Thursday, December 29, 2011

Friday. Humph! Who needs it.

Got a birthday tomorrow? If you're from Samoa, let me be the first to say, "I'm sorry."

Yep, those crazy cats down in Samoa have decided to just get rid of Saturday, December 30, 2011. When December 29 turns to midnight, their calendar will jump to December 31.

A whole day just wiped away.

Personally, I think losing a perfectly good Friday is nuts. I'd kick a Monday out long before a Friday, but that's just me.

In case you hadn't heard, Samoa has decided to move itself. Well, actually the island won't budge an inch, but somewhere in imagination station they are moving to the other side of the International Date Line.

They're tired of doing business a day late with Australia and New Zealand. Apparently those Samoans nearly spit their communion on Sundays knowing their neighboring Aussies are doing business.

Of course the move hasn't come without its fair share of criticism. Particularly from the tourism industry. Since Samoa was the last place in the world to see the sun set, it was quite the destination for the world's romantics. (The tourist folks aren't finding the distinction of being the 'first place to see the dawn' quite as lucrative.)

But romance can be salvaged - because you can celebrate an anniversary, wedding, or birthday in Samoa and then jump on a plane for a quick 1-hour trip to American Samoa and celebrate the glorious event twice.

There is one definite perk for employees in Samoa. Employers are expected to pay their staff for the work day that never happened.

Cha-ching. Now that's what you call makin' an easy buck.

I gotta hand it to those Samoans, though. When you can make a day simply disappear, you've got some power. It didn't take much to get buy-in though. The business sector has been waiting for this day much like a young child waits for Christmas.

Frankly, they're tired of coming in on Sundays to do "urgent Monday" business with a New Zealander. If they waited until Monday, then it was really Tuesday for their consumer.

Hey, I get it. I have a tough time waiting the 3 minutes it takes for my popcorn to pop. I suspect waiting a day or two to get some service could get annoying.

Those Samoans must be pretty easy-going people, though. (I suppose living on a beach all the time would keep you mellow.) Turns out they are accustomed to wild changes.

Just a couple years ago their government decided to change traffic and move motorists to the other side of the road. Yep. Try driving on the right side of the road all your life and then suddenly moving to the left.

I would think it would be a lot tougher to adapt to that than just skipping a day on the calendar.

Why did they shift those cars? Pretty much for the same reason: other countries nearby were doing it and they didn't want to feel left out.

So it makes you wonder if those Samoans are really about progressing business deals or if they simply can't handle peer pressure.

The truth is, those Samoans aren't losing anything, really. 2012 is a leap year.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

It has nothing to do with wrestling or a 1950s fraternity badge. But I'm a sucker for pinning.

I have a new love.

It's name is Pinterest.

If you don't know of what I speak, then I first must gasp.


And then tell you life is better with Pinterest in it. You must discover my joy.

It isn't just a website.

It isn't just a time swallower (which, indeed it is).

In a word, it's BRILLIANT.

To take the definition from the site, "Pinterest lets you organize and share all the beautiful things you find on the web... Best of all, you can browse pinboards created by other people. Browsing pinboards is a fun way to discover new things and get inspiration from people who share your interests."

Since I get a huge thrill out of creativity and usefulness (and I can't muster up either on my own), Pinterest is the brain I wish I had.

Because I get to go inside the brain of tons of outrageously creative and smart people in a matter of minutes.

And then steal any portions of that brain that I want.

It is inspiring, helpful, practical and genius. And I love it. Frankly, I've found it impossible to live without it.

Particularly as I prepare for the Christmas season - decor, treats and such - I just scope out ideas on Pinterest and -


the ideas are endless.

Then there are the inspirational or funny quotes that fill you with hope and laughter. It's like living in a continual Wonderland!

Pinterest makes you look good. It makes your house look good. It makes your dinner table look good. It makes your kids, your wedding, your dog and even that old suitcase collecting dust in your closet look good. (Did you know it could become an accent CHAIR?!?)

I'm not even kidding.

On ONE page, you can find 100th birthday party ideas, a Phineas and Ferb DIY sandwich, a Starbucks bottle recycled into a snowman decoration, and mad photography skills.

I think I hear Martha Stewart crying.

It's eliminated the need to buy magazines. Or watch HGTV. In fact, even Googling decorating ideas seems slow and tedious now.

Because I. have. Pinterest.

I only wish I had thought of it. But that would have taken creativity. Which means I would've needed Pinterest...

to develop Pinterest.

Excuse me, but I must go. I have streamers calling me to roll and twist them into a flower centerpiece for my Christmas table. Oh, and I'll be making miniature mugs out of marshmallows and candy canes later.

You should really come over.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Falling for Christmas

You know those TV shows where someone is falling to their death from an 18-story building and their "whole life flashes before their eyes"? I think Christmas is a lot like that.

Okay, not the death part. The last part. Where your life flashes before you.

Last night I was sitting in our family room looking at our Christmas tree. I carefully eyed every ornament - each one precious in its own right.

The ones that depict something significant for each year of our children's lives. The ones those same children worked tirelessly on in school, leaving their classroom floors dotted with glue and glitter - and my tree shimmering.

The ones from friends old and new. The silly ones, the sentimental ones, and even some shiny, store-bought ones that have no attached meaning at all other than at some point I wanted my tree to be made up of more than just popsicle sticks and construction paper.

But soon my gaze catches one particular ornament - a framed picture of my two oldest children as mere babies, donning their adorable Christmas duds.

And it begins.

That "life flashing" stuff. Because it has gone fa la la la la faaaast.

Go ahead, let the dreamy, taking-you-back-in-time music from sitcoms play in your head...

I'm in my childhood home, racing from room to room because my older sisters are convincing me Santa and his reindeer were flying around just outside our house - if I could just get to the right window fast enough I would see them. UGH! The speedy crew eluded me constantly!

The year I begged incessantly for a good 10 months for a Ziggy doll. (I did get it!)

The Christmas treats that my mother spread through the kitchen in red, white and green ceramic dishes pulled out for only this occasion.

Of course, there's the traditional park-it-in-front-of-the-TV-every-Friday-night to watch Rudolph, Frosty or It's a Wonderful Life. It's fun to watch those with my own kids now, and how funny it is to see how far technology and cinematography have come over the years!

Fast forward to the traditions I've made with my own family:

Gingerbread houses, adding a new Christmas book to our annual collection, ornaments, baking, and snapping photos to capture a slice of time.

But no matter how much I miss those chubby cheeks and that wispy baby hair, the photo ornament on my tree is still just a reminder of one Christmas in the midst of many.

And not the most important one.

Remember the first Christmas. That was no slice of time. That was the start of eternity.

A young woman, her husband and a tiny baby. In a barn, mind you.

But in that stinky barn was the best news ever. The news of Christmas.

Because from childhood to adulthood to parenthood and beyond, Christmas - at its very core - is very simple.

Now you're probably thinking, "SIMPLE!? Then you haven't seen my neighbor's light display! Or the flurry of activity down at the mall!"

For just a moment, forget about the doorbuster deals, how you'll avoid your drunk boss at the office party, and that you just ran out of scotch tape.

Step into your family room and look at your tree.

Go ahead, find it.

Find that one ornament.

That sends you...

...falling, too.

Saturday, December 3, 2011


I'll admit it. I love local television news.

Frankly, it cracks me up. Because sometimes it simply makes no sense.

Virtually every time I watch, there is something that makes me have to hit the rewind button because I can hardly believe my eyes/ears.

Now I'm not talking about getting a second look at a guy on-the-run from the police or even hearing a cute sound byte from an elementary kid.

I mean the did-I-just-see-what-I-think-I-saw-because-that-doesn't-fit aspect of a story.

For instance, the other night there was a story about day care centers specializing in care for special needs children. Very nice story concept, but the video they showed as the reporter spoke included shots of the young children playing...with a very large plastic bag.

"Keep out of reach of children. Suffocation hazard." comes to mind.

Somehow I don't think video like that conveys the message you want to send when attempting to advertise that you're willing to take in special needs kids.

I'm also a bit surprised at a story that ran tonight about some underprivileged kids who were able to go on a $50 shopping spree in Walmart, courtesy of our local police department.

Again, wonderful concept. Great warm and fuzzy story about our dear public servants giving back to the community.

But these are "underprivileged kids" according to the story.

And one child starts rattling off what she was able to get with her $50.

In the midst of her list, she says, "A DS game..."

Now, wouldn't that imply that the child has a DS at home?

I didn't realize underprivileged kids owned $150 electronic toys.

Maybe she got it to give as a gift? I'm going to give her the benefit of the doubt.

Otherwise, someone's definition of "underprivileged" is a bit off from mine. Which could very well be the case.

And finally, I'll end on probably the most mind-boggling news event that ever occurs in this great state of mine.

It's when - in this upper Midwestern community where we are no strangers to snow, wind chills and ice - the weather guy alerts us with a "Winter Weather Advisory."

Really? You have to advise me, on a December day, that I will be experiencing winter weather?

It goes without saying, doesn't it?

Uh, it's gonna be cold and likely it will snow.

Yes. That's pretty much the definition of winter here.

I love that they waste 4 minutes on it.

Fortunately, I've already re-wound a few stories back because I couldn't believe the little kid was actually running through the living room with a plastic bag...and that means I can fast-forward a bit.

Winter Weather Advisory only gets 30 seconds of my time.

But now we're in a commercial break.

And don't even get me started on some of those painful-to-watch local commercials.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

A whole lot of crazy just might be fun.

Nothing like a marathon to bring out the 'crazy' in all of us.

Yesterday I participated in my first marathon experience. Before you get all, "Wow, that's impressive, Maxine..." I was only in the marathon relay. I had a 6-mile leg. And a good chunk of it was downhill.

I know, I know. You just slumped a bit in your chair. You're thinking I accomplished very little.

But for me, it's something.

I was never a long-distance runner. Ask my old high school track coach. Heck, I whined about going farther than two miles in practice. "I'm a sprinter. Why do I have to be dropped off on some gravel road and forced to run my way back into town? I should be on the track perfecting my starts," I would spout.

But I'm certainly not running any sprints now. Attempting a sprint just makes me frighteningly aware of how old and slow I am. And when did my back end get so heavy?

So I'm left like many other near middle-age adults trying to grasp some motivation to keep ourselves in shape.

The result: I started training for this marathon stuff.

A few years ago a friend almost had me signed up for a half marathon. But within a few weeks of training, my knees informed me (well, the MRI helped) that I wasn't going to do any running for awhile. 

But after getting back into running, I was invited to join a marathon relay team. After all, it was only six miles...that didn't scare me too much.

But fixing my eyes on some of the runners at this marathon event sure did.

Particularly the old guy in the pink leotard, complete with a tutu and magic wand. I can only speculate, but he's either crazy or one drunken night in February...a conversation went something like this:

Buddy 1: I know you think your Steelers are unbeatable, so how about a little bet on the game?

Buddy 2: You're on. Loser has to run a marathon. Oh! And you have to wear all pink when you run.

Buddy 1: Not just have to wear a pink leotard with a pink tutu.

Buddy 2: And carry a sparkly wand the whole race!

Buddy 1: You're on!

Fast forward seven months later, and a tall bald man is running through the streets looking like a preschooler on Halloween.

It just isn't right.

More crazy: the fact that we're all up before daybreak, ON A SATURDAY, MIND YOU, to start running a race in cold, windy, wet weather. Brrr. Oh, and there's a BIG hill involved. Let's not forget that critical detail.

Add to that craziness: the guys only dressed in light-weight running shorts. But then again, I suppose I'd run fast too if I was half naked.

That half-naked bit sure worked for the champion. He broke the marathon's record - and his closest competition was over a half hour behind him.

Now THAT'S crazy.

Crazy fast, that is.

Over the past several months as I've been running to get in shape for this event, I've had the privilege to watch and run with others who have also been prepping their muscles and lungs for a relay, or a half or full marathon.

And what baffles me most?

The amount of time we have to commit to this training.

It's excessive, really.

Those marathoners really have no life. If they're not at work then they better be running somewhere. It's hours and hours of pounding the pavement.

So my hat - yes, even the cheap one they made in bulk and stuffed into our registration bag - is off to you 13.1 and 26.2-mile crazy people.

Because it takes a whole lot of crazy to do what you do.

And to do it with a smile, without the need for a paramedic, is incredibly honorable.

Now...since this sprinter's quads are revolting from my 6-mile run, will one of you superhuman marathoners please help me get up? 

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The "Deal of the Week" for one-footed patrons

I'm all for being resourceful in efforts to bring in some extra cash. I really am.

Selling a few pieces of furniture online. Setting up a lemonade stand. Hosting a garage sale.

Really, all good things.

But can we draw a line with the merchandise?

I went to a garage sale today that brought me to tears...from laughter.

For sale, at the bargain price of 50 cents each...

Large, stretched-out, STAINED, men's white briefs.

I'm not even kidding.

But oh, I wish I was.

I don't care who ya are - I firmly believe you should NEVER buy used underwear.

And most certainly not from this particular merchant.

But to have it laid out, displayed like it was fine china - with all the world to see the years of wear and well, other stuff.


That's just wrong. In fact, there should be a law forbidding it. But I'm not sure how one would even write up a bill like that. You'd think common sense could prevail.

But as I'm making my way out of this establishment - fearing for my life, really - I catch a glimpse of a price tag on one incredibly hideous ceramic cat cookie jar.


That's right. A cookie jar.

Of a cat.

An ugly cat.


I couldn't hold it in any longer. I practically sprinted to my car in order to avoid laughing in front of these people.

MAYBE that cat is a collector's item. I'm not sure. I'm no cookie jar connoisseur, by any means.

But very few things at a garage sale should be priced at $85.

A large appliance.

A small snowblower, perhaps.

But a cookie jar? Of an ugly cat? Again...seems to go against all common sense.

My personal favorite today was walking into a garage to find a very large box - we're talking the size of a small refrigerator - stuffed full of children's shoes. I just assumed they didn't have time to get them all displayed. There was already a large lineup of shoes on the driveway, after all.

I see one shoe on the top of the pile that looks cute, so I shuffle a couple other shoes in search for the mate.

The homeowner gets my attention and says, "Oh, those are all mis-matched. You won't find the other one like it."

I was dumbfounded. I was aghast. I looked at her with astonishment and said, "Really? This WHOLE box is full of shoes missing their match?!"

She smiles and shrugs as she looks at her children gathered around her. "Yeah," she sighs. Then a bit embarrassed, she replies, "I know."

It was tragic, really. Dozens of adorable shoes - some in excellent condition - with no match. How does this happen??

I can understand a lost shoe here and there - but an entire box full of them? That's nearly miraculous.

My mind began to race with all the possibilities of where those shoes could be.

I picture the shoe hanging from an electrical line (evidence a bully came by or a teenager pulled a prank).

Or on the street. (perhaps it fell out during a Chinese fire drill?)

Or ferociously chewed to bits by the family dog. (naughty Fido)

Whatever the reason, I was puzzled as to why they would even be offered up for sale.

You're expecting a lot if you think a one-footed customer could happen to - well - hop in.

I suppose it could be helpful for that kid who ended up in a cast and doesn't want to wear out one shoe while they wait for their foot, ankle or leg to heal. This is a perfect solution in that case.

But even a cast is only on for about 6 weeks. A couple shoes should suffice.

Personally, I would have just pitched them.

They would have fit nicely in the garbage truck next to those nasty tightie-whities.

Friday, August 12, 2011

The stars may shine a little brighter tonight...

His eyes said everything.

Today a small, rural church will fill with people to honor a man and celebrate a life full of its share of ups and downs.

He knew tragedy.

He knew joy.

He knew hard work.

He knew gentleness.

Most of all, he knew love.

And you saw it in his eyes.

Those sparkling eyes...

Even on his death bed, amidst pain and discomfort...a yearning for it all to come to an end...the sparkle was there.

It may have dimmed a bit, but as it accompanied a wink - as it usually did if a grandchild caught his eye - it was one thing the cancer couldn't take.

As I sift through family photographs, it's a privilege to consider the life of this man.

A simple school boy.
A young farmer.
A mourning son.
A grinning groom.
A self-less soldier.
A proud father.
A compassionate grandfather.

Like most farmers, he knew the value of hard work. His strength was undeniable.

In fact, at the point of beginning cancer treatments when he seemed incredibly weak (his family wasn't convinced he could endure it), his doctor believed he would persevere.

Due to sheer strength.

But eventually the battle became too much to fight. The opponent too great.

On his final day, his young granddaughter refused to leave his side. His eyes met hers.

And he winked.

He barely had the strength to take a breath. He could no longer sit up. Attempts to eat or drink were futile.

And yet he winked...and did his best to curve his mouth into a smile for her.

His eyes would want to close, but he'd force them back open.

And then a tear would sneak out of the corner of his eye.

His eyes dimmed. And he was gone.

As the family gathers and remembers this man that meant so much...we grieve a loss.

But cheer for victory over death. Heaven is his new home.

And his eyes shine brighter than ever.


"I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believes in Me, even though he dies, he will live." (John 11:25)

Monday, August 1, 2011

Good times. Good memories. Good grief, we’re old.

Webster defines a reunion as “A social gathering attended by members of a certain group of people who have not seen each other for some time.”

Okay, it’s not as if I really thought you didn’t know what “reunion” meant, but I looked it up just to see what ol’ Webster had to say. (It’s good to ask Webster a thing or two. After all, he’s just sitting out there waiting for some attention.)

But let’s break this apart.

A social gathering
In light of my recent class reunion, that’s putting it mildly. Social – uh, yeah.

We are talkers.

What we are NOT is: dancers or loud music-listeners. The days of heavy metal pounding through the speakers or tearing apart a dance floor are over for us. No, we wanted the music turned down so we could carry on a conversation without screaming.

All that hollering just gives us a headache and sore throat. We don’t need that.

We’ve got kids to go home to and may have to report to work in the morning. Plus we’re genuinely interested in what the other person is saying so it would be helpful if we could hear it. Frankly, having to yell, “What’s that?” four or five times just makes us feel even older.

Especially when it’s shouted during a Van Halen song.

Members of a certain group of people
Oh, yes. Definitely a “certain” group of people. We’re the Class of 1991. A group of about 55 men and women wondering where in the world the time went. Honestly. 20 years? How did that happen so fast?

Nonetheless, there we stood.

Hoping we didn’t look too fat, too gray or too sleepy (no one likes to admit that they can’t recall the last time they were up past 11pm if it was due to anything other than heartburn).

And guess what? As one reunion-goer put it, “I think we all look (slight, thoughtful pause) pretty good.”

Not completely convincing, but we’ll take it.

Reunions are funny that way. First and foremost, let’s face it. We’re checking appearances.

Mainly for easing our own curiosity about whether we’re the only one who put on a few pounds or added some laugh lines.

Then we’re hopeful everyone is living happy, healthy lives. We hold out hope that our classmate who marginally escaped death in the past year looks well. He does, and we’re relieved because it’s not just external. Latest medical report says he really is doing well. Whew!

Who have not seen each other for some time
I love that. For “some time.” Like it could be a week or 100 years. In many cases it’s literally been 20 years since I’ve seen these people.

While 20 years seems to have flown by, a lot happens in two decades. Weddings, births, graduations, deaths, job changes, surgeries, moves, divorces, remarriages, and plenty of other significant life events along the way.

And yet, for a few hours this weekend, time stood still.

We were carried back to a time when a well-timed Bryan Adams or Bon Jovi song could soothe our sorrow. Life seemed simpler back then. Of course we believed once we threw that grad cap in the air, we would take flight ourselves…into a future of possibilities and exciting unknowns.

Now that ‘future of possibility’ is full of potty-training, enduring adolescence, and fretting the first day of college all over again – seeing it all from a whole new set of eyes.

Or maybe it’s job success or failure. Family dysfunction. Saying goodbye to those we love.

Sure, there’s likely plenty of regrets. But with nearly 40 years of life behind us, we’re smart enough to not dwell on them. Instead, we’re grateful for the little things, because we know the big things are out of our control.

I certainly enjoyed my class reunion. Spending time with these men and women void of the teenage awkwardness, cliques and desperate need to impress was refreshingly fun. We could reminisce about days gone by, but also congratulate each other on how far we’ve come.

While rarely do we take the time to walk through our past, when we do, it illuminates some pretty sweet memories.

Who would have thought that cheesy class motto would actually hold true? “The moment is only temporary, but the memory is forever.”

Now let's not wait 20 years before we dust off the cobwebs again, okay?

Hey classmates - in case you're looking for more tidbits from the reunion, check out our Class of 1991 page on Facebook for my "The Best of the Class" note.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Spit on, peed on...and other fine freedoms.

Yesterday was the 4th of July. You know, Independence Day.

It is a day to commemorate all the freedoms we enjoy.

This particular Independence Day I discovered it's also a day to abuse those freedoms.

Take this journey with me through a rather unique day.

First stop every 4th of July for us is a good down-home parade. This year would be no exception. There's just something magical about donning red, white, and blue along a dusty street as sweat dribbles down your back pooling into the seat of your canvas folding chair as you watch vehicles roll by and kids dive for candy, dodging the wheels of those said vehicles!

On a side note, there's a couple things about parades I don't quite understand.

1) Why do the horses go first? Shouldn't they be the last entry, based on - ahem - what they leave behind? Just doesn't make sense to have them trot along first, relieve themselves and then have the rest of the parade participants have to drive, walk, roll or dance through it.

2) When did floats evolve into some guy slapping a sticker on their pickup truck and calling it good? I know those rolling trailers plastered with streamers and decor are a lot of work to assemble, but it's Independence Day. Put a little effort into it, people.

So if anyone has an answer to those, I welcome your comment.

Okay, back to the joy of parades. A good parade will always have its mix of oddities. Take this example:

A droopy-armed Statue of Liberty? Okay, that's just funny.

And then there's always a parade entry bordering on ridiculous:

If this is what the tooth fairy actually looks like, I'd lie awake at night too. Only in sheer terror, not giddy expectation! This guy is hoping you'll bring your family to him so he can work on your teeth. Or help you in your next Lil' Miss Pageant, I'm not sure.

But eventually the festivities ripened (literally - the sanitation dept is the final participant, plodding along slowly as everyone deposits their wrappers, bottles and various trash.)

We make the long, hot trek back to our vehicle and crank the air conditioning to the point of hypothermia. Whew! Can't wait to go home and get started on preparations for our 4th of July party.

There are games to plan, condiments to cut and drinks to bury in ice. But what would a good party-prep day be without an injury? I wasn't sure at the time what I did to cause such excruciating pain on the top of my foot, but I hobbled through the party gathering more sympathy than necessary (I mean, really. I couldn't even remember how I hurt myself!).

It wasn't until I fell into bed after midnight that it dawned on me that when I was getting folding chairs out of the storage room, one of them slipped and fell on my foot. At the time, I was too much in a hurry to get things set up and didn't have time to nurse any wounds, so I kept going. And didn't give it another thought...until I nestled into my pillow to unwind from the day.

So we throw a big shin-dig. Lots of people come. We eat. We play crazy games. We have fun. All the while, I wince in pain.

At nightfall, our family packs up and heads to see the city's fireworks display. I find an open spot for my family of 5 to snuggle in and take in the sights and sounds...and the "freedoms" around us.

One being the family behind us. Enjoying sunflower seeds. As I leaned back into our blanket on my hands, their night included the freedom to spit those seeds at my arms. The sensation of someone's spit sunflower shell stuck to your arm is, well, pretty nasty.

I was more amazed at the continuation of it even after I attempted to voice my displeasure about it.

But that was the least of my concerns. Because not a single firework had exploded yet when suddenly I feel a very warm sensation running down my legs. My 3-year-old, sorta potty-trained son is on my lap.

When we had him use the bathroom prior to leaving for the fireworks, he didn't need to go. I knew I should have thrown a pull-up on him at the very least, but I was confident he would tell us if he needed to go. After all, he'd been doing so well the last couple of weeks! But it was late, the child had been running nonstop all day in the heat, and he was tuckered out. Getting to a bathroom was not on his radar one bit.

So I became a human toilet. It's a free country, after all.

Easily the most uncomfortable fireworks experience of my life. My son wasn't fazed a bit.

So the evening ends with me hobbling back to our vehicle on my bum foot, soaked with urine which is now catching the breeze and giving me a chill, longing for the moment I will be in my shower, letting suds wash away the layers of "freedoms" penetrating my skin.

Fortunately, today is a new day. I was able to get out of bed without wincing in pain - my foot felt fine and I even ran 4-1/2 miles to burn off that extra dessert I consumed last night.

Not bad. Parade sweat, sunblock, sticky candy residue, dust, spit, pee AND foot pain: gone.

I may just wave that flag of freedom now.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Absence makes the heart grow any age!

If you've got kids, then you've got sibling rivalry.

I've talked to enough other moms to know that kids will fight, it's just in their DNA. I'm typically amazed at how quickly the bickering can begin at my house, though. Thirty seconds into breakfast and someone is offended that their sibling is "looking" at them.

Yes, actually noticing you're at the table is a harsh crime, I know.

Of course there are the all-out brawls that require me to run some interference. I have two boys, after all, and sometimes a full-body tackle is their way of saying, "Hey, I like you and wouldn't mind having your attention."

Their sister is not fond of this type of bonding. She's female. She'd prefer verbal communication.

But amidst all the pinching, punching, name-calling and hair-pulling, I believe they still love each other.

And last night proved it.

My daughter was off to a sleepover.

I had no idea this would cause her brothers such emotional turmoil.

Within seconds of her departure came the waterworks. Oh the sobs! The heart-wrenching cries for their sister.

"I miss her!" managed to escape their lips between blubbering wails.

I managed to get them calmed down enough to carry on with the evening's activities, but then bedtime arrived.

And the floodgate of tears opened once again.

My older son recently had his tonsils removed, so all the violent cries sent him running to the bathroom to spit up blood.

I know. Ew.

But at least it was a good argument for him to calm down - his health depended on it!

I attempted to phone their sister in hopes that a 'good-nite' greeting may bring rest, but the phone was left unanswered.

You can imagine the disappointment.

They finally drifted into dreamland when I told them the sooner they fall asleep, the sooner it will be morning and she will be home.

But wow. As sad as I felt for them (and myself - to be honest, I was missing her too), I couldn't help be full of incredible joy.

My kids genuinely like each other.

Whew. What a relief.

Plus you know I'm going to use this to my advantage the next time they're at each other's throats and declaring, "I wish you were never born!" and other hurtful phrases they love to blurt out in their anger.

Because I'm hoping a little reminder of how it feels to be apart may offer some perspective. That is, if I can just get my son to release his sister from that headlock.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Tales of a Sandbagger.

I hurt.

There. I said it.

The thing is, when I started this whole process I was strong.

Nearly invincible, really.

I was pitching sand with that shovel like a sugar-crazed kid in a playground sandbox. (Well, I was out-shoveling the old guys, at least.)

And food?! Nonsense! I scoffed at the need to eat! I'd plow through my shift simply hydrating with water. By the end of the day all I could think about was getting out there and doing it again the next day.

Then the next day came.

Or I should say, the middle-of-the-night came. And a strong sensation of soreness penetrated my brain simply because I moved my fingers.

My fingers?! I was suddenly struck with fear.

If my fingers hurt this badly, what will I feel if I try to move my whole body out of this bed?

Sure enough. When morning came, it wasn't an easy transition to an upright position. But I popped some ibuprofen and committed to venturing out for another day of sandbagging.

I moved much slower this time. And lunch and snack breaks were a welcomed reprieve.

The 40 mph wind gusts whipped sand in my eyes. The cool morning air on my exposed neck left a miserable chill. Every lift of the shovel loaded with rain-soaked sand sent sharp pains through my lower back.

Unlike the previous day, I was not thinking about what more I could do...I was thinking about how surely someone could make this process easier. Like, what about making a machine that spits out sand into bags on an assembly line - kind of like in a candy factory? All we have to do is grab the bags as they roll off the conveyor belt! Easy as pie! Literally!

I know they have those fancy spider machines, but today it wasn't even all that feasible to use them due to the strong winds. It just blew sand around. Besides, those machines still require a lot of people to grab the sand as it falls.

I couldn't help think that in 50 years when our kids are doing this again for some freakish flood, the old geezers like me will be saying, "Remember back when we had to shovel the dirt into the bags by hand? And they needed hundreds of volunteers? Now they can get the same work done in a quarter of the time with a quarter of the people!"

Hey, when you're tired, sore, and freezing...your mind takes some travels. It's probably therapeutic.

But just when I felt like I couldn't fill even one more bag...I'd look up from my work and see...

...the mountain of sand they're expecting us to get into bags in the next 48 hours.
...a group of National Guardsmen and women who never seem to tire, despite working around the clock.
...a young boy gripping his plastic shovel and grinning from ear to ear - ready to make a difference.
...another trailer pulling into the site, its occupants full of hope upon viewing all those sandbags.

And...a group of 'newbies' - asking for a tutorial on their first sandbagging day.

We'll let them skip meals and charge on through. After all, it doesn't really matter what tomorrow will bring.

Because today they're invincible.

And until someone invents that sand-spitting conveyor belt, they'll have to be.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Roll Call

So you probably heard the world was supposed to end this weekend.

News flash: It didn't.

Which kinda bums me out.

I mean, I'm in the middle of laundry. I don't like to do laundry.

And I've got some deadlines looming this week that would be really great to blow off.

But my kids would probably be mad. It's their last week of school - so, translation: it's a week of parties.

And who would want to leave all that?

Considering their sugar high should bring them home in a state of uncontrollable excitability, uh, the answer would be me.

But here we are. No rapture. No end of the world. No good excuse to miss my deadlines.

I guess if I'm a little disappointed, that Harold Camping guy must be devastated.
Although he probably isn't done predicting stuff.
And at 89 years of age, he doesn't have all that much longer on this earth anyway.
But cheer up, Harry.  We all make mistakes. It's not the end of the world.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Fill the water cooler with Kool-Aid and see what happens.

When you spend a lot of time with a three-year-old, you learn a few things. Mainly, you learn what is really important.

For instance, when you get up in the morning, there should always be someone there to hug you. I practically incite a revolt any morning I don't get to my son's bedside quite soon enough.

I've also discovered wardrobe decisions should be based on one thing and one thing only: comfort. My son has no qualms whatsoever in wearing the same outfit every single day, even if it is a Spiderman t-shirt and shorts in the middle of January.

Eating a meal should always be regarded as a social event, perhaps even sliding into the realm of being a spectator sport. If I can make you laugh at how I eat a noodle, then the meal is a grand success.

Since we're on the topic of food, if I lived like a 3-yr-old, I would inhale a bag of potato chips believing it equates to numerous servings of nutrient-rich vegetables.

Never resist a compliment. Instead, agree wholeheartedly. Whenever I tell my son, "You did a great job!" it typically evokes an “I know! I'm amazing!” Where does that healthy self-esteem go when we hit the junior high years?

Speaking of self-esteem, every mirror should be an invitation to strike a pose, make a silly face or simply just stare at yourself for a solid minute or two. In no way should this appear self-indulgent.

Let's not forget the abundance of creativity oozing from this pint-sized person. Based on this fact, nothing should be off limits as a canvas when you have a crayon, marker or other writing utensil in hand. Give your home some character.

Consider the joy of sticky treats. A sucker, popsicle or gum should be all you need to lift your spirits in an instant. Just think of the weight we'd lose if we reached for one of these instead of that soda or latte? Go ahead - walk into the conference room tomorrow with a popsicle for every attendee. You'll be the office hero, I guarantee it.

Or at least my three-year-old will guarantee it...

with his popsicle-smeared grin.

Which reminds me of the final lesson today from three years of endless wisdom:

Smiles should be as automatic as breathing.

If they're not, you need to find yourself a three-year-old to hang out with.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

A Day at the School Cafeteria...RIP Kiwi Fruit.

I decided to join my first grader for lunch at school today. My first clue that indicated this decision was not my finest was the high decibal of noise upon entering the cafeteria. I really don't think I could eat day after day in that kind of noise.

Kids adapt quite well, though. However, there are some things they simply can't adapt to. Allow me to explain.

I'm not sure what kind of students the administration thinks they have in these schools, but last I checked, mine wasn't Edward Scissorhands.

Because apparently that's what they expect.

I'm in line with my son, curious as to what is being served on this fine Thursday. First stop - fruit. Mmm...the kiwis look quite yummy. They are whole kiwis cut in half. But not peeled, mind you. This is important information to note.

They also have a cup of mandarin oranges, but I pass on those in light of the vibrant kiwi.

Next stop: baked potato.

Hey, I'm impressed. They look pretty good. They're just the right size - not those gigantic ones we stuff ourselves with at a potato bar. Plus they're not crazy hot, just warm enough not to burn those little tongues.

And finally, a stop at the shredded beef sandwich. It doesn't look too bad, albeit plopping it on a bun with an ice cream scoop causes it to lose some of its appeal, but I'm not at the local steakhouse afterall. I'm in a public school.

Now for the critical step of this journey. I meander over to the condiments and silverware section. I consider adding BBQ sauce to my sandwich, but then figure I'd probably just make a mess with it, so I pass. I grab my pad of butter and a fork and...that's it.

Wait a second. Just a fork?

I look at my tray. Kiwi. Not peeled. Baked potato. Not cut opened.

Uh, this is a significant quandary. What are they worried about? Do they think these kids are going to clear their trays and then board an airplane? What's with denying us a simple butter knife?

My son leads me to a table and we slide in next to easily the most obnoxious child I've been around in quite some time.

On a side note: I soon find out this is the same boy that has been picking on my son on the school bus, bullies him to the point of forcing my son to do things he knows are wrong and therefore gets him into trouble.

Bully Boy eats his oranges and then proceeds to make rude jokes while dissecting his sandwich, smashing the meat and poking his potato as if attempting to kill a wild animal.

I lean over and whisper to my son, "Doesn't he annoy you?"

My son shrugs and nonchalantly responds with, "No."

To myself I'm thinking, I've only been here 5 minutes and I want to drop-kick Bully Boy.

But back to my initial dilemma.

I attempt to cut open my potato with my fork. I look over to see my son slowing pulling away layers of his potato peel. I tell him that will take forever, and we don't peel our potatoes with our hands.

I assist and cut his open with his fork too. As I do this I think, When I'm not here, how does he even eat it?

I finish my sandwich - which, by the way...I should have taken the risk with the BBQ sauce because that was some seriously dry beef -  and potato and then pick up my beautiful kiwi.

It really looks tasty. It's bright green. Juicy. Scrumptious.

But with no's also unattainable!

So I grab the only utensil allowed and proceed to mangle my poor little kiwi with that over-worked fork. By the time I'm done, my hands are covered in juice, the kiwi is so mashed and unrecognizable that I feel like there should be a moment of silence for the deceased little thing.

As I lick my fingers to try to salvage some of the goodness, I look up to see about 20 little eyes staring at this crime scene.

And a boy holding his own kiwi with a look of complete bewilderment on his face. He digs in with his fingernail in hopes of shaving back that fuzzy coat.

That wasn't working, so sadly...he just put it back on his tray and got up to leave.

Two kiwis. Two deaths.

One by massacre.

One by abandonment.

Oh dear school dietician, will you please supply knives or else pre-cut the food for these young children who struggle with decent manners as it is?

If not, I will be scanning the lunch menu a lot differently from now on.

If there's a food item that will require slicing of any kind, I will pack a home lunch.

I'm just saying no to kiwi homicide.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Not cryin' over spilled milk

Can someone please explain to me how 4 ounces of milk, once spilled, multiplies itself to a gallon?

I made a poor judgment tonight and let my 3-yr-old stuff a straw into his cup of milk. But the straw was one of those "silly" straws - about four feet long and way too top heavy.

And since the child still hasn't grasped the concept that straws do not magically turn an open cup into a sippy cup, he proceeded to dump the cup of milk all over himself, the table, the chair, the floor, the deck, the backyard, into Canada...well, you get the picture.


It's remarkable, really. How that little bit of milk can flood an area, ooze into every crevice, and cause such a panic.

All because of a bad choice on my part to allow that straw.

But when I tell him a straw is not a sippy cup and he needs to keep the cup flat, his response is, "But I want my head up because I want to see your head, Mommy."

He wants to see my head.

He wants to keep his eyes on me.

How do you stay mad at that?

I sure don't. I may not cry over spilled milk, but I do cry over the delight of my little boy.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The thrill of FINALLY a victory...ends the agony of defeat.


Of all the various teams in the realm of sports, not many actually have the opportunity to claim that title.

This weekend I had the pleasure of attending the State Girls Basketball championship game. My hometown Cardinals were poised to take home some hefty hardware.

And they did.

Of course great joy and celebration ensued at the sound of the final buzzer.

But for a select group of women in those stands or watching at home, there was a huge sense of relief.

For a moment, I think we all let out a sigh and muttered under our breath, "FINALLY."

You see, twenty years ago an assembly of teenage girls laced up their hightops and ran onto the civic center floor in hopes of attaining that coveted championship, too.

But we failed miserably.

No seriously. It was the largest point spread in state basketball history.

Humiliating. We, in a word, choked.

Fast forward to last night - and sure, I'll be the first one to admit we were living vicariously through this incredible team of athletes - and we were redeemed.

As badly as we wanted that championship trophy 20 years ago, before us was a team that would finally snatch it up.

And the comment I made to the coach after the game was, "Thank you for finishing it for us."  He understood because he was the first coach to lead us to a championship. When we were mere 12-year-olds, he taught us the fundamentals of the game, and we learned what it meant to become a team. We won our 7th Grade Tourney under his direction, and thus began the hopeful dreams of one day getting to the state championship game.

So we did it. But like I mentioned, it wasn't pretty.

For twenty years we've heard,"Oh, yeah, you're the team that got killed in the championship game." But that's okay. Let's face it, it's accurate.

It's nice to know after last night a new legacy has begun.

It's highly enjoyable to get caught up in the big game...cheering and laughing and fretting and hoping. They're kids. There's lots of energy. It's fun.

But we understand what they don't yet - that this game isn't everything.

That the pleasure of the game will fade with time, the trophy will get tossed into a box and forgotten, and that newly embroidered "State Champs" jacket will eventually wind up in the back of the closet next to their graduation gown and old prom dress.

That all the excitement, the fun, the achievement...will pale in comparison to one day watching their own daughter play the game, or get that A in algebra, or recover from a surgery, or - gasp - walk down the wedding aisle.

While I loved playing the game, and loved my teammates, what I find even better is peering into small snippets of their lives of today.

Today we're moms, we're career women, we're homemakers and wives. We're tough as nails but soft as teddy bears.

We know the value of hard work. The value of sacrifice. And the value of a TEAM.

Because once you're a part of that, it's something that never leaves you. It's what defines a champion, whether you have the shiny medal or not.

So congratulations, Lady Cards. Victory is sweet. But the journey ahead of you is even sweeter.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Don't Worry. Be Happy. (And yes, you'll be whistling that tune all day now. You're welcome.)

A recent Gallup poll found that my home state ranks #3 in the nation for the highest degree of well-being. (FYI - Hawaii came in #1 and Wyoming was #2).

The poll takers claim that well-being is measured by everything from being happy to exercising enough to having affordable housing.I've got a new one for ya, Gallup peeps. How about 'understanding and forgiveness'?

Within the past couple of months, I have made two - well, let's call them glitches - in my freelance work. One was a photo I took that actually wasn't what I thought it was even though it was published as such.


Of course I felt like a heel and apologized profusely. But the person who called my attention to the error - a reader (yikes!) - simply responded with, "Don't feel bad. Last week the TV station was out here and took video of the wrong thing too."

Whew. It did make me feel better, but I still had an editor to suck up to in hopes of not being black-listed.

But you know what? A week later he sent me another assignment. Now he may have been secretly trying to punish me because the deadline was super tight, but honestly - the guy could have said, "Have this to me in 15 minutes complete with charts and graphs" and I would said, "Yes, sir. No problem!" and had it to him in TEN minutes.

I think I'm back in his good graces now. Dodged a bullet there.

Or maybe there was no bullet.

Because this past week I goofed on a statistic in a story I wrote for someone else. Fortunately it hadn't published yet - it was caught in the midst of gaining approval from the client.

But it was one of those "Duh, of course that's wrong now that I read it again" mistakes.

I figured I was doomed.

But again, I was given more grace with "Don't worry! I did the same thing once..."

Wow. I was relieved for sure, but more than that I was so grateful.

Grateful for people that don't come unglued at every little mistake.

Grateful that I don't need to beat myself up over imperfections now and then.

And grateful I wasn't still in one of my former jobs where simple slip-ups like this would have resulted in verbal lashing from the company VP.

Yes, I had that boss once. The guy who is more interested in placing blame on someone than just fixing the problem.

He was brutal. I often asked myself what kind of person finds such joy in nailing someone to the wall when they could just say, "Don't worry about it. These things happen. We'll make the correction."

I wasn't in my home state then.

I was working in a state that ranked #29 in that aforementioned poll, by the way. So they must have polled at least a few of my former co-workers!! HA!

But truly, there is something to be said for a little empathy in the midst of overflowing in-boxes, impending deadlines and a typo here and there.

I know it sure made me happy. A top-of-the-charts happy, in fact.

(But I'd still take a trip to Hawaii.)

Saturday, March 5, 2011

If Women Had Invented Basketball

Had women invented the game of basketball, a losing team would never feel hopeless for a comeback.

As a good fan does, I carted my three children over to a church league basketball tournament to watch my husband's team fight for victory against a team that - well, let's just say when the ball hit their hands it apparently had some magnetic force pulling it to the net...they just didn't miss a bucket!

It wasn't long and we could tell our team was in trouble. It was then that my fellow fans - wives, mothers and girlfriends - began to acknowledge the tremendous skill and agility of our players.

"We should get points for outrageous moves and wildy competitive efforts," I say.

The girls and I were all in agreement. We began compiling a mental list as the game continued.

One of our youngest players - an athletic college student from the local university powers his way down the court to attempt a layup, only to do a slider, curvy-type move thing that instead of gaining him a bucket - it resulted in the opposing player tossing him into the wall.

My motherly instinct kicked in and I couldn't help myself - I yelled, "He's on scholarship! Don't hurt the boy!!!"

And then my mind shifted. I declared to my girl posse, "He should get points for that!"

Naturally, they all agreed.

Another one of our players hopped through the lane like a rabbit when the ball was stripped from his hands in an vigilant move to the basket.

Impersonating any small rodent: easily 3 points.

The one that really got us gals fired up was a last-second shot my own husband launched from beyond the half line...and it went in!!

But the darn buzzer had already gone off so it didn't count.


Wildly exciting shots originating from the opposite side of the court that go in - regardless of timing: 10 points.

The guy with the incredible vertical jump who slaps the backboard as he attempts to block a shot: 6 points. (Let's face it - we all wish we could do it, so maybe it should even be worth more. Put it in the category of : very few people can actually do that and the fans love it: 15 points.)

And frankly, we're women. We're not just watching for hoops, we're observing the attire, too. Sometimes this type of league play means a team just picks a color and they all throw on t-shirt. The opposing team today chose blue - but every blue was a different shade. Not cool, boys. Not cool. Clashing will not earn you a single point.

Now, on the other end of the our team in identical yellow t-shirts complete with names and numbers. Let's put that at another 3 points.

And when they're clever enough to pair it with black shorts to match the lettering - this is off-the-charts good for a guy. You just earned 2 more points per player.

But we're female - and we love shoes.

So rack up some points for color-coordinated shoes: another 2 points per player.

But we're not always about matchy-matchy, either. Sometimes a schnazzy pair of shoes can turn a mediocre player into greatness, just by sheer fashion sense. So shoes that catch our eye and make us say, "oooh!": 3 points per player.

I'm simply giving points where points are due: entertainment.

After all, that's the whole reason to attend these games. When you're getting beat by 26 points, you have to look a little deeper for the entertainment value.

Had the 'new' rules been in place, it may have been a very close game that we likely would have won. (Our guys have some pretty unique moves! Did I mention the rabbit?)

But I'm optimistic. I was sitting next to the league organizer's wife, and she was completely on board with the new scoring system.

So don't fret over defeat today. Mr. League Organizer will likely have to apologize to his bride someday soon for not taking out the garbarge or leaving his socks on the floor, and she'll tell him how to make it up to her.

Then victory will never be impossible. Just remember to wear black shorts.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

I'll race ya!

He may only be three, but I totally get him.

I'm discovering more with each passing day that my youngest son is a lot like me. Again, he's only three, so that could all change, but as I observe him in new situations - I see myself.

Take, for instance, a new preschool science class I enrolled him in on Saturdays in February. Each week, he joins other pint-sized people to learn some basic science concepts like magnifying images, measurement, and our senses.

My boy is hilarious because he listens to the teacher's instructions and then announces, "I have to tell my Mom!" He runs over to me and gives me the low down. I send him back to join his classmates. And the cycle continues.

He usually has a comment or two to share with his teacher, which makes me smile because my two older children, in the same situation, would have clung to my leg or insisted I stay by their side, or just plain cried to have to participate.

And I grin as I think, "Finally! An extrovert! I gave birth to an extrovert like me!" I can't tell you how relieved I am to have someone else in the house who isn't scared to pieces to walk into a room full of people.

Instead, is practically energized by it.


So I admire his ability to converse and share his thoughts openly, taking part in the activities and even having a solution now and then.

But this week in science class, they played a game.

I saw another trait come out that was eerily familiar.

A competitive spirit.

The children were playing red light/green light, and the winner each time received a card with a picture on it (it went with the sense of sight concept...hang with me here).

He was a trooper for the first several attempts. But he's a little guy - the class is for three- to five-year-olds, so he is on the low end of that spectrum and he got beat repeatedly by some older kids. Well, he really wanted a card. So much so, that after about game five, facing defeat yet again, he turned around with a frustrated look and stomped over to me.

"I'm not playing anymore. I never get a card!" he whimpers.

I respond with, "If you don't play, you'll never get a card."

As if a light bulb came on, he marched back to the starting line.

Still no win, but he seems willing to try again.

At this point the teacher is noticing some inequality as one little girl sits with three cards while three wee ones are cardless.

She decides to give anyone who doesn't have a card a hefty head start.

Finally, my kid has a shot.

But he positions himself poorly and comes in second.

"I'm not playing!" he announces as he runs to me, trying desperately to hold back the tears.

I tell him he has a good chance now, there's only two of them that get the head start.

He grudgingly heads back to his advance starting line.

This time he wins.

Oh, the JOY!! He grabs the card and runs to me, waving his prized index card with a blurry black and white picture glued to it with the kind of pride only a three-year-old could exhibit.

He was so mesmerized with his trophy that his late start on the final run didn't even bother him.

As relieved as I was to see him finally win a card, I was hit with the realization that I was watching myself...

Because I've never played anything believing I would lose. Even as crazy impossible it may have been to win a race or game, I rarely recall a time when I thought I couldn't possibly win. Why play if there's no chance of a win?

And losing...well, there better be a shoulder available to cry on, or...I have been known to get mad and throw things.

Sure, I have the mentality of a preschooler.

So be it.

The boy and I will thrive on competition.

And when we do win - hey, we're extroverts. So we'll throw the best parties.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Just make the music stop.

This is a tale of good intentions gone bad. Very bad.

Months ago, I had heard about a wonderful little program offered at our local home improvement store where children can come with their parents on a given Saturday and build something from wood - a train, a car, a basketball hoop. This particular weekend, the craft of choice was a Valentine's music box.


Yeah, that's what I thought.

Until I naively scurried into the store with three children, thinking one parent could pull this off.


Each child is now armed with a bag of wooden pieces, a hammer, and the tiniest nails known to man.

We try to find a place amidst the swarm of children to spread out and build our masterpieces. But the crates that line the aisle are much too high for small children, so every tiny tot is plopped on top of them. Not exactly conducive to workspace.

I eye a low shelf near the floor and guide my children toward it. It's an appropriate height for them, but I'm cramping up as I try to stay in a squat position.

At any rate, we rip open our bags and are ready to get started. I grab the instructions and am immediately confused. I begin to feel a tinge of panic.

Child #1 is already demanding to know what to do first.

I tell her to wait while I read the instructions...after all, we'll want to do this right.

Child #2 is wiggling with anticipation, trying to convince me to just hand  him the bag, that he knows what to do.

Right. You know what to do. Without reading any instructions. You are certainly a MAN in training, aren't you?!

Child #3 is simply happy to bang on everything in sight with his new pint-sized hammer.

I pound in the first nail and hand it over to Child #2 to finish.

Ditto for Child #3.

Child #1 is livid that she gets no attention.

An employee comes by and asks if we need help.

Glorious! I thank her and request that she help Child #1.

At some point said employee departs and Child #1 is whining.

Meanwhile, nails are in the wrong places, wood is split, and Child #3 has wandered into the shelving unit, bonking his head repeatedly on the lumber above.

Child #1 bellows.

I glare at her and through clenched teeth I bark, "There are THREE of you and ONE of me!"

I receive a disapproving look from another mother nearby.

Yes. I am failing at motherhood at this moment. Thank you for pointing that out, ma'am.

I go back to trying to construct three music boxes simultaneously. It is a losing battle.

I look up to see a father and his giddy son set up shop next to us. Literally within minutes the boy is happily holding up his perfectly designed music box.

I am annoyed.

Because I look down and see three boxes - none of which were put together properly. Child #3's is still virtually in pieces. Child #2's has a lid that doesn't close. Child #1....well, she was kind of on her own, so it's a shambles. Another employee comes by and gives her a brand new kit to take home. Yeah, it was that bad.

I hang my head and fight back the tears. I really wanted to watch the excitement in their eyes as they built something beautiful with their own hands. I really wanted to pat myself on the back for broadening their horizons, challenging them while at the same time cheering them toward a sense of accomplishment.

Instead, we walked out with three heaps of junk. Because Mom was outnumbered and frazzled.

As we march back to our vehicle, I vow never to return. But my children insist on going again.

I can't imagine why! They enjoy seeing their mother at her worst?

And as if the guilt I felt wasn't enough, I am now enclosed in a car with three incomplete music boxes. Which means all three are playing the music - and cannot be shut off. And the music is horrifying.

It sounds like the dramatic underscore of a scene in a Lifetime Original Movie. It plays over and over.

It is haunting me - I am certain I hear it say, "You - are - a - bad - mother - You - are - a - bad - mother..."

I just want it to stop. 

We're headed home and Child #1 says, "Mom, can we go to McDonald's?"

Without even an ounce of hesitation, I shout, "YES!" and crank the wheel toward the golden arches that will redeem me.

So sure, three mangled music boxes may have proved I am an unfit mother. But three Happy Meals certainly turned things around!

Later that day their father managed to salvage the pathetic music boxes and patiently helped our children finish constructing them the correct way.

I was grateful that joy returned to their faces, but I'm still not a fan of that horrifying tune. It's such a harsh reminder of my ineptitude, and I simply don't want to star in a Lifetime Original Movie. Let's face it, it never bodes well for the mother figure in those shows.

The next building project is in two weeks. They're supposed to make race cars.

I'll send their father.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Marvelous Menu...Kid Chaos.

I'm not really much of a cook, but I have befriended two amazing cooks who are teaching me the wonder of flavors and textures and all the goodness that can come from a kitchen.
One has a wonderful blog of her own -- chock full of yummy recipes -- and it has made my life a little easier because when I want to meal plan, I just go to her blog and cheat. (It's listed in the right column of this page - diary recipe addict - so you, too, can cheat.)
Sometimes I expect a bit too much of myself, however. Case in point: Wednesday.
I had aspirations of cooking up a storm. Dinner would be fantastic.
At 2:30pm, I am whipping up some 'quick' cookie bars to top off the meal I will soon prepare. But with a 3-year-old's activity level, even throwing those ingredients in a bowl - and note, I made them bars not cookies - because that's too time consuming! - is full of interruptions.
Things get crazier an hour later when my two oldest children arrive home from school.
Herein is where I develop a new-found respect for my foodie friends. They too have young children. And yet they cook glorious, gourmet meals virtually every night.
How is it possible to cook like that and still be a mom? Here's a peek into the two hour time span from 3:30-5:30 in my house on Wednesday:
Menu: Smokehouse chicken with potato bundles and steamed carrots. 
The recipes read like a dream. I'm salivating through the entire meal preparation process.
But the children are home from school, and as usual, are ravenous. But I prepared. I had their snacks ready and waiting on the table. However, it wasn't enough food for them so they're begging for more.
I have to stop the numerous food projects I have going at the moment and get them more snacks, but not the kind of snacks that will ruin their appetite for this divine meal I'm making.
My 1st grade son needs to paint 100 hearts on a t-shirt to wear the following day for the 100th day of school, so he's in the corner of the kitchen with heart-sponges and acrylic paint..and I cringe because his little brother insists upon hovering over him and I have visions of red paint handprints dotting all my walls if he gets too close.
Of course this is also the time we must start homework, so I'm reviewing spelling words, setting timers for reading...
Meanwhile, my 3-year-old wants his Spiderman suit on. But he's potty training so we need to use the toilet before covering ourselves up in a full-body suit. This is never a short process.
The other two children are now crying for attention, wanting help with homework and begging to use the computer to do whatever it was they were doing at school on the computer today.
I say no to the computer. I get a tantrum.
I ignore it and go back to meal prep. Within minutes Spiderman proclaims, "I need to go poopy!" Another long process.
Successful toileting and he wants his candy reward. Done.
I go back to meal prep and two oldest children want to go outside to work on their fort. I let them go. It is frigid cold out there, but I want them OUT.
Soon they are bellowing from the door for me to put on boots and help them break up ice chunks outside so they can continue to shovel their cave. I run out quickly and fulfill their request only to be asked to finish their 'igloo.' Uh, nope. I have chicken on the stove, gotta go.
Tantrums ensue. Again, ignored.
I come inside and Spiderman wants to play cars. I sigh.
Then by the grace of God, I hear the garage door. Father arrives home. YES!
He plays cars with Spiderman while I finish getting food in the oven only to be interrupted by the sound of door slams and two children crying at me for being so cold that they need heat and blankets and how could I be so cruel to let them go outside in such frigid temperatures and why didn't I tell them to come in or not to go out because it is so cold?!?
I'm in the midst of chaos...
And then all those kids eat -
are the carrots.
Thursday night: Frozen pizza and mac & cheese.
I'm not even kidding. I admit defeat.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

A photogenic chest cavity. The highlight of my week.

As I tried to think of what I would blog about this weekend, a variety of topics flooded my mind. So instead of trying to narrow it down, I've just decided to share them all. Basically, none of them are worth writing an entire blog on, so I may as well shove them together.

Okay, thought number 1:

A few weeks ago I developed a sinus infection which then contributed to a nasty cough. I was coughing so hard I woke up one morning unable to move due to the pain in my chest. In short, it felt like my lungs were too small for my ribs. So with every cough (and there were MANY), it felt like my ribs were cracking.

This was debilitating enough to get me to a doctor.

I was diagnosed with "pleurisy." Essentially, the lining of my lungs was inflammed. I was put on antibiotics and some prednisone (anti-inflammatory).

Problem was, I couldn't do anything. My exercise routine came to a screeching halt since any amount of movement accompanied by heavy breathing put me in excruciating pain.

A sneeze was a near-death experience.

Mornings were the worst - I had to shimmy out of bed because sitting up was impossible.

My 3-yr-old didn't care that picking him up meant Mommy would be clenching her teeth and brought to tears.

So, with multiple urgings from my friends, I headed back to the doctor.

Chest x-rays and multiple blood tests later, and the doctor says, "You've got me stumped."

On a side note - she said my x-ray pictures were 'perfect' and 'beautiful.' It's nice to know I'm beautiful on the inside! lol

But she figured either I had inflammed connective tissue between my ribs or my lung lining was still inflammed (although the blood tests supposedly ruled that out). So now I'm on a massive dose of prednisone. I did read one of the side effects can be weight loss so I'm really hoping for that...although a couple paragraphs down it reads, "may cause puffy face."

Super. I've got gorgeous ribs but I'll have the face of a balloon animal. I think I'm going to turn myself inside out.

Good news is I think the drugs are starting to work. The pain is manageable for now. I guess I'll hit the gym tomorrow and see what happens...

Okay, thought number two:

I know I've blogged about this before, but it still baffles me when sudden blasts of reality hit me - namely, my age.

I met a young man - an early 20-something - this weekend, and when he introduced himself, I recognized his last name. I cringed as I asked this, "I know I'm old when I have to ask this question, but who are your parents?" Sure enough. He gives the names of a couple I remember with small children. Uh, this 'child' is well into adulthood now.

On the way home, I tell my husband I can't believe that he could be that old. I remember him as a toddler! My husband hangs his head and replies, "That's nothing. I knew his Dad before he was even married."

Ugh. Just sign us up for AARP cards already.

It didn't help that tonight I spent some time putting Christmas photos into albums and had some significant catching up to do (as in, I haven't been diligent to do it for a few years, so there was a large collection of photos) and as I started sticking in graduation and senior pictures of my nieces and nephews - my eyes scanned the pages preceding each one.

Photos of them as babies.

I still vividly remember the outfits they're sporting.

And then the cute early elementary photos. The braces and bad hair of the middle school years. Finally the transformation of a baby-chubbed kid into a beautiful/handsome young adult.

**SIGH** How come 18 years seems more like 18 months to me?

And final thought...

My 8-yr-old is sportin' such a strong 'tude lately you'd think she raced through some years and was more like 14.

The latest phrase I've come to despise: "It's none of your business."

Huh? She's 8. I'm her mother. Everything she thinks and does is still my business, isn't it?!?!?

It's that horrific moment in parenting when you wonder, "Should I be firm and tell her it definitely is my business and she better start talkin'" or pull the compassionate card saying, "Oh, honey, I know you're struggling with something, but you know you can talk to me about anything."

Eventually I try them both.

And eventually they both work.

But she's 8. I'm thinking my luck with that will run out in a few years.

It's just hard to believe that moment the doctor held up that baby with girl parts and my heart burst with joy ...would be so quickly snuffed out by her 2nd-grader-style bad attitude.

So I'm sick. I'm old. And I'm a lost parent. Maybe I'll trade my prednisone in for some anti-depressants!

What a week.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The trauma of a pretty smile.

I am so envious of my kids. They have no idea how good they've got it when it comes to a visit to the dentist.

When I was a kid, sitting in the dentist's office was like waiting on death row. Nothing good ever came of it.

Problem was, I was that innocent little baby that sucked her thumb only to then require retainers and braces to correct the effects of that thumb-sucking. Talk about being punished for a little self-soothing!

My dentist was mean.
My kids' dentist is kind.

My dentist was insulting.
My kids' dentist is encouraging.

My dentist figured novacaine was entirely optional.
My kids' dentist will do anything to eliminate pain.

I am thoroughly envious.

At my dentist's office, there were various rooms which were equipped for different types of care.

To me, they each represented their own level of pain.

One room had flowery wallpaper. No drills or frightening equipment. This was the room used for a simple, pain-free check up. Maybe a cleaning. I'd sigh in relief when I was escorted to that room.

Next there was the room they took you to if you were most likely going to get some pokes - but nothing too terrifying. Small amounts of pain were inevitable, but manageable.

And then there was the room that brought great trepidation and trembling. My entire body tensed up immediately upon entering. It was the Raggedy Ann and Andy room. That wallpaper screamed 'TORTURE.' It is here you knew it was only a matter of time. You would be writhing in pain. No question.

To this day my stomach does a flip and a flop whenever I see a Raggedy Ann or Andy doll, painting, fabric, whatever. They're now synonymous with pain in my mind.

The additional problem I had was that my dentist had a daughter the same age as me with identical teeth issues. She was a thumb-sucker too, and she needed retainers and braces just like I did. In fact, we began treatment around the same time and therefore our check-ups were often similar in nature.

This did not bode well for me. Here's why:

Dentist's Daughter was a tough little cookie.

I was not. Or at least this is what he led me to believe.

My dentist would be killing me with his sharp instruments - I was certain Raggedy Ann & Andy wallpaper was used solely because the pattern could hide all the blood stains - and while I'm sobbing for relief he scolds me, "I just did this to my daughter last week and she didn't cry at all! Come on, this doesn't hurt!"

Some bedside manner that one had.

I never actually knew going to the dentist didn't have to be painful until I was in college. I needed my wisdom teeth removed, so I found a local dentist to do the job.

I was emotionally preparing myself for the agony. I put the memory of Raggedy Ann and Andy out of my mind as best as I could and I went for it.

And you know what?

It didn't hurt at all! The guy used some stuff to numb the pain of the stuff that would be used to numb the pain. Like a one-two punch to pain. Very nice.

What a novel idea.

He didn't scold me.

He didn't rip my lips into shreds with his latex gloves and then later say, "Oh, you'll need some vaseline."

It was - dare I say it - a pleasant experience!

My kids are so fortunate because it has always been a pleasant experience.  They get to watch a monkey brush his teeth. They get toothpaste flavors like strawberry and cookie dough. The hygenist asks them about things they like. And when they're all done, they get to choose a prize from a box.

All I ever got when I left the dentist was a disapproving look and a "come back in two weeks."

Yep, my kids have it much better than I did. And boy am I glad!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Aiming to be 'diaper-free' by...2025??

"Who left a smooshed chocolate chip on the bathroom counter?" my husband bellows.

I'm in the kitchen with my 3-year-old at my feet as I reply, "Uh, hon. We're potty-training. That may very well be something other than chocolate."

I hear a disgusted groan and a long run of the water as my husband frantically tries to clean his fingers.

But then I remember I baked some cupcakes earlier and let our 6-year-old lick the bowl. "Oh, it actually could be chocolate," I reassure him.

That's life in our house currently. "Surprises" could be left around any corner, under any table. Because when it comes to potty-training, I am unbelievably inept at this aspect of child-rearing.

Truthfully, I despise the entire process.

First of all, you're supposed to determine when they're 'ready.'

Gimme a break. When are we ever ready to lose the ease of relieving ourselves whenever and wherever we want to? Sure, he likes his "big boy" underwear but if he's in the midst of watching a rivoting episode of Clifford the Big Red Dog, keeping Spiderman or the Incredible Hulk dry just doesn't rank very high on his priority list.

And I'm left cleaning a couch.

It never gets any easier either.

With boys, you have to decide whether to teach them to sit or stand. Some moms swear standing is easier, others believe in sitting - where they're helping them avoid the bickering with their future wife about leaving the seat up.

I've found both techniques to be useless. Because aim isn't good in either position, I come armed with Lysol wipes either way.

And then there's the consistency factor.

In a perfect world, you would never leave home and the child would have access to the bathroom at any given moment. Timely relief. Consistent training. Poof! They're out of diapers.

I don't know about you, but I don't live in that world.

In my world, it's the constant dilemma of deciding whether to let the child wear his underwear when Mommy has a gazillion errands to run knowing she'll be slowed down considerably by either frequent potty breaks or a very likely "accident."

It's deciding whether to inconvenience a babysitter by asking them to continue the potty-training in your absence or to make it easy on them and pull out the trusty diaper.

It's all very stressful to me.

I'm on my third attempt now, and since my first two children are still trying to master the skill  in some respects, I am not hopeful for speedy success with my final child.

In fact, I was pretty lazy about the whole thing with this one. He was nearing age 3 and I hadn't done much more than pull out the potty seat.

I guess when you dread something, you'll put it off as long as possible. And I think I have good reason to dread it. I don't have a great track record.

With my first child, when she hit age 2, I was all over it. I bought two kinds of potty chairs to give her "options." I bought the princessy underwear. I had the reward jar filled with M&Ms. I was cheering like she had won an Olympic Gold when she so much as tinkled in that toilet.

But she was 3-1/2 before she figured it all out. Oof. A year and a half of trying everything I could think of, reading everything about potty training I could get my hands on, and taking advice from every "been there" parent I knew.

With my second child, I foolishly thought I'd had it down. I waited until he was closer to 3, and then, promising myself I'd be patient, I took on the challenge.

I remember WAY too many instances of watching a puddle form beneath my son as he stared up at me with his big blue eyes as if to say, "Am I in trouble?"

Believe me, my patience wore thin.

Since he and his sister are just 19 months apart, much of the years-long potty-training was happening simultaneously. We pretty much couldn't go anywhere without four changes of clothes per kid. If anyone served my kids juice, it meant I'd be doing a lot of extra laundry in very short order. It went right through them back then.

It was humiliating at times. Go to someone's house for a nice dinner and end up asking for the carpet cleaner four times and "Any chance you saved some of Johnny pants was he was little? We've used up all our spare clothes."

This has been the toughest part of parenting for me. Hands down.

Give me a kid who pukes all over me for three straight days and allows me no more than two hours of sleep a night for a week. Because that's short-lived. It's painful at the time, but within a week or two, you're laughing about it.

Potty struggles? Nope. Haven't laughed once.

I am honestly in awe of parents who say they got their kid potty-trained in a day, or they had it mastered in a matter of weeks. I can't even fathom that.

Because I'm in the midst of this challenge again. Some days are good. Other days are bad. I've got carpet cleaner within easy reach these days, and the washing machine gets a work out.

I don't even let my mind drift into thinking about the day we'll be diaper-free, because I'm realistic. I will probably keep a box around until these kids graduate from high school.

And I'll keep double-checking that "chocolate."

Monday, January 10, 2011

Thanks, Jimmy. I owe you one.

It's been a day. I normally don't dread Mondays now that I'm a stay-at-home-mom. Frankly, all the days kind of run together. But today was SUCH a Monday.

I rushed off to the gym  like usual in the morning with my 3-yr-old in tow, sans diaper. He's enthralled with his superhero underwear, and loves to use the toilet, but only if I tell him to use it. That's called mother-training, not potty-training, I think. *sigh*

But the staff in the child care area of my local gym are quite good at the potty routine, so he rarely has an accident there. However, today the child care area was full when I arrived.

It was 8:45am.

And they were already full. I was aghast.

It's because of those people with new year's resolutions to lose weight and exercise. They come in and take my usual spot! Oh, for it to be the end of February when all those good intentioned resolutioners have given up and gone back to eating McDonald's and watching their DVRs.

Any other day I would just have taken my little underwear-sporting son into the gymnasium and played some basketball as we wait for a spot to open for him in the child care.

But today I needed to register my two older children for basketball. It was opening day of registration, and the line was crazy long. The management of the gym looked like deer in headlights as they scrambled to help people register their kids.
I would later learn that this type of register turnout was unprecedented - they weren't prepared for such a mass of people.

Lucky for me, the big man on campus is a friend of mine and when he came out of his office to assess the situation, he came up to me to find out my story.

...Because I obviously had a look of distress on my face as I tried to maintain my spot in line while pleading with my son to 'stay by mommy.'

As I begin to tell him my plight, I don't get much beyond, "the child care is full but..." and he's giving me a reassuring look, a "hold on one second, I'll fix this" gesture and off he goes. Soon the child care area is in process of adding staff, and he's attempting to keep the masses happy by offering cups of coffee.

Someone bellows, "Where's the donuts?"

He replies, "Donuts? Good idea. I'll have those next time!"

I find myself unable to even be slightly upset with the directors and staff. They're all so good-natured and obviously taken aback by the multitudes this morning and yet bending over backwards to serve.

And then...FINALLY...I get to the counter. It's my turn! I have managed to keep my active child from putting his entire head into the nearby garbage can or running out the doors into an icy parking lot and still kept my place in line! Hooray!

But victory is fleeting.

Just as I'm giving the name of my first child to the kind staff person, my little companion says, "Mommy, I have to go potty!"

Now I am torn between "Oh, why NOW?" and "WOW! You're actually initiating this! I'm so proud of you, son!"

But I look back at the long line, look at my squirming son and turn to the registration person and in desperation cry, "We're potty-training so I HAVE to get him to the bathroom," as I dash off.

Only to get to the bathroom and hear my son say, "I'm wet."


Since this is my third child I am prepared - spare clothes are tucked in my bag. As I start to peel the soaked clothes from his body, one of the child care workers pops her head into the restroom to say, "We can take him now!"

As tempting as it was to just dump the half-naked child off on someone else, I did get him cleaned up myself and got him settled into child care.

And when I returned to the line to attempt registration consisted of...


So had I just dawdled about 30 more minutes at home this morning, I could have avoided ALL of that nonsense.


My frustrations would not be left at the gym, however.

I would return home to various messages in relation to my freelance work that only left me more frustrated. And after school when I shared the good news that I had my children registered for basketball, that news would be received with "No! I'm not playing basketball! Basketball is boring!" from my daughter. My son was overjoyed, which is the response I was hoping for from BOTH of them...but it was not to be!

I knew my daughter wasn't thrilled with the idea of playing basketball but I didn't have all the reasons why. So we talked about it.

She doesn't like crowds watching her.

She doesn't like a game with "so many rules."

And then she mumbled something about basketball being for boys...

As a former basketball player myself, that one hit a nerve.

"I played basketball! And our team was really good!"

And then I remembered...I have the tape!

I proceed to say, "After you take your shower tonight, you can watch me play basketball when I was in school."

My daughter is thrilled with watching home movies of herself as a baby, so the idea of seeing her mother in her - ahem - younger days sent her happily skipping to her bathroom to bathe!

We weren't too far into the tape (VHS - wow, I had to go out to the garage to find the ol' VCR) when my kids' own commentary began.

"Why is your hair so big and curly, Mom?"

"It's not just me! That was the style. Everyone's hair is poofy."

"You look"



"Sweetie, I was young. This is 20 years ago."

But after just one quarter: progress. My daughter was impressed and I think maybe a little excited for someday having her own basketball video.

Although it had nothing to do with the points I scored, the announcer saying my name, or a flashy uniform.


It was because of a brief pan of the camera onto the Cardinals cheering section.

Center stage. A young Jimmy Kleinsasser. Standing, cheering, whoopin' it up for his big sister's team.

I pause the tape to show them this boy who is now a professional football player for the Minnesota Vikings.

And my daughter's jaw drops and exclaims, "You mean a big-time football player was there cheering on MY mom?!"

Er, yeah. Kinda.

But I was going with it. Because it may just get her on the basketball court!

And that, after all, was my goal from the start.

Day. Redeemed.