Monday, August 29, 2011

First Day of School 2011

Who are these little posers? Where did the big grins go, the ones where you can practically hear "CHEEEEEESE!" by looking at the photograph? And really, who taught these girls to pose this way?

Today marked the first day of school for the Minneapolis school district. Marissa is now in full-day class as a first grader, and Lindsey is now in a different building as Marissa.

Marissa didn't seem phased by all the preparations. She wasn't nervous or scared, she was just excited and couldn't wait to see her friends.

Lindsey, on the other hand, was nervous about being the lowest grade in a big school (her school is 3rd through 8th grades). She was nervous about the "big kids," and didn't know where she should go in the morning for Minneapolis KIDS.

This all melted away when we walked in the door and she immediately saw two of her best friends hoola-hooping in the cafeteria. Turns out the cafeteria is where the Minneapolis KIDS group hang out. They showed her where to store her backpack, then grabbed another hoola hoop for her.

What a way to start the day!

Marissa has a little bit of a different day, in that we were unable to get her enrolled in Minneapolis KIDS. So I went to work and Wayne went back home with Marissa and she played happily with her toys until it was time to go to school. He escorted her straight to her classroom and helped her turn in school supplies, then put things in her desk and get settled. (Thus no pictures of Marissa's start to the day.)

I can't believe it's back-to-school time already. I am so thankful that I was able to take a lot of time off this summer to spend time with the girls. It makes the return to school easier to know that we took advantage of the summer days as much as we could.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

My Problems are Not Problems

Friday marked my last Friday off of the summer. We had errands on this day's agenda, starting with an appointment to get our main sewer line cleaned, a task we do every year to prevent problems.

We may have problems anyway, though, in that the sewer pipes are separating and may eventually break. We've seen it happen up and down the street, invariably in the middle of winter when the ground is frozen. Neighbor after neighbor has had their lawn excavated, new pipes lain and had to re-seed or sod. It seems bound to happen in an old neighborhood like ours. We could prevent this by re-lining the pipe, basically creating a new pipeline inside the old pipeline. (There's more to this, but that's the basic idea.)

Estimated cost? $11,000.


Later in the afternoon I took the girls to get their back-to-school haircuts. The stylist got halfway through Lindsey's cut and called me over.

"She has lice," she says quietly. "I can finish the cut, but if her sister has lice too I can't cut her hair."

Sure enough, Marissa's got nits, too.

Awesome. Weren't we just through this?

I posted something on Facebook about this, and how the news of this day was bumming me out. A few people commented in sympathy. And then I thought about my other friends on Facebook who would be reading this.

My friend Anita, who is still recovering from a brain injury after a bicycle/car accident that happened seven weeks ago.

My friend and former neighbor whose 6-year-old daughter is in the midst of difficult treatments to battle her cancer back in remission. She first had leukemia at age 3, when they lived down the street from us and Marissa and Annika were playmates. She is now six and will not be starting 1st grade along with her friends, as she will be too sick to attend. Treatment this time around is more difficult, because at age 6 she knows more of what's going on and resists the pokes and prods, and the treatment is stronger and harder on her body.

My dad, who is home again recovering from major abdominal surgery to remove colon cancer. He was home for a while but then was in so much pain he ended up back in the hospital, and only recently came back home.

My problems are not problems. They are insignificant hiccups in my life, compared to the challenges that others are facing.

While I am thinking about and praying for my friends' and family member's situations to improve, I will also remember to be grateful for what I have.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Lake Harriet's Got Talent

This past week I attended the Minneapolis KIDS talent show at my girls' school. Lindsey had signed up to dance to Katy Perry's "Hot N' Cold" with friends of hers, and was incredibly excited the day of the talent show. She and her friends had been practicing for weeks. She'd had her outfit picked out for days, and this morning insisted on pigtails to complete her look.

I was surprised to see Lindsey out front for her performance. In prior years and similar opportunities, she has been a background dancer or singer, happy to have someone whose moves she could follow. I was pleased to see her take a leadership role, even if it is just a dance and not in the classroom.

While I was thrilled to be there and love sharing the video of her performance with you, what I didn't capture was the incredible spirit of all of the performers together.

There was the double-jointed girl who made her fingers bend at the first joint.

The boy who walked backwards quickly back and forth across the stage. (Yep, he can walk backwards faster than anybody I know.)

The "swinging my belt" act, in which a girl swung a belt around in a circle and hopped up and down on one leg, in time to music.

The kindergartener who did ballet, repeating first and second position over and over, as those were the only two positions she could remember. (if you don't know, 1st and 2nd positions are about the least exciting but most basic required steps of ballet).

The two best friends who danced together, even though neither of their moves coordinated with the other girl on the stage.

After every act, the performers smiled, bowed, and ran off to stage to enthusiastic applause.

I was amazed at how supportive the kids were of each other, and the parents of not only their own kids, but of the other children there. I loved the creativity, that something so seemingly simple as "swinging a belt" was presented with such flair. The simplest of talents, like walking backwards, was embraced as something to celebrate.

You could tell that some kids worked hard on their performances, developing skills in teamwork and cooperation with the hardest of those to work with, their closest friends.

It was the best hour of my day. Possibly my week.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

An Outing to the Zoo

I took the meterologist's advice to heart: when she said, "Make plans to be outside on Sunday, it's going to be gorgeous," I thought it would be fun to see the new penguin exhibit at the Minnesota Zoo with the girls, giving Wayne some time to recover from his 22-mile run this morning.

As it happens in our house at times, Marissa lost the privilege of going to the zoo. I could hear the girls' squabbling while I fixed pancakes, then heard it escalating until finally Marissa pushed Lindsey. She and I talked at length about what you should do if someone makes you mad (tell a parent, use your words, walk away), but the one she remembers first is the one that's not allowed. Perhaps her loss of the trip to the zoo will continue to reinforce this for her.

So before lunchtime Lindsey and I headed off to the zoo. And I can say it was a glorious day.

How bactrian camels keep cool in Minnesota, surrounded by algae in a pool.
We saw whichever exhibits Lindsey wanted to see, for however long she wanted to see them. Our timing was such that we happened to catch the dolphin show with a minimal amount of waiting. We hadn't seen the dolphin show in years, usually due to poor timing or the strong wish of one or more other family to NOT see the show.
Not a dolphin -- an amur leopard.
Afterwards we took the monorail around the whole zoo, looking down on all of the exhibits. This was a great idea because we got tired and worn out before we could walk many of the paths, so the only way we saw many of the animals was by an aerial view.

We ate some lunch, saw the penguins, then started down the tropics trail. We first came across the lemurs, who were all snuggled up together looking adorable.

Ring-tailed lemurs.
"Awww," Lindsey said, "That makes me miss Dax. Let's go home."

And so we did.

This is not to say that Marissa and I would not have had a great time -- I'm sure we would have. But it is so much simpler to have only one child to go on excursions like this, it doesn't matter which one. There is only one child whose desires matter, who's state of tiredness or hunger needs attention.

I'm sure that some other weekend Lindsey will be losing privileges, and she'll be the one who has to stay home with one parent while Marissa goes someplace fun with the other. But for now, I will enjoy the day that we had.

Friday, August 12, 2011

City Pride

A few weeks ago I drove to South St. Paul for an industry gathering, and had an opportunity to go through cities I had no idea exist.

Sunfish Lake: population 504
Lilydale: population 618
Mendota: population 210

How do these little tiny cities exist in a metropolitan area? How is it that they have not been gobbled up by a larger neighboring city? I can only assume that there is not a Sunfish Lake High School, but is there a Sunfish Lake mayor?

Later on I had to go to yet another city in the Twin Cities area for business. The difference between these two neighboring cities, just across a highway from each other, was striking.

Here's the sign on the south side of the highway:

To protect the identity of the citizens of the other city, I shall simply say that there was no "welcome to" in front of the city name, followed by this disclaimer:

No Tresspassing.
All roads and land are private.

From "Welcome!" to "No trespassing."

And what makes a city "private?" Do the citizens actually own the town? Reminds me of the towns in Wisconsin that are so small they don't even give the population, they just say "unincorporated."

On the subject of city pride, a group of us were recently comparing notes on our small town festivals. We all had them, a local gathering to bring in visitors, drum up some business and have a party. My hometown had "Falls Fest" (consider the city name, Sheboygan Falls); my husband's hometown hosts Boxcar Days, thanks to an active railroad line that came through to pick up harvested grain.

Other names: Daze and Knights (St. Michael, MN), Corn Chaff Days (Hector, MN), Buttered Corn Days (Sleepy Eye, MN).

The tilt-a-whirl, the scrambler and the zipper seemed to make the rounds to all of our small towns. There was always a food tent, carnival games and don't forget the beer garden. Such fun memories.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Eldest Child

Our dog Dax turned 13 on August 1st. I happened to have the day off work that day, and the girls and I tried to make him feel special that day.

He was greeted with birthday wishes from the moment the girls got up.

He got to chase bubbles outside, one of his favorite activities.

He opened presents, which he actually does because he loves to rip paper. It is a guilty pleasure of his, one he rarely gets to indulge.

Special treats were purchased and plied upon him throughout the day, for which we were richly rewarded with stinky toots late in the evening.

And he got special snuggles from the eldest.

Lindsey likes to think that we made Dax feel special on his special day, the way we try to for our girls on their birthdays.

But I have a feeling that Dax would've been happier had we all been at work and school and he could have slept all day.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

No Words.

This is a blog. I know that. It takes words to write, to read. But I have no words for what happened this afternoon.

I spoke to my friend Anita today, a month and a day after her accident.

She was articulate. She did not have to search for words. She remembers everything up until the accident and doesn't remember the 3 1/2 weeks she was in the hospital until a day or two before she was released. She is walking. She was on Facebook earlier in the week. Typing comes easy to her, though apparently old-fashioned writing skills are more difficult.

A few days ago I saw her "friend" a couple of people on Facebook, and wondered if it wasn't her husband doing it on her behalf. But then, a status update, thanking family and friends for helping her family during her hospitalization. And even better today: a joke.

She cannot wait to be through with the hours and hours of therapy that she is currently doing to sharpen her brain function. She cannot wait to be back to where she was. And in particular she's disappointed for the month of summer that she's missed. Her nonprofit, Extreme Moms, is going hang-gliding in a few weekends. She's especially disappointed to miss that, because hang-gliding was her idea, and she's bummed that she can't do it. Doctors told her that another head injury in the next 6 to 8 months would be, as she put it, really really bad. As if what she'd been through wasn't bad enough. She herself has no idea.

I cannot put into words the joy that this puts in my heart. Her recovery is nothing short of miraculous. For those of us who know her, it's just one more way in which she is amazing Anita.