Thursday, January 31, 2008

Scents of Home

This morning, we enjoyed a long lost luxury....burning a good smelling candle. Back in my early days of being a mom and staying at home, I seem to remember burning candles nearly everyday. As we became older, our allergies grew along with us, and burning candles was only something I could do when Bob was sure to not be around (they immediately give him migraines). As time went on, and kids with asthma were added to the mix, the art of candle lighting virtually disappeared.

Today we lit a new candle that my always very thoughtful mother gave to me on my birthday....a lovely candied pear scent made with soy wax. We have found that the soy wax candles do not appear to bother any of us in the home, Bob does not even realize when one is burning, and they seem to even have a more fragrant and pleasant scent than regular wax. They are all around superior. We set it in the living room on the mantel, and I just had to take the opportunity to play the piano for a while, my baby playing contentedly in his jumperoo. It was lovely.

About an hour later, a quite different smell was in the air....kind of like burning rubber. I thought the soy candle had gone bad. Upon further searching, I discovered it was our furnace....whirring in the basement with no signs of productive work, and emitting an increasingly strong smell. With absolutely no tricks in my problem solving brain to deal with the monstrous contraption, I resigned more quickly to defeat today and called Minnegasco:Machines 2, Mom still 0.

With all of the large windows in our house and the very sunny day we were having(don't forget my perfectly clean windows letting in every drop of warm sunshine!!), our house retained a comfortable 68-70 degrees until about 12:30 when the sun shifted to the other side. At that point, the inside temp began to plummet--after all, it was only about 6 degrees outside. Turning on the forgotten gas fireplace and fan (we only use this once or twice a year at best), I was impressed with the efficiency with which it seemed to heat our entire home....we were up to 70 degrees everywhere in less than an hour!

The very nice Minnegasco guy came and replaced our blower motor which had died. Our furnace is now working fantastically, and we can even hear the difference and the strength of the air flow. Hooray! Heat!

While waiting for the kids to get home from school, I tried reasoning with my washer once again. This time, it was even more obvious that things were not well. I turned the drain plug to empty the rinse water and was greeted by the most unpleasant stench of mold and mildew mixed with sewer or something even worse. In less than 5 minutes, our entire home now smelled like a manure farm. The kids came home just in time to experience the maximum intensity of the smell.....lucky them. Of course, the water was running everywhere, as though there were some kind of anti-force diverting it from the well placed bucket below the drain. (I think the water may have been possessed) Going against my newly developed habits, I reached for all of my cleaners containing bleach. Sorry, but this disgusting circumstance required the immediate removal of stench, and I knew for a fact that these harsh chemicals were going to provide that for me.

With Jonny and Crispy now literally gagging on the air in their bedroom, we took a break from our house and drove away. First on the agenda was getting the oil changed....I am thinking that it has been since June that it has needed a change. When I had picked up Crispy at his bus stop earlier, the engine had sounded so horrible that both of us were surprised we made it to the school to pick up a sick Melissa, and back home again. We then went to Target for who knows what....I honestly do not remember the reason, but I have another house full of *stuff* that I am sure was never even on the original list. Oh well.

We went to bed tonight with a slight mildew smell remaining in the hallways, but at least an absence of sewer-scent. It would have been nicer to fall asleep with the initial scent of candied pear still lingering in the ventilation system, but after everything else that went on today, I guess we will settle for this!

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Ten Thumbs Up!

It has been a long time since we have had a relaxing, non-eventful day. Today our slower pace started 2 hours later than usual as the schools delayed opening due to the frigid cold. The kids enjoyed lounging this morning and leisurely getting something to eat into their tummies instead of scarfing down the usual breakfast bar from the backseat of the truck. Leaving the house at 9:30am certainly seemed like a much more humane time of day to begin the rumble of our lives.

Once home again from dropping of the kids, I excitedly grabbed my cleaner bottle in one hand and rag in the other, only to find that there was nothing left to clean....I had done it all the night before! Who am I??? I searched frantically for something....I wanted to continue testing my new cleaners. I ended up conquering the kitchen cabinets around the sink and stove/oven area. There was about 3-1/2 years of splatter aplenty to be found. Once again, I was not disappointed with the results. And even if no one else notices, I feel great about this accomplishment and progress in my home. (Oh...little side note here.....I do not wear gloves when I clean because I have some latex sensitivity. So normally after cleaning even just a little bit, the skin on my fingers is peeling away and dryer than the Mojave Desert. But after several hours of playing with my cleaning products yesterday, all of the epidermal layers on my hands remain intact, as well as each of my thin little fingernails! Wow!!)

Once Bob came home from work, we got to spice things up a bit with a surprise viewing of the new Veggietales movie. It was hilarious! Veggietales has been a hit in our house since Alex was little and we first discovered it (I think Grandma introduced us?). Nothing can beat the great Biblical messages for kids that is interwoven in these entertaining and wholesome stories. Not to mention how intriguingly it can hold our more discriminating adult attention spans also. The kids all loved it, and the girls even stayed awake for the entire thing....that says a lot since neither of them can make it much past the middle of any given movie. We learned that not all pirates are bad, even rock monsters are adorable, the Father provides you with everything you need when you follow the path He desires to send you on, and that you'd better think twice before eating your next cheese curl. The two older boys decided that next time they would like to come with us....they had realized they had made the wrong choice to stay home and that it is impossible to outgrow Veggietales. It rated an astounding ten thumbs up in our book!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Hideously Cold Outside, Ridiculously Clean Inside

BRRRRRRR!!! It is so very cold today(-35 degrees windchill, I think), and the wind is just crazy, blowing and blowing as if it were the big bad wolf trying to blow our house down. After driving the kids to school, the rest of us hunkered down in the library (which I call the sauna room) with blankets and warm jammies. I was very thankful to be in our house made of brick!

The baby was in a fairly good mood this morning, and was content enough to play on the floor near me as I got to finally play with my new cleaning products. (Yes, I am so pathetically boring that I get excited over cleaning items and household tools. Gee whiz, what has happened to me?) With 3 kids having asthma, and Laura in a respiratory class of her own, I have been on a quest over the last year or so looking for products not laden with chemicals, but which also actually work to clean the messes we have. This has been a difficult task, not leading me to many positive results. The best products I have found so far relate to my baby and his very sensitive derriere which early on in his life led me to discover: Seventh Generation chlorine-free diapers and wipes, Burt's Bees diaper ointment and the California Baby line of washes and creams(including sunscreen). These have all been the best baby products I have ever used, and I would never give up or trade a single one. I wish I had known about them before baby #7!

Mixing my Shaklee products today, I tried to check my anticipation and excitement that has only led to disappointment in the past. Why would this stuff work any better than the other things I have tried? Certainly, coming from one of those pyramid scheme groups, this would just be another over-priced sham. I started with the window cleaner mix I had prepared: 2 little drops of concentrated cleaner mixed with 16 ounces of water. Two drops of cleaner? You've got to be kidding...clearly this was not going to work. To my surprise, it was fantastic!!! This stuff worked like a charm! Not a single streak was left behind, and no strong ammonia smell. My windows were simply clean! Windex does not even compare to the crystal clear sheen of my Shaklee cleaned windows. I was stunned.

After happily cleaning all of my windows and mirrors on the main floor with such amazing results(and the stubborn fingerprints on my grand piano which I have not been able to get off correctly for months), I was ready to tackle the next mix. The degreaser was the most concentrated~a whole 1-1/2 teaspoons in 16 ounces of tap water. Yeah, but is it going to tackle my microwave? Not likely! But wait! It is doing the job.....almost effortlessly! What seems to be missing? Oh...the strong cleaner smell and my reactive cough. Boy, I don't miss either of those things.

With the sun shining through my pristine windows on this cold day, and my microwave gleaming, I was now convinced that the third mix would work well too. And by golly, it did! The general cleaner easily wiped up our morning breakfast mess of dried oatmeal on vinyl placemats, and sticky spills of gooed up juice on my wooden table. This biodegradable, safe, earth/people-friendly cleaning trio has passed the initial try-outs I set before them. And what about the dishes I ran last night with the chemical-free detergent and mineral laden water(as our softener had not yet been replenished)? Not only are the dishes clean, there is not a single drop of residue~neither cleaner , nor food, nor mineral deposits to be found. Oh, and since my washer is broken, I sprayed a bit of the all-purpose cleanser on the baby's clothes from this morning's huge poop(he had been saving it up for 4 days), and wouldn't you know, it washed that yellow mess out without fading any clothing color. Nothing else I have can do that!

Not to sound like an infomercial, but I am hooked. Though I am seeing the huge difference looking around my house today, I can guarantee that Bob won't notice a thing. His idea of "clean" means "picked up". There could be 2 inches of dust on every surface and smears of doggie poo dried all over the tiled floors, but if all the toys are put away and things are off the floor, then our house is "clean" according to him. I like the house picked up too, but it is the filth that makes me crazy if it is covering my home, and that is always my top priority. I want my kids to at least be in a healthy environment, and for us, that includes free of so many chemicals. I am so pleased with these initial results, that my excitement to tackle the rest of my house is overwhelming. I can't wait to clean my toilets, and scrub my floors next. When my washer gets fixed, look out laundry, here I come!

Monday, January 28, 2008

Machine 1, Mom 0

Back to reality today! It started off great....a load of laundry in the washer, dishes cleaned and put away, and the bags from the weekend emptied and put away upstairs. We even made it out of the house this morning around 7:30am to get Jonny to school patrol on time.

After picking up Crispy at the bus stop and Michael from band, I took the boys to our favorite hair salon in town to get haircuts. Crispy loves to get his hair cut really short in back~he likes the soft fuzzy feel of a new buzz. Michael is protective of his "hockey hair", and was pleased that he came away with a trim that made his hair look better, but not look cut. We then had lunch at a great little coffee shop in town, The Mocha Monkey. We discovered that in addition to great drinks and smoothies, they also have fabulous stuffed pretzels and pannini grilled sandwiches. This is one of the coolest places in town....the building is like a house, with many different rooms upstairs and down, comfortable seating and relaxing atmosphere. With all the places to hide away, I don't have to worry so much about the kids bothering the other people there.

The baby fell asleep on the short drive home, so I took this rare opportunity to play with Crispy and Laura outside before the weather was suppose to turn nasty. We built a little snowman that glistened in the warm sunshine of today. We topped him off with a party hat and blower....he looked quite he should be, being that it is his birthday and all. Laura insisted that we also make him a car with tires. I'm not sure where she thought he had to go requiring wheels! The baby woke up when I brought him inside, and was not a very happy camper. He decided to restart his relentless crying and fussing. Golly....

When Jonny and Melissa came home, I took the opportunity to hand the baby over to his favorite sibling and go upstairs to finally change my wash to the dryer. To my *delight*, the washer was broken and jammed. I spent 45 minutes emptying my front loader manually of the water (this is not a very mess-free task), and clearing the drain hose. Hmmmm....a little black comb had gotten stuck in the drain. It seemed to work placing it all on spin cycle once again, but not quite.

Meanwhile, Alex called and needed a ride home after his math league. We picked up dinner at our favorite Chinese Restaurant because it was clear that things were spiralling out of control at home. While we waited for our dinner, we ran over to the grocery store to quickly stock up on a few essentials (one being a new cell phone battery as mine only lasts about an hour on standby and 5 minutes if someboday calls me) so that we would be comfy, cozy, and well fed during this coming winter storm. Once home, we enjoyed an early dinner, and the baby that had been apparently fine for Jonny while we were out, started his wailing for me. At 6pm, reinforcement was welcomed in the form of Grandma Z......She said something about me looking terrible (or maybe just tired). I asked her to hold the baby for just a minute so I could change loads of wash. That "minute" translated into about 40 such minutes.....

After throwing the now mildew laden towels dripping on the floor into the washer, I discovered that nothing had been fixed, and once again found myself manually draining the machine. I DO NOT HAVE TIME FOR THIS KIND OF THING!!!! With this many kids, my washer is essential to me...I use it several times a day. At this point, I was exhausted and out of ideas, all of my muscles hurt from bringing in 6 bags of softener salt from the car earlier, the baby was crying, Bob was working out of town until Tuesday night, and my good day had taken a turn. I think that I was most disappointed about not being able to try my new natural cleaners that arrived from Shaklee. Grandma Z was nice enough to bring Jonny to cub scouts tonight.....thank you! I do not think I could have done it tonight. I was ready to hand in my two weeks notice tonight, but my boss (me) refused to accept it. Now I have to go to bed, exhausted, and feeling defeated by my very own washing machine. *sigh*

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Finally Home

One more hockey game this morning as we played for the consolation trophy. The kids made a valiant effort, but ultimately lost in sudden death overtime. This team is really incredible....despite so many losses, the kids never seem to let it get to them! They all walk out of the locker room just as they had walked in....still smiles, still witty, just happy that they got to play hockey. These kids all love the is fantastic!

We got home around noon, and were reunited with the other boys shortly thereafter when Grandma Z and Lyle brought them all back from church. By the end of these weekends, we are all so ready to be home and be all together again, even though we all had a good time doing our own different things. Two hours later, we were (except for Alex, Laura and daddy) out the door to hockey again....this time it was a practice for Crispy. Melissa has really been a great trooper through all of this as she really has no interest in hockey, but has now been to 4 events in 36 hours without complaining. What a good girl!

We left hockey early to go to evening church. I had miscalculated the time it would take to get there, and we were 15 minutes late. Oops! Isn't that one of the reasons I have a GPS in my car? The kids still got an hour of rehearsal in, and Michael and I did not miss any of the message, so things ended up working out OK. Tubby was sad in the nursery~I think he just wants to be home. Ultimately, that is where we all finally ended up this evening by 9pm after picking up Alex at youth group. Whew....what a weekend for everyone. It is so good to be home!

Saturday, January 26, 2008

What About the Rest of Them?

While we were away at the hockey tournament, the rest of our kids were back home busy with their own activities. Crispy had the pleasure of playing hockey at Mariucci Arena at the University of Minnesota. This is always one of the highlights of the year for these little guys as they get to experience what it feels like to play in a super-huge arena. They get to pretend that they are super hockey stars! Crispy said that the best part was playing "Catch the Coaches". All the coaches are wonderful volunteers (mostly hockey dads) who keep everything so positive and upbeat for these kids. It is no wonder that we have such a booming hockey program. Grandma & Grandpa C met Crispy at the arena to watch his practice. They then took him for the rest of the day, and he got to go to a special lunch at Perkins. They drove him home later in the afternoon.

Meanwhile, Grandma Z took Jonny to his first real basketball game before she left town in the morning. Jonny said it was good. He was pleased to play at his best friend's house for the rest of the afternoon. Alex went to his girlfriend's house to hang out and celebrate her belated birthday with her.

My parents took Jonny and Crispy out to the Chinese restaurant in town for dinner before Jonny's second basketball performance of the day during the halftime portion of the WHS varsity basketball game. Though Jonny was nervous, and the gym was pretty well packed, Jonny said he had fun with that too. I think that both boys enjoyed spending some quality one on one time with Grandma and Grandpa today! I can't wait to see some pictures of all of the fun events!

Some Good Hockey!

Michael has been the checking force on his team for a few months, but it is time for him to step it up a bit. He has been a team captain, and he is a leader by example on his team. He has the checking part down without a problem. Now, he needs to act like he wants the puck, and then go get it!

After a night's sleep lacking a bit on hours, Michael was ready for that precise challenge today. He went out there and played like the great player he is. The most exciting was a breakaway he got where he skated the puck all the way down and scored a goal! Yay, Michael! The team lost, but they played well, and Michael was on fire the whole game. He was awarded the game puck at the end....a high honor, indeed. The girls were good sports during the game, and actually spent most of the time chanting Wildcat cheers (dolls included)they had learned at school. It was pretty cute.

Between games, I took the girls (Melissa, Laura, and the neighbor girl), and Tubby to waste some time walking the toy aisles in the Wal-Mart next to our hotel. Bob took a much needed nap, and Michael ran around the hotel with his friends. The second game proved to be as exciting as the first, and then even more so as we won! Our second win of the season! The kids played really well as a team....great passing, great hustle, great teamwork. Now that is something to be excited about!

We had pizza back at the hotel, and I brought the girls to the pool. Tonight there was a whole hockey team in there (not ours), and it was quite rowdy. My girls were intimidated by the atmosphere and only lasted a few minutes before wanting to go back to the room. Once back, they played with some of their recent finds from the earlier Wal-Mart trip. Laura showed us that she is a natural puzzle master as she did and redid a 24 piece Dora puzzle all by herself. She was so proud. Melissa was thrilled to share her new Littlest Pet Shop video game with the other hockey sisters. Bob made an appearance as our family representative at the end of the hall where the hockey parents from our team were hanging out in their makeshift bar in the party room(not my cup of tea). And Thomas learned a new trick.....the army crawl! He was keeping himself busy moving all over the floor and from room to room in our hotel suite. Golly....I can't stop him from growing up, can I? Maybe this will help to calm his screaming habit.

More hockey tomorrow morning at 9am as we play for the consolation trophy. Go Wildcats!

Friday, January 25, 2008

On and On it Goes

Today was once again filled with the now usual barrage of screaming and crying each time the baby was put down. It must be a bad habit. It made packing for our weekend hockey tournament challenging and gruelling. This time, the girls get to come with us. Unlike the boys, who I can just ask to pack their things, the girls need a bit more help. If the boys screw up and pack things that really don't make sense, it doesn't really matter....they are boys, no one cares how they look. If the girls pack something odd, not only do they look strange, but they themselves notice, and will be bothered. This really is not such a hard task, but doing anything in this screaming house of horror has been rather difficult lately.

Bob was not impressed when he came home at 5:30 and we were not immediately ready to walk out the door. The screaming baby excuse doesn't work for him, nor does he understand nor believe it. Though I do have resident witnesses who will vouch for me! We finally left sometime after 6pm, and got up to Litchfield by 7:45pm.....time aplenty for the girls to do a little bit of hotel swimming. They had been looking forward to this exact moment for 2 weeks!! Thomas enjoyed kicking his feet in the water and being part of the group. He is trying so hard to grow up! At about 9:30pm, I brought the girls back to the room to get ready for bed. Unfortunately the wireless internet service was down in the room, so that made for an even more irritated daddy.

Nighty night, sleep tight....lots of hockey tomorrow!

Thursday, January 24, 2008


Another day of screaming and crying, compliments of my baby. I do not know what is wrong with this little boy. Bob has checked him over and says he is fine with the exception of his new cold. I am starting to think that this screaming garbage is now just a nasty habit. One thing is very certain: Michael, Crispy, Laura, and I are all sick of it. It only makes our days noisy and very stressful.

Thankfully, I was able to leave the house again tonight. This time I took Jonny to the WHS varsity basketball game. I had a two-fold purpose: to listen to Alex play in the pep band, and to get Jonny some more exposure to his current sport of choice. This was the first time we went to a game for the sake of going to see the game (i.e.instead of waiting for Melissa to dance at halftime). It was surprisingly a lot of fun. I'm not sure it was the $9 entrance fee worth of fun, but it was fun nonetheless. The pep band played very well, reminding me of all the marching band parades last summer. They were much better than the high school pep band that I use to play in. Jonny and I ended up sitting right in front of the was funny how most of the cheers were still the same as they had been 20 years ago when I was cheering at basketball games! I think I finally bridged a crossroads tonight and realized how very glad I am to no longer be in high school. I really felt comfortable being one of the many "old" parents just sitting in the stands. It is nice to just be blending in without superficial worries.

Alex practiced in the music room with a friend for an audition tomorrow as Jonny and I stayed to watch the second half of the game. Jonny helped me to learn some of the rules of the game and some of the calls that the refs were making. Waconia lost. Oh well. We are use to that this season since our hockey team has lost almost every game too.

We got home a bit after 9pm. I made some kettle corn for our CHUCKapaloosa fest we had been planning tonight. We have all been having CHUCK withdrawal since the show took a break over the holidays, and we have been impatiently awaiting the new episodes to begin. We are thrilled that we will have 2 new episodes to watch! Michael is also recording a WILD hockey game, so we have to wait even longer to watch our shows. We will not get to start until 10pm, so we will probably only watch one show, and now we have finished eating our popcorn. It looks like we are just going to be having a mini CHUCKfest tonight.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Time Out to Play

Today was one of those wonderful days where so much has happened that it seems like three days were packed into one. Unlike our Sundays which seem to always be over packed with too little time, today was full of fun activities at a nice though while busy, it felt relaxing and wonderful.

We visited my friend Mary, and all of her little munchkins after Crispy got home from Kindergarten. We planned this really well over the lunch hour so that Mary could make us good things to eat. Michael had a special request for homemade tortillas, so Mary made us plenty. And they were really good! We also had brie cheese and crackers with apple cranberry chutney....fantastic! The kids were so excited to see each has been more than 2 months since they last played. Laura fits right in between the twins and Zoe, so it is always a little girl party when we get together. Crispy and Henry (exactly one month apart) were playing big kid video games while the girls ran around giggling. At one point, Mary was frustrated with Henry as he kept interrupting Crispy's turn with the game and she told him to stop bossing Christopher. He replied, "I'm not, Mom! I'm telling him what to do!" Don't you just love it!! Michael did his homeschool as usual, but appreciated the change of scenery.

When Jonny did not call me at the regular time of 3:03pm, I began to worry that the inside garage door had gotten locked before we left. Time kept ticking away, and still no phone call. Michael and I began taking turns calling the house, encouraging Jonny & Melissa to pick up the phone. I am not sure why I thought this would help, since it was now 3:15 and they were obviously not inside the house. I felt very helpless as we were 45 minutes away, driving home, and the temp was barely 2 degrees. I imagined 2 little popsicle kids frozen on the porch by their very own tears....3 once Alex arrived. I was beginning to get a bit panicked. At 3:25, I called a neighbor that I knew would now be home, and she calmed my nerves with the news that they were all warmly in her house, having a little snack. The OUTSIDE garage door controls had frozen, so the kids had no way to get in the house. After 10 minutes, Jonny thought well enough to take his younger sister to the neighbors. See, there they are, the neighbors bailing us out again!

This evening, we left the baby home with daddy, and went to Open Skate at the ice arena in Chaska. It was Melissa's first time, and she was a champ! After the first 2 minutes, she came off the ice complaining that it was too slippery. With some coaxing, she went back out and skated for an hour and 20 minutes. At one point, I was helping her stay balanced by holding one hand and she said to me, "Thank you for taking us to so much fun, Mom! At first, I thought~What am I doing out here?~but now, this is AWESOME!" She was very excited and proud about her first skating accomplishments, as she should be. Laura had fun pushing and riding in a little green chair. She remembered somewhat how to stand up on the ice. Jonny was thrilled that he remembered how to skate....he had not been skating since quitting hockey 2 years ago. Crispy had fun skating around with so many siblings to play with on the ice. Michael cruised around with his friends and fellow hockey team members. I enjoyed getting out of the house again and away from my crabby was also lots of fun to skate. When I was a kid, I met my friends at the outdoor rink almost everyday, many days even twice! We did not get home until nine, but everyone had had such a good time, that they were all still in good moods. Everyone should sleep great tonight, and we shall see how the moods range tomorrow morning!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

If You Buy Your Son a Gatorade.....

Get me out of here!!! That is all I can think about today. The baby screamed and screamed and screamed and screamed and screamed all day. Psychotic. Not fun. Really not fun. Seriously not. While he screamed, and I tried unsuccessfully to keep him from screaming, Laura took the opportunity to be naughty. Very naughty. All day. With no end. One naughty thing to the next. Because she could. Doubly not fun. Bad. Yuck. Can't take it. I want to get out of here.

Jonny had basketball tonight, so I got my chance to leave. What a relief that was! Jonny forgot his gatorade on the way out, so after dropping him at the gym, I went to buy him one at Holiday. When I pulled into the parking lot, I decided I did not want to spend 5 times as much on gatorade at the gas station, so I went to the grocery store to pick him up some to drink now, and more for down the road. While at the store, I decided to pick up some milk, and bread, then eggs, and pasta, some cheese, pop, more cereal, some toilet paper, a few snacks for school, a couple loaves of everyone's favorite cinnamon bread, tomotoes, and a few other things. Before I knew it, that little bottle of gatorade now was costing $217.00! Kind of funny! But I was super excited to have gotten a power grocery shopping trip accomplished in about 25 minutes, and now have food enough for homecooked meals the rest of the week!

I got to watch the last 15 minutes of Jonny's game.....poor kid looked a little red in the face. He mentioned something about being a bit thirsty........

Monday, January 21, 2008

So Big!

Thomas turned 10 months old today. He is hardly my little baby anymore. He just wants to grow up and be can see it in his sparkling eyes. You can see it in his proud smile when he does something new. He is so proud of himself when he stands like a big boy.....he loves to stand up by the couch, even though it is only momentarily before he accidentally lets go and plops down on his butt. His clapping little hands now make real clapping sounds. He is almost able to sit up from the floor. And tonight he accomplished the forward creep! He finally figured out how to maneuver himself forward by pulling with his arms and pushing with those little feet. I'm in trouble now!

Ladies' Birthday Lunch

One of my favorite things about living in Waconia is our wonderful neighbors. They have been not only FUN, but they have rescued us several times......from everything ranging from needing an extra egg, to needing a ride for someone to hockey, to taking the kids with no warning as Bob & I rush off to the ER with some health crisis. Unfortunately, all of the above mentioned examples have occurred too frequently for comfort sometimes!

In our cul-de-sac, there are four of us families who all just click, and all of our kids love to play together. We were so sad when one of these families moved across town this past spring. (Their house is still for sale.....just reduced to $395,000 if anyone is is beautiful, and has an even better view of the lake than ours does!) We still see them quite frequently with school and hockey, and our kids still get together to play. They just can't run across the yard like they use to!

The four of us moms started going out to lunch for our birthdays a few years ago. Kristen and I actually have the same exact birthday, so we are kind of suckered out of an extra lunch date...she was the first person I ever met with my same day! I am the baby of the group, Kristen is 2 years older, and the next is 2 years more, then 2 years more. Despite the slight diversity in age, all of our kids are around the same age, so we have tons to talk about. Interestingly, I have the oldest, and the youngest kid in the group! We all look forward to the birthday lunches when we leave all 16 kids behind to live or die while we go enjoy ourselves for just a few hours. It is so great!

Today we went to the Cheesecake Factory....not for the cheesecake (I do not even like cheesecake), but for the food. All I can say is YUM!!!! Oh my goodness, was it good! Three of us had never been there before, and I can hardly wait to go back to try something else. We were all so full from our tremendous meal, that no one even got to try dessert. We will have to add that to the list for next time also.

We reluctantly went back home through the treacherous roads due to the ice and falling snow/sleet. We saw several cars in the ditch, and one was totalled on our own Highway 5. We all started getting the "when are you coming home?" calls from our kids along the way. These calls helped us ease back into the realities of our worlds as we pulled into our neighborhood and walked up our own driveways into our homes. It was really a great afternoon, and I am so thankful that I have these wonderful ladies with which to do life together.

Sunday, January 20, 2008


Schedule too busy to blog.....I have only been home 2 hours today, been to church twice, to Target & a small grocery trip, Crispy was at hockey at the U of MN all day (thankfully he went with a friend), Alex is at youth group and then will be off to a movie, and I will be off to another hockey game in half an hour.

Oh! But church was awesome! We have started a 42 week series that began the first Sunday in January and will go all year long......"The Jesus Ultimatum".....we are learning exactly all that Jesus commands us to do. Sure, we have heard it all before, but not spelled out so clearly or as "blindingly insightful"(thanks, Bob!). This was the third week already, and it has all been very inspiring. It is going to be an amazing year. If you are interested, the messages are uploaded online onto the church website located under LINKS to the right.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Happy Birthday, to Me & Everyone Else!

Today was the annual January Birthdays Party at our house. We now have 5 of us (Michael, Lyle, Crispy, me, & Ryan)with birthdays in January in the ever-expanding Zajac clan. When I finally came home from Crispy's party last night at 9:30pm, my poor baby, who had been fine when I left, had a fever running around 104 degrees. He was miserable, and the two of us had a very difficult night, with very minimal sleep. This morning was not much better, and he added a very high-pitched, almost constant scream-cry from the moment we got out of bed, until shortly before the party started. It was tough.

I held my sad little guy all morning (did I mention Bob was at work today until sometime after one?), and Jonny finally "demanded" that he take the baby for a while so I could have a break for my birthday. What a great kid! I took the opportunity to take a shower and bask in the silence without the screaming. It was about as blissful as it would get today! When I came back down, the kids (led by Jonny), had hung a birthday banner they had made, and each handed me a homemade card. It was so very sweet! Soon after, my husband came home with some pretty little flowers in a smiley face mug for my daily dose of Cappuccino(his hopes of turning me into a morning person)....hooray! Reinforcement was here!

Even though I virtually had nothing prepared, we seemed to have a nice get-together, and all the kids enjoyed playing with each other. The sublime part of the evening was going out to the Wildfire restaurant where we also met up with Mary....LADIES ONLY. It was terrific, and the food was wonderful. The steak was just the cure for my headache, and we all sampled their award winning Key Lime pie~ YUM! Back at home, the men ordered pizza for the kids and most everyone, including my dad, played a friendly game of poker. All the kids were happy (and fed!) when we arrived back home which made the dinner even guilt at all was involved. Now that is a difficult thing!

We ended the night with multiple rounds of "Happy Birthday", and candle blowing. Laura stood in for Michael who had to leave after poker to go to hockey was preparation for her upcoming birthday in a few weeks. While some people passed up the offerings of various cakes, I spared no such self control to indulge in my favorite Marzipan cake from Woullet's Bakery that my mom so faithfully brings me each year. Thanks Mom, that is always the highlight of my year!

Friday, January 18, 2008

Happy Birthday, Crispy!

My little boy turned 6 today! I can't believe how fast the years go by. He has always been such a sweet, kind-hearted soul, and 6 years later, he remains as such. We had a great day today doing special things just for him. He picked going to the Children's Museum, where Grandma C met up with us for a short while. It is always such a nice place to go, even on super-crowded days like today. The kids are always so well entertained, and they love running from one thing to another, giving their attention spans a holiday from needing to focus on anything for more than 2 minutes. There is so much to see and do there that we never see it all in one trip. Today we were there for 3 hours and did not even play in their favorite enormous water table! The Sesame Street display was a hit(even though they barely know what it is thanks to Nick Jr), and Crispy & I enjoyed a game of checkers in the park. The kids all love the Ant Hill, where they dressed up in little ant suits and proceeded to run around the hill looking for National Treasures. After a quick cupcake break, they were off to work at the brick mill making sure to catch the bus to work their second shifts as ethnic restaurant cooks, postal workers, and rock band members. I think we could spend all day at the museum without getting bored. What a great place.

On the way home, we picked up party supplies and pizza for Crispy's first real birthday party ever. We arrived home at 4pm, and quickly decorated the cake, picked up the house, filled the treat bags, nursed the baby, and cooked the pizza before his guests began arriving at 5:30. What started out as a small party of 3 turned into a party of 8, as all of his little friends were able to make it, even on such short 2-day notice! The energy in our house was to the roof! I do not remember such noise and hyperness with the older boys' parties when they were this age.....I must has suppressed specific parts into my subconscious. After pizza and cake, Jonny and I braved the task of bringing all of the boys to the pool, swimsuits, towels, floaties, winter jackets, boots, and all.

WARNING: Do NOT try this at home! This should only be attempted by professionals.

It was pure chaos in the locker room as 8 pairs of socks and underwear, towels and boots went flying everywhere. With 4 lockers, we managed to suppress the "stuff" inside. The kids had an absolute blast in the pool, and I was enjoying the reprieve from reprimands as I let the lifeguard take over that duty for a while. Since he does not yet know how to swim, Crispy loved using his floatie (which are usually not allowed in the pool) allowed him to experience the water in many new ways. You would think that after 90 minutes of tag, water basketball, and hard play in the water, that a group of 5 and 6 year olds would have properly expended their energy, but I think it only fuelled it somehow.

After 30 more minutes than planned, the kids reluctantly left the pool (some needing much more prodding than others). In the locker room, it was backwards chaos resembling what had gone on when we arrived. We made it with only one lost pair of underwear, one lost pair of socks, and one kid who crawled into a locker and locked himself in it. I sent Jonny upstairs to get the guy at the front desk to rescue him, though I was quite tempted to leave him there for a bit to perhaps learn a lesson from this stunt. With the temperature a balmy -10 degrees, the kids piled into the truck quite speedily and we drove them all home, now 60 minutes later than expected. Judging from how loud they all were in the truck, I think that they had a great time, and it was funny how none of the parents seemed to mind the extra hour away. Crispy said he had a really nice birthday. Everyone should sleep well tonight!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Fitting into Place

I knew that there was a REAL reason behind not going to the dentist for 10 is because only bad things come out of visiting the dentist. Why go?

Today I had to go back to "fit" one of my molars for a crown. Gee, I thought only old people got crowns. It was a blast for nearly 90 minutes of drilling, sanding, molding, and other oral horrors. Last time, my teeth hurt for 3 days after just the cleaning.....I can't wait to experience the intensity of pain that this work is going to cause. The cherry on top was my dentist's surprise when I spoke of the type of pain I have been having, leading him to mention the "R" word...root canal. WHAT?!?!?!? I simply came in for a checkup a few weeks ago, and now I have signed up for 2 crowns and a possible root canal? I'll bet at least a bit of this is my fault for waiting so long. Let this be a lesson to all of you who have not visited your own dentist in a while!

Before subjecting myself to the above mentioned tortures this morning, I bathed Thomas twice (I think he's having intestinal reactions to his antibiotic shot), successfully planned a spontaneous birthday party for Crispy with his friends for tomorrow, and managed to get a shower in for myself. It was quite the productive morning! After the appointment, the kids and I got to enjoy some nice time visiting with Grandma C. We even reserved seats for my birthday dinner on Saturday.....this is an impressive thing, as it is with great difficulty with which I am able to make a decision these days. For fun, the kids were introduced to my new method of cleaning which arrived in the mail today: a designated bin for "Put Away", "Throw Away", and "Give Away"(visit Crispy got the hang of it right away, but to his dismay, Laura had her own ideas, and had plenty of rationales why everything should be added to the "Throw Away" bin. At one point, she took a toy from Thomas saying, "Sorry, Thomas. I don't like toys.'" and proceeded to "throw away" all of his toys too. She was so funny with her mom and I got a good dose of laughing medicine this afternoon. I may have some tweaking to do with this system.

I cooked up wonderful chicken and steak fajitas for dinner tonight, and realized that we had had 4 nights of home cooked meals in a row without resorting to leftovers and "punting" for food. Wow! That is exciting, and makes me feel great to be eating certainly healthier for almost one week. I love to cook and am looking forward to meal planning again and shopping ahead of time like I use to make time to do. It really does make a difference, and probably saves us a bit of money too!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

A Nice Escape

Today I did something that I rarely ever do....I went to another mom's house to just hang out, have tea, and chat! My Alex and her son are fact, it is her son who got Alex involved in the youth group he attends. This is another mom in town with 8 kids, and runs a daycare in her home composed of 4 little toddlers. So when it comes to understanding what it is like being at home everyday with a houseful of kids, this lady really gets it!

It was so great just to sit at her table, sipping tea, while my baby played happily and quietly on the floor next to me, and all of her little daycare cuties slept peacefully in the next room. We got to share laughs over the challenges of daily life, as well as parental worries about our older kids. Our kids are all quite similar in age, so we really have a lot in common. This family is also a wonderful Christian was so nice to talk about real things instead of glossing over stuff that doesn't even matter.

When I reluctantly left her house to return to my own real world waiting for me back at home, I came across something a bit disturbing. My truck that I had parked at the top of the rather steep hill next to their house was not where I had left it. My truck was now 300 feet away, at the bottom of the hill, parking brake and emergency brake still engaged. Interesting......I know that my tires are bad since many of the treads are worn, and the kids have enjoyed some creative driving on icy days. But why did the truck not show signs of slippage when I first parked it? Maybe it is the brakes? I'm not sure. I am glad that it stopped and that there was a snowbank blocking its passage down the next hill that would have led it straight into lake Waconia!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Tiny Tubby

Tubby had his regular 9 month well-visit today (yes, it is a little late...he is almost 10 months old). He is still just a little dude, coming in at only 25% for height and 30% for weight. All of our other boys were 90% and over! I really think that he may have Grandpa Z's height genes! Thomas is a perfect 20 pounds, and is doing well.

The doctor also found a surprise "nasty-looking" ear infection in his left ear. Poor baby! That explains some of his more recent squirrliness at night. He actually was a bit challenging when we were at the hotel over the weekend, but I had figured that it was just because we were away from home. This time, he was given 2 shots of Rocephin(antibiotic) since he refuses to swallow anything. He also was given some numbing ear drops to help him feel more comfortable.

We picked up (gross) McDonald's for lunch before getting Crispy at the bus was a treat for Laura for her very good behavior at the doctor's office. She actually allowed me to have a conversation with our doctor today without constant interruptions. I also had a horrible headache, and the thought of making food for the kids made me nauseous(even more so than the thought of McDonalds, I guess). When I picked up Alex at 5:45, we stopped at the grocery store (still with a monster headache), to pick up Tubby's medicine and to find something quick to make at home involving REAL food. I got enough stuff for 2 large separate meals, but the funny thing was, when we got home, I ended up making a yummy tator-tot hotdish from stuff I had already in the house. I hadn't made this in 15 years....back when we lived in an apartment. Jonny found a recipe online as I was cooking the meat, and it turned out great! And now I have a dinner plan for Wednesday and Thursday!

Jonny had his second basketball practice tonight, and he was so excited. It is nice to see him looking forward to something! He feels very comfortable getting rebounds and is a good defense-man with his height. He gets to play his first games next weekend while we are at another hockey tournament. This time the girls will be going with us and the Grandmas are going to take turns taking him to his games....Jonny will enjoy the special treatment!

I am now happy to have made it through the long day despite a killer headache....time just doesn't stop when you are a mommy, regardless of how much it seems like you can not possibly go on. I have a friend (you know who you are!) who takes a nap nearly every single day AND gets to go exercise too.....I can't imagine the luxury of either of those things, much less truly seems impossible, and I have no idea how she does it! My wonderful husband is massaging my neck while I lay here on the couch feeding the baby and watching American Idol that Jonny recorded while we were at basketball. Things aren't that bad afterall.

Monday, January 14, 2008

His Father's Son

What is it about the male species and the remote control? I honestly do not understand it. If it is missing, rather, misplaced under the likes of a couch cushion or pillow, my husband goes nuts. It is the first thing that my boys grab when they enter the room, and the first thing that they usually drop on the floor (and subsequently leave on the floor). The remote is quite the hot commodity in our home filled with boys. I would prefer the absence of both remote and tv, but unfortunately, I have been greatly outvoted.

Tonight, Tubby inducted himself into the remote control club. I let him hold one for the first time as he was fussing before bed. As he grabbed it, you could hear and see him sigh with contentment. How does he already know of it's magical powers??? He held onto it with both hands as he began to drift off to sleep in my lap. At one point, Bob took it out of his hands to change the channel. Thomas sat up like a shot and tantrummed, he was so upset! Bob quickly gave it back to him, and the remote's soothing powers worked like a charm as they had the first time he held it. The baby then easily and happily drifted off to dreamland, the precious remote control held tightly in his tiny little boy hands. I guess it is just a guy thing!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Weekend's End

The tourney is over, and we ended in fourth place after a tough loss against Minnetonka. It was such a loss, that after a 9 point lead, they did not bother to keep score of additional goals. I guess it was a way to help us save face? No matter. We were all very proud of our boys......they are all such good sports. The defeat was OK for them, even if it was not their first choice of events! The difference with the loss today was that Minnetonka beat us fair and square and ugliness on the ice....just pure and simple hockey. They all were fantastic skaters, and we could learn a lot from the hockey program they run.

We ended the weekend on a positive note with a stop at La Casita, with a few of the other families, before heading back home. The boys , and us adults too, enjoyed our time, and appreciated some of the fun stories passed back and forth making us laugh. Bob & I had actually gotten to enjoy this restaurant yesterday also, as we stole away for a quiet lunch with our baby. It was a great way to end our time together.

We met up with our cute little girls and Alex at church. Laura gives the best hugs when she's missed you! They seemed to have enjoyed their "sleepovers" in the library with Grandma, and Alex had been a great kid-sitter too: even making meals for the girls. It was nice to be back together as a family again. And it only took 2 minutes in the car together before they were back to fighting!!

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Sartell Hockey Tournament Update

OK....we lost the second game. We were pummelled unmercifully. The refs were letting everything slide (on both sides) and Farmington was brutal. They were very good skaters, and could have beat us with that alone, but the awful thing was that they played extremely dirty hockey, anyway. Our kids were too ethical to stoop to that level, but with the refs being so lax, basically all rules were thrown out the window. It was a bit scary, actually. We had two players go down, lying eerily still, both after having their heads slammed into the boards. Our smaller players were actually pushed vertically downwards, collapsing like accordions. If it weren't for Michael being one of the forces on our team fighting back, I would have been tempted to pull him off the ice for his own safety. A very disturbing hour of hockey. I am thankful that all the kids now seem OK.

We had a celebratory dinner for our earlier win at the restaurant across the parking lot. The hockey boys have been busy running from room to room playing various video games. Jonny and Crispy have been enjoying some extended time in the pool.....FINALLY! The baby.....well, I think he is ready to go back home. He has had enough of this interrupted schedule, and misses his toys and sisters. We play our last game tomorrow at noon.....we will be leaving here with a third or fourth place trophy. That will be a nice thing for the boys to come away with for all of their efforts!

Sartell Hockey Tournament

The Wildcats won their first game today!!! Hooray! We will be playing the next one this afternoon at 3:30pm. Still do not know who we are playing yet, but we fear it may be Farmington....when we left the arena this morning, they were already clobbering the other team within the first 5 minutes of the game. OK, off to swimming for the younger boys before lunch.

Thursday, January 10, 2008


Today seemed like a blur of a lot of stuff done, yet at the same time nothing done. How is that possible? I began the morning in my garage at 8am, after dropping the kids off at school. Our garage is double deep, double wide, big enough for 4 regular sized vehicles. You'd think that would be plenty roomy for us, yet both of our vehicles remain subjected to the outside cold and snow, and have not seen the inside of the garage in over a year.

A few times each year, I spend hours cleaning it, decluttering, and organizing...only to have it immediately filled up again before I can even get my truck inside. It is though the empty space seems to call out to the rest of the family "Fill me up with more stuff!", and Presto! New stuff magically appears.

This winter season, it has been the uncountable boxes from the new Christmas lights. The light show was great, and I really don't mind parking outside. But I have already broken down a garage full of boxes twice earlier this season, and I just really do not feel like doing it again. But time presses on, and the pile is getting bigger (I did not think that to be possible), and there are things I do need from my garage. To find my ice skates yesterday, I had to climb over the perilously stacked mountains of cardboard....and then back again. So today was the day.

I began breaking down boxes, and soon realized that within each box were another 2-4 smaller boxes! Good grief! This seemingly insurmountable task as it was, was now at least three times larger!!! With my baby crying, Laura in tears(I still don't know why...she is too stubborn to tell me), and having no fun at all, I was able to get perhaps half of the task out to the curb. That was 3 cardboard piles about 3 feet by 3 feet stacked each. Our recycle guy is not going to like us today!

I spent the rest of the afternoon preparing for the Cookie Meeting tonight. I could never be a teacher. This lesson planning stuff is too much pressure for a perfectionist! I was worried that I had planned too many activities to fit into 90 minutes. It actually turned out wonderfully....I kept the girls on task, engaged by the many different things we did, and well behaved! We accomplished everything on my list, had snack, and I held the following parents meeting on time! This was quite impressive...especially since I neither had a watch nor clock in the room. Yay! Go me!

Bob took Michael and the neighbor boys to their late night hockey practice. They will be gone til about 11pm, so I am taking this opportunity to finally get the tree and Christmas decorations down while Tubby is happily playing on the floor. He just woke up from a nice nap he took while I was at the meeting, so hopefully I will have time to make some good progress. Oh! And I also put out another two boxes of clothes for donation pick up tomorrow. It feels so good to declutter!

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

From Skating Basics to High-Tech Needs

To her pure excitement and joy, Laura got to try her new skates today! I spent the rest of yesterday afternoon looking up arenas with open skate times during the day. It was surprisingly difficult to find Wednesdays open for some reason. But I had promised her yesterday that I would take her today, and far be it from me to not follow through with a promise I made to her.....I would be much too frightened facing her wrath!

After picking up Crispy from the bus stop, and Michael from band at school, we drove out to the Hopkins arena which was about 35 minutes away. I had figured out the timing wrong in my head....but it was to our advantage, so we got to make a lunch stop at Arby's before skating. Such a treat since all we have near Waconia for fast food is McDonald's~gross.

At the ice arena, we pretty much had the whole rink to ourselves. We only had to share the ice with one other boy and his dad. This made it easier for Laura with her skating "walker".....she didn't have to try to contend with a bunch of other skaters whizzing around her, causing her to lose balance. She did great, and after only about 10 minutes of help from me, she was able to move the walker on her own, and to get back up when she would fall. Her little legs made it 30 whole minutes before getting tired enough to need a break.

Crispy and Michael practiced skating the length of the rink, and doing some stick handling with the pucks on the rink. Crispy is now consistently using both legs to skate, and spends most of his time upright instead of flat on his back. I tried playing some pond hockey with Michael, but Thomas was not being very cooperative this afternoon, and he spent most of the time crying like a baby (which I suppose is appropriate since he IS a baby). I did my best to entertain him by pushing him around the rink in his car seat, but there was only so much that my back could take bending over at that funny angle. All in all, it was a successful outing, but perhaps I could get Grandma to meet us there once a week to hold the baby?

When we got home this afternoon, the cable-computer-phone all went out right as all the kids got home from school. My goodness, you would think the world had ended. It was still out when Bob came home from work, and there was no way to contact Mediacom, since their entire system was down. We all had to spend a "torturous" evening without these down-time luxuries, which led to some fights, but eventually good creative play. I would have normally been excited with this lack of technology, but this time, it even made me crabby. Jonny and Alex both had homework due that required online work and I had a project to do involving the Internet. Yes, I must be a glutton for punishment, as I have volunteered to be Melissa's girl scout cookie mom again this year. My presentation to the group is tomorrow night, and the only way I can do things is at the last minute. Everything returned at 9:30pm....too late for any of us to get anything we needed to done. We are going to all be scrambling tomorrow! Sometimes I really miss the good-old days before our dependence on computers. It is really shocking how much we use and need them.....but the advantages~like keeping in touch with those so far away, and online shopping~ are awesome!

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Homeschool Perks

There are so many benefits of homeschooling, that often I really wish all of my kids were home. Sleeping in every morning, working at your own pace, taking breaks WHENEVER you want to, sitting around in your jammies all day if you so desire, eating oreos while doing a math lesson, watching NHL while completing your grammar assignment, only spending 2-3 hours on school per day instead of wasting pretty much all of your waking hours in an enclosed building with no windows, and the list could go on and on forever.

Homeschooling a smart kid is even better....we can be so casual and lax about things because no matter what we choose to do instead, Michael figures out a way to get his schooling done. Today, we had a great day bumming around Waconia. We had some boring errands to do (the post office and getting new tabs for the truck AGAIN when our first ones would not adhere to the license plate....I even had to pay $9.50 to replace their crappy first set). We also had some fun things on our list. The first was visiting the Sports Locker which is selling their entire product line at 50% off to make room for their new clothing only business. When you have a couple of kids who need expensive hockey gear, 50% off is MUCH appreciated. We made out like bandits, and saved $250 on things that the boys actually needed. Michael got to splurge on a new, way-cool hockey stick. To my untrained eye, all the sticks look the same to me....but he really knows his stuff, and was extremely excited to get his first intermediate level stick which he used in his game later this evening. He got a bargain at $ can do the math to figure the original price tag! Laura found some cute little girlie ice skates, and begged to go skating the rest of the day. She refused to get out of the car once home....she said she was going to wait there until we left "to go to hockey". Unfortunately, we were too busy the rest of the day to go anywhere.

We finished our fun afternoon with lunch at one of the local restaurants downtown. We decided it was to celebrate our birthdays, since all 5 of us have birthdays so close together. We were pretty much the only people in the restaurant at 1:30, so it was really nice....and Thomas actually slept in the car seat the whole time, so there was no stress!

This evening, things cranked up a few notches. We were so busy with activities in every direction, that it took 4 different adults to get everyone to where they needed to go. We had a hockey game, Alex in after school activities, then a return later for Pep Band, and Jonny started Basketball. All of these things overlapped on one end or another. I was able to see Jonny during his last 20 minutes of Basketball. This is his first attempt at it, and he did really well! His height makes him an awesome rebound asset. Perhaps he is going to finally find his niche here.

Tomorrow, there is nothing on the calendar except for an after school play date for Jonny & Melissa. That will give Michael and I some time to catch up on some of the schooling we kind of blew off today. And that's OK, because today was a really nice time, and it was great enjoying the company of my kids.

Monday, January 7, 2008

My Baby's Gone Mad

We have touted Thomas as being the best baby ever since the day of his birth. And up to this point, he really has been : so easy going, sweet, patient, calm. But now I am afraid I have turned him into a monster : cries, screams, crazy, won't tolerate sleeping or being alone. He seems to be (quite frighteningly) following in his big sister Laura's spoiled footsteps.

It all started shortly before Halloween when Tubby got his first bad sickness and ear infections. Previously to that, he had been sleeping through the night since before 2 months of age! The first sickness led to another, followed by another, then another, and so on. This poor kid (and Laura too) has not had a break for months now. This latest illness with the croup, and now very odd sounding cough (somewhere between croup and asthma), has really been the worst for him. Because of it all,he is in the habit of sleeping with me throughout the night, and it seems so cruel to put him in his bed and make him scream for an hour to put himself to sleep when he is sick and feeling lousy. I have just been waiting for a break in the illness parade, but none has come.

This dependency overnight has spilled over to our daytime hours as he is in the "stranger anxiety" stage. Every time I leave the room, he screams and cries, regardless of how many other loving people are still in the room with him. Most times, it is not good enough for me to just be in the room with him...he thinks we need to be attached at the hip. I figured at least I could take down the Christmas tree if he were sitting on the floor next to me....but no....I was moving from box to box too much for his comfort, putting things away. Last night as I was making dinner, he was sitting on the floor, and had grabbed my shoe laces, one from each shoe in each hand, so that I could not possibly move away from him. He has turned into quite the manipulative little munchkin.

Of course, the solution is so easy according to Bob...just put him in his crib and let him cry. But as the Mommy, it just insn't that simple when he is reaching for me with all of his might and the sadness is oozing from his eyes. He is DEPENDING on me to make him feel OK with his unknown world. How can I let him down? He is just a little baby after all!

Jonny's Cub Scout den is becoming my weekly escape....tonight I was thrilled to leave the baby behind, and sit in an hour long meeting doing nothing. Sure, there was still screaming, noise, yelling, and annoyances surrounding me everywhere....but all of that was tolerable since they were not coming from my own little monster lurking for me back at home.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Another Teenager!!!

Happy Birthday to Michael.....he is 13......officially a teenager. Now we have two in our house! Having had a few years of experience, Bob & I agree that the "pre-teen-bad-attitude"years are much more frightening than the actual teenage ones. In fact, we already made Jonny PROMISE us that he would not succumb to this stage, but despite his best intentions, time seems to be preying on him. We are very happy for Michael to have reached teenager status....we love you, Michael!

The sleepover gang was still asleep this morning when Crispy & I left for hockey at 10:30. Apparently they had made it past 2:30 am before crashing for the rest of the night. While we were gone, Bob took the boys to the massive sledding hill at the entrance of town. This thing is huge! It is the size of a small mountain, taking at least 5 minutes to climb it from it's base, formed by the intentionally deposited excavation dirt from the renovated park and new developments around here (and there are a TON). According to the kids, it is "awesome", "scary", and "fun". Here is a picture taken from the top:

I prepared Michael's favorite meal for lunch.....grilled cheese and tomato soup...that was just perfect after a morning of sledding and a cold hockey arena. We followed that up with a very yummy Hockey Ice Cream Cake from Dairy Queen and mint Oreos....yummy, yummy! While they waited for their ride to arrive, the boys played some game with a Dora soccer ball, which was very upsetting to Laura~but when she resolutely went downstairs to reclaim it, she ended up playing and giggling with them all!

JAM & Jellies restarted this evening for the kids at church...they will be working on an Easter program. Melissa got to pretend to be an innkeeper today, and Jonny played an apparently funny Abedenigo. Michael opened his birthday presents while munching on a few mini bagels (our dinner) in the 20 minute time block we had between church and his own hockey practice. He now has enough of his own pieces to go paintballing with his friends. He's psyched! But his best surprise present was a tiny pine cone from Great-Uncle Rich....ask him about it sometime...I don't have the room to explain it here.

I am going outside to videotape Bob's Christmas Light Show with my new video camera....tonight is the last night, and we are all going to miss it(but it WILL be nice to turn on the lights in the Library and in the girls' room at night again!). If the recording turns out well, Bob is going to enter it into an online contest. We made it into our local newspaper last week, so the next obvious step would be to go national! Wish him luck!

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Good Times, Good Friends

On the eve of Michael's birthday, it is impossible to not think about how much he has grown in what seems like such a short amount of time. Long gone are the easy days of snacking on chocolate milk and goldfish crackers while riding in a Little Tykes Cozy Coupe car down the hill to the park. No more dressing up in superman pjs and 'flying' around the house with his cape flapping behind him. No more bedtime stories and silly little songs. Now his days are filled with hockey and listening to music on his Zune in between calls on his cell phone from his friends.

Michael began his birthday weekend celebrations very appropriately with nothing other than a hockey game in Minnetonka. The game was a bit disappointing, but Grandma & Grandpa C came to watch which made it special. Grandpa took over baby duty, and did 'funny-walk' with Tubby during the entire game to keep him occupied and happy. After the game, we met up with Michael's 3 good friends from good old New Brighton, and brought them back to our house for a sleepover. It is very nice that Michael has maintained these special friendships even though we have been gone for 4-1/2 years!

The boys have been busy sharing music on their Zunes and ipods, playing Guitar Hero and other various video games, teasing each other(sometimes not very nicely), and laughing about silly things that do not seem to make any sense. I tried talking them into going to a movie or going to the water park, but they seem to just want to hang out with each other...which is just fine. They did finally agree to go out and sled in the dark in the backyard and they all came back in one piece each.....most of them even avoided the killer tree that is unable to be seen in the darkness! Before they tucked themselves into bed, I drove them into the cul-de-sac to see the light show. They were quite was fun to hear their comments... "Oh, Snap!" "Wow!" "Amazing!""How did he do that?""That one really Rocks!""There's no way he can make it better next year!".....yeah, you wanna bet? Bob's already got plans!

Off to bed I go, long before my birthday boy and his friends. It is so nice to see him happy, and having a good time with some really good friends(minus the unprovoked attacks against his younger brother). Even though he will continue to change and grow, along with his interests and activities, I will never become tired of watching him smile and doing things that make him truly feel happy about being himself. That's what all of us desire for our kids, right?

Friday, January 4, 2008

Time Flies

Yesterday was a whirlwind, as the kids went back to school after the long Christmas break. The house is now once again littered with school papers, boots, mittens, and empty snack wrappers. It is always with misgivings with which I send them back to school, having enjoyed their time at home, yet feeling it is always much too short. There are always so many more games to play, toys to make believe with, sledding to do, or cookies to bake. The time just flies by.

This afternoon, we took the opportunity of the slightly warmer weather and bundled up to play in our backyard. For the first time, Thomas joined us also. We all took turns pulling him around in his little penguin sled which he seemed to enjoy. However, he was not a fan of the ice cold blowing wind and snow in his face. Since he cried both inside and outside all day today, I decided he may as well stay out with the rest of us so that at least we could have some fun regardless of his current psychotic mood he has been in lately.

The kids pulled out all of our sleds, and got creative with riding down the hill on other things as well....the still inflated inner tubes from the summer pool two years ago were a hit! The snow was slick and packed down making a super fast track just perfect for little sleds and tubes. Even Laura was getting the hang of it this time, and had figured out how to trudge back up the hill all by herself. The school kids met us in the back upon their return home...they thought the "note" I had written all over our front door with chalk was a fun idea, and now Melissa would like me to write a note daily. After an hour, the wind had sufficiently chilled us, and we all needed a good dose of hot cocoa before our( imaginary )dinner that we never got around to having.

Jonny and I were the lucky ones tonight to leave the house for another Timberwolves game with his Cub Scout den. It is always a nice treat to do something special with him as it seems so often that life passes by so quickly that we breeze right over him. It was also simply nice to get out of the house and away from the noise for a little while. Poor Alex was stuck with the crying baby for over an hour as Daddy just couldn't quite get home early enough....usually it is Jonny who is the Baby-babysitter! (Hopefully Alex will recover from the mental strain and stress quickly!) I definitely had guilt leaving the baby crying, the house an after-school mess, and no hopes of any dinner in sight, but it sure was great to spend that time instead actually playing with my kids. Dinner and dishes and messes will come and go on a daily basis....but my kids are growing up so fast, and I need to grasp every opportunity to share in their childhood that I can.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

After Christmas Shopping Spree

The kids made out like bandits again this year for Christmas. This year worked out well, as they did not seem to get quite as much in excess as normal. That is, until today....

Part of what kept all the presents under control were the gift cards and cash that many of the kids received in lieu of toys. This has been especially good for the older boys who have very specific wants in very specific stores. After burning holes through their pockets for a week now, we took this last vacation day and headed to Target.

Target had been pretty well picked over from the Christmas gift-giving season, but what remained was pure bargain heaven! The kids each had close to $100 to spend(Yikes!), and were loving the opportunity to walk up and down the aisles without restraint. I tried my best to bite my tongue when they would pick out something really "stupid" and a waste of money.....this was their chance, after all, to make their own decisions. Because of the sales, some of my *wiser* shoppers were able to buy some really cool things that would have been too expensive normally. Poor Laura was probably the most enthusiastic shopper of them all as she grabbed every remaining Dora item off of the shelves....bummer for her was that she had the least amount of money, and obviously no concept of it!

Upon arriving back home, the kids brought all of their toys up to the big bedroom to open and play with. It made for a very peaceful and relaxing evening, as they were all so busy with their post-holiday finds. Jonny bought a new video game, Alex, some computer stuff, Laura got a really neat Dora talking playhouse for just $30, Crispy bought some more beloved Pokemon figures (because 325 of them just isn't enough), and Tubby found a toy train. The *bestest* deal we got was Butterscotch, the Fur Real pony that was 50% off. This pony is big enough to sit on, and the head, ears, eyes, and tail actually move very realistically to sound and light. I had been so skeptical of this thing....even when displayed in the stores, it was cute, but not impressive, and certainly not worth the $$$$$. But once we set it up at home, it was solely responsive to us....and not to all the other noise found in a crowded store.....and we discovered that it was extremely cool! It responds so well, that it is impossible to just walk by it without giving it a pat and some words of endearment as though it were really alive. Melissa spent the rest of the evening going on many "adventures" with her new pony, "Roy".

All in all, the kids accomplished what they wished for out of the experience....spending their gift money and buying new toys with which they got to play with immediately. And after an hour and a half in the toy aisle, 3 carts full to the brim, and the biggest Target bill I have ever seen in my life, I benefited from watching my kids experience pure joy and satisfaction with THEIR purchases that THEY made on their own.....(even the "stupid" ones!)