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?!