Monday, December 29, 2008

Road Hard

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times... Christmas. In Kansas, we are outposted at least three hours from our nearest relative, and each season, we are the ones who hit the road. We switch off each year for each of our families-- so every other year we wake up in our own home on Christmas. This was that year, so we did get to wake up at home and then head to Hubs' family.

Unfortunately, because Christmas was on a Thursday, and we customarily go to the "other" family the weekend after Christmas, it meant a whirlwind tour, spanning nearly 1,000 miles in five days.

Can I just say that I am pooped?

Our kids did great, though, and dealt with the changes in routine and locale like champs (for the most part.) While each of the four of us had our moments of less-than-holiday-spirit, we stuck together and dealt with almost everything as a team.

But when I think about doing this next year, with another baby... I can't even fathom it.

I don't know how much longer we will be able to uproot our whole lives and drive to everyone else's Christmas. As much as I love my family, and he loves his, we also love our family, and it definitely gets placed last in the current configuration.

My kids were begging for Kansas by yesterday. Begging. They love their family, too, but they love their home. And nowhere is the spirit of holiday and love more present than in your own home, right?

I'm torn.

What do you do? How do you manuever that? No matter which route we go, we miss out on something... I don't know.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Enjoy all the gifts of the season. Especially the gifts of family.


Monday, December 22, 2008

Getting Around

Roundabouts are a relatively new phenomenon here in Minnesota, but they're popping up all over the place, not only in "the Cities" but in smaller towns and busy rural intersections.

The people in charge of planning the roundabouts claim that they're safer than stoplights or other traffic control devices because they eliminate many high-speed "t-bone" crashes, which are often serious.

They also claim that roundabouts are easy to use, and that drivers only have to know three rules in order to use a roundabout properly. (This was in an article accompanied by a 5-point primer for using roundabouts.) Both the Minneapolis Star-Tribune and St. Paul Pioneer Press have published articles about roundabouts.

Apparently the word isn't getting out, because there's a lot of backed up traffic at some roundabouts I've been through, with drivers unsure of how to get in or out of the roundabout safely. This is compounded if it happens to be a two-lane roundabout.

I've heard several tales of semi trucks carrying windmill parts or farmers towing implements who have arrived at a roundabout and are unable to proceed through it due to the length of the load.

Recently, my husband and I witnessed first-hand with incredulity a driver who turned left into a right-angled roundabout. Yes, there was a one-way sign, but snow was perhaps blocking the curbs that would have led him in the right direction. He ended up heading right into the oncoming roundabout traffic and had to drive up onto the high grassy circle to avoid a collision.

Are roundabouts really as simple as their designers claim them to be? What can be done to teach drivers how to safely and properly negotiate a roundabout? Are they a safety device that will last, or just the latest fad that will be reconstructed in a few years? Does this video affect your impressions?

What's your take on roundabouts?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Merry Christmas, through the years

Eight years ago...

Five years ago...

This year...

(Where did all of that hair come from?)

Have a Wonderful Christmas, everyone!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Snow Days

When you live in the Midwest, "snow days" are part of your winter vocabulary, along with snowblowers, snowmobiles, snow boots, and, well, just plain snow.

They're what kids and teachers look forward to, and what parents either love or hate. Part of the excitement falls in the uncertainty, waiting for that early-morning phone call that says to go back to sleep, or watching the school names on the ticker across the TV screen. Although technology now gives us website updates and e-mail warnings and text-message announcements, one of my favorite ways of getting the snow-day news is listening to WCCO radio to see how fast the morning show guys can list the hundreds of school delays and closings.

Depending on where you live, a snow day may be brought about by snow, ice, or even severe cold. (The severity of the cold is relative to your usual clime; it takes a lot more cold but a lot less snow to call off school in Minnesota than in Ohio, or so my sister tells me.)

As a kid, snow days were exciting. All the rural kids had a designated "storm home" in town in case the buses couldn't run. I remember being in kindergarten and having to go to my great-aunt's house with my cousins. The snow drifts were so big that the older ones lifted me over because my little legs couldn't make it through.

When were in high school, we learned that school would likely be dismissed early if we couldn't see the grain elevator from the history-room window. The elevator was three blocks away.

As a teacher, I loved those early-morning phone calls that allowed me to roll over and go back to sleep. The school where I taught in Iowa was well-prepared; they had separate schedules for 1-hour late start, 2-hour late start, 1:00 dismissal, and 2:00 dismissal so everyone knew where to go, and more importantly, when to eat lunch.

As a parent, I look at snow days a little differently. It's scary to have the kids outside in the extreme cold waiting for the bus, or knowing they're on a long route in the country when the weather and roads are questionable. I'd rather just have them home, safe and warm with me.

I've created a tradition of baking cookies on snow days, for something fun to do when suddenly having a together day at home, and also to ward off the cold and storms outside.

What's your take on snow days? Love 'em? Hate 'em? Do you do anything special to celebrate? Do you have any childhood snow day memories?

Monday, December 15, 2008

This year...

I am feeling like this really hits home. Enjoy :)

Friday, December 12, 2008

Where Have All the Christmas Cards Gone?

I remember as a child helping my mom address her Christmas cards each year. I'd ask, "Who's this?" and learn about her friends from when she was a teacher in Wood Lake and Waukegan and San Diego, her college friends and her childhood chum. With a big extended family and far-flung friends, she usually sent more than 100 cards.

Then we'd wait with anticipation for cards to arrive in the mail. Most included handwritten notes or family newsletters, which in the days before computers required a typewriter and purple-ink mimeograph access. We especially loved the ones that included a family photo, and Mom would lovingly tape those to the end of her kitchen cupboard for display until the next year.

I've continued that tradition of sending cards. Now it's my own set of family and friends--girlfriends from grad school in Indiana, my circle of friends from UND (North Dakota, not Notre Dame!), teaching buddies from Iowa, aunts and uncles and cousins who live across the country.

Before kids, I would make homemade cards; after the kids were born I lacked the time for that creativity but suddenly had new people to write about in the family newsletter, and more interesting subjects to include in a picture than just hubby and me.

My list isn't as long as Mom's once was; this year I sent out 75 cards. I've tried to keep them personal; along with the newsletter, which I try very hard to be informational but not braggy, I write a short message or handwritten note on the cards, which I've chosen carefully to convey the message our family wants to send at Christmas. (The ones from Lang are some of my favorites.) I've even reverted from the mail-merged labels and hand-write the envelopes the way I used to for my mom, just because it makes it feel more personal to receive a hand-addressed piece of mail these days.

And, just like when I was a child, I look forward to the trips down the long driveway to the mailbox, even in the snow and cold of winter, to opening the mailbox and finding envelopes from people I haven't heard from in a year, usually 2 or 3 or more a day beginning the first of December.

Except that this year, through December 11, I've received only three cards. Three. One from my mom and dad, who I actually DO hear from more than once a year. One from a friend of my mom's who took me under her wing when I attended grad school in her neck of the woods. And one from an acquaintance who used it to announce his divorce. (And I suppose, if you're technical, we can count the two received from businesses we patronize, bringing the grand total to five.

I'm beginning to wonder if we're going to receive many cards this year. Are they a thing of the past? Is postage too expensive? Do people assume that since we've exchange e-mail addresses and "contact" information that we're actually keeping in contact?

I hope not. Instant communication on the computer has done away with many old ways of doing things, but I hope that the sending and receiving of Christmas cards continues to be a tradition, one that my children will someday carry on with their friends and family.

Merry Christmas to you all!

Do you send Christmas cards? Tell us about your Christmas card traditions, and whether you plan to carry them on in the future.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Sounds heard around our house

Each year, I try to give relatives who live far away, and don't have the opportunity to see what my boys are like, to get glimpse of what our house sounds like day-to-day. Here are a few samples of the lines from the inside of our Christmas Card of 2008.
  • I'm not having dessert: I just saw dinner and I'm NOT eating it.
  • Mom, is this safe? (Probably not if you have to ask.)
  • My hair is turning blond. Yes, honey, it's from the sun. No, Mom, it's like this even in the shade.
  • Mom, if Santa brought this, why does it say "made in China?"

Merry Christmas to you all.

Just... FIX IT!

I'm one of the last dying breed-- I still watch Saturday Night Live. Any other confessors out there? Anyway, one of the newest recurring characters on the show is the economic advisor on the Weekend Update. The economic guru is played by Kenan Thompson. His stellar advice about the economy and what's ailing it?


It's just not going to be that funny until you go here for a second.

Okay... maybe it's not all that funny anyway, in retrospect.

But it always gives me the giggles.

Anywho. I digress. But there's a point here, I promise.

Last weekend, we did the tree with the kids. They could not have been more excited about it. They circled the box of ornaments like every ornament was a priceless treasure, hopping around and exclaiming about each one they pulled out of the box. "This was mine when I was a baby!" says my four year old. "And this one was mine when I was a baby!" says my two year old.

I think to myself, as I worry over the fragility of those ornaments, "you're still babies."

We hand them (the less breakable) ornaments, and they place them onto the tree.

The overall effect was, I think, pretty good. You know, the typical tree. Lots of preschool ornaments. A few nice ones. Some ornaments from when Hubs and I were kids.
Upon closer inspection, I noticed that the tree was a little... bottom heavy.

Clearly, there was an area of high ornament-to-tree ratio. The Kid Zone. Also known as: The Only Part of the Tree They Could Reach Without Assistance.

I'm somewhat anal about things being symmetrical and "right," (can I say anal here?) so I was resolved to even out the ornaments as soon as the kids went to bed. I didn't want to hurt their feelings, of course, but it was driving me crazy that there were so many ornaments in a two foot swath of the tree.

I wanted to "FIX IT!"

I watched the kids as they placed the last of their ornaments, also watching the clock for bedtime.

So I could "FIX IT!"

But as I really watched my son, I saw that he had a story about each ornament-- why each one was near another, who were friends, who had a back story. And at that moment I realized three things.
  1. My son has a phenomenal imagination.
  2. I was never going to be able to move these ornaments without him noticing.
  3. The tree didn't need to be "fixed." It was perfect the way it was.
So, I came to terms with our "cluster tree," and I haven't moved a thing. I haven't added more ornaments to balance out the bottom. I haven't touched it since we put it up.

That tree is a great reflection of what life with small kids is like. It's never what you imagined, or even what you thought you wanted. It's messy and disorganized, but it is also boundlessly joyful and exciting. There's anxiety about what will get broken, but you take the risk anyway because it's not about having the "perfect" tree, it's about the experience of doing this together, and reveling in one another.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

In The Mood

One of the big redeeming qualities of life in the Midwest is that there is a fair chance to have a traditional “white” Christmas.

The red kettles appear shortly after Halloween and the stores follow suit with their holiday decorations popping up on shelves soon after that. If you listen, you’ll hear the people grumbling, “it’s not even Thanksgiving” as they scowl at the greenery and baubles. It is nearly impossible to get into the holiday mode until the turkey has lulled us all into a coma on Thanksgiving.

Even then sometimes you’ll hear people murmuring about it not feeling like Christmas until there is snow on the ground. We all want the white Christmas, and then we want the snow gone by New Year’s thankyouverymuch.

I have occasion to get into the holiday spirit sooner than most as I decorate a tree (or, this year, two trees) for a charity fundraiser. We pick our themes, adorn our trees and display them at the civic center during the week of Thanksgiving. The kids are always spellbound when they enter the transformed ballroom. Even in my most bah-humbug of years, the festival of trees lifts my spirit and reminds me of the real spirit of Christmas, snow or no snow.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Winter Has Arrived

This was the scene outside my house earlier this morning. Not too early, because when I checked at 6:15, we discovered that it was our first SNOW DAY of the year, so we all went back to bed. Well, almost all. My husband fired up the snow blower and cleared the driveway. I crawled back into the warm covers and quietly celebrated not having to wake everyone for the morning rush.

Of course, my boys had the entire week off of school last week, for Thanksgiving Break, so we've had a lot of togetherness. My parents and brother joined us from warmer climates, and I'm quite sure they're so happy to have left before the snowstorm hit. My boys, however, are beside themselves with excitement to have yet another day to themselves. The boots are on, the sleds are out, and I'll be making hot chocolate with marshmallows within the hour.

This is one of the things I like about living in the midwest: up in the northern parts, we almost always get a white Christmas. Skiing and sledding and sitting by the fire watching the snow come down are all a lovely part of our winter. And it has begun.

Welcome, winter. You're a beautiful friend, you just tend to overstay your welcome.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

May your day be filled with many blessings...and GREAT food :)

May you find yourself with MANY reasons to be thankful this year.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Do I look tired to you?

I really would never post a picture of myself after being up all night; so, you'll just have to imagine that I do look tired. You see, I was up all night with a cough. Of course, not my cough; the kid's cough. As a Mom, there is nothing more excruciating as listening to your child suffer with that dry, raspy, sometimes wet cough all night long.

Their little lungs are so tired, they're putting forth so much effort, and even though I've given them every safe remedy possible, the cough persists. Amazing, really, how they can sleep through the cough, but they do. Yet, I don't.

The musings of one tired Mom in the Midwest.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Permission to Heal

A year ago today, I had surgery. I won't link to it, because this website has standards and the physical location of my surgery pretty much dictates that I can't tell you too much about it. Let's just sum it up as "repairing injuries sustained in childbirth," k?


Though my "down time" with the surgery was only supposed to be two to three weeks, the actual procedure ended up being more extensive than my doctor expected. I was out of work for a full month. Even once I returned, I was unable to work a full day for another two or three weeks.

I don't think I need to tell you what that meant to my ability to mother my two children.

In the beginning, right after the surgery, I was on strong pain medicine much of the time. When I was awake, which wasn't often, I was often in enough pain that I needed to be alone so that I wouldn't scare the kids. I couldn't walk any farther than 5 or 10 feet by myself. I came home with my catheter still in. I rarely ate and couldn't bathe. I had an alarm to tell me which meds it was time to take. My husband visited the pharmacy to pick up scripts for me every few days.

I was completely helpless.

And for the first two weeks, the time I had expected to be out of commission, I didn't feel a single pang of guilt about that. But once I was "well enough" to take only insane amounts of ibuprofen for my pain, I lost the guilt-free recuperation time that narcotics had given me.

I began to over-do it. I felt so badly that I could not provide the day-to-day services that my kids were used to, that I did whatever I could do. The consequences for exceeding my state of health were usually immediate, and sometimes devastatingly painful. If, in a rush of guilt over how abandoned Funk felt, I swept in and picked her up, I would be unable to stand for the rest of the day.

One night I decided to bathe the kids, a task that has been predominantly mine their whole lives. I almost passed out from the pain, yelling to my husband from the bathroom floor to relieve me. What could have happened if I had actually passed out? With my three year old and one and a 1/2 year old beside me in a tub full of water?

I learned quickly that I could only do what I could do, and that the slower I took it, the better off everyone would be.

It wasn't easy to do-- I am a "doer" and my kids see me as their nurse, cook, personal bather, laundress, and book-reader.

It was probably February before I was anywhere near 100%, and during those two and a half months I had to ask for, or be willing to receive , a lot of help. Accepting help doesn't come naturally to me, and asking for help is even more difficult. But when your options are a) accept help, or b) pay for your stubborn "independence" in pain and bleeding, you gain perspective quickly.

I had to ask myself for permission to feel crummy, and tell someone about it. I had to give myself permission not to pick up my children, because I needed to heal. I had to tell myself that the wages of overdoing it were not worth it-- for me or for the person I thought I was "helping." When I overdid it, I was in pain, crabby, and impatient. So instead of helping, I was hurting those I loved (even if the task was getting done.)

Before my surgery, I used to think to myself, "man, I wish I could just break an arm or something, something non-major, so that I could just have a break." It was the worst kind of extravagance, the way I wished my health away just for the break I could have anytime, if I just asked. I never thought twice about it, until I didn't have my health anymore.

These days, the lessons I learned in those recuperating months are all but forgotten-- I caught myself wishing for a minor injury today as I climbed the stairs to work. "I just need a break!" I thought to myself. Like most moms, I do too much, I rarely say no, and I am loathe to ask for help, even when I need it. It's unfortunate, because as I learned after my surgery, I have lots of people in my life who are ready and willing to step in and help me and my family. I shouldn't need to have major surgery to give myself permission to take the mental and emotional time I need to be healthy, but it's difficult to do.

Are you overdoing it? What can you give yourself permission to say no to today? Are you waiting to be forced to take the time you need?

Monday, November 17, 2008

No I Can't!

Don’t worry, this isn’t going to be some sort of crazy political diatribe. It’s not an article about wanting Obama to win, or not wanting Obama to win, or any such election-related thing. It is however, about Obama and the thing he has to give up very, very soon. Nope, not the fancy house in Chicago. Nope, not life without a dog. When he takes office on January 20, he will be asked to give up one of his prized possessions: his Blackberry.

You may know from this post that I don’t own a Blackberry. But I understand those people, those Crackberry addicts, because I am one gutter over, swimming among the masses who can’t bear to part with their iPhones. Hello, my name is Kirsetin and I am an iPhone addict. For too many reasons to enumerate here, I love that device. I’m not even a device-loving kind of person. In fact, I am one step above techno-idiot, but that’s one of the many things I love about my lovely little iPhone. Without it, I am just another wandering, hungry soul. With it, I can almost always find what I need, wherever I am, even if it’s just the name and number of a nearby Chinese restaurant. (I love you Urban Spoon!)

And I am not alone. As thousand of us have embraced this new technology (whichever brand you favor), it’s become the method of quick communication. Running late? Text “almost there” and you’re done. Can’t remember if you have plans tonight? Access your calendar from your phone and plan away. Forgot your camera? No problem, snap some pics with your handy little friend.

So, to President-elect Obama, for whom this separation will last a minimum of four long YEARS, I offer my sincere sympathy. My heart goes out to you. Regardless of how it goes in office, rest assured that you will make a mint one day, when you write the book that tells the rest of us how on earth you lived without it.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

six weeks

Just six short weeks until CHRISTMAS!

I can hardly believe it, yet am very excited at the same time. I've read that many people have already started making home made gifts, and while that is not exactly true for me - I have started doing a few little crafty things. My MOPS group is planning a make and take gift night in early December. I helped in making some of the sample crafts. I decided to share a few here too that way you can get a few cute ideas & hopefully get inspired to get started (if you have not already)on making some gifts yourself this year.

One of the easiest things we made was called "Snowman Soup". I just placed a pack of hot chocolate, a candy can, some mini marshmallow & a piece of chocolate (or more - I used small Hershey bars, but kisses work too) all in a cellophane bag. I tied it with cute ribbon and added a tag, as well as the poem. You can add the mug, or just give it as is in the bag - either way is very cute!

Snowman soup:
When it's so cold that
you holler and whoop,
It's time to bring out
the Snowman Soup!

Pour the packet in a fun winter mug,
add some yummy snowballs
and find a place to get snug.

Now add some hot water,
stir with the cane a time or two,
take a nibble of chocloate -
snowman soup is ready for you!

Another project we are doing is a small box made from scrapbook paper/ribbon. We filled it with different cappuccino mixes & added some sprinkles just for fun. We all thought that a good cup of anything hot would taste better with some whipped cream and topped off with some sprinkles :) I am posting a picture of the box, and would more than happy to give you measurements, etc if you are interested. Just leave a comment here and I'll get the info to you.

Here are a couple of easy recipes, all of which look very cute in cellophane bags (or icing/pastry bags) as well, just make sure to add instructions on making them.

Mocha Cappuccino
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup instant coffee
1/4 cup cocoa powder
(place all ingredients in a blender or food processor - blend into a fine powder)
instructions: add 3 TBSP of mix to 1 cup boiling water

White Hot Chocolate
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
(mix two together & place in bag)
instructions: heat 1 1/2 cups milk until hot. Add 1/4 cup mix and 1/2 tsp vanilla & whisk until the chocolate is melted and mixture is hot.

Here are a couple of examples of tags I made to tie onto the mix, once again if you are interested, I can send you these in jpeg form so that you can print them at home to use.

Just one more quick & fun gift...snowman poop! We mixed marshmallows with a little hot chocolate and placed it into a snack sized Ziploc bag, then added this poem:

I hear you've been naughty,
So listen, here's the scoop...
I'm running short on coal this year,
So you get "Snowman Poop"

Add a fun little tag or a bag topper for a fun little stocking stuffer or gag gift :)

Now gather some craft supplies & go have FUN :)

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Getting Kids to Eat Soup

In the book, French Women Don't Get Fat, Mireille Guiliano, suggests that soup is the perfect way to ingest lots of different vitamins, because there are so many varieties of vegetables in one pot. In my last post here, I posted a soup recipe, because as the weather turns colder, the warmth of soup is what we crave.

But what about the kids? They are the very little beings we want to pour luscious soup into; but of course, they don't like soup. Experts say, if you present a new food often enough, kids will eventually try it and like it. I'm still waiting.

So, when I serve soup, I also, like most of us have figured out, have bread on hand; so the kids can fill up on the bread; because I remember doing that as a kid too. I also give them two options:

  • Drink the broth in a tea cup. I strain the soup in a hand-held screen. This option is usually the one preferred. The vitamins are in the broth; at least they're exposed to the taste and may eventually like the soup. (Although, I do think they like the broth, but won't admit it.)
  • The second option they have is this: I always put a pasta in my soups now that I have kids. If they don't want the broth, I offer them the noddles, carefully lifted out of the pot, which cooked in the broth.

Someday, I hope the two options shall meet.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

what are you reading?

I decided to check my calendar today to see when my next MWP blog post was...and there I saw it - Thursday October 30th!

I think I missed that one, don't you? That was trick or treat day here and we had a great time with our kids, but now I just wish the candy would GO AWAY. Anyone else tired of hearing "Can I have a piece of candy?" I know I am!

So, to get myself back on track here, I was wondering - what are you reading? Now that fall is here and winter is right around the corner, I am looking for some ideas on what to read. I have read 2 of the Twilight series so far, and I always love anything by Jodi Picoult. What about you? Do you have any recommendations?

I am also thinking about reading some of my favorite children's chapter/series books with my kids. Yes, I know I should have started this already with Kaden, but I was a girly girl and loved books that I do think he would have much of an interest in. I want to get Ellie part (or all) of the Little House series. I grew up both watching the show and reading about Laura Ingalls & her family and would love to share it with my girls.

So share with me - what are you reading (either alone or with your kids)?

Monday, October 27, 2008

Soup to warm the bones and the soul

Today snow flurries dipped across the ground. Already. The flurries only appeared for a few seconds; and they were gone. The wind whipped around, the sky is dreary, and I realized how "unready" I am for winter. Tonight, I'll make a soup to warm everyone up, and fend off the kind of chill that will lead us to a cold. The addition of Buckwheat noodles adds a protein that contains 8 amino acids, B vitamins, zinc and magnesium.

This soup is hearty, yet the addition of soy sauce adds just enough kick to keep this soup from being mundane and boring.
Buckwheat Noodle Vegetable Soup
  • 2 teaspoons canola oil
  • 1 pound beef flank steak, very thinly sliced against the grain.
  • 4 cups chopped bok choy
  • 5 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup water
  • 4 ounces wide buckwheat noodles
  • 2 teaspoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 cups mung bean sprouts
  • 4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  1. Heat oil in a Dutch oven or soup pot over high heat.
  2. Add beef and cook, stirring often, until just cooked, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a plate using tongs, leaving the juices in the pot.
  3. Add bok choy to the pot and cook, stirring, until wilted, about 2 minutes.
  4. Add broth, cover and bring to a boil.
  5. Add noodles and soy sauce; simmer until the noodles are soft, about 4 minutes.
  6. Return the beef to the pot and cook until heated through, 1 to 2 minutes more. Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with bean sprouts and parsley.

Serve hot, and enjoy.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

10 Reasons to Visit Minnesota

  • The Mall of America – With the indoor theme park, Lego play place and an aquarium along with all the shops there is plenty to do and see in just one destination. And—no tax on clothes.
  • Fall foliage and crisp but not cold autumn days that let you get out your comfy sweaters. (most of the time)
  • LARK toys and the hand-carved wooden carousel – it’s art you can ride! Also, it’s cheap. $1 a ride over 3 years old.
  • Quaint accents – yeah, you betcha.
  • Paul Bunyan – you can find him in Brainerd and Bemidji. You can also find his wife, Lucette, in Hackensack.
  • A higher chance you’ll find nice people who will help you even if they don’t work at the store.
  • Duluth—there are so many interesting things in Duluth to look at and visit, including (but not limited to) the shipyards, a train museum with a children’s museum in the same building, and Lake Superior.
  • Laura Ingalls Wilder historical sites— admit it, you loved Little House on the Prairie too.
  • Spam Museum.
  • Me.

Monday, October 20, 2008


Last summer (the one a year ago, not the one we just had), our family visited Sleeping Bear National Park for the first time. Having previously prided myself on being somewhat of a traveler, I was stunned to realize that this beauty, this absolute gem of a place, existed right in the middle of our country and I’d never even heard of it.

As we drove and hiked and admired the natural beauty all around us, my husband declared that we ought to return in the fall, when the leaves were turning. I wholeheartedly agreed.

But you know what happened, don’t you? Soccer and football and school projects and life. We didn’t get back to Sleeping Bear that fall, or this past summer, either.

But this weekend, we watched two soccer games then headed north. We stayed a night in our cottage, watched the boys play in the yard, enjoyed the peace, ate at our favorite pub, and roasted marshmallows by the fire.

And then, we got up really early and kept on driving until we reached the national park. As expected, the leaves were breathtaking. On Friday, before we left, I despaired of all the things I wouldn’t accomplish at home: sorting through the mail that somehow continues to accumulate, even though I am constantly weeding through it; finishing the laundry that multiplies every time I turn around; printing photos that ought to have been printed months ago. And, yet… As we drove, I was thankful to have heeded to my husband’s request, to be enjoying the indescribable beauty and the time together as a family.

We had a lovely day, despite the hours of driving, and to the boys’ eternal happiness, we were able to listen to most of the Packer’s game on the radio, and to reach home just before the end, to see them beat the Colts.

As we sat together at the table and recounted all of the adventures of the day, we talked about our favorite part. Excitedly, my second son declared, “Seeing the end of the Packer’s game!”

It's all perspective, right?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

I will, I will!

I really am not the type of Mom that jumps at the chance to sign up for everything at my kids school. Really, I'm not.

Yes, I like to go on field trips and bring in treats on party days. Yes, I like to be at the class parties to take pictures and help out, but I've never been the one in charge (and never really cared to be).

Until today.

My daughter's teacher was in need of help this year. She was looking for *gasp* a room Mother, and because I was one of only THREE parents (out of 20) that volunteered some sort of help, she asked me to do the job. Room Mother. That is now me, and I am now organizing the Halloween/Harvest party. But wait! There is more. I was one of TWO parents that said they would like to help with field trips, and the other one is now a working Mom, which means...yes, that is now me too :)

However, I already told her that I had scheduled to go with Zander to his preschool pumpkin patch trip tomorrow so was unable to make Ellie's trip tomorrow. Today she informed me that she has NO parents going on Ellie's field trip for tomorrow, and she will be all alone.

So, I bet you can guess who will be going on TWO field trips tomorrow? Two different pumpkin patch trips in one day, of course, in different cities. I will be leaving the house at 8:30 tomorrow morning and coming home some time around 3:30ish. Three packed sack lunches, weather checked, clothes for four laid out, sitter lined up, diaper bag packed, gas in car, maps planned out, camera packed....

Wait! Did I sign up for this? Yes, I am afraid I did :)

*my new button (hahaha) can be found here at cafepress

Monday, October 13, 2008

So, what are you going to tell the kids about Columbus?

Today is Columbus Day; and I have already mistakenly set out my trash anyway. My children were curious about Christopher Columbus, our American Hero, and wanted to learn more. Of course, finding the facts opens the door to the cruel side to our nation's history; the part that is always left out of our own biased history books, and we're left with "what to tell our children."

At first, the facts are harmless enough:

  • Columbus never set out to discover a new land. He had hoped simply to find a new naval route to India and the other nations of the East, to streamline trade for exotic spices and silks.
  • When Christopher Columbus reached land, he thought he was actually in Asia. (Remember, this was way before Map Quest.) When he died in 1506, he still had no idea he had discovered a New World.
  • Columbus never landed in the United States -- he landed on some island in the Caribbean -- the island in question is speculated. Most believe he landed in the Bahamas, probably the current San Salvador (Watlings Island).
  • Columbus knew the world was round; his mistake was underestimating the earth's size. No one had ever recorded the mass of land separating Europe from Asia, known as the Americas. (Which was why, when he hit land, he assumed he was in Asia.)
  • Four criminals were on board the Columbus Crew: one a convicted murderer (he killed a man in a quarrel); the other three were accused of freeing him from prison. The kids always find facts like this exciting.

Now, for the difficult part. I will spare you here, the gory details:

  • In many places within North America, Columbus Day is not a day to celebrate. This is based the research by American historian Howard Zinn, who reveals the cruelty Columbus inflicted upon Native Americans. Zinn claims that Columbus was a religious fanatic with an obsession of eliminating non-Christians, by means of murder, conversion, or at the very least, enslavement.
  • The Columbus Day parade in Denver has been protested by Native American groups and their supporters for nearly two decades.
  • Many Native Hawaiians decry the celebration of both Columbus and Cook, known to have committed acts of violent subjugation of native people.
  • Columbus Day is a day of protest for some advocacy groups.
  • Many of these groups have used Columbus Day to create their own alternative, Indigenous Peoples Day, with Pow-Wows and native food and celebrations.

So while our schools and government are trying to celebrate Columbus Day as a celebration of colonialism, it's always difficult for parents to keep an eye on the historical truths -- those parts of our nation's colonization that led to genocide and environmental destruction.

Something to think about while you ponder over the day. Maybe while you visit the Crafty Crow, and make these adorable totem poles with you children.

Picture, from the Crafty Crow.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Tea With Two

The Cough is undeniably back. After a night of zero sleep, we called the ENT's office in a panic, only to be told that the wait to be seen was three weeks. Uh, no. I am not waiting three weeks to sleep. I called in from work in the hopes of getting her in, somewhere, for the obligatory dose of meds. Luckily, we got in with the pediatrician today.

Funk and I waited at home for her 11am appointment-- there was no point in taking her to school, only to pick her up, and then drop her off again (even though I was completely coveting a nap.) So we got ready for our day, and I had my mind set on everything I could accomplish. I could do some laundry! I could run the vaccuum! We could run out to get some maternity underwear!

Since the kids and I had spent a fair amount of last night cleaning up the toys strewn all. over. my. house, I really didn't want Funk to get anything out. I relegated her to playing in her room, so that I could get things done throughout the house without dodging random princess shoes and purses.

As I busied myself loads of laundry, Funk dumped her plastic tea set all over her room. Man, I was frustrated. I thought to myself, "I just cleaned in there! I didn't even get a chance to vacuum! Agh!" I was gathering breath to say as much.

Then she looked up at me, all blue eyes and cuteness, and said, "Momma, would you cay-a for some tea?"

Of course.

Of course I would love to have tea with you, my dear. While you still want to have tea with me. While I have a rare moment alone with you, my middle, my girl. While my house sits dusty (and to be honest, a little smelly.)

Of course I will smile as you pour me a cup of imaginary hospitality. While you cut me a loaf of your famous "keenie bread." While you chastise me about picking up my saucer with my cup. While you ask me about my "phenomena day."

This day, this moment, it is "phenomena."

And as always, it passes entirely too quickly.

When we finally got to our appointment, our doctor diagnosed Funk with yet another sinus infection. Without ever looking in her nose or mouth. I finally had to ASK her to look in there, because I just didn't think it was a good idea to be handing out antibiotics based on the mother's assertions. (Yes, I told her I thought it was a sinus infection, and I was pretty sure that's what it was, but since I'm not, like, a doctor, I think it's probably a good idea for her to work for that co-pay, no?)

We shared lunch at McDonald's; a rare treat for Funk, a necessary time saver for me (I was trying to get back to work.) Halfway through the meal, she began clutching at her stomach.

"My tummy hurts, momma. I don't think I can go see my friends today. I'll go to work with you."

It was transparent, her ploy. But sadly, I do not have time for tea. I have appointments booked up to next week, and so she had to return to school.

Keep the tea hot for me, my girl. That time is coming soon.


Yes, this was posted on my blog, too. Somehow I messed up posting it here when it was supposed to be. This baby is eating my brain.

Monday, September 29, 2008

home sweet home

When I first started writing for this blog, I did not think much about being part of the "Midwest". Of course, after I joined, I heard the term used all over the place (and not always in the nicest of places). I started to think more about what it means to live where we do.

Somewhere in the last month or so, I read a book about a woman from an area similar to our own Midwest. In the book she moved to New Orleans area and began to realize how much she missed the things that were "home" to her - grassy fields, woods, cornfields, moving/running water. It occurred to me (hey, I never said I was the brightest person...) that not everyone has immediate access to the things that are so normal to those living in the Midwest. Then, I was given a copy of Midwest Living last week. I smiled as I looked through the magazine and read about things that were already familiar to me.

This past week, the weather has started to make the change into fall/autumn, and I started to think about our trips to the pumpkin patch. I started talking to a friend who lives a little further North, and she said she had never been to a pumpkin patch. Once again, I was surprised that this was not the norm for all families during this time of year. Picking pumpkins & apples, taking hay rides, and even enjoying an occasional corn maze. That is what fall is all about here.

Today we spent the morning hiking (walking the boardwalk trail) at a local preserve. As I walked through the woods with my kids, I realized that I could not be more at home anywhere else. I thought of all of the things that I love about where we live. I love the grass, the woods & the running water of the local creeks and rivers. I love the change of seasons. I love the pumpkin patch and taking hay rides, and I even love the snow when it comes (and it will be here before we know it!!).

I thought about all of the places that I've ever wanted to see, or the places that I have been. I decided that no matter where I ever go in life, the Midwest is where I will always call Home.

Just for fun, you can read 101 reasons why people love the Midwest

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Maybe it's a sign from God

Spending the summer at the lake without wifi when you are a writer, with a blog, and other clients across the nation that contact you via email was challenging; just to put it mildly. So, once we were back home with continuous access to wifi, I found myself getting back into somewhat of a writing routine. But, of course, we had the storm that wiped out power for four days. Deadlines for stories were difficult to meet; some didn't make the cut. Then, yesterday, a neighbor's tree started to spontaneously drop branches onto our driveway. The sun was shining, and not a breeze could be felt. Yet, the tree started to drop the branches -- right down on top of our cable wires, wiping out our cable, wifi and phone service. Again.

The cable company explains the earliest they can make it out to look at the wires is Monday. Last night, another deadline loomed, and I found myself sitting on the sidewalk, in the dark, in front of my neighbor's house using her wifi to meet a deadline. Thank goodness it's still warm outside.

Of course, that night, everyone and their brother went for a walk, and I had lots of explaining to do. What I really wanted to say was, "Please, stop talking to me. I make all kinds of grammatical mistakes as it is! Please let me focus to do this right!" Instead, they asked lots of questions, and we laughed. And my deadline got pushed farther back.

When I don't get my daily dose of writing; I can get a little crazy. This is probably what it's like for people who need their coffee in the morning and they don't get it. I need to write, like coffee drinkers need their coffee.

The writing life is difficult enough; especially when you have one in preschool, and you must get it done in two-hour time blocks three times a week, or when they go to bed at night. Things get especially tough without the tools you need, when you need them. I'm already looking forward to next week, when the cable company puts the wires back into place, and I can start writing on a regular schedule once again. But, you know what? Christmas break is just around the corner; soon the kids will be home to throw everything out of whack again.

As I write this at our local library, my little boy is piling books beside me that he wants to take home. He just spotted a friend, so this gives me just a few more seconds to check e-mail. I hope everyone else is having a normal, relaxing fall.

Monday, September 22, 2008

It's Not So Much The Heat

The thing about living in Minnesota is the weather. It’s very changeable. Pretty much everyone who lives here for any length of time will say “oh I love the change of seasons.”

Except sometimes the seasons change daily. Just a couple of weeks ago it was 63 degrees on a Monday, then 73 degrees on Tuesday. By that Friday the mercury had reached 80 degrees.

It’s hard to know how to dress your kids each day. Let’s face it, the weather forecasters are really just guessing most of the time. It’s a crapshoot whether they’ll be accurate or not. Even if they are accurate, Mother Nature has that way of making it autumn one day and throwing a little more summer in the next. This year my city seems to have missed out on summer. The mercury did not climb to 90 degrees even once.

So, how to dress the kids? Layers I guess.

The mornings have been hovering around 50 degrees, so it’s too cool to send them without jackets, and by the time school lets out, they’re feeling warm in jeans. No matter which way I try to err, it’s almost always the wrong choice.

Not that I mind the return to warm weather. I actually prefer the heat over freezing my butt off, but the yo-yoing temperatures tend to mess with a person.

Maybe we all need to carry a change of clothes with us so we can switch to match the weather.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Food on Our Plate

Food has been in the news a lot lately. Do we eat too much, are we eating the right things, are we poisoning our kids with an abundance of sugar and unpronounceable ingredients? All of these topics, and more, are making headlines. For myriad reasons, too many to name, Americans are obsessed with weight. Very few people I know have a simple relationship with food, and mine is as complicated as theirs. Is this what we want for our kids?

On my own blog, I’ve written more than once about Michael Pollen’s book, In Defense of Food, which encourages us, no--pleads with us, to consider the source of what we eat. Mr. Pollen argues for local foods, simple ingredient lists, and no pre-packaged “non-foods.” It’s as compelling of a non-fiction book as I’ve read, if only for its implications for our kids.

In this week’s NY Times, Tara Parker-Pope also argues for healthier food choices in her article “6 Food Mistakes Parents Make.” In my twelve years of reading about parenting, I’ve seen countless articles that begin with an intriguing title, then go on to tell me what I already know. Happily, Ms. Parker-Pope’s article doesn’t fall into that category. I began by skimming her ideas, then slowed down to read more. Although some of her advice was familiar, she included a new study from Penn State that I found very interesting. About the study, she said:

“Children were seated at tables and given unlimited access to plates of apple or peach cookie bars — two foods the youngsters had rated as “just O.K.” in earlier taste tests. With another group, some bars were served on plates, while some were placed in a clear cookie jar in the middle of the table. The children were told that after 10 minutes, they could snack on cookies from the jar.

The researchers found that restricting the cookies had a profound effect: consumption more than tripled compared with when the cookies were served on plates.”

Consumption tripled?! That’s a big difference, my friends. Ms. Parker-Pope’s suggestion is that we should stop buying the snacks or desserts that we consider off-limits. If it’s a “special occasion” treat, then we should only buy it for special occasions. Fabulous concept, for both our kids and ourselves, don’t you think? Ms. Parker-Pope goes on to suggest that we buy healthier foods and let our kids snack whenever they’re hungry.

So what do you think moms? Is this the key to helping our kids have a healthier relationship with food than we do? I think it’s a great start. What about you?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


I do not know about you, but my family LOVES the wealth of apples in our area in the fall. We've tried each kind of apple, we've picked apples at the fruit farm, and we've cooked with apples. I thought I'd share of few apple recipes because fall is arriving here in Ohio(YAY) and I am more than ready to make some apple crisp or an apple pie, both of which we chose to eat warm with Vanilla Bean ice cream. Oh my, I am making myself hungry...

Easy apple crisp

4 to 6 medium cooking apples, peeled, cored and chopped
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon butter, cut in small pieces
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons butter
1 egg

Mix apples, 1 cup of sugar and cinnamon; place in a greased 8-inch baking dish. Dot with the 1 tablespoon of butter. Combine topping ingredients; stir until blended then pour over apples. Bake at 350° for 30 to 35 minutes.


Old Fashioned Apple Pie Recipe


2 9-inch pie crusts (one for the top crust, one for the bottom crust)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Dash of salt
2 tablespoons butter
6 cups thinly sliced and cored apple


1. Preheat oven to 425F.

2. Mix sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, flour, and salt. Stir in the apples.

3. Place into pie crust, dot with butter. Cover with top crust, and slit evenly to let steam escape. Seal the top crust to the bottom by pinching the edges together.

3. Cover edge of the crust with a three inch strip of aluminum foil.

4. Bake 40-50 minutes, until crust is brown and juice begins to bubble through top.

Apple-Rhubarb Crisp

For the Topping:
1 cup flour
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
3 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup finely chopped toasted almonds or walnuts
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
8 tablespoons butter, slightly softened and cut into small pieces

For the Filling:
2 pounds crisp baking apples
1 1/2 pounds rhubarb
1 to 1 1/2 cups sugar
4 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

In a bowl, mix together the flour, brown sugar, sugar, nuts, and cinnamon. Work in the butter until the mixture resembles dry oats. The mixture should just hold together and look crumbly.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Peel, core, and quarter the apples. Cut each quarter into four chunks; you should have about 5 cups. Trim the rhubarb and cut it into 1-inch-long pieces 1/2 inch wide; you should have about 5 cups of rhubarb. In a large bowl, toss the apples and rhubarb with the sugar, flour, and cinnamon until well coated. Transfer the apple and rhubarb mixture to a 2-quarts baking dish and sprinkle the crisp topping over the top. Bake until the topping is golden brown and the fruit is bubbling, 1 hour to 1 hour 15 min. Cool slightly before serving.


I've never tried the rhubarb recipes, but thought it looked so good that I decided to add it on too. If anyone has ever had it, you'll have to let me know what you think of it. I will add it to my "plan on making" list :)

Monday, September 8, 2008

Symbolic Stacks

As the days get cooler and night comes earlier, it is time for that rite of motherhood: the Clothing Swap. Pants the next size up, purchased at clearance prices last Spring, emerge from bins under the beds. Sweaters that were a tad too long last winter are tried on and hung up, ready for the coming crispness of October. Squeaky new, uncomfortable shoes are swapped for summer's stinky sandals.

It is the symbolic passing of time, marked in clothes grown too small, and the emergence of various items I hardly remember stockpiling months ago when prices were low.

Again, I delve into my hidden caches of seasonal stuff. I assess what we have-- what we need-- what we've outgrown.

I mark my children's growth not by marks on a wall, but by bins of outgrown garb labeled and finally relegated to the garage, awaiting the discovery of the gender of baby #3.

Half of these clothes will be gone this time next year-- whichever gender the baby isn't.

For so long, I could not let go of the outgrown onesies, the mittens, the jeans with snapping legs. It was too, too symbolic of me resigning myself to our completion of our family.

Happily, I'm folding the stacks more carefully this season. Because I know that all too soon, this baby I'm growing will need those clothes, eventually. The new baby. The baby we have yet to know. As I fold those shirts carefully away, I smile at the memories of my kids wearing it while doing _________. Playing. Singing. Even having a temper tantrum. I'll smile again the day these clothes emerge again from under a bed, the next size for "new baby" to wear.

I know, it's just stuff.

But the passing of that stuff might as well be the sands through the hourglass. Someday, I will look at these impossibly small garments, and then at my college aged children, and miss it all so much.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Taming the Morning Chaos Monster

I can admit it. I was a little panicked when I thought about M starting back to school. Oh, I’d miss having her around again, but it wasn’t that that had me worried. It was the fact that I’d have to get myself and three kids dressed and fed and out the door by 8:20 in the morning.

I am not a morning person. I prefer to stay up late and sleep in late. My body generally does not want to sleep until late at night, and even then it sometimes balks.

Working with my known weakness as a lousy morning person, I realized I’d need to do as much preparation the night before as possible. Not a new concept, in fact, I had much of this routine established last year, before D was born.

I pour juice in two cups and put them in the refrigerator. I set out the Cheerios. I make M’s sandwich. I set out clothes for the kids. I put my own clothes and a towel in the bathroom.

Even all of this was not enough. I still felt crazed, rushed, except now I felt rushed at night.

So now I do a lot of the same prep work, but I do it once or twice during the week. I bought 2 hanging closet shoe organizers, the kind that have shelves. I pick out M’s and K’s clothes and pajamas for the week on Sundays. Each shelf holds one day’s clothes, complete with socks and underwear.

I bought 3 plastic reusable sandwich boxes (with princesses on them) at the Target dollar spot. I make 3 sandwiches for M’s lunches at once and refrigerate them. One of these weekends I’m going to make a few pb&js and freeze them too. I’ve also bought microwave meals (mac and cheese, pizza rolls) that I can nuke in 2 minutes and put in a Funtainer for her for occasional lunches.

How I’m going to get D fed in the morning when she starts eating cereal I don’t know. She may have to have a late breakfast. Maybe she’ll like brunch instead.

What do you do to tame the chaos in the morning?

Monday, September 1, 2008

Summer is Officially OVER

Well, Happy Labor Day, and what are you doing out here reading blogs anyway?  Shouldn’t you be outside riding bikes or grilling burgers or something?

But since you took the time to stop by, stay for awhile.  Here are a few of my favorite photos from our now-officially-over summer.   Enjoy!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

the blogging world

Some days I think it is so strange that I feel compelled to sit here and write about this or that. Many days I wonder if I am actually "talking" to anyone. Is anyone out there listening? Then I think about how it is hard to explain to other people (non-bloggers) about my "friends" I read about each day/e-mail with/comment to.

Then something like this happens. And I realize that the "friends" that I read about each day really are friends. I care about their lives, their families, their insight on being a Mom, and many other things about each person (you know they are all different, bringing great things to each own blog).

I was not a reader of Stephanie's (Nie Nie) blog before, but find myself reading like crazy now knowing that she is somewhere, battling with burn injuries, away from her family, and needing the supprt, love & prayers of so many. I read and think about myself and other blog friends, and the important things, about how you really never know what tomorrow will bring.

Blogging does that for me. It shows me things I do not see everyday. It lets me connect with other Moms going through a VERY similar life to mine, and it also connects me with those that are not like me at all. Blogging has let me read the intimate thoughts/feelings of a few Mothers that have lost children. They have made me slow down & appreciate the little everyday things (and not get as upset at the not so fun parts of motherhood).

Stephanie & Christian's accident is another one of those situations for me. A normal couple, a tragic accident, all leaving me to be aware of each day. Tell the kids how much they mean to me, let my husband know I think he is the BEST. All of those things you HOPE they will know in a situation anything like the Nielson's.


You can read updates on Stephanie & Christian on her sister's blog. And today there are many fabulous auctions taking place here, raising money for the long recovery process ahead.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Doing the Do

I was having a horrible day the other day, and nothing was going right. I was nauseated from the Fetus That Ate Cincinnati, my job was difficult, my husband's uncle died, my son wouldn't be quiet for two seconds in a row, and my daughter kept pooping her pants.

I was teetering on the edge of that moment where you crawl under the covers and refuse to come out.

Later in the day, a colleague casually intimated that I should have an abortion. (I KNOW!) At home two hours later, my daughter walked into the room I had just cleaned and actually handed me a pair of underwear steaming with fresh crap, leaving a trail of feces on my just-cleaned floor.

I don't think I need to tell you that in that moment, holding a pile of dookie, I was looking directly into the cuckoo's nest.

I'll admit that I shouted a little about what I was holding in my hands. But my daughter and I worked together to solve the problem-- we got her cleaned up. We washed the floor. I set fire to my bacteria-laden hands. (Not really.)

And I did not actually go crazy.

Being a mother, for me, is an exercise in constantly learning that I can. I can, because I will. And I will, because I must. Because my kids' development is really more important to me than having a clean floor. Most days, it's even worth a small shred of my sanity.

I do it because it has to be done, and that is the deep truth of parenting. There are tons of things I don't want to do in regards to being a responsible, supportive parent. I hate potty training, but she has to learn. I hate asparagus, but they have to see me eat it. I despise Chutes and Ladders, but they have to learn sportsmanship and fair play.

I do it because it must be done. And because the end result is worth so much more to me than the relatively temporary frustrations and trials.

I have beautiful, (mostly) well behaved, joyful children who love me, trust me, and turn to me in their hour of need. They are kind to others, independent, and love themselves. They are growing up to be just what the world needs.

Part of it is their own inherent goodness.

But part of it is, because, to my own shock, I have continued to be strong enough to just keep doing.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Most of us are Normal

Minnesotans are not known for their strong fashion sense or their refined taste in cultural pursuits.

Some of us even like a good tractor-pull now and then. (I did as a kid. Hanging head in shame.)

If you look at pop culture, you probably think that Minnesotans are quite eccentric, although I'm fairly certain that there is no greater percentage of weirdos here than, say, L.A.

Hollywood doles out movies about Minnesotans like Fargo and Drop Dead Gorgeous. We look like a bunch of idiots, but in reality only half of us are imbeciles. The other half of us are Grumpy Old Men.

The celebrities that have hailed from Minnesota prove just how normal we are:*

There's the guy who sings songs but no one can understand what he's saying.

There's the guy who sings songs who was first known by a royal name, then by a symbol, then by a royal name again.

There's the girl who is named after a town who likes to get things at the five-finger discount.

There's the guy who was a wrestler when they insisted it wasn't fake, who then turned to politics.

Um. Okay then.

Maybe we are kind of strange.

*Who are they?

Thursday, August 14, 2008

My Olympic Sacrifice

I would like to offer some parental insight, some morsel of advice you haven’t heard before, but instead what I’ve got for you is this:

Michael Phelps.

Matt Grevers.

Aaron Peirsol.

Yes, girls, I’m in deep. I am absolutely exhausted because—imagine—NBC has the nerve to air the Olympic events live, which means that I am up until almost midnight waiting to see our American boys swim. I keep planning to TIVO it—just go to sleep and let the TV do the work. (Truly, I just like saying TIVO. What I mean is that I can tape it, yes, tape—that ancient but highly effective and inexpensive technology.) It only makes sense. Tape tonight, watch tomorrow. But no. I sit through the gymnastics or beach volleyball or whatever—all of which I like, but, truly, I am here for the swimming—and then can’t seem to click the tiny little button that turns that bright screen OFF.

Please note that this is extremely unusual at my house. It’s the other people who live here who watch television. Don’t misunderstand--there are plenty of TV shows I enjoy, there just aren’t any that I watch on a regular basis. I can’t seem to find the time. I’m well aware that this makes me a bit odd; with three boys I have plenty of reminders.

Sports, however, are an exception, the Olympics in particular. I can remember watching as a child, way back when, and being entranced by Nadia Comaneci. That dates me, I know, but I was as amazed by her then as I am by the young men and women today. I’ve been an athlete for as long as I can remember, and have always been intrigued at the depth of these young men and women. It’s a life I can’t imagine, one totally dedicated to a single pursuit.

Watching and cheering will keep me up at least until midnight for the next week or so, but that seems little sacrifice compared to theirs. Go USA!

Monday, August 11, 2008


I am not sure why it has taken me so long, but this summer I have really learned to appreciate things that are homegrown.

Maybe it is because quite a few of my friends & family have gardens this year, and I have been able to share in their bounty. Maybe it is because of the econmony, and how great it feels when I buy homegrown fruits or veggies - knowing that there is little cost to the grower, so the people make good, honest money for their efforts. I can not pinpoint exactly why the change has occured, but it has, and I feel great about it.

The kids & I visited the local farmers market on Saturday. It was our first time, and I had plans to stock up on some summer fruits, and some corn. Oh my goodness, the corn. My family LOVES sweet corn, and we eat alot of it this time of year.

So, we go to one of the larger farm stands at the market, and the family working there looked to be German Baptist. There was an older couple, and a younger woman I assumed to be their daughter. They had so much stuff there, it was hard to choose what we should buy. We chose some blueberries, peaches, some yellow plums, cherries, tomoatos, and the corn - and the older man was the one bagging up our things.

There was something about the sweet, gentle man packing up my stuff. I watched his hands as he bagged my fruits, and he took a second to pick a bluberry from the pint for each of my kids. I melted. His large hands pikcing up those tiny berries one by one. I imagined him planting, and nurturing and picking each of those berries, each of those fruits, and I was completely sold on homegrown all over again.

*picture found at

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Third Time's a Charm

Well, this little conundrum has been effectively settled-- I am pregnant with our third child. And with the discovery of our March blessing to come, I have entered into an era of motherhood that is strange and foreign to me.

I have entered the land of The Last.

This is the Last time I will pee on a stick and celebrate, worry, cry, and giggle. It is the Last time I will tell my husband that our love made a child (I know, gag me, right?) It is the Last time I will carry that particular secret, doling it out carefully to the need-to-knows, and letting others discover only when my belly is too large to ignore.

Some of these Lasts are welcome. Hopefully, it will be the Last time I spend entire days nibbling on crackers and rushing to hover over the toilet bowl every ten minutes. It will be the last time my body is stretched to popping, the last of the stretch marks, the last of the attempts to sleep around a bowling ball.

Most of these Lasts are bittersweet. When this baby is finally felt, it will be the Last first flutter I feel of growing a life. It is the beginning of the Last of so many firsts-- first breath, first smile, first steps. While each of these milestones will be met with pride and a smile, they will still be the Last time I watch my baby do those things for the first time.

I am blessed in this pregnancy in a way I was not with my daughter-- I wasn't sure if she was last, and I had a one year old at the time she was conceived. I missed so much. I just didn't pay attention like I wish I had now.

But I am paying attention now, you'd better believe it. I want to remember all of this, this Last time.