Saturday, August 30, 2008


I didn't have the heart to stop him from drawing all over my crossword puzzle, even though I'd just barely started it. Especially when he said his dinosaur needed eyes and feet and drew them in approximately the correct locations. I think this is his first piece of artwork that has resembled its label (assuming you squint your eyes, tilt your head at a 23-degree angle, and stand on one foot).

Friday, August 29, 2008

Party Preparations

Natalie's birthday party is coming up in a couple of weeks, and I've been struggling to find time to make the decorations. Yesterday afternoon, I decided to take advantage of the nice weather and I moved our craft tub outside so Sammy could make messes to his heart's content, and clean-up would be as easy as spraying off the driveway with the garden hose. It occupied Sammy the whole time I was working. Score!

Note to self: Next time, find similar entertainment for Natalie. You know very well she'll make her own fun otherwise.

Hey, look at that! No, really, look!

That didn't work...uh..ok...then, it wasn't me! It was his fault!

Oh, who am I kidding. Yes, I dug up one of your plants and ate the dirt, but I swear, I had a good reason.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

At Grandma and Grandpa's House

As I mentioned earlier, we went to my parents' farm this past weekend. Here are some random pictures:

We followed this truck for awhile, and it cracked me up. "Fine Antler Chandeliers"? Isn't that an oxymoron?

He's still talking about riding the tractor with Grandpa.

A flamingo hat. Have you ever seen such a thing?

Holy cleavage, Batman. I should probably censor this picture
but it's late and I'm too tired to care.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

It's been a busy few days, with a weekend trip up north to my parents' house, and yesterday spent at the state fair. I'll write more about that later, but for today, just a brief story.

Last night, I needed to make a quick trip to Target for a couple of items. I had some extra time, and Ron was home, so I decided to leave Natalie at home with Ron and ride the bike to the store with Sammy in the bike trailer.

I was amazed at how well Sammy did on the half-hour ride. Normally, he gets bored and cranky at being forced to sit still for so long, but I think the bribes treats I packed helped out a lot in combatting his boredom.

I ended up buying a box of fresh peaches in addition to the things I had gone for. It was a tight squeeze to get everything into the bike trailer, but I managed by putting the box of peaches on the bottom, and stacking everything else on top. I warned Sammy that he wasn't to touch anything, or we'd end up losing some of our things on the road.

The temptation was too much to resist, though, and when we were almost home, he located the peaches (he gets credit for holding some of our things on his lap, rather than knocking them off the trailer, though). He had one peach clutched in his hand, and I was worried he'd decide to toss it but decided it was worth losing one peach if it meant we'd get home in the next few minutes. Then I heard him start arguing with an invisible someone. "That's my peach," he said. "No, it's my peach," he argued. "It's yours." "No, it's yours."

Looks like he won the argument, though, because when we pulled in the driveway, the peach was half gone and his shirt and hands were dripping with fresh peach juice.

Good thing I didn't buy any cookies.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Sibling Rivalry

I just finished reading Siblings Without Rivalry and I thought it was fantastic. There were a few no-nos that I have done with the kids, without realizing that they were no-nos. Labeling, for instance. I understand that unflattering labels aren't good, but I didn't realize that even flattering labels can cause damage. After reading the book, it makes perfect sense why that would be the case, but I honestly never thought about that before. An recent example of what not to do: a few days ago, I called Natalie "the caretaker", because of her love of stuffed animals and dolls, and also her newest hobby of helping people with their daily routines (brushing hair, washing in the tub, toothbrushing). Calling her a caretaker boxes her into that role, which she may not relish when she's older, but she will feel that she has to live up to that label. The other effect is that Sammy will think that role has already been filled, so there's no reason for him to show any caretaking behaviors. I'm probably not explaining it very well, but the book really was an eye-opener. There was only a small section that was directed towards parents of teenagers, but the rest of the book applies to kids of any age (and probably the younger, the better, since it's easier to start off on the right foot than it is to try to repair a damaged relationship later).

I think the things that I'm doing are making a difference already, although we still have our moments. A perfect example is last night. Sammy was hyper with tiredness (why? why do kids get hyper when they're tired, when I can hardly drag my butt off the couch?) and went tearing through the living room, as fast as he could run. When he passed Natalie, without breaking stride, he reached an arm out and grabbed her hand. This, of course, threw her off balance and she did a (very graceful, I might add) backwards flip. I guess all that getting pummeled by her brother has taught her to fall without getting hurt, because she didn't make a peep as she got back up and continued down the hall as if nothing had happened.

Other than that one incident, yesterday was a much better day. Sammy was back to his usual, pleasant-to-be-around self. I still don't know what was going on with him Wednesday, but I do have to say that I am quite proud of myself that I managed to keep it all together and not lose my temper with him. I always thought patience was an inborn trait, of which I had none, but I'm finding it's actually a learned skill. And who is a better teacher of patience than a two-year-old? I guess I should be thanking him.

Thursday, August 21, 2008


If not for moments like the one I described yesterday, the human race would die out, because everyone would abandon their children once they hit the terrible twos. Yesterday was one of those days. What with Sammy "testing his limits", and "exploring his boundaries", and "acting like a jerk".

But I'm not going to dwell on that today. Onward ho! How about some pictures!

Natalie likes to help Sammy brush his teeth.
(She also likes to help wash his hair in the bathtub.)

The kids yesterday. You can almost see Sammy thinking, "What will drive Mom the most crazy?"

This is how the kids always look at the end of a summer day. Wet, dirty, and bedraggled.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Spontaneous Affection

Sammy will hug and kiss me goodbye in the morning before I leave for work, but other than that, he's not one for all that mushy stuff. I think I've only heard him say "I love you" a handful of times.

So I was surprised a few nights ago, when he spontaneously threw his arms around my neck and said "I love you." "I love you, too!" I said to him. "You're my favorite little boy in the whole world."

"I'm the BEST kind!" he replied.

Yes, you are, kid. Yes, you are.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Who Are The People In Your Neighborhood

I live on a pretty quiet, rural street. OK, at one end there is a state prison, but we'll just ignore that part for now. That's about 3 miles down from where I actually live, anyway.

So, on my street there are two horse farms, one dairy farm, and three sod fields. Also, there's an air park. Do you know what this is? I didn't, before I moved here. An air park is a place where really rich people live. It's a private landing strip, with houses on either side of it. Every house has a hangar complete with a private airplane.

Sounds like a nice neighborhood, right? That's what I thought, too. But in the last two weeks, just two houses down from us, there's been a huge drug bust and a four-alarm fire (believe it or not, it was two separate occasions but happened at the same house).

We weren't home when the drug bust happened, but our neighbors told us about it. Evidently, there was a SWAT team parked in the ditch in front of our house, a bomb squad vehicle was parked in the neighbor's ditch, and the roads were blocked off by emergency vehicles. Turns out, the house was a "holding house" for drugs, and they found $15,000 worth of cash plus hundreds of thousands dollars' worth of drugs. The police told us, if you're going to have a drug house in your neighborhood, a holding house is the kind you want, because they don't attract a lot of scummy criminals to the area. Thank you, but I think I'd prefer option c: no drug house in the neighborhood.

Then, four days later in the same house, there was a huge fire. I have no idea what caused the fire, since by that point, the house had been cleared out, but again the entire road was blocked by fire engines, police cars, ambulances, etc. The fire started at 7:00 p.m., and when I went to bed at 11:00, most of the emergency vehicles were still there, although it looked at that point like the fire was pretty much out.

It's scary to think that things like that happen all the time, even in "nice" neighborhoods. I guess you never can tell who your neighbors are. I actually thought that house was vacant, since I hadn' t seen anyone around there for a couple of years.

I can do without that much excitement.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Weekend Update

We had our town festival this past weekend, so the kids and I enjoyed the parade and the petting zoo on Saturday. Sammy gorged himself on parade candy, practically inhaling in his efforts to eat as much as he could before it was confiscated. I was surprised he didn't poop out any whole Tootsie Rolls yesterday. Sadly, about fifteen minutes before the parade was over, Ron put a stop to his all-you-can-eat buffet, and Sammy was devastated. Until he found an errant piece of candy and snuck off behind us to open and eat it. He almost got away with it, but Ron turned to see Sammy hunched over something, paying no attention to the parade, which was a dead giveaway.

The petting zoo was a hit with both kids. They had a good variety of animals - rabbits, chickens, a dog, horses, donkeys, a calf, and llamas - which prompted a recitation of Llama Llama, Red Pajama. Speaking of which, I am amazed at how that kid can memorize books. We get a new bag of library books each week, and by the end of the week, Sammy has his favorites memorized, almost word for word.

But I digress. The highlight of the day wasn't the parade, or the petting zoo, but a garage sale that we passed. I happened to notice that they had a Power Wheels jeep for sale, and I begged Ron to turn around. We'd been wanting to get a Power Wheels for the kids, but didn't want to pay full price (those things are expensive!). The jeep was marked at $75, but as it needed a new battery, they were willing to sell it to us for $50. The new battery cost another $50, but that $100 was worth every penny. The kids drove that jeep around for an hour last night, and we finally had to pry them out of it, kicking and screaming. Sammy needs to work on his steering a bit, though. The steering wheel is a bit hard to turn, so when he was coming up on an obstacle, he'd get out of the jeep and turn it by pulling on the front end. Whatever works, I guess.

Next time Sammy gets in trouble, I'm going to threaten to take his car keys away. I didn't think I'd be able to use that leverage for about 13 more years.

Friday, August 15, 2008


This week, I got to go see a movie in a theater for the first time in...oh, a really long time. Originally, I was going to say the last movie I saw in the theater was Walk the Line, which I saw on Christmas Day 2005. Then I realized that I did get to go see Knocked Up last summer. Obviously, I don't get out much.

This week, we went to see The Dark Knight. I'm not really a comic book fan, but I surprised myself by enjoying Spiderman when my husband dragged me to see it a few years back, so I thought I'd give the latest Batman movie a try. I'd heard nothing but great reviews of it.

We decided to do it up right, and went to see it in IMAX format. I realized my mistake within the first couple of minutes of the movie. I got that same feeling in the pit of my stomach that I get while going up the first hill on a really, really big roller coaster. With a roller coaster, you know it'll all be over in a matter of minutes, but I was staring at 2 1/2 hours of this in the movie theater.

And that's exactly what I got. I couldn't even look at the screen for the first 20 minutes, which was basically one big gun battle. I found myself cowering in my seat as if trying to make myself as small a target as possible. About an hour into the movie, my husband whispered that Heath Ledger excelled in his role as The Joker, and I replied that I wouldn't know, since I hadn't actually been able to watch any of his scenes yet. I have to agree, though, that Heath Ledger was terrifyingly convincing as The Joker. I would be surprised if he didn't win an Oscar for his performance.

All in all, there was far too much violence in this movie for me. Not just gun battles, but much, much worse. Even though I know it's "pretend", I have a really hard time watching violent scenes, so whenever one came up, I had to stare down at my lap and plug my ears. After the fact, I found out that a lot of the scenes were implied - that the camera cut away right before the worst of the violence. But still, far too much for me to handle.

I think I might have done better watching this movie in regular format. IMAX was just too intense for me. I have to admit, though, there was one car chase scene in the middle of the film that was so awesome, I couldn't tear my eyes away from the screen. And this is coming from someone who normally fast-forwards through car chase scenes when watching movies at home.

So, there were parts of the movie that I really enjoyed, but I could have done without most of the violence, even if it was just implied in some parts.

In other movie news, I finally cancelled my Netflix membership yesterday. It was very sad, but it had to be done. I just wasn't watching enough movies to make it worth it. I just finally finished watching Dan in Real Life last night, and it was shipped out to me on 5/28/08. At $9.99 a month for the membership, I paid $25 to rent that movie, and could have bought it for half that price.

Besides, I can borrow movies for free at my library, although the newer ones usually have a waiting list. If I don't have time to watch the movie, I'm not out any money. Can't beat that deal!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Just Another One of Those Days

Part I: I took the kids to the park for awhile this afternoon. The first half hour, everything went smoothly. Too smoothly. I should have been able to hear the ominous music playing in the background.

Here's where it all went downhill. Sam and Natalie were playing at opposite sides of the playground, and I was sitting on a bench halfway between. Sam suddenly said, "Mommy, what's this on my hand?"

Uh-oh. I said, "I don't know, what does it look like?" as I hurried over as quickly as I could. My flip-flops came off in the deep sand after about two steps. When he answered, "Paint?" I decided to leave the shoes where they were. I could only imagine...would it be bird poop? Gum? Actual wet paint?

One step later, I felt a sharp pain in my foot. I stopped to find a sand burr dug deep into the arch of my foot. After prying it out, I started running again, only to step on another sand burr.

After finally making it across the minefield of sand burrs, I reached Sam to find a purple splotch on his hand, obviously a remnant from an art class at daycare. As I breathed a sigh of relief, Natalie started shrieking from the other end of the playground. Ten sand burrs later, I reached her to find that she had fallen and had a sand burr firmly entrenched in the palm of her hand.

Just then, I smelled something rather foul. I assumed that the culprit was Natalie, since Sam had taken care of business before going to the park. As I was checking her diaper, Sam confessed that it was actually him that was stinky. Luckily, I had brought a couple of diapers and some wipes with, so I looked around for a spot to change him. I wasn't about to lay him down in the sand burrs, so that left the bench as the only option. Not too comfortable, and I knew he'd object, but the only other option was to go home.

(I should add here that this bench was not on the sandy part of the playground. It was on a patch of grass...and dirt.)

Natalie was still very fussy, so before changing him, I made her a bottle. She immediately spit her pacifier out into the dirt. Yeah, great planning there on my part. High-five for me! I used the little bit of water that remained in the bottle and poured it over her pacifier. The resulting mud puddle instantly drew both kids' attention, and before I could react, they were both covered in mud. Not just their hands, because of course, Natalie had to taste it to see what it was, and Sam had to copy her because he thinks that gets him more attention.

At that point, I said, "Enough!" and I tossed them both into the bike trailer, mud, sand burrs, poop, and all, and we high-tailed it home to clean up. By the time we got home, both were fast asleep. In the time that it took me to run in the house to get the camera, both had woken up, so unfortunately I didn't get any documentation as proof that it actually happened.

Part II: After we got home, Sam wanted to help Ron, who was working in the backyard. Evidently, there was a minor accident involving a shovel, so Sam decided to come inside to hang out with me for awhile. Shortly after coming in the house, he got into trouble and had to go into a time-out. I didn't have the patience to keep putting him back into the naughty spot every time he got up, so I decided to sit right beside him and hold onto his arm to "encourage" him to stay put. He hates that. You'd think I was twisting his arm, rather than just lightly holding on to it, to hear him scream and carry on.

The entire two minutes, he screamed at the top of his lungs, "I don't like this don't hold onto me Mommy leave me alone I want to get up", etc. When he got to the part about "scary monsters", I started feeling the laughter coming. I know it sounds mean to hear me say that I wanted to laugh, but I figured out awhile ago that he's not really scared of monsters. He's just figured out that's an all-purpose excuse to get out of things.

I made it until two seconds before the timer went off, and then I couldn't hold it in anymore. The absurdity of the tantrum, and his ramblings, was just too much for me. I had to leave the room and come back when my fit of laughter had passed.

Amazingly, he was still sitting in the naughty spot when I returned, and I went through the whole routine, "Do you know why you were in timeout?" followed by a hug and a kiss. He was still a little worked up from his tantrum, so afterwards he still couldn't stop talking but the words just wouldn't come out right. "I was in timeout--I threw Mommy--I hit a toy--I throw a toy and Mommy--I throw a toy and hit Mommy..."

In the meantime, I was removing his shoes, which were still sandy from the playground. He continued on, "I throw a toy and....someone was in the sandbox today!!" (This as the shoes came off and poured sand all over the living room carpet. Oops.)

The End.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

My Little Princess

While I was trying to finish reading a book last night, the kids were playing quietly. I thought they were looking at books in the corner. Turns out, Sam found my yarn stash.

"Mommy, I have princess hair!" he exclaimed excitedly, when I discovered what he was up to.

It took me a couple of hours to separate the balls of yarn and rewind them, but the pictures were worth it. They will go in my blackmail file. (Of course I have a blackmail file, don't you?)

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Sibling Rivalry

It had seemed that I was able to trust Sam with Natalie more during the past week. Until this morning.

I was at work, but the word from my husband is that Sam got angry with Natalie for not cooperating with a game he wanted to play, so he purposely banged her head with the closet door. I haven't seen it yet, but the report is that she has a big goose-egg on her forehead.

This sort of thing has happened regularly since Natalie was born. Earlier, it happened unprovoked, out of jealousy, and that part seems to have resolved itself. But now that she's mobile, she will often take a toy away from Sam or get in his way when he's trying to do something, and then he retaliates with physical anger. I've been working on teaching him (what I think to be) the appropriate response - and at this point, that's "Mom/Dad, I need help" or "Mom/Dad, take Natalie away, please". Of course, when they get older, I plan to help them learn to work out their own issues, but I think they are both a bit too young for that at this point. My goal right now is only to keep everyone alive and well.

Sam seemed to be picking up on this. A few times in the last week, he has asked for assistance instead of reflexively belting her. Now he seems to be regressing.

I've heard a lot about a book called Siblings Without Rivalry, and that is next on my reading list. I'm afraid it's going to be geared towards older kids, though, and that it won't be helpful at all for really young children.

Has anyone else dealt with this? Any suggestions?

Monday, August 4, 2008


Aldi just came to my neighborhood in the past year or so. I was hesitating to go, because they don’t carry anything organic. With the price of groceries going up, up, up, I finally decided it was time to make a trip. I could fill in the organic items on my weekly visit to SuperTarget (I always buy organic milk, and The Dirty Dozen fruits and vegetables. For everything else, it depends what’s on sale. I’d love to buy all organic, but I’d have to get a second job to support that!)

But back to Aldi. For the uninitiated, Aldi is a grocery store with a few twists. They advertise themselves as being up to 50% cheaper than a traditional grocery store. And they save money by cutting out a few things.
1) The carts are chained together outside the store. By offering up a quarter, a cart is released. Assuming you are a good little shopper and return your cart to the cart corral, you’ll get your quarter back when you’re done.
2) They don’t offer free bags. Personally, I think this is fabulous because it encourages people to bring their own reusable bags. If you forget yours at home, you can buy paper bags at the checkout.
3) This is the most important piece of information, as far I’m concerned. They don’t take checks or credit cards. As someone who only carries a minimal amount of cash, this is a challenge and necessitates an extra stop at the ATM on my way to the store.
4) When you check out, you roll your empty cart to the end of the register, where the cashier puts your groceries back in the cart. After you’ve paid, you take your cart and your bags over to one of the counters that line the wall to bag them up yourself.
5) They don’t carry national brands. The food is all off-label, private brands.

I was able to find almost everything on my list, although I was not able to find canned artichoke hearts (but that could have been due to the distraction provided by shopping with two young children). We’ve sampled a lot of things that we bought, and so far, everything has been of excellent quality.

The most exciting purchase, as far as I was concerned, was frozen ground turkey at 99 cents a pound. I usually pay $2.99 for 20 oz. at the regular grocery store.

I ended up with a cartful of groceries that I estimated at $100 by eyeballing it. Since that was how much money I’d brought with, I was a little nervous that I’d go over that limit. The grand total rang up to be...$68! Wow!

So, although there are some inconveniences, I was very impressed by the cost savings, and the quality of their food. I will definitely be going back.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Favorites of the week

Favorite bumper sticker: I don't have ADHD, I have ADOS (Attention Deficit....Oooooh, shiny)

Favorite blonde joke: A blonde takes her car into the shop to have it fixed. The mechanic comes out, tells her it's ready to go, and she says, "So, what's the deal?" "Just crap in the carburator," the mechanic replies. "Oh," the blonde says. "How often do I need to do that?"

Favorite Sammy moment: Last night at the dinner table, when he held a mouthful of milk in his mouth without swallowing. That usually ends badly, so I nagged him to swallow it until he finally did. "Thank you," I said to him. "It's back again," he said as he pursed his lips and puffed out his cheeks.

Favorite Natalie moment: When she learned to point at things to get what she wants. All week long, it's been....point, point, "nnnn, nnnn"

Friday, August 1, 2008

One Year Ago Today

One year ago today, I was 108 8 months pregnant with Natalie. I was hot, uncomfortable, and cranky, and in no mood to cook supper. We ordered Chinese take-out, and I took Sammy with me to pick up our food. When we stepped out the restaurant's front door, there was a group of people gathered on the sidewalk, talking in shocked, hushed voices about a bridge collapse. When I got back to my car, I flipped on the radio to the news station, and waited to hear which bridge had collapsed, thinking maybe California had had another earthquake or some such thing.

I was shocked to hear it was the 35W bridge. The bridge that I'd crossed twice every day since 2001, on my way to and from work. The bridge that, just the previous week, I had crossed with my then-19-month-old in the car, on the way to the zoo.

Later, I was to learn that a pregnant woman and her 22-month-old daughter died in the collapse. I couldn't help but imagine myself in her situation. How panicked I would be as I tried to save myself and my children, and how difficult it would be to get into the backseat and unbuckle Sammy's carseat in time.

I've always been afraid of bridges, especially those that go over water. I thought it was an irrational fear, but was proved wrong by the events of one year ago today.

Last Saturday, I took the kids to Fort Snelling, and returned home on 35E. The next day I learned that, a mere hour after we passed under this particular bridge on our way home, a 6-foot-by-9-foot chunk of concrete fell off of it onto a passing car. Luckily, no one was seriously hurt in that incident.

I am getting a bit paranoid to leave my house these days.