Sunday, July 31, 2005

As said by my most favorite five-year-old....

We spent about an hour and a half today at our favorite park, the Green Park, named for its green slides and monkey bars. The best part about this park is the sand that surrounds all the equipment with large pits conveniently located near shady benches.

Harrison brought four “diggees” – his grater, dump truck, back hoe, and tow truck (“Mom, you need the tow truck in case a diggee breaks down”). He did a great job sharing with all the other kids at the park. Beth came by with her kids, coincidentally, and we decided that the reason all four kids were playing so well was because they were all tired from not having quiet time/naps today.

After lots of digging and swinging, we left the Green Park and headed home for pasta and red sauce with a side of cantaloupe. (Who said I can't cook?) I asked the kids to wash their hands before dinner when Harrison quipped, “Mom, they’re clean!”

“How could they be? You were just digging in the sand.”

“But Mom, they have brushes on them that clean them automatically.”

“Oh really?”

“They’re invisible. You can’t see them.”

Tuesday, July 26, 2005


Free wireless. Good coffee. Great people watching.

This is a train that Harrison drew at our favorite coffee house in Southwest Minneapolis. They had three walls of chalkboard - it was really kid-friendly. If you look closely, you'll see that the car in the back is Diesel 10 (if you know who that is, you definitely have a little boy!)

Monday, July 25, 2005

Happy to be out of the car.

Pretty much all we looked at as we drove through South Dakota and Wyoming for 15 1/2 hours Saturday to make it home by midnight.

Heard in the car

Sturgis, South Dakota (little known fact: I've been to Sturgis Bike Week ON a Harley with a guy who happened to have a ponytail!)

Harrison to Ella while we were following a freight train: "My eyes keep watering because you keep saying "Honnnnnk! Hoonnnnnnk!"


"I Spy"
Harrison: "I spy, with my little eye, something tall."
Chris: "Inside or outside the car?"
Harrison: "Outside."
All of us: "A mountain?" No. "A telephone pole?" No. "A cloud?" No. "A truck?" No.
Chris: "Give me a hint."
Harrison: "It starts with tuh-tuh (the letter T)
Chris: " it a telephone pole?"
Harrison: YES!
Ella: "I spy something...ummmmm...something tall."
Me: "Is it inside or outside the car?"
Ella: "Outside."
Chris: "Is it a telephone pole?"
Ella: "YES! No - that's not it - it's something else. (We proceed to guess about ten more items.)
Chris: "Ok, Ella, we give up. What is it?"
Ella: "It's....ummmmm...something the's my stuff. It's my purse and my pretties (hair elastics).
Of course!

Friday, July 22, 2005

Cross your fingers....

Rest area, middle of South Dakota

Today was the first day of the trek home. I haven't hit anything with the van, nor have I locked any keys inside of anything! I'd say that's pretty good!

As we left Utah, 14 days ago, it took us until 3:00pm to leave - today we were scooting out the door by 11:30am. I'd say that's progress.

I am sitting in another pretty scuzzy motel room in Wall, South Dakota - home of Wall Drug. This "drug" store advertises across this state like the old Burma Shave billboards. It's pretty funny. I went there when I was a kid - it's just a junk shop, but I think Chris wants to see what all the fuss is about so we may pop in on our way out tomorrow morning.

It was hard to leave this morning, although I don't think it's really hit me that this will be the last time I see my childhood home. The home I've lived in, or gone back to, for 36 years. My parents are also having some regrets, but are committed to simplifying and will list it at the end of next week.

Good mom's MRI was fine and I think it gave her a renewed energy. She got out of bed last night around 6:30pm and stayed out till about 10:00pm. I can't remember the last time she interacted with us for so long. Thank you for your good vibes, thoughts and prayers. They must have helped me with my driving and memory today, also, but do keep them coming. We still have two more days!

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Picture Thursday

Moonlight on Lake Harriet

Downtown Minneapolis

How did I get so lucky?


Harrison really doesn't like rides, but he loved the Merry Go Round

Kelli and her gorgeous family

Three generations

Making cards for their big brother

Elly Belly

Science Museum

"Carol - what is with you and that camera?"

Mississippi River in downtown St. Paul

Found this at the Science Museum and couldn't resist photographing it. Heather - this one's for you.

Bumpa and my science girl

Brothers and a sister

One of Meg's beautiful gardens

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Dinosaur bones and more

Tuesday was another long day completely packed full with activity. The kids had breakfast out with Grandma and Bumpa (Chris’ parents) then were taken back out to the Mall of America for one more visit to Legoland. Home by noon, they were put back in the car and we trekked over to St. Paul to visit the Science Museum of Minnesota. It’s an incredibly beautiful new building with lots of wonderfully interactive exhibits and an over active air conditioner (for proof you just have to see the now permanent goosepimples on my arm.)

It is always harder to entertain the kids when they are all together due to their ages (3, 5 and almost 12 next week). The museum was the ticket. Well, almost. Ella is becoming our behavior problem. If I hear, “I KNOW that!” (you really have to hear it to appreciate the snottiness in the tone) one more time, I think I may have to strangle her! She uses it every time you tell her something, ask her to do something, compliment her, criticize her or just while you’re sitting with her. Harrison’s new favorite expression on this trip is, “HELL-O-OOO” (very sing-song-y and he uses it before a sentence.) For example the other night in the car he said, “Hell-o-oooo, I’m not buckled in. You NEED to stop the car!” He also uses it when talking with Ella – “Hell-o-ooo – you need to ask before you take that cookie off the counter, Ellie!” It’s so funny. His voice seems to be changing a bit, too. Could my little children be changing into pre-adolescents before my eyes?

Today, I will help my mom sort through more boxes, cupboards and demitasse cups. Chris and his parents will head over to Chris’ Aunt Mame’s lake house on Lake Chisago. It’s about an hour away. It will be so nice for the kids to be in a setting where they can just run and play. They have been troopers through all of our shopping, restaurants and museum travels.

My mom had an extreme dizzy spell/headache episode last Wednesday. Her oncologist ordered an immediate MRI for Friday night. We still haven’t heard the results. Please keep her in your prayers and thoughts. We are hopeful that her brain tumor, which was dramatically reduced this past December, has not grown again.

Good friends

Eleven years ago next month, I moved back to the Minneapolis area from Wausau, Wisconsin. I was 30 years old, newly divorced and looking to start a new chapter in my life. I was extremely fortunate to land a great position at a junior high in a large school district. The students were at-risk, needy and hard to deal with at times, however these types of schools tend to attract a staff that is willing to go the extra mile – the teachers are more tolerant and empathetic. There was a large group of us, between the ages of 30 and 40, who socialized together. Many of us were single which seemed to allow us to work harder and play harder.

Of course there were some of us who dated each other. Two of my favorite co-workers paired up and married during this time and are still people I care about deeply today. Meg is a math teacher and Paul is an administrator. I can still remember Meg and me walking up to our end-of-the-year school social, from our parked car, and she pointed to Paul’s truck. She said something about having a crush on him. It was so innocent and sincere. I remember being really surprised by her revelation, but thrilled because these two people deserved happiness more than most. They were both divorced, but not because they didn’t try hard to have successful marriages. Neither was looking for another relationship – it just seemed to make perfect sense. I still claim FULL matchmaker responsibility for pulling them together.

Halloween of my fourth year at this school, I met Chris at a party over in Green Bay, Wisconsin. We dated long distance until the following summer when it became obvious that one of us should move. I moved so that we could be closer to his family. It was a bittersweet move. I knew the closeness I felt to many I worked with, and for, was rare.

Meg and Paul, along with Meg’s two children and their four-year-old daughter, still live and work in the same school district. I try to visit them each time I come back home. Last week we spent a wonderful long afternoon with Meg (Paul was on his annual Canadian fishing trip). My kids loved their Emma – okay, they buttered her up to get to her Jeep – but I know they loved her for her vivacious personality even more! Being with Meg is always like walking down memory lane. It’s a chance to catch up on people I haven’t talked about in ages and to reminisce about old times. She is one of those people in your life that you can just BE with and that’s more than enough. We never go to restaurants, shopping or events when we get together. It’s not necessary. Our conversations are always more than enough to keep us engaged.

I think one of the greatest things I love about connecting and re-connecting with Meg and Paul is their solidity. They keep me grounded to “Carol” – not Mommy, Chris’ wife, or any other title I’ve attained over the last seven years – they still act as if they think of me as single, a tad irresponsible and slightly ditzy – and I’m COMPLETELY comfortable with that!

Monday, July 18, 2005

The cousins.

Ella finds it completely impossible to eat frozen things quickly - especially when it's 94 degrees out with a heat index of 104.

These bars were my absolute favorite thing to play on about 31 years ago. The other stuff wasn't there.

The house I grew up in. Don't ask about the owl.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

My alma mater

Lived here for three years. The Alpha Gamma Delta sorority at Iowa State University. Had a chance to visit on our trip through hell - oh, excuse me, our trip through Iowa.

Monday, July 11, 2005

we made it...barely

Do you see the look in Ella's eyes? The look of sheer exhaustion? See Harrison? Does he look delirious? Well, he was! Me...I look fine because I'm out of the car and in my home state at a lake. Nothing is better.

We got to my parent's at about 7:00 pm last night and stayed for about an hour and a half before shoving the kids back in the car to check out the sunset at Lake Calhoun. It was a wonderfully warm and sticky night - perfect for putting our feet in the lake.

The trip got worse before it got better. I'll keep it short and sweet - just think expensive bike becoming good buddies with motel front door overhang roof thingy. While I'm driving. And I don't own expensive bike - it's Chris'. Oh - best part was that I did this around 10 pm after driving since 9:30 am and there were no rooms in Omaha to be found. Had to keep driving to Des Moines. Iowa. It's in another state!

We're here. I've found my spot at the coffee shop and life will go on. My mom seems so much healthier and energetic. The kids aren't driving anyone particularly crazy, so I'm smiling. Things are I just need to get to IKEA.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Did you know...

....that the Econolodge in Laramie, Wyoming may have shitty pink carpet, really thin cheap linens, and is overpriced, BUT it has free wireless??

....that if you leave Salt Lake City at 3:00 PM, instead of 8:00 AM you will not get to Nebraska by dusk?

....that if you wake up groggily from a nap while your family runs into the rest area restrooms in the middle of Wyoming, you shouldn't lock the doors while the keys are still in the ignition? (Why? because they will have to wait an hour and a half with the prairie dogs and LARGE spiders in the sun for a locksmith)

....that McDonalds no longer believes in FAST food when it's past 9:00 and they KNOW you are over tired, over irritated and have only entered their restaurant because it's the only thing open in the middle of bum fuck Wyoming that time of day!?

....that three year old little girls really don't enjoy the COOL two-screen DVD player you borrowed for her watching pleasure from Beth? No, three year old girls would rather be home playing with their baby stuff. (I know - I had no idea either until she told me over and over.)

....that two preschoolers can ask, "Are we in Minnesota?" more times in a 60 minute time period than one 41 year old woman can answer?

....that driving across the country is not the most fun thing I have ever done?

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Road Trip

Tonight was the last night of swimming lessons. The kids' first lessons. They went better than I expected. The setting of the pool was wonderful. The weather cooperated and so did my children! They had a great time with a really patient teacher.

Spent most of the day preparing for a road trip. Heading to Minnesota to help my mom again. Bringing the whole gang with me this time. Traveling by air takes about 2 1/2 hours. Traveling by car will take about 2 1/2 days. DAYS. Have to go help finish preparing my parent's house for sale. Talked to my mom today and she is feeling much better than she has in a long time. She's had her lungs drained twice this year. She's in her fourth year of chemo. She's still looking ahead and says she's feeling pretty good. I'm pretty awestruck as to how she keeps going. I've had a couple of bad "single" parenting days and I'm practically despondent. I'm hoping the kids will get to know her better this trip. We're staying for about two weeks. I want them to know her like I know her.

Hope to get to my favorite coffee shop to post updates.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

I wonder what my hourly wage is?

Days like today make me wonder how childcare workers do it day in and day out. My neighbor and I were chatting about the sheer relentlessness of childrearing. We were commiserating about how hard it is when she blurted out, "Why do you think I majored in gerontology?"

My kids weren't unusually undisciplined today, but they just sucked the energy out of me. My lowest point was about 2:30 pm. I distinctly remember thinking, "How in the hell am I going to stay awake through one more meal, swimming lessons, bath time and bedtime?" So I did what any other self-respecting stay at home mom does - I made coffee.

About 3:00 pm, feeling a bit better on my caffeine buzz, I made a critical error. I decided that I had to go to Shopko. The kids had been playing nicely together, but I disrupted that apple cart and put them in the car. Critical error number two occurred when I decided to try on some jeans. In a dressing room at a discount store. With two preschoolers. Oh - I also decided to answer my phone when my pants were off. So there I was talking to my friend about something important going on in her life while my children decided I needed a spanking. They started giggling and screaming as they swatted and swatted my butt. I managed to get the jeans only up to my thighs - even though they were supposed to be in my size - and that negative body image moment just capped off the entire event. Can you even imagine what everyone around us must have been thinking??? I hung up and tried to continue shopping, but it was fruitless. Ella almost broke a baby swing she INSISTED on sitting in, Harrison tried to shoplift a stuffed giraffe, and we managed to try every toilet seat in the Shopko restroom.

The kids made it home alive (I was pretty mad) and I promptly put them in front of the TV. I'm not proud, but I had gone into survival mode. The above picture shows how Ella collapsed about ten minutes later. "No Mommy! I don't WANT to take a nap!" Sure you don't. It was at this point that I didn't think I could make it through six more hours of active parenting.

The quiet time did help, though, and I actually enjoyed swimming lessons tonight. I took some great pictures but forgot to load my memory card, so I won't be able to post them. I'm heading to bed now so thankful that each day has a night time. I'll go check on them one more time. They'll look very cute and harmless which will be enough to propel me through tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Red Butte

There is a peaceful and beautiful garden here in Salt Lake run by the University of Utah. It is near my house and we got a membership this year so that we could enjoy it any time we wished.

I had no idea how much I would appreciate this place. It is a sanctuary for me. The kids love it, too, which really helps. It has trails, fancy gardens, wild gardens, duck ponds, an ampitheater for concerts and quiet. Lots and lots of quiet.

Feeling like the rough spot I've hit over the last month or two is becoming familiar and stagnant. Found these pictures from the garden and they made me smile for a moment. I'm so thankful I found this place.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Must be something in the water

Kids are inquisitive by nature. I got pretty lucky, though. Harrison never went through that “Why?” stage – the one where when he’s two to three he asks the question “Why?” over and over. I worried, for about a second, if maybe he wasn’t curious - maybe not even intelligent because he missed this important developmental stage, but I shouldn’t have. He’s a really smart boy who just happens to do his own research when he needs a question answered. Only when he really can’t figure something out will he turn to one of us for an answer.

Ella has been kind of an in-between girl. She definitely likes to ask questions – even the “Why?” questions, but is such a social being that this trait overrides her curiosity. For example, she’ll have a thought or question for me. She’ll start to comment or ask and then BAM! – someone will walk by. Or we’ll come upon a grocery cart full of kids. That’s it. She’ll stop cold in her tracks and stare endlessly to see what is going on. She is fascinated with people.

Just when I thought I was lucky and had my guard down, the kids double-whammied me.

Three days ago:

Harrison: “Mommy? How do babies come out of mommies’ bellies?”

Me: (cough, spit, gag) “Ummm. Well, there are a couple of answers to that.”

Harrison: looks at me more intently

Me: “Most babies come out of a mommy’s vagina.” (There, that wasn’t so hard)

Harrison: still staring

Me: “Or some babies, like you and Ella, come out of a hole cut into a mommy’s belly.”

Harrison: “Hee Hee Hee….Bah Hah…BAH HAH HAH – hole in Mommy! Ha Ha Ha” The laughing and giggling went on for about two minutes.

Two days ago:

Ella: “Mama? How do babies get inside your tummy?”

Me: (without missing a beat) “God puts them there.” They’re not going to get me twice!