Thursday, February 28, 2013

Dad's turn on ice

For three years I've had the fun of playing against AJ's Mite 1 hockey team at the end of each season. This year, at last, AJ is a Mite 2, which means it's now Jeff's and the other dads' turn to face off against the team.

AJ's #4, Jeff's #15
Jeff figures it was his first time playing a game on outdoor ice since high school.

For AJ, almost as much fun as playing against Dad, was trying to score on the coach, who drew the short straw and had to play goalie.

Or maybe he just knew how badly the kids wanted to take a shot at him.

Again, and again, and again.

My suggestion for next year is to have these guys play every month, rather than just at the end of the season. The boys learned a lot about defense and playing positions, just through this game.

When the game ended, the bigger boys looked pretty winded, while the younger ones seemed barely warmed up. I'm guessing a few of the dads were pretty sore the next morning.

And then it was time for more fun: dropping gloves and hamming it up for the camera.

Lot of fun. Lot of laughs.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The suite life for hockey fans

And now they know how the other half lives. Or at least how they watch hockey. I hope they don't get used to this.

A former Army colleague of Jeff's works for a bank that has a suite at Amsoil Arena. This friend invited Jeff and I to watch a Bulldogs hockey game from there earlier this season - something we've never told the children about. (They just think we were on a date.) But this past weekend, he invited us all to join him for the high school section semi-finals.

As we walked down the long, plush hallway to our suite, Sydney exclaimed, "This looks like a hotel." (She paused as the realization struck) "Do we get one of these rooms?!?"

Once inside, the kids quickly scoped out the benefits of their fancy surroundings. Yes, the view was good. But more significant...

"Sydney, we get pizza!"

Our host had ordered pizza, pop and popcorn to be catered into our suite. It's a young hockey fan's dream!

Of course, midway through the first period, with her attention span already shot, Sydney asked, "Can we go to the snack shack?"

That would be no.

Unfortunately, the team AJ hopes to someday play for, Cloquet-Esko-Carlton, got shut out, 3-0. I couldn't help but feel bad for the senior players and their parents. All those years of practice. All those years of shivering in the cold at ice rinks and arenas. Over. Just like that. Though maybe they're just happy to never again have to stand at shiver in the cold at an ice rink or arena.

For us, it was still a good time. And now I'm just waiting for the kids to ask the next time we go to Amsoil, "Do we get to watch from the suite again?"

That would be no.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Birthday treats

If this past weekend was any indication, I'm really going to like being 43. That's because between enjoying a Saturday night date with my husband, good fellowship with some church friends on Sunday morning, some alone time for me on a five-mile run, ice skating with the kids Sunday afternoon, and then more fun with my kids and my "hockey family" Sunday evening, I just can't think of any part of this past weekend that I'd change.

It was a pretty perfect birthday.

But I can't help but wonder what year 43 will hold. During my run, my mind started to wonder, as it often does, and I started thinking about events of other key years. 

I consider age 23 as my first real year of adulthood. It was the year I got my first "real job" out of college, followed by the job that brought me to Duluth, my first time living away from home.

When I was 33, (which I've joked for years was the age when I finally was as old as my parents, because that's the first age I remember them being), I spent half the year wishing it was over. It was the year Jeff deployed to Bosnia, and I couldn't wait for the time to pass so he could come home. (He made it home two days before my 34th birthday.)

Now another 10 years have passed. And I couldn't be happier with where I am in life. I wonder if the people who dread birthdays are really just regretting bad choices they've made that have kept them from realizing a dream.

But enough of the philosophical thoughts. Here are some pictures of the fun. I got to watch my two favorite guys battle it out on the ice during the Dads versus Mite 2s hockey game. It's an annual tradition, and I'll write more about it in another day.

The bright sun that had blessed us all day gave way to an almost full moon.

After the game, a fellow hockey mom and Esko Pride committee member surprised me with cupcakes. Check out the depth of that frosting. All of the kids were in awe.

And because that wasn't enough sugar for them, we split early and headed to Dairy Queen for some blizzards.

And then, because the weekend wasn't perfect enough, I woke up this morning to email confirmation that both Jeff and I were picked in the lottery to run the half marathon again.

Life is good!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

On the morning she could sleep in

So the child who couldn't drag herself out of bed at 7 a.m. yesterday, was ready to start her day at 7:30 today. That extra half hour makes such a difference!

Or maybe it has something to do with what she does - or doesn't - have to do today.

Last night, she told me her tummy hurt. "I'm not going to throw up," she assured me. "My tummy just hurts."

Knowing that she was tired, and feeling remarkably unambitious myself, I invited her to cuddle with me on the couch, where I'd been laying reading a book. And it was there that she fell asleep.

This morning when she woke up, I went into her bedroom, where the conversation went like this:

Sydney: Even when I'm sleeping my tummy still hurts.

Me: Oh?

Sydney: And by the way, do we have school today?

Me: No. So I think we'll just take it easy today.

Sydney: Do we have school the next day?

Me: No, tomorrow is Sunday.

Sydney: What about the next day?

Me: Yes, you'll go back to school on Monday. So do you want to snuggle right now, or are you ready to get up?

Sydney: Let's snuggle.

(30 seconds pass)

Sydney: Okay. I'm ready to get up now.

And so our day begins...

Friday, February 22, 2013

Profile of a sleeping beauty

Relax. I'm not revealing any shocking news. This is the ultrasound photo of Sydney.

I'd been thinking about it last week and the fact that it was six years ago on Valentine's Day that we learned Sydney was a girl.

And so when I went in to wake my sleeping beauty this morning, I couldn't help but note the similarity of the pose.

She'd actually had a half smile on her face when I first grabbed the camera, but when the pre-flash light went off, she scrunched up her expression a bit.

I went back into her room a few minutes later to see if I could get a better shot. I'll take this as a no:

At least she was more cooperative for the OB/GYN.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Belated birthday post

If the 42-year-old me could travel back in time and tell one thing to the eight-year-old me, it just might be this: don't be intimidated by boys. They're really gross and silly.

How do I know this? Because I spent an evening with AJ and four of his friends and listened to their conversations. (Never mind that this particular evening was more than 10 days ago. I just haven't had a chance to write about it. Or maybe I've been repressing the memories until now.)

For AJ's birthday, we took the boys to a Bulldogs hockey game.

L-R: Connor, AJ, Gino, Carter and Owen

Five boys can be quite loud. And hyper. They talk a lot about poop and farts and burps and other bodily fluids and functions. In fact, when you tell them they need to talk about something, they run out of topics pretty quickly.

But they love hockey, and hockey players. Never mind that AJ had just gotten the autographs of nearly the entire team at the Skate with the Bulldogs event. He wanted autographs again. And so before the game started, AJ and friends got as close to the bench as they could, where they managed to catch the attention of Coach Scott Sandelin. The coach didn't seem overly thrilled to sign autographs, but did so anyways. And who knows, if any of these five realize their dream, he'll be doing his best to recruit them in a dozen years or so.

With the warm-up period over, the players exited the ice. No time for autographs, but at least a few gave high fives.

We headed to our seats, way up high, and the boys got loud and hyper again, and told jokes that apparently are really, really funny if you're an eight-year-old boy.

During the first intermission, we bought them ice cream. And they were at last quiet.

During the second intermission, we took them to the gift shop. And they used their giant fan fingers to pretend to pick each other's noses.

The game ended in a 4-2 loss, but the boys had a blast. And we left the arena with the same number of boys as we started with. So I count that as a win.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Let's get baking

I need to bake more often. I need to get my kids baking with me more often. I don't want my husband walking through the kitchen commenting in amazement when he sees me using the really nice mixer he gave me for Christmas a few years ago, "You're making cookies? From scratch?"

I don't want my kids asking, as they watch the mixer stir together butter, sugar, brown sugar and vanilla, "Is it cookie dough yet?"

A combination of unfulfilled good intentions and poor monitoring of my kitchen cupboards has created a situation. I have a LOT of flour. Three bags of it. In addition to the nearly full Tupperware container of it. 

If you don't bake, you don't need much flour.

And so, when while grocery shopping and the kids suggested we buy some ready-to-bake cookie dough, I had a better idea.

And at the very end of a three day weekend, (very end = after hockey practice, just barely done in time to eat before bedtime) we baked. 

The chocolate chip cookie dough had to be bars because there wasn't enough time for cookies. And when it was done, AJ peered at the top and commented that they looked like the fish filets Jeff makes for dinners on the nights I work late. (They are close to the same color).

But most important, the house smelled wonderful and the bars tasted great.

AJ now knows that when measuring brown sugar, he should pack it in. And Sydney learned the opposite is true when measuring flour.

Hockey season is coming to a close in just a couple weeks. I think I have some ideas of what we'll be doing with our spare time.

Monday, February 18, 2013

This is the thanks I get

I walked into the kitchen a moment ago and saw a small spider hovering a few inches above the counter top. For those of you not familiar with my kitchen, it has high vaulted ceilings. This means that for a spider to hover in said position, it was hanging from a very long strand of web.

I watched it for a moment. (It was a very small spider. I was not scared.) It dropped another inch lower, so I commented on what I was seeing. AJ ran over to look.

Just as he arrived, the spider dropped the final distance and landed on the counter. Armed with a slipper, I was ready for it.


"Is it dead?" AJ asked.

"I think so," I peered at the now even smaller spider. Its legs had curled to its body on impact. I scooped it up with a piece of scratch paper and dumped it into the garbage.

"That's the kind of spider that carries its babies on its back," AJ informed me. He wrote a nine-sentence report on spiders for school last month, which apparently qualifies him as an expert.

"So you're saying I'm a baby spider murderer?" I asked.

"I read a book about it and it said that if it looks like a pine cone on its back, then it carries its babies there," he responded.

I wanted to know how he possibly could have seen any details on the spider's back, or even how he could tell if it was the spider's back he was seeing. But instead I asked, "So you're saying I shouldn't have killed it?"

"No. Because you don't want them mad at you."

"They're dead. It doesn't matter if they're mad at me."

AJ had no response. He walked back into the living room and resumed his play-by-play re-creation of a Wild game using his mini stick and mini goal. "Parise scores!"

But apparently no score for mom. Though I like to think it's Mom: 1, Spiders: 0.

Safe to assume I shouldn't count on my son to kill any big spiders for me. He'll be too busy assessing the critter and trying to figure out the effect its death would have on the surrounding ecosystem.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Sometimes he DOES listen

Every so often, through the little things they do, my kids show me how good they can be. Yes, they love to test and push limits. But sometimes they don't. And I am amazed.

This morning, before the alarm went off, I could hear AJ moving around in the living room. And then I heard the very quiet sounds of the XBox game.

Good. He'd thought to turn the volume down so he wouldn't wake up anyone else.

And then I heard Gus moving around. But there was no yelling. Only the relatively quiet sounds of the dog chewing on rawhide.

Good. AJ had thought to give him a treat before Gus had started chewing on any toys.

A short time later, my alarm sounded. I got up and went to say good morning, and this is what I found:

He'd even gotten dressed for Sunday School.

He'd thought through in his mind just about every reason I've ever used for telling him to turn off the game.

And so I asked him what he wanted for breakfast.

His face fell. He hadn't eaten yet.

I smiled and asked if he'd like me to make cinnamon rolls.

"Yeah, that'd be great!" was his enthusiastic reply.

He doesn't need to know I'd been planning to make them anyway. Let him think it was a reward for his good behavior.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Go Wild!

It's another busy hockey weekend, with both kids playing in a tournament. At least their games are in the same city, so we only have to travel between adjoining arenas, as opposed to multiple towns.

Last weekend we had no hockey scheduled, and so we once again found a way - for AJ's birthday - to fill it with hockey.

It was the kids first time at Xcel, and Jeff's and my first time there in a really long time. (We had no kids the last time we were there.) We got there early, which gave us plenty of time to walk around the arena

and pose for silly pictures.

It also gave Jeff time to register for various promotions. More on that later.

Our seats were in the nose bleed section, but that didn't matter to AJ.

Or to Sydney, who was more interested in playing with my phone.

There really are no bad seats in the arena. Even from as high up as we were, I was able to take some cool action shots.

AJ's favorite player is now Zach Parise. And Jeff likes Devin Setoguchi. (I suspect because he just enjoys yelling "Gooch!") Sydney declared Cal Clutterbuck is her second favorite. But if you ask her who her favorite, she'll tell you she can't remember.

I don't really have a favorite, though I do feel a certain connection to Clutterbuck. After all, the post about AJ not wanting to have his picture taken with him remains my most read blog post ever. (I'd like to pretend it was because of my brilliant writing, but I also see the stats of how many google to find his photo. And so, just in case someone's looking for another picture, here he is in action.)

The highlight of the game came during second intermission. Remember I mentioned Jeff registered for some promotions? Would you believe he got two passes for the kids to ride the Zamboni.

AJ did a great job waving to the crowd. Sydney (on the far right) was just awe.

Of course the other highlight came at the very end, when the Wild won in overtime. And "Gooch" scored the winning goal. And Jeff got to yell his name a couple more times.

Supposedly the Wild will be emailing me photos in another week, presumably a more close up shot of the kids on the Zamboni. The online request form asked which promotion they participated in and what they were wearing. I resisted the urge to fill in the blank with "Wild shirt". That would have narrowed it right down!

And the kids are already asking when we can do this again. What a great time!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Day

Have you noticed the lack of blog posts lately? Blame this:

Between preparing for the County's annual lobbying visit to the capitol, and then taking part in it, I've been more than a tad busy. But now it's all over. And life is good.

Since I knew I'd be gone Wednesday, I encouraged the kids to finish their valentine's early. Oh my goodness, that was a lot of work. 

Signing cards, inserting the tattoo stickers that go with them, taping the card to candy. It took a long, long, long time to finish.

Good thing there was extra candy that served as a nice incentive for them to finish.

Wednesday morning arrived. What a special morning. It was the morning of "Breakfast with Books", when parents are invited to come to school for a quick breakfast in the cafeteria. In theory, we're supposed to read a book to our child while we're there, but in reality, I'm just doing my best to keep my kids from spilling juice on the books that are spread across the table.

But that's not all. Besides needing to go to school with the kids, and needing to pack a bag for an overnight stay in St. Paul, Wednesday also happened to be Crazy Hat Day at school, which is somehow supposed to get kids excited about reading. (February is I Love to Read month.) It also happened to be the 100th day of school, so all the kids were supposed to bring in 100 small items to show their class. And I wanted the kids to bring their Valentines (each of them had cards, plus AJ had a "mailbox" he'd decorated) so Jeff would have one less thing to worry about on Thursday while I was gone.

We remembered all that. But forgot Sydney's gloves. Never a dull moment.

And now you know why I've had no time to blog.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Crabby birthday weekend

I could have sworn I'd posted something yesterday. And with the kids going to school two hours late due to snow, I should have had time. But some how I didn't. Have time. Or write.

And this morning is even busier.

So here's some pictures from AJ's birthday celebration at Joe's Crab Shack. I was desperate to go anywhere other than Chuck E. Cheese.

We should have gone to Chuck E. Cheese.

Clever bibs and singing servers. That's what we got. Here's AJ showing his muscles while the staff sang.

How do I know it would have been better at Chuck E. Cheese? Put it this way, the one part of the day that AJ still talking about is the "hairy buttocks" birthday card birthday card he got from my brother.

The card looks like a game of hangman on the front with "HA_ _Y B_ _T_ _ _ _" and when you open it up.... yeah... I've already given away the punchline.

How nice that "hairy buttocks" is now part of my eight year old's vocabulary. And so I think it's only appropriate to share this shot.

(It wouldn't have been funny if it weren't for Zoe's expression.)

Friday, February 8, 2013

Let's sleep for a spell

The conversation I had with Sydney way too early this morning when she woke moaning.

Me: What's wrong honey?

Sydney: (indecipherable mumbles)

Me: Shhh. It's okay.

Sydney: You (mumble, mumble) my bag.

Me: Say that again

Sydney: You forgot to pack my bag.

Me: For Madi's sleepover? I told you we'd do that after school today.

Sydney was silent for at least a minute. I'd thought she'd fallen back to sleep and was about to return to my room. But then...

Sydney: Are there any words you can't spell?

Me: Of course there are. Mostly big ones.

Sydney: Like "here"? That's a big one. It's one of my sight words

Me: I know how to spell "here". Do you remember how?

Sydney: I can't remember.

Me: It's H-E-R-E.

Sydney: H-E-R-E. (pause) I know how to spell "to". T-O. That's easy peasy.

Me: Good. Now can you go back to sleep?

Sydney: I just want to snuggle.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

When fear gives way to excitement

Three of the four people in my family love eating at hibachi grill-style restaurants. The other person gets a little spooked when the cook pours oil on the grill and lights it on fire.

But she's getting better. She's gone from running and crying across the restaurant, to cowering in fear behind my chair, to now being brave enough to peak around Daddy and see that it's all okay.

Throw in free chopsticks, and suddenly this might be her choice when we let her pick the restaurant she wants to eat at on her birthday. Never mind that she had the most success when she used the chopsticks to stab the meat.

Daddy did his best to offer instruction, but the tip about holding one stick like a pencil doesn't work so well on a child who still struggles to hold a pencil correctly.

This post really should be about AJ, because it was for his birthday and by his choice that we were eating at Osaka's. It was just hard to get good pictures of him because I was sitting right next to him. We let him pick whatever he wanted from the menu, and he chose chicken and lobster. But what he really wanted - and was the reason he picked this location for his birthday - was the treat at the end.

The lights rotate and a disco version of Happy Birthday to You plays throughout the entire restaurant as the server bring some sort of dough wrapped ice cream to the birthday boy.

Everybody around our grill sang and AJ got really embarrassed. But I know he loved every minute of it.

The tough part is, now I have to try and figure out somewhere else to pick for my birthday.