Thursday, April 30, 2009

John 8:32

"Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free."

(You can't quite see it, but Toddler D is sporting Christmas train pajama pants, his swimsuit and his favorite macaroni shirt.)

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

B minus 1

Tomorrow, as I'm sure you recall because perhaps you have a Countdown on your Google home page, is The Day -- my 40th birthday. It's okay. I am perfectly open to it. I am embracing my Womanhood. Bring it on!

I have already received several lovely cards and have decided to keep the cards from this birthday. Some day, my future granddaughter will clean them out of my basement. She will pull them out of a box.

What's this? Ohhhhh! Grandma kept the cards from her 40th birthday. (Here she gets a little misty) They are so beautiful and such a testament to the lovely grace that was my grandma. I will create something beautiful like a decoupage footstool out of them, and put it somewhere where I can see it often and remember her and be inspired to live my life to the fullest the way she did. She always said her life really began at 40.

Oh! Ouch! What's that blinding light?! I . . . I think I am getting a vision of the future. Yes! There is my lovely granddaughter sitting amid the boxes of my basement. She looks tired. She's probably just so sad missing me so much. Oh! She's saying something. Let's listen in . . .

Can anyone explain to me why I am the one cleaning this basement out? Where is my father? Where is my Aunt Sarah? Where is my great-great-grandma?

(Wow! Well, I am not entirely surprised Gigi is still alive.)

I'm just exhausted by the thought of it. As soon as I get this done I am using my inheritance to vacation in Florida.

(The apple doesn't fall far, does it?)

What is in this box? Are these old birthday cards?! Didn't that woman throw anything out? And they're from when she turned 40. How many more boxes are there like this one?! I wonder if anyone would notice if I just set a match to this whole basement.

Huh. Well, that wasn't what I expected at all.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A Poem for Tuesday

I saw today's poem in the middle of a Miss Marple marathon on PBS Sunday afternoon. It has to be watched.

It made me cry. I do that now that I am going to be 40.

I cry at poems.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Dog: Day 6

We are at the end of the trial period and it looks like Fritz T is staying. Do you want to tell him he has to go?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

A Poem for Thursday

I'm a little off my days this week. I enjoyed this one from the Grandma Malmberg scrapbooks this morning along with a forcast high of 86 (?!) today.

What is Spring?
Aileen Fisher

What is spring?
When you hear the first robin sing?
Or see the first crocuses spring
out of the cold ground
with islands (and continents) of snow
still around?

When you hear
the funny loud joke
of a frog's croak?

When maple leaves are fuzzy
and mosquitoes buzzy?

I don't think there is a date
soon or late
when winter is through
and spring is new.
But I always know, don't you?
I know when winter
has begun to depart
and spring start
by the music box that tinkles
in my heart.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Dog: Day 3

May I say Toddler D does not help his case when he gets down on his hands and knees and does this:
Bethany, one of my favorite baristas at Caribou, suggested if Fritz had more squeaky toys, he would chew on Toddler D less. I must say so far it's working pretty well. When he starts gnawing on D, I squeak a toy and whoopee it's a party. Unfortunately, D thinks it's fun too.

Fritz T had a very close shave back to the shelter this morning when he decided to poop all over my bedroom. He then peed all over the living room.

On an up note, it looks like his tummy is feeling better. Also, Brent shampooed the carpet in the bedroom which really, really needed it anyway.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Dog: Day 2

Fritz T wants to play with Toddler D so. very. badly. Clearly, they are brothers from a different litter and, at first, D found this amusing. Not so much after a while. Not so much after being treated as a giant chew toy.

I did my best to run interference for most of the day. I am following a Positive Reinforcement! technique. "Hooray, Fritz!! Who went potty outside?! Who's a good boy?!! Who's a winner dog?!! You are!! Yes, you are!!" But somewhere around 3 p.m. this all went out the window. "Get off the couch NOW!!!!!" Any stay at home mom will tell you it all falls to pieces between 3 and 5, and anyone who doesn't say this has a nanny and quite possible a cook.

Oh, how it fell to pieces today.

Colin was home with allergies? strep throat? with one hand over his ear in case the dog barked. (Only other bark was at my mom today when she came to stay with Fritz and Toddler D when I went to pick up said sickie. Fritz was clearly protecting his litter brother.) Toddler D wanted to go outside and was so mad at me for not taking him out that he refused to take off his jacket even though he removed his pants. He then pooped. I took off the old diaper and D refused to let me put a new one on. I hauled him to his room as Colin said, "I don't think I want the dog after all." I wrestled with D, ultimately sitting on him and went back to discover Fritz has had a diaper snack.

I cleaned it up.

After cleaning this up, I sat quietly in my happy place for a few moments . . . while the dog had diarrhea all over the living room. May I note here, I watched the dog's every movement all day waiting to take him outside and give him 60 treats as prescribed by the Positive Reinforcement! book when he pooped.

I cleaned it up.

I then trimmed the dog's butt with a dull old dog scissors and my kitchen gloves.

And then tried to motivate myself to cook a raw chicken.

Tomorrow laundry.

Monday, April 20, 2009


Meet my mid-life crisis.

We named him Fritz Tatanka. Fritz after a great-uncle of mine and Tatanka, as you know, is the Lakota word for bison. (You may have to live slightly east of the Great Plains to find this as hilarious as I do, but just try saying "tatanka" several times in the deep voice of one of our Native American ancestors on his way to the hunt and you may chuckle. It's a truly great word.)

Brent and I love the dog. Toddler D and Fritz T are brothers from different litters. It has barked once since being here. Unfortuneately, that one bark has put Fritz T on the outs with Colin.

Colin is not a big fan of any sort of sudden noise, which is the very nature of a dog bark. We had dogs when he was born, but he's never appreciated the barking. We put our last dog to sleep about six months ago and it felt like it was time. Colin was upset he didn't have a pet. We can't have a cat because of allergies. I don't think Toddler D is in a good place for any type of rodent or other caged animal. A smallish dog seemed like a good choice.

We have Fritz T on a trial basis for a week. I had Fritz T and Colin out playing catch this afternoon. They are both trying really hard to be friends.

We appreciate your prayer support.

Friday, April 17, 2009

To dog or not to dog

I want to start today by saying that I have just studied a picture of Rascal Flatts and realize my cousin Josh looks nothing like the lead guy. Nothing. Not sure what made me think that.

Okay, I have a bit of a dog itch again. There's a bichon mix in Next Largest Town (NLT). I knew a bichon in my post college life and I really liked her. I've thought if we got another dog now, a bichon might be nice.

You don't see a lot of the little dogs for adoption in my neighborhood. It's mostly black labs. No, thanks. I'm a cat person. I like to pretend my dog is a cat. The Yorkie worked great. It was like having a really needy cat.

So let's talk this out:

Points for NO dog
1. Colin isn't really hip to the idea. I think he's concerned about barking.
2. We sold the kennel.
3. The house no longer smells like dog pee. Just toddler poop.
4. We can leave the house without worrying where the dog is and whether it has lately been outside.
5. We don't have to pay for kenneling when we go away for the weekend . . . not that that happens so often lately.
6. We get a bit allergic around our house. We probably don't need to add any allergy issues to the mix.
7. I think the grass might grow next to the house again.

Points for DOG
1. It's pretty cute.
2. When Brent is gone at night it would be comforting to have a dog there to lick to death any intruder.
3. I think Daniel would like it.

Yeah, I don't know.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

More on autism

Jenny McCarthy was on the Bonnie Hunt show today. Jenny has a son with autism and has been very vocal about the role she feels vaccines played in her son's condition. I really appreciate the attention she brings to autism awareness, but the vaccine argument is controversial and, I think, dangerous.

Minnesota had three reported deaths from measles last year. In two of the cases, the parents had chosen not to have their children vaccinated.

As parents we need to be educated, aware, and brave when it comes to standing up for the health of our children. No doubt about it. But at this time, research cannot find a link between autism and thimerosal, a preservative in the measles/mumps/rubella (MMR) vaccine which has not been used since 2001.

Now look. Did I swallow hard before this shot was given to Toddler D? Oh, heck yeah. I did my home research on the Internet. I talked to Early Childhood Special Educators. I talked to my doctor. Most importantly, I thought about Colin before and after his MMR shot.

Same kid.

Colin was Colin the day he was born. He came into this life stubborn and fighting and distracted in his own little world . . . before the shot and after.

I do not for one minute mean to tell you that those parents who feel that the vaccine triggered autism symptoms in their children are wrong. I don't. But for me as I sat in the doctor's office waiting for Toddler D to have his shot, the bottom line was this: Would I rather lose my kid to autism . . . or death? Preventable death.

I chose the shot and I don't regret it either time.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Autism a la Grandpa

My dad wrote a really nice piece about Colin in his column this week. (I'm a little biased on both counts of my dad and Colin.) I thought I'd share it with you.

Pope County Tribune - April 13, 2009
Stoneage Ramblings: Two local heroes that deserve mention
John R. Stone

We all have heroes and people we admire for how they go about life. I have two to mention this week.

The first is Marie Ogdahl, who died at the end of March after a nearly eight-year battle with ovarian cancer. Marie did not stop living when she discovered she had a severe case of cancer but continued to experience life. She saw three grandchildren join the family and a son get married. She was able to be an active grandmother and a wife and mother for many years as well. For those of us who have had our cancer scares, she was a model to emulate, a person who did things her way, a person who made the cancer fight for every cell it tried to claim, a person who did not let cancer scare her from living. She was in charge, not the cancer.

Marie made sure she took full advantage of the good days. Ovarian cancer is a difficult one to diagnose early so Marie and her family have made it a point to circulate information to others about the warning signs for ovarian cancer. Our condolences go out to Bill and all the Ogdahl family.

My second hero is closer to home: he's my grandson, Colin.

Last year, when he was in third grade, I went along as a chaperon with his class when it made its annual trip to Andes Tower Hills ski area. The idea was to help teach him to ski.

The day didn't go well. Colin was having a hard time overcoming the anxiety that is a symptom of his autism. Every time his speed made him uncomfortable he would sit down on his skis, a dangerous thing to do because one loses all control. He would fall a half dozen times on each run down the hill. So I skied closely to him and grabbed him each time he sat down to keep him from going into the woods or running into someone else.

But every time he was down he got back up again. He never complained that he was hurt or tired. And he never asked to quit. Frankly, I didn't know why he wanted to keep trying. In fact at the end of the day he made me promise to bring him back; it was the only way he would agree to leave. Two more trips didn't go much better than the first, but he was bound and determined to keep trying.

One time as I was helping him back up he looked at some kids going by and asked me, "Grandpa, why can't I ski like that?" I told him he would some day, not having much confidence in when that day might be.

This year I went again with his class but this year things were different. The first day was a little rough but we worked very hard on one thing, getting confidence in the snowplow maneuver. That meant more time on the bunny hill than he wanted to spend, but in the end it paid off.

The first few runs down there were issues with getting the skis crossed but he was under control and upright. Further runs got better. Again, he would not leave the ski hill until I promised to bring him back, which I did.

We made two more trips in March and each time he got better. By the end of the third trip we'd get off the lift and he would head over to the edge of the hill and take off. He no longer waited, he no longer had to stand there, look down the hill and screw up his courage to a level that allowed him to push off and head downhill. On each of the last two trips to Andes he didn't fall more than twice in several hours of skiing. When his skis crossed he'd uncross them. When he felt he was going too slow, he'd pull his skis together to gain speed. He got it!

April is National Autism Month. Colin is considered high functioning. He's in fourth grade and has some wonderful skills. Musically he can remember all the notes to a piano piece after playing it once. He has a wonderful singing voice. As he grows older he overcomes more and more autism symptoms, thanks to his parents and some really great people at Minnewaska Area Schools.

Colin and Marie are heroes to me because they didn't quit, even when it would have been logical and understandable to do so. They set an example for us all.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A Poem for Tuesday

Before our poem today, I have to give a big shout out to Roxane at Peace Garden Mama for featuring me on her blog today. Roxane is a real honest-to-pete writer/author with a regular column in a daily newspaper and a book in the Library of Congress. She's beautiful, smart, talented and married to my childhood buddy Troy (who has met Eddie Van Halen!). It's really an honor to be on her blog roll and even more so to be featured by her today.

So on the count of three, please: 1, 2, 3 . . .


Okay, today's poem is from The Grandma Malmberg scrapbooks. It's by Bliss Carmen who through a little Google research we learn was the "foremost poet laureate of Canada."

An April Morning
by Bliss Carmen

Once more in misted April
The world is growing green.
Along the winding river
The plumey willows lean.

Beyond the sweeping meadows
The looming mountains rise,
Like battlements of dreamland
Against the brooding skies.

In every wooded valley
The buds are breaking through,
As though the heart of all things
No languor ever knew.

The golden-wings and bluebirds
Call to their heavenly choirs.
The pines are blued and drifted
With smoke of brushwood fires.

And in my sister's garden
Where little breezes run,
The golden daffodillies
Are blowing in the sun.

Monday, April 13, 2009

The emotional Lenten computer experiment

I know you're wondering how the experiment ended up. I want so badly to tell you I was faithful to 30 minutes every day . . . but as I discussed with my mother earlier today, I am deeply NOT into lying. I got quite lax at the end. It was an experiment after all. But I must say that I became much more aware of how I spend my computer time, and I believe I have crushed a bizarre middle age (see how easily it's rolling off the tongue now) addiction to Facebook. All's well that ends adequately.

I have had times in my life when I wasn't very good with honesty. Particularly the 18-24 range of my life. Now if you spend five minutes with me I will tell you anything you want to know and perhaps several things you didn't. I was thinking about my dearest darling friend in the whole wide world. This chick is so protective I don't even know if she likes me . . . but I adore her and I keep acting in good faith that she has positive feelings about me. Sometimes I walk away from our conversations wondering how uncomfortable she was as I spilled the beans on my every feeling from my family to the global economy to the daily use of sunscreen. She seems so in control while I make an emotional mess crying and screaming, getting my feelings hurt and then hugging everyone I see and laughing hysterically much too loudly.

One of my goals, now that I'm going to be 40, is to take it easier on myself. Half the emotional mess I make is only in my head (I think). And a loud laugh is better than no laugh at all.

Friday, April 10, 2009

A small list for Friday

When I envisioned my adult life, there are certain things I did not imagine. Here is a list of seven:

  • There would always be rice bits in my butter tub.
  • I would enjoy baking cakes. And frosting them. And eating the frosting. (Well, I probably could have suspected that one.)
  • It would be my desire to wake up earlier in the morning.
  • My relatives would still call me "Asil" -- get it?
  • I would be a stay home mom complete with chocolate chip cookies.
  • I would voluntarily exercise.
  • My little cousin Joshie would grow up to look like the lead singer from Rascal Flatts.

Blessed Good Friday to you. Sunday's coming! ;)

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Obits

It's B minus 21 days to the big Four-Oh, and I find myself checking the obituaries with increased frequency. What does this mean? Do I think I will find myself in them?

No, not really. It just seems like there are more parents and grandparents that I know in there, and I don't want to miss anything. I'm not keeping a stockpile of sympathy cards or anything -- although maybe I should. It's a small town and you hate to see somebody you know in the local grocery and be like, "Hey! It's so great to see you! How the heck are ya!" only to find out that they're not so hot because Granny Tvrdik/Pfeninger/Chan/Klimek/Hvezda/Zavadil just passed away.

It's embarrassing. It's a very small town.

It's also a bit of Bohemian neighborhood now that I think about it. And I don't mean in the "disregard for convention" way. I mean in the "Grandma was from the Old Country" way.

During my tenure at the family weekly newspaper, we had to follow a strict news style when writing obituaries. No one "passed away" or "went to meet her Savior." They all died. I notice things are a little more casual in my local obits these days. There are a few more instances of "this union was blessed with three children." That always makes me chuckle. Yeah, they had four kids, but they were only blessed by three of them.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009


It's Cyberspace Sarah's birthday today.

And she would like the world to know she's 31.

Actually we had a conversation this morning where she was able to laugh and say that now that she's 31, she can get over the trauma of being 30.

As you know it is now B minus 22 days until I turn 40. I have been trying out the term "middle aged" to speak of myself. That feels awkward. I plan to live to be at least 90, so I can probably wait five more years.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

A Poem for Tuesday

This week's poem is from Mrs. Clare's fourth grade classroom. It's Langston Hughes, who is normally not my favorite, but this is nice.

And here's the view of my backyard taken last night. It's getting better.

April Rain Song
Langston Hughes

Let the rain kiss you
Let the rain beat upon your head with silver liquid drops
Let the rain sing you a lullaby
The rain makes still pools on the sidewalk
The rain makes running pools in the gutter
The rain plays a little sleep song on our roof at night
And I love the rain.

Monday, April 6, 2009

You're in the village

My brother-in-law Brennan, Captain America to you, thought I should name today's blog entry, "If it takes a village, where were you guys?" This after Toddler D decided he was going to abdicate our family and sit with a young couple with three girls under the age of four in the back pew at church yesterday.

These little girls are, I am telling you, biz-ee. They are as darling as can be and are usually found singing, dancing, fighting over pencils, whatever it takes on any given Sunday morning. My second born thinks they are tremendous fun and moved right over to where they were playing Ring Around the Rosy and nosed himself between their hands laughing uproariously. If it had been me, I would have given them surreptitious glances all hour, hoping one of them would come over and invite me. Toddler D operates with a different set of rules.

We have tried taking Toddler D to the nursery twice and got called out on the pager both times because D did not want to stay there. Since then we have arrived at church with a backpack filled to the brim with every conceivable game, toy and snack. Mostly Colin makes use of it while D tries to make friends with the people around us.

D didn't seem to be causing any more trouble with the girls than they are usually in , so I just sat there with my back turned away from the sermon waiting for him to cause an infraction I considered worthy of being pulled back into our pew.

Then it happened, he and Sister 2 started jumping up and down in the pew. Sister 2 got pulled down, but what was Young Father supposed to do with my child? I went over to get him. Unfortunately they were in the middle of the pew against the sound board. I could not get to him from either side . . . and this is where Brennan who was running the sound board comes in . . . I figured Brennan who is very tall could reach over the sound board and pluck up my child. But he wasn't there. He was off -- well, I don't know. He'd heard the sermon two times already, maybe he'd gotten the three points. Finally Young Father just grabbed D and handed him over. Pulled away from his friends D started to scream. By this time no one on that side of church was listening to the sermon anymore and, in a rare form of embarrassment for me, I just walked right out the back.

"Where were you?!" I asked Brennan when I saw him.

"I don't know," was his replay. "Maybe if you'd keep track of your child."

With relatives like that . . .

Friday, April 3, 2009

Weight of the world

I was really proud I didn't gain any weight during the Big Anniversary Birthday Birthday cruise, and so I've been proudly celebrating by eating fried shrimp, french fries and homemade ice cream.

The tide has turned. The scale is going the wrong direction.

I come from healthy stock. Large boned stocky farmers. Tall and willowy women. (Review the photo of my great-grandmother there.) I got more of the large bone stock genes than the tall and willowy genes.

I try really hard not to get too focused on weight. Our culture is so hard on women. This particular era expects us to be razor thin, emaciated even. That's not right, and I reject that image. On the other hand, in America, we love value and quantity and don't know when to say no. It's so easy to eat those tasty hot McDonald's fries and ignore the fact that the large size has enough fat and calories for the entire meal. They're so lovely and salty, crispy and good.

No, my exercise has remained the same and even increased because, as we have discussed before, exercise is an essential part of my good mental health plan.

Chocolate chips are not (well, they are, but you know what I mean) and . . . at least for now . . . they have got to go.

Fare thee well beloved friend.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

She's paddling up river

So, as you remember, my s'aughter (stepdaughter) Shelby has been here all week after being evacuated from her college along the Red River in Moorhead. The river is going down and classes start on Monday. She has decided to spend a -- no doubt -- quiet weekend with her Mom up in Duluth after helping hold down the fort with The Little Brothers here at Mania Central all week.

I cannot tell what mixed emotions I have about this. I am very thankful that the flooding was not worse. I am glad Shelby can get back into her own predictable routine.

But . . . well . . . I know it's a little on the selfish side . . .

It was like a live-in nanny ALL week!! I mean to tell you! I caught up on my housework . . . well, you know, such as it is. I read two books. I played spider solitaire. (Yes, Rita, I was cheating again.) Oh, man! To have her here all the time! To have another adult to talk and to listen!

I just want to stand in the door holding her suitcase hostage. "Don't go!" I want to yell. "Don't leave me! You are a valuable member of our family unit!! I'LL MISS YOUUUUUUUUUU!!"

Sigh. I won't.

She is a lovely young woman with a life and interests of her own. I cannot imagine how she's put up with so much Little Brother love all week. It's time. Fine. It's time.

But we're not that far away. Maybe she should start coming down more on weekends. You know, like every weekend.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Autism Awareness

It's Autism awareness month. According to the Autism Society of Minnesota:

Autism is estimated to occur in as many as 1 in 166 individuals (Center for Disease Control and Prevention). Autism is four times more prevalent in boys than in girls and knows no racial, ethnic, or social boundaries. Family income, life-style, and educational levels do not affect the chance of a child having autism. Autism is currently thought of as a “spectrum disorder.” This means that the severity of symptoms differs in people with ASD.
Colin is at the "high end" of the spectrum. People often ask me what this means, and I trip over my tongue trying to explain something I only sort of understand myself. Colin's senses are heightened. Things are too loud. He hums to himself. (Sometimes my mother does this as well.) He doesn't mind being touched, but it sort of has to be on his terms -- but, then again, what 10-year-old boy isn't this way. He has always done things at his own pace, on his own time . . . talking, walking, potty training.

Communication is probably the area he struggles with the most. He has a difficult time getting what's in his head out his mouth. This is the issue that is hardest for me. I was a linguistics student. I love words. I am fascinated by language. Speaking what's on our minds is something many of us take for granted.

I certainly did.

Even though he cannot always tell me what's bothering him, or what happened to him during the day, or how he feels, my son is gifted in ways I never dreamed for him. At 10 he plays jazz piano better than I ever will. Because feelings are a bit of a mystery to him, he pays particular attention to people. He sees things I do not notice. "Mom, what is that person feeling?" he will ask of someone I had not even seen -- an impatient mom at the mall perhaps, a crying baby, a worried dad.

He is purposefully attuned to the world . . . until the world is too loud or too tiring and then he retreats. You might say "zones out." Or, if we are somewhere safe -- like at home -- he will melt down in a way you might find inappropriate for a big kid his age. These moments are not fun.

He is handsome and funny. He is musical. He is joyful.

He is my child born the way God needs him to be.