Monday, July 29, 2013

Belly up

We are once again a fishless household. 

After unexpectedly becoming the owners of seven goldfish two weeks ago, and then watching our pet goldfish population dwindle to just three within the first day and a half, the final few fish seemed to be holding their own. The kids still checked for floaters every time they walked through the kitchen, but no longer seemed surprised to find them all still swimming.

A full week passed before another one decided to go belly up. And then, another week of no news is good news. Those last two fish seemed to be doing so well. I don't know how exactly one determines whether or not a fish is doing well. But they were still alive long after their fellow county fair prizes had been flushed. And so in my book, that qualifies these two as true survivors.

And then, Friday morning:

How does that happen? These were the hardy ones. I don't know if they outwitted or outplayed the other fish, but they'd definitely outlasted them. And then, in one night, both of them went belly up. Maybe it was a suicide pact or murder/suicide. Maybe they were so deeply in love that flipped on its side, the other soon died of a broken heart.

I'd like to be able to say they'll spend eternity together because they were flushed at the same time. But because nothing can be easy,it turns out one of the children (I know which one, but won't name names to avoid future embarrassment) had recently used WAY too much toilet paper during a bathroom visit. Which meant the fish didn't exactly flush clean away until after a plunger was involved. There's just no dignity in death.

The kids don't seem to mind. AJ, sensitive kid that he is, wondered if he could use the fish as bait. 

We'd already promised to get more fish once we return from vacation. So I guess this is just the end of chapter one. Stay tuned. Though I suspect it won't be a particularly long book.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Running in reality

In my mind, I envisioned cheering on the kids as they ran in a quarter-mile fun run last Friday night, after which I would run the Park Point five miler, and then Jeff would take a wonderful photo of us all smiling at the finish line. Maybe a photo to replace the one on this page. What a happy, healthy family we are!


In reality, Jeff and the kids got stuck in traffic and totally missed the kid races. By the time they got to Park Point, the road had been blocked off for the race, so the best they could do was stand at the turn-around point. And this is the only picture Jeff took.

The picture in my mind was so much better!

In my imagination, it was also much, much cooler.

The forecast was for temperatures in the mid 70s. I can handle that. I remember telling Jeff on the morning of the race that if it was any hotter than that, I'd skip it. I don't need another race t-shirt that badly that it's worth running in high heat. 

But then I spent all day at work mentally preparing myself to run. And so, when I stepped outside at 4:30 p.m. and discovered it was 85 degrees, I couldn't back down. I drove to the race, doing my best to get there before the 5 p.m. cut off for registration. Silly me. I could have gotten there an hour later and still had plenty of time.

When the race finally started at 6:30, it was still really hot. I carried a small water bottle with me, and drank it all by the half way point. As I approached the turn-around spot, I saw Jeff and the kids. AJ was cheering on the runners. Sydney was sitting on a lawnchair, immersed in a game on her iPod. I had to call her name to get her to look up.

I tossed the empty water bottle to Jeff and kept running. Thank goodness the nice people who live along the race course turned on their sprinklers for us. The last mile was brutal. Probably because I thought I'd reached it much sooner, so to be nearing the end (again, in my mind) and then hear a timekeeper holler out "four miles", it's a bit of a downer.

My chip time was 43:39, which for me - especially in that heat - is phenomenal. Too bad it'll never show up if you google my name. Dana Kapel, however, had a great race.

Getting off Park Point became the next challenge. Because there's just one road, and people are running on it, no one can leave until everybody finishes. And then, everybody has to stop at the one stop sign along the road. And then, just when you think you're home free... the lift bridge goes up. I was within two block of beating it. Instead, I got to wait, along with a couple hundred other sweaty, stinky runners, for 21 minutes before the ship even reached the bridge, and then another seven minutes before the bridge went back down.

To the bridge operator, you are not my friend.

To the guy at the four mile mark, I'm not liking you much either.

To the person who couldn't type my name correctly, how do mistake a z for a p? Those keys are on opposite ends of the keyboard, so you can't even blame it as a typo.

But that Dana Kapel... she seems like someone I'd like to run with. I might not be able to keep up, but I'm sure I look better than her when I run. I can see it clearly in my mind.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The bats weren't hot, but everything else sure was

The Minnesota Twins won their game last Friday. And last Saturday. And on Monday. But sandwiched in between those victories was a rather awful 7-1 defeat on Sunday.

And which of those four games did we attend? You guessed it.

The Twins weren't the worst ball players on the field that day. At least not during warm-ups when a whole lot of mascots played in a game of their own.

The game finally started, and I was thinking we'd lucked out. The weather seemed perfect - sunny skies and not too hot. 

We had great seats - just three rows back from the warning track in the right field.

But then, sometime during the second inning, the earth rotated just enough that we were no long sitting in the shade. And with the sun beating down on us and no breeze, it was brutal.

Sydney and I spent much of the game walking around the stadium, which really wasn't so bad because at least then we were in the shade. 

We were trailing by five or six runs by the eighth inning. Despite the lopsided score, AJ didn't lose hope. Rally cap time! As an added bonus, most of our section had long since gone home, which meant he could now stand in the front row.

We stayed until the bitter end. Not because we were expecting a miraculous turn-around, but because I'd read that on Sundays kids could go down on the field and run the bases after the game. 

While waiting their turn to run, AJ noticed the relatively short wall along the first base line. If I'd angled this shot a little better so that you couldn't see the ground, this would have looked so impressive!

At last it was their turn. They set off together, starting from first base.

By second base, AJ was in his own world, totally forgetting he had a sister.

Sydney didn't seem to mind. Experienced ball player that she is, she knew what direction to run.

I'm pretty sure the run around the bases ended up being the highpoint of the day. At least for AJ. Sydney got mini-donuts at the ballpark, and it's really hard to compete with that in her estimation.

Hot as it was, we all had fun. And AJ, of course, is already asking when we can go again.

Friday, July 19, 2013

The things they say

What is up with kids these days? Mine are saying things to me that I could never have imagined saying to my parents. Not that I was a perfect child - well, actually I was until the age of four. Ask my mom. She'll tell you - but seriously. They're saying things like, "Don't post that picture on Facebook, Mom." And (imagine in a voice filled with dread), "You're going to put that on the blog, aren't you?"

It's really cramping my style and limiting my stories.

But I'm happy to report that AJ not only approved the posting of the following two pictures, he requested that I show them off.

Another successful fishing expedition:

Celebrating with "real Bulldogs" following a hockey camp at UMD:

On a somewhat related note (at least to my way of thinking), this past Sunday marked a bittersweet milestone for AJ and me. In church, when the pastor invited the kids to come up for the children's sermon, AJ stayed behind. For the last 4-5 years I've held my breath and prayed each time he went up there, hoping he wouldn't say or do anything too embarrassing, but taking comfort in knowing it'd be good blog material if he did.

And now he's too grown up for that, too.


Monday, July 15, 2013

A new hockey experience

As a hockey mom, after what - four years? Is that how long AJ's been playing? - I figure I've got a pretty good idea of how this all works. No, I still don't know recognize what icing is until I hear the whistle blow and see dads slapping their foreheads in frustration. But the intense schedule, the freezing cold Saturday morning games in January and February, the shock to the system of going from 80 degrees outside into chilly indoor arena temperatures in July - I've been there, done that.

Even the challenge of coordinating work schedules with Jeff so that one of us could get AJ to the Bulldog hockey camp and the other would pick him up - we know the drill.

But something new happened today. Something I've joked about with fellow moms of Mite 1 and Mite 2 players. Something I didn't see coming until long after practice had ended.

As mentioned, AJ is skating in a hockey camp this week that features players and coaches from the UMD Bulldogs. To say he's excited to be on the same ice as these players he so idolizes is an understatement. (Even if he can't remember their names. I recognized a few from a Skate With the Bulldogs event we went to last winter - too bad I didn't figure out their names back then, either.)

The kids were divided into small groups that rotated through different stations, each focusing on a different skill. I showed up just in time to see AJ practice some fancy footwork skating/high stepping over a bunch of hockey sticks.

For the grand finale, the kids lined up for some sort of bombardment game.

AJ and his fellow Esko team mate, Earo, immediately headed for the far side of the rink. Clearly, they've played this game before. Because when the whistle blew and all the kids started racing toward the other end of the rink while the Bulldog players threw gloves at them, AJ and Earo skated under the radar and reached the other side safely. (In the below photo, AJ's approaching the red line on the far side of the rink.)

Yes, these two knew what they were doing. With some luck and a few good dodges, AJ was third to last to get hit. He was pretty proud.

And then practice was over and it was back to the reality of being an eight year old. After his morning of glory skating with "real Bulldogs", I dropped AJ off. At daycare.

When I got home from work tonight, I pulled AJ's hockey bag out of the trunk of my car. And that's when I was struck with a new reality that comes with being a hockey mom. A new reality that's only going to get much, much worse as he gets older. A very stinky reality.

Because when I pulled out his still-damp gear, which had been sitting in my car all day in 80-degree temps with high humidity, it smelled. Really, really bad.

I'm trying to think of a clever way to end this. But I'm coming up empty.

Stinky gear is now draped across my kitchen table and chairs. And it's only going to get worse.


On a brighter, unrelated note, I am very happy to announce that we have had no fish casualties in the last 24 hours. The three remaining goldfish are still swimming, but now their bowl is filled with fresh, clean water. (Though the bowl is sitting on the same kitchen table as AJ's hockey gear.) Hopefully they won't be overcome by the smell.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

And then there were three

Let us all pause for a moment of silence, in memory of Stu, Momo, George and the other non-orange fish. In a span of 24 hours, our fish population has dropped from seven to just three.

When the first one was found floating Saturday afternoon, AJ almost started to cry. "Not George," his voice cracked with despair.

Thinking quickly, I bluffed, "I don't think that was George. That one looks like Stu."

AJ instantly cheered up. Apparently Stu was more expendable than George.

Sydney was in denial, "He can't be dead," she insisted. "His eyes are still open."

AJ did his best to comfort her, explaining that Stu is now "in a better place." By "better place", he must mean somewhere between the bar screens and grit tanks at the Western Lake Superior Sanitary District. Stu has been flushed.

Around 8 p.m., Momo followed him down the drain. By bedtime, another of the grey fish appeared to be floundering, and by morning, it and the other grey one were both belly up.

There was no denying it now, George was a goner. At least AJ was more accepting of it this time. He even took care of the scooping and flushing.

We've added water and cut the amount of food we're giving the fish, in hopes the water will clear a bit. According to the starter kit's instructions, we should only have to change the water once a week, but it's already pretty cloudy.

The kids no longer seem to have high expectations for these pets. After church, after playing outside and after shopping today, the first thing they did when returning home was head to the fishbowl to check for new casualties.

The orange ones must be a little heartier of a breed.The kids have given two of them new names. They're sticking with Josh for one of them. The others are now Stuart (named in honor of Stu, perhaps?) and Shiney.

I wish them all the best of luck. To quote Dory (even though none of the fish now bear her name) from the movie Nemo: Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

This is why county fairs should be avoided

It all started so innocently. Our teenage babysitter sent me a text Friday asking if it'd be okay for her and her parents to take the kids to the South St. Louis County Fair "and just walk around and do what they want".

"Sure thing," I responded. "Have fun."

My mistake. I should have focused less on the "just walk around" part and more on the "do what they want".

Because a couple hours later I received the following photo and message from her parents: "Sorry guys.....but just added a few more residents in your house."

Oh. Boy.

I responded asking if the fine print on the bag listed instructions on what to feed them. Here's the conversation from there:

When I got home from work, the kids were - as I knew they'd be - beyond excited. The fish were swimming in a big plastic bowl on our porch, to which the kids had added some rocks from the garden and a few pieces of grass. Not a good long term solution. And so, after dinner, we headed to the store and purchased a one gallon starter kit.

There are actually seven fish in all. After great debate on what to name them, the kids finally agreed on: Dory, Ducky, Momo, Josh, George, Stu and Goldy. Rejected names included Jack, Jacques, Shiney, Nemo and Pity (don't ask me where Sydney came up with that last one, but when I suggested that whichever fish died first would get that name, she dropped it.)

The story keeps changing on how exactly we acquired these fish. As suggested in the text, it was because of AJ's remarkable aim at a game, which I later learned involved bouncing ping pong balls into a cup. Supposedly they thought they were going to win a giant stuffed animal, but then the vendor pulled a bait and switch, literally, and presented us with bait.

Then, this morning, as AJ was again absorbing the wonder of the situation, he mentioned a new detail. "This is so cool. We have new pets and it's because of me. Well, Ellie (the babysitter)'s boyfriend helped. He threw some of the balls."

"What?" I jumped on that. "So shouldn't he have gotten some of the fish, too?"

"No, he really wanted me to have them."

I'm sure he did.

Of course, AJ's reasons for excitement continue to change, too. With lightning speed, he switched from proud pet owner to proclaim, "I could fish in here any time I want."

This will be an experience.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

And now AJ's baseball season is over, except not really

The light at the end of the tunnel was burning brightly. Four days a week at the ball park were about to come to an end. Sydney wrapped up her season last night. AJ's last game was earlier tonight.

We were supposed to now have several glorious weeks of nothing (if you don't count one night a week at hockey) until the start of soccer.

And then, just like that, the light was snuffed out.

Two more weeks of practices and scrimmages have been tacked on to AJ's schedule. It's meant to help prepare the kids who will be moving up next year to the next league.

AJ, of course, is thrilled. He played well tonight. He hit a double, a single and a triple. (Below is a shot of him hitting his double.)

With the triple, I could hear him as he ran toward third, pleading with the coach, "Please let me keep going. Please let me keep going." (The coach, wisely, made him stop.)

AJ's typical intensity carried over into the field. He played first base for the first half of the game.

And then got to finish as catcher.

And then it was time for the most fun of all. The final team cheer, plus popsicles and medals.

The kids graciously humored the parents who wanted to take pictures. And then AJ just couldn't control himself any longer. 

It was time.

Time to douse the coaches.

They don't have giant jugs of gatorade at this level, and so they used the next best thing: their water bottles. How much fun was AJ having?

Let's zoom in for a closer look at his facial expression. What do you think?

I'm not sure how to accurately describe Sydney's involvement with the team. She's not exactly a cheerleader, because she's ignored most of the games while playing on the playground. But she's always there at the end to congratulate her brother. I'm sure it has nothing to do with the fact there are always treats at the end of the game and usually there are enough extras to cover the players' siblings.

But Sydney and her friend Elizabeth have been loyal enough fans to receive the two leftover medals.

And now we get to continue the fun for two more weeks. As long as the weather is nice, I don't really mind. And as long as there are treats after each practice, I know some other people who probably won't mind either.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Sydney played baseball this year. Really, she did.

It's tough being the second child. You work hard and accomplish a lot. But just because your mom's already been blogging about your big brother's baseball games for three or four years, she's just not watching as closely, taking as many pictures, or writing about it.

And then, just like that, the season is over and you're waving goodbye to your rookie year.

Sydney played quite well this year. She's better at baseball than she is at soccer or hockey. Probably because she actually tried to play baseball, as opposed to simply being in the middle of the action and cheering on her team mates, which is what she tended to do in those other sports.

She seems to like playing baseball. She went into the season full of self confidence, proclaiming - after practicing a lot with her dad and brother - that she just might be the best one on her team.

One evening in particular made me proud. When it's Sydney's team's turn to take the field, the kids are split into two groups. Half the kids play in the game, while the rest go to a side field and practice. It's safer that way, because too many kids in the infield all diving for the ball at the same time can result in injury. But at this particular game, there was no danger of that happening, because Sydney was the only one chasing the ball. No matter where it was hit. All the other kids stood on their assigned bases while Sydney chased down ball after ball, running with it a bit before lobbing it the best she could toward first base.

Meanwhile, tonight, her bat was on fire. She hit the coach's pitch every time. No T needed for her!

When the game ended, I reminded her to tell her coaches thanks for a great year. And she did exactly that. She walked up to the main coach and repeated exactly what I'd said, "Coach, thanks for a great year!" She then approached the assistant coach, modifying her line just a bit, "Coach, thank you for letting me have a great year."

The assistant coach responded by confirming that indeed she'd had a great year. He then asked if she was going to play again next year.

With a coy grin and a sing-song voice she answered, "We'll see."

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Go fish

AJ has always seemed to live by the motto that anything worth doing is worth doing well. No halfway efforts for him. If he likes something, he pursues it. Full speed ahead.

So I guess I shouldn't be surprised that his latest interest has reached the level of near obsession. He's hooked! All my boy wants to do is fish. And then fish some more. And then when he's done, hey, can we go fishing again?

It seems to have started a week ago Monday. While spending the day with his friend Noah, they went fishing at Chub Lake.

And AJ caught a fish. Having once worked at an Aquarium that celebrates freshwater creatures, I probably should be able to recognize what kind of fish this is - maybe a sunny or a crappie? AJ's no help. He guessed the same thing.

But no matter on the name, especially since it was too small to keep. The fact that it chose to nibble on AJ's hook was more than enough to launch this angling addiction. 

The next day, AJ convinced our neighbor Patty, who was babysitting, to take him fishing in the river behind our house. Again, success. (Though I'm trying not to notice that AJ hadn't bothered to change clothes since the previous day.)

This time it was a small mouth bass, he thinks. "I know it because it looks exactly like one I saw on a poster," AJ insisted. "Plus Patty told me that's what she thinks it is."

He was forced to take a break Wednesday, much to his dismay. But made up for it the next day. No sooner had we returned home from the fourth of July parade, and AJ was asking to return to the river. Jeff went with him, but the fish weren't biting. The 80+ degree temperatures and bright sun might have had something to do with it.

Later in the day, we visited Grandpa Bill and Grandma Jo for dinner. Guess what AJ wanted to do?

Again, no luck. (Unless you count the three boats he managed to snag when he cast his line across several docks.)

Friday, he was invited to spend the weekend with his friend Gino at a cabin on Island Lake. Here's a shocker: AJ wanted to go fishing. They managed to catch a northern pike, which AJ has now decided is his favorite kind of fish to catch. Most likely because it was his biggest fish to date.

He returned home Sunday afternoon, allowing just enough time to - oh hey, why don't we go fishing?

As luck would have it, I don't have a fishing license, which means Jeff gets to be the one supervising while being eaten alive by mosquitoes. AJ hasn't complained yet, probably because he's still happy with the novelty of it all. But I'm waiting for him to notice and question why he always seems to catch fish with other people, but has yet to catch a fish with dad.

Yeah, Dad, why is that? I'm sure Jeff will have a good answer, but until then, who cares? Let's just go fishing.

P.S A big thank you to Sarah, Patty and Michelle for taking and sharing photos, and for enabling my son's fishing habit.

Monday, July 8, 2013

The (no longer) missing tooth

Nothing says "I'm a big girl" quite like a gap-toothed grin.

It was with a squeal of delight Saturday that Sydney announced she'd reached this oh-so-important milestone in her journey to being big.


She was a blur of excited motion. Sydney ran into the room to show me how much she could wiggle one of her bottom teeth from side to side. Quite honestly, as loose as the tooth was, I'm amazed she hadn't noticed sooner. And then she was off again, running through the house in search of Jeff, pumping her fist in victory, "YES!" Minutes later, I could still hear her talking to herself, her voice filled with awe, "I have a loose tooth."

This moment. This accomplishment. It needed to be more than just savored now, it needed to be captured and remembered for all time. And Sydney knew just how to do it.

She grabbed her new diary and came into the office where I'd been working on the computer. But there was one small problem.

"Mom, if I tell you one of my secrets in my diary, will you help me right in it?" 

She wanted to write "I have a loose tooth", but needed help with the words that had more than one letter.

Note the smile in the above photo - all teeth were still present and accounted for. By yesterday, she was beyond impatient. Her fingers were pretty much constantly in her mouth, wiggling the tooth. She asked for snap peas and an apple for lunch. Anything to help further loosen it.

I promised corn on the cob for dinner. Which meant Sydney's favorite question, starting at about 1:30 in the afternoon, was, "How soon is dinner?"

In the end, she didn't need the corn. She took a couple bites, but discovered it hurt too much. Instead she took a bite into her chicken sandwich. I wasn't in the room at the time, but there was no mistaking when the big moment arrived. Victory squeal #2 rang through the house.

I rushed back to the kitchen.

No tooth.

She still had a mouthful of chicken, which Jeff instructed her to spit onto her plate. Using the prongs from her corn, I sifted through the food.

No tooth.

AJ, all-knowing and much more experienced in matters such as these, immediately figured out what had happened. "You must have swallowed it, Syd."

This had happened to AJ once, and he'd been devastated. Not Sydney. "That's okay. Can I write a note to to the tooth fairy?" She asked. "Madi swallowed a tooth once and she got two Littlest Pet Shops from the tooth fairy."

"You can write a note," I told her, "but don't get too excited that you'll get anything extra for swallowing your tooth. The tooth fairy has always just left a dollar for teeth at our house."

I made Sydney finish a few more bites of chicken, and then helped her get paper and pen for her note. I knew it would be a tedious process. I helped her spell "Dear". When she asked how to spell "tooth", I reminded her she'd just written the word in her diary the day before. She ran for the journal.

Knowing that I'd be blogging about this and would need pictures, I grabbed a rag to wash the remnants of supper from her face. It was when I stepped next to her that I suddenly felt a pain in my foot.

The missing tooth was no longer missing. It was now pressed into the bottom of my foot. How it landed on the floor will forever be a mystery.

Sydney quickly crumpled the note she'd started. It was no longer needed.

AJ helpfully supplied the tooth "case" we've used for his lost teeth. Sydney ran for her bedroom and positioned it under her pillow.

As discreetly as possible, I checked my wallet. No small bills. On to the Jeff's wallet. Success.

It's a good thing the kids go to daycare this morning, as opposed to having a babysitter come to our house. That way I get to be here when Sydney wakes and discovers the tooth fairy has paid her a visit.