Friday, August 31, 2012

Backyard party

It takes a special kind of photographer to go to an 8-year-old girl's birthday party and not take a single picture of the birthday girl.
What can I say? I'm special.
Happy belated birthday, Addie. Even if you didn't end up in any of the shots in your backyard.
The highlight for AJ (and I suspect for the other boys - Jeff included - in this shot) was the obstacle course set up in the back yard. To Addie's mom and dad - you have just raised the bar for all future parties. This was so cool.

Once they went through the course a couple times, it was time for a quick in... something. (Physics? Engineering? Uh oh, this is what happens when a journalism major tries to remember what area of science dealt with levers and fulcrums. And yes, I just had to look up that last part on Wikipedia.)
Of course the kids just thought it was fun. Maybe they could be journalists some day.

While the boys were letting Jeff catapult them into the air, Sydney bounced in a different area of the backyard.

And then it was time to spin and swing.

We've been to our share of unseasonably cool, wind-off-the-Lake, parties in this backyard. Which makes days like this all the more enjoyable. Happy birthday, Addie!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

It's all in the wrist

We have some friends - a family whose son played hockey and now soccer with AJ - who recently bestowed two gifts on my children. There was no special occasion for the gifts. It was as we walked back to the car after a soccer game that the kids excitedly showed me their new possessions.
I'm trying to take the gifts at face value, that they were a sweet gesture from an innocent boy. But I can't help but wonder if the mom is secretly cheering him on for passing along some clutter from their house to ours.
Because that's what I would have done if the roles had been reversed.
To AJ, this boy gave a large treasure map that he'd made himself. It was drawn on the inside of an old pizza box. Meanwhile, he presented Sydney with what was probably a free Frisbee from Target. It's covered with their bullseye logo.
Whatever the intentions behind the gift, I have to thank them. Because we have been having a lot of fun with that Frisbee. (I let the map sit on my counter for a week before sending it to the recycling bin.)
Sydney embraced the game first, and wants to play it the most. Which means, at least for the time being because she's had a lot more practice, she's finally found a sport she's better at than her brother.

It took a while to teach her how to throw the Frisbee. Finally I demonstrated how to hold her arm out and then curl it back toward herself to be in the proper throwing position. And so now every time she throws, she first extends her arm out:

And then curls it back in:

AJ's competitive nature has taken over. His sister can't have more fun than he does. And so he begrudgingly puts down his baseball glove and plays along. And has a good time. If you can't beat them, join them.

I have to say, of all the outdoor activities my kids enjoy, this one is the hardest to photograph. And so, at the kids urging, after taking "enough pictures", I set down the camera and picked up the Frisbee. So it's also true, if you can't photograph them, join them.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Camp fire

My children have reached a wonderful new stage in life. A stage in which they're able to play Frisbee with each other and entertain themselves without the need of constant supervision, allowing Jeff and I to sit in the back yard and relax and talk while staring at a campfire.
Life is good. 
This is the first time we've had a fire all summer. Don't ask me why. It probably has something to do with a flood and wet wood in June, followed by vacation and crazy work schedules. Whatever the reason, late August is suddenly upon us, and Saturday night presented the perfect opportunity to make s'mores.
No, the fire wasn't always raging like this. Jeff had just added a box as fuel. In fact, this photo was from later in the evening. How can you tell? Because if you click on the picture and enlarge it, you can see both Jeff and AJ already have  marshmallow already stuck to their faces.

Mmmmm! S'mores!

The kids' attention span didn't last long once they'd roasted and eaten their treat. We kept them busy a few minutes longer by sending them in search of sticks. And then they came up with their own game: rolling down the hill.

Of course it had to turn into a competition, which led to Sydney's frequent shout, "It's not a race!"

Good thing, because once AJ started rolling, he paid little attention to the direction he was going. Here he is heading toward our neighbor's yard.

And then they left us alone for awhile. It took Jeff and I a few minutes to realize we really were getting some alone time. We didn't want to acknowledge it out loud for fear of jinxing it. But it was so nice to sit and stare at the glowing embers and talk about work, talk about how the last week had gone, talk about what's coming up this week, talk about whatever came to mind without being interrupted with whines that one child was bothering the other.
Yes, life is good.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Taking a break to laugh - UPDATED

I have no good stories to share today. Our evenings have been filled with soccer, interrupted briefly by a really long meeting about the upcoming levy and referendum. I'm sure you'd love to hear all about it, but I'll spare you.

Instead, I'll share the real reason I'm not writing a real post today. I've been too busy looking and laughing at what is possibly my new favorite blog:

It's called, and I encourage you to check it out. Because I'm already imaging the many, many signs I could put next to Gus and submit to this site.


I simply couldn't resist. I had to copy. Gus gives us so many opportunities. This is simply the most recent one:

Thursday, August 23, 2012

D is for Duh! But not for good observation.

A few years ago I had the poorly thought through plan of creating a wall decoration for Sydney's room that spells her name.

The idea was good, but the plan fell apart when, to save a couple bucks, I bought letters made from some kind of pressed, manufactured wood that is impossible to pound a nail into. That means the only way to attach ribbon to the letter is with tape. And the tape doesn't always stick for long.

As a result, Sydney will have a good excuse if she forgets how to spell her name. She often sees it with letters missing.

Most recently, it was the letter D that dropped to the ground behind her bed. It sat there for quite awhile, until, inspired by her new bedspread and how it gave her room a new look, I crawled under the bed to retrieve the fallen letter.

Sydney was so thrilled and appreciative that she didn't notice. For at least two weeks. Finally, one recent night, she came running into my room to excitedly announce, "Mom, the D's back!"

"I know. I found it and hung it back up," I told her.

"Thanks, Mom!" she said with great sincerity. "You're the best mom a girl could ever have." 

I'll be sure to remind her that she said that.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

You say cavity like it's a bad thing

AJ and Sydney visited the dentist yesterday to get their teeth cleaned, which we were supposed to do last May. Because I'm that organized.

And because there is no justice in this world, AJ, who has to be reminded and nagged constanty to brush his teeth, again came away with a perfect report of zero cavities. The only bad news he got was that he probably won't be losing any more teeth for a while. Oh no! No visits from the tooth fairy? There goes his best source of income.

Meanwhile, Sydney, who reminds me when she hasn't brushed her teeth, was found to have a small cavity.

It's not fair. Or, as Sydney sees it, awesome! Now she can go back to get even more exciting trinkets from the dentist's treasure box.

At yesterday's appointment, Sydney came away with a flower ring, hairclip and pink sunglasses. Not a bad haul for a half hour of reclining in a chair and opening her mouth wide. (It helps that the dentist's assistant is the mother of one of our babysitters.)

She especially liked when the hygienist "painted" a sealant on her teeth. "It tastes like strawberries!" Sydney excitedly announced.

We'll be going back in two weeks to get her cavity fixed, and so that I can take a turn in the hygeniest's chair. Yesterday's visit was originally supposed to be for me, but I switched it around so I could get the kids in before school starts. Because I'm that organized.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

It's in the cards

For roughly two years they've tormented me. Piles of disorganzied baseball cards that require only the slightest bump or breeze to cascade from atop AJ's dresser down to the floor. Earlier this baseball season, we found a temporary fix: an empty shoebox. But then Jeff got the idea to organize them in plastic sleeves.

And so he bought some for AJ. And then those plastic sleeves, along with the shoebox, sat on my kitchen counter for two weeks. Until they were moved to the kitchen table where they sat for a while longer.

But no more.

AJ and I spent the last two evenings sorting. AJ organized his Twins cards. I did the other 29 teams. My attention span still outlasts AJ's.

I have to admit it brought back a few flashbacks to my childhood in Brooklyn Center where my sister and I would trade cards with the boys on the block. I don't recall ever buying cards, so maybe the boys just gave us their doubles and we built our collection from there.

As AJ and I worked, we discovered he had a lot of doubles. Coinciding with this was Sydney asking when we were going to make a book for her.

Everybody wins! Sydney now has all the doubles we found the first night. (But not the doubles identified on the second night. AJ, for whatever reason, wasn't in a sharing mood last night.)

Baseball cards weren't enough to keep my five-year-old soccer player happy. Sydney felt she needed soccer cards, too. The fact that we didn't have any didn't deter her. She got busy and made her own.

Whatever you do, don't put any baseball cards in the sleeve she designated for soccer cards.

I wouldn't exactly call this organization project fun. But it's highly motivating to eliminate this part of the mess from his room. So motivating, in fact, that we just might have to do this again soon with AJ's hockey cards.

Monday, August 20, 2012


Isn't technology an amazing thing? I was thinking this a few days ago when I used a digital camera to take a photo of my kids holding a birthday sign, and then posted it on this blog as a way to wish my mom a happy birthday.

Who'd have thought such things would be possible even 10 years ago, let alone back when my mom was born?

Certainly not these guys. It's all they know.

 (Though AJ might be able to recall when Mommy had that really old fashioned phone that didn't even take pictures.)

As we gathered to celebrate my Mom's 70th birthday, AJ and his cousin Zane stayed happily entertained with my iPhone.

I have no idea what app they were using here, though later Zane excitedly showed my he was watching Dora. Because Dora is his favorite.

When the battery on Jeff's phone (note the black case in the preceding photos) finally died, the kids quickly asked for my phone (note the white case in the following photos) instead.

There were a few issues with sharing. As in, Sydney didn't want to share with Zane. She is SOOOO past the Dora stage, don't forget.

Meanwhile, another example of technology was evident at the party. Note what my mother isn't wearing. I believe this is the first photo I've ever taken of her in which she isn't wearing glasses. Following two successful eye surgeries earlier this summer, she no longer needs them except for reading.

As we drove back north, I dug through the glove compartment, center console and anywhere else I could think of in search of a charger for Jeff's cell phone battery. No luck. A short time later, Sydney handed my phone back to me. Now my phone battery, too, had dropped to a dangerously low level. And within a matter of minutes (with at least an hour left to the trip) my phone shut down as well.

We were cut off! I could feel myself growing nervous. What could we do? I actually spent a moment thinking of which stores we would pass that might carry cell phone chargers.

I looked over at the gas gauge, which was hovering around a quarter tank and reminded Jeff to pay attention to it because we'd have no way to call for help if we ran out of gas. He gave me a reassuring smile and reminded me that if there was an emergency, he still had his work phone.

Ahhh... technology. What did we do without you?

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Safety Expo

Okay... so my new job may not give AJ many opportunities to have his picture appear on a billboard, but it does offer him other perks. Like petting a horse:

And talking with a member of the volunteer rescue squad (who happens to be a former colleague of Jeff's.)

And shooting guns in some sort of DNR simulator game. AJ needed a little help at first,

but soon enough he got the hang of it.

Saturday was the annual public safety expo, which St. Louis County helps sponsor. We certainly could have gone in years past, and we probably should have, considering how many of Jeff's colleagues took part. But we've just never made it a priority until this year.

Talk about kid nirvana to see so many emergency vehicles up close! Though as we neared the tactical response team (of which Jeff used to be a member) area, Sydney might as well have stabbed a dagger in her Daddy's heart as she shouted, "I want to see the fire truck first!"

They got to bounce in a bouncy house, crawl out of a "smoke" filled trailer and climb through all sorts of vehicles. And they couldn't resist posing as part of a high risk entry team.

Of everything that was there, what was Sydney's favorite? Of course, the snack vendor with slushies.

Why am I not surprised?

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Call me, maybe. Or maybe not.

Each year, right about this time - actually right about the time I'm walking through the gates of the State Fair - I question the logic of teaching my son to memorize our telephone number. If he were to get lost, what good would it do for him to recite a phone number that no one would be home to answer?

And so I've been encouraging him to memorize my cell phone number instead. We've also been teaching him how to make a call and answer the phone. (I can't help but note the irony that a child who can figure out how to play/use 25+ apps on my cell phone doesn't know how to use the phone as a phone.) We've also taped a note to the wall near one of the phones listing all of Jeff's and my work and cell phone numbers - something that helps both AJ and anyone who is babysitting the kids.

A few weeks ago - pardon me if I've already shared this story - I got a call at work. The conversation started like this:

Me: Hello, this is Dana.

AJ: Hi Mom, this is AJ. This is the first time I've ever called you.

He went on to ask if he and Sydney could walk to the babysitter's house to go swimming. All was good, and I appreciated him asking.

Yesterday, while sitting in a meeting for a community organization whose board of directors I recently joined, my cell phone started to vibrate. The display indicated the call was coming from home. We had a fairly new babysitter (only her second time) staying with the kids, so I figured a call from her was probably important, and possibly not good.

I quickly excused myself from the meeting and stepped into the hall as I answered the phone.

It wasn't the babysitter calling.

"Hi Mom. Can you stop and get Pepsi on your way home tonight? We're all out and I'm starving."

Do I laugh? Do I cry? Bang my head on the wall? Bang his head on the wall?

I told him to find something else to drink, that I couldn't talk right then, and that we'd talk more when I got home.

Yes, teaching him to call my cell phone is important. Teaching him when it's okay to call my cell phone is equally so. How do you teach good judgment?

Sydney's current favorite song... the one with the lyrics she usually screws up... keeps running through my head.

Here's my number,
so call me maybe.

Or maybe not.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Birthday greetings

Today's blog post is pretty much being written for an audience of one. It's for
one of my most loyal readers, who happens to be turning 70 years young today.

Sydney's masterpiece used to say Grandma at the top. Actually, it still does, it's just hard  to read because she's colored over it. The reverse side says Happy Birthday. I suggested someone write 70 on their sign, to which AJ responded, "She doesn't look that old."

He's such a charmer.

If you look in the top right corner of Sydney's piece, I think that's a 70, with a backwards 7.

In honor of the big day, I asked AJ what he loves best about Grandma Elouise. He answered, "She's always nice and kind to us, even though we sometimes make mistakes."

And what does Sydney love best? "Her dolls and the nice candy and the comfy bed. I like when we have vacation there and have lots of fun with Grandma."

What are their favorite things to do with Grandma Elouise?

AJ: "Probably going to restaurants and having fun times with her."

Sydney: "I like to hug her and sometimes kiss her. I love her. She's so special to me."

Happy birthday, Mom!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Soccer progress

Sydney's three games into her soccer career and is showing progress. By progress, I mean she's getting more engaged in the game and actually, at times, kicking the ball.

And not just after it goes out of bounds.

She's hustling with the other kids and chasing the ball. Though to her dismay, she's yet to actually score a goal.

She's cheering as much as ever. When she's not busy adjusting her pig tails.

And the rest of her hair.

I love the photo below. Such intensity! The only thing missing is the other team. The kids were battling that hard for the ball with each other.

There is one thing that Sydney is very good at. The water breaks. She stays hydrated, and happily shares her water bottle with friends.

The goals can come later. Though for her sake, I hope it's sooner.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Does this kind of thing happen to anyone else?

Maybe I'm just not meant to have a Visa card. Or a charged phone. Or cream-colored shoes.

Just enough "what are the chances?" kind of things have been happening lately, and it's making me start to wonder.

It started while we were on vacation. Driving back through South Dakota, we stopped at this horrible restaurant in Wall called Fat Boys. I'm sure Jeff is the one who picked it. Somehow this has to be his fault. The food was mediocre. The service - extremely slow. And then, just to make the experience complete, I used my credit card to pay for the meal, and left it at the table with the bill.

Of course I didn't realize this detail until more than a hundred miles later. I looked up the restaurant online and called. And amazingly, the woman who answered the phone told me she had the card in hand and would mail it to me. Suddenly I had nothing but good to say about Fat Boys.

Jeff suggested I simply cancel the card and get a new one, but that process is anything but simple because we have at least a half dozen bills that automatically get charged to the account, and coincidentally, just a few weeks earlier, I'd spent more than an hour on the phone updating all of those services when our previous card had expired. I did not want to do that again.

If the restaurant was willing to mail the card, that'd be much easier.

Or so I thought.

We got home a few days later. No card. Doing the math, I wasn't surprised or concerned. (It should be noted, I checked the account daily for unauthorised use. I'm not that trusting.) We then left for another few days. I figured the card would arrive while we were gone. Still no luck.

After more than a week had passed, I called the restaurant. The same wonderful woman answered the phone and assured me the card was in the mail. She said mail service wasn't the best in Wall, and suggested I wait one or two more days. If the card still hadn't arrived, I should call back and she'd direct me to their home office.

I waited another week. No card.

I called again. No wonderful woman answered the phone. Instead it was a brand new employee (she admitted that) who had no clue about my story and asked me to call the next day. I did. And got the same new employee.

After listening to my story, she finally suggested I call another restaurant in town owned by the same person (the home office?). I did. I talked to the owner. He had no clue and suggested I call the next day during regular business hours and he'd put me in touch with their bookkeeper. Who has cancer and is out a lot. And apparently is the only person in the organization that knows how to put an envelope in the mail.

It was a few days before I had a chance to call during business hours. When I did, the woman was out, but the guy assured me she'd be right back and would call me. She didn't.

Have I mentioned that nearly four weeks had passed by this point?

I called again the next day and actually talked to the bookkeeper. She had no clue what I was talking about, but said she would check. She asked for a detailed description of the card because "this sort of thing happens all the time." (To me, that suggests they should be better at handling it, then. But apparently not.)

She promised to call back after checking. I smirked to myself and thought, "yeah, right."

But she did. She left a message saying she couldn't find the card. And then she helpful suggested I cancel it.

(This is the part where I spent five minutes banging my head on my desk.)

I called Wells Fargo. I cancelled the card. I waited another week. And at last the new card arrived. Which meant I could start the fun process of updating the phone, satellite TV, newspaper subscription, etc. with the new card number. I'd learned the last time that some of these could be done online.

Hmmm.... what happened to the new card? It was just here.

Our computer desk is an old drafting table, complete with an unneeded tube on the front that used to hold paper. Look very carefully in the opening where the paper used to be pulled from.

Thankfully it only took about 15 minutes to find a screwdriver and disassemble that part of the desk. But what are the chances?

Another story... this one will be shorter... I've been spending a lot of time on the road for my new job, which means I'm more dependent than ever on my iPhone to keep up with e-mails while I'm out of the office. I grabbed the charger from my car to use in the County car I'd be driving. And forgot it there. Of course I didn't notice it for several days and by then couldn't remember which car I'd been driving. Writing it off as a lost cause, I stopped and bought another on my way back home from the Range. (My cell phone battery was down to 7% by that point.)

I bought this fancy version. It consisted of three pieces: a cord, a plug for normal outlets and a plug for a car. I plugged the cord into the car adapter and let my phone charge as I finished my trip. I very carefully grabbed the phone and the cord as I left the vehicle. Did you note which part didn't get grabbed? That's right. The car adapter fit so snugly in the cigarette lighter that it hadn't budged. Thankfully I was able to stop in the next morning and find the car and recover the charger piece.

And another story... In the last month I've managed to injure my feet not just once, but twice to the point that they bleed and ruin my shoes. One pair of shoes suddenly grew too small in 80+ degree heat. The other incident... while unscrewing the top of my water bottle while wearing sandals, I dropped the lid and it landed right where my big toe nail meets the toe. For future reference, you should know that can cause a considerable amount of blood loss. Not good for the toe or the shoes.

What are the chances?