Monday, June 30, 2008

So Far, Not so Good

The kids woke me up this morning by coming into the room I was sleeping in, sitting down, and nonchalantly telling me Jonny had puked in the bathroom. Though a nurse, I am able to handle any amount of body fluid except for puke. Not such a great way to wake up. Needing to clean it up, I begrudgingly got out of bed and headed down the hall. Opening the bathroom door, the stench was overwhelming, and the scene one as from a horror movie. I have NEVER seen a sight more was as though the boy did not even try to make it to the toilet, as the lid remained closed, puddles of puke one inch deep around it, and puke trails and splatter over every surface and item in that room. The rugs were so saturated that they had to be thrown away. It took me over 90 minutes to clean up that mess. I still don't get lazy do you have to be to puke all over the bathroom like that? It was definitely much more than a one least 4 or 5. You'd think at some point the kid would have been able to open the toilet lid. Gross.

We were a bit late leaving due to this unplanned cleanup job, but Melissa was only 5 minutes late to riding. She had an awesome ride today, and looked happy once again on her horse. The kids experienced trail riding today as they left the confines of the indoor arena and walked their horses in the sunny yet mild out of doors. They all just beamed with pleasure. Melissa was on cloud nine all day was so nice to see her happy.

I spent the rest of the afternoon shopping and cooking for someone who had had a baby last month. Making one meal for them and one meal for us worked out pretty well, but I was surprised how much more time it took to make something for someone else. I do not have to worry about presentation for my family....they are lucky they get any food of any kind! I spent over 2 hours trying to call their phone in order to drop off their meal. After no answer, I drove the 15 minutes to their house, "just in case". There they were, looking starving...the number I had was wrong, and now it was 7pm! I felt terrible for making them wait so long, especially since I had had it prepared since 4pm. It was nice to do something for someone else, and even better seeing the brand new tiny baby girl. Funny thing was, it didn't even make me want another one. Perhaps I am really moving onto a new chapter in my life!
Happy Birthday, Cally!!!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Oh, What a Beautiful Morning!

What a nice morning......from a soggy and cold evening, we awoke to a beautiful sunny morning on Lake Carlos. Without the girls to wake us up early, we got to sleep in until 8:15! After rushing a bit to get ready, we walked over to the lakeside to participate in a little church service. It was absolutely lovely sitting on the lakeshore hill at the foot of the cross on this gorgeous morning with the sunshine streaming through the trees surrounding us. What a gift from God today.

Tubby made it through about 15 minutes on my lap before he got too antsy to sit in the row of chairs. We spent the remainder of the hour long service roaming the hill, practicing walking, and playing with sticks as I took in the view of the large, clear lake, always within earshot of the guest minister. After church, we all stuffed our faces at the breakfast buffet inside which featured french toast, fruit, scrambled egg dishes of various kinds, pastries galore, and the best little "Mount Caramel Rolls" I have had. Yum. Jonny and I ate especially well, as we were both afraid of a repeat of yesterday without finding food.

Lyle took us for a quick tour around the camp grounds. We learned that he has been coming up to this Bible camp every year since he was a baby. Not only is each week biblically based on some theme, but the whole atmosphere is so inviting to reconnect with your family and God. Placing things in proper perspective in this busy world of ours is a challenge indeed, and this place helps you jump back onto the right track. I hope that I will be able to bring my kids up here someday, possibly even start the yearly tradition of our own. Marching Band in June, Mount Carmel in July, and Watermelon Day in August. Sounds good to me!

We found decent spots along the hot downtown streets of Alexandria, just south of the judging area. As we waited for the parade to begin, I found myself already dreading the heat, at 77 degrees....but then I kept reminding myself that last year, it was 20 degrees hotter. No kidding, it was awful. Big surprise today: Daddy was able to get a few hours of coverage at the hospital, so he made it up to see part of the parade! Out of 21 bands, Waconia played first, and they did an awesome job. Bob continued to follow them down the route, watching each performance before heading back home. After two hours, the sun fell behind the buildings enough to provide us with much welcomed shade, and the people in front of us left the scene, leaving us with front row shady seats and perfect views of the rest of the shows. It was great, a perfect day for a parade, and everyone was on their best game. We also enjoyed a performance from a visiting school marching band from Norway. They were fun to watch, as was their nice performance in the awards stadium later on that afternoon. For all of us who have been complaining of high gas prices, this visiting band was shocked with how low our prices are...apparently in Norway, it is over $9 a gallon! Perhaps we don't have it so bad?

As so many other parades this season, we lost Grand Champion by one mere point to Park Center. Mankato was once again only one point behind us. The Vikingland Band Festival has become basically a battle between the three of us bands to see who will win. No one else comes close. But true to our audience appeal, Waconia once again won the People's Choice Award. I think that is the most to be proud of!

Finally, at 7:30pm, an exhausted Jonny, Tubby, and I climbed back into our truck, blasted the air conditioner, and headed the two hours back to the cities. I felt sad that the schedule had been so hectic, and that I had been so close to my other "sister" friend Lisa, but had not even been able to see her. Come summer, I anticipate the yearly visit to her house, and can barely stand the wait any longer. *sigh* I will have to come up with another plan for next year to make it all work out. I called my parents on the way home who graciously allowed us to stay one more night instead of picking up the kids and driving home at 11pm. (And, as Lyle pointed out, my tires were basically threadbare.....I was freaking just a tiny bit) We managed to stay awake longer than usual, getting silly and giddy with Grandma before once again crashing into our beds. My, what a BUSY weekend it has been!

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Parade Day #1

The first of our parade weekend loop was the Music Festival in Osseo. After a late breakfast of blueberry buckwheat pancakes, Jonny, Tubby, and I bid the 3 Musketeers and Grandma & Grandpa farewell. Though a bit late to the parade (Waconia was last, so we did not rush), we had missed only one band and still found a prime center playing spot in which to sit. We had a perfect view of every show that passed us by. The skies alternated from sunny to cloudy throughout the three hours, giving us a welcome reprieve from the sun's hot rays. Tubby finally learned to love the sun shade on his stroller and entertained himself by making a little hide out with the covered dome. He cracked himself up by being silly with his "peaking hand"....and he kept Jonny & I well entertained between bands, too. See the little video below:

Again, Waconia was sharp and amazing today. They seem to be getting better and better each time. The man next to me commented on their performance and was shocked when he learned that another band kept beating us parade after parade. And according to his opinion (and as we have heard from so many other onlookers this season), we had a much better, memorable, classy, and appealing show than did the other band. Park Center HS has been our biggest rival, often beating us out of the Grand Championship by a mere one point or less. Out of 100 points, that is a VERY tight race (Mankato is the only other band that ever can compete with these top scores, but we have not run into them much this season). But while they have been receiving top honors, we have continued to win first in our class, and often have been winning the People's Choice Awards. The band members have been so discouraged by their just-missed losses, and we can not seem to convince them that People's Choice is actually more rewarding than that grand trophy. Because really, it is the fans that you want to be impressing and who you are doing the show for. Sure, Park Center is barely beating us by judging standards, but the crowd is coming out to see US. That is something to appreciate.

Today was our day. Waconia nearly accomplished a clean sweep of awards. Not only did we win first in our class, best winds, and best colorguard (all awards that we typically manage easily in each parade), People's Choice (again!), and finally......Grand Champion!!! All of the kids were on their feet, jumping around on the field as the parents of Park Center sat in the bleachers with their mouths hanging open. One woman from PC next to me said, "I don't know what to do! This doesn't happen to us! How are we suppose to react?" I replied, "Now you say, 'That was a good band too.' That's what we have been saying about you guys all summer." Boy, did our kids need that boost for their upcoming competition of all competitions tomorrow in Alexandria. They had been becoming more discouraged with each tight loss to PC in the past week.

After the awards, it was up to the St. Cloud parade for all of us. Jonny and I had missed lunch, so by 5:30, we were starving. We ate at Old Chicago before meeting up with Daddy who had driven up after work at the clinic. Placing our chairs across from the "magic J", we settled in for our second parade of the day (keep in mind that each one is between 2-3 hours long followed by more than one hour of awards at a separate location). The parade began on time, and was moving along well. But somewhere in the first 30 minutes, it began to rain. First just a little sprinkle, but quickly turning into a steady rain laced with downpour moments. After two hours, we were SOAKED through.....and that was with an umbrella and water proof rain jackets. With the temps falling to 60 degrees, we were becoming chilled to the bone.

As the spectators around us gave up in greater numbers and filed for their dry homes, we were determined to remain until the bitter end. As luck would have it, Waconia was slotted in one of the last groups in this 90+ unit parade. We saw some neat floats, some good marching bands who played their music without stopping to perform their show in the rain, and we met Al Franken. After a two and a half hour wait, St.Cloud's own band ended the show. And behind them, came the Waconia Band buses, with all of our kids warm and dry inside. They had never even gotten off the bus! Though disappointed to have come all this way to not even see them march, our little family stood up tall and waved vigorously and clapped as they drove by. We could tell by the silhouettes behind the tinted glass of the luxury coaches that nearly everyone was waving back. Alex told us later that Tubby's little cuteness waving to them in the rain (I had pulled him out of the stroller and held him high on my hip to celebrate our band) was the hit of the buses (all four of them).

Now cold and wet, Bob went home, and we drove another hour up to Alexandria. Pam and Lyle were waiting for us as we arrived at Mount Carmel's Bible Camp in the darkness which occurs after 10pm. We could not see much in the unlit camp, but our room in the lodge was beautiful and spacious. Grandma and Lyle gave us a quick tour where we found some cookies to snatch for a little snack before bed. They retired to their nearby cabin while Jonny and I found DRY jammies and cozied into one of the most comfortable beds I have ever slept on, next to my own. Ahhh.....................

Friday, June 27, 2008

Getting Out of Town

Another week has flown right by......before I know it, summer will be over and the kids will be back at school. *sigh*

The girls and I had a lovely Girl's Day Out at the Mall on Tuesday with our friends. Lunch, shopping for summer outfits, and retracing our steps twice for lost baby sandals. It was fun to see my girls get to do girlie things that they usually do not get to enjoy in a house full of boys. Trying on clothes in the dressing rooms was apparently super fun, because that was the highlight of each store visit.

We made it to the community pool once this week for open swim practice. Unfortunately, we went so late in the day, that there were only 35 minutes left to swim before evening classes started. Bummer. The kids played hard, and Melissa and Crispy spent their time under water, enjoying their new abilities. When our time was up, the lifeguards must have taken pity on our large crew of little people, because they offered to let us move over to the lap pool for another 30 minutes. While too deep for Laura and Tubby, the other kids had fun floating in the deeper waters. The two little ones were allowed to play on the handicap accessible ramp leading into the pool. Tubby is a water maniac. He has no fear as he scoot "runs" on his butt, down the ramp until the water level is at mid chest, then stands up and keeps going while hanging onto the rail. Getting facefuls of water does not stop him. Once he recovers from the coughing spell, he just keeps "running". This boy is going to give me a heart attack at the cabin in August.

Thursday evening, Bob and I were granted the rare occasion to get away WITHOUT any kids. That's right, none of them. Not even Tubby and his cute little face. Grandma ? came over to watch the kids so that we could go to Alex's parade in Brooklyn Park. It was great to be able to focus on the shows and not have to constantly be attending to the whining from all of the little people. Certainly not the best neighborhood, as we parked our truck and walked past what looked like gangs of kids and many a police officer, to find the perfect spot for parade viewing. We found our spot across from the "magic J" and smack in the middle of the cable tv set up. It was perfect for viewing the marching band shows. Waconia was AWESOME tonight. Their show even made the lippy teenagers next to us shut up and look on silently in awe. Our band drew about 400 people from the crowd who continued to follow them down the street, cheering them to the end. It was pretty cool to see. Bonus for me: I ran into the wonderful nurse who took care of me while I was in the hospital for two months before Laura was born. She laughed when I told her about Laura's stubborn, fiery personality. Gotta love it, that's what God gave her to be the survivor she is!

Firday found me scrambling around the house packing three of us for going up north to a weekend full of band parades, three of them for a weekend at Grandma and Grandpa's, doing laundry for Alex's next week trip to Seattle, and making sure there was enough food and other essential items at home for the 3 that were remaining at home over the weekend, plus our teenage guest. The baby has been in a strange mood over the past few days where he just whines and whines every time that I walk away from him. This made for constant crying as I went up and down the stairs, packing our bags. On top of that, my neighbor REALLY wanted me to skate a game that evening in the cities. Stressed out would be putting my morning mildly.

Having planned on leaving at lunchtime to visit with our buddies in their new house, we finally pulled out of the driveway at 2:30. (Thank you, Grandma for showing up at 11 so that I could take a shower!) Having packed all of my hockey things in the truck just in case I changed my mind and found myself with enough time to play tonight, we had to make a pit stop in Chan to get my very dull skates sharpened. The guy was in no hurry whatsoever, so our 5 minute detour turned into a 30 minute delay. Ugh.

After what seemed like a marathon task, we pulled into the driveway of our friends' gorgeous new house. Being on kid number seven, they certainly deserve the bigger space, large kitchen, and walk in pantry. The house is very well built, and very functional for a large family (as ours is NOT). The girls played dress up and Polly Pockets, while the boys....hmm....I am not really sure what they did. A lot of running around and screaming, I think. The thunder rolled and the darkness of the storm clouds grew virtually unnoticed to us as we played and explored. We look forward to many more visits this summer in the new fun space.

After such a hectic day, I opted out on hockey. I really needed some time to STOP running. We headed over to my parents for dinner.....the kids were bouncing out of the truck for their weekend sleepover. So very exciting for my trio of good little kids. After dinner, we treated ourselves to a trip to Cold Stone where we had only been once since moving from the cities. It was a wonderful, yummy treat, that even Tubby enjoyed some of. Following that, we walked over to "the big box store" to get some summer pj's for the girls.....they put on a lovely fashion show for us in the hallway before bed. Such a lovely summer's evening after such a stormy afternoon which had matched our crazy morning!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Look Who's Walking!

15 months of practice gearing up for this day:

After mastering the easy stuff, he decided to challenge himself by dizzily winding up first:

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Enjoying Our Town

This little city of ours is just the best. We have so often found ourselves so thankful to be here where we are. Our kids have had such a nice life here, and we have enjoyed so many more things being a part of a small town than we had ever experienced in our big city suburban neighborhood. There is such peace being here, and knowing that my kids will be just fine if I let them bike into town with friends or walk down the hill to the park has all made the move worth it. Throw in the beautiful lake, great schools (well, most of them), music and community ed programs, new ice arena, and almost finished Target, and we've got a town that pretty much has it all.
My favorite point in the year is the Lake Waconia Band Festival. My parents and I attended this event for the first time only two weeks after we had moved here five years ago. We decided to give it a try, showed up at the park in town, had no problem finding a place to stand, and watched as several tremendous area marching bands paraded by. We had no idea the significance of this event at the time....we only knew that we had had a great experience and it pretty much clinched our love of this new small town of ours.

Now, having a son of my own in the marching band, this festival is even more exciting. It is the second largest competition in Minnesota (next to the one in Alexandria scheduled for next Sunday), and after having now attended several around the state, we can say it is the nicest one by far. This year, we hosted 15 other bands, and it was fabulous. Many of them are top notch, and this year's show held many creative and unique performances.....from chimney sweeps to a Jewish wedding was theater in the making passing us by. Grandma ? had strategically placed chairs and blankets out the night before to secure our spots at the "magic J" which ended up a great place for viewing every school's music show. Bob and Michael were at Jonny's play tonight, but all the Grandparents came out again for the parade. The little kids have such a hard time staying focused for 3 hours, despite a great picnic dinner and several boxes of popcorn and bottles of water. Thomas does the best job, and actually seems to enjoy the music. Afterall, he did get immersed in these parades last year at just a few months of age. Waconia was last to perform, and the changes they have been working on made for a super crisp and beautiful performance. Within seconds of completion at our location near the beginning of the parade route, a cold wind came up off the lake from nowhere, and we found ourselves running 3 blocks to the truck, in a downpour! We hadn't even noticed the clouds! It was over before we pulled away from the curb, but not before we were soaked through. Pretty funny!


Sunday was a gorgeous, cool, sunny, summer day. Even OK by my temperate standards. The kids were begging to go to open swim again, but I was lobbying for going to open skate. We ended up doing neither, but instead spent the day out on the lake, just as a perfect day like this was meant to be spent. The neighbors were itching to take their huge boat out, and invited us along. Bob was catching up on dictations, but the kids and I (minus Alex who was in Winona at a competition) took them up on their offer.

(Golly gee, something just went awry with blogger and I lost the last 4 paragraphs of this blog...and it was good, let me assure you! It hasn't let me save in a few days, so here I am in the middle of the week, not quite as fresh as when I had first written this, so, my apologies!)

So let's see...where were we? Ah, yes, the boat. What a great way to spend the day. Out in the middle of our beautiful lake, taking in the sun, cool breezes, and scenery. The traffic was pretty quiet on the lake, as the temps were barely above 70 degrees, and it was quite windy and choppy. But the big boat we were on didn't let that affect the quality of our ride.

After cruising around the island, we set anchor in a calm part of the lake, and the kids jumped in to swim. Despite our cool spring, the water was comfortable. The big boys swam through reeds and climbed up the sides of the boat and over the rafts. The little kids were begging to go in, but being that the water was easily over their heads by 15 feet, and none of them knew how to swim (remember swimming lessons?), I was not too keen on the idea. My wonderful neighbor finally jumped into the water and assisted them all in with their life jackets tightened and floating noodles securely placed under their armpits. After their initial fear of being in the middle of the big lake(and this mommy's many mini heart attacks), the kids LOVED it, and had a blast kicking freely around the boat, floating easily thanks to the wonders of foam products. The little ones ended up staying in the water much longer than the big boys.....if they had their way, I think they would have stayed in the water all day long! But the big boys were bored and itching to go "tubing", so with some minor drama, I helped the little ones on the challenging climb back into our luxury speeding tub.

Tubing proved to be quite bumpy on the wavy water. After watching the neighbor boys being hurled head over heels into the lake by their Nascar-boat-driving-father, I was surprised that Jonny and Michael wanted to give it a try. Michael's ride hit many too many a wave that sent his head banging repeatedly onto the inflatable craft.....not fun. Jonny's ride found much calmer waters, and going at baby-tubing speed, he had a really fun ride. I was proud of both of them for trying, while at the same time, I was nervously scanning the area, constantly searching out which boat on the lake would potentially sever my child's leg off when he fell from the boinging tube. Perhaps it is not by accident that we do not own a boat? I think it ended up being a good thing that Bob was unable to accompany us this afternoon....he is much more over-protective than I am, and boy, were my nerves getting a workout!

After some snacks and a bit more leisurely cruising, we had to head back to shore. Bob took a break later and took Jonny out to the driving range for practice. Even though the temps were mild, I was wiped out from all the sun exposure. I think I am allergic to sunshine (if that is possible!). But, it was all worth it, and such a perfect way to spend the day and to enjoy the resources of our perfect little town!

Oh, and Happy 15 month Birthday to Tubby!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Practicing New Skills

No swimming lessons today! We planned on regrouping today and trying to catch up on some chores after trying our new skills in the water at open swim this morning. The morning went on and the kids kept begging to go, but we were moving too slow without time limits to prod us along. At 10am, Bob called to invite me to play 9 holes of golf with him over the lunch hour. So I left, with my little ones wailing behind me, "You said we would get to go swimming!", and Jonny consoling them with "Come on guys, Mommy deserves a break too."

It was strange to be without the kids in the middle of the day. But what a beautiful day to be spending it outside! It was fun to be on a golf course again, this time actually hitting the ball the majority of the time....a vast improvement over a few weeks ago. It was, however, so different than at the controlled atmosphere of our golf lesson mat. It was challenging to gauge exact placement and form, especially when there were people behind us twiddling their thumbs. It was a good experience for practice, and really nice to spend some time with my husband!

Jonny had to be at play rehearsal and Alex to marching band in the mid afternoon, so after dropping them both off at the high school, I caved in and brought all the little kids and the neighbor girl to open swim. Though I did not feel I had the time to do this, I am so glad that I did....Melissa and Crispy finally had the swimming switch "click" in their brains. Both of them were going all the way under the water repeatedly, and Crispy was actually dog paddling underneath too! It was really an "ah-ha" afternoon for both of them. They were pretty proud and happy with themselves. Tubby and Laura enjoyed much more cautious play in the zero depth end of the pool playing with water scoops and buckets.

We had a quick dinner of something or another, and then the Grandparents all arrived to see Jonny in his Tow Sawyer play. The play was fantastic. It was amazing that these kids put the whole thing together in only 5 days time. Jonny made an excellent Huck, and looked just swell in his patched up overalls and straw hat. He had a great southern accent to go along with his character. He had a great time, and loved every minute of it. We celebrated his stage success with huge ice cream waffle cones at the quaint local ice cream and coffee shop "downtown". It had turned into a beautiful evening upon which to reflect on this very lovely and successful day.

Icing on the cake was this adorable scene in the library on the couch when we arrived home at 10pm:
How cute is that?? When Tubby awoke later as I brought him with me to pick up Alex, he immediately started calling for his sister, "Row-rah! "Row-rah!" He must have remembered snuggling up with her before drifting off to dreamland.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Summer in Full Swing

Summer activities have hit us with a bang. Since returning from Duluth, we have been running non-stop from one thing to another. Learning from past summer experiences, I have found it best to cram-pack our first summer month with all the activities that the kids want to try. It helps the kids to transition from their normally busy days of school, and gets their anticipation of activities out of their systems. We are then left with the hot month of July to relax and play, going where the breezes may take us, or hiding in our air-conditioned house all day long. This is followed by the always fun-filled month of August which begins with our County Fair, directly leading to our favorite vacation to a cabin near Vining, Minnesota, where we get to visit with our good friends and celebrate Great-Grandma's 100th birthday this year. This year, we will have an added treat at the cabin as our Miami cousins and Grandparents C will be joining us mid-week! August often ends with one last "Hurrah" in Duluth before we begin the new school year. Yes, after many years of getting summer vacation wrong, vacillating from summers that were way too busy to summers that were way too boring, we finally have a really good system going.

Thus, we have been crazy busy the past two weeks. Alex has been MIA nearly everyday with multiple marching band rehearsals and parades. He is down at the park by 7am every morning, comes home for a quick lunch, then is often off to a parade competition, usually not getting home until 11pm or midnight. The new show~Trempe Ardent~ is fantastic, as always, and the band has enjoyed winning many awards already. Though the marching band season is so very short, the amount of time these kids put in and the number of competitions they are entered into in a short one month span is staggering to anyone's endurance. It is like being in boot camp. These kids work HARD, usually in sweltering heat under layers and layers of polyester uniform. But they put on a great show, and our band is certainly one to be proud of. We are one of three in the Minnesota area that are expected to win all the competitions. That's one good band!

Michael has picked up a bit more hockey again, but with a little less rigidity over the summer. He has been enjoying the benefits of our brand new arena that opened this month meaning only a 3 minute drive for us instead of our typical 20-30 minutes to find a good sheet of ice. He has been skating two mornings a week, and every Friday night. The parents that are showing up at these times are also coaches who have been running the kids through drills and working their little tushies off. This has been a great adjustment on our pocketbook, as we have now only to pay the entrance ice fee of a mere few bucks per time versus the blanket hundreds of dollars for an ice hockey program/camp in which you may or may not make all the practices anyhow.

Jonny is our busy body this year who is trying his hand at everything. He has already completed a week of basketball camp, is currently taking weekly golf lessons, is still playing baseball two nights a week, and is looking forward to tennis lessons next week. But the best thing so far has been this week's acting opportunity with the Prairie Fire Children's Theater....85 kids have been working like maniacs all week, memorizing lines, putting together scenes, learning songs and acting technique, all to put on two evening performances of the play "Tom Sawyer" this weekend! Our born actor, Jonathan, was chosen to play the second leading role of "Huck Finn". He has been enjoying this immensely, and he truly has a gift for this. I am so proud of him for being so responsible in accepting such a big role with such short time constraints. I can't wait to see the play tomorrow night. He certainly gets his acting gene from his Daddy....I would keel over and die if I had to stand in front of all those people on a stage.

Melissa, Crispy, and Laura have been busy with morning swimming lessons. Because Laura had not passed her first round of Puddle Jumpers in May, I had to scramble to get her a spot which did not coincide with the other kids' lessons as well. We therefore ended up with spending two hours at the community center every morning instead of the less than one hour that was originally planned. The kids always had fun, and would be able to play in the inside playland when Jonny or Michael would come along to supervise in between lessons, but it made for very long mornings.....and hot and humid mornings sitting in the pool area, watching the kids, sweat rolling down our backs, the lifeguards not allowing spectators to even dangle their feet in the water during lesson time. Laura passed this time, and Melissa was getting very brave with bobbing all the way under the water, and came SO CLOSE to jumping off the diving board. I think that her hesitation was more the fact that she has difficulty jumping forward in general, even on could tell that she really wanted to jump off of the board. Poor kid....we have been practicing jumping off the couch (always fun since standing on the furniture is a no-no), but it just did not quite transfer to the diving board at the pool. Crispy was just down right chance was he going to jump. We now have two weeks off before we start another swimming round. Hopefully we will get some practice at the pool in before then.

Thomas is trying his best to be a good sport, getting dragged from one thing to another. He has been missing all of his morning naps, and by the time we get home, it is necessary to make everyone lunch. He is usually beside himself with whininess and tiredness, crying, crying until I can get the kids settled at the table and finally give him some attention. Still not walking, but he does have a few new tricks. He has been perfecting standing up from the middle of the floor hanging onto nothing. He sure thinks he is hot stuff. He also has been doing this funny fake crying thing....when he hears someone else cry, he begins to copy it, but with no emotion on his face. Just "wah, hah...wah, hah..." on and on. Like he's mocking the other kid who is in distress. Funny boy.

In my very sparse few moments, I have managed to make a fool of myself in hockey, thanks to my neighbor. She convinced me to sign up for this game in Richfield. What we thought was the appropriate level for us by the Internet description, ended up being about 2 levels higher than our ability, was 80% men, and lasted an excruciating 90 minutes. There were times I thought I was going to get killed. It was awful. It was the first time I have not enjoyed myself playing hockey, and I hurt my back, causing me to miss a golf lesson the next morning. Never again. But my neighbor is pestering me to sign up for another one next week. I am starting to wonder if perhaps she is seriously insane.

Golf lessons have been going well, and it will be interesting to see how that transfers onto a real course. The instructor really knows his stuff, and it is exciting to actually be hitting the ball each time. What else.....ah yes, I spent 6 hours replacing our mulch in front and back yards. That was after 3 hardworking boys spent 4 hours together laying most of it. It was not fun at all, so much work, and such a waste of money. I do not think that I will be able to rationalize it two years from now when this comes up again. Hundreds of dollars and hours of work, for what? For most of it to just blow away, or get washed down the hill by the rain? Fantastic.

We did get new neighbors last weekend. After over one year, the house next door finally sold. Despite the mom next door yelling at our girls the first day because they had the audacity to ask her seven year old to stop spitting gum in our yard, things have gone well, and they seem to be nice people. They have lived in this city for 8 years already, so they already have a life and family here and don't need us. That's good, it takes the pressure off.....we don't have time to make new friends!(or barely keep the old ones......:o( )

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Duluth Surprises

We are now back home from our first of hopefully a few trips up to Duluth this summer. Despite the cold and rainy forecast, we were blessed to have pretty decent weather. Our first day, we took the dry opportunity to walk down to the park on the end of the point....probably a mile long walk. Which one of these kids pictured here ran the entire mile back to Grandpa's house with a smile, while talking, and without tiring even once? I could not even keep up with Melissa! Not too surprising, since I am not in such good shape, but out of all my kids, she's the one with endurance! It was amazing to watch her go! At the park, the kids played for quite a while on a simple wooden boat structure, but they thought this thing was just the BEST. Formerly deemed "The I'm a Wiener Park" (you'll have to ask the kids to explain that one), the kid's came up with a more suitable name this year, "Noah's Ark Park"...or even more simply, "The Ark Park". The kids took turns being captain of the ship, Daddy and Michael practiced chipping shots into a tractor tire, and Jonny found some buried treasure. After several minutes of negotiating, we convinced him to bury it again for the next person to find.

The rain was only constant on one of our four days, so we turned that into an indoor activity day. The older boys, Daddy, and Grandpa went to the new Indiana Jones movie, while the little ones and I visited the Aquarium. The kids really like to go there because there is an enormous water table depicting all of the Great Lakes, the rivers that connect them, and the passage through them with an eventual end in the Atlantic Ocean. The kids get to float their boats through locks and channels getting from one end of the lake maze to the other. By the end, the kids are always sufficiently soaked and quite happy. Thomas was in water table heaven, and he spent no time getting drenched from head to toe. Once he found the foot bridge, he was on his butt scooting in running mode over and back again and again with squeals of delight. After 45 minutes, I had one VERY wet but extremely happy baby. The kids also learned about fish, boats, and seahorses. Was is worth the $40 entrance fee? Certainly not. But the two hours of distraction that it provided my little ones on this rainy day was very nice.

On Saturday, Bob and Grandpa took the boys on an agate hunt up the beach, taking them all the way to the Superior, Wisconsin entrance. The kids love this because though it is hard work to walk for hours on the sandy beach, they are walking in areas not travelled by many feet, so the agates are plenty to be found. And with the rainy, windy storms of yesterday, the size of the agates washed up onto shore was pretty impressive for a bunch of kids. Some were between 2-3 inches in diameter!

While the boys were gone, the girls and I (and baby) headed up to the mall to buy shorts and swimsuits for everyone. We had only packed for temps below 60 degrees as the weather had forecasted, but today was a sunny and HOT 80 something! We definitely had to take the opportunity to play on the beach, but no one wanted to do that in long pants and sweatshirts. During our shopping escapade, I asked Laura the same question I always do as we pass Claire's earring store, "Laura, do you want to get your ears pierced and wear earrings like Melissa?" Her answer is always a quick and pouty "NO!" But today, she surprised me with a "Yes!" I asked her a few more times to be sure. She hopped onto the chair, and with all bravery, faced the earring punchers on each side. She jumped a few feet in the air as the "guns" surprised her with their heavy pinch, but she never cried, though it was clear she wanted to. After the shock wore off, she was obviously proud of her new big girl status, and ran into the house to show her Daddy.

I took all the kids over to the beach for a few hours while Grandpa and Daddy grilled dinner. The kids, as always, thoroughly enjoyed themselves. Did it matter that the lake water was at best about 48 degrees? Not to my kids. They all were running in and out of the water anyhow. Tubby's eyes got so big as we came over the hill and the ginormous lake came into view....he was obviously thinking, "Water table jackpot!". He "ran" across the sand (on his little butt), making it straight into the shallow water on shore. He was still going quickly forward as a tiny *freezing* wave caught up with him at his chest. The poor little guy was stunned by the cold, then turned quickly away and "ran" back up the sand hill a ways. Unlike most Zajac males, he learned his lesson the first time, and kept a reasonable distance from the water for the remainder of our time on the beach. He was totally content to play with his hockey stick in the sand, using it for digging and flinging. The others occupied their time by growing sand gardens, making castles, playing horseshoes, and burying themselves up to their necks. It is always so relaxing to sit on the beach, silent, sans the waves and my kids' happy screeches.

Our last day in Duluth was spent lazily skipping stones and climbing rocks at a small scenic park up the road. I think that the kids would have been content to stay all day long. I held my breath as Melissa climbed through rock pile after rock pile, with nary a falter. Tubby proved to be an avid rock climber himself, even with his unique forward foot frontal lead system. He would have ended up in the water several times had our reflexes not been quick that day. The boys had skipping and throwing contests. Ah yes,
a pleasant time for all, indeed. We look forward to many more times like this over the summer this time with Alex, too!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Last Day of School!

The day was filled with fervent packing for our trip to Duluth. Being ill since last Friday, cleaning and packing has taken a back if this were a super long passenger train, it would have been in the caboose. With Bob home for the day, the baby entertained downstairs, I packed my kids one by one. Alex would be left behind this trip, due to marching band engagements. He is leaving for band camp early Sunday morning, and needs to be plenty packed himself. Leaving when the kids got home from school seemed like it would be an impossibility.

By one o'clock, things were actually under control. Every bag was packed, along with a few bags of toys for all the rainy day needs. Crispy and Laura came with me to the awards ceremony at the elementary school. It was a very nice event. All the kids in the school sang songs, and many awards and recognition certificates were given. Jonny received all three: perfect attendance, school patrol, and student council. The other grades all sang "So Long, Farewell" to the 4th graders. Melissa had been very concerned about this and had been begging all week to not have to be made to sing it to Jonny because she didn't want to cry. I was so impressed that she sang the song, movements and all, and did not shed a single tear! At the end of the program, everyone's favorite custodian rode a lift to the top of the gymnasium rafters and fastened the fourth grade time capsule to the ceiling. When these kids graduate from high school, it will be taken down and opened. How cool is that?

After many good-byes to teachers and friends, I was able to take my kids home......on to our summer vacation! I love summer vacation: not because of the weather, I could do without the heat, but because I love having all of my kids at home. I never want it to end, ever. When Alex arrived home 30 minutes later, our truck was packed and we were ready to go. A few big hugs for my oldest (sniff), several excited kids, and one really big dog later, we were off on our first Duluth adventure of the summer. We made fairly decent time, stopping once for gas, dinner, potty break(for all the kids and the dog)and treats from Tobie's bakery. The kids were thrilled as they tumbled out the truck and onto Grandpa's driveway. We had just enough time for everyone to meet Grandpa's new puppy, Vinny, and to get their wiggles and sillies out before climbing into their cozy sleeping bags on the floor. Night night little ones. Happy Summer Vacation!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Farewell Fourth Grade

Nearly the end of the school year, and another graduation of sorts. Jonathan is finishing the fourth grade at the elementary school and now will move onto the middle school (cringe). He has been the first kid in our family to go all the way from kindergarten through fourth grade here in Waconia. So this has truly been his school home. He has made many friends, and was involved in many activities. It has been overheard of the principal saying, "Now, that Jonny Zajac...he is a real leader in his class." Perfect grades, perfect attendance, perfect friendships, perfect activities, perfect, perfect, perfect. He even has a perfectly delightful anticipation of heading to the middle school despite two brothers who have gone before him who have detested every step of that path.

An evening program was filled with songs the fourth graders sang for us, and certificates of completion. Jonny was one of the kids picked to read his speech about fourth grade memories. A slideshow of the 100+ students was a nice touch, and each kid was sent home with a video CD of the program. Cake and punch followed, and we all viewed the class pictures taken from the time these guys started kindergarten. From buzz cuts and enthusiastic wide faced smiles, to knowing grins and tousled thick hair. What a change in five years!

The Grandmas and I watched on as my boy filled with self confidence went through his routines. I am very proud of this boy who continues to excel in all he does (except for cleaning his room). He is looking forward to facing new challenges, entering the music program (playing trumpet), having new classes, and growing experiences with his friends. With his exuberance of kindness and a positive attitude, he may just be what that middle school needs. And if his good nature proves to be too much for the school to handle, he is always welcome here at home!

OH....and look what Tubby has been practicing over the past few days.....standing on his own and walking behind his walker!

Monday, June 2, 2008

Mommy is Out of the Office Today

I do not think that I slept for more than 15 minutes at any one point last night. There is no way to describe how awful and painful this feels. I would so much rather take one of my horrible headaches over this (maybe THAT is the lesson I am to be learning here...that my headaches really are not so bad?). All I could do this morning was cry as I drove my poor kids to school. Golly gee, this is terrible. Oh, and I really can't hear so well.

My wonderful mom came out this morning to stay with the kids as I went in (finally!) to the clinic. I truly do not know how I made it to the cities and back...the pain was so intense I was sure that my ears would explode off of my head. The doctor confirmed what I had expected. It was a flare up of a skin condition that settled in my ears while I was pregnant with Tubby. Thanks Thomas. The canals were so inflamed and swollen, that she was unable to even see through the left ear. She sent me away with some steroid and antibiotic drops, and some pain meds(since I can't take anything helpful like Ibuprofen due to severe allergy). By the time I got home, I felt pretty yucky, and was starting to feel feverish. I think that I kept passing out on the couch. So my mom, who was the adult thinking clearly in my home today, insisted that she take Melissa to her riding lessons 30 minutes away. Good thing too.....I didn't get up once the two hours they were gone, and I am not sure how many of those minutes I was even awake. Boy is it good to have such responsible boys like Jonny to pick up the slack and watch the baby during times like this!

So the world went on, Melissa had a good riding lesson....I am sure that she was so happy to have Grandma there watching. I would bet that Grandma enjoyed it too! Grandma made dinner for my kids. Grandma ? brought Jonny to his last cub scout meeting of the year. It has been nice that she has been Jonny's scouting buddy over the past few years. One more year, then he moves on to Boy Scouts! Daddy took control of the rest of the crew when he got home while I slipped in and out of consciousness. The girls made me get well cards that were very sweet. Melissa wrote on hers "Get very better soon. The world is such a disaster when you are sad." How sweet! I need to be done with this....I do not have the time or patience to be sick!

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Sitting on the Porch

Last night was awful. I had such a hard time sleeping from the pain, my left ear canal is now entirely swollen shut, and my right one has begun to hurt. In desperation, I came across some medication at 3am from my c-section with Laura. It at least took the edge off enough to function, allowing me to make it to church with my kids. Church was great, as usual, and I was able to stay focused enough to remember the sermon. Melissa was brave enough to go to the second grade room for her second Sunday in a row since JAM has been over, and she went on and on about how wonderful it was. Crispy is still accompanying Laura in her morning classroom for moral support. Jonny had some kind of graduation thing in his room, as next week he will be moving to the middle school worship service!!

I took the kids to Costco for lunch, as I could not possibly make them anything to eat today. I spent the day going back and forth between feeling like I could not take the pain for one second more when the medication wore off, to feeling like I could make it until clinic hours tomorrow when the meds kicked in. I really did not want to go to our ER again(which was our urgent care option). I am sure that they are so sick of me coming in every year. But by bedtime, it was clear I had made the wrong choice by staying home. No amount of medication was helping anymore(perhaps cuz it was more than four years old), there was nothing to help ease the pain, and now I had to wait at least 12 more hours for help. Thanks Bob, Mom, and Dad for the correct advice to just go in earlier today.....but remember that I need to have someone forcibly make me go....haven't we all learned that over the past several years?? (hmm.....I think I might know where Laura gets her stubbornness from)
The kids and I spent a lot of time sitting on our porch in the shade was so pretty outside. I have always wanted a front porch, and it always makes me so happy to sit out on it. The kids like it too. It somehow just seems very homey. Jonny was so sweet....he made Koolaid for all the neighbor kids that ended up congregated with us on the porch...10 in all. Thank you to TiaLisa and Uncle Cally who sent this dress in the above picture to Melissa for her birthday. She LOVES it and since she received it the other day, has worn it everyday after she gets home from school.

I forgot that yesterday we saw a beautiful(though quite light) rainbow from end to end in our backyard after a quick almost sun shower. I will take it as a sign of hope for tomorrow.