Friday, February 26, 2010

Preschooler D Quote O' the Day

Mommy! There's shampoo on this cup!

Huh. Really? I don't know how shampoo would have gotten on that cup from . . . SeaWorld . . . Oh. Yes, I do see Shamu on that cup.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Big City

My darling friend Roberta has taken a job in corporate America in downtown Minneapolis. This has been a bit of change for Roberta who was previously self-employed, but she's a go-with-the-flow kind of gal (or at least I tell her so enthusiastically). At any rate, several weeks ago I told her I would drive downtown and meet her for lunch in her new Big Business environment.

Off I went today with my GPS in its case and my music CD to practice for Sunday's singing. I was just singing my little heart out when I started to get to the outer suburbs and that's when I started to panic. Now I am a hip, happenin' bass guitar playing Mom on the go, right? Driving downtown Minneapolis is not a big deal, right? I used to do it all the time.

Yeah, all the time 16 years ago. Since then I have been living back out in West Lake Woebegone. Two blocks from my house is the county's only stoplight. Not the neighborhood's only stoplight. Not the town's only stoplight. The county's only stoplight. If you miss this one, it will be at least another 30 miles before you hit another one. It's just a different driving pace.

So there I was still singing away trying to plug in the GPS while driving. Not safe. I got it plugged in and managed to put in the address to Roberta's building. I made it downtown and that's when the GPS in its lovely calm voice said, "You have reached your destination." Well, I didn't think I had, but I got excited because I was in front of an underground parking ramp, so I pulled into the ramp. It was a fancy schmancy ramp with car detailing and gates and such . . . and very little signage. I got out of the Momobile all excited I had made it this far and I started to walk . . . and walk . . . and walk until I got to the top of the ramp where I couldn't get out because of the gates. Back around I went. I tried several unmarked doors and several unmarked staircases to no avail until I got back around to the car. I took three more steps in the other direction and found an unmarked elevator which took me up to the skyway system.

I assumed at this point I was at Roberta's building. GPS told me so. Nope. Nope, I wasn't. In fact, I was pretty sure I had never been in this building before in my life and I had no idea where I was. Thank you, cell phone and skyway map. I was two blocks short.

So, I am home again after my Big Adventure to the Big Downtown of the Big City. It was nice to prove to myself I could still do it, but maybe next time I'll have Roberta meet me out in the suburbs.

Fewer stoplights.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Sand castles

There comes a time in Minnesota when we are just done with winter. We've had enough and it is time for spring. Unfortunately for some of us, this comes long before actual spring.

Yesterday the hot topic at ECFE was how to bring the sandbox concept inside. One mommy said she put cat litter in a plastic tote. When she said this I nearly jumped out of my chair for joy (but hadn't had any coffee yet, so this would have been impossible) because I remembered that last fall I bought a small sand table on clearance for such a time as this, and it was still out in the garage. Callooh! Callay! As soon as Big Daddy got home we brought that bad puppy inside and filled it with a big box of macaroni I had in the cupboard. The dog was thrilled. I sat and played computer Scrabble for 45 minutes while Preschooler D and the dog happily munched away at dried pasta. Look, friends. We are at the "whatever it takes" point of winter. A little dried pasta is good for the digestive system.

Recently my sister wrote that she was through wearing her winter coat no matter the temperature. I am going to be right behind her, but I got cold this morning, as today's high was 5, and I put on the big down parka. It's warm, but it's bulky. I am like a giant green marshmallow snow person in it. I am probably going to tuck it in the closet for good now. How many more days where the high is five can there be?

Don't answer that.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A Poem for Tuesday

I still have the Olympic spirit. Here is the Olympic hymn in English.

Olympic Anthem
lyrics by Greek poet Kostis Palamas

Olympian flame immortal
Whose beacon lights our way
Emblaze our hearts with the fires of hope
On this momentous day

As now we come across the world
To share these Games of old
Let all the flags of every land
In brotherhood unfold

Sing out each nation, voices strong
Rise up in harmony
All hail our brave Olympians
With strains of victory

Olympic light burn on and on
O'er seas and mountains and plains
Unite, inspire, bring honor
To these ascending games
May valor reign victorious
Along the path of golden way

As tomorrow's new champions now come forth
Rising to the fervent spirit of the game
Let splendour pervade each noble deed
Crowned with glory and fame

And let fraternity and fellowship
Surround the soul of every nation

Oh flame, eternal in your firmament so bright
Illuminate us with your everlasting light
That grace and beauty and magnificence

Shine like the sun
Blazing above
Bestow on us your honor, truth and love

Monday, February 22, 2010

My midlife bass guitar crisis

A few weeks ago Nancy, our church's music director, came up to me and asked, "Is there any way you could learn guitar in six weeks." There is a state-wide women's conference at our church at the end of March, and she was trying to put together an all chick band. I started to laugh. No! No way am I going to learn guitar in six weeks. Thanks for thinking of me, though!

Just then my husband Mr. I-have-more-musical-talent-in-my-pinkie-than-my-wife-has-in-her-entire-body popped his little head between us and said, "She could learn bass guitar."

And that, dear friends and loved ones, is how I became the proud owner of a shiny gray bass guitar last Thursday.

Cool, right? See how it has four strings? So far I know four notes. Okay, I have learned a few more, but I am going to need all of the next five weeks to prepare for my big debut at the women's event.

I figure as far as mid-life traumas go, this is a pretty safe one. It's got a rock and roll element without the tiny sports car price tag.

I do need to figure out what the hip happenin' rockin' mama carries in her case besides chapstick.

And I might need leather pants . . .

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Lent 2010: Day 2

Okay. This isn't going very well -- not well at all, but am I a quitter?!

Well, just a minute let me think . . .

Okay . . . no. I mean, NO!! No, of course not.

Last night Olympic highlights were Minnesota's own downhill skier Lindsey Vonn and the wacky snowboard half pipers. What a strange dichotomy of Olympic attitude.

They showed Lindsey as she was going through a mental trial run of the ski slope. There she was -- eyes closed, hands grasping her imaginary ski poles, swishing and darting down the imaginary mountain at an imaginary 80 miles per hour. Her little face frozen in determination.

When it was her time to go down the hill, she stood in the gate like she was ready for battle. She looked angry. She looked mean. She looked like that mountain was her number one enemy. How dare it think she would remain at the top when victory was so near at the bottom. She hopped up and down. She pushed back and forth on her skis. More! More! More! AND GO!! Off she went, taking no prisoners as she raced down that slope pushing and shoving that mountain all the way down.

She collapsed at the bottom and screamed and when she became the gold medal winner three or four skiers later, she started to cry. Oh, and it was the ugly cry, wasn't it? Big tears. Big emotion. Big release. "What's going through your mind?" asked the reporters. "Why all the tears?" The poor girl wasn't sure she was even going to be able to ski this race due to a bruised shin and through the grace of rainy weather the whole thing had been postponed and there she was -- weeping like she probably hadn't all year.

Now contrast that to our little snowboarding half pipe team. In their snow pants that look like jeans and their bandannas. With their ipods on . . . while they performed. One kids' coach (do they have coaches?) whacked him on the arm when it was his turn because clearly he couldn't hear over his music.

Oh, I know they are just as serious. I know they are just as driven and that gold medal is just as important. It just looked different.

Well, shoot. Looks like I am out of time to discuss why I didn't get up at the Proverbs 31:15 time again today . . . Maybe I need to be a little more Lindsey Vonn about it and a little less Shaun White.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Lent 2010: Day 1

Okay, so it didn't go so great today. I was up late watching the Olympics. Well, jeepers, they only happen every four years.

I'm not sure why, but for someone as apathetic about sports in general, I just love the Olympics -- and it has to be the Olympics. I mean, sit me down in front of cross country skiing any other time of year and you might as well set me down in front of a bowl of Jell-O with marshmallows (a joke for the faithful reader). Sit me down in front of Olympic cross country skiing and I am all, "How about that Dario Cologna!! Go Switzerland!!"

Maybe it's the idea, you know? It's theoretically a time of peace when countries put aside their differences to play games. The athletes promise,

In the name of all the competitors I promise that we shall take part in these Olympic Games, respecting and abiding by the rules which govern them, committing ourselves to a sport without doping and without drugs, in the true spirit of sportsmanship, for the glory of sport and the honour of our teams.

Could we somehow adapt that promise to other areas of our lives? Could we take an oath at church or the PTA or even our own homes?

In the name of our family I promise that we shall take part in this day of life, respecting and abiding by the rules which govern it, committing ourselves to a day without doping and without drugs in the true spirit of humanity for the glory of life and the honor of our family name.
Or maybe I am making excuses for not getting my butt out of bed.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A Poem for Tuesday

In honor of my Lenten vow to get up earlier, here's a little something I wrote myself.

Ode to Fat Tuesday
Mary Lisa Cochran

I love you, my bed.
I love you, I do.
Your pillows are soft.
Your sheets are light blue.

I love you, my bed.
You're a friend tried and true.
You're there when I'm tired,
Or when I have the flu!

Alas! Alas!
The day goes by.
My family is up
While still here I lie!

Alas! Alas!
Proverbs 31:15
Screams into my ears
While still here I dream!

And so, my bed,
We must depart.
Yet this you shall know:
You are first in my heart.

(I didn't say it was going to be a good poem.)

Monday, February 15, 2010

Valentine Widow

It's actually last night and I am sitting alone at my computer (sigh) because Brent is playing with the soothing sounds of the Velvet Brass tonight. The local dance club is giving tango lessons. Alas, when you're a band groupie such as I, you never actually get to dance. (Sigh) And after you have kids you decide to stay home and watch them as opposed to paying a babysitter, so you can sit alone at the dance.

At least that's what happened to me. (Sigh)

Well, don't feel too sorry for me. I got to go on a real overnight date at a fancy schmancy hotel with fancy schmancy dinner in the Big City -- well, the Big Sister City -- for my anniversary on Friday. Dinner took two hours. Can you imagine?! And there wasn't a chicken strip, nugget or finger in sight! Just a bottle of wine and three courses ending in passion fruit mousse and mixed berries. I mean what's wrong with that? Nothing. Truly, it was lovely.

So now Big Daddy is paying for Friday's dinner by playing the tango for other peoples' Valentines. What of it? Every day is Valentine's around here, right?

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Red Velvet Cupcakes

"This one, Mom!"

For days, Preschooler D had been dragging out a cupcake cookbook and pointing eagerly toward a picture of a cupcake with white frosting and sprinkles on the top. "Pink ones!"

Jeepers. He's just so cute.

I've always wanted to make a red velvet cake like our southern sisters enjoy and I thought this would be perfect for Valentine's Day. Red velvet cupcakes with white frosting and sprinkles. Everybody's happy. I made a special stop after Bible study on Tuesday night and got cupcake liners, sprinkles and the requisite bottle of red food coloring. And so, D and I started our project yesterday.

Now, yesterday was one of those days where it does not pay to get out of bed. You know when the dog eats the wooden toggles off your new snow boots and then pees in Colin's room. The kind of day where you spill an entire container of soy milk left over from s'son's visit this weekend in the refrigerator. A day when Chief Babysitter "Andy" calls at 8 a.m. "I need a letter of recommendation by two o'clock!"

It was just the kind of day I like to bake. When you don't seem to have control of anything, you take a little flour, a little sugar and a few chocolate chips and it's all good.

D put the papers in the cupcake pan. I started mixing. D thought he would break the eggs. I wrestled them from him. Then I dropped the mostly empty bottle of food coloring down the side of my cupboard and onto the floor. There is now a decorative stripe of red on my cupboard. We got it all mixed up and I said to D, "Would you like to lick the beaters?!"

"No. That looks yucky," and he turned on his little heel and left.

But we made these for you.

I got them in the oven. I don't think my oven is heating right and so towards the end of their baking time I wanted to turn the pans around.

And that's when I hit the top heating element with my hand . . . which started to smoke. My hand. My hand started to smoke, not the heating element.

After some Girl Scout first aid on myself, I managed to get the cupcakes frosted with peppermint cream cheese frosting. Colin came in. "Do you want a cupcake?" I asked my beloved first born.

"Is that peppermint? I don't like peppermint."

And that is how I got a second degree burn on my hand making beautiful red velvet cupcakes with mini chocolate chips, white frosting and sprinkles . . . which my children won't eat.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Stinkin' Stained Pants

I think we have discussed before that from time to time I have a little ebay problem. I am a binge ebayer, if you will. I can go months without even going to the site and then I will start bidding on things left and right.

I added a new twist to my problem when I started a new little game with myself last week. I searched on brands that I like and then would only bid if there was less than an hour left. I thought this was a brilliant plan. If there was nothing to bid on -- there was nothing. No bidding on something that had a week to go and then regretting it. No bidding on something, becoming the high bidder for several days and then being outbid at the last second. I patted myself on the back for being so smart.

Until I started bidding on things without really reading the description.

Let me present the Case of the Stinkin' Stained Pants, as my friend Rita calls it. I bid on this pair of linen pants that were still only 99 cents with only a few minutes to go. I made sure that the seller had mostly positive feedback and I leaped right ahead. Then I went back and saw at the very, very bottom of the description it said, "Pants are stained and will not come out with wash or stain remover. Still $89 pants." Yes, okay, BUT WHO WANTS TO WEAR $89 STAINED PANTS?! I was not happy with myself.

And so the stinkin' stained pants arrived today and the stains weren't that bad. I was pretty sure they were going to come out in the wash. Unfortunately, the reason they were stained is because they must have gotten caught in something somewhere -- machinery perhaps. The fabric had been pulled out and there are two tiny holes at the bottom of the pants. This is reason for a refund . . . but they are really cool pants.

No problem, I would remove the stains and make a tiny repair to the bottom. Not a problem. No, sir.

Until I sprayed the cream linen pants with spray stain remover which removed the cream part of my pants. Big bleach stains where the dirt stains used to be. Problem.

I then thought I would bleach the whole works. They would be white, not cream, but they would be saved. Hooray!

It didn't work. I'm not sure where to go from here. I might stain spray the whole thing or I might try dying them.

At any rate, I've given up for the day. There's really no call for wearing linen pants in Central Minnesota right now anyway.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

A Poem for Tuesday

It is Day 2 of cancelled school in Central Minnesota. The snow has been falling and falling and falling and falling. I let the dog out yesterday and he bounded off the step and was in over his head. It was like a cartoon. I could just see this tunnel of snow as he ran out toward the swing set.

There was much rejoicing when school was cancelled again today. I may have to have my own snow day if this keeps up . . . preferably with pedicure and a pina colada. In the meantime, enjoy this Billy Collins poem which I have stolen off the Atlantic Monthly website. I am hoping they don't notice.

Snow Day
by Billy Collins

Today we woke up to a revolution of snow,
its white flag waving over everything,
the landscape vanished,
not a single mouse to punctuate the blankness,
and beyond these windows

the government buildings smothered,
schools and libraries buried, the post office lost
under the noiseless drift,
the paths of trains softly blocked,
the world fallen under this falling.

In a while I will put on some boots
and step out like someone walking in water,
and the dog will porpoise through the drifts,
and I will shake a laden branch,
sending a cold shower down on us both.

But for now I am a willing prisoner in this house,
a sympathizer with the anarchic cause of snow.
I will make a pot of tea
and listen to the plastic radio on the counter,
as glad as anyone to hear the news

that the Kiddie Corner School is closed,
the Ding-Dong School, closed,
the All Aboard Children's School, closed,
the Hi-Ho Nursery School, closed,
along with -- some will be delighted to hear --

the Toadstool School, the Little School,
Little Sparrows Nursery School,
Little Stars Pre-School, Peas-and-Carrots Day School,
the Tom Thumb Child Center, all closed,
and -- clap your hands -- the Peanuts Play School.

So this is where the children hide all day,
These are the nests where they letter and draw,
where they put on their bright miniature jackets,
all darting and climbing and sliding,
all but the few girls whispering by the fence.

And now I am listening hard
in the grandiose silence of the snow,
trying to hear what those three girls are plotting,
what riot is afoot,
which small queen is about to be brought down.

Billy Collins is the author of several poetry collections, including The Art of Drowning(1995) and Picnic, Lightning(1998). He teaches in the writing program at Sarah Lawrence College.

Copyright © 2000 by The Atlantic Monthly Company. All rights reserved.
The Atlantic Monthly; February 2000; Snow Day; Volume 285, No. 2; page 86.

Monday, February 8, 2010


We didn't get much done this weekend as Mr. and Miss Betrothed (Shall we call them jeremyandrachel?) were at our house. I am trying to remember being engaged. I think my father had to pay a herd of goats to Brent or something. Maybe it was the other way around. Who can recall.

At any rate s'son Jeremy did a nice job picking out her ring all by himself. After the crossword puzzle dictionary debacle of 2004, I wasn't sure he had it in him, but maybe it's different buying gifts for your s'mother than it is for your girlfriend. It most likely is, isn't it?

I shouldn't tease. He has written two piano songs for Colin as gifts -- which is about the neatest thing ever. And he gave me the Fargo North High School Marching Band playing "Happy Birthday" for my 40th birthday last year which is going to be hard to top this year. He does all right.

I meant to take a picture of them for the blog record, but as it was I was a little bit excited spreading the word. The came here on Friday night and announced the wedding date and by Sunday morning people at church were greeting them, "I hear your getting married June next year." Well . . .It's not every day we have news this good.

Rachel is THE young woman for Jeremy. It is a rare thing to see two people as in sync as these two are. It is most assuredly cause for a wedding.

And it's June next year, in case you hadn't heard.

Friday, February 5, 2010

The Stepmother-in-law

Earlier this week beloved s'on told us that he had become engaged to Rachel (We won't even pretend that's not her name anymore. Now that she has a ring, she's stuck by name in my blog.) This will make Brent a father-in-law and me . . . a stepmother-in-law. My goodness, what a mouthful.

What, exactly, does a stepmother-in-law do? What role does she take? Some people have great relationships with their mothers-in-law. You hear them say, "My mother-in-law is like a second mother to me." But have you ever heard, "I am incredibly close to my father-in-law's wife?" No. You haven't. There must be lots of us out there, but what are we doing with ourselves?

Just when I thought I was running out of things to worry about. Ohhhh.

(Wait. Is is possible this engagement isn't about me?)

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Help me down

Whew! My soapbox was very tall yesterday. It may take me a while to climb down. I worked up a sweat. Parents just do the best they can, by and large, don't they? I don't mean to start a fight with anyone. I'm a big peacenik.

Anyway, while I work my way down, you should go visit beloved s'daughter's new blog about her trip to Norway.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Autism Study

Last year Brent and I were on an airplane with the person in charge of vaccines with the State of Minnesota Health Department. When we shared with her that our son was on the autism spectrum, she looked resigned and seemed to brace herself. When we said we did not believe that shots had anything to do with this, she let out a sigh of relief and said, "I am so glad to hear you say that." Then she shared with us that measles was on the rise in Minnesota and two children had recently died because they were not vaccinated.

Measles is on the rise, not just in Minnesota, but around the world. I read today that there was a 70 percent increase in England and Wales from 2007 to 2008. That's not 10 years. That's not 5 years. That's one year. There was a 70 percent rise in one year.

On Tuesday the doctor who published the report in 1998 linking the measles shot to autism was formal censured in that country and the journal that published the paper retracted it. His methods were sloppy and he was being paid by lawyers for families who believed there was a connection. Here's the BBC story.

I mean absolutely no disrespect to the families who believe their child changed after the shot. We are all dealing with the spectrum the best we can. More research needs to be done, but the majority of studies done on the MMR vaccine and autism have not found a link. As I have said before, given the choice between losing my second child to autism and letting my him die from measles, I chose the shot.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

A Poem for Tuesday

Still in a Beatles mood . . . I just heard or read somewhere that they were on some sort of sight seeing oceanic boat ride when Ringo Starr learned that octopuses collect rocks and other objects and make their own gardens.

Octopus's Garden
Ringo Starr

I'd like to be under the sea
In an octopus' garden in the shade
He'd let us in, knows where we've been
In his octopus' garden in the shade

I'd ask my friends to come and see
An octopus' garden with me
I'd like to be under the sea
In an octopus' garden in the shade.

We would be warm below the storm
In our little hideaway beneath the waves
Resting our head on the sea bed
In an octopus' garden near a cave

We would sing and dance around
because we know we can't be found
I'd like to be under the sea
In an octopus' garden in the shade

We would shout and swim about
The coral that lies beneath the waves
(Lies beneath the ocean waves)
Oh what joy for every girl and boy
Knowing they're happy and they're safe
(Happy and they're safe)

We would be so happy you and me
No one there to tell us what to do
I'd like to be under the sea
In an octopus' garden with you.

Monday, February 1, 2010

How I Lost my SuperMom Pin

Yesterday at church, Brent was helping with the sound board and I was helping with Sunday School. Preschooler D needed to be in the nursery for two hours. This is not usually a problem. He likes it there. It's pretty quiet around home most days and I imagine he likes the change of scenery.

Anyway, as I walked in Head Nursery Guy (picture if you will human Eeyore, perpetually gloomy and yet somehow lovable) says, "I was just about to page you." Now, that's not good. Nope, not good at all. There was D slumped over in a chair with a juice by his side watching a Veggie Tales video. This was not the boy I often write about. This was not Destructo Boy. This was not my Busy Busy Bee.

At that moment Brenda came swooping in. I would just love to hate Brenda. Trim and hilariously funny with naturally red hair, Brenda has 5 children (four of them boys) who always seem to be doing what they are supposed to be doing. But I just can't hate her, she is too nice and too gosh darn funny. "This just came on," she said. "This is not like D."

"Well," said I. "Let me get him out of here before he contaminates anyone," and I crossed to the other side of the "security" counter. At that moment he let out a really juice burp. You know the sound, moms and dads. It just fills a gal with dread. Something's coming and it's not good.

"That was a pretty juicy burp," said Brenda. "Let me see if we have anything for the ride home -- just in case." She turned and left . . . and D spewed a whole morning's worth of animal crackers onto my loafer.

Now in my defense I was wearing a one of a kind hand knit sweater vest I have had for years. I love that sweater, so maybe you will forgive me when you hear that as my poor preschooler, who has really never been sick, was retching all over the carpet, I took a deep breath and shouted out . . .


Brenda came running out, snatched my child over the counter and as I stood there staring down at my loafer, hauled the poor child into the bathroom. By the time I came out of my stupor, she had finished holding the kid over the toilet, encouraged him to wipe his mouth, and found him a drink of water . . .

. . . while I took off my sweater.

Oh, friends and loved ones, this was not my proudest parenting moment -- the moment I chose my sweater over my dear little child.

As we walked out of the nursery a tiny little voice said, "I'm sorry, Mommy."

Oh, baby. Everybody throws up.