Monday, December 29, 2008

Night Out for the Girls

For Melissa and her best friend who lives next door, there is nothing as exciting in this world right now than American Girl dolls. As often as they can, which is nearly every day, they take turns rounding up their dolls, clothes, and accessories and go traipsing over to each other's houses to spend hours upon hours playing make believe with their special dolls. It is a great way for them to spend their time....much better than vegging in front of the computer or TV....and when they need a break, they go for a spin on the plasma cars.

My neighbor and I have talked many times over the last two years about taking the girls to the American Girl doll mega store in Chicago. As of November (only one month ago), there is now a store in the MOA! Our procrastination has paid off! The girls have been hopping with ants in their pants ever since the store opened, but time has been too little to make it out there (mostly due to hockey commitments, as we both have two boys in the sport). We decided we had to put an end to the torture plaguing our girls, and finally made the move to visit the store over the Christmas break. Reservations were scarce in availability, but we were lucky enough to come across a cancellation for tonight.....our girls' dreams would finally come true!
This may all seem like a bit of overkill, but for an eight and nine year old girl, this night was like paradise. The store was a massive two story structure in the middle of the Mall, right along the shores of Nickelodeon Universe. The inside was decorated in beautiful shades of pink, down to every last detail, even in the bathroom. Dolls decorated each aisle, as well as the myriad of accessories and endless possibilities to stimulate the imagination. One could spend hours in that store (as we spent about 3), and still not see it all.
Our reserved table awaited us upstairs, under the canopy of a giant pink petalled flower. The girls (Melissa, Laura, and neighbor Kirsten), grabbed a tight hold of their dolls in one hand, and booster seats for the dolls in the other as they practically bounced to our table. Once carefully seated, dolls and all, they perused the menu of good, kid-friendly foods. They were extremely tickled when the waitress brought out real drinks in tiny tin cups for the dolls too! For $15, we each got to choose our own appetizer and meal. It was so much food, and so good, really, that we had plenty to bring home. We had so much left over, that we could have easily fed Jonny, Crispy, Tubby, and maybe even Grandma ? who were waiting for us somewhere in The Universe below.
Laura was so happy to be dressed up in tights, and to be part of this big girl experience. At one point she said, "This is so awesome! I never want to leave this place!" The older girls had all of their expectations met, and were pleased with the small purchases they came away with. My neighbor and I were satisfied with the price, and a satisfactory experience for all. Grandma and the boys were glad that our long experience was finally over. We went our separate ways, with Grandma taking the 4 Musketeers down to the farm for a few days, my neighbors heading home, and Tubby and I making a quiet drive in the dark back to our quiet house. What a nice evening!

Friday, December 26, 2008

A Few of Our Favorite Things

Here is a quick review of some of the kids' most favorite Christmas items:

A classic game of "Aggravation" given to them by the Haucks

A remote control dinosaur, "Spike", that truly delivers....honestly, this is a well made and FUN toy!

Another American Girl doll...Felicity(with all the accessories)

A baby care station

The latest in new Elmos....Elmo Live....again, with all it does, and how well it stands up, it's another great toy surprise!

New sweatshirts and music CD's (complete Lord of the Rings and Star Wars soundtracks)for Alex

The long-awaited Guitar Hero World Tour for Wii.....big huge bummer that the Wii broke the day before Christmas...

And by golly, Santa came through at the last minute and brought Jonny the most adorable miniature hamster which he named "Marcus".

........and we still have all the presents from the Connelly side of the family to open someday!!!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

This Christmas Day will be spent much different than originally planned. Due to a nasty GI illness that struck my parents' house overnight, we are keeping our distance and spending instead, a quiet day at home. Santa was good to the kids again, as he is every year, and I have a lot of toys to put together! Plus, I am extremely exhausted by staying up until 2am wrapping presents again last night!

We had our annual Christmas Eve gathering last night, at which both sides of the family were present (including those who are now sickos). We had lots of good food, and a rousing game of cribbage (which somehow got way out of control and tried to take over the whole evening), and a very nice and non-stressful version of the dice game. The kids read the Christmas story by the light of the advent Christ Candle, and we followed it with a few carols.

The younger kids enjoyed running around like crazies with all of their cousins, which left us older ones to actually have some adult conversation. It was a very busy evening, but lovely all the same.

The fun part of our evening was sharing our most likely not-so-secret Secret:

Arriving in June,2009...another little baby Zajac!

Even the kids had no idea until Christmas Eve morning when I let them look through the photo books I had made for the Grandparents before wrapping them. The older kids are so relieved...the boys were certain something was terribly wrong with Mommy due to how sick I have been all fall. I also had to start Lovenox (blood thinner) injections twice a day to prevent a recurring pulmonary embolism. Now all pieces of the puzzle were fitting for my boys and they could finally relax. The little ones, of course, are excited, and most are convinced it is a girl. Our odds at growing girls are not that high, so hopefully they will not be too disappointed if it is shown to be otherwise next month.

Well, more later....I have a few more hours of toy duty to put in!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Holiday Displays

The holiday displays are so pretty this time of year. The trick is to find some time in the busyness of it all to enjoy and appreciate a few along the way. When my brother and his family are in town from their warm Casa in Miami, there are two things we always see: the Hollidazzle Parade, and the Macy's Annual Holiday Display. This year, two snowstorms and frigid temps kept us from the fact, since their surprise visit to the kids' Christmas program on Friday, we have not been able to see them at all.

All was not lost by the way of Christmas visits, as yesterday, we were blessed by the much anticipated visit from Our Friends, the Haucks. It is something we look forward to each Christmas season, and we are so thankful that even though they are so busy visiting family of their own in the few short days they are in the cities, they somehow always carve some time out for us. We had fun playing with our friends, listening to Beth play the grand piano, and showing Lisa how to make tortillas with her new present. She even made us a scrumptious batch on her own! Melissa and I had to duck out early for a therapy was sad to leave the happy house with Our Friends behind.

On Tuesday, things came together for an extremely short time to allow us to visit with our cousins again at the Macy's display. Because of the snow the night before, the ride was almost double in length for us. By the time we had crawled our way to a parking space in downtown Minneapolis, we had a mere 2 hours before we would have to leave to get Jonny to his play rehearsal on time.

We met up with our cousins at the entrance of the display, and enjoyed the scenes from a day in the life of an elf. It was a very cute look into the behind-the-scenes goings on at Santa's workshop.

We also got to visit with Santa again, and Jonny was able to ask him for his most wanted present this year---a hamster. That is kind of a tall order, even for Santa on the day before Christmas Eve. The photographers were very patient and kind as they spent 10-15 minutes getting one picture of our whole gang of kids.

And we couldn't leave without a gingerbread cookie from Mrs.Claus' bakery. Since we didn't have time for lunch, that cookie would just have to do!

Speaking of Holiday Displays....ours has made someone's Limousine ride service list. We now regularly get the same white stretch limos stopping by. Sometimes people even get out and dance in the street! It's kind of funny.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Final Christmas Show

The last two weeks have been filled with holiday shows, concerts, and parties for the kids. From Alex, all the way down to Crispy, each kid has been involved in some sort of production. Since all events took place in either an auditorium or gymnasium, I do not have very good pictures of anything :(

Alex had a wonderful High School Music Concert. He played baritone in Jazz Band, and trumpet in the regular Concert Band. I actually had a great seat for this more than 3 hour long concert.

Jonny had a 5th grade choir concert that featured the entire 5th grade class (more than 300 of them), and every other choir in the Middle School with no seats left for spectators. Who plans these things?

Jonny and Michael had an always lovely band concert at the Middle School. The music program is so good here, and it is always impressive to hear how well these kids can play...some of them after only 2 months of learning an instrument.

Crispy was proud to advance to Tiger Cub rank at the Cub Scout Christmas party.

Jonny had a special poetry morning which parents were invited to. In our 6 years of being at the Middle School, parents have never been invited to a thing. Perhaps the school is finally changing for the better? Jonny did a great job reciting his poem, then sharing a wonderful anthology with me he had made. This boy is so creative and a very good writer. All this over a cup of hot cider....yum!

Today was the biggest of days.....I had three holiday parties to attend with my children at two different schools(invited back to Jonny's school again!), Michael had a concert out at the Mall of America, and Melissa and Crispy ended the day with the much anticipated annual Christmas production at school. As often necessary to accomplish being in all places at once, the Grandmas were enlisted to help. Grandma C made it out to MOA, and Michael was so happy that she was there to hear him play. Grandma ? came out to play tag with me as I left kids here to attend parties, then she took the last party so that I could take a 20 minute break to eat lunch. We then all TRIED to meet at the school for the show, but with a cast of 350+ kids, seats were nowhere to be found. Parking was even tricky, and the nearest space I could find was 5 blocks away. I was worried about my asthma ridden preschooler and croup coughing toddler who have both been ill since Monday, running through the cold air, but we were so late by that point, we had no choice. We were ushered to seats on the side of the show on the floor, and if we creatively looked, we could see parts of Crispy and Melissa now and then. Grandma ? had a seat with a few saved in the bleachers, but the crowd was much too thick for me to stumble through with my group of little ones. To our surprise, 30 seconds after we sat on the floor, Grandma and Grandpa and all of our Miami cousins filed in next to us! Hooray! We were so happy to see them!
The show was good (I am sure it was better had we been able to actually see it), and the kids were all excited about performing. But I think they were even more excited about more than two weeks vacation! We headed home, and spent a lovely afternoon playing with our cousins and visiting. We then enjoyed the glorious light show in our cul-de-sac before heading over to the local Chinese restaurant for dinner. Our party of 14 took the little space by storm, but we managed to have a wonderful meal anyhow split across the room from each other. Afterwards, we said our good-byes, and headed back home. Daddy was hosting a poker party there, so the kids and I spent a very relaxing and much needed rest watching shows snuggled in my big comfy bed for the remainder of the evening. Ahhhh.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Is There a Specialist We Have NOT Seen?

Laura woke up this morning asking me for a "nebbie" with her dinosaur voice. I can't even remember when she needed a neb treatment last...perhaps the end of last winter's season. She has come a long way in her 4-1/2 years from daily nebs 2-3 times per day to now a rare occasion. I am so thankful for her progress as she grows. But it is funny how uncomfortable and nervous I still get when her breathing is off.

Alex has been visiting a physical therapist each week to better his posture and improve the severeness of his headaches. While not helping the barometer headaches we both suffer (which have been horrible the last few days with this weather), his posture is indeed improving. He is also in process of being worked up for GI disturbances. He has had lots of testing done already, and we met with a pediatric GI specialist at the U of MN last week. She was a hoot! The most eccentric doctor I have ever met....I can't begin to explain what she is just have to experience her for yourself. But she is excellent in her field, and that is what counts. Alex will be having an upper GI series during Christmas break....Should be fun.

I met with a new hematologist a few weeks ago for my annual check in regarding my platelet has already been one year since off of the coumadin after my PE. That was such a scary event, it still feels like it just happened a short while ago. My old hematologist who has calmed my nerves for the last 6 years up and left for a teaching position in Arizona....he will be so good at that. He was always great at taking much time and explaining things to me when I was nervous, which is always what I needed. I like to know as much information as possible to increase my comfort level. Especially when we are talking about live and death circumstances. He was also a big guy....seeming about 7 feet tall, and from someplace like Nigeria...Once I had gotten use to his accent, he was a total stitch!...and very smart, too. This new guy lacked the charisma and charm of my other doctor, was old and boring, and spent about 3 minutes with me. I had to ask him if we could check for that nasty Lupus anticoagulant in my blood, and he said, "Sure". I was very pleased that it is currently missing, but not so pleased with this new doc.

Melissa saw a pediatric cardiologist today. He was wonderful! Young and friendly, he reminded me of Melissa's current teacher at school who she likes so well. But actually, there is not a single cardiologist I have met that I have not liked. I think there is just something special about that specialty. They have a great amount of people skills as well as intelligence and the ability to communicate well. If I ever have to go back to work (Heaven forbid), I might even choose to go back to cardiology rather than Labor and Delivery. It just was so much fun to work with good docs I could respect.

Melissa had another incident at school last Thursday where she complained of chest pain and her heart feeling like it was going to fall out. She had been doing tripods (modified headstands) and cartwheels, as well as somersaults in gym class when it happened. Even as a baby, she hated being flipped around, where most kids giggle with glee. A few years ago, the teacher's aide called us because of a near fainting episode while she had been pushed high on a swing (they were concerned it had been a seizure). There have been other episodes where Bob has thought Melissa goes into some SVTs (a very rapid heart rate), and they seem to be related to position changes. Last week, the nurse did not check her out, but just told her to rest. No one called us, but Melissa relayed the story when she got home. Bob was furious, to say the least, and gave the school nurse an earful the next morning on the phone.

Melissa was a champ as she laid quietly for her EKG today. She had had a heart echo 4 years ago when her chromosome abnormality was finally diagnosed, to simply rule out the possibility of any heart defects at that time. She had had no symptoms back then. Today, her EKG showed some very mild abnormality. We now need to rule out a serious condition, WPW, vs your garden variety SVT's which I had been diagnosed with when I was 25. With the slightly abnormal EKG reading, it could go either way. She was sent home with a heart monitor that she will need to wear, with a button she needs to push if her heart has any symptoms. The monitor will then record her heart's activity, and we will send it by phone to be analyzed. We had to send a baseline in tonight, and it is pretty amazing.....a series of sounds, like a fax machine is transmitted through the regular phone receiver.!

Hopefully we can recreate her effects, and then she can be done with the monitor and we will have some answers soon. If not, she may have to wear this for a few months. She is so nervous about wearing it to school under her shirt and being different. I devised a soft pouch for her tonight to keep the cold box from her skin and to keep all the cords tucked inside. I assured her that I would explain it all to her teachers in the morning. My poor little girl....hopefully all will turn out well.

Sunday, December 14, 2008


With the freezing rain pelting us each time we were in and out of the truck, my husband and Michael found themselves becoming buried and subsequently stranded in Bemidji. They had been up there since Friday morning for a hockey tournament, and now found themselves on an extended "vacation" in one of the coldest places in the state. A few of the main highways (including major I-94) had been closed due to the weather, and there was no way out.....literally. They were stuck until at least Monday morning. While glad not to be stuck bored in a boring hotel room, I would be lying if I said I were not a bit envious. No cooking, no cleaning, and most of all, SLEEP! I hope they appreciate their blessing in disguise!

On our end, we, unfortunately, were NOT stranded. Melissa and Crispy had their big Christmas Musical program on Saturday afternoon, so that meant lots of extra rehearsals this week. Thursday evening, Friday from 5-9pm, and an early arrival on Saturday. Crispy had two of his own hockey practices thrown in there as well. With church being a nearly 30 minute drive in the inclement weather, we spent way too much time in the truck this weekend. Oh....and the heater in my truck has been broken for two weeks---our only choices are extreme heat at maximum blowing speed, or no heat at all. Both options are rather uncomfortable and annoying. I guess we should at least be happy for heat.

The program was adorable, as usual. Crispy had a short speaking part, and his lines made the crowd laugh. He even dabbled in a cowboy drawl for his character...perhaps he will be another actor in this family! Melissa was happy to not be speaking this year (she has gotten very shy again), but to still have a special part as a member in King Herod's court. It was interesting to see her reactions change throughout the season as she learned more and more about King Herod and realized, "Momma? King Herod was not a nice man." I think she was even more thankful to not have a speaking part as one of the "bad guys".

The kids were excited to see both Grandmas, and Grandpa C at their show, who gave them a round of applause as they met us back at our seats. It is so nice to live close enough that the Grandparents can be a part of special things like means so very much to the kids, and I think the grandparents might like it too!

The kids and I spent the rest of that evening cuddled under blankets and watching "Horton Hears a Who". It was a very entertaining movie.....very cute. That had been my favorite Dr. Seuss book when I was little, even though it made me cry each time it was read. It was nice to see the movie done so very well.

The soggy Sunday morning went well enough, with early morning church, and no fighting. It is funny how the absence of just one kid influences the entire dynamics of the family. Crispy had hockey immediately after, and then we were home by lunchtime. I was shocked at the change in the weather when I ran out to Target after lunch for just a few things.....when I left, it was 36 degrees, and still raining, as it had been the entire morning. When I went back out to my car no more than an hour later, the temp had plummeted to 17 degrees, and everything was frozen solid! I got a workout just opening my car doors. I was lucky enough to be following the salt truck on my way home driving on the massive ice rink formerly known as streets. Whew! It was time to make the executive decision to forgo the 30 minute drive back to church this evening for the kids' end of production party.....we had a pajama party at home instead. Yes, it IS better to be stranded in the comforts of home.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Link for Glencoe Christmas Show

Bob's show in Glencoe has been videotaped and posted to the Glencoe website:

Click on "About GRHS". Under the "GRHS Foundation" tab, click on "Trees of Lights".... then scroll down to play the video. It is very impressive in person!

We have had a few limos come by this year....I wonder if we made the Christmas Lights limo rides list??

Saturday, December 6, 2008

The Longest Day

This date on the calendar has by far had the most things written on it all year. It began with Waconia's quaint small town Christmas celebration with candy cane hunt in the park, pictures with Santa at the fire house, and an old fashioned Christmas carol sing along as the town Christmas tree is lit upon Santa's arrival in the evening. It is one of the cutest things this great town does, and in the 6 winter seasons we have been here, we have only been able to make it to one......that was two years ago when it was about -30 windchill. But this year, it was the first thing on my calendar for this date one month ago. During that one month's time, it slowly became buried under mountains of other activities. Sadly, we would miss this celebration again.

Instead, I got to enjoy waking up at 7am to get Crispy to hockey pictures and practice. We were in such a hurried rush, that we forgot his stick.....again. I am loving that our new arena is just 4 minutes from our house, but not so loving how many times a week I find myself driving there and back. Pictures were running behind, so I was able to make it back with his stick before his turn. That was is funny how kids get attached to THEIR things....the thought of borrowing someone else's stick for the picture just put tears in his eyes.
Crispy's pictures running late caused them to be late in starting practice. This caused me to be 25 minutes late with Melissa to work our shift at the Girl Scout Holiday Boutique. We were triple booked for that shift, so I was not too concerned about coverage, but our troop leader did not seem so pleased. Being that I am pretty much a one man band running my house of 7 children and all their activities, it is a miracle most days that we get anywhere at all. The boutique is an annual event where the girls make items for sale for under $3. Melissa wanted to make Happy Hockey Pucks again, so that is what we spent her yesterday off of school baking peppermint frosted brownies for the bake sale also going on in the next room. This year, Melissa wanted to add some pink pucks with some debazzlement. They turned out pretty cute, and we sold at least a few. Melissa enjoyed walking around to the other tables after our shift was over, and doing a little bit of "holiday shopping" herself.

We had about 20 minutes back at home before getting everyone ready for a drive into the cities. We picked up some lunch on the way....I am getting tired of fast food. I remember the summer days when I had time to cook! We picked up Grandma C and left Tubby with Grandpa for the first time. The rest of us were going to the Minnesota Orchestra for a special family production of the Swinging Nutcracker. It was a fantastic way to orient young children to the orchestra. The concert was just right in length, about 50 minutes, there were dancers and acrobatics to watch here and there, and the music was entertaining and delightful. The comparison and contrast between the original Nutcracker pieces and the jazzy swing style was fun and light. A great way to spend an afternoon. Even so, Melissa had a hard time keeping focused for so long (as she does in movie theaters also), and Laura fell asleep on Grandma's lap within the first 5 minutes. I am glad I won the tickets in an online would have been sad to have spent the money when only half of us were actually paying attention!
Grandpa did just fine with Tubby, and Tubby loved all the attention. He got a one on one audience to play cars with and talk to. What more could a little boy ask for?

We had to leave shortly after the performance and drive back to Waconia to drop off some kids and pick up a whole new set of kids. We had another 20 minute layover at home....just long enough to eat a cold milk and cereal dinner. Yum. Scoring big on meals today, I see. Then it was another hour long drive back into the cities for Michael's hockey game in Bloomington. Once again, we watched as our boys were slaughtered across the ice. This season has been rough, to the point that we have been seriously worried about the safety of those boys. Leave it to a few hotheads and lots of politics in our hockey association who insisted that we play in an upper level league that we are clearly not up to par with. Our boys have lost every game by an average of 9 points to zero. And have been roughed up really has been amazing that no one has been hospitalized...yet.

Long drive back home, then at last into the driveway at 10:22pm. Pulling around behind us was a very long stretch limo. They had come to see what was suppose to be the first night of the spectacular Christmas Light show. Bob had been working on it all day as I was running around, but had run into some technical difficulties resulting in still no show. At least he had all of the lights on, and our yard looked really pretty, but I wanted to hide from the people behind the tinted glass who had no doubt expected something much bigger. Oh well, what can we do.

It sure has been a long day.....come to think of it, they all are pretty much like this one.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

No More Baby

At some point, it is time to cut the ties that bind, and let them fly. Today was the day to cut Tubby's once cute long curly baby locks. His hair has gradually lost it's original curl. He has been called a "girl" so many times in his short existence, which is so ironic, because he is all boy....with all his hockey playing, ball throwing, and car obsession. Now that winter hood and hat season are here, his long hair in the back looks like a certified rat's nest everyday, and is no longer cute in any way.

I had to plan this for a time when all of the other kids were at school, because every time I bring up the subject of cutting the poor baby's hair, I am met with nothing but cries of "No. Mommy! Don't do it! Run, Tubby! Run!" from his siblings. I don't know what it is about every kid in this family wanting long hair...even the boys. In fact, all of them right now are looking quite shaggy and hobo-ish. What a charming Christmas card we'll be sending out this year.
Tubby was not thrilled about his haircut, as the soft falling baby hair tickled his bare back. But he was cooperative anyhow, and the whole process was quick and painless. It helped that the only hair that had been growing was in the back--no need to cut top or sides. Laura was my photographer for the historic event....she did a pretty good job!

Now that my baby looks officially like a big boy, it is going to be a little hard to mentally adjust. He has been a baby for so long! But, I suppose I need to let him grow up too, so that he may enter the exciting world of childhood with all of his siblings....they do have SOOO much fun. To celebrate, we bought some new shoes for his ever growing feet. Check out these adorable CARS crocs on his feet.....he was so excited when he found these in the Target aisle, and he has refused to take them off ever since! Right now, cars of all kinds are his he never has to be without a few!