Saturday, February 28, 2009

Wow!  I am so honored to have received the Kreative Blogger award from Annie.  Check out her terrific blog called Annie Are You Okay??  It is  beautiful and well written. Thanks so much, Annie!

*Here are the award rules:
List 7 things that you love and then pass the award on to 7 bloggers you love.
Be sure to tag them and let them know they have won!
You can copy the picture of the award and put it on your sideboard
letting the whole world know.....
you are KREATIV!

7 Things I Love
1.  I know this is a given, but I love love love my family!
2.  Sleep (had to be on this list somewhere) and sleeping in.
3.  Staying in my pajamas on a snowy day and baking cookies and not g0ing anywhere.
4.  An excellent game of scabble with snacks.
5.  Good friends around the kitchen table.
6.  Humor
7.  Beautiful, carefully chosen words--whether it be in song or prose, but especially in a love letter.

7 of my Favorite Blogs I'd like to pass this award on to:

Don't forget to either e-mail your favorite bloggers or comment them to let them know they have won!

Happy Saturday!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


I eagerly anticipated my son's 12th birthday. Of course, I was sad to see my little boy grow up, but I was excited that he could become our resident babysitter. John is very responsible and trustworthy, and almost never locks his sisters in the bathroom.

You see, we had paid for 12 years of babysitting.  Over the years fees have skyrocketed to almost $20 an hour and this was putting a damper on our date nights. When you factor in the sitting fees on top of dinner and a movie (and absolutely forget it if you want popcorn and a drink), things were getting out of hand. Yes, I was beginning to think we no longer could afford romance.

But, hurrah! John turned 12 this summer and we began to groom him for his next career: sibling management. Our biggest expectation was that his siblings were still alive when we returned home. Afterall, that was pretty much what we expected from our professional sitters--unfortunately, that's about all you get for your 20 bucks around here.

Considering he's a boy scout and has earned his first aid badge, he's actually more qualified in some ways than our previous sitters, too. We went over the rules and expectations. We made a checklist and gave him bed times and chores that needed to be done. He had his trusty list of phone numbers and was briefed on dialing 911.

When he sits, we don't go far. Maybe to the local movie theater or a nearby restaurant (we're talking one or two blocks). The girls have consistently been alive and well-cared for upon our return. I even found myself daydreaming about the day that we might be able to go away for the weekend. I knew this was years in my future, but a girl can dream.

Well, a girl can dream until she is watching The Real Housewives of Orange County. In this particular episode, the mom and dad were going for a night away, but had to have the grandma come and watch their 16 and 18 year olds so that they didn't get into trouble.  This is where I begin to bang the remote control against my head.

What?  I have to hire babysitters when my kids are 18?  What?  This means I only have a few years of sitter fee freedom?  The world is a cruel, cold, confusing place.  I have so much to learn.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Ruth's Rant: Babysitting and Family Vacation in Cabo San Lucas

Mexico is a place for relaxing, playing on the beach, and watching sunsets. Sounds fun. Try sharing that with 5 other kids! Having to babysit you and your friend's little sister? Disaster-zone!
After my experience with my little sister, I wasn't surprised when Birk piled her plate with dessert at the dinner buffet. I guess with a crazy little sis, like Birk the tornado kid, I learn more stuff like how to babysit her in a hotel room with absolutely  no good T.V. shows or A.N.E (absolutely NO ENTERTAINMENT).
Are boys more responsible than girls?  Ask my older brother after he and his friend left my friend's 5 year-old little sister unattended in a hotel room. Please note that they were supposed to be babysitting.
thus concludes vacation.

written by Ruth
5th grade
10 years old

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Monday Morning Moaning: Unexpected Expenses in the Shape and Size of a Fridge

We returned home late Friday night from a glorious family vacation in Mexico.  The trek home was not without it's minor irritations and it was oh so good to be home sleeping in my own comfy bed.

Sunday morning I awoke rested, glad that we had the foresight to factor in an extra recovery day before the routine began again.  Basking in the memories of an excellent get-away, I poured milk onto my cereal.  Gloop.

The milk that I had carefully bought to be within it's expiration date when I returned home was a gelatinous goo.  Thinking that it was odd, I looked into the fridge.  I touched the orange juice container.  Warm?  The eggs?  Warm.

Nothing was cold.  There was furry white mold floating in the jam and green spores in the salsa. Even the catsup had a watery layer floating on top of its surface.  Ugh.  

Rarely do I feel like physical violence is the way to go, but I wanted to kick that GE Profile refrigerator.  I have wasted so much food because someone didn't SLAM the freezer door or SLAM the fridge door.  

My family knows the routine, but unsuspecting guests have no idea that you have to apply your full body weight in the ceremony of making sure the door is shut and the food stays cold.  I want a new fridge!  I want one that actually keeps food cold without freezing it.  I want one where the door shuts properly.  

Except, this wasn't just a human malfunction.  The fridge isn't actually running at all.  The freezer part is fine, but...

Waaaahhhhhhhhh!  Yes, that's the sound of me crying while I bang my head in frustration.  It will all be better once I finish my coffee, right?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Why the Third KId Changes EVERYTHING: Birk Shows Up Early

My husband and I always dreamed of a big family.  George is from Canada, so there was always talk of a hockey team.  I was a teacher.  I taught junior high and lived to go on to study to become a Montessori preschool teacher.

I handled classes full of kids all of the time.  I ate lunch with 30 or so of my closest little friends. When it was snowy, I helped 30 pint-sized munchkins suit up.  When the temperature was egg-frying-on-the-sidewalk hot, I slathered the sunscreen on my little charges and made sure that they were all wearing hats.  Life was good with 30, what harm could 5 do?

When John arrived, we didn't miss a beat.  We just plopped him in his car seat and off we went about our usual lives.  We regularly drove 11 hours to visit my parents.  We jetted off to the UK (where John picked a bouquet of flowers from Shakespeare's garden, oops!) and took the train all over Canada.

Ruth's arrival was seamless.  It was like she always had been part of our growing family.  She was our little sidekick when John and I went to baby play group and she joined right in at all of the mommy and me classes.  Our earliest commitment was at 10 or 11 am.  The kids were fairly good sleepers. We were never in a rush and anything we were late to, everyone else was, too.

At that point, George and I didn't have a rollicking social life.  My parents or his would show up from time to time so that we could see a movie or go out for an anniversary dinner.  We biked together.  We skated together.  We basically had this little peaceful existence where we had man on man defense pretty well wrapped up.

Then we decided to make the big move to California.  John began preschool, and we started to have to be somewhere on time.  All of our family was far away.  My mom and baby friends seemed even farther away.  I kept going to the park, only to find that in my new home town people paid people to take their kids to the park.  The days got longer and George kept asking when we were going to have the next baby.

Two years later, Ruth began preschool, life started to come back in focus.  It had been a good year and most of the boxes were unpacked.  I awoke from the baby fog like a phoenix rising from the ashes and I was ready.

We carefully planned the birthday of this 3rd baby.  I needed my mom to come out and stay with me to help with John and Ruth.  I was most afraid that I would go into labor in the middle of the night and I would have to have the baby alone while George watched the kids.

I was also afraid that George would be at work and I would have the baby alone, with John and Ruth in the delivery room as my coaches.  I could see Ruth trying to climb up on my lap, looking for snack and asking me to take her to the bathroom.  Either that or in between contractions I would be yelling at my kids not to touch the instruments in the delivery room.  

I also feared that George might be on a business trip and I'd be delivering the baby on the floor in our living room with Barney blaring in the background.  Why pay for cable when Ruth and John could get a first hand look at childbirth that was more up close and personal than on the Discovery Channel.  Although I was fairly confident John could boil water and Ruth could find the sheets, that just wasn't the way I wanted it all to go down.

Basically, I didn't want to be alone or traumatize my children.  I was scared about upsetting the diaper-free life I was leading.  The big plastic was starting to reappear in my living room.  I didn't want to ruin John and Ruth's lives.  I wanted everyone to be happy.  I wanted my mommy!  

I even convinced my parents that they needed to be at my house 3 weeks early.  I wanted to help them learn the daily routine, get the older kids settled, buy diapers and do all of that basic nesting stuff.  What I didn't want was to be worried about the welfare of my older kids while I was worried about the welfare of the newest kid.

I guess a tidbit you also have to know is this was during the internet bubble.  When my husband said he didn't want to travel so close to my due date, his boss said, "This is your third child. Weren't you already there for the birth of the first two?  Do you really need to see it again, you've already done it?  We need you to go to New York."

But, I knew that baby was coming early.  My parents were due to arrive the next day, but I felt like the baby was coming and coming soon.  In fact, I tried to go to the hospital three times to have that third baby.  I was so sure it was coming at any moment.   If in that moment I had childcare, say the kids were at school or on a playdate, I was headed to the hospital to make that third baby come out.

Alas, in a 24 hour period the patient staff at the hospital kept sending me back home.  They had me so convinced that I wasn't having the baby any time soon, that I ignored the signs of active labor and almost had the baby in the car on the way to the hospital in the middle of the night.

Yes, we had to call my parents when they were getting on the plane in Michigan to tell them the baby beat them to it by 7 hours.  Yes, there was Birk, born within minutes of arriving at the hospital, giving us the look only Birk can give.

The nurse said, "This baby is giving me an angry face.  She doesn't like her bath."  What we didn't know then is that Birk's angry face is really her challenging face.  She was born with "the look" that took me years of teaching to perfect.  I call it the "what in the heck are you up to" look.

Yes, baby in arms.  Parents on the airplane.  8 month pregnant friend staying at our house with the kids in the middle of the night.  From her first arrival, we knew that having the third kid was already challenging and changing everything....and we loved her right away!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Almost the Weekend

It's Friday, and I've got green tea.  Hoping for a cocktail later!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Travel Compatability

The first holiday debate ended amicably years ago. We chose a civilized approach to the holidays and trade off celebrating with each side of the family each year.  It is very predictable and works very well for all concerned.

The other classic debate we have is over travel: do you fly the red eye or do you take the 6 am flight?

I get no sleep either way, so I might as well fly the red eye and have my kids at least sleep while we are making time to our destination.

I think this is much the same debate that parents have about night drives. Do you drive all night to take advantage of the peace and quiet of sleeping children? I grew up with a night driver, so I, of course like this idea.

George is a day driver. He is a speeding, maniac day driver. He has the tunnel vision of a coal miner with a headlight. He points the car in the direction of the destination and it takes a medical emergency or natural disaster to steer him off course. This includes use of the bathroom and eating.

If you need to go the bathroom, you have to make it abundantly clear that it's an emergency and you have to do it at the first twinge. If you are not direct and clear on this front, you could wind up trying to pee into a ziplock bag, and this is very tricky and mostly doesn't work. 

In my family, eating is one of the best parts of a road trip. You buy all of the secret forbidden snacks and proceed to eat them randomly and continuously for the duration of the road trip. Of course, rules dictate that the trip must be over four hours in order to buy entire bags of doritos and assorted childhood favorite candies that you no longer allow yourself to buy in public daylight.

Shorter trips beckon fast food restaurants with poutine, onion rings and double cheeseburgers with bacon. I used to buy my snacks on the road from shady gas stations, but now I have to pre-hoard.  There is no hairy eyeball to contend with from George if I pre-plan my menu.

This man believes in not eating the whole trip. You don't get the big gulp or the supersize fries, because then it warrants the aforementioned stop at the bathroom. Why would one leave their speed train and have to pass all of the semi trucks that you just got around again? You eat when you get there, even if it takes 7 hours.

Over the years, I've corrupted him a bit.  He's put me more on the straight and narrow.  The best thing about 15 years plus of marriage is that you can prepare and strategize for the arguments or roadblocks ahead of time.

I'll tell you one thing: if you try to pee one time in a ziplock bag and it doesn't work, your husband is more likely to make a genuine pitt stop in the future.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Friday, February 6, 2009

Uncle George, We Will Miss You

When I first met my husband's Uncle George, I knew I liked him right away. He arrived for a long weekend at the cottage with raspberry pies. These weren't just any raspberry pies, these were the most delicious pies that I had ever tasted. I was surrounded by healthy food and healthy eaters and a mother-in-law that looked much better than me, in a bikini. Bring on the pies! I had a comrade in arms.

Uncle George was always an easy guest. When I had a 5 year old, 3 year old and a newborn baby, he never complained that dinner was grilled cheeses or chicken nuggets and baby carrots. He never once made me feel guilty that the salad was dumped from a bag into a bowl and slapped on the table. I can't begin to tell you how much stress that took off the situation. He went with the flow and enjoyed all of the chaos. He even tried to entertain the baby and read books to the children to make the dinner process easier--this was an amazing gift for an overwhelmed mom.

He always remembered everyone on holidays and birthdays with cards and gifts. He was exceedingly thoughtful. He even remembered you on regular days with a phone call or a card. George was always asking about the perfect gift for the kids. He wanted to know what their interests were and what would make them shout "Yahoo!" when they opened a present.

He was kind and generous.  He bought us a computer when we were first married and couldn't afford one. He always enjoyed computers and connected us when we moved far away and couldn't easily connect with our family. This included creating a family website to help us all with our Christmas lists. He invented the idea of signing on as Santa, so that you could secretly delete things that you had bought for someone.

Uncle George loved arguing. You would be innocently talking about something and he would lean back in his chair, cross his arms over his chest and give you a look that said, "Oh, yeah?" He would sit late into the night debating. Sometimes it would get hot and heated and sometimes it was cool and cerebral. He was well-read and up to date on pretty much everything...and he had an opinion on pretty much everything.

George loved travel. He visited us whenever he could. He was always around for family gatherings and was delighted when we were all together in a big, rambunctious group. He thrived on the love, joy and warmth of family. His travel slowed down this last year or so. We started getting phone calls on Sunday nights instead of regular visits. We kept talking about his next visit...

We thought our next visit might be over the Christmas holidays. We never dreamed our next visit would be a memorial service. It happened quickly, yet in slow motion, too. Before we knew it, our time for visits had run out.

It is times like these that everyone tells you to call that friend that you haven't talked to in while or visit that relative. We all get caught up in our own struggle against time. There is never enough of it, we are madly rushing in and out and around. We have a thousand excuses why not. We anger at small things in a big picture and rage against meaningless moments. Words are spoken lightly and carelessly. We bang the doors over nothing and find ourselves empty.

Time has a way of snatching moments from us when we're not looking, or when we are looking the other way. Seize the moment, seize the day--call your loved one that loves Thousand Island salad dressing. It is the little details that make you smile. Just like the raspberry pies, I too, secretly like the Thousand Island dressing. The details differentiate, define and delight.

George had a way of touching our lives gently. He always had a smile and he will stay that way forever in our memories.

George, if you're listening, save a piece of raspberry pie for me.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Finally! Halloween Is Over At Our House!

This probably only makes sense if you saw the picture shown below from December. Halloween is finally, officially over at our house.  Makes me a little sad and a little happy at the same time.

I sure got my money's worth out of that balloon, wouldn't you say?

December 2008

Monday, February 2, 2009

Letting Your Kids Fail Without Failing As A Parent

My son, John, dropped his science project on the floor.  Days of planning and hard work scattered to the four corners of the kitchen.  He flew into a teary rage and Ruth used her second born sister charm to chide him into an even more comprehensive tizzy.

His pre-teen arms banged the table and the floor.  I went into a rage myself and advised him to adjust his attitude in no uncertain words.  His words back were much less kind in substance and tone as a son should be addressing his mother.  

The project was broken.  We were in an argument.  Everyone was tottering on being late to school.

Where is the bail out?  Do you drop everything and help him fix the project?  Do you let him flail like an animal in a fur trap and let him gnaw his way out?  Do you accept the raging behavior and be the grown up and help him out?  Do you turn your back on the unkind words and be the grown up and hold everyone accountable.

There are many times in life you drop your project on the floor.  The key is how you pick it up and move on.  Execution.