Sunday, June 26, 2011

Frowny Face

I love how when Anna is concentrating or working hard on something, she always furrows her brow.

Here she is working on her Father's Day card for Dan.

She had me write "Happy Dad's Day" on a piece of paper.  Here she's trying to copy it, but she put the letters in backwards order.

When I tried to correct her, she gave up and decided to go with just the picture instead.  She was very definite about it.  Dad loved the picture anyway.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

A Good Week: Part 2

295 excited kids

Over 100 gifted volunteers (and one happy mom who got to spend the week with her kids)

Tasty snacks

Soul-filled singers

Creative crafts

And countless precious pictures, like this one.  On Wednesday, I saw Ehren during his rotation at crafts. He posed for the camera with a girl from his crew. He was flexing his muscles, and she told him, "You can do this to make your muscles look bigger." They laughed and showed me their stuff.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Captain Jack to the Rescue

Today at VBS, Christian came running over to me as his crew came in for snack.  His front tooth was hanging by a thread, but I couldn't pull it out.  Neither could he.  But alas, stage character Captain Jack came to the rescue, and the tooth was extracted without further ado.

A Good Week: Part 1

Today marks the end of a good week.  "But it's only Thursday," you say.  The kids and I had a marathon week of vacation Bible school at church.  Today was the last day of the program, so for me, it's the end of the week.  I've been way too busy living to blog, so now that it's over, I'll be recapping in parts. 

We hosted about 300 kids and had over 100 volunteers.  I was the registration coordinator, which means that if it required paper and was not a decoration, I was in charge of it.  I created kid tags, parent pick-up tags, volunteer tags, daily newsletters, promotional materials, rotation schedules, crew lists, crew signs, group counts, emergency contact lists, three versions of family packets, allergy letters, allergy tags, and food allergy lists.  I assigned kids to groups based on age, friend requests, special needs, and crew leader requests.  I consulted yearbooks to try to avoid creating cliques.  I contacted parents about special needs assignments, allergies, missing registration information and more.  Thankfully most kids were pre-registered, and we only had 25 walk-ins.  Did I mention this was my first year in this role?  My predecessor, who was unavailable this year, is highly-organized and is also a talented writer and graphic designer.  She left big shoes to fill.  She also left a CD with lots of templates and material from previous years. Somehow, I think I pulled it off.

Superman Prayer
After the first day, it was pretty enjoyable to be the registration coordinator because the hard work was already done before the program.  I got to spend a considerable amount of time running around shooting photos of my kids and of other kids for the program's final slide show.

Tomorrow, it's back to "work" for me. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


If you don't have a child on the autism spectrum, watch the TV show Parenthood to understand the difficulty of conversing with one.  Here's a clip where Kristina and Adam are trying to tell Max that he has Asperger's Syndrome {and no, we have not had any of those talks in our house yet}.  At the end of a conversation that's very intense for the parents, Max just says, "Ok, can I go play Bug Wars now?" and his main concern is negotiating the amount of time he's allowed to play the video game.  Kids on the spectrum are often focused on things instead of people

I have lived moments like the one in the clip.  They leave you feeling helpless, hopeless and drained.  You pour all your emotion into a conversation and just when you hope you might be getting through, your son says, "OK, but Mom, when can download that new game on the iPod?"

But today was a good day.  Ehren had great conversations today.  Seriously.  Today I felt like a regular mother of a seven-year old. 

While wandering around taking pictures at VBS this morning, I stopped by Ehren's crew.  He was laughing and interacting with another girl in completely typical fashion.

Later, at Walmart, Christian wandered off, distracted by the kiddie games and rides at the front of the store.  Ehren ran over to him and got him moving to keep up with us.

At home in the evening, Ehren worked hard on his eye exercises (he's doing vision therapy this summer).  While working on his eye exercises, he told me all about a beaver he had seen at golf lessons.  He said most of the kids thought it was a muskrat, but he knew it was a beaver because of its flat tail.  He told me that he turned out to be right (he was pretty proud of himself).  After this exciting story, I changed the subject and asked him about his VBS crew and if he was friends with the girl I saw him talking to today.  He said, "Yeah, she's nice, but I like the boys better."  We chatted about the kids, his crew leaders and about school next year.  I thanked him for helping Christian keep moving at Walmart and told him he might need to help Christian in school a little next year too.  But he surprised me by saying, "Yeah, but Mom, our teacher for next year is really good."  I felt like he was reading my mind.  I don't know the teacher he will have next year very well, but he knows her from recess and other activities they did with the second graders last year.  It felt good to have him reassure me, even if he is only seven.  It was a really wonderful mother-son conversation.

Wordless Wednesday: Grillin'

Why I leave grilling to the men in the family:

(the blackened results of my attempt to grill a marinated tri-tip steak for Father's Day)

Saturday, June 18, 2011

This Guy

...does laundry.

... cooks Saturday breakfast.

... has been up early every Saturday and Sunday morning October to March during the last two years to coach two boys in hockey.

... has helped those boys become great skaters {who need to coach their mom now}.

... never underestimates our children.

... is the one-man family support team behind the scenes when I commit to one too many volunteer projects {like one I'm in the middle of at this moment}.

... is our family's master activity/trip planner {seriously, he is so organized.} We have lots more fun because of all the things he plans -- things I would never think of.


... finally planted the pumpkin and watermelon plants that I bought, um, three weeks ago {even though I kept saying I would get to it}.  Thanks, honey.  A lot.


Happy Father's Day to an amazing husband and father.  Thanks for everything you do.  I love you.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Bara's Last Hurrah

Thursday, we took Bara to Valleyfair.  The kids have never been there, but now that the boys are tall enough to ride most of the big rides, we thought it was time.  When we arrived around 4:00 pm, all the school groups were leaving.  There were very few people in the park, so the lines were very short or non-existent. 

Anna and I spent some time at Planet Snoopy (the kiddie rides).

Meanwhile, Dan, Bara and the boys went right for the big rides. They rode every roller coaster they were tall enough to ride. 

Later, we switched it up.  When Ehren and I got the last car on the old wooden High Roller (the wildest seat), he kept his hands up the whole ride.  After we got off, Ehren said, "Oh yeah, I still got it."  That kid is such a crackup!  I haven't been to an amusement park for at least 15 years, and I decided I don't "still have it."  The roller coasters were ok, but spinning rides are not for me anymore.  I couldn't really believe it because I have never been even close to being sick on a ride.  But there you go... that's what happens in 15 years.

No Steel Venom for you!  Oh, too bad you aren't 54" tall.

But Bara had to give it a try.  Notice the look of trepidation on her face.

And there they went.

A fine ending to a fine day.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Sage Advice

Growing sage is easy as pie. 

Forget to water?  It's drought hardy. 

Cold climate?
It winters in Minnesota without special accomodation.  

Bad experiences with other weedy herbs (oregano, peppermint)? 
It's non-invasive.  It's really just a small shrub.

In the fall before your sage slumbers for the winter, snip a few sprigs.  Bundle them and hang upside down to dry in your kitchen. When you make turkey, chicken or stuffing, rub a few dried sprigs between your hands and let the savory bits sprinkle over your food before you cook it.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Marshmallow Feeding Frenzy

Last weekend we had a going away party for our au pair Bara.  I just love this picture of all the kids flocking to the fire when the s'more materials came out.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: The White Shadow

Gotta love this getup... and the kid definitely needs a little vitamin D.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Thistles, Thistles Everywhere

It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
and you will eat the plants of the field.
By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food
until you return to the ground,
   since from it you were taken;

If thistles were a cash crop, I'd be rich.  Our house was vacant for a year before we bought it, and a jungle of weeds sprung up in the lawn.  Did you know that one Canadian Thistle can colonize an area 3 to 6 feet in diameter in one or two years?*  Did you know that pulling thistles make them worse?  The stem breaks and sends up two shoots from the broken stem.  They have a huge underground root system (horizontal roots may extend 15 feet or more and vertical roots may grow 6 to 15 feet deep*).  And let's not forget all the seeds thistles send flying in the wind if you let them flower.  Ugggghhhh!  I read all these things when trying to figure out a way to control them without herbicide.  These plants have an amazing set of survival mechanisms.

This summer, I broke down and succumbed to having a lawn service.  I hope one summer of this will get the thistles (and other less daunting weeds) down to a manageble level.  Even so, here's a shot from my freshly-planted tomato garden to illustrate the problem.  Those little sprouts next to the tomato plant are Canadian Thistle.  It's still hand-to-hand combat in the garden.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Saying Good-Bye To...

10 hours of work per week

Anna's preschool teacher of two years

The last Volkswagon and non-minivan vehicle I will have for a long, long time

Ehren and Christian's first grade teacher {How they will fare without her?}

Bara, our Czech au pair {and Anna's personal hair stylist!} of eighteen months

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Mechanically Inclined

Although Ehren and Christian are constantly taking things apart, they hardly ever put things back together.  All the little pieces of things lying around the house drive me crazy sometimes.  One of the things they disassembled was Anna's doll stroller.  They removed the wheels and all the little fittings that held them in place (many small pieces), and they removed the metal pieces that slide into the shade to give it shape.

A couple of days ago Christian was following me asking me over and over, "Mom, when can we download a new game on the iPod?" I told him in an offhand way that we could get one as soon as he fixed the stroller.  I said, "here it is" and went back to my yardwork.  I didn't think he could actually fix it.  About 10 minutes later, he came around to the backyard to tell me, "I got it fixed.  Can we download a new game now?"  He did need my help to start the threading of one of the shade supports, but that was it.  If I'd have known I would be blogging about this, I would have taken a "before" picture to really show the complexity of the task.

This is proof of two things:  This kid's mechanical skills and the power of the promise of a new game on the iPod.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Track and Field Day

Near the end of every school year, the kids have Track and Field Day.  It's a fun, team-spirit kind of day with lots of outdoor games.  Last Friday was the boys' second ever Track and Field day.  Here's Ehren in the "octopus race."  The expression on his face pretty much sums up how both Ehren and Christian feel about the day.

Pretty blasé.  I wish they would love it because I loved Track and Field Day so much in elementary school, but they're not very athletic, and they're not very competitive.  How do you train a competitive spirit into a child?  I wish I knew.  I wish they cared.

But I think they did have fun {at least no sitting at a desk all day}.  During the afternoon, Anna and I were... uh, stick collectors?

... um, umbrella twirlers?

Actually we were helpers at one of the games.  All in all, it was a good day.