Sunday, January 30, 2011

Tummy Trouble?

This day started off with a bad stomach ache, not a great way to start a day. I decided to ignore it. Mind over matter, right?

It went on all day, a dull, throbbing ache that didn't get better or worse whenever I ate. And while I managed to function, to drive one girl to and from a playdate, take a neighbor's dog for a walk and run some errands, it started to run me down.

Finally about 5 o'clock, after playing yet another round of Uno Attack with the girls, I put my head down on the dining room table to rest. I was reminded of those grade school days when we had to put our heads down on our desks for one reason or another. As an adult looking back, it seems so uncomfortable but we didn't seem to mind it at the time.

Imagine my surprise when I fell asleep in this position. I was soon awoken by a little finger prodding my shoulder.

"Mommy, what are you doing?" Marissa asked.

"Sleeping," I said. "I don't feel good."

"But Mommy, who's going to make dinner? If you don't make dinner, we won't eat and then we won't grow."

"I'm pretty sure you'd still grow even if you didn't eat dinner," I said, "But I'll make dinner."

When I got up from the table after eating, I immediately got the chills and a headache. I am now going to bed.

Friday, January 28, 2011

The show at the show

Last evening our family went to see Babe at the Children's Theatre Company. Both of our girls had attended plays before with school groups, but we've never taken them to one as a family. Wayne had a friend from his running group who was in this production and he wanted to see her performance. So we bought our tickets a few weeks ago for this evening.

We arrived in plenty of time, got our tickets and found our seats. Soon enough the lights went down and the show began.

I couldn't keep my eyes on the stage.

How could I possibly take in the play when my girls were so fun to watch?

Their eyes sparkled. They gleamed with excitement and laughter. My youngest sat incredibly still, taking it all in and laughing at all the funny spots. My eldest sat on the edge of her seat, a slight smile on her face the entire time. Every once in a while she would lean over and hug her dad's arm in excitement.

Every time there was a scene change and the stage went dark Marissa asked if it was over. If people clapped at the end of a particularly funny part she asked if it was over. And finally, when it was over, she still had a look of amazement on her face as we were walking out.

I loved every minute of my show. The play was really good, too.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Good morning, sunshine! Or...not.

I have recently been reminded that I am not a morning person.

I have a hard time waking up. I hit the snooze at least once or twice, and I don't really function at work until I've had at least one cup of coffee.

Apparently this is hereditary.

Lindsey usually wakes up first - no alarm needed. She is usually smiling and ready to get out of bed and eat some breakfast.

NOTE: Photo may have been re-created, thus the illusion of smiling while sleeping.

And then there is Marissa.

Photo of actual sleeping child.

"Go away, Mommy!"

She is grumpy. She does not get out of bed until cajoled. Her first word isn't actually a word, it's a grunt. Her second word is a louder grunt, and her third sound is a three-word sentence: "Go away Mommy!"

She has to eat breakfast at school because she spends half an hour lying in bed and runs out of time to eat at home. There is a last minute rush for her school bag, boots, ponytails and the like.

Wait a minute...I eat breakfast at work because I don't have time at home. Wayne will tell you that often my first words aren't words, and my second words aren't understandable. And I usually leave the house 5 minutes after I thought I would due to last minute searches for papers, dress shoes or outer gear.

I guess I know which girl takes after me. I already feel sorry for future college roommates.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Video by Lindsey, Future Director

While I was at an appointment this evening the girls got a hold of my camera and shot this video. By the time I got home they had played it back several times, giggling the entire time.

Wayne had no idea what they had been up to, even though you hear him laughing in the background. I've mentioned previously how he has this amazing ability to focus, regardless of what's going on around him. This was another example of his talent; at least this time no one ended up with green paint in her hair.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Capturing Joy

I downloaded photos from my camera recently and came across a batch that my daughter had taken while having a playdate with her friend. I love the innocence and silliness that she captures.

I can just imagine Dax the long-suffering dog, sitting patiently watching the girls' shenanigans, waiting for the door to open so he can escape into the quiet of the rest of the house.

Dancing is an important part of every playdate. A requirement of life, really. Wouldn't all of our days be better if we all just danced without a care in the world? And didn't mind if someone took pictures to capture the joy?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

A Benefit of Old Fashioned Heat

We've had quite a winter - I feel like I've been perpetually cold for 2 months. My workplace is often cold, our house can't seem to keep up, and I don't own enough sweaters for days of the week. I torment our girls by putting my freezing hands on their faces and any other exposed skin I can find, just to hear them squeal.

Our 1928 home is struggling to keep up with the weather. Despite the maintenance we've done over the years, some windows are incredibly drafty and the walls are cold due to lack of insulation. We have pre-chilled dinner plates every night for dinner, since they come out of the cupboards freezing cold. (Even when what we really need are warmed plates.)

But there is one cold weather benefit to our older home: the radiators.

That's because we use them to warm our clothes up before dressing. This is what you'll see any morning in our house as we're all in various stages of getting ready.

Before we leave the house I put my sweatpants and socks on the radiator so they are toasty warm for me to put on as soon as I get home. Aahhh!

I think even our radiators will be put to the test soon though. The forecast calls for -14 air temperature tonight, a daytime "high" of 5 above.

Bring it on; our radiators are ready to rock.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: The Battle Is Lost

Our patio light, Dec 12. 
Same light, Dec 23.

On Jan 16 - the snow won the battle.

Let me just say this: it's been a snowy winter.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Name That Tune, Any Tune

Think back to your earliest memory, to some of your first impressions in life.
The first thing I remember
I was lying in my bed
I couldn't of been no more
than one or two.
Maybe it was a book that was read to you over and over, or a special toy you played with for hours on end.

Jesus, I am overjoyed
To meet you face to face
You've been getting quite a name
All around the place.
Or, if you're like me, it's a song. Or two. Or two hundred.

Five Hundred Twenty-Five Thousand
Six Hundred Minutes
Five Hundred Twenty-Five Thousand
Moments so dear
Five Hundred Twenty-Five Thousand
Six Hundred Minutes
How Do You Measure - Measure A Year?

My iTunes account has 2,350 songs in it, and I can sing probably 80% of them when I hear them. Isn't that amazing? Actually, it's not. A quick Google search on the number of songs a person memorizes indicates that I'm about average.

Just a small town girl,
Livin' in a lonely world.
She took the midnight train going anywhere.
As a grade schooler, I remember a weekend when I was stuck inside the house because I was sick and my parents spent the day doing chores outside. They had an 8-track playing (yes, I remember 8-track) of the soundtrack to Jesus Christ Superstar. The only other 8-track I could find was John Denver's Greatest Hits, and I spent the day alternating these two 8-tracks on the stereo. They heard it here and there as they passed through the house throughout the day, but I listened to both albums, over and over.

Pick any John Denver hit, or any track from that controverial play, and I will sing it back for you.
Look up on the wall baby,
hand me down my shootin' iron
Call your mother long distance,
tell her to expect your body home.
Okay so I didn't really want to shoot myself, but I did learn most of the lyrics to Stevie Ray Vaughn's songs on the day he died in July 1991, when his helicopter went down in Alpine Valley WI and the Milwaukee radio station I was listening to played only SRV songs for the next 24 hours. I hadn't heard his music before, but fell in love with it and have been listening ever since.
I like that boom boom pow
Them chicks are jackin' my style
They try to copy my swagger
I'm on that next shit now.
And my musical memory continues to grow, as I discover more and more new music. What would happen if we put facts to those melodies? Imagine how smart we would be. Instead, we've captured our own lifetimes in snippets of silly, stupid, somber or serious songs. None are exactly like the other, making us all unique in our musical memories.
You always reached out to me
And helped me believe
All those memories we share
I will cherish every one of them.
I think I'd rather have a musical lifetime of memories than a bunch of facts set to music in my head. 

Psst. Without scrolling back up, how many minutes are there in a year?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Frugal Family's Winter Getaway

This past Sunday the forecast was for a high of 10 degrees. While there was no snow predicted for that day, we had certainly already gotten our share and were expecting more this past week (we got it).

My toes and nose are cold from November until April. Our shoulders instinctively hunch together when we step outside, and Lindsey's feet are peeling from being perpetually covered in socks, slippers or boots.

We are all suffering from cabin fever in a big way, despite the coldness in our bones.

Our solution?

No trips to Cancun for us, no flights to the Dominican Republic. Instead, we head to the Waterpark of America for an entire day, and that's where you could find us this past Sunday.

This is the only picture that I have of our time there. For once I put down the camera and didn't try to document our adventures but instead just enjoyed our family time. The park was warm and humid. Humid, I tell you! And while eventually I got cold from being in and out of the water in less-than-tropically warm water, the girls never stopped sliding, and playing and jumping in the water, so they remained warm.

It was just the winter break we needed. No passports needed.

Monday, January 10, 2011

You Lost Your What?

As parents, we've all been there.

A long work day leaves us short on patience by the time we get to pick up the kids at the end of the day. Add to that the complexity of having to gather up snow pants, coats, hats and mittens to make what should be the most enjoyable part of our day, reuniting with our kids, the most stressful part.

Tonight I watched a parent berate their kindergartner about losing her coat. She truly had no idea where it was. You could see the bewilderment in her eyes, and soon you could see the tears as her dad went on and on about how she could possibly lose her coat, of all things. He didn't raise his voice any louder than I would have -- as a matter of fact if it had been me, I probably would've gotten louder. I would've gone on longer than he did. But he went on long enough to bring his daughter to tears.

I sympathized with both of them. I could sympathize with the kindergartner, being berated loudly and publicly by her dad, for something she didn't remember doing. And I could sympathize with him picking up the kids after a long, perhaps stressful work day, with this becoming one more issue to add to his pile of stress. I wanted to reach over and give them both a hug, to tell them that it wasn't the end of the world.

We've all been there. And, about an hour after witnessing that event, I was there myself.

We were in the next stage of evening stress: the making of dinner, which somehow happens between requests for snacks, for something to drink, between show-and-tell of projects and homework and stories. Lindsey had been finishing a project when I picked her up so she continued it at home, pulling out the paints and painting an additional "room" to her puppy home.

Marissa decided she wanted to paint too, at which point she promptly spilled the entire cup of now black water used for rinsing Lindsey's brushes, splattering water all over the floor and the chair and table legs.

A little history lesson here: Marissa spills. A lot. If a cup of water sees Marissa coming the water leaps out of the cup of its own accord to save her the trouble.

I took a deep breath and heard "Don't yell, Mommy! I'll clean it up! I'll clean it up!"


I hand over paper towels.

Cleaning commenced, and I was able to calm down while Marissa cleaned up the mess. But clearly her expectation was that yelling would ensue. I pictured that harried dad in my mind and could see myself in his place, over and over again.

We all lose things -- coats, mittens, and occasionally our cool. I am working towards keeping my cool as often as possible.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

A Clucker of a Dinner

I arrived home later than usual one evening this past week with a meal that had yet to be made. There were leftovers for Wayne and I but I still had to make something for the little ones, and not a huge one that would create tons of leftovers going bad in our frig.

I scrounge in the frig and freezer for items: no chicken nuggets. There are fish sticks, but not enough for a meal. They had pasta for lunch so that was not an option. I thought we'd have to resort to take-out when I realized I could MAKE our usual take out meal: chicken and broccoli stirfry. Perfect.

Since we're having a mix of leftovers and a freshly cooked meal Lindsey decides it's restaurant night, so she begins making up menus while Marissa dons an apron and calls herself the chef. She helps me every step of the way, too, stopping when it came time to cut up the chicken.

She watches me cut up a chicken breast and says, "Mommy, you're hurting it."

"Honey I can't hurt it, it's dead."

"What was it?" she asks.

"It's chicken," I say, and Lindsey and I begin making clucking noises, because we're sensitive like that.

More and more questions about the chicken, what color it might have been, how long it lived, why did it die, why do we eat it, what part are we eating, and so on.

I make up the chicken and broccoli part; Lindsey nibbles on a piece of chicken and declares it edible. We serve up the stirfry on their plates and sit down to our various dishes. Lindsey tucks right in, shoveling rice and stirfry into her mouth - clearly a winner with our picky eater.

"Do you have everything you need?" I ask Marissa, who seems to be picking at her meal.

"Yep," she says, "I have grapes, rice, broccoli...and animals," poking at the chicken at the last word. She took a piece of chicken and says, "I think I taste furry."

We all burst into laughter, Marissa most of all. But surprisingly, she ate her animal and declared it good.

Marissa eating something other than a chicken.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

An Open Letter to Samuel Clemens

Hey MT, I wanted to let you know you've created quite a stir in your wake.

But perhaps you knew you would do that.

After all, you asked that your autobiography be published 100 years after your death in 1910. I would too, if I held your beliefs long before the rest of the country. I also would fear retaliation against my kin if I believed in the worth of all humankind the way you did when it was not the accepted position of the time. Your belief that all people are created equal -- regardless of skin color -- was pretty radical for your time. And your tongue-in-cheek way of showing that ignorance, by highlighting racial inequities in your writing, was lost to many both then and now.

I have to say, when I first read "Tom Sawyer" and "Huckleberry Finn" in junior high and high school I was not inclined to start calling black people "niggers" or Native American "injuns" because it was written in your books. Instead I questioned those words, wondering why it was they were given to people with skin a different color than my own. It wasn't until I later read "Cowslip" that I understood the impact slavery had on people. As an adult my reading of "The Known World" and "The Narrative of the Life of Federick Douglass" deepened that understanding. I can't wait to dig in to your autobiography, now that it is finally out, to uncover more of your thoughts on the "situation" at the time.

Now people want to sanitize your writing, to remove the words that you purposefully included to highlight the thinking that was ingrained in people's minds at the time, the wrongs that were being done. The inhumanity is clear without using such awful words, people say, why inflame the situation by using those words?

Because today they ARE terrible and at the time that you wrote them, they were not.

So I will advocate that we leave your writings as they were written, to make bare to the world how far we have come.  Thank you, Mark Twain, for giving us something to debate and challenge for generations beyond you, for generations to come.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

"Any Time of Year" Resolutions

Ringing in the New Year, Dec 31 2010.
This may seem surprising to some, but I've never really made personal goals for myself. Professional ones, sure, lots of those, some of which have been realized and others of which are still a pipe dream. But I'm not usually one of those people who sets an annual goal for myself come January. I'm not planning on losing 20 pounds, getting out of debt or quitting drinking (heavens, no!).

Resolutions are created to be broken, in my opinion. And what's so special about January anyway, that makes you want to do something then? Why not September, or whenever the thought pops into your head?

This is the time of year, though, that I tend to look back at the year that was and reflect on whether or not I've made any progress on the objectives I've set for myself.  It turns out that many of my on-going goals are also some of the most popular New Year's resolutions. Who knew that I was so predictable?

1. Spend more time with my family. Done. Well, maybe it's a work in progress, but my job change has done a lot for me in spending time with my family. Not being on the road on a nearly-weekly basis has been incredible for all of us. It's allowed me to have a social life, my children to spend more quality time with me and my husband to take his running to a new level.

My next iteration of this is to spend more quality time with my family. I can honestly say I spend too much time glancing at my iTouch, reading the latest Twitter feed or commenting on Facebook. I love social media, but I need to have conversations with my kids while looking them in the eyes.

2. Be more patient with  my kids. Hmm, maybe there's a connection -- I start spending more time with my kids and suddenly I need an extra helping of patience. Kids can test anyone's patience and mine seem to have a knack for pushing mine to the limit. This was one Wayne and I both had to commit to so we could literally tag team a situation before one of us lost our cool. It feels like we're making progress and our kids tend to get on the straight and narrow before my ears start steaming like tea kettles, but this is an on-going mission.

3. Learn how to sing or play guitar. Belting out tunes while driving alone in my car doesn't count as singing, at least not in my book. I'm not looking to be the next pop star, but I wouldn't mind being able to hold a tune in such a way that it doesn't make my kids say, "Mommy, stop singing."

If not that, then I would really like to learn how to play guitar. I nearly got guitar lessons for Lindsey and I but then it fell through and I haven't pursued finding a different teacher. It's on the list.

4. Get more competitive with my skating. I surprised myself by completing a half-marathon inline skating race last summer, and averaging 14 mph in the race. (Go 14 mph in your car, then imagine doing that on skates with no vehicle surrounding you.) I learned that I underestimated myself, that if I had the courage to get out there I would be quite competitive and have a damn good time, too. I plan on discovering more of the biking/skating paths through the Twin Cities, and also doing my first full inline skating marathon this summer.

5. Read classic books. I realized several years ago that my reading list was so long and my free time so short that I would never in my lifetime read all the books I wanted to read. In my lifetime. Every time I turn around I'm putting another book on that damn list, but only taking one or two off every month.

Life is full of choices and I realized I was filling my head with garbage. Entertaining, schlocky garbage, but garbage all the same. I decided that I would pick one book every other read that would be a classic, something I either was forced to read before but didn't enjoy, or one I've never had to read but probably should. After all, why not expand my horizons instead of reading yet another vampire series?

This year I devoured more novels by John Steinbeck, my new favorite author. Love, love him. I discovered "Anna Karenina" by Leo Tolstoy, the first Tolstoy I've ever read. I read "Giants in the Earth" by O.E. Rolvaag and "The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass," which was heartbreaking in its truth.

I re-read "Walden Pond" by Henry David Thoreau, which I had to read in high school but didn't understand. This time I highlighted passages -- his philosophy only makes sense to those who have been on this earth longer than 17 years and comprehend life's brevity. I read "The Sun Also Rises" and another Ernest Hemingway, then re-read a William Faulkner which was just as senseless the second time around as the first.

For Christmas my dad gave me Volume I of the autobiography of Mark Twain, just published, at his direction, 100 years after his passing in 1910. It's massive, 650 pages of text alone (approx 50 pages of appendices, indices) in what looks like 9 pt type. Apparently there are two more in the works (thus the designation "Volume I.") Can't wait to dig in.

So I guess I do follow the typical New Year's resolutions: spend more time with friends and family, learn something new, and get fit (not necessarily in that order). I just don't decide in January to do these things. Guess I'll report back next January and let you know how I did!