Friday, November 30, 2012

The young and the wiggly

This is a picture of Sydney and Max, who apparently (in Sydney's opinion) looks good in a Dalmatian shirt.
 

Max has again risen to the top of the list of boys who are pretty special but AREN'T Sydney's boyfriend.

What makes Max so special? He helped her get on the bus today.

Both Jeff and I had to work late today, and the after school program had no space for the kids. Luckily, my awesome friend Crystal was willing to watch the kids. They could ride the bus home with her boys after school. We planned this out a few days ahead of time. All was good.

Until Sydney, who usually rides Bus 1, got nervous that she wouldn't be able to find Bus 2.

As luck would have it, her friend Max (you've read about him before - he's in her kindergarten glass, on her hockey team and was on her soccer team) also rides Bus 2, and gallantly came to her rescue.

"Max is going to hold my hand, so I'm not nervous anymore," Sydney informed me when she got home from school one day.

Of course that started the teasing from a certain big brother.

"Max is NOT my boyfriend," Sydney shouted, "He makes me too wiggly."

How's that?

"I get the wiggles when I'm by him," Sydney explained.

"Is this something your teacher told you?" I asked, wondering if her teacher once had to separate the two for goofing off together and scolded them for being too wiggly.

"No, I only get the wiggles at hockey."

"Did your hockey coach say something?" I guessed again.

"No," Sydney said, "I just know."

This morning, I reminded Sydney of the after school plans. I told her I'd emailed her teacher, and I also paper clipped a note to her folder that she should give to the bus driver.

"I'll just give it to Max. He'll give it to his bus driver for me," was her confident reply.

Max is quite the hero. A real knight in shining armor. Or, in this case, a knight in a Dalmatian shirt.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Santa's helpers

I think this is AJ's last year of believing. He's asking too many questions and I don't like lying. But right now it seems like he still really wants to believe there's a Santa, and so I'll affirm his suspicions.
 
 
Last year, when "Santa" showed up at a family gathering, AJ recognized the relative underneath the beard and costume. When he asked me about it, I told him that - since it wasn't on Christmas - that Santa was busy at the North Pole and so he sent a helper instead.
 
A few days later, we saw another "Santa" at the mall. AJ asked if that was a helper too, or the real one. I responded with that perfect parent non-answer of "What do you think?"
 
"I think it's probably just a helper," he said.
 
"You're probably right."
 
So now we're to this year. The kids had a chance to see Santa at the Children's Museum last weekend. As we were preparing to go there, AJ hurried over to me and in a whisper that seemed part concerned, part conspiratorial, he reminded me of what he'd figured out last year about Santa's helpers. He then asked if the Santa he'd be seeing that day would be a helper too.
 
"Probably," I agreed.
 
"But I won't tell Sydney," he promised.


One of these weekends, we'll probably take a trip to Bentleyville. If AJ questions that Santa, it might finally be time to 'fess up.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The magic of snow

The first snow of winter is always exciting. The first snow of the winter following an extremely mild winter the year before is even more thrilling. Especially when it comes at the beginning of a long weekend, which meant freedom to slide, play and shovel to their heart's content.
 
Yes, that's right. They wanted to shovel. Couldn't wait to shovel. Skipped breakfast in order to get outside sooner and shovel.
 

 
The desire to shovel didn't last long for AJ. As soon as he saw some neighbor boys sledding, he quickly asked if I'd finish his work.
 
And that was just fine with me. There wasn't that much snow, and despite the promise it had shown the night before, it wasn't as wet and sticky as we'd hoped. Sydney did her best to make snowballs, but had little luck.


Gus, on the other hand, had plenty of luck retrieving the toys Sydney had set aside when she decided to return to shoveling.

 
We finished the driveway before Sydney finished her desire to shovel, and so she next headed into the backyard, shoveling the step and the hot tub cover.
 
 
The next day, when Sydney woke up, the first thing she did was run to the window and look out at the driveway. No snow had fallen overnight. "It's still clean," she announced, sounding a bit disappointed.
 
It's a long winter, Syd, and you'll no doubt have plenty more opportunities to shovel. Let's see how enthiastic you get at the sight of snow next March.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Seven is the perfect number

There's that over-used line about blood being thicker than water. I don't necessarily agree with it. But I do recognize that blood is powerful enough to span 22 years and 150 miles. Because that's how much separates these seven cousins, and yet they share a connection each time they get together.
 

Baby Zoe is attempting to prove her individuality by showing up with a full head of dark hair. Good luck with that, Zoe. AJ tried it too, but was blonde within six months.
 
I don't think it's blood, or even a particular blonde gene that binds this group together. From my kids' perspective, they simply recognize that their cousins are all pretty special and fun people, and it's always a treat when they get to play with them.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

I'm back in business with 24 GB of memory for photos to spare! So without further delay, let's get caught up on our Thanksgiving weekend.
 
The timing couldn't have been better (says the person who sat in the passenger seat during the very slippery ride home). We finished our Thanksgiving dinner with the Jaski's, only to discover that snow had started to fall.
 
The kids didn't seem to notice it as we loaded them in the minivan for the ride home. And so it was with total delight that they noticed what was on our driveway when we opened the side door for them to hop out.
 
"Look, Mom!" Sydney squealed. "It's real snow!"
 
 
She'd been looking forward to Thanksgiving night because even though we'd put up the Christmas lights the weekend prior, we told her she couldn't turn them on until after Thanksgiving. And so to flip the switch against a snowy backdrop - it was simply perfect!
 
Of course, AJ had other, more devious ideas. And I'm sure me throwing a snowball at him first had nothing to do with the pile of snow he flung back at me. (Look carefully. You can almost see AJ behind the snow coming straight at the camera.)

 
And what better way to celebrate the first snowfall than with a mug of hot chocolate with marshmallows. And if you don't have that, you can make do with a cup of lukewarm milk mixed with NesQuik with lots of marshmallows. Because really it's only the marshmallows in a cup that matter. 

 
So much attention was focused on the early openings of various stores to kick off the holiday shopping season. I'd had zero interest in joining that craziness, and this weather affirmed my decision for me. No doorbuster deal could compare with the beauty of the first snowfall for marking the transition from Thanksgiving to Christmas. 

Friday, November 23, 2012

Photo glitch

I have these fun photos of my kids enjoying the first snowfall of winter, but I can't show them to you.

Why not?

Because apparently after four and a half years of blogging 1,350 posts, I have used up my limit of photo space. When I attempted to upload pictures this morning, I got the following message:

Whoops! You're out of space. You are currently using 100% of your 1 GB quota for photos.


1 GB of photos? Wow!

There's supposed to be an easy solution. For $2.49/month I can have up to 25 GB of pictures. That ought to be enough space to enable me to someday blog about my grandkids.

At first, my innate sense of cheapness took over and I scowled at the thought of having to pay $30/year for who knows how long. But then I thought about the hundreds and hundreds of dollars worth of stamping and scrapbooking materials down in my basement, and figured that if $2.49/month keeps me from spending more on my former hobby, then it's a pretty good investment.

And so I clicked on the link to increase my quota. And got another message.

Uh oh. There was a problem.
We couldn't start your purchase because of a technical issue.
Details of the problem below:  
Sorry, we were unable to process this request. Please try again later.
 
Is it just me, or did the first part of the message contain more details than the supposedly detailed part? Do you supposed the technical problem has anything to do with the vast number of people attempting to buy Christmas gifts online on this day after Thanksgiving? Hopefully, this problem won't last long. In the meantime, I'm going to take it as a sign to grab my cup of coffee and go read a book. Or maybe put up Christmas decorations. Or anything else that doesn't involve sitting in front of the computer or dealing with crowds of shoppers.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Counting my blessings

I was thinking of titling this: "My cat used her litter box instead of my treadmill, and other things I'm thankful for today." But that's a bit long. Of course, so is my list of blessings. Here are a few:

10. Spike peed in her litter box. Twice since yesterday! I feel like the proud mother of a toddler who's finally getting the hang of potty training. But if you read yesterday's post and knew how hard I've been fighting to not have to make that final call to the vet, you'd realize we'd reached life-or-death stage. And even though my hand still hurts where she bit me, I'm glad Spike will be with us at least a little longer.

9. A large capacity washer and dryer. It seems like the laundry loads never end, but how grateful I am that it's my obsessive-compulsive nature to keep the dirty laundry pile small that has me washing clothes every couple days, and not because my children have so few outfits that I need to wash just so they have enough clean clothes to wear.

8. Good health. For me and my family. Every time Jeff and I go for a run. Every time I watch my kids play soccer, hockey, baseball, gymnastics or any other physical activity, I am so grateful God has given us healthy bodies and minds.

7. Good weather. I'm throwing this one in because I know it's supposed to end later today. But it sure was nice while it lasted.

6. Good jobs. It's been a year of change - a new job for me, a new position for Jeff. And with is has come new, good challenges, opportunities and a much better schedule that allows us to spend more time together as a family.

5. A great community. The school levy and referendum passage earlier this month has renewed my appreciation for where I live. Not to mention, I'm so proud to see everyone's efforts following last summer's flood. I make my home among good people, near a good school and church, with relatively flat roads for running.

4. Great friends. Even though it's getting harder and harder to find time to get together with them, I appreciate the emails, texts and facebook posts that keep us connected. I'm also thankful that on the rare occasion when we do see each other, it's like we've never been apart. I'm also grateful for the new friends I've made through my new job. They've welcomed me, motivated me and made me feel very appreciated.

3. My sister. It doesn't seem possible, but the same individual who once tried to convince me I was going to die of electrocution hours after I'd gotten a small shock while plugging in a tape recorder, is now the person I turn to because I so value her wisdom, priorities and outlook on life.

2. Creative kids. This could be a whole post all on its own. It could be the subject of an entire blog. Oh, wait... they're what this blog is supposed to be about. My kids are bold, confident, smart, respectful and funny and so much more. I love that when I announced I needed to run some errands last night, AJ immediately responded, "Please don't lock your keys in the car!" I love that every day after school, Sydney comes home to tell me about her latest "BFF" (Jaeden earned those honors yesterday. Sydney made up an entire song about her last night and made her a card.) Speaking of cards, AJ just handed me one he made in school. In it he wrote, "... I am thank for you for working for a famous county..."

1. A wonderful husband. He puts up with me and makes me happy. What more could I ask? He left a job he loved because he recognized the toll the schedule was taking on all of us. He ran a half marathon with me last summer even though he doesn't like to run. He's patiently waiting for me to make the final decision about the cat, even though he's been wanting to get rid of it for 14 years. We joked a few months ago that now that we're finally both working normal schedules, we hoped we wouldn't discover that we didn't like each other. Instead, we've re-discovered just how much fun we have together.

It's good to take a moment to think about all the ways God has blessed you. And to remember those who are less fortunate. Life is good for me, and happiness is all around. I hope it is for all of you, too. Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

This day was a test. It was only a test.

I've got this extremely moody, cranky, 18-year-old cat that loves me and hates everyone else because they're competition for my attention.
 
Yesterday morning, we had a bit of a... let's call it a "difference of opinion." And when all was said and done, the cat had been thrown out the back door (yes, I let her back in before leaving for work), and my hand looked like this.
 
 
I should have taken it as an omen for how the day would unfold.
 
The cat has been making it clear that she does not appreciate the fact we no longer lock the dog in the kennel at night, but rather leave him loose. She's expressing her displeasure by choosing alternate locations to serve as her litter box. Such as my treadmill and the carpeted landing on the steps.

I'm at wits end.

This obviously has to stop. And so we had a little conversation about it. Actually it was a rather loud conversation that involved me yelling, her growling, me rubbing her nose in her latest choice of target and then carrying her to the back door. But I couldn't just send her outside with a dramatic flourish as I'd hoped because guess who else was outside? Gus. The same hyper dog who inspired this latest show of attitude from the cat.
 
I tried to get Gus to come inside, but of course he was fascinated by my attempts to hang on to a now-snarling cat. As I straddled the doorway, he ran past me once inside, just as Spike clamped down on my hand. My shout of pain, combined with the cat's loud growl was enough to excite Gus further and before I could toss the cat, he'd run right back past me out the door.
 
"AJ! I NEED SOME HELP HERE! GET THE DOG!" I shouted.
 
"Mom, you're scaring me!" was his terrified response.
 
"And the cat is BITING me! GET. THE. DOG!"
 
One more painful chomp and several loud snarls from the cat later,  the dog was inside and the cat was outside. And I was doing my best to stop the bleeding and calm my very panicked son.
 
And the day just kept getting better.
 
For work, I got to drive up to the Range for a late afternoon public meeting. Which exactly four people showed up to attend.
 
On the way home, I needed to make a three quick stops: at Sam's Club, Target and Cub. I pulled into the lot at Sam's Club and checked my phone. The battery was low, but I needed to see if I'd missed any late-day e-mails.
 
Sure enough I had. I've been working for more than a week to coordinate schedules for a video project. Just yesterday morning I'd finally had success, setting up four interviews. And then the videographer emailed that he wasn't available one of the days I'd scheduled. He claimed he told me to avoid that date. I knew he hadn't. He later emailed that he found the message he'd sent and discovered it had gone to my old email address. (He's now working to adjust his schedule.)
 
With this newest complication fresh in my mind, I got out of the car, slammed the door shut and then saw the keys still sitting in the center console. Locked out!
 
I had my cell phone, but it was useless to call Jeff. Not because of the ever-draining battery, but because he was with the kids at hockey practice in Carlton. And that arena is just a few feet beyond the edge of cell phone reception. Seriously.
 
So I spent 45 minutes walking up and down the aisles of Sam's Club (I only needed four things) while waiting for hockey practice to end. At last I reached Jeff. They headed up immediately, but it's still a half hour drive.
 
When Jeff reached the parking lot, he looked like he was ready to kill someone. I know I made this same mistake last year, but his expression seemed a bit overly harsh. "I'm sorry," I said.
 
Very slowly he responded, "I don't have the key to your car with me."
 
That explains the extreme frustration! In an effort to lighten the load on his key ring, he doesn't carry the key to my car, and didn't think about that in his rush to rescue me.
 
And so I climbed in the minivan where the kids sat - still in their hockey gear - and headed home to get the key. An hour later we were back. And a half hour after that... just shy of 9:30... we were at last home.
 
It was so good to be home, I was almost happy to see the cat. But not quite.
 
On the eve of Thanksgiving, let me just reflect that I will be very grateful to never have a day like that again.

Monday, November 19, 2012

New goal: a bigger helmet

It's been said that time heals all wounds. That includes, apparently, the pain of playing goalie while wearing a goalie mask that's way too small. Because six months after a disastrous experience that ended with AJ declaring he never wanted to play goalie again, guess who was excited to put on the big pads.
 
 
We carefully loosened all the straps on the mask to minimize the squeezing on AJ's oversized head. He said his ears were a bit squished, but it was okay.
 
And that lasted about 10 minutes. Long enough for one of the coaches to work with him on stance and holding the stick.

 
But then AJ couldn't take it anymore. Yes, the helmet was still too tight and was squeezing his ears. Jeff went over and helped the coach to again try and loosen the helmet, but there's really nothing you can do to adjust the width of it, so AJ was stuck. And to his credit, he toughed it out.

 
There were no tears. But at the same time, AJ wouldn't have minded if someone else had volunteered to be goalie in tomorrow's practice.
 
No such luck.
 
A short time after we got home, another coach called to say they found one other helmet that may be a bit bigger. We'll try that tomorrow. Stay tuned.
 
Meanwhile, how's Sydney doing? She can skate forward quite well. It's the backwards part that needs work.


But she continues to love it. Tonight, she came off the rink excitedly announcing, "Mom, we played sharks and minnows and we caught all of the coaches! All the coaches lost!"
 
"That's great," I told her. "Did you have fun?"
 
"Uh huh!" She nodded her head.
 
"Did all of the coaches have fun?"
 
"Mom, the coaches always have fun!"
 
So everyone's having fun. I say that means everybody's a winner.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Girls night out

You know it's a special night when Mommy lets you wear a fancy new dress (that will see double duty at Christmas) AND a tiara AND a dab of lip gloss.
 
 
My little princess and I got dolled up Thursday night for a special show: the traveling production of Disney Live: Mickey's Music Festival. It promised lots of song, dance and princesses.

 
I guess two out of three isn't bad. The dancing was great, as were the costumes. And the Little Mermaid and Jasmine didn't disappoint. But they also didn't sing.
 
 
The entire performance was lip synced. Sydney didn't mind. She declared Princess Ariel to be her favorite and proclaimed the evening as the best night ever. A sno-cone in a souvenir Ariel cup made the experience complete.


And as long as the memories are magical, then I guess the night was a success.

But I still can't help wishing I'd bought tickets to Disney on Ice, instead.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

So talented (says mom while trying not to smirk)

Remember how brilliant and awesome my son AJ is? You know, the boy whose teacher can't stop praising his intelligence. The boy who earned near perfect marks on his first quarter report card.

It's a good thing he's not graded on his ability to keep track of mittens.

And that his teacher only pays attention to his knowledge of World War II facts, and not on his skill at putting on a replica World War II helmet.

Because AJ now has a nice cut across the bridge of his nose, caused by this helmet smacking into his glasses, which sliced into his nose.


And no, I can't show you the damage. AJ didn't want his picture taken for this post.

Meanwhile, the same brilliant boy who's way above average in test scores apparently also is way above average when it comes to losing gloves. Remember the story about the $20 gloves we bought him, and then he lost one of them within a day? Out of desperation, because I couldn't find any other matching pair of gloves in the house and didn't have time to go shopping, I lent him a pair of my gloves. Which he lost. Though he's pretty sure they're somewhere in the house. He just has no clue where.

So earlier this week, while shopping, Jeff and I figured we'd be smart. We bought him two identical pairs, figuring one could serve as backup when one or both gloves from the first pair went missing. And within a day, we were down to just three.

 
Jeff threatened to tie them together and string them through his sleeves. Which AJ thought sounded really cool.
 
Thank goodness little sister Sydney is far more alert that her older sibling. She remembered seeing a glove that looked exactly like AJ's out on the playground, she told me. And so today she took it upon herself to go and look for it. And when she found it, she dutifully returned it to AJ's teacher to give to him.
 
I hope he was embarrassed. If he loses another one, I just may have to take a picture of the scab across his nose.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

So proud

I was never going to be one of those moms who bragged endlessly about how perfect my kids are. I see their faults. I know their flaws.
 
Just not last night.
 
Because sitting in parent-teacher conferences, all I heard was how pretty darn close to perfect my two kids are. Yeah, these two:
 

AJ's teacher wrote on his report card that he is a superb student, and during our meeting she used the term 'genius'. She wondered if he watches a lot of documentaries because she's amazed at how many facts he knows. Her only suggestion for improvement is that he needs to slow down sometimes. She thinks his mind is racing so much faster than he's able to write that he sometimes forgets what he's supposed to be doing.

Sydney, meanwhile, was described as a delight, whom her teacher "just loves". She knows all of her upper case letters, and got 25 out of 26 on the lower case ones. She got perfect scores for recognizing numbers and sight words. On the report card Sydney made for herself, she indicated she loves school, loves her friends and thinks everyone loves her. How can Sydney improve? The teacher wrote that she needs to do a better job listening, raising her hand and waiting her turn, but then quickly explained that she writes those on everyone's report cards because five year olds need the constant reminder.

So, yeah, I'm just a bit proud. And if these two can ever agree on a restaurant (other than McDonald's) we'll be taking them out to dinner tonight to celebrate.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

This security blanket has legs

Walking from my bedroom to the living room this morning, I came across what looked like a rather suggestive path. One of Jeff's socks led to another of Jeff's socks, which led to his pants strewn on the floor. One might think we'd followed up our day together (did I mention that both Jeff and I had the day off from work because of Veterans Day, while both kids had school?) with one wild night.
 
But as tired as I was last night, I'm pretty sure that wasn't the case. No, it was another male in our household who was having the good time.
 

Gus' newest annoying quirk is his need to have some piece of Jeff's clothing with him at night. For the last month or so, we've been letting him be loose at night instead of locking him in the kennel. He doesn't chew on or destroy anything while he's sleeping. But before he can sleep, he apparently needs a little bit of Jeff as a security blanket. (His preference would be to sleep on the bed with us, but we quickly said no to that.)

And so each evening as we go to bed, we turn off the lights, kiss each other good night, and then wait for the tentative sound of Gus walking into our room, followed by his hasty retreat as he grabs whatever piece(s) of clothes Jeff has dropped at the side of the bed. And then the next morning, I walk through the living room retrieving those clothes.

I think Jeff planned it this way. I used to nag him for leaving clothes on the side of the bed when the hamper was just a few feet away. Now, I focus my frustration on Gus instead.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Good things come in small packages

One text from my brother and sister-in-law - just two words "Zoe Katherine" - was all it took for us to adjust our weekend plans. The little girl who tried to show up a few weeks early during a visit to Duluth is finally here, and we couldn't wait to meet her.
 
 
Walking into the hospital, where we were greeted by the sounds of a live pianist as we gazed at the winding staircase already decorated for the holidays, AJ proclaimed, "Wow, this is a nice place!"
 
Once we made it to the room, however, all focus turned to his new cousin. AJ is so excited about Zoe that he asked me to print out this picture so he could show his teacher and tell his class all about her.

 
Sydney was equally fascinated and is already making lists of books she's outgrown that she's sure Zoe was like. (She also is keeping tally that she now has one more cousin that she's bigger than.)

 
Looks like love at first sight!


Thursday, November 8, 2012

The cornstalk in my kitchen

Besides the recent election and the start of hockey, what have I been doing to stay busy? Lots of things, like, for instance, well... um... okay, hockey and the election have pretty much sucked up all my spare time.
 
But wait... here's something new. I've been growing corn in my kitchen. How many people can say (would admit to) that in November?
 

More accurately, I've managed to not yet kill the two cornstalks AJ planted in a cup during a class field trip last month to a corn maze.

Why would they do that to parents? It's great to show kids how to plant a seed so they can watch it sprout. But in the fall? They're setting us up for failure, and it's already fairly well documented that I need no help in the area of killing vegetation. I do it fairly consistently throughout the spring and summer.

And what if somehow one or both of these cornstalks don't die? They're already showing signs of needing to be re-potted, which means they won't fit on my window ledge any longer. Where am I supposed to put them? Isn't there some song about corn being knee high by the fourth of July? There's nothing about how big it should be by Thanksgiving. It should be harvested and plowed under by Thanksgiving!

I've never taken my kids to a corn maze because I went to one once and thought it was stupid. Now I have a new reason to boycott.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Political activists

It's close to midnight and I'm not even close to being able to fall asleep. Two and a half months of hard work have paid off. And in the morning I get to tell AJ and Sydney that both the operating levy and sports facilities referendum in Esko passed. Sydney won't understand what that means, and AJ will grasp only one small part of it - that he'll be getting a new hockey rink and warming house.
 
Both kids, whether they realize it or not, have played an active part in the campaign. Their pictures have been on some of our informational material. AJ walked around the neighborhood with Jeff as part of a canvassing effort. And Sydney made a brief, but memorable appearance in a video we put together. (Sorry for the bad audio. Let there be no doubt this was a grass roots effort. Sydney is at the very end, around 1:22.) 
 
 
And on Election Day, they eagerly served as walking reminders of why these two questions are so important.
 
 
The picture-taking process went something like this: "Okay, guys, I need to take a picture of you. Sydney, face the camera. AJ turn around but look back over your shoulder. I want to show what the front and back of the shirts look like. No, no. Sydney stand still. Right there. AJ, stand there. Okay, now look back over your shoulder. Without moving. Sydney, stand still.
 
"Okay, forget that idea. Both of you turn around so I can take a picture of the backs of your shirts."
 
 
"And now the front."

 
I brought the kids with me to the polls this morning. I wanted them to see me vote yes, and I hope some day they will pay it forward by voting yes for school levies in whatever community they make their home.
 
I warned them they had to keep their coats zipped because we couldn't let the election judges see their shirts. Sydney paid attention to the first part of that message and - when she saw me with my coat open revealing the suit I planned to wear to work - called out in a panic, "Mommy, your jacket's not zipped!" 
 
It turns out voting was the easy part. Focusing on work when I couldn't wait for the polls to close and the votes to be counted... that was the challenging part. Of course I wanted these two issues to pass, because they will mean better educational and athletic opportunities for my kids. But also because AJ and Sydney, along with so many other students in our community, put so much effort into the campaign, it would have broken my heart to see them so disillusioned at such a young age.
 
Last year Esko voters rejected an identical levy, and two years before that they voted against a more expensive sports facility referendum. And keep in mind that those all took place in non-major election years when 60 percent of levies typically pass. This year, with a presidential election on the ballot, our chances for success dropped to 40 percent.
 
But thankfully, by 8:30 p.m. we got the wonderful news that we'd beaten the odds. Twice. Both the levy and referendum had passed. Here's the amazing group of talented, passionate, hard-working volunteers who I am now happy to call friends.
 
 
We called ourselves Esko Pride because we knew we needed to do more than simply ask people to vote yes. We needed them to think about why they should want to vote yes. And we needed them to feel so strongly about their reason(s) that they would show up to vote.
 
And tonight I am so full of Esko Pride that I'm not sure I'll ever fall asleep. Hopefully tomorrow will be full of Esko adrenaline to get me through the day at work.

*****

One other important election result worth noting: Mom rules! As is well known in my family, Jeff and I generally cancel out each other's votes. For most of this election season, AJ has tended to side with Jeff's choice for candidates. And as recently as last night Jeff was gloating that Sydney had stated she also planned to vote for his choice of president. (The kids had a mock election at their school today.) But guess what... after I explained to each child the reasons I support a different candidate, both changed their vote. Hah!

Monday, November 5, 2012

'Tis the (hockey) season

This is pretty much a continuation of yesterday's post about how proud I am of Sydney. Sunday evening, hockey season officially began with the first practice for the Mite 1 and 2 teams. AJ was so excited that as we drove to the arena, he counted down the time based on the clock on the radio.
 
"Seventeen minutes until hockey starts... Only 16 more minutes until hockey starts... 15..."
 
"Enough! We get the idea!"
 
Sydney was a bit more cautious. She was concerned that her coaches might not like her. We assured her that as long as she did her best, she didn't have to worry about a thing.
 
And then we got to the rink and she saw a couple friends. And all fears were gone.
 
Sydney and Max
Sydney definitely did her best. As a rookie, she brings up the rear most of the time. But that doesn't seem to bother her. Watching her try to keep up with the other kids, some of whom have been skating for 2-3+ years, reminded me of my recent attempts to keep up with the rest of a fitness class at the Y. it just wasn't happening! But Sydney just keep trying.

 
How's this for an example of my little engine that could's toughness? I bet the kid she's pulling outweighed her by 15 pounds.


Here a short clip showing her form. There's not a lot of grace involved. She is powered by sheer determination.
 
  video

So that's what was happening on Sydney's end of the rink. Meanwhile, on the far end of the ice (the end you can't see well from the heated spectator section, so you have to freeze to death in order to not appear to be favoring your younger child over your older one), Mr. Hockey was demonstrating how the seasoned veterans do it.
 
 
He also inadvertently showed why - as convenient as it is for Mom and Dad that he can pretty much get himself ready on his own - he's still not ready to be let out of the house without a final inspection. Note the hockey socks - one is upside down. That's the obvious mistake. The others that you can't see is the silver-dollar size hole in the heel of his regular socks, and the button-up dress shirt he's wearing underneath his pads and jersey. Guess who never bothered to change shirts when he got home from Sunday School.

 
At least they both remembered to go to the bathroom before getting their pads on.

 
AJ has sensed an opportunity in his sister's interest in hockey. He's been amazingly encouraging to her because he's figured out she now wants to play floor hockey with him at home.
 
What I find most encouraging is how excited Sydney was to return to practice tonight. She's having fun! She's also getting totally worn out. (AJ is too.) When the lights go out at bedtime, both kids are falling asleep in record time. Gotta love hockey!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Finding balance

I feel the need to warn you in advance. This is going to be one of those extremely sappy posts about how much I love my daughter. Because I am so darn proud of her willingness to take risks and try a variety of new things.
 
For instance, on Saturday, in the space of less than three hours, she went from balancing on a beam,
 
 
To skating in bulky pads and a helmet. And always with a smile on her face. (At least I think that was a smile. It's kind of hard to tell when her mouth guard is in.)

 
Saturday was "Try Hockey for Free" day, sponsored by USA Hockey. And so all four of us laced up our skates for an hour on the ice. (That's Sydney in the foreground of the photo below.)

 
Though she's been on roller skates a couple times, I think this was Sydney's first time on ice skates since last February. Her toughness and enthusiasm was fun to watch.
 
For AJ, it was his first time on ice since a hockey camp last July. He, too, needed little time to find his rhythm. And to be able to skate circles around me.

 
For the most part Jeff stayed with AJ, playing hockey with him and whichever other kids wanted to join in.
 
 
I tried to skate with Sydney, but for the most part, she wanted to keep up with her friend Max, who's in her kindergarten class and apparently is now on her short list of favorite boys who are not her boyfriend.
 
 I'm wondering if the photo below could work for our Christmas card? Hmmm.... It certainly would simplify life. Especially now that hockey season is starting. (More on that tomorrow...)


Friday, November 2, 2012

Bulldog fans

A little belated on this story due to all the Halloween festivities of the last week...
Last Saturday we surprised the kids with tickets to a Bulldog Hockey game. Needless to say, they were a bit excited. (And by 'they', I mean the kids. The Bulldogs probably didn't know we were there. Or who we are.)
 

The Bulldogs took an early lead: 2-0. But for Sydney, the thrill of that paled in comparison to the discovery that a special guy (NOT a boyfriend!) happened to be at the same game.


You've got to love social media. Checking facebook toward the end of the first period, I saw my friend Annette (Patrick's mom) had posted a photo of her family at the game. I quickly commented, asking where they were sitting. Just a couple sections over. So during intermission we stopped to say hi. How sweet that they share a love for the Bulldogs and cheesy souvenirs from the gift shop.

 
But look out Patrick, you seem to have some furry competition. During the second admission, Sydney found someone else to cuddle up to. Her squeal of delight when she spotted Champ was enough to turn many heads. And of course everyone smiled when she threw her arms around his waist.
 
The game ended in a 2-2 tie. AJ, of course, was disappointed that the Bulldogs let their lead slip away. But Sydney thought it was a perfect game. 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

A night of treats

What kind of mother am I? Halloween night... one of the most photographed nights of the year (I'm totally speculating on that, but based on the number of pictures of cute kids in costumes I saw posted on Facebook, I've got a pretty strong argument.) and how many pictures did I take of my kids? One.
 
 
I did manage to take a picture of how I planned to spend the evening while having the house all to myself. (This was my year to stay home and hand out candy.)
 
 
Too bad my plans kept getting interrupted by kids ringing the doorbell wanting candy. By the time the night was done, I'd handed out goodies to 152 characters.
 
Saving me from being a horrible mom, my friend Crystal shared a few shots she'd taken.

 
At least Sydney made it into a couple of shots. Though seeing them, I feel compelled to emphasize that she insisted on putting on the wig all by herself.


There's AJ and Sydney in a shot. Jeff said they actually cooperated quite nicely. Sydney carried her Easter basket to get candy, and it quickly proved to be far too small, so she started dumping it into AJ's bag, with the promise they would share later.


Jeff said AJ's bag weighed a ton by the end of the night, and he could tell AJ was struggling to carry it. Ahhh... the memories of another happy Halloween.