A little chicken humor for your viewing: Cluck of the Bells

If I ever own chickens, you know I will try this at home....

And, as usual, I can kind of relate to that clueless chicken in the back of that whatever you want to call it. You see, our three-year-old, Lily, asked for two things for Christmas. There she sat on Santa's lap in the middle of the mall mid-December and told him all she wanted for Christmas was noodles.


More specifically, she wanted "cheesy" noodles. Nothing more, nothing less.

"Oh, and Screature," she added, as if perhaps she needed a back up plan.

Now, we didn't hear this exchange take place mind you, but she repeated it enough in the days leading up to Christmas that we understood that her life would be complete if she received some cheesy noodles ("oh, and Screature") from Santa.

Christmas morning was a wonderful, exciting time in our house. The kids eagerly opened their presents and Lily was thrilled to find a 5-pack of Mac-n-Cheese in her loot as well as her new best friend Screature. I know, I know, you are sitting there asking yourself: What exactly is Screature? Well, let me introduce you to Screature. (You have to click the link....and make sure to scroll through the pictures for the full effect...)

So, she carries Screature around as if he were a soft, sweet bunny and she tries to snuggle with him in bed at night. Yet, when you meet him, he bites and snaps at you, and growls his terrible growl and laughs his evil laugh. He's kind of like something right out of the book Where the Wild Things Are. (For the record, they are here.)

Ok, I must get to the point. The one thing Screature can do that the kids didn't know he could do was squirt water from his mouth. Without water, he simply rears up on his hind legs, does his Fighting Fish impression and makes some noise. With water, he completely sprays you down. So, I thought it would be really funny if I secretly filled him up with water so that when the kids were playing with him they'd get a huge wet surprise. Nothing can go wrong there, right?

So when the moment presented itself, I turned him over, opened him up and tried to fill him with water. The water ran through his poor little body and out the other end. Thinking surely I just missed, I tried again. Same effect. So then I get the bright idea of reading the directions. Doh. You are supposed to fill the tank, after you take the tank out, which is the only way you can get water in it to begin with, had I paid any attention at all to the details. Furthermore, getting the rest of him wet KILLS HIM!

So, there I was, a drenched and broken Screature in hand, roaring my terrible roar and rolling my terrible eyes. How could I go from the kid who would read EVERY LAST WORD of the drug facts on anything in the medicine cabinet so that I didn't miss any valuable information to the mom who failed to read a simple set of directions, thus breaking the one tangible toy her kid wanted for Christmas?! Simple: because I am like that clueless chicken in the back row who just can't quite get it right. Thank goodness for grace. (I just hope there is enough for the rest of you guys because this chicken takes a pretty good helping of the supply!)

Needless-to-say, Kurt had to run out last night and take Screature to see the Screature "doctor." And what do you know...just like that (and $35 later) he was "like" new. Amazing!

Unfortunately, I can't say the same for the noodles. I'm just glad Lily is to blame on that one!


Percolating Gerbil

Yes, you read that title correctly. Those of you who currently own a gerbil probably already know what I am going to write. Or maybe not but you will totally get it.

So, last week, Monday to be exact, I was dropping Madeline off at school when her super awesome teacher whom we all adore to the point of wishing we could take her home as that one really sentimental preschool keepsake, and whom LOVES Madeline to death, mentioned to me that they didn't have anyone to take the class pet home for the holidays: PAUSE. Puppy dog eyes. Head tilt. Irresistible Smile. And I am pretty sure the thank you was almost out of her lips before I even said, "Well, we'll take Buddy, why not?" Who could turn down a request like that anyway? Plus, it's only a little gerbil, how hard could that be?

"Oh great! Can you take him on Wednesday instead of Friday since it will be really hectic on the last day before break, you know, the preschool program and party and all...."

"Certainly, what's another couple days...."

So, we have added to our holidays, Buddy the gerbil. The very noisy-late-at-night Gerbil....(not as noisy as a train outside our window or anything crazy like that!), but he's awake and likes to spend his free time chewing up things (noisy) and running on his gerbil wheel (really noisy.) The wheel cracks us up though. The first time we heard it, Kurt comes in and asked, "Are you making coffee?"

"Nope," I said and then we both hushed to listen to the gerbil who sounded like percolating coffee. This is especially fun late at night when I awake to the sounds of what we now just call the percolating gerbil. (It's a little different if you hear it from down in the basement; then it sounds more like something out of a submarine and I must admit, it's a little creepy.)

But, we love him nonetheless. Almost enough to make me want to run out and get our own pair of them....almost. And the one who most loves Buddy is Liam.

You see, we are instructed to let Buddy have up to 30 minutes a day outside his cage, but it must be inside his big ball so that he can run and move about without getting lost (or stepped on in the pursuit). Now, if you have seen the movie Bolt, it is EXACTLY LIKE THAT! It is hysterical. And Liam, God bless him, has all of a sudden developed EXTREMELY accurate soccer skills for a kid who was still unable to walk less than a month ago. That poor Buddy. We are doing our best to keep the little hands and feet off of the rolling Buddy but you know how that goes....I think I overheard him squeaking: "Run, run, as fast as you can, you can't catch me I'm the Gingerbread Man!" right before he shot across the floor by one heck of a left kick....


On another note, I had one of those proud parent moments today. We were driving along and Madeline was bubbling over with contagious enthusiasm:

"I just LOVE Christmas!" she announced. "It is the very best day of my whole life! Santa comes and we get lots of presents and..."

"Madeline!" Aidan scolded. "That is NOT what Christmas is about! Christmas is about celebrating the birth of Jesus and all that Jesus did for us. It's not about the presents and the...."

I about wrecked the car! 'YEEEEES! And Wow! And, poor Madeline her parade just got rained on but woo hoo anyway, points for me'! I was thinking as my ears drifted back to the ongoing conversation.

"Well, your spirit doesn't actually touch your bones once you die. When you are alive, your spirit touches all your bones but not once you are dead, then you are just a spirit, no bones," Aidan was explaining. "And your blood is blue inside your body, and sometimes green, but not red. It's only red out of your body."

Um, weren't we just talking about Christmas? How'd we get to bones and green blood?

Who knows, but at least one of my kids understands there is more to Christmas than the gifts and packages, cookies and candy and trees and lights and.....somehow, the manger on our mantel has not gone unnoticed and that makes up for the 'easiest chocolate fudge recipe ever' that didn't at all set for me (not even in the freezer!) and has to be eaten with a spoon (it's still pretty tasty I'll admit!) and it makes up for the failed ornaments I tried to sew my friends because apparently you need to own more than just two pins to keep things straight (who knew?) and well, it just makes this season all the merrier.

That and the percolating gerbil. I'm just hoping we don't find out about gerbil spirits drifting away from gerbil bones or the color of gerbil blood on our watch! But, that will probably depend on who wins the soccer game. Go Percolator!


Grace-filled Holidays

It's hard to believe that it has been almost two full weeks since I last posted. I am not sure if it has more to do with the hustle and bustle of the holidays or the fact that I have been negligent (to the blog Kurt, not the kids....for the most part...) but whatever it may be, I apologize for the absence.

At any rate, some of you may be on the receiving end of the most hideous Christmas Card ever. If you believe you have already received such a card, just wait. Ours is still a'comin'!

You see, since Kurt started his own business almost a year ago (and seeing as how this blog has not yet made us that fortune I had anticipated....seriously, you'd think EVERYONE would want to get their hands on a Graceful Like a Chicken T-Shirt, no?), we have been on a mission of saving money wherever we can. So, last January, after having moved across the country and in the midst of settling in, I happened to wander down the 90% off Christmas clearance aisle in Wal-Mart. Now, I am no product connoisseur but from what I can tell Wal-Mart is not exactly the epitome of high quality products; although most of them are certainly good enough and I am a frequent visitor. But that day, my eyes targeted the best deal ever on Christmas Cards. There were boxes and BOXES of these cards (probably my first hint...) with this fairly simple holiday cake on the front. Each box contained 15 cards and only cost 50 cents! Do the math: that is less than 4 cents a card! WHAT A BARGAIN! I was thrilled. I snatched up as many as I could and felt so on top of things for I was going to be WAY ahead of the game come the holidays.

Fast forward to last week. Already feeling behind, all sorts of beautiful cards rolling into our mailbox each day, I finally dug out my boxes of bargain cards and got my address labels set so I could begin the long process of writing each one. (Seriously, it is nearly impossible for me to just sign, seal and send these things....it's a problem, truly.) Anyway, I was sitting there the first night and Kurt comes in. He took one look at the cards and said,

"Those cards stink."

Oh, did I forget to mention that they are like the scratch-n-sniff brand of Christmas Cards? I did? Well, you won't have to be reminded when it arrives in your box because you'll likely catch a whiff of them BEFORE you even get the mail....and if it isn't obvious, you may notice the mail carrier hunched over in their truck gasping for air or perhaps wearing a special gas mask as they drive by so that when they yell out Merry Christmas, it will sound a little bit more Darth Vader and a bit less Santa.

Yes, the cards I bought literally STINK (in every possible way)! Whoever thought to add scent to their holiday cards should probably be sentenced to drowned in perfume; and I, the crazy person who knowingly made that purchase, right along with them!

Then, to top it off, you still have to OPEN the card. On the inside are the typical pleasantries of the holiday written on a removable insert:

Here's to all our Holiday favorites!
Wishing you a wonderful and festive Season

And if you take the insert out, you discover a festive recipe card on the back! Woo hoo! Not only did the genius who made this card add smell, but they also added the pressure of having to write a recipe on EACH AND EVERY ONE! (Side note: we send out close to 200 cards every year!)

So, in my hysteria, after pointing out the recipe card to Kurt he says:

"You aren't going to send these out to people I do work with are you?" (I am guessing he'd rather me scratch them altogether and not allow our family to be associated with them in any way.)

Uh, the answer to that is obviously no.

"I'm not now," I said, still laughing. And then holding up a stack of last year's cards that we didn't use I said, "Hey I can just use these!" I think I was eye-rolled...

So much for the cheap cards. For those of you who are on the receiving end, please note: it is only because we love you and know that you love us so much in return that forgiveness is forthcoming. For some, you may not get the privilege of receiving the card's season's greetings on the removable insert for I took the liberty of replacing some with a photo to save myself the time. For others, you may get to see the insert I am referring to, so please, use the recipe card for whatever you may choose: perhaps you were looking for another lovely trashcan filler? I will not be at all insulted if you fail to even notice the insert's removable-ness and the fact that it is absolutely and completely blank on the other side. For those of you who get the card and think it isn't all that bad, may God bless you (for you are as in need as I am!)

As for the chicken scratch on the card that appears to be some sort of writing...that would be me trying to write something festive in the midst of gigantic, aroma-induced belly-laughs. Good luck reading it.

And for those of you who receive not only the card and the photo and the insert complete with a hand-written recipe, please know I have totally lost my marbles and go ahead and call for help. I probably need it!

May your lives be filled with the love and joy (and humor) of the season!
May you experience the grace that has arrived for all of us (however 'like-a-chicken' it may be!)


B&B Recap

Ear Plugs? Ear plugs? Did those B&B innkeepers offer earplugs....to cover up train whistles? Really?

So, here's a little experiment for you readers. Take some squishy (read: CHEAP) ear plugs, mash them into your ears as far as you can without busting a drum and then have someone blow a foghorn at you from about 10 feet away every 20 to 30 minutes. Now, try to get some sleep. How'd ya do? (No dad, you don't count...)

Ear plugs, shmeer plugs. I would have had better luck sleeping with my ears underwater in that extra large bathtub. In case you don't catch my drift, ear plugs do NOT drown out the sound of a horn-happy train coming through your backyard! The only thing that can do that, outside of an overdose of NyQuil perhaps, would be to be HIT by the darn thing....

Of course, we did have a lovely time overall: Kurt caught up on sleep, I read a great book start to finish and every now and then we ate. (Who can turn down a fish fry buffet at a local dive in the country?) I also learned a valuable set of questions to ask the innkeepers at the next Bed and Breakfast we look into, seven years from now.

Most importantly though, I am thankful for the gentle, albeit loud, reminder to cherish all I have. For instance, I've never been so grateful to be awakened in the middle of the night by a child as I was last night. After all, it meant that there had been sleep available for the waking!


Bed and Breakfast, Like a Chicken

The Round Barn Farm B&B&B (Bed and Breakfast and Bread) boasts of 35 acres of woodlands, fields and bluffs, with one of the few remaining historic Round Barns in Minnesota and an outdoor wood-fired bread oven (the oldest structure on the property). Built in 1914, I'll admit, the Dammon Round Barn is pretty darn cool. I imagine a string quartet right in the middle, the music floating up through the circular hole in the ceiling, into the hay loft and out through the small opening in the center of the roof, bidding a lovely farewell to the rooster (weathervane) perched on top. This is a place where dreams are dreamt and fairy tales come alive. And this is the place I chose to take Kurt on our (much needed) FIRST EVER get-away weekend since having kids.

After researching for a week, becoming ever more picky in my list of desired amenities and styles, I narrowed it down to just a few places that had the required private whirlpool tub and in-room fireplace (after all, it would be December and December means COLD) and yet wasn't too fancy for our casual tastes. The Farm sounded perfect. I made a call, spoke to the overly cheery innkeepers who told of the peaceful country atmosphere outside the historic small town and decided that yep, this was the place for us to get-away, escaping the hustle and bustle (and NOISE) of work and parenting. Plus, I figured it gave me the experience of being on a farm yet wouldn't scare Kurt off since it was not a working farm any more.

Fast forward to yesterday: we said our good byes to the children, thanked Kurt's mom for coming out to watch them, told her to feel free to call us at any time (but only in an emergency, tee hee) and off we went. An hour later, we were cruising through Red Wing, the old town, beautifully lit up for Christmas. If we were the sappy type, it was almost magical....until we got a little father down the road and noticed the giant plot of land dedicated to one of Minnesota's State Correctional Facilities. The old buildings were beautiful, as was the extremely high barbed wire fence surrounding them. Kurt thanked me for not booking us at the Days Inn right next door but less than a mile away was our turn which lead us over the train tracks and up the street (only about 100 more yards) to the farmhouse.

We were kindly and eagerly greeted by the innkeepers who took us on a brief tour of the farmhouse which they had built in 1998. I'll spare the details but it is a fine, cozy retreat, right off the main highway, next to the train tracks, and right down from the state pen. Kurt and I chuckled at how they didn't really mention those things in their brochure (details...), nor on the phone. But they were nice enough to have plenty of earplugs for people to use if they felt the train horn would wake them up at night.

"How often does it come by?" I asked, curiously.

"Oh, maybe 5 or 6 times at night, and they always have to blow the horn because there is no crossing guard at our intersection," they cheerily noted.

Oh, how simply lovely, I snickered in a most sugary sweet tone of thought.

So, there we were, a most charming place, in a beautiful part of the country (the bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River are truly gorgeous). They showed us our room and handed us the keys on the way out, telling us we only needed a room key because the front door was always unlocked.

"It's always unlocked? Even at night?" Kurt asked.

"Oh, we're in the country," they said, laughing.

Right. In the country. Off of a major road. Less than a mile from the state correctional facility!

After a lovely evening enjoying the comfy amenities of our room, (really, everyone needs to take at least one bath in a heart shaped tub!), we laughed about the little "details" overlooked by the innkeepers.

Ha ha, it's so funny that we are sitting on a train track. Ha ha, how funny that they consider this "away from everything" right off the main highway. Ha ha, they give you earplugs, maybe you'll sleep through the prison escapee joining the house in the middle of the night.

Kurt fell asleep on that king sized featherbed within moments.

I, however, still chuckling, stayed up...wide-eyed, like a chicken...all. night. long. The trains, all six of them, kept coming, blowing those horns and as an added bonus, with each train I was serenaded by an enormous pack of coyote RIGItalicHT OUTSIDE singing happily along....perhaps they were right about it being the country after all....

And I couldn't help but laugh when upon entering the dining room this morning for breakfast the bubbly innkeeper commented:

"I bet it was nice to not be awoken by little children in the middle of the night."

Fortunately we were not yet eating. (I might have choked.) She apparently didn't notice the black circles under each of my eyes. But, she is certainly right about one thing: I was not awakened by a thing! :)


Let It Be

Let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be, whisper words of wisdom, let it be.
And when the night is cloudy, there is still a light, that shines on me, shine until tomorrow, let it be... --Beatles

What I remember about the morning of Liam's MRI:

4:30 a.m. -- I awake because I hear a child coughing, not sure which one. I jump up to check on the kids, hoping it isn't Liam since he can't be sick for his MRI in 2 hours. I find out it is Lily.....wait, TWO HOURS?! Yikes, I can't go back to sleep now. What if I miss the alarm clock? I lay there wide awake until about 5:15 a.m. when I go ahead and get up.

5:15 a.m. -- I get ready to go, eat a quick bowl of oatmeal, and load up the car with my stuff.

5:45 a.m. -- I sneak into the boys room, pick up a groggy Liam and rush him downstairs to the garage. I strap him into the car with his loveys, he smiles as if exited for the adventure and off we go.

6:15 a.m. -- Having forgotten to grab Kurt's GPS, I take um, 'a different approach' to getting to the hospital. A few extra turns later and we are within sight. (Glad I left a little early.)

6:25 a.m. -- We arrive at Children's Hospital in downtown Minneapolis. As we head up the stairs in the parking garage, I trip on my own shoe and Liam and I go gracefully down, well, actually it was kind of like falling up really. Ever fallen going up a staircase? It is quite interesting...like a chicken...

6:30 a.m. -- We register with the front desk and then head into the wrong pre-op area. After being redirected, we find radiology, completely dark and empty. We wait.

6:35 a.m. -- Still waiting....Liam crawls around collecting any possible germs that could be sitting around the hospital floor.....eeeew, is that a puke stain on the carpet? Oh, please tell me it was just someone breaking the rules and spilling coffee.....

6:40 a.m. -- The radiology front desk person arrives and checks us in.

7:00 a.m. -- We are escorted back to the first of several rooms. We meet several way-too-chipper-this-early-in-the-morning nurses and doctors and after talking us through the entire procedure, twice, they get Liam's IV set up. He's thrilled...if all that screaming and crying means thrilled....

7:30 a.m. -- The Radiologist comes in to takes us back to the MRI room. Liam gives her the grumpiest look I have ever seen on his little elfin face. Apparently the thrill of our early morning adventure has come to an abrupt halt.

7:35 a.m. -- We put Liam on the table, he starts screaming so hard his eyes are clenched shut and it takes a couple of us to hold him down as they administer the meds. He falls asleep mid scream to a chuckling mom. I am sure this is out of some movie....it is like the part in Monsters Inc. when Sully is trying to get Boo to go to sleep and she is laughing and carrying on and then ZONK. She's out. Really, it was very funny. You know, in a sort of sick kind of way. The nurse tells me I can kiss him and I look at her like she has spoken some foreign language. After all, I am trained not to mess with sleeping babies and I've already had to break that once today....

8:05 a.m. -- They come to the waiting room to escort me to short stay, the room in which he will awake. He is already coming to when I get there and they all act amazed at just how quickly he is waking up. After having told me just thirty minutes ago not to touch him when he is waking up as it can agitate him, they now tell me I can pick him up if I like. Despite the mixed messages, I pick him up and hold him. He snuggles in, eyes open now and the nurse asks if he would prefer a popsicle or juice. Pop, definitely.

8:10 a.m. -- They administer the aforementioned red pop, Liam tries desperately to get it into his smiley mouth but keeps missing. I help him out, laughing.

8:15 a.m. -- We are dismissed and head on home for the rest of our VERY long day.

What Liam remembers:

Mom woke me up in the middle of the night. We went for a car ride and then I woke up again and she fed me a giant red pop for breakfast! It was totally awesome!


Well, the results are in and there is nothing wrong with his tiny brain in his tiny head on his tiny body. And although they couldn't rule out the possibility of a DNA mutation causing Elven-syndrome, we are free to just let him be.

Now, if the doctors will just leave him alone for a little while, he's got some walking* to catch up on....

*Speaking of walking, we finally figured out the hang up. We were down in the basement over the weekend and I put on some salsa music for the kids. They all got up to dance and there was Liam, walking around the room in circles as if the only thing he had been missing this whole time was a little salsa music to get his little feet movin'! Who'd've known?!


Spiders Revisited: Part 2

Speaking of spiders, winter is coming. The best part of winter in Minnesota is that if, no, when the kids leave a cup full of milk out in the car, you don't have to worry about your stomach lurching when you find it days later completely curdled. As a matter of fact, in winter, the milk would still be good! Did you accidentally leave in your car the two gallons of milk that you just bought at the store? No problem! (Although you might have to defrost it...oh, and for the record, I learned yesterday that we have not yet hit this point....)

So, although the spiders and other creatures start coming in to avoid the cold, we no longer have to worry about those crazy (scary) black widow spiders in California. We are no longer keeping count of how many we get rid of in and around our house. Instead, we have a new count: mice.

I told Kurt a few weeks back that I had found some mice droppings on my laundry folding table UNDER OUR CLEAN CLOTHES! (Ewww.) So, we put out two traps in the basement laundry room. Later that evening, Kurt and I were sitting downstairs, watching some telly, when he paused the program and said:

"Hey, listen. Do you hear that?"

Silence. Then, scratch, scratch, clink, clink, scratch.

"Uh, yeah," I said, getting up and heading into the laundry room. One of the traps was sitting there, not sprung, and the other trap WAS MISSING!

We followed the sound until we found a poor little mouse trapped behind the dryer, its tail stuck in the trap dragging behind him and rendering him completely incapable of getting out from behind the machines. No telling how he got there to begin with.

Now, despite the story my brother could tell about me as a teenager and the fish tank I left outside, letting the water completely evaporate and discovering firsthand about the phrase "fish out of water", I am a big animal lover. (Hey, those fish were kind of sickly looking anyway. No one can prove that they didn't die of natural causes....although I would personally put my money on cause of death being no water...) But I am the one who wants to plant lettuce in my yard in order to feed the bunnies. You know those pesky little chipmunks that other people try to get rid of? Yeah, we name them and then throw stuff out to feed them. When I was 8 years old, I tried to save a nest full of featherless baby birds that had been abandoned when we moved our trailer out of reach of their mom. (They all died but I tried hard until the very end, syringe full of milk in hand....Ok, so no one told me they didn't drink milk or eat mashed up cheese! Sheesh!)

So, my heart sank when I saw the two beady little mouse eyes looking into our flashlight. Thoughts of cages and rehabilitation fluttered into my head. Afterall, the kids really do want a pet...

Kurt on the other hand, had other plans. He ran upstairs and got a coat hanger. He stretched it out making it as long as could be and then I took on the task of climbing onto the machines and fishing the little guy out. Although I had the wise idea of just letting him go in the park down the street, I was vetoed and he ended up in a bag in our trashcan (and my stomach in knots...) Poor little thing...

It was after the next mouse stuffed himself under my washing machine, apparently having not been killed by the trap initially either, that Kurt went out and bought some new, fancier traps. When the kids noticed, they got very excited.

"Do we get to keep the mice?" Lily asked when we explained we were "catching" them. She started talking cages and names...Argh!

We have caught 10 mice in the last 3 weeks. And winter has yet to begin. (Thank goodness these aren't protected under the Animal Welfare Act I suppose...) I have to admit though, I kind of prefer deadly spiders....there's less PETA guilt involved anyway...

Spiders Revisited: Part 1

Last night, as I was putting the girls to bed, Madeline noticed a spider crawling on the ceiling above her.

"Mom, look! A SPIDER!" she said, quite composed given the circumstances. (Perhaps it has not occurred to her just yet that spiders can fall.)

"Oh, let me grab a glass to catch it in. Pull your covers over your head so it doesn't fall on you," I said. (I just love how wide her eyes can get!)

I got the glass, came back and climbed up on her bed. (She has the upper loft of the girls' bedroom set so I can pretty much touch the ceiling when standing on her bed.) The spider fell pretty quickly into the glass. That is when I noticed there was just a little bit of water on the bottom of the glass in which the spider took a swim.

I carefully climbed down from Madeline's bed, onto Lily's bed. Lily was watching intently, covers pulled close to her chin. (She apparently understands the full potential of falling spiders!)

"Hey Lily, do you want me to pour this spider on you?" I teased.

"NOOOOOO!" she screeched, pulling the covers a little tighter.

"I'm just teasing, " I assured her. And then, as if on cue, the spider JUMPED OUT OF THE WATER, OUT OF THE GLASS and right onto Lily's covers!

"EEEEEEEEEK!" she screamed.

Doh. Didn't see that comin'!


This and That

Lembas-a special, extra nutritious bread made by the elves that is often used as sustenance on long journeys. For the hobbits, one bite could keep them full for hours.

Said the neurologist to Liam: "What a happy little elf you are!" (Ok, that's a paraphrase.) "What brings you to see me?"

"Well, he has had growth issues and developmental delays so our doctor is sending us all over to see if we can better figure it out," I explained.

She proceeded to weigh and measure Liam and, after deciding she is not comfortable with the tininess of his head, ordered a sedated brain MRI (scheduled for the day before Thanksgiving) in order to rule out any possible malformations. Good times.

We also discussed the possibility of going to the special Feeding Clinic here in order to figure out how we can enhance Liam's diet to help him grow better. I am guessing they will simply tell us to stop feeding him the lembas and instead, replace it with homemade chocolate frosted chocolate cupcakes which he so eagerly inhaled at Madeline's 5th birthday party....so much for keeping in touch with those elfin roots but hey, we found something the kid will eat...finally!

Speaking of Madeline's birthday, she had a wonderful weekend filled with family visiting from Florida and a party with about a dozen little preschool girls. At the beginning of her party we had all the girls color fairy posters to use as place mats. One of the girls walked in, saw the others coloring and announced:

"I don't want to color because I don't really like coloring."

"Oh, you don't like coloring?" I questioned.

"No," she said. "I like roosters."

"Uh, what did you say?" I asked.

"I like roosters!" she said again before running off to color.

"Oooooooh," I said, thinking 'because THAT makes sense...but it's totally making the blog!'


Liam, Like a Chicken

At first, when I saw him eating with his hands behind his back I laughed because it was as if he were practicing for a pie eating contest. But on second thought, it looked exactly like a chicken, pecking his feed off the ground. That's Liam, like a chicken.

Speaking of Liam, he was recently seen by a Pediatric Gastroenterologist for his growth issues. They basically took one glance at him, asked a few questions and told me there is nothing more to look at as far as they are concerned. "He doesn't look sick, he doesn't act sick, he's most likely not sick" was their basic assessment. That said, their expert opinion was that he needs more calories so they gave me a handout with High-Calorie, High Protein food ideas to try to beef up his growth a little. It included things like eating fried foods, rather than baked, adding cake frosting to bagels and dipping fruit in marshmallow cream. That lucky little devil! Anyway, being a bit on the health-nut-ish side myself, I have to admit he will probably wither into nothingness before I start adding cool whip to his sandwiches.

This week, the school system's early childhood specialists finished up their assessments of Liam as well. We met a few days ago so that they could give me the evaluation.

"So, we have found that Liam basically qualifies for all of our special ed services," she said. "I basically found that he is below the curve in all areas of Social skills and development."

"Hmmm, Liam is behind in social behavior? You will have to explain. I mean, he is always interacting with everyone, always makes eye contact and does things so that others will interact back with him as well," I said.

"Well, it isn't just social skills but adaptive behavior too," she explained. "For example, when I pointed to some socks on the couch and told Liam to look at the socks he looked at them and smiled; but when I told him to go get the socks and bring them to me, he laughed but didn't go get them." (Sounds about right...) "We like to see them follow commands."

Holding back a little snicker, I answered, "Hmmm, sounds a little like ALL my kids but ok, I see what you mean."

She continued, "And also, we would like him to be a little bit more organized in his play."

"Rrrright, organized. Perhaps you can work with my other kids on that skill, too," I joked.

"Oh, I hear ya. But what I mean is, he likes to take out a toy from my bag but instead of playing with it, he just puts it back and gets out another one and then puts that back and gets out another and well, we would like him to focus more on playing with just one toy at a time."

"Gotcha," I said, holding back my amusement. I mean, I don't want to bite the hand that feeds me or anything but really? Organized? Perhaps the play to Liam IS in the taking out and putting back. And as far as I can tell, that would make him super organized because after all, he is making it very easy to clean up and put away! What a good kid!

Then we got to the Physical Therapist and the motor skills section of his evaluation. Ironically, if it weren't for his delays everywhere else, the PT wouldn't even be able to come help him with his lack of walking, the very issue we had him evaluated for in the first place! Apparently, his fine motor skills are so good that it offset the fact that he isn't walking and thus, he passed the motor skills evaluation. But of course, because he isn't walking and he qualifies for services from the speech therapist and early childhood specialist, the PT can come as well. All for free. And if he lags behind just a tiny bit for the next year he will then qualify for FREE preschool and even busing to and from preschool! Woo hoo! Go Liam! (Something about cheering for that just doesn't seem quite right.) But really, free preschool! Woo hoo!

Finally, they asked me:

"As part of our write up, we need to know what your goals are," she said.

Hmmm, goals. There's the first problem I suppose, hee hee.

"Really, for some reason, I'm not very worried about all this," I said. "I mean quite honestly, if it weren't for all the other people worrying about it, I probably wouldn't have had him assessed in the first place, although, I am certainly glad we did. So, I guess we just want him to get caught up to his peer group and maybe you can give us some ideas of what we can do on our own to help him in that pursuit."

And then, they said the thing any mom of four is thrilled to hear:

"Well, we will be giving you all sorts of ideas, like pulling pillows off the couch and having him climb over them, and moving furniture around for him to walk between, so don't think we are just trying to totally destroy your tidy house but it may feel that way with all the things we will want to do...."

I stopped listening because WOO HOO! I have permission to let the house go! I can hear the conversations now:

(Kurt) "Um, Karen, why does the house look like a tornado hit?"

(Me) "Oh silly husband! It isn't that I didn't clean today but you know how those early childhood specialists are; this is what will help Liam! It's all for Liam's sake, really it is!"


Up next week: Neurology! Woo hoo!

Have a Happy Halloween. Be safe and watch out for those chickens crossing the road!


Sick Chicks

Spanish Flu of 1918- This 1918-1920 flu pandemic, was an unusually severe (i.e. deadly) strain of avian influenza (sometimes called bird or chicken flu) that killed some 50-100 million people worldwide. It is thought to be one of the most deadly pandemics in human history. The unusually high number of deaths has been attributed to cytokine storm in the body (which, in short, is basically when a healthy immune system works overtime and produces TOO much of a good thing and the over-exaggerated immune response ends up damaging healthy tissues and organs, or something like that....) Nevertheless, the current strains of H5N1 bird flu (think SARS) has a similar effect. (Thanks Wikipedia for such great breakfast time reading!)

Forget the pigs; watch out for those chickens!

So, last week, we had two sick chicks roaming the house. Madeline and Lily were down for the count: low grade fevers, dry, unproductive coughs, intermittent urges to roll in mud, and the sudden cravings for pelleted feed mixed with ground corn and supplements. Seriously though, I am not fully convinced it was in fact the H1N1 (swine flu) as we never actually took them in to see a doctor (who apparently doesn't want to see and swab the kids anyway) and it almost seemed TOO short and easy to be something that has generated so much hysteria in the news and general public. But rest assured, I gave the little bug numerous compliments and fed it all sorts of warm fuzzies, making it feel as welcome and loved as possible. I mean shoot, compared to our last household epidemic, this was a walk on the farm.

Then again, I was only playing nurse mom and not sick piggy chick. And of course, after reading up on the different flu strains, I am just thankful the urge was to oink and not cluck!


The Chicken Costume

Before I get to today's point, here is a little girl talk:

On the way to school the other day Madeline and Lily struck up their backup conversation about what they want to be when they grow up. Somehow, this one never gets old.

"I want to be a princess when I grow up," Madeline told Lily, as to be expected.

"Well, when I grow up, I want to be a Canadian," Lily announced.

Hey, at least she is going for something a little more human, right?


So, we were in Target the other day and happened to be browsing the costume aisle when I noticed the gigantic, yet overpriced, adult chicken costume hanging there. While Madeline was telling me how beautiful I would look if I bought the matching Snow Queen costume to go with her Snow Princess costume, I was admiring the enormity of the chicken directly across the aisle.

"I think I will try that chicken costume on," I finally announced.

The girls looked at me excitedly.

"Right here in the store?" Aidan asked, looking around at the very EMPTY aisle.

"Yeah, right here," I said, pulling the costume down from the wall.

"You can't be serious," he said, as if I might just kill him first in order to spare him from such humiliation.

"Uh, yeah, I am pretty sure I am serious," I said, pulling the chicken legs over my clothes and zipping myself up to the sounds of little girl and Liam giggles. Right as I was fully chickened, someone turned down the aisle and smiled broadly as Aidan looked at me in utter dismay. (You know he secretly loved it.)

Which brings me to my point: I can't wait until they are teenagers....hee hee hee.


Chicken Turtles

Chicken Turtle-An uncommon cold-blooded freshwater reptile found in the southeast of the United States. Chicken Turtle meat used to be popular in southern markets and their name comes from the fact that they are said to "taste like Chicken." --Wikipedia

Seriously, who'd've known?!

"Mom, what eats turtles?" Madeline asked after looking in the pond on our walk.

"Um, I don't know," I answered, not wanting to go into how some humans think turtles are a tasty treat.

"Well, do hawks eat turtles?" she asked.

"Maybe," I replied. "But turtles are pretty safe in their shells I think."

"Well, I know eagles eat turtles," she said.

"Really, how do you know that?" I asked.

"At school, we read a book about turtles. There was a mommy turtle and she had lots of babies; I think she had six baby turtles; and this eagle came along and ATE ALL THE BABY TURTLES!" Madeline said. "That poor, poor mommy turtle."

Hmmm, must be Disney.


Below is an example of the forgetfulness that sometimes accompanies being a mother hen juggling a few too many things (or chicks as the case may be.....)

Q. What happens when a mom forgets about picture day at preschool?


I'd like to say I was just keepin' it real but no, I simply forgot it was picture day and so they didn't get forced into their storefront best that morning (because you know, I really am the type of person who does that.....she says with fingers crossed behind her back...) That said, this really is what Lily picked out to wear that day--so very true to form. And in the end, this, my fair readers, is how good (or at least honest) memories are created!


Liam Update

Liam is almost 20 months old and because he is not yet walking we were highly encouraged by a loving friend to have him evaluated by a group here called Shield. So, a nurse came out to assess Liam about a week ago and sure enough, after an hour of evaluation she confirmed that Liam can't walk yet.

Seriously though, she took out a bunch of age-appropriate toys from her Mary Poppins style bag and observed Liam as he eagerly interacted with her and the student nurse that had come along for the ride. They were quickly taken by his smiley charm and bubbly personality. He did everything they told him to do (fed the baby doll, pulled himself up in order to fetch the doll from the sofa, stacked blocks, put the blocks in a cup and poured them out, etc.) except for stand and walk by himself. After Liam helped her clean up, the nurse told me she would fill out the paper work, send copies off to us and our pediatrician and then refer him on to the Early Childhood specialists in our school district who will also come out to assess him and then, assuming by that point he hasn't climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro already, they will send out a Physical Therapist to get him up to speed.

The nurse wanted to also make me aware that while Liam is working hard learning to walk, we might notice that he stops talking so much.

Uh, right....I'm not sure if she noticed but he really doesn't talk much to begin with. I mean, we would be hard pressed to notice if he stopped doing something he didn't do yet but hey, I'm not the nurse.

Be assured though, Liam has made great, um, strides this last week in the gross motor department. For example, he will now take a few steps by himself in order to be rewarded with tiny marshmallows. Although this might sound like I am taking a more primitive or perhaps dog-training approach, it's actually beginning to seem quite appropriate. Just the other day, when I put Liam down on the ground at one of Aidan's soccer games, a little girl came up and asked: "Can I pet him?" Amused, I said sure and then assured her he doesn't bite...usually.

So, because he is so small and because he is lagging behind in both verbal skills (as compared to chatty Maddie at this age) and gross motor skills, everyone and their mother tries to help him along. The best example of this happened on the way to church last week. Kurt's mother was in the back seat with the kids trying to get Liam to repeat the words she said. The conversation went like this:

"Say 'car' Liam," she said. "Liam, say 'caaaar.'"

"Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee," Liam said, almost as if he were on a roller coaster.

"Say 'car' Liam, 'car,'" she repeated.

"Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh," he said, cheerfully pointing out the window. (I am sure he was pointing at cars...)

"Liam, say 'Mama,'" she said. "'Mamamamama."

"Ahhhhma," he said, looking at me.

Then my mother-in-law said, "Good, now say..........oh my gosh I can't believe the trees are changing colors already!"

I laughed till the tears rolled down my face and about flooded the car. But perhaps you had to be there....And although Liam might not be able to talk yet, if he could, I'm guessing he would have replied with something like this:


Soccer Chickens

One thing I love about the internet is that there is always someone out there who has way too much time on their hands and can provide me with just what I need for my blog entry. Take this video for perfect example: Chickens Playing Soccer. This is exactly what it is like watching an under 8 soccer team, only, the chickens have far more moves!

So, after taking some time away from sports, Aidan decided he wanted to try soccer again this year. Having played soccer at the collegiate level myself I was thrilled he wanted to take another shot at it. That thrill was mixed with complete dread about the hyper-competitiveness and intensity of other parents and coaches. But, Kurt volunteered to be the assistant coach and off we went, into soccer season on an under-8 team.

The season is underway and yesterday we took Kurt's parents to watch Aidan's soccer game. Each team has to provide one parent volunteer to be a line judge and since I was standing there, looking completely uninterested, I was given the task.

It was actually quite fun being a line judge, swearing the ball was hit off the other team when it wasn't (just kidding of course) and helping the kids get their throw-ins and corner kicks off. At first, I would try to give our boys some help as to where to throw the ball: "Look, Will is open. Throw it to him." But after a while, I realized I needed to say only two things: "Keep your feet behind the line, no, not on the line, behind the line..." and "Keep your feet on the ground when you throw."

This was accentuated by a throw-in that took place by the opposing team. The ball had gone out right past mid-field on our end and the coach was telling the kid to throw it to Zack: "Look, Zack is down the field and open....throw it to Zack. Do you see Zack? Throw it to Zack. Are you listening? Throw it in already, TO ZACK!" At which point I am fairly certain the coach was jumping up and down on his head with his arms frantically waving in the air. So, the kid, looking like a deer stunned by headlights, contorts his entire body around, twisting it in some acrobatic-like way in order to throw the ball the totally opposite direction down towards their end of the field, (but hey, he had his feet behind the line and kept them on the ground!) One of our players took off with the ball and their coach, completely beside himself, made the mistake of asking: "Why did you throw it that way? What were you thinking?" To which his player replied: "Parker was open so I threw it to Parker."

Parker was their goalie. And over half a field away. And his throw went all of about 5 feet, maybe....

I about burst out laughing but seeing as how the coach looked like he may need therapy later, or at least some strong mixed drinks, I kept it together. And I will admit, he didn't appreciate it several such episodes later when I made the comment: "Maybe you ought to tell them the opposite of what you actually want to get them to do what you really want." He had words, in his heavily-European-accented voice, that didn't sound very amused....

At any rate, we can't talk much because by the end of the game, Aidan, who has shown much more promise this year of at least being interested in playing soccer, asked Kurt to please take him off the field because his leg hurt. He limped over, holding his leg as if he had been severely injured. As soon as he was off the field, he sprinted the fifty yards to Liam who was practicing his walking on another soccer field. I am not certain which part of his leg was hurt but it certainly did not appear to be the running part!

Alas, such is the way with chickens, what can I say....


Mother Hen Portrait

One of the very best parts of parenthood, in my humble opinion, is the artwork that takes place right around 3 years of age. Lily announced she had drawn a picture of me yesterday and held up her doodle thingamajig. (I'm sure that's how they advertise these things too!) The similarities between her drawing and my self are simply amazing....really....my arms and legs do come straight out of my head, just like that! And yes, I do have a halo around my entire body, in case you were wondering.

(Obviously, she gets this talent from her father as I was never able to draw with such artistic prowess....hee hee hee....)



Here in Eden Prairie, the local food shelf offers a program called Fare-For-All. Once a month, you can stop in to the site and pick up a few boxes of fresh vegetables, frozen meats, bread and other whole grains etc. for a super low price. The idea is that everyone should be able to afford to feed their families good, healthy food. Today was the day. But we missed it. Again....

You see, today was also the first day of first grade for Aidan. In order to celebrate, we gave him the option of going to Dairy Queen (oh, please pick Dairy Queen, PLEEEEEASE!) picking up a cake or other assorted treat at Costco (oh, oh, oh....if not Dairy Queen, go for Costco, pleeeease, pick Costco!) or we could make a batch of cookies or cake at home (please, whatever you do, don't pick the cake.....pleeeease choose cookies! Come on, go for the cookies!)

He chose homemade cake. Now, you may ask why that was even an option. I have asked myself the same question over and over but alas, I have no good answer other than chalking it up to another momentary lapse of good judgement....which seems to not be so momentary, having started last week when I told the kids they could choose to play with whatever they wanted while I ran on the treadmill and about 10 minutes in Madeline came to tell me Lily needed help with the glue bottle, because it was empty now....and I soon discovered that in that very brief time, she had managed to empty an entire new bottle of white school glue all over two bookshelves stacked with giant legos in between...."Look mom, we made a lego sandwich!" After cleaning up, I told them to choose something for which they would NOT get in trouble and after 5 more minutes, Aidan came running in covered head-to-toe in the entire box of band-aids we had just bought at the store....."Mom, I'm a mummy," he says, as if this would be a get-in-trouble-free-activity. So you see, this lapse of judgement thing is apparently chronic....and a wee bit genetic...

At any rate, Kurt had come home early this afternoon with fever and chills and so I was able to set off for the store leaving Aidan behind, playing computer games and keeping watch of Lily, who, having lost all access to the art room FOR THE REST OF HER LIFE due to her stylish wall and furniture artwork earlier in the day, was bound to abide by house rules the rest of the day. (I said it was chronic did I not?)

At the store, Madeline became uncharacteristically devilish, biting or pinching Liam every time I turned around, apparently thrilled at her new found power. (How exciting to get THAT kind of reaction from such a tiny creature!) After threatening to shave off her hair, force her to grow long, curling fingernails (like those in the Guiness Book of Records which she is certain to have nightmares about tonight), and worse yet, refusing to let her eat any of the cake if she touched him again, we finally had everything we needed. At that point, I turned around and saw the boxed cake mixes on sale for $1. As a veteran mom, I knew the best thing to do for myself and my family was to put everything back and grab a box. But no. I was now a mom on a mission to bake the perfect 1st-day-of-school-cake from scratch....with 4 kids...and a sick husband....at dinnertime.

We arrived back home at 4:15. This is the normal time for me to prepare dinner so that we can eat around 5. Since Kurt was not feeling well, I decided to forgo making the terriyaki fish over rice with the side of vegetable egg rolls that was on the menu. Given that, I saw no problem with squeezing in the baking of the cake. After all, while it was in the oven, I would have plenty of time to put together the homemade buttercream frosting and still get dinner made while waiting for the cake to cool down before the decorating....right?

It was about the time I got the first phone call from Kurt, who was down in the basement and needed me to bring him more covers ("Karen, I feel like it is 10 degrees down here!"....um, because it is about that down there....) that I knew things might not go as planned. And then, when I started making the frosting and realized my box of powdered sugar was all but empty and the cake was cooking too fast on the top, and Lily came running over asking me to help her "scrape off the black stuff from the house" (not a promising sentence really); and after turning off the blender and taking the sizzling chicken off the stove, I followed her over to find that she and Liam had been digging in our potted hibiscus tree and Liam was eating the soil from the pile he was sitting in on the hardwood floor, and as I was cleaning it up, my self-proclaimed fifth child called to ask if the cake was ready yet, and would I mind bringing him something to eat and some hot tea and...oh shoot, the cake!...AHHHHHHHHHHH!

But I learned some very important lessons today. I found out you can make your own powdered sugar by blending it for a very long time. But no matter how long you blend it, it is still TOO gritty for frosting...but if you add an entire pint of whipping cream, you can kind of fix the texture....but then it doesn't quite taste right....at all....and the fat kind of sticks to the roof of your mouth indefinitely... And I also learned that you can't really fix a cake that gets crusted on top and bottom because the oven cooks too hot...and too long because of the baby eating soil. And that my kids would have been perfectly happy just squeezing big clumps of blue store-bought decorating icing over their ice cream, skipping the spongy, yet crusted, cake altogether. And that two boneless, skinless chicken tenders is enough chicken for all four kids, plus some, when they know they are getting cake later.

And even though it was pretty much a travesty of a cake, they actually ate it....Madeline said she loved everything but the crust, and shoot, Lily went as far as licking the frosting off the floor after having accidentally dropped her entire plateful of cake....when falling out of her chair, that came down on top of her....you know, because that's what kids do.

And as for Aidan, he had seconds...of the ice cream anyway...and I think, when my back was turned of course, he may have finished up the entire bottle of blue decorating icing. So, he might find out tomorrow just what blue food coloring can do to a person...which will make his second day of school just as memorable as the first. Hee hee hee!


Weekday Humor

Madeline came running upstairs today screaming and crying, followed by a smugly walking yet quiet Aidan.

"Aidan HIT me!" she shrieked in-between gasping breaths.

"Aidan, it is not okay to hit your sister," I said, calmly, not even bothering to turn around. (Been here, done this...) Madeline immediately stopped her fit and ran back to play with Lily.

"But she wouldn't do what I told her to do," he complained (for the sake of argument).

"Well Aidan, that is not a good reason to hit your sister," I replied.

After a few seconds of silent contemplation Aidan asked: "Well Mom, what would be a good reason to hit my sister?"


FL pictures, Week 2

First up, GiGi's house

My grandma and I with the kids

A happy Great-Grandma!

DiDi (my Aunt Diane) singing and dancing with Liam

We stopped for special yogurt treats in Orlando with my cousin Warren and his wife Karly

Next up: JoJo's house

Left to Right: Caroline, Madeline, Aidan, Lily, Jonathan and Jordan

My cousin Johanna and me

Sour Grapes: A visit to a Florida vineyard

The man with the plan: my father carries all the grapes we picked. He grew up thinking these scuppernong grapes were a real treat. Although I have to admit, they will not be making it into our shopping cart any time soon (or, um, EVER), at the very least, picking them was pretty cool. Of course, after our friend's warning ("Watch where the kids stand. We've had a real fire ant problem this year.") the image of Eddie Murphy doing his First Black President skit kept dancing through my head as I kept reminding the kids to keep their little feet moving.

A rare sighting: Kurt OUTSIDE in the Florida heat (taken right before he retreated back to the air conditioned car)

Although we were at a the vineyard to pick grapes, the kids found the Tilapia (and mosquito breeding) pond far more interesting. Here they are looking for tadpoles and other such things with Grandma.

Lily, looking a wee bit lost on the other side of the pond

Ahhh, cooling off with Uncle Wesley again

Jonathan and Lily showing their moves (they started struttin' their stuff while watching the movie Eloise)

Kurt and my brother Wes sit for one last photo shoot before we have to say our good-byes

And thus we come to the end of this year's Florida visit. Though I'll admit we complained too much about the FL heat, we are truly fortunate to have experienced it since currently MN temperatures are topping out in the 60s! (Yes, in AUGUST!) We will look back even more fondly come January...at which point we will wonder why we ever left.


FL Trip, in Pictures, Week One

Florida Fun

Lily next to Aunt Jill



(Ok, not so much fun this round....he jumped in face first and came up with a bloody nose but he had a great time otherwise!)

Aidan with Ian (cousin)

Jonathan (cousin) complete with waterproof cast

Our only trip to the beach, which ended after about 15 minutes due to a 6 year old who couldn't handle salt-water in his wound...and his mother who had a random visual disturbance....Short and sweet, just the way a beach day ought to be!

Shoes make any amount of sand in the sun bearable! (Also why I can NEVER find my shoes where I left them!)

"Hmmm, what would make an inner tube around the body even better?...."

"Well duh, SHOES of course!"

Seen in grandma's backyard....
Kidding of course! This baby was sunbathing securely behind a big fence at the Melbourne Zoo. But it is why Madeline started having nightmares about alligators eating her arms off....(Of course I probably didn't need to pretend to eat her with one of Jonathan's model gators later the same day....my bad! Who'd've known it would have such an effect though, really!)

Liam trying to pet the bird on Grandma's shoulder

Jonathan and Aidan feed the friendly birds in the atrium

The overly friendly bird surprising Aidan with a little visit to the shoulder during feeding time

Aidan feeding the bird (after recovering from his shock!)

Grandma and Liam at the splash pool (still at the Melbourne Zoo)

What better way to cool off after the Zoo then to swim with Uncle Wesley!

The Cousins after a fun-filled day
Left to right: Liam, Lily, Evelyn, Madeline, Jonathan; In front: Ian and Aidan

What could be better than one person (my sister-in-law Jill) standing on someone's (my brother Andrew) shoulders?....

....Two people on his shoulders! (I'm smiling because I am so happy to be the one on top!)

One of the half dozen or so lizards I caught for the kids....or, as Lily calls them: "Grandma's pets"

Another fun day was had by all!


FL Recap

Random Fact: There is a town in Alaska named Chicken (named this because of the abundance of ptarmigan and after much disagreement on how to officially spell that, they settled on Chicken, to avoid embarrassment....because, living in Chicken, Alaska is much less embarrassing!) It has a population of 17. And each year, for the past three years, they have held the Chickenstock Music Festival. (Hey, I am not making this up!) And one day, if my kids stay on track, I may just ship them all there!

We are back in Minnesota after two and a half weeks in Florida visiting friends and family. We are happy to be back in the 70-degree and practically mosquito-less weather (this has been a very mild summer here in MN to say the least!) and I will very quickly recap our trip for my avid readers.

1. We arrived.
2. We sweated, a lot.
3. We got eaten by mosquitoes big enough to be living in a zoo.
4. We swam, and swam, and swam.
5. We sweated some more, which made our bites itch.
6. We complained about our skin melting, as we watched the peahens and peacocks walk through the grass and noted the cactus wall growing in the yard across the street.
7. We visited with old friends and family while scratching and melting.
8. We swam some more.
9. We watched some crabs succumb to their death in a pot of boiling water. The kids ate them with ketchup.
10. We left.

It was a very uneventful trip actually but there were a couple conversations that I feel are blog-worthy.

One day after Kurt arrived, we decided to take all the kids out to breakfast at the Blueberry Muffin (a personal favorite.) Kurt and I sat with Lily while my parents had Aidan, Madeline, Lily and cousin Jonathan at their table. In the course of the breakfast, Kurt started asking the kids about their favorite players on the Steelers.

Aidan knew right away: "Troy Polamalu!" he said excitedly.

"And there's Hines Ward and Ben Roethlisberger and Santonio Holmes and..." we went on.

Lily chimed in: "And there's Turkey."

Um, sure Lily. Whatever you say. We just laughed. So then Kurt starts telling Lily all the various nicknames on the team.

"They call Polamalu the Tasmanian Devil, and Roethlisberger is called Big Ben because he is so tall and when Jerome Bettis played, they called him The Bus and..."

"Well, what is Turkey's nickname?" Lily asked.

"Uh, isn't it just Turkey?"

"No. It's Chickenwing," she assured us.

You just wait and see. The Steeler known as Turkey (but called Chickenwing) is VERY intimidating!


The other conversation took place in the car. The kids were talking about what they wanted to be when they grow up.

"Mom, can we be two things when we are adults?" Madeline asked.

"Sure, Madeline," I said.

"Then I'm going to be a princess and a ballerina," Madeline said.

"And I'm going to be a fireman, or a police car, or a dump truck," Jonathan said.

"Well, I'm going to be a princess and a Transformer," Lily said.

"Lily, you can't be a Transformer," Aidan, our know-it-all, chimed in. "Transformers are not even real."

Because, you know, you can be a dump truck.

(Stay tuned for the trip recapped in pictures.)


Florida 2009

I have been asked recently why there is a silence on the blog. The short answer is that we are in Florida. And nothing noteworthy has happened, well, unless you count the stomach bug following us here with my mother and brother sick for the first several days (picture me on my knees praying incessantly that this is OUR friendly virus, whom we love and hold dear, and not some new virus that we will have the honor of entertaining); oh and my nephew breaking his arm in two places within the first 24 hours of rough-housing with Aidan and my brother. But really, you can rest assured that I will write when the story presents itself as I am sure it will. It always does. (Especially in Florida....)


Much Ado About Nothing

"The mother of our particular hobbit-what is a hobbit? I suppose hobbits need some description nowadays, since they have become rare and shy of the Big People, as they call us. They are (or were) a little people, about half our height, and smaller than the bearded Dwarves. Hobbits have no beards. There is little or no magic about them, except the ordinary everyday sort which helps them to disappear quietly and quickly when large stupid folk like you and me come blundering along, making noise like elephants which they can hear a mile off." -from The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien

A.K.A. Liam

Tests are in. Everything was normal. NORMAL....just miniature.

The little ankle-biter, which he can be called in the most literal of senses, (watch out for your toes too, hobbits can sneak up on you and this particular one has some sharp chompers to be sure!) put us through all that needless worry only to prove that in fact, he is fine. All that more detailed testing showed a perfectly healthy little tyke. We await repeated testing for Celiac's Disease, (which I would put money on it coming back normal), and then we wait a few months before charging the doors of the pediatric endocrinologist's office to see whether Liam is a candidate for growth hormones. Mixed feelings on that one; I mean shoot, he has Lily to protect him after all.

At any rate, I have been given the green light to give the child as much fat (i.e. ice cream, french fries, cheesecake, gracefully fried chicken, etc....) as he wishes. Lucky devil. But, it must be in moderation if you ask me because "they are inclined to be fat in the stomach" these hobbits, so, we'll have to be careful of that!

Anyway, I just thought you inquiring minds would want to know. Thank you all for the kind phone calls, emails, prayers and well wishes. Next time the boy cries wolf, please take it as we will, with a grain of salt (and perhaps some butter on the side....for his sake, of course.)


A Mostly Serious Update on our Hobbit

We interrupt the normally uplifting and light-hearted side of this blog to bring you this news update on itty-bitty Liam.

In the midst of last week's stomach crisis, I had the pleasure of taking Liam in for his 18 month (not so) well-visit. He had gained all of NOTHING since his 15 month appointment. His head had not grown and his weight and head size had fallen completely off the growth charts. (Fortunately, I was too exhausted to panic and Liam is too young and happy to care.) The doctor, quite disturbed by this, decided to draw some blood in attempt to figure out what's going on. It's one thing to be small, it's an entirely different thing to stop growing.

So, the nurse comes in with the needle and syringe to draw the blood. I put Lily in the stroller at the foot of the table where she carefully stood up to watch and then I proceeded to help hold Liam down so that they could find his invisible vein. Liam cheerfully and innocently looked up at us with his big eight-toothed grin. As the nurse took the needle out, Lily's eyes grew 3 sizes and when she carefully poked the needle into Liam's arm, Lily let out the biggest screech ("Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay!") sending Liam, who had been okay initially, bursting into tears. He continued to cry as the nurse "searched" for the vein, digging under the skin with the needle while explaining she didn't want to have to restick him, until, after over a minute, she finally reached some blood.

The doctor praised the nurse: "Good job finding the vein," he said.

Really? Because we kind of thought she sucked at it.

The immunizations went about as smoothly: Liam finally calm from the previous experience, Lily screaming each time he got poked and Liam left crying. I know it isn't really funny but I have to admit, there was a twisted humor to the scene.

At any rate, the test results came in and there appears to be something up with Liam's little kidneys. We are not certain of what but today he went through another round of blood draws at the local Children's Hospital (as well as giving a urine sample via catheter) to figure things out. This time, no Lily to screech with each stick or tube insertion, so no crying baby either. He took it all with ease and quite honestly, even I was impressed with how well he handled it. (I am guessing not many toddlers watch quietly as their blood sucks out of their little arm, through a tube and into a syringe but Liam thought it was fascinating!)

I'll post more as soon as we have some answers. Prayers are always welcome as we navigate both the world of state-run health insurance (which we are still fighting to get our coverage resumed) and the uncertainty of what's ahead.

May God grant our doctor with the wisdom needed to figure this out; the state with the competence needed to sign the form to reactivate our kids' health insurance; and the rest of us with health, peace and patience as it all comes to pass. (And while we're at it, perhaps He could give that first nurse slightly better pediatric phlebotomy skills, I mean, seriously!)


Stomach Bug 101

"Somewhere, some lucky guy is having a heart attack." -Edward Cole (played by Jack Nicholson in the movie The Bucket List) makes this statement while dealing with the ill effects of chemotherapy while dying of cancer. (We watched this movie one night during our illness and we couldn't help but identify with that line.)

So, these past weeks, we have had a long run of it (pardon the pun) and I am now feeling up to sharing the lessons we have learned along the way. I am guessing our little visit from Mr. Rota/Norwalk/or-whatever-gastrointestinal-bug-it-was-we-so-graciously-took-into-our-home-recently was a good reminder of just how fortunate we usually are to have such good health.

What everyone needs to know about the stomach bug

1. Don't piss it off.

Seriously, I wrote last week that we don't like the stomach bug. Although true, that was mean and uncalled for and payback is a b!t%#. Kurt and I suffered longer and more intensely (seemingly) than any of the kids. No one escaped this guy and many of us even had recurring symptoms days after we thought they were gone. I wouldn't be surprised if it showed up for an hour or two sometime next month, just as a little reminder to be nice....

2. Don't feed it the wrong thing (because this breaks rule #1).

Kurt, that means no ice cream just because the McDonalds (also the wrong thing) stayed in okay. (You can see the issue here: If mom and dad are both sick, who's gonna feed the kids?) And on that note, saltine crackers or bread, timed just right, are in fact your only ally....until they aren't....which brings me to:

3. You can, in fact, go too BRATY.

You know that old "BRAT diet" (bananas, rice, applesauce, toast) we were once told to follow for prolonged diarrhea? Yeah, well, you can take it too far...you can back yourself so far up that the only way to find relief is a stick of well-placed dynamite....and then you are back to the starting point. Seriously though, this is where it was learned that you have very little recourse to fight the beast. As many doctors have told many people, it will run its course. Often, the more you interfere, the harder the recovery. So, that well-intentioned cup of warm tea on an empty stomach first thing this morning, trying to get the pipes moving again? Yeah, bad idea. Did it work? Sure, almost too well. And then I suffered all day with acid stomach issues for putting tea in an empty stomach after having a stomach bug. (See Rule #2) And because of having acid partying in my stomach, lurching towards anything I tried putting down there, I ended up dehydrated again and starving to the point of nausea by dinner....all because a little bug went Kerchoo....


4. Save the cleaning for a better day.

Hoping that I could keep the little germikins from spreading, I spent three crazy hours cloroxing my entire house down after my last blog post, and then followed everyone around with a can of Lysol in one hand, rags in the other and a spray bottle of Clorox Clean-up (just in case) hanging from my pants pocket. And I probably would have bathed the kids in the stuff if it couldn't seriously damage them. My hands were raw and close to bleeding from the washing and scrubbing and disinfecting that took place over those few days when I naively thought I could keep the bug at bay.

As I was curled up in the fetal position on the bathroom floor, moaning to Kurt that he either had to shoot me or have my doctor-dad call me in something to put me out of my misery, it occurred to me that the amount of undue energy spent on disinfecting the place was totally not worth it. That truth was verified as I paid attention over the next few days and realized that with little kids in the house, it doesn't matter what you do. The germs are bound to spread. I watched as Madeline picked her teeth with her unwashed fingers while sitting on the toilet. I saw Lily retreat to a lonely corner to pick her nose, study it and then wipe it on the wall. On the day Liam was most sick, he used his hand as a teether and then, catching me off guard, stuck it straight into my mouth! Even Aidan, in the middle of the disgusting week, was seen biting and then rubbing his nose across the corner of the kitchen table. It's actually no wonder they (we) are not constantly sick if you want to know the truth. So again, save the cleaning for when it will matter: like when they've all left for college.

And so, since I am such an ungraceful chicken when it comes to nausea and vomiting, (I'd rather give birth a dozen times, NATURALLY, then go through the misery of the stomach bug) I now need to go implement my new nightly sacrifice to the health gods so that they may bring us continued good health, and perhaps bless us with much more of that good bacteria that will um, eat the bad germs in our bellies. No offense of course, sweet germs, we really um, appreciate your visit, really....but if you'd just call next time, I'd be happy to tell you of some other spectacular vacation spots, somewhere else, somewhere new, somewhere far, far away....