Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Training Wheels

At school I have been trying to teach my students to ride a bike. It has been a long process... about three years. None of my students bang into the lockers as we go down the hall anymore, but children walking towards the office or to the bathroom sometimes have to dart out of the way or be run over. One student is getting close to not needing training wheels so my aides and I have been discussing the best way to take the step towards soloing on a two wheeeler. Our discussion included recalling how each of my kids finally got rid of the bike crutches. The memory was a good one, so I thought I would share.

Dori had no sense of balance at all. It is good that she is the oldest because if I knew how much harder it was to get her to ride a two-wheeler compared to her siblings, she would still have training wheels on her bike! Dori could run into a curb, then shoot across the street and bounce right off the side of a car in no time flat. No tree in our neighborhood was safe from Dori crashing into it. Thank goodness helmets were invented or she would have gotten a head injury besides all the bruises she accumulated.

Macy was little miss independent. She did not want me touch her bike. She wanted to do it all by herself. We had a system where she would stand the bike in the road next to the curb. The pedal farthest from the curb had to be up as high as it could be so she could stand with her right foot on the curb, push off and immediately start pedaling with her left foot. She could go about one turn then fell off. So all the way around the block we would get the pedals set up and move forward about 12 feet and then have to do it all over again. It took two times around the block at a very slow pace.... but she did do it.

Pete was Macy's polar opposite. He did not want me to let go. Unfortunately, he was much faster than Macy. This meant that I had to hold on to the back of his bike while he rode and run like heck down our street. I am sure all the neighbors were thrilled to get to watch me run like a banshee while hanging on to the back of Pete's bike.

Dill hated his training wheels. They made a sound as they hit the road that bothered him. It wasn't that the sound was so loud or obnoxious that it was bothersome. He did not like that no one else's bike had the extra wheels or the extra noise. When Dill was 4 1/2 he begged me to take off his training wheels. It was during our first camping trip and only the beginning of summer so he hadn't gotten to practice much. I told him I thought he should wait. He would not let it go. I told him that if I took the training wheels off I would not put them back on. He said ok. Finally, I gave in. I thought he was too little and worried that he would be walking the whole summer while everyone else rode bikes. I took the training wheels off, held the bike up for him while he got on the first time, gave him a little push and off he rode, perfectly. He rode the bike like a pro right from the start. Pepper, the other kids and I were all amazed. I should have told him how to stop though.... that gave him a little trouble. Again, good thing for helmets. :)

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Stinky Feet

Pete had a great time in Washington D.C. for his class trip. He and Dad B went together. It was 4 busloads of 5th graders and their parent of choice and lots of teachers. They did all the usual things you do in D.C. The Air and Space Museum, Arlington Cemetery, The Capitol Building... we heard three stories when Pete and Dad B got back.

Third favorite.... the hotel management was upset because SOMEONE (I know him!!) plugged up a bunch of toilets and overflowed them then stuck their hand in a tray of bacon so it all had to be removed and thrown away.

Second favorite.....Pete got to pick the bed he and Dad B would sleep in. Either the soft comfy queen size or the lumpy pull out.... the other Father/son they were sharing the room with got the other. Pete picked the pull out. Why? It had a better view of the TV! Dad B's back was thrilled!! :)

First favorite.... One of the kids on another bus took his shoes off. Everyone in the area moaned and told him to put them back on. He picked up his sock and waved it under the nose of the kid sitting near him. This kid had just eaten.... a lot. He threw up... all over the stinky feet kid. That made the stinky feet kid throw up... after that it was a vomit fest.

What a joy class trips are!!! Doesn't it just make you want to run out and teach fifth grade?!!! I know that father and son both had fun. I am glad they enjoyed the time together and really happy to have them back home. :)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Pete's Bra!?!

What could make a Mom prouder than hearing her son say, "Wait until I show you my new bra!!" Pete got the part of Baloo in his school play "The Jungle Book". His favorite costume is when he dances with the Ape that wants to learn the secret of Fire. He gets to wear a grass skirt and a coconut shell bra. He is quite the sight! What's funny is how great all his friends think the costume is! I was a little worried that they would tease him about the bra... but the good thing about 5th grade boys are that bra's are such a mystery that even coconut ones are fascinating to them.

Pete has had a full week. He has rehearsal every day after school because of his play. Plus he got two more roles in other plays the school is putting on. He seems to have more homework every night then all of our other four kids combined... and he left for his school trip to Washington DC tonight. He has a long Bus ride with Dad B. tonight and then a whirlwind tour of everything DC has to offer, then his play opens! Pete is our easy-going guy, but the way he is keeping this all together is quite impressive! I can't wait for opening night.... if you are there, look for our boy, he will be the one with a much bigger cup size than me!! :)

Monday, April 20, 2009

For Old Time Sake...

So Jay will not be surprised to learn that I sent my Grandmother another birthday card this week. She is my oldest living relative.... turning 93. She is the only member of my family that has lived to a 'ripe old' age... so she gives me a little hope that maybe I will too. My Grandparents were the GREATEST Grandparents in the world when I was a kid. My Grandfather did cool things like let us walk on the roof of his barn and sit in his lap and drive the tractor around the yard when I was very young. He had a deep laugh that sounded like Santa and he always seemed happy to be around us. My sisters, cousins and I always got to take turns spending the night at their house. (They always only wanted us one at a time.... extra spoil time!) My Grandmother would take me to the dime store and would let me pick out what I wanted. (I always choose a rubber bouncy ball.... drove her crazy that she couldn't talk me into anything else!) She would make whatever I wanted for dinner. Usually 'Buf'... a danish dish that had ground meat, gravy and mashed potatoes. After dinner we would walk around the yard and my Grandfather would push me on the tire swing that hung from a huge tree that he had planted before my mother was born. There was a bedroom that was set up for us grandkids, but I never slept in it. I preferred to sleep in the extra twin bed in my grandfathers room. I loved listening to him snore. It always made me feel safe and loved.

They sold their farm when I got a bit older but still took us for over night trips. They had an RV that they would use most of the summer and I loved spending time around the fire and playing bingo in the pavilion with them. My Grandmother always had several bingo cards in front of her... and I had 1 or 2. She always looked at mine first and told me when to cover a number up, before I could look for myself.... she probably was just getting even for all the bouncy balls! When I was a teenager they moved to Florida so I spent every Christmas and New Years Eve running around barefoot and in shorts at their house. My Grandmother tried to teach me to drive too, when I was about 13. Unfortunately, her garbage cans got smashed when I didn't brake fast enough, but she told my Grandpa that at least I stopped before they had a drive thru kitchen!

They were there for my graduations, birthdays, award ceremonies, swim meets, ball games.... they really were great. They visited me at college and when I was ready to buy my first house I asked to borrow $5000 for the down payment. My Grandfather was very serious about money, and I really felt like a grown-up when he discussed the 'terms' of how I was to pay him back. Six months after we had the house, I drove to Florida for a visit and had the first installment of his loan to pay back. I handed my Grandfather the envelope (I think it was $100) and he told me that he was proud that I came to him to pay him when I said I would. He hugged me, handed me the $100 back and said he considered the loan fully paid off.

He died the same year my Dad did. It was very hard for both my Mom and my Grandmother. They decided to move in together and it did not go well. I knew my Mother was very sick and neither of them were very tolerant of each other. When my Mother passed away, my Grandmother refused to go to her funeral. It hurt that she was not there for me when I really needed her.

A couple of years later I gave her a memory book that I asked her to fill out. It had questions in it like: "Describe your childhood home" and had places to put your fondest memories, first love, best day ever... things like that. She worked very hard on the book. I could tell when she gave it back. I read through it the night she gave it to me. My sisters were there and we talked about some of the things she wrote and laughed together about things we could remember or imagine. Then I flipped to the page that said, "The biggest regret I have had in my life was ________" And in my grandmothers handwriting, it simply said "My daughter". I was stunned. She knew this book was for me and my kids. My mother was already gone and it was pointless to be angry anymore. I wrote her a letter telling her how much I loved the book but was disappointed that she wrote that my Mother was the biggest disappointment in her life. I asked her to explain why she felt that way. I wrote that I wished she had said that her biggest regret was not working things out with my mother or her mother dying too young like mine did. That year she cancelled the Christmas celebration. A few years later when she turned 90 and I turned 40 I sent her a letter. I said, I wanted to be a part of her life. I said, just send me a birthday card for my 40th birthday and I will just know that things between us are ok. I never got a card.

I keep sending Christmas cards and birthday cards. I don't ever hear from her, but I would bet all those bouncy balls she reads them. Jay thinks I should give up on her.... stop letting her pour salt in the wounds. But my Grandfather and my mother wouldn't want me to give up on her... no matter how stubborn she decides to be. I'll keep sending the cards to her if only for old times sake. :)

Friday, April 17, 2009

Say Ahhhh......

Since we had Monday off for Easter it was already going to be a short work week. Tuesday, my students were off the wall, but the day went ok. Wednesday, my tongue felt weird when I woke up. It sort of felt like I had burned it on something hot. When I looked in a mirror the middle of my tongue was a different color than the edges... like I said, weird! I went to work and called my family doctor when the office opened. I talked to a nurse who said it was probably a reaction to something and as long as it didn't get worse I could just come in at a scheduled time. But, if it did get worse then I should call back or go get checked out at the hospital. After lunch, my lip went numb and when I looked in the mirror, little blisters were forming all over the inside of my mouth. Nurse Sal said it was definitely a reaction and went to find some Benadryl for me. We were standing in the school safe (where the meds are kept) and Sal opened a bottle and told me to take a dose of it. I said, no way.... that I couldn't take some kids prescription drug. The parent (who is always hanging around the building) walked into the office at that moment and Sal yelled out to the Mom that she needed to use some of the Benadryl and was that ok. The Mom said of course, so I figured it was a sign that I should take it.

After that, Sal drove me to the hospital. She made jokes in the car that I should mention a little chest pain because it would get me seen faster. I didn't need to do that though. Apparently, they take allergies and swollen tongues very seriously. I was zipped right back into a room and the nurse came in with a doctor within minutes. They checked me out and decided that it was a medication I was on for high blood pressure. I mentioned that I had been on that particular drug for a couple years and the doctor said that an allergy can just come on suddenly and this drug is a common one for that to happen. They put me on a steroid, more Benadryl and sent me home with an appointment to see my family doctor two days later.

So... today I took off from work and went to my doctor. My family doctor agreed that it was probably the medication so I was switched to a different type and told to keep taking the steroid and the Benadryl. I told the doctor that it still felt funny and was told that it could last up to a week. :(

Later today, I went to a friend's house and told her about my symptoms and what the doctor said. She said, "That's exactly what happens to me when I eat Walnuts!" That's when I realized that Pepper has been making me breakfast lately and added Walnuts to my extra-healthy-but-lacking-taste oatmeal!! So now I don't know if it was the medicine or the walnuts. But I really don't like walnuts anyway and I already have the new replacement medication so I'm not risking another bout with a hu-gundous tongue again! :P

Monday, April 13, 2009

German Guests

We have had a very busy spring break this year. The kids going to Dad D and Dad B during their break, then our trip to the Mall of America then Kiwi's parents coming to visit us from Germany. The whole week just flew by! Kiwi's M and D came into Chicago then drove over to visit us. They took Kiwi and Dori to Niagara Falls, then spent Saturday night with our whole group going out to dinner. We made a reservation since 12 people just wandering into a restaurant can cause the staff a bit of stress. We had a fantastic whole group picture taken by a Starbuck's guy... who was also an amateur photographer. I think Kiwi's M and D were a bit overwhelmed by our large family at first but by Saturday night they were playing Pick up Sticks with the kids and seemed to really be enjoying themselves.

Pepper and I had a momentary lapse of common sense and decided to have Easter dinner at our house this year. That would give Kiwi's parents a chance to meet many of Kiwi's host family without lots of additional travel. It was a great idea except for a couple of things. It meant 20+ people would be expecting something to eat for Easter dinner. It also meant we needed to get through TONS of laundry and try to catch up on our lax cleaning since we were having so much fun vacationing and it got brushed aside. Somehow I also accidentally scheduled myself to do coffee hour at church and agreed to do little projects like help move furniture and watch our neighbors two dogs. It was a little stressful there for awhile.

But I have to say.... it all turned out very well. Dinner was very good. We found enough chairs and tables to seat the 21 people that came for dinner. The kids were well behaved. The guests smiled and chatted and seemed to have a good time. Kiwi's parents were impressed by all the sweet comments the family had to share about how much we enjoying their daughter's stay. I am glad we decided to host this year, it was stressful but definitely worked out well. Plus, Pepper and I really slept well after everyone headed home! :)

Friday, April 10, 2009

3-D Archery

The kids have been going to archery every Sunday evening with Uncle K for the last several weeks. I was not sure what 3-D archery was. I guess in my head I imagined it was something like lazer tag with some kind of electronic images around a dark room with kids running around shooting arrows while wearing the cheap paper glasses they hand out at 3-D movies. That was not it at all. We went to awards night to see what they were all doing. It was much more structured than I had imagined. 3-D meant they were not shooting at paper targets with a giant bulls eye. The things they shot at were those giant fake animals you sometimes see in people's yards. When Pepper and I were up in Traverse City a while back we actually saw this great buck from the road and stopped the car to check it out. It was beautiful. Just what you would expect to see up there with the snow falling and the woods in the background. I took about 5 pictures of the thing through the car window before I realized he was mighty brave... and still. It was one of those 3-D fake ones. We both laughed and chalked it up to too much wine sampling!

Actually 3-D archery is very well monitored. Those hunter types are much smarter than most of us give them credit for. The kids had learned that a series of loud whistles meant specific things. One blow meant shoot, two whistles meant stand on the line and prepare to shoot. 5 whistles meant "Freeze" etc. Pretty smart considering that arrows do inflict quite a bit of damage... especially in the 'free for all' setting I had imagined. So the adults were expected to shoot on the night we were there. The head coach asked if any parents had never shot (or had a desire to even learn). I raised my hand figuring they would appoint me head cheer leader for the kids. Nope..... that made me the poster child of parents that didn't know what the hell they were doing! Luckily Pepper and a couple other parents raised their hands too... so we became the instant special ed class.

It actually is fun. Hitting the thing you aimed at (or told everyone you aimed at after it was what you hit) does give a little rush. It was a lot of direction following, turn taking and listening... but in a fun, rewarding way. There was also a complex scoring system that I do not understand, but I clapped when each of the kids got their certificates for their scores and pins. They also have competitions and events throughout the summer. Uncle K was very excited that the kids all enjoyed it so much. He actually went out and bought himself a bow and lots of equipment to use with the kids in the yard. He really is just a big kid himself.

My kids are very lucky to have so many adults in their lives with such a variety of interests. I don't think that any of them will ever become great hunters or anything.... but hopefully they will learn to spot a fake 3-D buck a lot faster than their slightly tipsy Mom did!! :)

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Dori Smiles....

I typed this awhile back... but somehow it never got posted...

Dori is getting her actual license today. She passed the test a while back and we had to work through a few minor attitude issues.... but today is the day. I called the insurance company (ouch) discussed concerns with Pepper over finances and logistics and we are heading on our way in about an hour. We are just letting her use one of our cars for the time being. It goes against everything I hold near and dear.... but in a realistic, grown-up way... it makes sense.

Two weeks after I got my license at 16, my parents bought me a car. That is how long my Mom could handle me taking hers all the time. Dad was into cars and wanted it to be a good one. We picked a 1977 Chevy Camaro. It was bright yellow, black leather interior, AM/FM radio with a cassette player and a moon roof. She was pretty and she was fast. All you had to do was think about touching the pedal and that car jumped into action. Being bright yellow, however meant she was easy to spot. Every cop in my home town knew me. I had 3 speeding tickets within 3 months (and I had 'sweet talked' my way out of a lot more!) As a consequence for my third ticket, both of my parents had to appear in court with me. This did not go over very well with my parents, but they both took off work and came along. I was suspended for 6 months... but my Dad got it to be a partial suspension... meaning I could drive to and from work and school, but that was it. That was pretty scary having to go before a judge and tell my parents and pay the court costs and deal with the suspension... I should have learned. But I didn't. I still sped and I still drove when I wasn't supposed to. I actually outran a cop once. (Don't tell my kids!!) It was dark and I was going to fast. I had 3 friends in the car and we were on the highway, almost to my exit. I state trooper flashed his lights, and rather than pull over like a smart person would do.... I floored it. I got off at my exit, turned off my headlights and zoomed around a familiar sub-division. I flew down about 4 streets and whipped into a driveway and killed the engine.... the cop roared right by. My friends and I knew it was stupid, but it sure was a neat story to tell at school the next week!

So, fear of getting in trouble and fear of being stupid and risking killing myself and my friends did not slow me down.... but something did. I was driving home from school and a cat ran out in front of my car. I wasn't going too fast (in my opinion) but it definitely wasn't slow. I saw it coming and it looked like it was in slow motion, but I still couldn't brake fast enough. I hit the cat. I stopped and went back. The cat was still alive. I wrapped it in my sweatshirt and drove to the vet. The vet looked it over and said it was to hurt and there was nothing he could do. It would never survive. He said he needed to put it down. He left the room to go get the medicine he needed to put it to sleep and I waited in the exam room with the cat. I pet the cat gently by its ears and saw all the matted dirt and blood on it. He looked like a stray. His breathing was hard and labored and I started crying because I knew that it was my fault that this animal was suffering. Before the vet came back, the breathing stopped. I was in shock that this could happen. I barely remember the vet saying that they would dispose of the body and that it was nice of me to stop and try to help. I paid the bill... an amount I couldn't recall now if I had to. I went home crying and told my Mom what had happened. She listened and let me cry and feel sorry for myself and then calmly said, "I know how bad you feel about the cat, but be thankful that it wasn't a child." That slowed me down. Within a couple months I decided to trade in the Camaro. This time I picked an Oldsmobile Calais.... I think I had seen an ad for it in my grandfather's AARP magazine. :)

I am very proud of Dori for getting her license and making another step toward adulthood... but kids do grow up so damn fast...

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Spring Break

Spring break!!! Yea!! We drove 12 hours (not including potty and gas and food breaks) to get to the Mall of America. This sounded like a great plan when we first came up with the idea. It was a spot that we'd heard of but had never been to. Not super far from home with things to do for our teenage girls and our younger boys. So off we go. The trip was not too bad. We had 6 kids with 4 adults divided into 2 cars. We had lots of snacks and many electronic devices. We really had lots... we counted. In all it was: 8 laptops, 5 Gameboy DS's, 9 iPods, 8 cell phones, 2 CD players and one sirrus radio. Hard to believe we had room for clothes and everything else we crammed into the cars!

The drive was nice and uneventful... just the way I like it... other than a bit of confusion in Chicago. We saw O'Hare airport very close up and circled it a bit more than we should have. But we eventually found our way out and managed to locate an authentic Chicago deep dish pizza place which was excellent. We walked into the restaurant and asked for a table for 10. The manager said "Oh yes, we have the table all set up for you." This surprised us a bit, but we sat down. Apparently, ANOTHER party of 10 had the foresight to call ahead for a table, but we got there right before they did. Oops!! Luckily, the place could handle the sudden invasion of both groups and the dinner was excellent!!

So now we are here. We have spent a few hours at the mall and the kids already know what they want to still see tomorrow. There is a pool (and wifi!!) in our hotel so everyone is very happy. Things are good here in Minnesota. It is so nice that the kids are old enough now to handle these kinds of trips and we're all flexible enough to just 'go with the flow' as things come up. I think all the kids will have great memories of this trip... I am glad we decided to make the journey.