest to a willful teenager.

But I'm not there yet. So I'll keep you posted.

And personally, a 7-yr-old that doesn't require diaper changes, a 5-yr-old that doesn't spit-up after every meal, and even a nearly 2-yr-old that finally sleeps through the night sounds more like good times to me.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Take your vitamins!

Good news!

I declare that Halloween candy is health food.

That's right. Go ahead and stuff another peanut butter cup in your mouth and start dancing for joy! Because it's only 80 calories - and if you're dancing you'll burn it off in about 25 minutes!

Let's just take a closer look at the health benefits - yes, you read that right...benefits! - we have in our plastic pumpkin-shaped totes.

Baby Ruth. Did you know it is cholesterol-free? And it has 4 grams of protein! This should be included in your daily diet, don't you think?

But we don't have to stop there. Those wonderful nuts are blissfully present in peanut M&Ms and Snickers bars! YEESSSSSS!

And how about that Almond Joy bar? Let's hear it for coconut! It's high in fiber, vitamins and minerals. In fact, it's a nutritious source of meat, juice, milk, and oil!

Sounds like a full-course meal to me!

Peppermint patties? Are you kidding me!? The astounding benefits of dark chocolate rival those of a plate of broccoli.

Bet you weren't aware that your package of Whoppers contains 30% less fat than the average chocolate candy, huh? Nice.

Let's not forget the really sweet stuff. Starburst, Skittles and some sour Lemon Heads. Beneficial for runners or diabetics to get their blood sugar up to a safe level. Never underestimate the power of pure sugar! Yum!

If you think all of this is just my way of justifying my sweet tooth...think again! Research proves a little sweet treat will actually provide stress relief, increase your alertness, focus & concentration!

So quit feeling guilty for digging into your kids' treats after you've tucked them in bed for the night. You're practically taking a vitamin for heaven's sake.

And just think. If this plan backfires, you get to go shopping for new clothes! It's win-win!

Home Sweet Home

I feel like a kid at Christmas.

You remember the unbridled anticipation: You walk by the tree every day, seeing that nice, shiny package with your name on it. You're dying to rip into that thing with exaggerated hopes for what it holds.

You see, we're moving into a new home in a few weeks. Out of our 16 years of marriage, we've only owned a house for a couple of them. We are practically expert renters, and quite frankly, I'm sick of it. Getting a place to call our own sounds almost too good to be true. may actually be happening! I may actually be very close to tearing open that bright red ribbon and glimmering green wrap!

So how am I spending my days? Your first thought is packing, right?


You'd think that would make sense, but after moving a gazillion times (okay, only 10 times, but it feels like a gazillion), I have realized that the most beneficial packing doesn't happen until about a week prior to the move. Before that, you still need everything (at least we do, because as short-term renters, we don't unpack stuff like wall decor and extra tupperware).

No - my time, instead, is being sucked up by episodes of Design on a Dime, Color Splash, and Divine Design. (ESPN has been replaced by the four letters of HGTV at our place, much to my husband's dismay!) I am addicted to decorating shows. And I will probably continue to feed that addiction mercilessly.

It's fascinating stuff, really. I mean, I'm not one to put a chandelier in my bathroom or cover my ceiling with pavers, but hey - it does get the creative juices flowing!

But if I'm not plopped in front of the TV, you may find me strolling around a furniture store.

But I'll likely look irked. Because, honestly, don't plaster your windows with "MOVING SALE! EVERYTHING MUST GO!" and then only mark things down by $25.

Get real. It's still a $850 couch.

When you're serious about selling, call me.

And what is it with furniture stores being designed like a maze? I get so lost and end up walking in circles, or bumping into things. I still have a protruding black-and-blue mark on my thigh from running into a footboard a week ago. Maybe I could sue the store and get my house furnished for free???

Okay, okay. Probably not my best idea.

And finally, my third trap from actually accomplishing anything these days is scoping the internet and eBay for deals on home decor.

Only to fall in love with something and have my husband walk into the room to say, "You're not buying that are you? We haven't even moved in yet."

Oh, just go watch some ESPN while you have the chance. And leave me the credit card.

Perhaps what I am most looking forward to with our move is removing all cardboard boxes from my home. I have no recollection of a home that didn't have boxes stacked in a corner somewhere. It's pretty sad when you consider ways to incorporate cardboard into your decor, just because you know it isn't going anywhere.

This time, everything is going to find a home. And the child-like excitement wells up inside.

Because I feel like I've finally found mine.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Like Father, Like Daughter

I can recall numerous occasions from my childhood of watching my father repair virtually anything and everything that broke. More often than not, it was a piece of farm machinery. Or in the house, it seemed he was continually monkeying around with the washer or dryer. (There were 8 of us kids...Mom needed a functioning washer and dryer!!)

Regardless if it was an intricate part of a combine or a wimpy toilet chain, Dad seemed to know how to work his magic.

I know he wasn't one to give up easily on a project if he ran into a snag or two. He has quite the ingenious mind and doesn't let a project go undone just because he may not have the exact part, for instance.

Well, the apple doesn't fall too far from the tree.

Case in point: my Monday mid-day massacre.

A project that I thought would take - oh, maybe 10 minutes - turned into a 3 hour ordeal. And I think I can blame my father. Or at least his genes.

You see, a couple of years ago Rachel was given a bicycle. It was a little rough around the edges - rusty handlebars and seat, the once-likely adorable decorative plastic flowers that spun through the spokes were broken and cracked, and the right foot pedal had completely broken off over time, leaving her just a stump to push with her foot.

But it worked well enough not to pitch it just yet, and I had my eye out all summer as I garage sale shopped for another bike that would constitute an improvement. But to no avail.

Until Monday.

I was scoping thrift stores for some other items, and practically tripped over a pink and purple bike as I made my way down an aisle.

Hmmm. I stopped and picked it up off the floor, examining it for fatal flaws. Other than a flat tire, it seemed pretty good. And I liked the $6 price tag. Since I liked Rachel's current bike's tubeless tires, I thought, Hey, I'll just take this home and switch the bike tires and she'll have a great bike!

I didn't realize how foolish my thinking was until I got home and began attempting to disassemble the two bikes. Since neither bike was even remotely new, the nuts and bolts did not just glide off with ease. Rather, I fought sweat and tears (literally!) to disengage those wretched nuts. But one in particular was not going to budge. As I examined the piece further, I determined the part seemed rather unnecessary, so I ran for my wire cutter. Okay, so this tool was not designed to slice through metal of this nature, but I needed it cut. It was all I had. I wasn't about to let this little snag keep me from achieving my goal of a "new" bike for my daughter.

After all, my Dad never would have let it stop him.

After mangling the piece of metal that was keeping me from success, I pryed the wheel loose, easily detached the other bike's back wheel, and truly thought victory was mine.

I'm foolish that way.

Since now I had to get the wheel on the new bike...which involved the dreaded bike chain. Memories of my childhood immediately flooded my mind: I'm walking my bike down the prairie road to my house, sobbing a river of tears because that horrific bike chain, yet again, came loose!

The distinct action of rolling the foot pedals as you feed the chain along was much too difficult for a child to attempt...and as I was discovering this very afternoon 30 years later, a tad challenging for an adult, too! But convincing myself I was ever-so-close to a completed bike, I pressed on until at last that chain was intact.

Whew! I thought the hard part was over.

Again, foolishness.

The front wheel should have been a piece of cake, right? HA! My prior 2 hours of experience had proven none of this was remotely close to a piece of cake. Now I was just plain getting irritated.

Okay, maybe I zipped past irritated somewhere around the time I couldn't find the right size wrench-thingy to fit the nuts.

I had moved on to anger.

I kept looking at my watch. The time was ticking away and I was starting to doubt myself.

No. I will not give up. I can do this. It's a silly bike, for heaven's sake. This. Is. Do-able.

(I'm confident these are the same words that passed through my father's brain countless times on the farm.)

So I continue my quest for a completed bike. But soon I come to grips with the fact that it was not meant to be.

For I had an axle that was significantly wider than the axle I just removed.

Oh, this is not good.

But upon further inspection, I delude myself into believing...maybe, just maybe...if I can find a part that is both skinny and long (for I had skinny & short and fat & long...NOT useable.) I can still salvage this thing and my time won't be in vain.

So it's off to the hardware store! Though the sign may say "Ace," it wasn't first-rate for me. They didn't have the part.

But again, my father would not have stopped at yet another snag. The search would continue.

And so I drive to the bike shop recommended by stumped Ace employee.

Only the sign on the door screams "CLOSED." They won't be open until noon the following day. Unacceptable! My anger deepens. I'm closing in on rage.

I return home to finger through the Yellow Pages. Ah ha! I find another bike shop nearby. (I call ahead this time to ensure an "OPEN" sign lights the door today. Just like my father, I learn from previous mistakes.)

Unfortunately, my efforts to have a bike fully assembled by day's end would not come to fruition, for the part I needed was not in stock and had to be ordered. (But honestly, I was relieved that such a part even existed!)

As I came home and gathered all the nuts and bolts and other strange pieces to put away until a later date, I looked at the two bikes lying in shambles reminding me of my failure to attain my goal.

When I stepped into my house, I thought of all the plans I had for the was meant to be productive.

Instead, my "10-minute" project turned into three hours of frustration, pulling me away from tasks I really should have accomplished that day. And my rage curled up into despair.

But I am hopeful when the part arrives, it will be a much better day, and I will be able to whip that bike into submission.

If not, my parents will be here to visit in a couple weeks. I will show my Dad what I did.

And he'll kneel down.

He'll take a good look.

And then he'll chuckle.

Because he'll recognize a stubborn soul like mine.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Happy Fall! Er, I mean Winter!

As I'm standing over my bathroom sink, peeling my eyelids open this morning, I hear a burst of laughter.

And more laughter.

Okay, I'll bite. "What's so funny?" I ask my husband. "Look outside," he mysteriously replies between chuckles.

So I saunter to the hallway window.


And not just a little dusting like we had 3 days ago (However, I'm refusing to even label that as snow - it was merely a heavy frost. I like the land of denial. It's a happy place.)

No, this amount of the white stuff was legitimately a blanket of snow. My rooftop, the yard, the street...all solid white. I sigh and shuffle back to my bedroom to find my slippers. Unlike my husband, I'm finding no humor in this at all.

It's October 12, and I realize getting snow this early is not foreign to us North Dakotans. My sister's birthday is October 7 and I remember her celebrating several birthdays in a winter wonderland of snow. She was even born in one of the worst blizzards on record. So, I understand it's not a crazy concept, but considering the weather-year we've had, I find it rather insulting.

Consider February. And March. Mountainous piles of snow still lined the streets. You think Spring is bound to appear at some point. And it does...only to be squelched by a snowfall in JUNE. Aaargh!

But I'm hopeful. I am just optimistic enough to think summer will arrive and all the cold will be a distant memory. Then summer fails to arrive until sometime in...September. HUH??

Apparently we can forget about the season known as Autumn around here. It got so cold this weekend, the leaves vacated the trees in such a rush they forgot to turn color first. Raking up green leaves is reprehensible. One of my favorite seasons in this northern country is Fall because of the vibrant hues of the trees.

They're supposed to match the pumpkins, for heaven's sake!

And I feel jipped.

I'm obviously not alone, because as I drove - rather slid - down the street to my gym, I witnessed a man, bundled from head to toe, riding a bicycle. I thought he must have a death wish to attempt to navigate his way through snow and ice-covered streets on bicycle tires, but at least he wasn't giving in to winter. I applaud him, even if I think he's nuts.

The week's forecast is dismal, so if I see that guy tomorrow, I will probably pull over and offer him a ride. Like I said, Denial is a happy place, but it can get lonely...especially when everyone around you is facing the facts - the cold, slippery facts.

So now that winter is seemingly upon us, I do what anyone looking for a silver lining will do.

I pull on my brand-new sparkle-y snowman shirt (on clearance last Spring!), crank up the Christmas music, and start composing my Christmas letter for the year.

Because I'm still optimistic. I believe our Indian Summer is just around the corner, and then I'll be too enamored with taking jogs in the park and grabbing that last DQ treat (before they close for the real winter!) to devote any time to my merry message.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Everything I needed to know I learned in Kindergarten

Apparently in kindergarten you learn that getting messy is a sin.

Every other Friday I get the privilege of volunteering in my son Caleb's kindergarten class for reading groups. It's 40 minutes that flies by, but is certainly not short on action.

Today, my "station" involved paint stamping with mini marshmallows (they're learning the letter m and their pincer grasp - hang with me here, people).

But these children were as distressed about the small smudges of paint on the tips of their fingers as I am with muddy shoes on white carpet.

Almost immediately, they all became obsessed with cleanliness.

Instead of challenging their minds with clever ways to learn the letter m, I was on frantic washcloth duty to cries of, "I need this paint off!" and "My fingers! My fingers!" as they shook their dotted fingertips my way.

Seriously. At this rate, you won't finish these painting projects before the marshmallows turn rock-hard stale and the paint turns to clay!

But if I wasn't eradicating spots of paint, I was guarding the marshmallow bowl with my life. Here's a tip: don't put little balls of sugar in front of 5-yr-olds minutes before they are due for lunch. It can get ugly.

One boy did manage to sneak one from the bowl, and in his haste did not see that it had been splattered with blue paint. Of course, there were several others that didn't miss that detail and soon the scores of children yelling, "He ate blue paint!" was deafening. The teacher's reply? "Well, the label says 'non-toxic' so we're good."

I love her.

But really, you can't help but fall head over heels for the little tykes. Is there anything cuter than a kindergartener with stocking cap hair? Or the child that is convinced you are as ecstatic about them going to a sleepover at Grandma's tonight as they are?

And I love what teachers can use to make a system work with little kids. There are four reading groups and today only 3 adults to oversee them. Thus the "Independent Reading" station is born.

Each child has a laundry basket, complete with fluffy pillow for comfort, to sit in and search for m words in a dictionary. (The kid/picture versions. Don't worry, the little Einsteins aren't sifting through Webster.) To look into that corner of the classroom and see five to six wee ones cozied up in their individual laundry basket with a book was priceless. And pretty funny, actually.

You're SITTING in a laundry basket, kid. That's just cool.

Eventually, after 23 "Yes" responses to "Are you Caleb's mom?", several yanks of the marshmallow bowl away from grabby hands, and gingerly slipping "Marshmallow Monster" masterpieces to rest in a drying rack, it is time for me to go. Somehow those 40 minutes wore me out ten times as much as the hour-long workout I did at the gym prior to my volunteer duty.

Teachers are gold. Seriously, how did their pay get so poor? They deserve the salaries of neurosurgeons. After all, they shape young minds.

And somehow manage not to lose their own.

On a side note, I read an article this week about teacher salaries possibly becoming based on merit. One "anonymous" teacher had the audacity to say calculus teachers and elementary teachers should not be considered equal for pay. (The assumption was that calculus teachers had the harder job.) My bet is "Mr. or Ms. Anonymous" wouldn't last a week in a kindergarten classroom.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

College football: the best entertainment isn't even on the field

My children must be rubbing off on me because I have the attention span of a kindergartener. I attended the University of Mary Marauders Homecoming football game this afternoon (gotta love free tickets for alum!) and beyond the first few plays, I didn't see much of the game.

Truthfully, it could have been because the Marauders were getting thumped (who knew a bulldog could dominate a pirate?), but there are so many things to grab your attention...or at least grab my attention.

For instance, the periodic booms from the pep band. Well, mainly the trombone player who painted his instrument with blue and orange stripes. That's just good fun.

The shimmery pom poms, flips and pyramids kept my gaze on the cheerleaders now and then. And the unique aspect that there was only one male cheerleader. It was kinda odd.

And don't even get me started on the fashion. Well, okay, let's do get started on the fashion. It kept me from even noticing we'd made another first down, after all.

A mohawk. A big mohawk. Dyed orange. Yeah, that was an attention-getter. Goal attained, my friend.

The array of orange t-shirts printed with various school 'spirit.' One caused me to wonder what their parents would have said about them sporting that particular tee. Frankly, it just isn't right to degrade dear Dr. Suess.

The thick knee-high socks dyed blue & orange. Well, those didn't look terrible, they just made me hot. It was waaaay too warm of a day to be donning socks of any kind.

And speaking of being warm...oh. my. goodness. It is unseasonably warm for September in North Dakota - mid 80s is toasty here. Definitely not the day for black suit and collar attire. Poor Father Shea! The action on the gridiron paled in comparison to the fascination I had with watching that man stand on the sidelines for the entire first half waiting for him to drop to his death from heatstroke. No wonder he got the job. Put him on the hot seat, and he's cool as ice. I thought he had to be the bravest (or craziest?) guy at the game, until...

The Texas Roadhouse armadillo strolled by.

I understand the need for advertising, but that guy better be pulling double-time pay or gaining a promotion for that kind of duty. There's just something incredibly inhumane about being forced to wear a mascot costume of that magnitude in the afternoon heat.

For heaven's sake, throw the costume down on the running track as apparent roadkill and race to the locker room for a cool shower, dude!

So between watching the yardage count on the State Farm sign and the blue and orange-painted shirtless guy, I had great difficulty keeping my eyes focused on the latest penalty flag or even who had the ball. Maybe the 35-0 score had something to do with my lack of interest, too.

Call me a fair-weather Marauder fan, but I exited at the end of the 3rd quarter. After all, the painted guy's colors were starting to run, and the cheerleaders weren't tossing t-shirts into the stands anymore.

And Father Shea was no where to be found.

Probably at home stripped to his skivvies and downing a cold beverage, vowing to make his next proclamation as President to move Homecoming to late November.

Monday, September 21, 2009

If I'm going to Boston, it's for the cream pie.

"Oh, I bet it's a father and his 14-yr-old daughter that ran the marathon together," my husband observed as he read the Bismarck marathon results in the newspaper. "Wow, that's cool!" I remark. What a neat thing to do togeth...waaaaait a second! A FOURTEEN-year-old ran a MARATHON?!

When I was 14 the only running that consumed me was the race to the pimple cream aisle at the local drug store. Or the dash to the bathroom mirror to check for popcorn in my braces. Training and then running for a 26-mile run?! Absolutely not. I might mess up my hair!

But even as an adult, I can't imagine running for hours upon hours. If I had a few consecutive hours all to myself, you think I'm spending it like that? Even if I was a devoted runner, it takes its toll on one's body! I can't even comprehend how a 14-yr-old could physically do it.

Personally, I just don't get these marathon runners. Do I admire them? Absolutely. Do I understand them? Not in the least.

Take, for instance, the statement the first place finisher gave to the Tribune, "I hit the wall at 10 (miles)," he said. "I was just struggling the last 16 miles."

Just struggling the last 16 miles.

Um, I don't know about you, but how does a person struggle for SIXTEEN miles?? I can understand struggling for a mile or two at the end. But if I knew I had 16 miles to go, and I was hurtin', I would be looking for the closest coffee shop with a couch.

Call me crazy, but I'm not a big fan of struggling. And that's probably why you'll never see me donning a pinned number to my shirt anytime soon.

But like I said, I definitely admire these athletes. One of my first days at the gym after we moved here, I noticed a woman who was incredibly physically fit and lean and turned to my friend and said, "I need to do what she's doing because she looks amazing!" My friend turns to me and quite candidly replies, "You don't want to do what she does. She runs for hours. And hours. Do you really want to spend that much time just running?"

She makes a good point. Because the answer is a resounding NO. I would like to run, oh, maybe two miles a day, and look like that. Is that possible anywhere in this universe? Also a resounding NO, you say? Bummer.

What really blows my mind is the length of time it can take a person to complete a marathon. Now, our struggling champion glided on in just a little over 2-1/2 hours after he began.

Honestly, I don't think I could run a half marathon that fast! When the marathon runner passes the half-marathon runner in the homestretch is he dying to say, "What's taking you so long?! I just ran twice as far as you!"

But I digress.

The last place finisher sauntered in around 6-1/2 hours after she took her first stride. I'm guessing she sauntered. I don't know, maybe she sprinted in, saving it all for a big finish? Or maybe she was gasping for air and fell to the asphalt upon crossing the finish line? Either way, it was likely dramatic because FRANKLY, she finished 26 miles!

For a lot of runners, the goal is simply to finish.

That would certainly be my goal. Right after the goal to not actually die. Because when the reporter comes up to me for my interview, I'm telling them I hit a wall about the time the gun went off and just struggled with the last 26 miles.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Terrific Twos, if you ask me!

Did you ever consider the "Terrible Twos" from a child's perspective? My little Noah isn't quite two yet - he's got a few months to go - but he is really living the life. I think it would be great if all of us could become two again.

Here are my top 10 reasons I'd like to be two again:

10) If I'm unhappy, hurt or frustrated, I will cry and scream as loud as humanly possible. No one will think I'm being unreasonable. In fact, I may even get a hug. How refreshing!

9) Throw my food. Sure, I might face some consequences, but again - no one finds it unreasonable, really. After all, I'm merely learning cause and effect.

8) At the next meal...throw my food again. Simply because no consequence can actually outweigh the thrill of seeing those peas fly.

7) Run with reckless abandon. Have you ever seen a toddler run? They run with absolutely no fear - they may fall or even slam into something, but no matter. They just pick themselves up and keep going, or...see number 10. Still win-win.

6) Pee whenever and wherever I want. Oh, the freedom.

5) I get to take a nap everyday. In fact, I can sleep for 3 hours if I want...because frankly, who's going to wake me prematurely?? Mom? Dad? Hardly!

4) Burp, pass gas, or produce any other bodily noises, yet not be accompanied by any embarrassment whatsoever.

3) Take frequent bubble baths, complete with floaty boats and squeaky toys. Bliss.

2) Giggles will occur at numerous times throughout the day, at even the simplest of gestures. Imagine finding it hilarious that someone hides their face with their hands and seconds later reappears. Oh the joy!


1) The world revolves around me. Or at least I believe it does. And that's all that really matters.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

fun \ˈfən\: noun: what provides amusement or enjoyment

The next time I head to my pilates class, please remind me to wear a ski mask and carry a baseball bat.

Oh, who am I kidding. That would be too obvious. I need to be sneakier than that. After all, my pilates instructor has no qualms about being sneaky.

"We're going to do the ABC's today!" she jubilantly exclaims. So naturally, that makes me think, Hey, when my son does his ABCs in kindergarten, his teacher makes it fun. Maybe it will be fun here, too!

I should have known better.

Doing the "ABCs" in a strength pilates class means you have to lie on an exercise ball, and "write" the letters with your body while balancing on said ball. Easy, right? Uh, not really.

And of course my neurotic instructor thinks repeating the S and Z multiple times makes it even more fun. Again, not really.

I'd like to know what these instructors inject prior to bounding into their classes. No one should be that perky during an exercise class. No one should be that perky...ever.

Anyway, back to my alphabet anguish. When she finally decided we'd done enough Zs (and I was ready for a different type of zzzzzzzzz), she said we needed to grab a buddy. Oh, buddies! Another attempt at trying to make this whole experience sound fun...when it was really just a masquerade for bodily torture.

Ahhh. Nothing bonds two strangers quite like dripping sweat on each other as you attempt to flatten your abs. We're both slippin' and slidin' on our Bosu balls while Instructor Perky continues to count..."three...four...five, switch directions now, one...two..." Apparently she was a kindergarten teacher in another life because she counts as slow as one! Arrgh!!

"Isn't this fun?" she asks, with a huge grin on her face. "Couldn't you just do it all day? It's so great!"

Fun?! Does she know the definition? I can think of a hundred words to describe this experience, but trust me, fun is not one of them. I want to punch her.

After afflicting more pain upon us in various forms, it was - at long last - time to cool down. At one point, she says, "Okay, I'm giving you one minute. This is your time. If you want to meditate, or pray, or just relax, do that now."

How about reaching into my gym bag for that baseball bat...

Yeah, you're right. I wouldn't be able to lift the thing at this point anyway. And actually swinging it after those upper arm drills she put us through...yeah, not happening. I will be rendered incapable of lifting my child out of his crib tomorrow morning as it is.

But, knowing me, I'm sure I'll schlepp myself back in there next week to prove I am a glutton for punishment. Or because my abs actually looked pretty good after that workout.

At least until I polished off that last row of Oreos. Oops.

But that's fun.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

One man's still junk.

We've all heard the saying, "One's man's junk is another man's treasure." That's cute and all, but seriously. Some lines need to be drawn.

I ran some errands this morning, and upon returning home I noticed the neighbor 3 houses down was having a garage sale.

Now I'll admit to a garage sale addiction. There's just something beckoning about those Sharpie-marked neon signs that draw me in. I'm not typically looking for anything in particular. I just love garage sales, yard sales, rummage sales - whatever word you slap on it doesn't matter.

I'm drawn.

Not sure if it is the quest for that one seraphic item that has eluded me for years, or just the sick joy that comes with permission to rummage through other people's stuff.

But my neighbor's garage sale was peculiar, to say the least. There were no signs directing you to the sale. In fact, when I saw it, I wasn't sure if he was having a yard sale or just pulling items out of his garage in the midst of some Fall cleaning. But upon further inspection, it was the former.

So of course I meandered over.

Now I can appreciate a small garage sale. Not everyone has clutter up to their eyeballs enabling them to cover their entire driveway. But this was obviously a case of, "Hmm. It's Saturday. Maybe I'll put a few tables of my junk out and see if anyone driving by wants to buy something."

Because truly, most of it should have skipped the table and bounded straight for the garbage bin.

Okay, be fair, he did have a couple bookcases and a very ugly coffee table showcased as well. But garage sales may need to be governed a bit to set some boundaries.

Please tell me, is anyone interested in a pint jar glued to a plate? I suspect it had a purpose. Just not sure what. And if you're in the market for a broken ceramic pig, I know where to direct you.

Come on, people. Find the garbage can. Perhaps that is his plan....after he attempts to transfer his own clutter to contribute to yours for a small profit.

Or who knows. Maybe he really was just doing some Fall cleaning and some people started stopping by to shop. He realized this could be a magical moment and gave in to the assumption. That would explain the lack of signs, after all.

Garage sales truly are the great equalizer, though. As I was "shopping," a rather affluent-looking couple was peering through an old magazine that was for sale. (Again...was its intended resting place the garbage bin, but these people snatched it up before the guy could get to it?)

At any rate, I quickly headed for home to clean up from what felt like dumpster diving. And then I chuckled as I walked by my children's Little Tykes picnic table and basketball hoop (recent garage sale finds), took my shoes off by our entry's shoe bench (FREE from a yard sale 4 years ago) and took a seat at my kitchen table (auction sale steal - 16 years ago) for a bite to eat. (Don't worry, the turkey sandwich was fresh.)

Hey, I'm renting. So my current decorating style is Garage Sale Chic. And let's face it. When we do find a house to buy, I'll be having a garage sale.

With my own neon signs.

And I'll bet you'll be there...wondering why I didn't just throw that ridiculous thing out!

Friday, September 4, 2009

It's Game Time

"I'm ready for the playoff games," my husband gleefully says as he drops two enormous bags of sunflower seeds on our kitchen counter. After I roll my eyes, I ask, "Aren't those a month away?" He replies, "I'll pace myself."

You see, my dear husband is a Yankees - gasp! - fan. I know, I know. "Their high payroll is unfair and over-the-top...blah blah blah." Oh, get over it. I did. In fact, 9 years into our marriage I decided if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. Well, that backfired as I found myself weeping at their World Series loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks. (But I had recently given birth to my firstborn, so I'll blame the hormone imbalance.)

Maybe it's the classy uniform. Could simply be the opportunity to gawk at Derek Jeter. Or perhaps it's the pure allure of New York. I've probably watched Sleepless in Seattle one too many times, or it's my addiction to Regis and Kelly, but I heart NY!

At any rate, I do enjoy watching Derek - er, I mean, the Yankees - now and then. Especially since they do tend to win a lot. I like teams that win a lot.

But I can't handle it when they blow it in the end and leave me in a pool of tears.

Thus my current lack of passion for my first conversion: the Oakland Raiders. Again, my husband has been a big fan since he was a kid. And he nearly turned me into a bigger fan than himself during the days of Jon Gruden...and I felt completely ripped off when they later played Gruden's new team, Tampa Bay, in the Super Bowl. How unfair can you get?! You can't win when the opposing team's coach has the inside scoop on all your weaknesses!!!! My blood still boils at the memory.

My favorite player in those "successful Raider days" was Regan Upshaw. Sure he took cheap shots. He was huge.

And brutal.

He exemplified all that people despise about the Raiders, I suppose - but I loved him. Or, more specifically, I loved his tackles. Honestly, whenever someone took a solid hit from that guy, you could almost hear them say his name in their caught-off-guard grunt of pain. "UP-Shaaaaaaaaw!"

But after they broke my heart in Super Bowl XXXVII, and then came back the next year with no ability to win whatsoever, my Raiders pride dwindled considerably.

Oh, believe me, I still get a little stirred up if I see a rival Broncos fan. And I may have the urge to rear end someone sporting a Chargers bumper sticker, but I manage to control myself. Usually. (My godson is an avid Broncos fan and for his 12th birthday I did send him army men-sized Broncos to blow up in a bottle-rocket. He does that sort of thing. Normally with little army men. I thought he should give the servicemen a break and pick on someone who deserved it.)

And so I'm becoming eerily familiar again with the TV-hogging that will go on in the next several weeks as my husband plops himself down with sunseeds in hand to watch endless hours of baseball.

I can't bear to watch that much baseball.

Unless the Yankees end up in the World Series again. In which case, I'll snatch that Dakota Kid bag faster than you can say "Steinbrenner" and I'll be absorbed by swinging pinstripes.

And in the end, if the outcome is not in my favor...I will do what any heartbroken sports fanatic does.

I'll grab the chips and dip and get on my game face. It's time to move on. After all, it's football season.

And my Raiders are due.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Happy Subliminal Communications Month!

I'm always up for a party. In fact, I have to get crackin' on my daughter's birthday plans. She turns 7 in exactly one month and I have no clue what kind of party I'm doing. But apparently there are numerous holidays prior to that one to snag my attention.

A friend posted on Facebook today, "Happy Onam!" So I did what any other inquisitive soul does when they're online. I googled it.

It's an Indian holiday (she's married to an Indian man, so thus the celebratory status update). And according to Wikipedia (yeah, just call me Michael Scott), "Onam is the biggest festival in the Indian state of Kerala. Onam Festival falls during the Malayali month of Chingam (Aug - Sep) and marks the homecoming of legendary King Mahabali."

There you go. Don't you feel enlightened?

"Well, I'm not Indian," you say, "so I won't celebrate that." Okay then, there's plenty of good ol' American holidays to fill your calendar with too.

I know you'll be crushed to learn of it, but yesterday was Chicken Boy's Day. Yeah, sorry. Don't think Hallmark makes any belated Chicken Boy's Day cards. Apparently if you're from LA you'll likely know the meaning of Chicken Boy. The only image I can conjure up is my 5-year-old's hand wrapped around a drumstick.

Yesterday also boasted the legacy of the first woman telephone operator - it was Emma M. Nutt Day. Gosh, September 1st is just full of fun.

Don't worry. You haven't missed too much. Today has a holiday of its own. Victory over Japan Day! That's a call for an ice cream cake if I ever heard of one.

I'm personally looking forward to September 5th - Be Late for Something Day. Now that's a holiday I can get behind. (pun intended)

Sure, everybody will celebrate Labor Day with a day off from work and school. But the day I personally think should require a solid day off is September 13. It's International Chocolate Day. That's right. International. That means you get to splurge on the good stuff! Hit the snooze button and pass me the bon bons, baby.

The 22nd is Elephant Appreciation Day, because evidently those giant creatures are feeling unappreciated. Huh?! I do have a word for a mother who can give birth to a 250 pound baby, but it's NOT appreciation.

I realize sometimes those dates can get lost in the busyness of our lives, so it's easier to celebrate something that lasts all month - so you can fit it in when it's convenient. I find it interesting that September is host to Shameless Promotion Month, but also Update Your Resume month. Hmmm...sounds the same to me!

It's National Prime Beef month, but also National Chicken month. Either way - a good excuse to eat out. I don't think my kids care that it is Childrens' Good Manners month. And hopefully my husband remains unaware that it is Pleasure Your Mate month.

But my personal favorite - Be Kind to Editors and Writers month - certainly warrants a balloon bouquet and maybe even a gift.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

I'm sorry, you're HOW old?

Excuse me, but when did I get old?

If some of you mature readers are thinking, "Oh goodness, Maxine! You're still young yet." Think again. Or at least tell that to me when I keep running into people that really should always be older than me.

For instance...

The doctor. When we moved to Washington in 2004, I needed to find a pediatrician. I found someone who came highly recommended...only they failed to mention that this doctor was still prepubescent. Okay, so maybe she was old enough to have completed medical school, but it was really odd taking parenting advice from someone so young. How could she know anything? She was probably still living with her parents! Crazy thing was, she was an excellent physician.

Then we moved to Arizona and I was pregnant with Noah. Time to find that ob/gyn who would bring my 3rd bundle of joy into the world. Again...she came highly recommended. And again....she's younger than me. A lot younger. Maybe it's easier to deliver babies when you were just recently one yourself?

My child's teacher. Okay, now this one I actually do expect the kindergarten teacher to be a bubbly 20-something with loads of energy to keep up with a roomful of 5 year olds. However, it's when you are broad-sided with the realization that this teacher who looks fresh out of college has been teaching for 8 years! So why is it that someone who is 29 or 30 years old looks soooo young to me, unless...dare I say it...I'm not.


But this weekend was the clincher. Sunday's Bismarck Tribune showcased the new president of my college alma mater. Sure, I knew we had a new president. I even figured he had plenty of credentials, was an outstanding leader and would likely accomplish great things in his new role. I didn't know he was someone who didn't even have his drivers license yet by the time I graduated high school!

Yes. It's painfully true. He's younger than me! The PRESIDENT of the proclaimed "America's Leadership University" is younger than ME.

I don't suppose the most discouraging part of that news is the fact that I'm old, but rather that I'm old enough to have actually accomplished something. What have I been doing for the past 15 years?! Did I fall asleep under a rock?

Sure, my resume isn't completely blank, and being a mother pretty much qualifies you for everything. Doctor? Oh yeah. Slapped on some hydrogen peroxide, Neosporin and a bandaid to Rachel's knee just the other day! Teacher? Are you kidding me? I'm constantly "students" don't always seem to get it, though. University President. Well, no. But I do have the same taste in pasta as dear President Shea (light on the sauces).

Someone told me today that old is "anyone always 15 years my senior." I could get behind that statement. also means that energized first year kindergarten teacher is finding me old. Oh well. Closing her in a room with 25 noisy children who could pee their pants at any moment seems like sweet justice to me.

As for me, I think I'm going to like the blooming new president. In his words...

"The way things unfolded, the finger of God can be seen so clearly," he said "- that is, in how each piece of your life fits into a whole, prepares you for a future that you couldn't imagine at the time."

So the future could hold some amazing things for me.

Maybe I'm still collecting the pieces.

For the full story on the University of Mary president, go to: (

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Pass me the gun, Honey. I just found Season 8.

Goin' to the chaaaaapel and we're gonnnnna get ma-a-a-a-ried...okay, so it's not a chapel and it isn't me, but we will be attending an outdoor wedding this evening. I love weddings. But there's something I get rather envious of.

No, it's not the gorgeous flowing white gown on that young, flawless beauty. It's not even the ultimate pampering you receive as a bride - manicure, pedicure, make-up and hair. Frankly, I don't even get all that jealous of the perfect Caribbean honeymoon (okay, well, maybe a little).

You see, I want the registry.

Pages upon pages of merchandise you just plain want. It doesn't even matter if you actually need it. All 10 seasons of Friends on DVD? Come on! Back in my day, it was all about the china and crystal (borrrring). Sure, they'll reach for the scanner gun as they stroll past the blenders and toasters too, but these days you can register for anything from poker chips to a chainsaw.

I've been married for 16 years. The towels are thin and frayed. The crockpot button broke off years ago. And I don't even own a DVD player. How about a registry for those of us in desperate need of dropping a few hundred dollars at Target too?

Because let's face it, when you're shopping a wedding registry, cost is barely a factor. Visions of your gift adorned in embossed white wrapping paper with a big shimmery bow cause you to lose your head. Not to mention you adore this new couple and know your gift will be remembered for all time (5 years later...Husband: Where'd we get that popcorn bowl? Wife: Oh, you know! It was a gift from Aunt Doreen for our wedding!). So the pressure is on to get just the right gift.

Translation: People you haven't seen in months or years will slap down serious cash to help you set up your home. I like the sound of that.

So how about it? Every 15 years we head to the store with our spouse, grab a gun and start scanning like mad. When can that become socially acceptable?

I know what you're thinking: By that time in your marriage you should be well-established in your careers, making enough money to allow you to take care of yourself. Oh reeeeally? So that must be why the majority of people I see at garage sales are people under the age of 30? NOT! Look at us! We're scavengers for the best deal we can find! We have children to feed and clothe now and don't even get me started on the cost to repair the car that just broke down last week! We're the ones hovered around the clearance racks and scoffing at pillows priced at $39.99!

So, come on all you Aunt Doreens of the world. Whaddya say? I'll even let you wrap up my new queen-size sheets in tissue paper stuffed with confetti I'll have to vacuum up later.

Just to give you a little more joy.

And you'll be quite impressed when the 'thank you' card arrives so punctual. After all, I can write them as I'm watching Season 8 of Friends on my new DVD player.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

What's With All the Gore?

It's as if we are a society that can't learn anything unless we see something disgusting related to the poor choice/activity. What's up with that?!

For instance, I've watched that nasty video of the kids texting while driving that results in a horrific accident that you are "privileged" to watch every bloody detail.


And I just read that within the next 3 years, federal regulators plan to require tobacco companies to cover at least half of the front and back of packages with graphic—and possibly gruesome—images illustrating the dangers of smoking to help convince people to quit.

Really?! Is it going to HELP? Let's take a look at previous attempts: remember when the surgeon general warning was posted on cigarettes? Ooh, yeah, that really scared people into quitting. NOT. And then they jacked up the taxes and prices of cigarettes. Well, surely that should at least get the low-income people to stop smoking. Seems to me they had to make a choice between smoking or eating. They'll pay for the addiction before they'll pay for a meal.

So now the feds figure if they slap a gruesome picture of a cancer-ravaged mouth with rotting teeth on the pack it will make people stop smoking. It'd be nice if people would just stop smoking because of common sense, but I won't go down that road.

But if it does work..well, then, I need the yucky photo of a clogged artery or organs wrapped in fat to appear on my potato chip bag. Seriously. I could use some help with that one. I love me the chip.

By Popular Demand

Okay, so maybe it's not "in demand," but I have had a couple people indicate that I should start a blog, so I say, "Why not?" Give the people what they want! Right? Right!

Today is the first day of school. I now have a first grader and a kindergartener, which means I am left with just a 20 month old firecracker at home, BUT...he naps! So guess what I get to do during naptime?! You guessed it! WRITE! No interruptions...oh, this is bliss.

Speaking of the first day of school...I have been anticipating this day with a bit of guilty joy for the past several days. So I wasn't sure how I'd react to sending off my 2nd child to Kindergarten. I was fine until I went to hug Caleb goodbye. I felt like I was abandoning him. Maybe it's the fear that he'll get lost in the shuffle with the other 24 kids in his busy classroom, or that someone else will be putting on a band-aid when he gets hurt on the playground, or that he may only eat his cookie at lunchtime and toss the perfectly good pizza and green beans! Rachel, on the other hand, is my whiz kid and I had all the confidence in the world for her.

And then she did it.

You know the've said goodbyes and she's happy as can be, but then she sees you again after you supposedly left already. I stayed for the flag-raising ceremony. BIG mistake. She motioned me over afterwards, began to cry and said she wanted to go home. Now had I just left, I'm sure this would have been avoided. But now I'm holding my daughter's frail hand, walking her down the hall to her classroom for the 2nd time to leave her apprehensive and weepy in the arms of her teacher.

I managed to pull myself away and head to the van with little Noah in tow, only to have him begin chanting, "ACHEL!" and continue the entire drive to the gym. It's like having that little cartoon devil on your shoulder, showering you with guilt. Yes! I know! Rachel's not here! She's in someone else's care and your mother has abandoned the poor child in such an emotionally fragile state! I should be reported to CPS!

But then I'm reminded of my husband's joke as we awoke this morning, "Does Rachel start High School today?" To which I shuddered at the thought.

And so as I walk out the school doors, it hits me. The days of her clinging to my leg, begging to stay with me will be over much too soon. Instead of "Mommy, don't leave me." I'll hear, "Mom, can you just drop me off at the end of the block?" or worse yet, "Mom, can you just stay away from me? You're so embarrassing!" Yeah, I'll awaken one day and it will be the first day of school again, but my chlldren will be teenagers and I won't be filling backpacks with Crayola markers and Elmer's glue. They'll want the car and cash.

All of it will pass in a flash, and one day I'll wonder why I thought this was so hard!

One of my favorite quotes is, "A mother is not a person to lean on, but a person to make leaning unnecessary." - Dorothy Canfield Fisher

So I'm just doing my job, even though it isn't so easy all the time. Hey, I can look at it this way: all the teary eyes and leg-clinging? It's really just job security!