At Least He's Truthful

Mom to three-year-old son who's starting to open the box of 200+ cards we got when our daughter was born: "Buddy, you can look at those, but don't make a big mess, OK?"

Three-year-old son with a fruit snack stuck in the side of his cheek: "Don't worry, Mom. I'll only make a medium mess."

Hey Buddy. Can You Spare Me Twenty Minutes?

All day long, I write in my head. I think of funny lines that belong in a post. (And sometimes, I laugh out loud. At myself. How pathetic is that?) I compose lead paragraphs that are compelling portraits of the deep thoughts currently occupying my mind. (And that could be anything from how much protein is in a hard-boiled egg -- 7 grams -- compared to my bowl of Kashi -- 13 grams -- to how the civil war is going in Gaza.) (I also can't stop thinking about how I would refute the logic of buying a camel instead of a car if I lived in Africa.) And that doesn't even touch on the memes I've been meaning to get to. (I'm working on it, Lisa!) On a typical day, I usually have anywhere from three to 13 posts circling around in my gray matter.

The key would be -- I need the time to actually get the witty repartee from up here to out there! How do I do that as a mom of two children who's looking for a place to move her brood come August and trying to keep my house spotless at the same time as it's on the market?!? Thoughts? Suggestions? Medications?

Complicating matters, I got a new cell phone last night. (It's right up there with Gaza, I tell you.) This is both a blessing -- because my old phone was treating my calls like a airline baggage handler treats luggage -- and a curse -- because now I have to learn how to operate a new phone.

For example, my phone rang for the first time while I was in the hotel shower this morning -- a horrible, jangling, musical thing. To say my children freaked out would be an understatement. ("Don't hit it, guys! It's Mommy's new phone!") So now I know I need to figure out how to change my ring tone.

I also hate the look of the blood red "I may be a vampire" wallpaper currently inside. And none of my speed dials were transferred over (although my contacts list was -- for a $10 fee -- and for that, I was grateful). So today, on top of everything else, I have to read a manual and figure out what the calendar button is for on my phone and what will happen if I try to access the Internet on my phone, even though I'm not paying for wireless access. ARGH!

Suddenly, I long for simpler times. Like when AOL was the only e-mail option ("You've got mail!"), and I had time to compose an original thought that didn't contain parentheses in every paragraph.

But hey. My new phone has a camera. Just imagine what you'll be subjected to soon!

We Are Family

Sorry I've been absent from the blogosphere the last few days. It's only because there are about 25 people in my house this weekend, courtesy of a cousins reunion planned way before I knew I would be pregnant right now. (The good news -- I'm really feeling much better. I'm only about 10 weeks along, and normally I don't feel better until 12 or even 14. So I'm a little unsure about what this means. But in the end, I'm so thankful to not be nauseous, I'm not sure I care.)

So until Monday, when I plan to catch up on my Bloglines reading AND clean my entire 5,000 square foot house from top to bottom, I leave you with this -- a comic I got out of the Silver Anniversary Edition of "For Better Or Worse," one of my favorite comic strips of all time. (Have I mentioned I love me some comics? Because I do. When we moved to The Country, and I realized the lack of a "real" newspaper also meant the lack of my daily funnies, I immediately turned to The Internet and found a subscription service. Now, I get my favorite comics delivered to my In Box each and every morning. I love America.)
Can I get an amen?!?

I've Created a Monster

I actually wrote this in my journal back in February, but as my son is continuing his night owl habits, I thought I'd share it here. Because if you swapped the footsie pajamas for cotton pajamas and the cold medicine for a drink of water, this could have been us yesterday.

Well, I’ve managed to pass on one of my strange (I prefer “quirky”) habits. Just like me, my three-year-old son Connor refuses to go to bed once he’s given the opportunity – all the more so if he’s been exhausted all day long.

Today was a perfect example. He was cranky and stubborn and demanding all day – yet refused to even consider a nap after lunch. “Fine,” I thought to myself. “With [my husband] gone on a business trip, I’d rather have you go to bed early tonight anyway.”

But then, at 4:30 PM, amid yet another arm-crossing, eyebrow-knitting, “hmmmmph!” fit, he put his head down on the kitchen counter and fell into a coma.

I let him sleep for 30 minutes or so. But then, I had to wake him. I knew bedtime would be in serious jeopardy if I didn’t.

Of course, waking a child who’s exhausted is easier said than done. I tried moving him, shouting at him, offering him candy. I pulled out my bag of camp counselor tricks – most of which start with “an” and end with “noying.” I sang, I poked, I prodded.

Eventually, I got him to sit up. And like a bear woken in February from his winter hibernation, he slumped in the red chair, disoriented and grumpy, and screamed for the next 45 minutes. (You can only imagine what that did to my nerves.)

And now? It’s 9:00 PM. He’s bathed and freshly swaddled in “lots of moose” footsie pajamas. He’s taken his cough medicine without a fuss and had his nails clipped on all 20 digits. We’ve read two books, and he yawned through the entire recital.

But is he climbing into bed, exhausted and glad for the respite of cool sheets and a warm blanket? OF COURSE NOT! First, he bounded (bounded! He hadn’t bounded all day) into Natalie’s room so he could read books on her bed. (While she slept soundly, tucked under the covers. Unlike him, she was so tired out by her bath tonight, she fell asleep before we could even get her pajamas on.) Then, he came down the hall to see what I was doing. And now, he’s laying on the floor behind me, a stuffy-nosed lump on top of a fleece yellow blanket.

Oh why, oh why won’t he just go to bed?!?

Maybe I’ll remember this the next time I’m sitting at the computer at 1:00 AM reading blogs after an exhausting day of watching the kids.

JUST GO TO BED, YOU CRAZY LADY! You finally have the chance. Take it!

To Be a Dad

My husband has one of the most unique stories of anyone I've ever met.

He was adopted from a foreign country at the age of ... well, we don't know his age. He thinks he was about eight. American doctors put his age at six. ("No, wait, maybe seven. Could he be eight? Oh, let's just stick with six.") His earliest memories are of living on the streets as a gutter rat. He stole food to survive and didn't have a home or a family. He was also subjected to constant abuse and scorn because he is a half-breed and the son of an American solider.

It was truly a miracle when a kind woman alerted an Lutheran orphanage in his city that a child who looked part American was living on the streets. Shortly after he was taken in by the orphanage, he was adopted by a couple in Minnesota.

His parents loved him dearly, and his father in particular made sure my husband had "boy adventures" growing up. He got to spend countless weekends in the wilderness, exploring, camping and fishing. He played every sport imaginable. His dad never missed a game.

Yet, for all the love, my husband and his dad are incredibly different people. His Dad is a phlegmatic through and through. Until he retired last year, he had worked at the same job his whole life. He lived in the same house for more than 30 years. His main motives in life are peace and quiet.

And my husband? Who skydives? And scuba dives? And has broken almost every bone in his body while becoming a black-belt in martial arts? And who hasn't worked at a company for more than four years, since he thrives on starting up new ones? Needless to say, he's not phlegmatic.

Put it all together, and you end up with two males who love each other but don't understand each other. My husband loved (and still loves) his Dad, but they are so different, they had a had time relating outside of sports and fishing.

Skip ahead about 20 years, and you'll find my husband today.

It would be completely understandable if my husband struggled with fatherhood. He would tell you himself that he's just now comprehending what "family" really means. After 14 years of marriage, he's starting to learn to trust me and let me in. He never really knew the innocence of childhood, so who could blame him if he was impatient with the quirks of young children?

But when our daughter was born five (almost six) years ago, I watched the most amazing transformation. I watched a man who had been completely alone all his life -- even in his adopted family, even in our marriage -- fall completely in love with our baby. From the very beginning, he was wrapped around her little finger. He was stunned by the protective feelings he had for her, by the delight he would feel just by watching her coo.

She was the only person in the world that he knew that was "flesh of his flesh."

And then our son came along, about two years later. And I watched him fall in love all over again.

Today, he is one of the best fathers I know. (And that's saying a lot, since my Dad did an incredible job raising me and my three siblings. We grew up in a virtual cocoon of love and protection, where we were stretched and strengthened and known.) My husband is the star of our family. Our kids think he is the biggest goof ever. ("I told you he was funny," our daughter shrieked to her kindergarten class when my husband put on small sunglasses.) When they hear the garage door go up on the days he's coming home, they shout, "Dad's here!" and they run for the door and throw their little bodies at his.

Our daughter recently started wearing dresses, because my husband said they looked so nice on her, and every time she puts one on, she runs to get his approval. "Do you think I'm beautiful, Daddy?" And he gets down and gives her a big hug and says, "You are beautiful, Natalie."

And our son, who is three, loves to wrestle with Dad and race Dad and explore outside with Dad. He delights in beating him in a game. (In our house, Dad always loses.) They have their own catchphrases.

"Dude, you rock." "No, Dad, you rock."

"Dude, you're a stud." "No, Dad. I not a stud. I Connor."

And "Shell. Noggin. Dude." (From "Finding Nemo," a favorite in our house.)

I'm so proud of my husband and the father he is to our children. I can't imagine anyone doing a better job.
And because it wouldn't be a Father's Day without me including a picture of me and my own father, here's one circa 1972. Love you, Dad. Thanks for building a foundation of God for me. On it, I stand strong.

A Small Town Newspaper

I'm working on a Father's Day post, but I wrote this a few days ago, and since it's timely in nature, I'm sharing it now. Happy Father's Day!

I could write a book on all of the things I've learned the last four years about living in a small town.

One of the first and most painful lessons was: Journalism is vastly different in a Small Town than in a Big City.

This grabbed me by the throat immediately because, when we moved here, I had just recently left my job with NBC to become a stay-at-home mom. I'll never forget the first morning I turned on the "Today" show, and I happened to see the local 5-minute news segment at 7:55 AM.

It was like a car accident one can't turn away from. The broadcasters looked like teenagers. Their reading was stilted and dull. They were scared -- scared -- to look at the camera. They blushed when they made a mistake. They were reporting mostly on local crime ("A perpetrator broke a window on a car on main street last night. The police are searching for the perpetrator.") and on the prices for corn and pigs that day. And the weather forecasters couldn't even point to the map without looking confused. "Um, did I point to the wrong place there? Because they aren't getting rain today. Just sun."

That was the last time I watched local TV news. I understand the kids are young and they are just getting started, so I forgive their lack of expertise. But it was just too painful for me to watch. (Although, coming from Southern California, I did appreciate the fact that Paris Hilton or Michael Jackson didn't automatically lead every newscast.)

The local paper is no better. In fact, it might be worse because it's run by people who are older and who should know better. But it's truly just a gossip rag that occasionally reports a fire or a drug arrest. They have very little news judgment.

Let me offer this as an example. This was the picture on the front page of the paper the day after Flag Day.
It's a picture of the local Elks and American Legion clubs disposing of retired American flags. So technically, it's accurate. But do you think a picture of a man burning a bunch of American flags is really the best option to celebrate the day our flag was created?!?


The Bugs

Do you ever get that creepy feeling, just as you're falling asleep, that bugs are crawling on your bare skin?

Only, it really is bugs crawling on your bare skin?

Yeah. That would be my life.

Four years ago, we moved from San Diego to an unnamed town in Minnesota. (Yes, we are crazy.) More important than the climate change was the change to every other aspect of my life. Previous to this move, I had spent my entire life in suburbia, and I had grown quite accustomed to that form of existence. Moving to the "country" changed my entire world.

Suddenly, there were no coffee shops open past 5:00 PM.

There was only one grocery store.

There was no place to shop.

And maybe most horrifying to people who'd spent the previous 10 years living in San Diego, there were no Mexican taquerias. (Taco Bell doesn't count.) Nor Italian restaurants. (Pizza Hut doesn't count.) Nor sushi bars. (The bait shop doesn't count.)

I tried to come to grip with the foreign culture we found ourselves immersed in. But I have to confess -- that first year was HARD! Our house needed a ton of work. We had no yard. The lake that we live on turned out to be a cesspool of algae. And -- the bugs. Oh my word, the bugs.

Living in California for 10 years, I had forgotten how bad the bugs can be in the Midwest. And now, I wasn't just living in the Midwest. I was living in The Country, where they don't spray for pesky things like mosquitoes, and on a lake, which practically calls to bugs of all shapes and sizes to come rest upon its mucky shore.

I remember a pleasant June night our first year here. My daughter was in bed, my husband was out of town. I had the windows open so I could enjoy the night air, and the lights on, so I could work on my daughter's scrapbook. And then I happened to glance up at our can lights -- and I saw hundreds, literally HUNDREDS (do you feel my horror?) of bugs flying around our ceiling. I ran around to look for the open door, and finding none, I slowly realized -- these bugs are so tiny, they can just fit in through the screens. There is NO WAY to keep them out of my house.

I quickly shut off all the lights and went to bed, too disgusted to even figure out what to do. I woke up the next morning to find hundreds of tiny bug carcasses covering every surface of the house. On my bed, on the kitchen counters, on the pictures I'd laid out for the scrapbooks. On the floor, on the stove, on the windowsills, on the couch.

I almost moved back to California that day. (Also the day I found out at approximately 15 weeks pregnant that our local hospital -- which is affiliated with Mayo and therefore should know better -- doesn't offer epidurals. But that's another story.)

Since that time, I've actually gotten used to the bugs. I know not to leave my windows open after dark. I know most of the bugs that can fit in through our screens don't bite. I'm accustomed to reading in bed at night only to look up and find about 25 or so tiny bugs flying around the light my bedside lamp casts on the ceiling. I know that I'll find Lady Asian beetles crawling on every window in my house each spring and fall. I'm used to it. (How sick is that?!?)

But my children are not. Just this week, they've started to notice THE BUGS which are swirling on their ceilings as they go to sleep. There has been much SHRIEKING and CRYING and many cries of MOMMY, THERE ARE BUGS IN MY ROOM!

This morning, my son brought me a Kleenex, and said with a sober face, "Mom, there's a jumping spider on the fridge. Will you come and get it?" And of course, by the time we got back to the fridge, the spider was already gone. At which point, my son insisted I stay by his side, with Kleenex in hand, "in case he comes back."

Thankfully, with our bug population, I can just find something else to squish, and I think he'll be satisfied. But boy, am I looking forward to moving back to suburbia this fall. Where bugs are more of an after-thought than a way of life.

The One Where I Learn the Value of Sunscreen

In a weird twist of fate, I now live in the state where I (mostly) grew up. It's not where I thought I'd be raising my family. I mean, I left Minnesota in 1994, nine months after I got married, shaking the snow off my boot and vowing never to return.

Never think God doesn't have a sense of humor, y'all.

So we're back. And I must say, one of the unexpected pleasures of moving "home" with kids in tow is getting to share with them the things you loved doing when you were young. And when I was young, there was no better place to be on a sunny summer day than The Lake.

For those of you not from these here parts, The Lake is ubiquitous in Minnesota. Our license plates say "Land of 10,000 Lakes," but there are really more like 11,842. (Not that anyone's counting. Oh wait! Someone is!) In fact, Minnesota's lakes and rivers provide more shoreline than California, Florida and Hawaii combined. The sport of waterskiing was invented here, and we have more boats per capita than any other state. (One boat for every six people, in case you're wondering.)

Best of all, most of our lakes are clean!
Which makes for fun summer days.
(I feel compelled to add here that the one exception to the clean lake rule seems to be the lake we live on, which is pictured above. Despite it's beauty, it's notoriously shallow; if you can stand the muck, you could almost walk across it, even though it's about 26 miles around. And the algae blooms in the summer are quite ... spectacular.)

Anyway. Where was I? Oh yes. Because most of the lakes in the Twin Cities are clean, and that's where my husband works and where we'll be moving sometime before September, the kids and I found ourselves at a beautiful lake on a 90-degree day earlier this week, thoroughly enjoying the sunshine and the water. Oh. And the chocolate chip cookies.
I really couldn't think of a better way to spend the day. I was so happy and so giddy about the perfect water temps and the perfect sunny day and the perfect way the kids were behaving, I didn't even feel sick.
Although I did learn this lesson: Sunscreen is pretty crucial when you are at the lake for four hours on a cloudless day. My kids don't burn -- those lucky Asian genes -- but maybe I should have packed some sunscreen for Mom.
I stayed inside yesterday, like a good girl, to give my skin some time to heal. But today? It's still sunny and 90. We're headed to the pool! With sunscreen in tow.


I found this excerpt from a Charles Spurgeon sermon to be both spot-on and quietly unsettling. I know I certainly find myself reading books about the Bible more often than the Bible itself.
As for you, my brothers and sisters, who have not to preach, the best food for you is the Word of God itself. Sermons and books are well enough, but streams that run for a long distance above ground gradually gather for themselves somewhat of the soil through which they flow, and they lose the cool freshness with which they started from the spring head. Truth is sweetest where it breaks from the smitten Rock, for at its first gush it has lost none of its heavenliness and vitality. It is always best to drink at the well and not from the tank. You shall find that reading the Word of God for yourselves, reading it rather than notes upon it, is the surest way of growing in grace. Drink of the unadulterated milk of the Word of God, and not of the skim milk, or the milk and water of man's word.
Lord, stir my hunger for You, as You alone are the source of truth and life.

I'm Here to Serve

"Mom, you've got another customer!" said my three-year-old son as he slid across the kitchen counter this morning to where I was cutting a slice of melon for his sister.

Why, yes I do. Glad I could be of service.

About As Much As I Enjoy Tax Day

Sara from Miller Moments and I have had an interesting and fun e-mail exchange the last few days that got me thinking.

I do not enjoy being pregnant. I love the end result, I love being part of a miracle, I love epidurals. But the gestation part? Not so much. I dislike the fact that I'm usually sick and tired for the better part of two months. (TWO MONTHS! That's like having the flu for 60 days in a row.) I hate the fact that I can't be a good mom to my kids during this time because I have no energy or creativity. (And since my husband currently works 100+ miles away from our on-the-market home, I'm doing this alone most nights. Which means they have little sparkle in their day other than copious hours of Noggin and occasional outings to McDonald's for a McChicken to make mom feel better.) I don't like feeling like a physical slug, but since I barely have the energy to take a shower most days, I know better than to attempt something resembling fitness. I don't like the fact that my clothes don't fit already, and I worry that I won't be able to get back into them after this baby arrives since I'll be 36 at that point and who knows what will have happened to my metabolism by then?

But most of all, I hate the fact that I'm usually on a negative tear for the first half (or so) of my pregnancies. Usually, I'm a glass-half-full kind of girl. And if the glass is half full with water, why not add a teabag, some Splenda and a lemon wedge for good measure?

But now? As you might be able to tell from reading this completely uplifting post, I'm not so into seeing the positives of life.

When I was pregnant with my first child, I was teaching at a Christian high school. A fellow teacher (and a young man, barely 21) shared an office with me, and after weeks of me complaining and sighing and laying my head on my desk for 20 minutes at a time in the middle of the day, he got up the nerve to ask me what was wrong.

I got up, marched to our office door, slammed it shut, wheeled around and practically snarled at him, "I'm pregnant!"

You can imagine his reaction. Poor lad, I wonder to this day if he'll ever permit his wife to carry a child.

But. But. I have friends -- many friends, many good friends -- who treasure every moment of pregnancy no matter how they feel. My friend Lisa actually said she would rejoice every time she threw up during her pregnancies because it was somehow an omen that things were progressing well. And my friend Sonjia, who recently gave birth to little Ahnnalie and who gets horrible, painful varicose veins with each pregnancy, actually spent the first few weeks after Ahnnalie's birth weeping over the fact that she'll never be pregnant again. (At least, that's the plan right now.) She was nearly despondent because she simply loves being pregnant that much.

So I'm curious. Where do you fall? Am I alone here in my (half-joking) wish that babies could be extricated from the womb at 2 weeks past ovulation to grow in a tube in a hospital where we could visit them and watch their progress? Or do you, like my friends, wish you could be pregnant forever?

Sick. And Tired.

I'm in the thick of it now. First trimester, week 7. I'm officially rotting from the inside out. (A quote I must attribute to my sister-in-law, who is pregnant with their first baby. And -- lucky girl -- she's in her second trimester already.)

Yesterday, I slept until 11:30 AM. (No church; I didn't trust myself to be civil. The hormones, they are on a rampage.) I feel reasonably good in the mornings, so I got up, ate a bowl of cereal with bananas. Then some eggs with avocado. Then some coffee with cherry streusel coffee cake. Then I stopped eating. Got the kids dressed. Did a project with said kids. Decided I might function better if I wasn't wearing pajamas. Took a shower. Fell back into my (unmade) bed, which was beckoning. Slept for another 30 minutes. Woke up to fix the kids lunch.

And so on. Most of the day consisted of me sleeping and eating, which I do in a desperate attempt to quell the queasiness in my stomach. And when I wasn't sleeping and eating, I was walking around like a Zombie, trying and often failing to complete simple tasks, like putting in another DVD for the kids.

I hit me last night that part of the reason I am suddenly so insanely tired might just be the fact that I've taken Unisom most nights this past week (along with vitamin B6, a combo my OB recommends to dampen nausea). Unisom -- a powerful sleep aid. And suddenly, I'm so tired even Starbucks can't touch me.

So I didn't take the anti-nausea cocktail last night, and I actually woke up -- on my own, without anyone jumping on me -- around 7:30 this morning. So here's hoping the nausea won't kick my butt back to bed later this afternoon.

(Oh, and could someone please point me in the direction of the person -- most likely a man -- who decided to call it "morning sickness"?!? Because it never stays confined to the morning hours for me.)

Plus, it's Monday. I need to clean my house.

We Need a Pet

Currently, there are no pets in the Love Well household. This is a fact that distresses my five-year-old daughter beyond words. Because she really, really wants a pet, and everyone she knows has one already. In fact, Zack has three -- a dog, a cat and a fish. And it's not fair! And she loves animals!

(In our defense,
my husband and I also love animals. We have owned a total of six dogs and one very bossy cat who considered me the mistress in the home during our 14 years of marriage. We just don't have any living with us right now, and frankly, it's been bliss not to be dealing with accidents -- other than my son's -- and shedding hair -- other than my own -- while having two young children in the house.)

This sets the stage for a dangerous level of obsession for Natalie. When we enter the home of a person who owns a pet, particularly a dog, my daughter has been known to spend hours sitting next to the animal, talking to it, laughing at it, dressing it (if the owners are generous people), feeding it individual pieces of kibble, and generally drooling over the prospect of having a puppy of her very own.

Which brings us to the park, yesterday. It was a gorgeous day -- bright blue sky, warm-but-not-hot temperatures, a few puffy clouds. We headed for our favorite playground to celebrate Natalie's first day of summer vacation. We had been at the park for about 20 minutes when a sweet woman showed up with her three-year-old son and her two (TWO!) dogs. Both were puppies. One was a yellow lab. The other was a tiny Pomeranian mix, which Natalie promptly greeted and then scooped up. She proceeded to carry this tiny dog around the park (with permission from the owner who was really sweet; did I mention that yet?) for the next 75 minutes, only setting her down for a brief break when I insisted that the dog came to the park to exercise and it needed to run around for a few minutes. She reluctantly set down the puffball, only to follow on its heels as it bounded around the park. She picked it back up -- mid-bound -- about 124 seconds later.

But I knew we were really in trouble when I overhead her telling the little boy who owned the dog that he could hold the dog "for maybe a minute, then I get him again." And she told the sweet owner that she should maybe consider letting the dog go home with us because she didn't think the dog liked their family very much.

Thankfully, we were able to extract the dog without injury when it was time to leave the park without a pet in tow. But her lower lip almost got caught in the mini-van door. And on the way home she crossed her arms and turned her back to me and said, "The only way you're going to get me to uncross is to get me that dog to live at our home."

(To which I responded: "No problem! Stay crossed as long as you like! I'm going inside.")

She's over the injustice of it today, mostly. Although she has dropped a few dramatic, "But I just know that dog wanted to live with us more, Mom" sighs.

We really need to get a pet.

Just as soon as we sell our house and move. And, please Lord, could we wait until after we have the baby?