Sunday, March 31, 2013

Easter break

It's been 10 days since I last wrote. I think that's the longest I've gone without blogging since I started nearly five years ago. Time flies when you're having fun.

I've been on vacation y'all. Deep in the heart of Texas. I had the best of intentions to write while we were there - even brought the laptop with me. But we were so busy having fun that I never found time to write.

And now we're back, and the reality of everyday life is smacking me in the face - catching up on laundry and vacuuming and grocery shopping, plus emptying backpacks and bags stuffed with seashells and other souvenir treasures so that tomorrow they can return to normal use going to school and work.

Of course, we also made time for the more fun parts of normal life. Like the Easter Bunny. Sydney wrote a note for the furry guy before she went to bed Saturday night. It read "Dear Easter Bunny, happy Easter."

Must have done the trick because the kids woke this morning to baskets full of goodies.

And then they were off: the annual mad scramble in search of candy-filled eggs.

Jeff did the honors this year of hiding the eggs - probably a good thing because I guess the Easter bunny was getting in a bit of a rut, always putting eggs in the same spots, which made them way to easy to find.

This time around, the kids had to look high and low to find some of the more cleverly hidden eggs.

When they were done, even before they opened the plastic eggs to see what was inside, AJ had to count to see who'd gotten the most. Much to his dismay, the crown has been passed. He got beat by his little sister.

Reality can be a tough pill to swallow. Luckily it's still pretty sweet when chocolate and jelly beans are involved. And when taken with a dose of perspective of how blessed we are to have been able to spend a week on vacation.

Pictures to come...

Happy Easter to all. He is risen!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Don't judge a book...

I had a chance to look through some used books yesterday and pick one up for each of my kids. The pile included two classics (in my opinion, anyway) from my childhood, and so I was excited to bring them home and share them with the kids.

For AJ, it was a book I remember my third grade teacher reading to the class: How to eat fried worms. Quite honestly, I don't really remember how the plot went, but I remember that I loved it.

For Sydney, I found the book Madeline. Again, it's been so many years since I read it (and no, we haven't rented the movie version) that I don't recall what it's about. But I know I checked it out numerous times from the library as a child.

I presented the kids with the books. AJ got his first. He grinned at the title.

And then I pulled out Sydney's book. I'd barely announced the title when AJ grabbed it, "Oh, I love that book!"

At bedtime, he volunteered to read it to Sydney.

Sydney appreciated it, but was nowhere near as excited as her brother. Maybe I could introduce her to How to eat fried worms.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Happy first day of spring

Spring is here! Spring is here! After a long, cold winter, I'm so happy for spring.

Just don't look outside the window. Or at the thermometer.

It's 3 degrees this morning.

I'm pretty sure Sydney is the only one who still likes the snow. Here she is a few nights ago, giving demonstrations and instructions of the fun you can have in the snow. Like playing leapfrog with a snowman. And catching snowflakes on your tongue.

I'd rather it be spring. Real spring.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Wild game memories

Wrapping up some old memories here...

Last month, we took the kids to their first Wild game, and through amazing lucky - or at least lucky timing - the kids got to ride on one of the Zambonis during the second intermission. The Wild's promotions staff promised to send us photos, which they did (much more promptly than I posted them here.)

I was reminded of this fun night while reviewing some of AJ's recent school work. AJ described this assignment as: "We were supposed to write about something that was special in our life."

Click on the image and it should enlarge enough to be readable.

Here are two other shots, courtesy of the Wild.  Sydney seems a bit nervous about the whole thing.

AJ, meanwhile, embraced the opportunity and made the most of it.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Irish pancakes

When you're a Swede living in a town full of Finns, it's easy to be caught off guard when your child asks, "Why don't we ever celebrate St. Patrick's Day?"

"Because we're not Irish," was my quick response.

"But Dad said one of his grandmas was Irish," AJ insisted.

Jeff wasn't home to verify, but AJ isn't the type to make up something like that, so I went with it. "Then I guess you're a little bit Irish. How do you celebrate St. Patrick's Day?"

"Maybe go to a movie, or to Adventure Zone," AJ suggested. I think he recognized that I wasn't jumping on board for any of his ideas, and so he added, "Mrs. Harms made green pancakes for us at school."

Never mind that we'd already had breakfast before church, and that it was close to lunchtime. This was an idea I could do!

"I can make green pancakes," I said. "It'll be like lunch brunch." (That's what they call it at school when the lunch menu is pancakes and hashbrowns. It's AJ's favorite.)

I whipped up a batch of pancake batter, then added some green food coloring. AJ first wanted a really big pancake, which I made for him, but then I had a better idea. Something even better for St. Patrick's Day!

Sydney got the first one.

That's right. Three small pancakes, layered to look like a shamrock. Never mind that one ended up rather oval-shaped. I trimmed off the oblong part and used it as a stem. (The banana slices were supposed to be shaped like a shamrock, too, but didn't work as well.)

When AJ saw what his sister got, he wanted some, too. And so I made him a shamrock of his own. Which he ate. And then he wanted another. And he ate that, too.

 It's a good thing Jeff wasn't home, or we'd have run out of pancake batter. I suspect someone's having a growth spurt. At least it gives me a reason to tell AJ he can't pull pranks like a leprechaun. He's already too tall to be one.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

A trophy changes everything

The hockey season really is over now. The jerseys have been turned in and, in fact, the clean out process starts today at the hockey shack. It'll be torn down in the coming weeks to make way for a new one next year.

The other final wrap-up detail? The end-of-season party. That was Thursday night at the Heritage hockey rink. It included an hour of open skating, which the kids made the most of.

There was a lot of skating, but very little actual hockey. Sydney's favorite part? When one of her coaches started a conga line.

This woman is a superhero, pulling this many kids on skates.

Sydney was having so much fun that when Champ the Bulldog mascot came out on the ice, Sydney decided to stay with Coach Jill.

And where was AJ all this time? Mock fighting with his buddy Gino. Because if you can't "drop gloves" with you friends, who can you do it with?

Every so often, an adult would skate over to see what was the trouble. And then they'd skate away rolling their eyes and grinning.

AJ had the advantage, because he was wearing all his pads.

After the skating time, the kids ate pizza. And then it came time for awards. The coaches said a few words, and then handed out trophies and goody bags to each of the kids.

For Sydney, it was her first trophy ever. And it was a big deal. The child who's been saying for the last month that she doesn't want to play hockey anymore, who would have quit at the beginning of February except that she didn't want to be called a quitter, who's been saying she wants to be in Girl Scouts and dance, after baseball and soccer, who wants to do everything but hockey... has now had a change of heart.

A week and a half break from hockey practice, followed by an hour of fun skating with friends, topped off with her very own trophy... that's all it took. But I suspect it was mostly the trophy. Sydney walked back to where I was sitting, proudly clutching her award. She crawled into my lap and whispered, "Can I play hockey again next year?"

And just as I told her each time during the last month when she said she didn't want to play anymore, I answered, "Let's just wait until fall and see what you want to do then."

Two last pictures that illustrate the difference between five year olds and eight year olds. Here's Sydney's team posing with Champ.

And here's AJ's team:

And now I'm going to enjoy a hockey free weekend. Except... oh that's right... now it's Jeff's turn to play in a tournament.

It really never ends.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The problem with discipline

For the rest of his life, I can't help but wonder if my son will have an aversion to the color yellow. Yellow, when you're in elementary school, represents trouble. As in, everyone starts out the day on green. But if you get in trouble, your color switches to yellow. There is nothing about school that is scarier for AJ than the fear of getting a color change.

Unfortunately, it's been happening more and more often lately. He's not getting in any kind of serious trouble. To get a color change to yellow is basically the equivalent of the teacher raising her voice. It's nothing we would even be notified about (that doesn't happen until the color changes from yellow to blue) except that AJ dutifully tells us each time because we've also instilled great fear in him of what will happen if we ever find out that he didn't tell us when he's done something wrong.

Typically, AJ has averaged about one color change per month. But in just the last two weeks, he's had three - for things like not paying attention, talking when the teacher talks and not being quiet fast enough. I think. Because this, again, is how AJ has relayed the stories to us.

After the second color change, we decided to try something we'd learned in a recent Sunday School class that focused on discipline. We told him the color changes were not okay, and we asked him what he thought the punishment should be if he got another one. He suggested taking away his new iPod for a week. Okay.

The very next day, AJ tearfully informed us he'd gotten yet another color change.

Away went the iPod. In addition, Jeff suggested AJ write a list for his teacher of five ways he can avoid getting another color change. Here's what he wrote:

Meanwhile, I emailed the teacher and asked if the increase in color changes means his behavior is getting worse, or if she's increasing expectations as the year progresses.

It's the latter. She went on to write:

Alex simply does have a challenge staying focused. Not because he is acting out in a negative way, he just seems to need my assistance to keep him on task.  He likes to talk!! He has wonderful things to share! He easily gets distracted by what others are doing...and with all of that, he has a hard time staying on track himself. However, I truly believe he is trying to do better!

Oh dear! She could be describing me. How am I supposed to discipline my child for lack of discipline, when I'm guilty of the same?

Doesn't it just figure? AJ gets his height and athletic ability from his father. His crazy hair from my father. His taste buds from... I honestly can't figure that one out. And what part of me managed to latch on to his DNA chain? My chattiness.

The poor kid.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Bowling for birthdays

Bowling has always been a bit of a challenge for me. But I didn't realize, until I went to a birthday party with Sydney for her friend Celia, that bowling is filled with additional challenges that I'd never thought about.

Like how hard it can be to wait your turn when there are ten girls and only two lanes.

Figuring out how to fit your fingers and thumb in the whole also can be tough. Thank goodness for friends who can show you what to do.

Finally, it's Sydney's turn to bowl!

Of course, my biggest challenge - avoiding the gutter - wasn't even an issue. Guards on the edge of the lanes guaranteed the ball would stay in the lane. So the big question, each time Sydney threw the ball, was - will it actually make it to the pins, or will it run out of momentum half way there?

Attention spans were short, so none of the girls actually finished the game. It's not that they weren't having fun. Sydney's already asking to go back. It's just the promise of pizza, cupcakes, and arcade tokens, proved far more exciting.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Seasons change. Sew what?

This starts out as one of those "Only in Minnesota..." kind of stories. Less than 48 hours after six inches of heavy, wet snow descended upon us, AJ is gearing up for the start of baseball.

Practice is inside, of course. But we have to start some time. If we waited for decent weather, we'd miss two thirds of the season.

AJ insists that hockey is still his favorite sport, but he's pretty excited to finally get to try out the batting gloves  he'd asked Santa for.

Technically, practice for his age group doesn't start for two more months. But there's a week-long baseball "camp" at school for older kids, which Jeff is helping coach. One of the other coaches also has a son AJ's age, so they decided to let the two boys come along and partner up on the drills.

AJ dressed himself in his Joe Mauer jersey and new baseball pants.

I noticed the buttons were off and commented, "You missed a button."

"No," AJ said, pointing to a button at the bottom of the row, "I'm missing a hole."

"That's a spare button that they give you," I explained. "When you get home tonight, I'll cut it off from down there and sew it in place of the missing one."

"You can sew?"

Jeff couldn't resist chiming in. "She could at least hot glue it for you."

What did I do to deserve a family of comedians?

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Another six inches of snow

If you have to put up with a winter storm, this is the best kind to have: on a weekend, when you don't have to go anywhere; in March so you know it will melt fairly soon; and involving snow that is wet and sticky.

Making it perfect for snowmen.

And snow forts.

And snowball fights.

Jeff was the only one strong enough to move the larger snow chunks that became the base and middle of the snowmen. That meant it was up to the kids to find ways to decorate their sculptures.

AJ broke off twigs from the scrub brush that lines the yard, to serve as snowmen arms. And then Gus would grab them and run in hopes that AJ would chase him.

AJ would get more twigs, and the game continued.

Sydney ran into the house in search of carrots and other edible items that could serve as eyes, nose and mouth. Some baby carrots and beyond-ripe strawberries did the trick.

With a few carrots left, Sydney decided to create her own "baby" snowman. She named it Frosty. Such an original name for a snowman!

With the snow still falling while we played, we were all soaked by the time we finally came inside.

But it was totally worth it!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

This is what Road Runner Sports thinks is customer care?

Every so often I like to imagine what I'll do to keep busy post-retirement. Jeff wants to perform at Sea World as the Scurvy Pirate Mime. As for me, I think I'll write complaint letters, calling out companies when their customer service is really bad.

Here's what made me think of this. For my birthday, Jeff ordered a Bosu ball online and paid extra in shipping to make sure it arrived in time. Alas, a full week - and my birthday - passed without delivery of the gift. The day after my birthday, Amazon emailed:

We're writing about the marketplace order you placed on 2/18/2013 with Road Runner Sports. Unfortunately, Road Runner Sports has not confirmed the shipment of this order, and we are not able to provide you with shipment details yet.

We quickly replied:

I paid for 2-day shipping in order to receive this in time for my wife's birthday, which has now passed. I would like a refund for the extra money I paid for express shipping, and would like to know when I can expect this.
Very disappointed!

About an hour later, another email from Amazon:

Your order of "Bosu Balance Trainer Home..." has shipped!‏

The next day, Road Runner Sports actually sent us this ridiculous response:

Hi Jeff, 

Thank you for your e-mail. 

I apologize for the delay in shipping your birthday gift out and we if we ruined such event. You deserve to know that the item you ordered was on backorder which is why it did not ship out until the 25th. 

Unfortunately, I will not be able to personally refund you for the extra shipping fee you paid for. Feel great knowing that you can contact Amazon directly at, 866-216-1072. 

I hope that this was helpful! 

If you or your running buddies ever need anything, please don't hesitate to contact a Fit Expert at 1-800-662-8896 for immediate personalized care, as we are here for you at the drop of a dime! 

Have a FEEL GREAT day! 


Ricky S. 
Customer Care Specialist 

I could not resist, and so responded:

Dear Ricky S:

Thank you for your response. I see by your signature that you are a Customer Care Specialist. Do you or anyone at your company understand what Customer Care means?

My husband placed his order with your company on February 18. An entire week passed, without any notice from your company that this item was on back order. Then, on February 25, the following communications occurred:
7 p.m. Amazon sends us an email saying the order still hasn't shipped.
7:12 p.m. We respond, expressing our disappointment
8:23 p.m. We receive a second email saying the item has suddenly shipped. 

And we're supposed to believe this is a coincidence?

And now you send a poorly worded apology, deliver no customer care, and end it with a request that I tell my running buddies to contact you for immediate personalized care? Seriously? I can assure you, my husband and I are more than eager to tell our running and fitness buddies, as well as all of our social media contacts, all about the pathetic experience we've had with Road Runner Sports.

You be sure to have a FEEL GREAT day, too!


Dana Kazel

To his/her credit, Ricky S. wrote back a few hours later:

Hi Dana,

Thank you very much for your response.

Dana, I apologize for such an inconvenience that this has been for you and your husband. You deserve to know that we are a separate company from Amazon and Amazon was the one who took your payment and not us, thus I had advised of you to contact Amazon directly so they may issue the refund for your shipping.

I feel awful for such a bad experience that you've had with us and I implore you to give us another shot; you won't be disappointed! You will be thrilled to know that I have taken it upon myself to contact Amazon directly and they have made the exception to offer a refund through speaking with a representative (myself.) Please allow 1-2 weeks before the payment is posted back on your account.

Dana, feel great knowing that we as a company (Road Runner Sports) strive for the best customer service experience. We offer many amenities in which you as a customer will surely benefit from. Feel free to review our VIP membership program below.

Shall you decide to shop with us and give us a chance, please just reference this e-mail to us and we will be happy to honor an additional 15% off on top of your VIP discount (10% if you sign up.) That's a total of, 25% off plus free shipping!!!

I hope that this was helpful and again, we apologize for any inconvenience.

If you or your running buddies ever need anything, please don't hesitate to contact a Fit Expert at 1-800-662-8896 for immediate personalized care, as we are here for you at the drop of a dime!

Have a FEEL GREAT day!


Ricky S.
Customer Care Specialist

I suppose I could write back and thank Ricky S. for finally doing his/her job, but this person really doesn't get it. It's not Amazon's fault, it's Road Runner Sports' fault.

Thankfully, the story does have a happy ending. My Bosu Ball has arrived and the kids are having a great time with it. 

(Yes, I've worked out with it, too. You just won't be seeing photos of that.) Even better, Amazon refunded us not only the extra shipping cost, but the entire shipping cost.

And I did finally have a FEEL GREAT day. Because guess what else Amazon sent me - an invitation to take an online survey:

Hi Dana, will you please take a minute to share your experience?

Why, yes, I'd be more than happy to!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Snow fun

Who needs hockey for winter fun when Mother Nature delivers five and a half inches of new, fluffy snow?

My silly children thought it'd be funny to throw snowballs at Mom while she shoveled the sidewalk.

Coincidentally, AJ tripped soon after that and landed in a snowbank.

As he laid in the snow laughing, he came up with the brilliant idea that it would be fun to be buried in snow, like he'd done with leaves last fall. His sister was happy to help him with that.

As he laid their grinning with his eyes closed, I only had to comment, "Sydney, is that yellow snow you're throwing on him?" (It wasn't)

And suddenly he couldn't get up fast enough.

As AJ attempted to scramble to his feet, Gus was right there, wanting to play tug-of-war with AJ's gloves.

As tired as I am of winter, I have to say this is the best kind of snow. It's light and easy to shovel, and even faster to melt.