Sunday, December 15, 2013

No slowing of his stride

In case anyone was wondering, it'll take far more than a broken tooth to keep AJ from playing hockey.
But I wonder if I can use that as my excuse for why it's taken me nearly two weeks to post this video and photos?

The day after chipping his tooth and our emergency trip to the dentist (which I'm delightfully amazed is only going to end up costing us about $20 bucks after insurance) AJ played in a tournament in Proctor. Here's one of his many goals.

But aside from scoring, his favorite part of the tournament was the two extra fans he had in the audience. Grandpa David and Grandma Elouise, who are in Florida for most of the hockey season, traveled to our neck of the tundra to cheer him on.

The following day, AJ played in two more games. He was goalie for one of those games, which happened to be against a Mite 2 team from Hermantown. For some reason, AJ has it in his head that that's one of the 10 best teams in the state. He's not quite sure who told him that, but he's sure it's true.

During the first half of the game, Hermantown was clearly the better team. But as the game progressed, our kids (especially AJ in the net) got stronger, and their kids seemed to tire.

No one keeps score, but usually it's pretty easy to see which team is the dominant one. Not this game. As the cock ticked down, I heard one dad jokingly yell, "Next goal wins!"

Those are the best kind of games. All the kids come off the ice feeling good and victorious. Not bad for the first tournament of the year.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Gingerbread construction

I'm curious if anyone makes gingerbread houses out of gingerbread anymore. Both of my kids had gingerbread house making events this week, and in both cases, the construction material of choice was graham crackers.

It's a third grade holiday tradition at our school for the students and parents to gather in the "cafetorium" (clever naming. In my day, it was called a lunchroom, and there happened to be a stage on one side of the room) and spend time together crafting these sugar rush sensations.

Alex seemed to get as much frosting on himself as he did on his house. Luckily, his friend Lucas didn't think there was anything wrong with that. Even more lucky, Lucas brought licorice, and enough to share. Definitely a good friend to have!

Take note of the small graham cracker rectangle next to AJ's house. That's a hockey rink. Where the Wild and Red Wings were facing off. (If you enlarge the picture below, you'll be able to see the respective green and red gumdrops, which represent the players.) As AJ had been finishing up his house, the principal happened to walk by and, knowing AJ's obsession with hockey, asked him if we was going to include a rink. Great suggestion!

When all was done, what to do with the extra frosting?

And then, because that wasn't enough fun, I got to do it again last night. Same place. Mostly same building supplies.But this time with Sydney and her Girl Scout troop.

It was a very different experience. Whereas AJ was only mildly interested in the project, but pretty meticulous with what little he did; Sydney was absolutely enthralled, gobbing on the frosting and sticking random pieces of candy and fruit loops anywhere she could.

Less is more is not a concept she understands. And that's perfectly okay. As we drove home she announced it had been even more fun than she'd thought it would be.

It was a lot of fun. So much so, that now I really want to make one of my own. I have plenty of leftover candy. I just might have to pick up some more graham crackers and frosting during this weekend's grocery shopping event. If my family can have annual competitions for best jack-o-lantern, I think it would be just as fun to start a competition for gingerbread houses.

Monday, December 2, 2013

It's always fun until...

... someone breaks a tooth and the dog poops on the ice. (Though not in that order.)

This year's Thanksgiving celebration will be remembered not so much for the turkey as for the events that distracted us from it. It started with a simple text from my brother "Tell AJ to throw his skates in the car. I bet Diamond Lake will be plenty thick with no snow."

What a fantastic idea! Growing up, I can only remember one Thanksgiving when we were able to skate. I mentioned it to AJ and he pointed out he'd never skated on a lake before. And so we set out. It was like a scene created by Norman Rockwell.

Smiling kids in bright colored jackets, making the most of this winter day. Out on the ice, there were plenty of bumps near shore, but the kids easily skated around them.

And farther out, the ice was fairly smooth. Even the dog joined in the fun.

And amazingly, Gus behaved himself. He stayed near us and didn't try to steal anyone's gloves.

Everything was perfect until...

Oh, yes. He did. A steaming, stinky pile right there on the ice. 

But even that wasn't enough to take away from our perfect day. We managed to get a family photo that will work for Christmas cards this year. (So if you're on our list, act surprised when you see this picture.)

Eventually, I got cold and headed into the house with my camera. I uploaded photos from our idyllic morning onto Facebook, but before I could even finish posting them, our idyllic morning reached an abrupt end. AJ came into the house crying. AJ very rarely cries, so I knew it was something, but at first couldn't figure out what was wrong. There was no blood. His glasses weren't broken. Then he lifted up his slightly swollen lip. 

He'd been skating backwards when he hit an ice ridge and tripped, face planting himself on the ice and cracking off his front tooth. 

Just try and find a dentist on the Friday after Thanksgiving when you're 100+ miles from home. Even with the wonderful help and recommendations of my orthodontist sister-in-law, we couldn't find a dentist that was open who could squeeze him in. Finally I called our dentist, which was also closed, but through them I was able to make arrangements for a dentist to meet us Friday night to seal and protect what was left of his tooth.

Once AJ learned that this wouldn't interfere with his weekend hockey tournament, plus would likely mean he'd get out of at last part of a day of school on Monday, he calmed down remarkably. Ibuprofen was enough to ease any pain.

Three days later, he again has a "tooth". It's a temporary solution - a filling that that will likely crack off any time he bites wrong anytime during the next eight or nine years. But that's how long we need to wait for his teeth and mouth to stop growing so we can have a permanent crown put on his tooth.

AJ wasn't a fan of the Novacaine or drilling process. But he sure enjoyed going back to class afterward. Everyone wanted to check out his new tooth and AJ was more than happy to show it off. I'm just wondering how often we'll be repeating this process, and how expensive of a face plant this is going to turn out to be.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

My little angel

After last year's less than successful Sunday School Christmas program experience, my kids are ready for it this year. Alex, making sure he won't have to wear angel wings and a halo, volunteered to be one of the narrators. Sydney, meanwhile, loving the costume from last year, signed up again to be an angel. But this year, that means she has to memorize a line.

It took us a few hundred times of repeating it, but she's got it down pat. (I can type it without looking, too)
Glory to God in the highest and on earth, peace to all men on whom his favor rests.
After Sunday School this morning, I asked her how the rehearsal went.

"Good! I remembered my line!"

"Do you know when to say it?" I asked.

"In 14 days."

"Right. That's when the Christmas program is. But do you know when during the show to say your line?"

"I think I say it right after the big angel."

I checked the script. Actually her line comes after a narrator. Good thing there's still two more weeks to work on it.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving snow

It snowed last night - I'm guessing three to four inches. Our wonderful next door neighbor already plowed most of our driveway. So on my way out to grab the newspaper, I had to clear only the sidewalk.

"Awww," AJ complained when he saw what I'd done. "I wanted to shovel."

Can you tell it's the first measurable snowfall of the year?

I reminded him there was still the area right outside the garage that needed to be cleared, and so after breakfast, the kids excitedly geared up in snow pants and boots and headed out the door. Knowing how they think and hoping to head off the disappointment early, I warned, "It's really fluffy snow. It's not the kind that works good for snowballs and snowmen."

I could have saved my breath.

Ten minutes later, Sydney was pounding on the front door. She can't turn the handle with her mittens on, and would never think to take her mittens off. I answered the door.

"Mom! We're making a snowman! I need stuff for it." ("Stuff" is code word for a carrot and whatever else can serve as facial features.)

"I told you, this snow is not going to work for that. Go play something else." 

I returned to the kitchen where I was attempting to make my first ever apple pie from scratch. Two minutes later Sydney was back, pounding on the front door.

"Mom! We're going to use stuff outside to make the snowman."

"Okay." (Did I need to know that?) "Come get me when you've got something for me to see."

Back to peeling apples. 

A few minutes later, more pounding. "Mom! We made a snowman, but we need a carrot!"

This I had to see. I grabbed a baby carrot and a red gummy worm. And my camera and boots. Sydney was excitedly waiting outside the garage. "We named it ..."

I couldn't understand the name. It sounded like either Alice or island. I was distracted by the sight of the driveway.

"I shoveled it!" Sydney told me proudly.

"Yeah, I can sure see that."

Around the corner we walked. And there was the snowman.

"It's kind of puny," AJ admitted.

"Puny" doesn't begin to describe the small mound of snow, half of which tipped over from the weight of the baby carrot.

AJ restacked with slightly better success.

"We named it 'eyeless'. Because it has no eyes," AJ said.

But of course.

They went on to build another snowman. And Sydney came running back inside several more times in search of "stuff". They named the new one Larry. For no particular reason.

I went back to baking my pie. It turned out like this:

I have happy, healthy, imaginative (and at least for this morning - cooperative) children. A wonderful husband who doesn't have to work today. A mostly shoveled driveway. And pie.

How could I not be thankful?

Monday, November 25, 2013

Cutting our losses

Some time last winter, I think it was in March, Sydney decided she was ready for a new hairstyle. She'd been looking adorable in a bob for long enough and instead wanted her hair to look just like mine, which meant growing out her bangs.

I tried to talk her out of it. I knew it wasn't a fun process. But she was sure, and quite honestly, I thought it'd be sweet to look back one day and torment, I mean remind her, that she once wanted the same hairstyle as her mom. And so we started letting her go shaggy.

We did our best to keep the bangs off her face. For special occasions, I convinced her to sit still long enough for a french braid. But that didn't happen often.

By early summer, I debated whether to get my hair cut into bangs. It'd be a far easier solution if the goal was to look the same. 

But still we let those bangs grow. Ponytail bands worked okay.

As did barrettes and clips...

Hair bands, not so well...

Eight months later, Sydney's bangs are just about long enough to tuck behind her ears. But this weekend, she'd finally had enough.

"Mom, can I have a bob, again?"

"What?!?" The worst is over, I wanted to scream. All those months of shagginess are about to pay off. But then I remembered one key thing. It had been her idea to grown out her bangs in the first place. So let it be her idea to cut them off.

"I look normal, again," she said, looking in the mirror. But to everyone else, she looks different, and that's exciting to her.

"Jayce said I looked totally different," she excitedly announced last night after seeing a friend at her brother's hockey practice.

And then a new thought. "I wonder if Mrs. Durand (her first grade teacher) is going to recognize me."

"I'm pretty sure she will," I said. "And I'll bet she likes it."

Reading at bedtime last night, Sydney did an even better job than usual. "Do you suppose it's because you can see better without all that hair in your eyes?" I teased.

Sydney just giggled. There's nothing like eight months of trying something new to make you realize that what you had to begin with wasn't so bad after all.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Halloween isn't over until the pumpkins are off the porch

I'm not sure which is worse: that I'm just now getting around to writing about Halloween? Or that the jack-o-lanterns you're about to see are still sitting on my front porch?

Each year the kids get a little more independent at pumpkin carving, and a lot more opinionated regarding how they want it to look. Which means they start strong, and then want me to help once it becomes clear to them that they won't be able to carve anything too intricate on their own. But I do make them scoop out the innards on their own. AJ makes the most of it:

While Sydney tolerates this gooey but necessary step: (note the elaborate drawing Sydney had already created.)

This is the first year I trusted AJ with a knife.

Here are our finished masterpieces. What, might you ask, is up with that odd, non-carved gourd between AJ and me?

Why, that's the work of my dearly beloved, who clearly was not in a pumpkin-carving mood this year. It started at the store when we purchased our pumpkins. Jeff picked a bumpy gourd.

On the night we set aside for carving, Jeff had a hockey meeting and so missed most of the fun. When he got home, he quickly looked around for an alternative decorating idea.

And that's when he spied the bag of puffballs in Sydney's craft supplies. He grabbed a glue stick and was finished in about a minute.

While I give him points for creativity, I've got to say that when the lights go out, his technique just doesn't cut it.

Halloween night was cold and wet. My swamp zombie and Rapunzel bride went trick-or-treating with friends Noah (injured - note the real cast - football player) and Elizabeth (the blue fairy from Tinkerbell).

As always, they collected far more candy than they could ever possibly need. But it's all good. Because two weeks later, as I type this, I'm able to munch on M&Ms and Gobstoppers. Gotta love the sugar rush!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The proposal

Is it a sign that I'm getting old that I'm suddenly recognizing so many anniversaries of various key events? Tonight is one of them. It was 15 years ago this evening that I got what is probably the best surprise of my life. 

I was working in the newsroom at WDIO. It was two days after the election of Jesse Ventura as Minnesota's governor. It was the start of a sweeps month and I was writing a series piece on World War II veterans to air later. These are key details to know because had Ventura not been elected, prompting a whole lot of extra media coverage, this would have happened a day earlier. And had it been a regular day of reporting for me, I would have been a little more prepared (i.e. I would have combed my hair and re-applied my make up) when the producer came running up to me in a panic, "Dana! Denny's in the bathroom throwing up. We need you to read the six o'clock tease!"

After a frantic 60 to 90 seconds (that's all the warning I got), I was looking as presentable as I was going to get and had an ear piece stuck in my ear for this life-changing moment:

I got asked a lot afterward if I was surprised. I wasn't surprised he asked, because I knew we'd reached that point in our relationship. But I was absolutely stunned that he asked me in that way. Never in a million years would I have guessed he would have done something so public.

We'd actually gone out to dinner the night before, before I knew we had any reason to celebrate. Jeff had set it up earlier in the week, assuming we'd be engaged by then. But as previously mentioned, with the stunning election of a former wrestler as governor, there was to much news coverage of that to allow time for something fluffy like a live marriage proposal. And so he had to wait a day. And when we were done we celebrated by eating leftover chicken at his friend Tim's house.

And I couldn't have been happier. I still couldn't be all these years later.

It's good that we have the video. My mind and emotions were racing so fast that day that my memories weren't the most accurate. I told people that night what had happened, and then watched the video and realized what really had happened.

What happened was that a whole lot of people managed to work together and keep a secret. They snuck Jeff into the studio and wrote dummy scripts. Fellow reporters hid in the bathroom (one even went so far as to put curlers in her hair) so that it'd look like there was no other option except me to read that six o'clock tease. Amazing!

We watched the video tonight with the kids. One of these days I need to convert it from VHS tape to a digital file. Jeff remembered how nervous he was that night. To me, he seemed pretty relaxed. I thought it was me who seemed nervous - I can tell by my unnaturally high pitched voice.

The kids enjoyed the clip. When it was done, they wanted to see if I was still wearing the same ring Jeff had given me back then. I let Sydney try it on my engagement ring, after which Jeff put it back on my finger and asked if I would marry him again.

In a heart beat!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Daisy dreams come true at last

Getting through the last few weeks has been almost as tough as the countdown to Christmas or a birthday. Sydney has been asking to be a Girl Scout for about nine months now - since about midway through last hockey season. It's been getting closer and closer. We signed her up. And then I signed up to be a troop leader. And then I had to go to several meetings to be certified to be able to be a leader. And all Sydney could do was wait.

She would stare longingly at the piles of paperwork and three-ring binder I accumulated at my various meetings. Never mind how overwhelmed I was at all the hoops that had to be jumped through. To her, as long as I was going to meetings, it meant that I got to be in Girl Scouts and she couldn't yet, even though it had been her idea.

But at last tonight was the night. Sydney's excitement turned into inspiration as she made up several songs on the spot to welcome her fellow Daisy troop members. She gave hugs to the girls she already knew, and asked at least a dozen times if she could help set out markers for the crafts. 

We don't yet have the official uniforms for the girls. (That's one of my tasks for the next two weeks.) But she still came home loaded up with souvenirs (thanks to the organization of my co-leader, Jackie. She focused on the girls tonight while I met with the parents and handed out lots of paperwork.)

The girls, there are eight in all, colored pictures, and decorated folders and pumpkins. They also made a cute craft to help remember the Scout Law. 

When we got home tonight, Sydney excitedly announced to Jeff she was going to show him the pledge of allegiance for Girl Scouts. "On my honor, I will try..."

"You mean the Girl Scout Law?" I reminded her of the correct name.

"Yes," she quickly agreed. "The Girl Scout Law poem is my favorite."

Sunday, October 27, 2013

A head of Halloween

My son, it turns out, does not appreciate my Halloween decorations. To be blunt, he thinks they're lame. Apparently pumpkins and my various candles just aren't scary.

In the spirit of compromise, I decided to let him choose some decorations to add to the collection. Which is why we now have a mini graveyard in our front yard.

But before setting it all out, he had a great idea. "Look, I should have thought of this for a costume," he exclaimed, stuffing the skull half into his shirt. "I look like I was born with a skull attached to my body."

"You do have a skull attached to your body," I reminded. "It's called your head."


And so we went to work.

It wasn't enough to simply lay the bone pieces on the ground like is shown on the package. No, AJ wanted to make it look like the skeleton was trying to claw it's way out of its grave.

Two tombstones, a couple of bones, some small plastic gates (thank goodness the ground isn't frozen yet or there's no way we could set it up) followed by fake spider webs wrapped around it all.

Last but not least, an overacting model to make it all complete. We set it up just enough to the side that hopefully no trick-or-treaters will trip on it as they come up to our house.

Meanwhile, the kids got to give their costumes a practice run this afternoon. It was the "Harvest festival" at their school. Once again, I've got one child going for the grotesque and the other trying to be a princess. How is it that these two could possibly come from the same gene pool?

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Making homework fun

It is taking Sydney forever to finish her homework tonight. But she doesn't seem to mind.

Her assignment is to write each of her spelling words five times. Were she to write them in a notebook, it probably would have taken five minutes max. But she whined when I reminded her of the homework because she wanted to play with her American Girl doll. And so we found the perfect solution.

Class is in session with Mrs. Glass at the chalkboard (a name she picked at random. I, meanwhile, became her assistant, named Miss Julie in honor of the secretary in her real life principal's office.)

For some reason, Mrs. Glass speaks in a weird accent - I think it's supposed to be English. I, meanwhile, was given the job of providing voice to Mary, the doll. Because Mary had to read the words out loud after Mrs. Glass wrote them on the chalkboard. Miss Julie's other job was to erase the chalkboard each time Mrs. Glass needed to write the words again.

Like all good teachers apparently do, Mrs. Glass would tap the chalk on the board repeatedly to make a point. She also made sure to get down on her student's level in order to be more engaged.

Mrs. Glass seems to struggle with which direction the letter 'c' is supposed to face. Hopefully Sydney will have been luck remembering on the spelling test. Luckily only one word, 'call', has the letter 'c' in it. Based on how this assignment went, I suspect she'll either ace the test or get, at most, just one wrong.

Class dismissed.