Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Partying with the high rollers

The last time I went rollerskating, it was with a group of colleagues from McDonald's. I needed to ride to the rink with a friend because I didn't yet have my drivers license. And it was exciting to skate when the DJ played music from that new band Bon Jovi.

Uh huh.

It's been that long. And I'm that old.

So you have to know it was a special occasion that gave my kids the chance to lace up roller skates and show off their moves on wheels.

Don't be fooled by Sydney's disco pose.
She was desperately trying to catch herself from falling.

Don't laugh at AJ's arms flapping like wings.
He thought he was doing a disco move. 

It was a special occasion. Sydney's friend Jayce was celebrating his sixth birthday. And he invited Sydney to his party. Just Sydney. (AJ came along because Jeff was working and I had no where else to leave him. This is a key detail for Sydney who, until now, had never been invited to a party without her brother.)

In case you're wondering, no, I didn't rent skates for myself. I was able to walk around the rink a couple times holding Sydney's hand as she skated, until she got her balance. And then Miss Independent was ready to go it alone.

It was painful at first. Not just to watch her fall down, but to see her painstakingly inch her way around the rink while clutching the side for support. She'd skate from one opening to the next, which was a very short distance, then she'd exit the rink and skate back to me on the carpet.

Eventually she got brave enough to go all the way around the rink. Clutching the wall.

A couple more laps and she let go of all crutches. She was literally on a roll.

AJ, meanwhile, had to show off his talent and skill. After all, he went rollerskating with his first grade class last year. Plus he knows how to ice skate. As Mr. Humility explained it to me, "I'm the best skater in my class, Mom. Actually, I'm good at a lot of sports, so I'm the best sporter."

Yes, he is the best sporter I know. 

Long after the Sporter had grown weary, Sydney continued to skate. I gave her the "one more lap and then we're leaving" warning, and she proceeded to skate three more laps. The DJ, after all, had announced a girls-only song. How could she miss that?

And so when I motioned for her to come off now, she ignored me, announcing as she passed, "Just one more time."

And then there was a moment of sweet justice. The song ended and the DJ announced it was now time for just the boys to skate. As fate would have it, Sydney was about half way around the rink when she heard it. And she panicked. She's a girl, and a whole bunch of boys were skating onto the rink. And she wasn't fast enough to get off the rink before their song started.

She was sobbing in terror by the time she reached the exit. I assured her she wasn't in trouble with the DJ... just with me for ignoring my call to get off the rink.

Considering that I now have two kids who love to roller skate, I'm guessing we'll do this again some time soon. I might even have to skate with them. It ought to be an interesting experience to go rollerskating when all I have to think about is rollerskating. I'm past the stage of fear that I'll wipe out in front of the cool girls. No stress leading up to the couples skate as I wonder if someone will invite me to hold hands during a slow song. No worries about whether I used enough hairspray to keep my big hair bangs firmly in an upright position.

But that doesn't mean I won't have flashbacks. All it took was the sight and sound of a group of teens - looking far cooler than I ever did - skating by while Michael Jackson's Thriller blared from the speakers.

Imagine if it had been Bon Jovi.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Miss Contrary

Contrary to what you might assume, the  headline has nothing  to do with a certain five-year-old's  argumentative nature.

No, it instead refers to her use of the opposite word of what she means to say.

At dinner tonight, I gave the kids the choice of raw or cooked veggies. Sydney responded, "I want them hot, so they're crunchy."

That's almost as good as her helpful hint a few days ago. I couldn't remember where I'd set down my purse. Sydney advised, "Think. Think of the first place you had it."

Meanwhile, in the category of "how'd that go?"... Sydney just emerged from the office where she'd been playing a computer game, and proclaimed, "My feet are sweaty."

"Why are your feet sweaty?" I asked.

"Because I was criss-cross applesauce. That's why they're sweaty."

I had to ask her to repeat herself.

This time she demonstrated by crossing her legs. Translation: she'd been sitting in the chair cross-legged, covering her feet. That's how her feet got sweaty.

It makes perfect sense now.

I bet if I asked her, she'd tell me her feet were cold.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

How was your weekend?

Monday morning is just around the corner, which means back to work. It'll be week three at my new job, and so far I'm really loving it. But there's one part of Monday that I dread following a weekend like the one I just had: answering the inevitable question people always ask - "how was your weekend?".

I have no good answer. No exciting stories to share. Only too much information, and I haven't worked with these people long enough to inflict that on them.

For instance, I could tell them we went out to eat Friday night. And then on Saturday, while looking for something in my purse I discovered the cloth napkin from the restaurant. I have no idea how it got in there. Awkward!

Or I could mention that on Saturday, while digging in my underwear drawer, I came to a horrible realization. The last time I bought myself a new bra, it was a nursing bra. 

My baby is about to start kindergarten.

And I didn't even buy it for nursing her. 

I bought it while pregnant with her brother. Who's about to start second grade.

And so I visited Victoria's Secret on Sunday. I had Sydney with me, and she thought it was an awesome store. She had no idea what most of the stuff was, but it was pink, and that was good enough for her. Of course she then had to try and squeeze her head under the dressing room door while I was trying on the bras. Lovely. (Her trying to squeeze under the door. Me trying on the bras was not so lovely.)

So that brings us to Sunday night. Sydney asked me to play "Lego Girls" with her. That's a slightly misleading name, I soon learned. Yes, we played with her Lego Girls, along with her Barbie tent, Squinkies hair salon, and  Disney princess and prince figurines.

We simply had to, because there's no Lego Boys. Luckily, Prince Charming wasn't put off by Mia and Olivia's lack of height. And he was very gracious when they shared their drinks with him.

Meanwhile, AJ talked me into renting a Redbox movie last night. I think he might have watched half of it before admitting he didn't want to watch the rest. "It wasn't as good as I thought it would be," he explained. "It wasn't as good as the commercial. Maybe they had the actors do a little bit more acting that wasn't in the movie."

As for Gus, he was typical Gus. I can almost imagine his thought process here as he sprawled out on the couch. "Just act casual. Just act casual. Maybe she won't notice that my mouth is wrapped around her new pillow."

So now that I've got all that out, I'm ready for work. I'm ready for the question. How was my weekend? Oh, pretty low key. How was your weekend?


On a much brighter note, I have high hopes that next weekend and all the weekends to come will be much better. That's because Jeff won't be working them. After his current set of shifts ends, he's switching to a new position with Monday through Friday daytime hours. Did I mention that my new job also involves Monday through Friday daytime hours? In all the years we've known each other, this is the first time we've both worked such normal hours at the same time.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

A funny thing happened when I plugged in my phone

I thought I was done writing about our vacation. And then I synced my phone with our computer and discovered a whole lot of random shots. For instance, here's Sydney checking out our motel room the first night in Sioux Falls.

Sophisticated and experienced traveler that she's become in her five years, she noticed before I did the lack of a refrigerator and microwave. At least it had a nice mattress and a coffee maker, she observed.

As many of you know, I started a new job right after I got back from vacation. One of my new coworkers is a remarkably calm and patient man. With eight children. They range in age from infant to mid-teen. And they all just got back from a vacation out west. They drove all the way to the California coast in a large van, camping in a tent the whole way. And he's still a remarkably calm and patient man.

I know all of this because at a recent meeting, while waiting for everyone to arrive, several people started talking about their summer vacations. This turned into a "let's go around the table and everyone share one thing" kind of conversations. Being new, I just sat back and listened, until someone prompted, "and Dana, you just took a vacation right before you started..."

And all I could say was "We went to South Dakota with two kids, staying in nice hotels each night and driving a mini-van with a drop down DVD player. I simply cannot compete."

So back to the photos I'd forgotten I'd taken...

Remember the old-fashioned photo I'd mentioned posing for? Here's some behind the scenes shots as we got into costume.

With emphasis on "behind"...

One of the fun finds in Rapid City: full body sculptures of presidents. Considering it was the larger than life carving of presidents in another medium that's the reason this town is even on anyone's radar, I guess it shouldn't be a surprise to find these sculptures.

But it was where they were located that I found interesting. Sure, there were many of them on downtown street corners, but Thomas, here, was one of two outside a sporting good store.

One of the fun discoveries on our trip? The kids are now big enough and comfortable enough in water, that they could swim without us by their side in the pool. Of course we were sitting by the edge of the pool watching them, but we didn't actually have to be in the water with them. And considering the pool water was chillier than I prefer, that's a wondeful option to have.

For the second leg of our trip, we stayed in the Twin Cities, spending two nights at the Embassy Suites in Brooklyn Center. Loved the place! And loved the free snacks and drinks at the nightly manager's reception.

Something else new this trip... The kids were introduced to chocolate fountains. Believe it or not, two different restaurants we chose had them. Here's Sydney at a Chinese buffet, by the time we ate here, she was a seasoned pro.

That's because she'd already had a chance to dip marshmallows and strawberries at another buffet: the Golden Corral. A restaurant we will never eat at again.It's like Old Country Buffet with less classy customers. Who'd have thought that was possible. But it is.

The one we visited was next to a Walmart. In South Dakota. On a Friday night.

Not for the faint of heart.

Jeff saw people pushing to get to the buffet line. I, meanwhile, saw a man carrying a heaping plate of food while waiting to get ribs. The server who was cutting the ribs paused momentarily as he stared at the man's plate, trying to figure out how/where he could squeeze it onto the plate. And that's when the man held out his hand. Suggesting the server just plop the rib there.

From that moment forward, Jeff was banned from choosing restaurants.

Still doesn't compete with camping in a tent with eight kids.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Light party

Isn't it amazing how the same kids who are afraid of the dark can't wait to turn off the lights to play with a toy that emits small amounts of colored light?

"AJ, let's have a light party!" Sydney excitedly invited her brother. Together, equipped with two light up swords and a stuffed Dream Lite toy, they ran to his room. (I think there might have been a flashlight involved, too. If you're going to have a light party; the more lights, the better.)

Choose your weapons: AJ armed himself with his sister's pink light up sword from the circus, while Sydney grabbed her "sparkly wand". With the Dream Lite casting star patterns on the ceiling, they were ready for battle. And I guess it's good practice.

A note to the evil monsters that lurk in dark spaces: beware. They're ready to slay you. As long as they're together, and armed with toys.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Flooding the hockey rink will forever have new meaning

It's moments like this:

And memories like this:

That make this picture of the Esko Hockey Shack so sad to see. Flood waters filled it five weeks ago, leaving mold and other problems that translate into a building that may have to be condemned.

This building has served as a sort of home away from home for us the last three winters. Other than home and work, I probably spent more waking hours there than anywhere else. It's where Sydney learned to skate last year. It's where AJ perfected his various celebratory poses after scoring and began dreaming of an NHL career.

When I think of where I most feel community, besides my church, this is the place.

Thank goodness a whole lot of other families feel the same way. In an effort to save the building and keeping hockey in Esko this winter, a bunch of parents gathered last night to begin gutting the Shack.

How bad is it? Here's a glimpse of the main room last winter: 

And now:

The view from the snack shack last February:

 And last night:

Everything has to come out. Furniture and equipment that can be saved is now in storage. Particle board, insulation and anything else that's damaged now fills a large dumpster, with more piled against the building to fill a second load.

 Remember this picture from AJ's seventh birthday party?

Now we don't dare let kids inside that side room, or anywhere else, for that matter. Any adults who went in to work had to wear masks over their mouth and nose as protection against the mold.

Sure, I've complained over the years about the intense hockey practice schedule. And I know I've complained every year when it's my turn to work a concession stand shift. But suddenly those seem like such minor inconveniences.

Winter is hard enough. To endure the seemingly endless long nights and brutal cold without the option of a neighborhood hockey rink is something I don't want to imagine. It would be too sad.

An account has been set up for donations:
Esko Youth Hockey Association
c/o Republic Bank
3 Thomson Road
Esko, MN 55733

I've never asked for donations before. But right now I'd do just about anything to make sure next winter includes moments like this:

Chaperoning AJ's first grade class field trip

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Endings and new beginnings

All good things must come to an end, like vacations and high school. And so it somehow seems appropriate that we ended our vacation by attending a party to mark the end of my niece Jessica's high school years. Congratulations, Jessica, on your graduation!

For AJ and Sydney, going to their cousin's party was as exciting as any of the other places we went on our trip. "Today do we get to go to Jonathon and Jessica's?" had been Sydney's standard question for several days leading up to it.

There are toys and fun people and a piano, all in one place. What's not to love?

I tried to get a picture of the kids with Jessica, but someone got in the way.

Which is totally acceptable when you're this cute:

And sweet:

And adorable:

So, sorry Jessica, you got a little bit upstaged there by your younger cousin, Finn. That happens when you get older. But turning the focus back on you, we're very proud of you and know that you'll do great in college, both on the soccer field and in the classroom.

How can I be so sure? Because you've already overcome the biggest challenge of all. You grew up in this family. And you turned out normal. Way to go!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Twin goals

Too bad our real vacation didn't last as long as it's taking me to recount our adventures. Continuing with our adventures in the Twin Cities...

Dark clouds and a brief downpour threatened to cancel our long-anticipated visit to Target Field. But luckily the rain delayed the game by only 10-15 minutes. Sydney couldn't understand why we had to wait. "It's just a little water," was her dismissive comment.

Then again, if the game had started on time, we might not have had a chance to get this shot:

AJ, meanwhile, was focused on one specific goal: getting a player - any player - to give him an autograph. Thank goodness for Jamey Carroll. (Though AJ now thinks he needs a new glove, because how could be possibly risk scuffing the signature?)

Jeff had picked up our tickets through stubhub, and our seats were awesome. And my camera is still awesome. Which means I was having as much fun snapping close ups as I was having watching the game. For instance, here's Francisco Liriano walking across the field after warming up.

And I was able to get great shots of the batters. This was Josh Willingham hitting his second home run:

For at least the first two innings, AJ was able to stand this close to the wall in hopes of catching a foul. (After that, some other ticket holders showed up, we made him sit back down with us.)

Just for Grandma Elouise, AJ told me I had to get a shot of her favorite player:

AJ has developed an amazingly long attention span when watching baseball games. He also loves to mimic any loud fans in the vicinity, and so by mid game he was happily cheering "Go Frank-EE'!"

Sydney, meanwhile, is a bigger fan of the food and potential for souvenirs, and so she happily accompanied me in search of the infamous Valentini's meatball. And yes, it was totally worth $9. It tasted wonderful and fed both Jeff and me

Alas, for all the fun we had, the Twins lost, ending a seven-year winning streak. What streak is that, you might wonder? AJ claims that in all the games he's ever seen in person... dating back to a visit to the Metrodome at age nine weeks, the Twins have never lost. Until now.

You can't win 'em all.

But at least you can get autographs, awesome pictures and great meatballs. And memories.

Sunday, July 22, 2012


More vacation adventures...

Just about the time I'd start feeling jealous of all there is to do in the Twin Cities, we'd get stuck in rush hour traffic. Before 3:30 in the afternoon. Seriously. You couldn't pay me enough to move back and deal with that every day.

And so we made the most of our tourist status while on vacation, which included a visit to the Minnesota Zoo. Remembering the fun of Bear Country, Sydney insisted on carrying a map.

The first animals we saw? A large family of monkeys (Snow monkeys, perhaps?) AJ being a seven-year-old boy, he immediately had to ask, "Are they the ones with the red butts?"

Next up, we caught the dolphin show, which apparently will soon be a thing of the past. And based on the show we saw, it probably should be. There were a couple fun moments...

but overall it wasn't very impressive. (At least not compared to what we saw at Marine Land a couple years ago.) Here we got two dolphins, three trainers and a cheesy Olympics theme. But they did play one of Sydney's favorite songs, so she thought it was great show.

And then it was time for the monorail. While we waited for our turn to ride, AJ found another skull with which he could ham it up.

Once on board, he found a new way to annoy his sister. By coincidence, he took the seat closest to the window on the side of the car that overlooked most of the animals. AJ didn't want to look out the window because of the height.

But he also didn't want to relinquish his spot to his sister who really wanted to see. It was a swell ride.

I should know better than to visit a zoo on a 90+ degree day. The few animals we saw were sleeping in the shade. Not very exciting. Thank goodness the Zoo had other ways to keep the kids entertained. And cool.

There was also a climbling area where the kids could pretend they were the critters.
No, he's not pretending to be a spider. He's a bug caught in the spider's web.

Eventually we made it back to the special dinosaur exhibit...

...which gave AJ one more chance to strike his favorite pose.

I found the whole thing slightly irritating. We had to purchase an extra ticket ($4 each) to see the dinosaur exhibit. As we left it, we saw a sign saying we should save our tickes for a discount on the monorail. Never mind that we'd already paid full price to ride the monorail, why couldn't we show our monorail ticket for a discounted admission to the dinosaurs? Or why wasn't there a sign at the monorail suggesting we see the dinosaurs first? Cheap!

(Deep breath)

But the kids had fun. And that's what really matters. Until we got stuck in rush hour traffic on our way back to the motel. And it wasn't even 3:30 in the afternoon.