Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Date Night Without the Kids, Please (Yours or Mine)

Last Saturday was date night for my husband and I, compliments of our neighbors who offered to babysit for us. (Thanks, you guys!) We decided to go out to eat at Chino Latino, a place I've heard tons about and have only ever had appetizers at, and my husband has never dined there.
Some of the reviews of Chino Latino on Yelp, OpenTable and other sites have these things to say about it:

Great late night hot spot
Excellent wine list
Vibrant bar scene
Fantastic happy hour

My husband was impressed from the moment we walked in -- the ambience is vibrant, energetic. It was contagious. We got a table along the windows so we could look out at Hennepin Avenue with all its hustle and bustle and talk about how much we love living in the city.

Over the din of the crowd I heard a familiar noise, one I didn't expect to hear; the sound of a toddler whining.

Sure enough, two tables over I see three couples out to eat, along with a baby in a baby carrier and a toddler. It is 8:30 at night in downtown Minneapolis.

Now, I know my kids have been in restaurants rather late, especially while vacationing. But they have never been in a restaurant at that hour that looked like this:

Or this:

Or had people sitting at the next table banging their fists on the table and doing shots (yes, it's one of the signature drinks Chino Latino serves to the very bravest of drinkers.)

All we could do was mutter, "Get a babysitter."

I don't know what the back story is, and I'm sorry that I'm being judgmental. Maybe their babysitter fell through and they didn't have the heart to cancel their dinner out with good friends that they've already had to re-schedule three times. Truly, for the most part their kids were well behaved outside of the toddler whining (which is like nails on a chalkboard to me).

And yes, I've been the mom with the kid who has the temper tantrum in the middle of the store. My children have left more food on restaurant floors than they've ingested. I've apologized to tables next to me for the behavior of my kids while dining out. But these happened at places like Perkins or Applebee's and usually well before 7 pm. If these parents absolutely had to take the kids out to dine at that hour, I would've made a last minute change to something a little more kid-friendly.

I was going to let this go but then I hopped over to Colleen's blog "Keeping Her Cool" today only to see a post on the same topic, only she was less judgmental than I was. And nicer. I'm not in a nice mood today, apparently.

We parents need our kid-free time, and we go to nice restaurants later at night with the expectation of getting that kid-free time. Please help make that happen. Thank you.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Summer Of Fridays, 1st Installment

I have managed my time off at work in such a way that I have most every Friday off this summer. Last summer was laden with guilt at cajoling our children out of bed early in the morning, making them go to bed in broad daylight, and dropping them off at a program they didn't want to go to. I was committed to having a better summer this year, starting with only four days of a structured program. So this is the first in many installments documenting our summer of Fridays.

While I had last Friday off, it didn't feel much like it, since we spent the day doing laundry and packing to head to Tracy for the weekend. So yesterday definitely felt like the first Friday off of the summer. 

Lindsey's ready to empty her container and keep picking.
I planned a strawberry picking outing and we headed out with Lindsey's friend Emma and her mom, Cassie. We couldn't have chosen a better day. It was beautiful, not a cloud in the sky, with temps in the mid-70s.

Marissa's little container probably never had more than 3 berries in it; she would collect a few, show me how pretty they were and then eat them one by one.
Marissa shows one of her picks.

Lindsey and Emma get down to business.
Lindsey and Emma appeared to be in a berry picking race, going up and down the rows and picking the easiest berries, filling their containers and running them back to Cassie and I to dump into our larger trays. We gathered enough we pronounced the group done, and headed a mile down the road to the St. Croix Bluffs Park to enjoy our picnic lunch that we had packed. This was a beautiful park with a great picnic area, lots of trails, a playground and -- best of all -- nice facilities.

We ate, the girls played on the playground, and we headed back in the afternoon. I processed most of the berries for freezing, gave some to our neighbors and made homemade strawberry shortcake for dessert.

And it's only Saturday. I'm so thrilled.

Pick one, eat one, pick one, eat one...

Friday, June 24, 2011

Little House in the Big Woods

This past weekend we actually took the girls sight-seeing while visiting the in-laws in southwestern Minnesota. I say "actually" because it seems that no matter whose parents we're visiting, his or mine, we sit at their house on our butts, visiting away, and never visit the area where they live.

We went to the Wilder Museum in Walnut Grove, MN, the neighboring town where my mother-in-law was raised. And someone else lived there for a few years, too, you may have heard of her: Laura Ingalls Wilder.

As a little girl I adored Laura Ingalls Wilder. Adored. I have a little bonnet someone made for me that I used to play pioneer girl in; it has now been passed on to my kids. My sister and I used to walk around the house with a blindfold on so we could experience what it may have felt like to be Laura's sister, Mary, who was blinded by an illness in childhood. (We also played piano with said blindfold on -- it takes practice but we got pretty good.)  I read the entire Little House series something like 5 or 6 times between the ages of 8 and 18. I still have the entire set, ready and waiting to pass on to one of my kids once they show an interest.

We now have an interest.

Covered wagon, actual size. Pioneer wagons were 4'x10' and had to carry everything a family needed.
The museum is set up with miniature building built like the various places featured throughout the books: the church, school house, sod house, and other such places. Throughout the displays we learned about how they made butter and cheese, cleaned clothes, cooked with a woodburning stove, and other strange things. The girls didn't pay much attention to those, they were too busy running from building to building, pretending to be the schoolteacher, the preacher, the mom.

Giddy-up, horsie!
While some items are behind ropes or under glass, others are ready for a hands-on experience. After a fun time running from building to building, we headed back to the gift shop where Lindsey picked out her own bonnet.

And a book.

She was a quarter of the way through by the time we made it back to Wayne's parents house 20 minutes away. She would've been further along but she had to share the stories with us along the way. I remembered lots of them as she recounted them: Pa mistakenly had a stand-off with a tree stump that he thought was a bear, Laura's corn cob doll, waking up with snow on the tops of her bed covers.

I now have an assignment this weekend: dig through the books I've saved in the basement and find my entire collection so she can begin book two.

I can't wait to share Laura's adventures with my girls.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Can you Fake a Blog?

Is it considered cheating if my last two blog posts were Wordless Wednesdays? Things that I've thought about writing about lately but haven't:
  • Father's Day in Tracy, Minnesota
  • Visiting the Wilder Museum in Walnut Grove with the girls
  • Lindsey discovering the Little House Series (see previous idea on Wilder Museum)
  • Sending my children to a 4-day Spanish immersion camp when they've never taken Spanish before (I imagine they spend the whole day looking quizzically at the teachers who are rattling off the day in Spanish thinking "WTF" only they don't know to think "WTF" yet)
  • The continual battle against lice which we are #WINNING
  • My dad's current health challenges (which is hogging my worry time, let me tell you)
But instead, I will leave you with a link to someone else who clearly has more time and energy to write real blog posts instead of a listing of ideas for blog posts which may or may not get written.

Get the tissues, you are going to laugh so hard you will cry. And that's what everybody needs, a good freaking LAUGH.


This writer has gotten over 800 comments on this blog post since posting it yesterday. It is spreading via Facebook like wildfire. Expect demand for 5-foot metal chickens to go up. Way up.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

I Finished the Book (In Case You Were Wondering)

That book that's been on my sidebar for months? You know, the one I got for Christmas?

I finished it.

I finished it some time ago, actually, I just have been too lazy to go out and change the picture to what I'm reading now.

After having read Volume I of Mark Twain's autobiography, I have to say that I am not sure I will buy Volume II when it is published. I will have to re-read Volume I, because it probably took me about half the book to figure out how to read the book.

Good old Mark told me, he told me how to read it in the 70-page introduction of which I read the first 5 pages. I read in the introduction and in several reviews that Mark didn't like the standard format of autobiographies, how they "begin in the cradle and drive you straight into the grave." No sir, he wanted to write exactly what was on his mind at that moment, regardless of relevance or timeliness.

And that's exactly what he did.

It was about halfway through the book that I realized what I was reading was a series of prose, of short stories about random things. And once I began letting go of the fact that he would reference events that hadn't yet been described to the reader, and trust that I would learn about it later on, or that I was supposed to just enjoy each little story for what it was, I began to like the book.

His writing reminds me so much of my dad's -- it is ALL about the tale you tell, not the facts. He also grasps the most unusual things to wonder upon, like his daughter's love of theatre. His description of an evening of entertainment that his daughter provided to a dinner party he and his wife hosted was both touching and sentimental, like my dad's writing.

He wrote brutally about the ignorance or untrustworthiness of certain business associates of his -- no wonder he wanted his book to be published 100 years after his death. He also wrote with fascination about General and President Ulysses S. Grant, a dear friend of his.

But the best story of all had to be the one he told of being a 12-year-old boy, working the printing press of the local newspaper.

He and the other press boys had just set all the type for a booklet that a minister in town wanted published on the newspaper's press. They called the minister down to proof the book, and the minister realized he had left out the words "Jesus Christ" in one critical reference to the Savior. In order to fit those two words in, young Samuel Clemens and friends would have to re-set the last four pages of the book, because all of the words slid onto the next pages all the way to the end of the booklet.

Instead of taking on that painstaking work, Sam's friend decided to shorten it to "J.C." to try to save their afternoon so they could go swimming instead of re-setting type. But alas, when the minister came back to proof it he found the abbreviation of the Lord's name, chastised the boys for taking the name in vain and admonished them to set in Jesus' FULL name when he came back to proof it once again. And so they took on the task of setting in the full name of the Lord and re-setting the remaining pages as well.

When the minister came back a third time to proof the book, there, just as he insisted, was the Lord's full name:

Jesus H. Christ

Sam and friends ended up working the entire afternoon again anyways, but as Sam says in his autobiography, "That was the best reason of all to miss an afternoon of swimming."

Monday, June 13, 2011

Why There Are No Photos of My Parents' Visit

Because my mom and stepdad are angels sent from heaven. As such, they cannot be photographed -- mere humans would never see them.

My parents were scheduled to arrive on my children's last day of school, to watch our girls on Thursday and Friday when we didn't have daycare but both of us wanted to save our vacation days. Two days before their scheduled arrival, Marissa was sent home with lice.

On Tuesday, she was sent home with lice...again.

On Tuesday night, my previous post on my imaginary itching was proven untrue -- I did indeed have the little buggers in my hair. At 3:30 am I found myself de-lousing myself in the bathroom, liceMD kit in one hand and comb in the other.

And to top things off, after checking her for two days and declaring her lice free, on Wednesday Lindsey's hair finally began moving of its own accord as well.

My laundry room was knee deep in laundry both clean and dirty. All our pillows and stuffies were in garbage bags tied up tight in the porch, and both girls were one pair away from being completely out of underwear.

And then my mom and stepdad arrived, despite my having called them ahead of time to warn them that we had lice in the house. They didn't cancel, they didn't say "let us know when it's all gone." They showed up, did loads and loads of our laundry, combed and picked all three of our heads, and didn't shudder at the thought of these nasty little bugs (even though I am still).

In between domestic chores inside the house, they managed to sweep out our garage, organize the kitchen pantry and plant 92 marigolds along our walkway.

And then, before leaving on Saturday morning, they threw one more load of laundry in the wash.

Angels, I tell you.

There are no pictures because, really, who wants to see pictures of children getting their heads picked, or of all the laundry, or of the nit combs all lined up like soldiers after being sanitized.

But most of all, I didn't want to singe my parents' angel wings from the photo flash.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Last Day of School!

Lindsey getting high-fives from her fellow 2nd graders, soon to be 3rd graders.

At Lindsey's 2nd grade celebration.

How did my baby girl get to be so big?

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Playing Head Games

We got the dreaded call from school on Monday, the one that we managed to avoid all winter only to receive in June: lice.

Pick up Marissa, please, she's got bugs crawling in her hair.

If you didn't know this about me, I am squeamish about bugs. Especially ones that feed on humans, like ticks, fleas and lice. Anything that's tiny but sucks blood and transmits disease makes me shudder and cringe.

My husband got the call first so he picked her up and we met at home. He began the process of cleaning and de-lousing Marissa, while I began the process of stripping her bed, pulling all the soft things out of her room and cleaning.

We eventually shifted responsibilities: I finished the de-lousing while he made dinner.

I then went for an evening haircut appointment that I had made weeks earlier. I warned my stylist that my daughter had come home with lice that day. She bravely went forward with the haircut as scheduled and informed me that if she had found anything in my hair she would have to stop and send me home too. The fact that I walked out with a nice cut and style made me believe she didn't find anything.

I picked up new brushes and combs for all the family members on the way home, we put the kids to bed and went to bed ourselves.

And then it began.

The itching.

The crawling feeling.

The belief that my head was covered with bugs.

I tossed and turned. I scratched even though I tried not to. I eventually got up and sprayed a tea tree/water mix on my hair, which not only reduced the itching but is supposedly hated by lice everywhere.

Finally, my alarm went off and it was time to face the day after a fitful night of sleep.

I took my pillow case off my pillow to begin re-stripping our bed and rewashing sheets, only to find the cause of the itching: little tiny hairs from the haircut that collected on my pillow.

My brain had me convinced that I had lice.

Just to set my mind at ease, I did a lice treatment on myself this morning as well. Because I'm sure that if I hadn't, I would be spending my day at work scratching my head, believing that I had creepy crawlies on me.

We humans are great at head games, aren't we.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

On the Shores of Dana Lake

Best summertime memory?

Vacation in Upper Michigan, at a tiny little inland lake called Dana.

The land has been in our family since the 1950's. My mom remembers her father building the original cabin by hand, and can tell you where the outhouses were first situated before the indoor plumbing went in. Eventually in the late 1980's my grandparents added on to it and made it their year-round home. The original cabin is the one-story section on the lefthand side. It is approximately 800 sq feet, but we managed to house a family of four and a golden retriever in that cabin summer after summer.

My mom and her siblings tell funny stories about their shenanigans as kids, learning to waterski, jumping off the dock and scaring each other in the woods.

I have my own memories of silly leaf hats that my mom made from the massive trees taken from the forest. They only lasted a day before they dried out, but they were fun to wear. I remember that there was a dead tree near the house that most of the bark had fallen off of, but the tree was still standing. We used to spin tales of how that tree died -- was it struck by lightning one dark and stormy night? Did a sorceress cast a spell because the tree somehow did her wrong? Perhaps a family or owls, or ooo! bats! lived in that tree now.

I and my cousins played in the sand beach and make miniature rivers down to the shore, with a town of sand castles lining the river, lit by sparklers brought out by the 4th of July.

My mom waged a never-ending battle against the sand that would enter the cabin with every child's entrance.

My parents would play cards with my grandparents at night while us kids ran in and out to the firepit, making s'mores and telling scary tales.

The sound of the screen door banging shut was music to my ears but bone-rattling to my parents and grandparents.

Sunrise over Dana.
Now, I have seen my own kids making memories at Dana Lake: wading in the water, fishing off the dock, taking a pontoon ride along the shore, looking at the waterlilies and ducks along the way.

Marissa's toes in the waters of Dana Lake, summer of 2007.
This land may not be in my family for much longer, but in a little more than a month we are headed there again, for more memories, more laughs.

The best part of my summertime childhood memories is being able to re-create them for my kids.