Tuesday, March 31, 2009

You haven't tried root beer until...

Most of the time I'm happy with the order in which I've done things in life. I'm glad we waited until we were a little more mature and financially settled before starting a family.
But every once in a while I'm reminded of traditions my children have missed because they weren't around a few years earlier.

Such was the case when Sydney grabbed AJ's glass of root beer. It was Diet A & W, and you should have seen her wrinkle up her nose at the first taste. My first thought was, "honey, if you think that's bad..." But by then, she'd already raised the glass again to sample some more.

How sad to realize neither of my kids will ever have the chance to taste "Uncle Bob's root beer". They quite possibly will live longer and healthier lives as a result. But it actually brings tears to my eyes to think they'll never go through that rite of passage, tasting the infamous homemade brew that likely would have brought tears to their eyes.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Let's hear it for SUNdays

Sunday certainly lived up to its billing. After roughly 10 straight days of grey, we awoke to squintingly bright, gloriously beautiful sunshine.

I don't think it was a coincidence. Sunday just happened to be the morning our church dedicated its new stained glass windows. (I wrote a news release about it, and am happy to say two of the three TV stations covered the service.)

Both kids were excited to at last be able to play outside. Our original plan was for AJ and Jeff to go out and play while Sydney napped. This would give me some quiet time to work on a freelance article.

But when Sydney heard the word "outside," she went running, only to reappear moments later with her snowsuit in hand. How do you say no to that? Remembering that she'd fallen asleep in her stroller just two weeks ago, we decided this was a perfect plan B. We ended up making two trips around the block before she finally fell asleep, but I figure the extra fresh air and exercise was good for all of us.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

What happened to my dream kitchen?

I realize my kitchen is less than five years old, but I took a look at it this weekend and decided it really needs a makeover. Don't get me wrong, the cupboards and appliances are all still great. But it's just not as functional as I'd imagined it would be. In fact, at times, cooking in it can be a real challenge. The traffic flow is a bit congested, and collanders and spatulas seem to disappear without notice from drawers whose handles are always sticky.

Maybe I should send this photo to Better Homes and Gardens. They could run it along with an article entitled, "Kitchens: the new living room."

Ironically, I suspect if I just wait a few years, my kitchen will seem good as new.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

We love you Daddy!

Silly Daddy! I think he was planning on relaxing when he got home from work on Friday. Did he forget there would be some people (and a dog who thinks she's a person) who would be excited to see him?

Friday, March 27, 2009

A river runs through it...

I just can't imagine the fear that's being felt in Fargo right now... watching a river continue to rise, flowing faster and faster, moving ever closer to swamping dikes and invading homes.

Earlier this week, our normally small river swelled quite a bit and was moving at a pretty good pace, but I think the worst has passed. From our house, the water level looks much higher than usual, but when I walked down closer, it's really not as extreme as it seems. Though it was. Everywhere that you see snow in this picture was flooded with water that's now frozen. That's why the snow hasn't melted. This is the area we cleared last summer. In other words, it's normally dry ground.

My prayers are with those in the Fargo/Moorhead area. In the meantime, I'm holding my breath that Jeff won't be activated to help in the aftermath.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Beach day!

After what I believe has been six consecutive days of grey skies, rain/ice/snow and blustery conditions, I can't help but appreciate AJ's sunny imagination.

I've figured out that giving two kids a bath at the same time in our big tub, in the end, saves both time and water (not to mention energy because I don't have to fight to get them to do it.) So last night, I asked the kids if they wanted to go "swimming".

"Yeah!" was AJ's enthusiastic reply. "In your bathtub!"

Sydney, meanwhile, gave non-verbal confirmation by running into her room and grabbing a swim diaper. She then ran into the bathroom to grab her and AJ's swimsuits. She knows the routine!

Once AJ had changed into his suit, he ran through the house shouting, "We're going to the beach!"

A few minutes later, with Sydney happily in the water, I noticed AJ still sitting on the tub's outer ledge.

"Why aren't you in the water?" I asked.

"I'm the life guard."

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


"Energy and persistence alter all things" - Benjamin Franklin

At what point does perseverance given way to stubbornness? Or, since we're talking about a toddler, perhaps we should question if perseverance was ever part of the equation. It could be all stubbornness.

AJ and Daddy had climbed the big steps from the Children's Museum to the main floor of the Depot, so of course Sydney wanted to do it, too. Never mind that she's too short to reach the railing. Crawling one step at a time (with Mommy close behind), she reached the top. Eventually. And boy was she proud of herself. She then ran through the Great Hall, shouting and savoring the sound of her echoing voice.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Fairness rules

I've frequently commented on how protective AJ is of his little sister. Turns out Sydney is looking out for her big brother's interests, as well. That cookie he's snarfing in the photo below - he has his sister to thank for it.

To encourage sharing, when I give Sydney a treat, I give her an extra and tell her to give one to AJ. I discovered recently just how important this routine is to Sydney.

AJ was happily drawing on his easel in another room when Sydney followed me into the kitchen. I needed to run downstairs for a minute, and so to distract her, I offered her a cookie. She happily accepted, but then stood there pointing at the cookie jar, repeatedly saying, "AJ. AJ." Thank goodness there was one more cookie left. I handed it to her and off she ran, calling for her big brother, happy to share the wealth.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Who's missing?

Why would you want to stare at a TV show when you can watch a family photo instead? Sydney doesn't seem to care - or notice - that she's not in the picture. She also doesn't seem to recognize AJ. As she points to each person in the photo (by the way, "Jon-ton" always is the first she idenitifies) she just sort of dismisses AJ as "baby".
With two more babies in the family since the last time we gathered for a photo like this. We just might have to attempt another one.

Ye olde Kazel kitchen

Had we lived a couple hundred years ago, is this a glimpse of how dinner time would have looked?

We were supposed to go to the Children's Museum on Saturday for our friend Lily's birthday. Unfortunately, both Lily and her sister ended up sick, so the party was postponed.

We decided to do the next best thing - go to the museum anyway. It's fun for me to watch Sydney in the castle exhibit, because I remember how little she could do when it first opened less than 10 months ago.

Today, her obsession was with the blue cloth bags. She filled one with vegetables, then carried it over her shoulder like a purse. She finally set it down to pick up a "horse". She and the horse later joined a certain clown for a short medieval "dance".

Yes, I will someday look back at "ye olden days" and miss this stage very much.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Watch that "spring" in your step...

...because you just might slip. I'm failing to see the humor of the snowstorm that hit on the first day of spring.

I realize that in this part of the country, spring - by necessity - is more a state of mind than a description of current weather conditions. But a week of sun and above average temps allowed me to pretend.

And then this.

I should not have to play the towel game with a snow-covered dog on the first day of spring. At least Maggie liked it.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Update on downstairs

Our basement continues to near completion. Above is a look at the guest room. I apologize in advance to any guests. Please believe me. Behr's Desert Cactus looks much prettier on the paint card than it does on the walls.

Meanwhile, here's a look from the base of the stairs:

As far as I can tell, here's what's left to do: trim, doors and flooring in the family room and guest room. Meanwhile, the bathroom still needs work. We've got a shower (minus the door) and a lightbulb. Not quite functional, but impressive nonetheless when you consider it was just five weeks ago that we embarked on this adventure.

There's been no sign of the builders this morning. I don't really mind. It's kind of nice to be home on a Friday without worrying about air quality. Two weeks ago it was dust. Last week it was paint fumes. Yes, clean air is nice.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Don't annihilate the hand that feeds you

"Mommy, I'm going to shoot you with my rocket ship gun."

"But if you shoot me, how am I going to be able to make your bedtime treat?"

"Daddy, I'm going to shoot YOU with my rocket ship gun."

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Hanging out with the girls

Another Mommy seems to have taken up residence in our house. This Mommy has a bunch of babies and spends an awful lot of time taking care of them.

She has some very strict ideas about who sits where and what they should be served. Sometimes she'll even talk with them as she feeds them, explaining what they're eating. To make sure they've understood, she then nods at them and asks, "Okay?"

Once all is finally in order, the little mother hen allows herself to relax with a nice cup of "Dora" (yogurt).

Monday, March 16, 2009

Farewell, sweet kitty

I knew this day would come. And I knew it would be sooner, not later. But somehow the twice-daily doses of insulin allowed me to live in denial, even as they allowed Maddie to live about 10 weeks longer than she otherwise would have.

Tonight, my sweet girl didn't come for supper. We searched the house, shaking her bag of treats, but got no response. And that's when Jeff found her beneath the steps. It's selfish of me, but I admit I'm glad he found her first. It lessened the shock for me. Bless him for cleaning up and taking her out of the house. I don't think I could have handled doing that myself.

Thinking back, I recognize now that Maddie wasn't as quick to come for food over the weekend. But she'd looked relatively good, and I was looking forward to bringing her to the vet on Friday because I figured we'd learn that Maddie was continuing to gain weight back.

Alas, it was not to be. I hope she died peacefully and with no pain. She was my first "baby", and brought me much happiness and companionship. It was 14 years ago this month that I adopted her and Spike. I don't know if Spike is aware of what's happened, or if she cares.

Farewell, sweet girl. I will always be grateful that you allowed me to be your person.

We love springtime!

Supposedly our high temp on Sunday was only 43 degrees. Maybe it's wishful thinking on my part, but I would have guessed it to be at least 10 degrees warmer than that.

This was the kind of day I hope AJ remembers forever. There was absolutely nothing out of the ordinary about it: church in the morning, lunch at home, a walk around the neighborhood followed by playing outside most of the afternoon, then dinner and some serious Lego construction in the evening. But at the same time it highlighted the many simple pleasures that can be found when we spend the day together as a family.

Alas, Sydney won't remember most of it. By the time we got home from our walk, all that fresh air had taken its toll. Either that or she's simply dreaming of warmer seasons to come.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

How do you spell spin doctor?

That'd be a two-letter answer worth nine points: A-J.

"AJ, why are you making a mess with the Scrabble game?" I asked.

He responded, "I'm playing."

He then caught himself and gave a second answer that was sure to allow him to get away with what he was doing, "I'm learning."

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The food hoarder

I think I'd noticed that the cereal shelf was a little less crowded lately. But rather than investigate why, I just enjoyed opening the cupboard door without worrying about cereal falling out of it.

Yesterday, while working on the computer, I turned to my right and saw Sydney emerge from behind the easel. And she was chewing on something.

My first concern was that she was sampling some chalk. I needn't have worried.

While not consuming anything toxic, my little sweetheart does seem on her way to a pretty good sugar rush.

Note the container of wipes in the bottom of the photo, along with the many wipes she'd already pulled out. Those are her other favorite collectibles. I have discovered that by re-wetting them under the faucet, I can fool her into re-using those. Thank goodness!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Working it out on their own

Most of the time, I am amazed at how well the kids get along. But more and more, I'm hearing one of them yell, "Mine!", followed by the other one whining.

Such was the case when AJ found a silly "Hello, Kitty" Happy Meal toy watch that belonged to Sydney. Sydney has never shown any interest in it. Until she saw her brother playing with it.

Sydney tried to grab it. AJ yanked it away with such force that Sydney fell down. Of course the drama queen started to cry. I reminded AJ that he needed to be more gentle, and that the watch belonged to Sydney. I also told him to say "Sorry" to his sister.

"But I had it first!" he whined.

"Yes, but did you ask her if you could play with it?"

At that point, he started sassing, so I told him it was "time out" time. (This is the discipline they do at daycare, and AJ considers it a fate worse than death.)

"I don't want a time out!" he shouted at me.

"That's it," I told him. "Then you are going to your room." Suddenly the issue wasn't his treatment of his sister, but his response to me.

AJ threw down the watch and ran to his room.

And then a funny thing happened. Sydney, who'd stopped crying to watch this all unfold, picked up the watch and followed AJ into his room. Sydney said, "Sow-wy" and handed AJ the watch. AJ then gave her a hug and invited her to climb on his bed. He then said sorry to me and gave me a hug.

A little later I could hear AJ happily "reading" to Sydney, telling her all about the sharks and sea creatures in his book. Peace was restored.

And neither of them have shown any interest since in that blessed "Hello, Kitty" watch.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

High tech kids

Kids seem to have a natural way of embracing technology. I suspect it's their love of pushing buttons, combined with their natural innocence and fearlessness that pushing buttons could break something.

Sydney is "dancing" in this photo. It's her signature elbow move. We downloaded an album of 30 toddler songs, and she loves it! She'd carry the iPod all over the house if I let her.
And I've learned a new verse to "Wheels on the bus." Did you know the gas on the bus goes glug, glug, glug? Hadn't heard that one before. Bonus!

AJ, meanwhile, now associates computers with songs and games. He's happy listening to the :30 second snippets in the iStore. He points to the various graphics and says, "Play that one. Play that one."

Incidentally, he has no clue what he's doing in the photo above, despite how authoritative he looks. He climbed up and announced, "Let's listen to music."

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Missed us!

Nothing particularly clever to share today...

I was so sure I'd be stuck at home and would have plenty of time to come up with something. Afterall, a blizzard was bearing down on us, destined to dump 14-16 inches. Schools (and thus daycare) would surely close. I spent my last 10 minutes at work yesterday grabbing job folders, figuring out which projects I could work on from home.

And then a funny thing happened.

It didn't snow that much.

I haven't heard an official snow total for our area, but Duluth got a mere five inches. I have to admit, I'm feeling a bit like a child who'd been counting on school being closed. Now I have to get back into a "work" frame of mind.

Coincidentally, I can hear a plow outside right now. I guess that's the best sign of all that I better get going.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Child labor?

I fully intended to do the job myself. But about halfway through cleaning the rust ring that encircled our bathtub, I gained a 4-year-old helper. Who was followed by a 20-month-old shadow.

The tub was pretty much clean by that point, so I did what any resourceful mother would do. I found an extra sponge and suggested we start on the shower.

“What do you call work?”
“Why, ain’t that work?”
Tom resumed his whitewashing, and answered carelessly:“Well, maybe it is, and maybe it ain’t. All I know it suits Tom Sawyer.”
“Oh, come now, you don’t mean to let on that you like it?”
The brush continued to move.“Like it? Well, I don’t see why I oughtn’t to like it. Does a boy get a chance to whitewash a fence every day?”
-Mark Twain

Monday, March 9, 2009

In the ballpark

He's close on the lyrics, but not quite there. AJ's rendition of the timeless classic:

"Take me out to the ballgame. Take me out to the strike.
Mommy will be the crackerjack.
I don't care if I EVER come back.
So let's root, root, root for the Twi-ins.
If they don't win it's a shame.
'cause it's five, four, three strikes you're out at the old ball game!"

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Sorry, Mommy's not that hip

I've made jokes in the past that I need the kids to hurry up and grow up so that they can teach me how to use all of the great new technologies and "toys" that are out there.

Nevertheless, I've been quite proud of myself for figuring out how to download music and use the iPod Jeff gave me for my birthday.

And then, in an instant, Sydney demonstrated that while my iPod may be a cool toy, it's not as cool as an iPhone. Grabbing it off the table, she held it to her ear and said, "Hi. Hi."

Sorry, honey. I haven't graduated to the all-in-one gadget yet.

Friday, March 6, 2009

When it showers, it pours

It's always a challenge to find time for a shower when I'm home alone with the kids. On Friday, with AJ watching TV and Sydney looking through a pile of books in the bathroom, I managed to sneak a few minutes under the soothing stream of hot water.

And then I stepped out of the shower.

And any benefits of those relaxing, brief minutes were instantly gone.

When you see a pile of stuff that had been in the closet, now piled up in the doorway... with a curious dog overseeing it all... you can bet there's an interesting story involved.

A quick survey of the scene revealed Sydney still in the bathroom, but now looking like she'd just gone a round with a boxer. Funny, I hadn't heard any screams or cries. Thankfully, the "bruises" came from Mommy's eye shadow, and were easily wiped off. Sydney had managed to get into my make-up bag.

And where was AJ?

THAT'S why the closet's contents were now on the floor.

"Mom, can you shut the door tight. I'm taking a nap."

"Really? Why don't you go sleep in your bed?"

"I'm not tired. I was just kidding."

"I'm ready to work"

I wonder if our builder dreads Fridays. It seems to take him a little longer to get down to the basement because he first has to run a bit of a gauntlet to get past an obnoxious dog and a chatty four-year-old.
As best as I can remember, this is how AJ greeted him this morning:
"Hi Mr. Builder. Thanks for bringing our shower over yesterday."
AJ then helpfully shared a warning we'd already given him. "Don't touch the pink fluffy stuff (the insulation) down there. It has sharp things in it that could cut you."
There were a few more things said, which I can't remember.
Finally, I convinced AJ he needed to let the builder go to work. As the man headed downstairs, AJ waved and announced, "if you need any help, let me know. Maybe I could do something."

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Let's hear it for a house in order

Our home telephones work! And lightbulbs that have been burned out for weeks have been replaced! I can't believe I'm excited by such basic things. But I am!
There's nothing like a weekend at home to cross off a few silly annoyances from the honey-do list.
When two lightbulbs burned out just two days apart, and that was in addition to two others that had been dead for awhile, it finally pushed me over the edge. I changed the one that could be reached from a chair. Jeff took care of the ones requiring a ladder.
Meanwhile, after complaining for more than a year and a half about our phones and our horrible reception, I finally bought a new set. It was while reading the instructions for the new phones that I learned there probably isn't anything wrong with two of our old phones. Turns out that our DSL Internet connection interferes with our phone lines, therefore we need a filter.
We had one filter (I didn't realize this) attached to our oldest phones. These are the same phones that work fine until the battery dies and drops the call. Meanwhile, this also explains why the two newer phones we received a year ago never worked well. They never had a chance.
Thankfully, buying new phones won't be a total waste of money. We'll be able to use them downstairs once the basement is finished, along with the two semi-new phones that should work good as new once we get another filter.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

When Mommy gets sick...

I don't think it even qualifies as a 24-hour flu. More like about 18 hours. But for most of the day Sunday, I felt miserable. Jeff was gone about two hours that evening for hockey. I tried to keep a close eye on the kids from the couch. But during frequent trips to the bathroom, I seem to have missed some fun.

Sydney fell in the dog's water dish, which I already knew. What I did not know is that AJ apparently has figured out how to turn on the camera. That's something I just discovered while transfering pictures to the computer. Hmmmm... I don't remember taking these shots...

At least Sydney doens't seem bothered by the wet pants. Say "cheese" for your brother, my little ham!

Monday, March 2, 2009

It's the most wonderful time of the year...

No, it's not Christmas or Halloween or anyone's birthday. It's almost St. Patrick's Day. And that means... drum roll please... Shamrock Shakes are back at McDonald's!

Sydney seems to love Mommy's favorite flavor - mixing together mint and chocolate shakes. But AJ always has to be different. This is, after all, the same kid who likes olives. AJ wanted a strawberry shake instead.

I should have known something was up when the answering maching picked up when I tried calling home about 10 minutes after Jeff and the kids usually get there. Daddy and the kids did a quick run to the Golden Arches. I don't think I even had my coat off before AJ excitedly announced, "We went to McDonald's and got shakes!"

Basement update

No one who knows me or has seen my house will ever accuse me of being a neat freak. But I have to say the dust that is coming up from the basement is driving me nuts. It's not that the builders are being careless. They warned me it'd be bad, and even cover the doorway to the basement while they work. It's just a messy process.

And they certainly are making progress. After two weeks of work, we now have lights, walls and a ceiling. (Plus a new window frame and metal studs on two walls to compensate for problems created by our original builder.) Those six gallon pails on the right lead me to believe that taping/mudding is next.

To take this photo, I'm standing in the middle of what will be the family room, looking at where we'll set up our work-out equipment. The hallway on the left leads back to a bathroom, bedroom and storage area.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Body art

A few days ago, I showed a picture of Sydney happily coloring on a notebook. AJ doesn't seem to color so much any more. He prefers to draw. Just about every day he comes home from school/work with a new masterpiece. Generally it's a somewhat alien-looking stick figure, which AJ proudly presents to me, announcing, "It's YOU, Mom."

AJ hasn't lost his interest in coloring. He's just changed his preferred medium. Below is his impersonation of a monster, using bathtub paints.

And this? Well, that's just AJ being his typically messy self, enjoying ice cream cake. Why? Because "sometimes that's what 4-year-old preschoolers like to do, Mom."