Monday, October 24, 2011

Career Aspirations

When we were out with kids this weekend, the conversation of their future careers came up.

MJ is going to be a rich and famous author (a la JK Rowling or Rick Riordan). She will have loft apartments in NYC, Paris, and Rome. And she has agreed that AJ and I can be the caretakers of her Rome residence.

Mr T wants to be a rocket scientist. He has promised to take me for a ride.

The Z-Man says he is going to write Elephant and Piggie books* when he is grown up. He has already been throwing around titles. "I Found a Hole" and "Come On! Come On! It's Time for a Playdate."

*If you don't know what these are, and you have a 2-7 year old, you must immediately find these books. Our favorites are I Broke My Trunk, Elephants Cannot Dance, and Should I Share My Ice Cream? We love Mo Willems in our house!

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Friday, July 15, 2011

Rain + Shutdown = Lazy

You might not be able to tell from the photo, but all morning, it's really dark out and raining heavily. Since I am not a critical employee to the Minnesota state government, I have been on shutdown vacation the last two weeks. This week, I was busy taking the kids to fun places, but today it's been lovely to lay in my bed reading a wonderful book, listening to the rain, while my kids play on the computer. There's a deal in the making, so I'll probably be back to work next week.

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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Playing Poohsticks

"Pooh had just come to the bridge; and not looking where he was going, he tripped over something, and the fir-cone jerked out of his paw into the river. 'Bother,' said Pooh, as it floated slowly under the bridge, and he went back to get another fir-cone which had a rhyme to it. But then he thought that he would just look at the river instead, because it was a peaceful sort of day, so he lay down and looked at it, and it slipped slowly away beneath him, and suddenly, there was his fir-cone slipping away too.

'That's funny,' said Pooh. 'I dropped it on the other side,' said Pooh, 'and it came out on this side! I wonder if it would do it again?' And he went back for some more fir-cones. It did. It kept on doing it. Then he dropped two in at once, and leant over the bridge to see which of them would come out first; and one of them did; but as they were both the same size, he didn't know if it was the one which he wanted to win, or the other one. So the next time he dropped one big one and one little one, and the big one came out first, which was what he had said it would do, and the little one came out last, which was what he had said it would do, so he had won twice ... and when he went home for tea, he had won thirty-six and lost twenty-eight, which meant that he was - that he had - well, you take twenty-eight from thirty-six, and that's what he was. Instead of the other way round.

And that was the beginning of the game called Poohsticks, which Pooh invented, and which he and his friends used to play on the edge of the Forest. But they played with sticks instead of fir-cones, because they were easier to mark."

--A A Milne, The House at Pooh Corner

Everytime we walk around the lake, we have to stop and play Poohsticks.

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Spring in Minnesota

Oh, how I adore spring. Everything is green and vibrant. Flowers are blooming, and the smell when it's raining? Divine. And winter is still months away.

We have really been enjoying a path through the woods very near our house which has been preserved because of a creek that flows through the area. I love the feeling of an alternate world, seemingly so far away from the suburbs, that is just outside my front door. It's like a secret place, which few people visit, and where signs of civilizations are rare. Mr T has been my partner in exploration.

This is a conversation we had on this path. The context was what we would do if we needed the bathroom when we were on the trail.

Me: "Did you know that astronauts can't take all the water that they need for a trip into space, and so they have a machine that can convert pee into water to drink?"

T (with a twinkle in his eye): "That is so gross...but so awesome at the same time!"

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Thursday, June 09, 2011

Schizophrenic Weather

Monday and Tuesday this week were HOT. Very hot for the Twin Cities. It seemed like our lawn went from lush green to seared brown overnight. The high here on Tuesday was 103. That is the hottest day in the Twin Cities in 23 years! Today, it's chilly out--53 degrees. I chose a dress and sandals, and when walking in to work realized that I had underdressed. Luckily, I had a hoodie in the trunk. I'm sure I'll be wearing it all day.

Weird. Very weird weather.
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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

If you take a kid to soccer...

All my kids have liked the "If you Give a Mouse a Cookie" books. One small thing happens, which leads to something else and then to something else, until you have a whole wacky string of events. Sometimes real-life random events with kids feel like they come directly from these pages, but not in a fun kind of storybook way.

Here's ours from last night and this morning:

  • If you take a kid to soccer, he will run around a lot and need to drink a lot of liquids.
  • When he comes home, it will be time for bed. If he and his little brother can't go to sleep in the same room because they goof around too much, he will go to sleep in his parents' bed.
  • If all the kids finally get to sleep before 10, mom and dad will bask in a quiet house and try to get things done.
  • If they take a long to come to bed, they will leave the soccer boy slumbering in their bed without taking him to the bathroom one last time. And just seconds before they come to bed, the soccer kid will expel an amazingly large amount of urine all over himself and his parents' bed, all without waking up.
  • If the soccer kid wets all over himself and his parents' bed right before his parents are about to collapse into sleep, the dad won't feel like taking the time to find a entire new set of pajamas and will put soccer boy into the lower bunk bed with his little brother in only his underwear and with only one blanket.
  • If soccer boy is sleeping only in his underwear in his brother's bed, he will try to steal the blanket because he is cold.
  • If the blanket stealing happens early in the morning, little brother will not be sleeping deeply enough to ignore it and he will wake up and start screaming "My blanket!" over and over even though he went to sleep far later than he should the night before.
  • And if your kid wakes up at 5:30, chances are you will not be able to go back to sleep, even if dad got up to take care of him. And even more likely, chances are that your kid will be cranky all day.

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Sunday, May 15, 2011

I want a relaxing weekend!

May is a crappy month for Mother's Day. There is too much end of the school year stuff going on to really be able to relax. I think I would prefer the third Sunday in June. Why did they pick May anyway? So we could all wear our spring hats?

We have been going full speed ahead for a while now and I don't feel at all ready for another week to start. This is a summary of our last 8 days.

  • The day before Mother's Day: Dance Recital, two performances. All in all, the total time committed there was from 2 pm until 10 pm
  • Several soccer practices/games.
  • Soccer pictures.
  • Belt testing for karate.
  • Karate tournament.
  • School dance festival.
  • Piano recital.
  • Stake Relief Society meeting.
  • AJ out of town for two days.
  • And then there's just the normal: work, homework, practicing, feeding, clothing, and church stuff.
I'd better go do something relaxing right now so I don't simmer with resentment all week.
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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Anna Quindlen on Reading

And a book provides what it always has: a haven. I remember the first year after my second child was born, what I can remember of it at all, as a year of disarary, of overturned glasses of milk, of toys on the floor, of hours from sunrise to sunset that were horribly busy but filled with what, at the end of the day, seemed like absolutely nothing at all. What saved my sanity were books. What saved my sanity from disappearing, if only for fifteen minutes before I inevitably began to nod off in bed, into the dark and placid English rooms of Anita Brookner's newest novel, into the convoluted plots of Elmore Leonard's latest thriller, into one of my old favorites, Breakfast at Tiffany's, Goodbye, Columbus, Our Mutual Friend, Wuthering Heights. The romantic ramblings of Heathcliff make a piquant counterpoint to dirty diapers, that's for sure. And as it was for me when I was young and surrounded by siblings, as it is today when I am surrounded by children, reading continues to provide an escape from a crowded house into an imaginary room of one's own.

---From How Reading Changed My Life

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Thursday, March 24, 2011


A couple of weeks ago, we were at MJ's school to pick her up. Z wanted to walk down the stairs inside the school by himself (though usually he wants to take the elevator and push the buttons BY HIMSELF). Z was up by T, while I was a few steps above them. Then, Z tripped and fell. Oh my. Luckily, he was able to catch himself and only fell down a few stairs rather than the 10-15 to the bottom. The image of him falling head over heels and my powerlessness to do anything about it makes me quake.

He cut his lip in the fall. I grabbed him and he was spurting blood everywhere and screaming. We raced to the bathroom where I tried to apply pressure and wipe him up but he didn't want anything on his face. He just kept wailing. We ran to the car, called Andy, who was on his way home, and told him to meet us at urgent care. He was going to need stitches. As we were driving, he was very distraught. He wanted Andy. He asked me, "Why didn't you hold my hand when I was going down the stairs??" (knife to the heart). MJ kept saying, "It's OK." His response: "It's NOT OK!" I told T, the jokester in the family, to help him feel better, but all he could say was, "I can't look at it! I can't look at it!" Finally, he started talking to Z while looking the other way.

We got to urgent care and checked in, but as soon as the nurse saw how deeply his lip was cut, she told us that we should go to the ER where he would have to be sedated. By then, Andy had met up with us, and Z was calmer. He kept asking for a Sesame Street book, but we had to settle for an Elmo sticker.

Andy ended up taking him to the ER, and I went home with MJ and T. It took them a long time at the ER, and they didn't inform them that he couldn't be sedated if he had eaten. Of course they're going to eat, since it's 7:30 at night. So, by the time they finally got into a room and were seen by a doctor, they had to do the fish hook stitches without sedation anyway. They also didn't have to use the papoose to strap him down. He did great and they finally made it home by 10:15.

Watching my child tumble down the stairs, I felt the shock of how fragile life is. I focus on getting through the days and weeks, making sure homework is done, taking care of responsibilities, but in an instant, that illusion of stability and predictability could be shot to hell. I just kept thinking that it's amazing that we've made it this far without any major accident, illness, or other disaster (the Japanese tragedy has also been weighing on me). I felt really emotional about it for quite a while afterward.

Fun fact that we learned in this whole process: lips are made of a similar material as guts. They completely regenerate themself over a short period of time. We were amazed at how fast his lip healed up. Five to six days later, you could scarcely tell anything had happened.

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Still Winter

After a warm-up, with lots of rain, yesterday and today provided us another blast of winter. It snowed another 6 inches--that awful heavy, slushy snow, and there are giant slushy puddles everywhere. Though, with the overnight temps well below zero, they are frozen puddles. I got stuck in the parking lot at work, and our front steps still need to be shoveled out.

To take my mind off of spring in Minnesota, I am thinking about our spring break trip to Mexico City next week. Just me, Andy, and MJ. The boys get to stay behind with their grandma. It's not the beach, but temperatures have been in the 70's there.
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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

I Love Efficiency

In a matter of 15 minutes, I managed to get my oil changed, mail two packages, deposit a check, and get my lunch. Does that ever make me feel good!

Plus, it's a no down-coat day. Maybe down-coat season is over! It is 50 degrees out and it is heavenly.

Every time we have had a parent-teacher conference for MJ, the feedback has been 100% consistent. She is doing really well in school, but her personal management skills need work. She forgets to bring home her work and she forgets to turn in her work. She loses her snow pants. She leaves her lunch box on the playground. She sometimes has a hard time following teacher directions, mostly because she isn't listening very well. She likes to chat it up with her friends.

As a kid, I was a typical first child. I was a pleaser and over-achiever. I thrived on competition in the classroom setting. I liked to get my homework done and turn it in. I always listened to what the teacher said and then quickly got my work done. I liked to be the first one done and remember the thrill I felt turning in pages of math before anyone else. Not only could I be first, but then I could sit in my desk and read my book while everyone else continued to toil away. So, it's a little hard for me to understand MJ sometimes. I just don't get why you wouldn't walk into your classroom, hang up your coat, and turn your homework in, day in and day out. I like predictability and I like efficiency. I don't like to meander. I don't like to dawdle. And sometimes, I have a hard time when my kids do.

Last night, I saw MJ do something that amazed me though. She was working on a writing assignment for English class. She sat down, and soon had the beginning of an elaborate story about a leprechaun whose fate was to change the future with his friendship and bravery. The ease with which she constructed vivid images (I especially liked, "A silvery curtain of hair cascaded down her back") and the sophistication of her writing were surprising to me. I have a hard time with creative writing. I can't really think up stories to tell, and my kids have learned to ask their dad if they want an on-the-spot made up story. Whenever I try, they feel clunky, stilted, and predictable. So, I don't really try.

I really liked seeing a flipside to MJ's meandering and unorganized personality. It helped me understand her better and appreciate her more.

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Sunday, February 20, 2011

wintery blast

This past week has been lovely. The temperature was up into the 30's and 40's--quite balmy around here. Our ice dam on the roof and all the ice that had built up on the side of the house melted. Our road into our neighborhood dried up completely for the first time since our December blizzard. It almost felt like spring was coming.

But, ha. That was just a trick of Old Man Winter. Today is another blizzard, with 12-18 inches of snow.

Nice joke.
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Sunday, February 13, 2011

Happy Valentines Day

I like cute as much as the next person. But, I'm not artsy-creative, I don't have patience for working with kids on projects and I hate cleaning up their messes. Plus, I don't like cutesy.

That's why these are brilliant. So simple and so fun. We'll do these again next year too.
T's turned out perfectly. But, I couldn't get the Z-man to extend his arm straight at the right level with a fist, so his wasn't as good. Nonetheless, I'm pretty darn proud of our efforts this year. Too bad MJ's school party was on Friday. I didn't come up with this plan--or in other words decide to steal wholesale from another blog post--until Friday.

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Friday, February 11, 2011

Night Out

A long time ago, in what feels like a different galaxy, I was living in Provo , working on the last year of my master's program. After living for several years in the same place, I had recently moved. Because my roommates and I were all at least 25 years old, we weren't bound by the rule mandating that girls and boys couldn't live in the same section of an apartment building. So, we lived in a condo on a hall with three apartments of boys.

Across the hall were some guys that we liked to spend time with. I had started to develop a secret crush on one of them, which was just plain ridiculous because he had recently had a crush on my roommate and because he was quite a bit younger than me and because there was no way that he would ever reciprocate the feelings. But, we hung out.

In January of that year, this guy casually asked if I wanted to go see the Utah Symphony play a Rachmaninoff piano concerto, and I casually said yes. I don't remember all the details, but it seemed like he backed out because of a snow storm, allegedly bad enough to make driving to SLC too difficult. I didn't get a chance to talk to him about it--this was in the days before cell phones--but he left a note at my apartment. Then he spent the whole night in the computer lab, working on some kind of homework assignment. I was mad at him because I felt like he was treating me a little too casually. We were going to this concert, then he backed out rather thoughtlessly. That made me all the madder at myself that I was liking him. He wasn't treating me like a real date, he was treating me like a casual friend.

AJ has never lived that down, even though we've gone to several Rachmaninoff concerts since then. We get to go to another one tonight. A friend of ours plays french horn for the Minnesota Orchestra. He knows that AJ really loves the bombastic Russian composers who favor compositions that prominently feature the low brass. And so, when a Rachmaninoff and Shostikovitch program came up, he emailed to ask if we wanted tickets.

It's been a while since we've been out for date night. It's hard with little kids and lots going on. But, tonight we'll go to dinner, and then go listen to the amazing Rach 3. I'm really looking forward to it.

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Wednesday, February 09, 2011

February in Minnesota

It was -27 with the wind chill on the way to work, according to the radio.

A few months ago, I discovered a new to me band--Storyhill. I heard them on Prairie Home Companion. The band consists of two men, who started performing together in high school in Bozeman, Montana, and then later moved to Minnesota where they continued performing. They have a Simon and Garfunkel kind of sound, a folksy sound, with amazing harmonies.

One of their songs begins, "This year the winter will not break me."

That's been my mantra during this latest cold front. I have been doing pretty well. January seems like it should be a deep freeze, plus I was really busy with work. By February, though, I start to tire of the down coat and heavy scarf and gloves, the messy mudroom with dirty snow melting on the floor. I want a little more warmth. We are supposed to get up in the 30's over the next few days, and I mentioned it to AJ. I suggested that it might be the "end of winter", or at least the end of the bitter cold. He told me that it would probably get cold again and I got really mad at him. I need to maintain my perhaps delusional thought that the worst of winter is over.

I have no desire to stay here forever and I hope we can find a way to move in the next few years.

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