Friday, April 29, 2011

a better day

Yeah, she's still getting watched, and that's for the best. She's been a little angel the whole day.

This is pretty nice after yesterday. We did errands with p.j. along and Julia helped. Later we grocery shopped and she picked out a gift for her cousin. It was a good thing in the end, getting watched was--the best answer to her craziness.

And it's Friday, and that's always a good thing. Why, I don't know, but it is. We work, it's the same as any other day really, but it feels different.

Here's a girl in the pouch, keeping cozy with her grandma.

It was warm on the patio, and Heidi and I sat out there a long time after she came home, watching the dogs tear around and the kids play.

The morning news was all about the royal wedding. I'd forgotten about it, and there it was, the morning headline. Check out Eugenie and Beatrice, the cousins of William and Harry. What the heck is on their heads?! Good Lor-ED, I laughed. I'm giggling again now, still incredulous and happy. You girls. You're too much.

this is not a pic i took. that's the website.

Now the rain has started again, but it's okay. It sounds nice upstairs, smells fresh in the dark. Onward! It's the weekend. love, Val

Thursday, April 28, 2011


My sister called tonight, asked how the kids were.


"Whaat? Those kids are not."

"You asked. I 'm telling you the truth."

Today I had two handsome police officers on my front steps. Apparently someone from our home called 911.

Nooo. Nobody called. There's no emergency. I offered for them to come in and check if they wanted to.

"No, that's okay. Could it have been those kids out back playing with that dog that looks like Gentle Ben?"

Wow. Maybe. I offered if they wanted to talk to the kids. They said no. They don't want kids to be put off from making a legitimate 911 call in the future because they felt intimidated in a previous call.

Okay. That makes sense.

Turns out, it was Julia. She was bored. She also called 411. Tim knew she did this, but he's not much on tattling. 411? That's the phone company! You can't be bothering those people either!

And the police! Here they're at our house because you're goofing around, being an idiot. What if there was an actual emergency and they're over here playing around? That's terrible.

So she's getting watched, which means she has to be where I am, no matter what boring old thing I'm doing, she has to stay where I can see her--direct supervision, so she can't get bored and engage in any other nefarious activities.

Little Jay called to have a philosophy paper proofread. I asked him if he'd ever been bored?

Yes, many, many times.

Did he ever call the cops due to boredom?


I asked him if he felt sorry for me having to deal with kids this bad. He said, "I do a little bit, actually."

Later we took Tim to vision therapy and Julia went with me to buy a bottle of wine. They offered her a sucker and she thanked the lady and asked if she could take one for Tim too. Of course they said sure.

Then when we picked Tim up, and it was time to give him his sucker that she'd thoughtfully obtained for him?

She'd eaten them both.

That's when I told her she was appalling. Breathtakingly naughty. Unbelievable. You ate his sucker? AND you called the cops? WHY? What has come over you??

Tomorrow it's supposed to be 70 degrees and sunny. Oh, may some sunny days bring back my normal child? This one is driving me nuts. love, Val

i love her, even when she's a turd

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


something from ten years ago:

We made it through the winter! It was long and dark with deep cold and snow, but finally spring is here. The Mississippi is overflowing its banks in the city right now. Yesterday, stuck on a bridge in traffic we could see way down the river, our view unobstructed by either snow or forest, since the trees don’t have leaves yet.

Gray spooky water swirled swiftly through the park and over the walkways and picnic tables along the riverbanks and the current looked like pleats in the middle where the water flowed fastest. But soon the trees will fill in and the river will retreat and seem lazy and soothing instead of dangerous.

Today it’s bright out with a strong warm wind that reminds me of my grandparents’ farm high on a Wisconsin hilltop. They have lived there since my mother was a baby and everything about the place, from the aqua melmac cereal bowls and sudsy bathwater to the bad reception on the TV, feels like home to me.

While I was picking up dirty socks and newspapers and toys this morning, the sound of the wind gusts kept drawing an image into my mind of the upstairs of their house: white railing over the stairway, soft carpeting, and long windows with sheer, billowing curtains. It must be the smell of springtime.

Wednesday afternoon we went to our son’s “robot show.” He’s studying engineering and all the robots of the 170 students were on display, each with its creator in attendance. These weren’t robots like spacemen, but rather robotic devices. Each student was given a handful of components and then had to write the program, design the electronics and create “something interesting.”

Not sure what we’d find, we headed for the ballroom of the Radisson. We rounded the corner, and I was stunned. It was uncomfortably hot and stuffy in the room, yet the sight was just breathtaking. All these young people, and a few old ones, had made the most delightful contraptions!

We found our own son, his cheeks red and hair gone all curly from the heat, and checked out his robotic dump truck. (We’d been watching that throughout the whole process.) Then we took in the spectacular creations of his classmates—a carousel with tiny gears and rods and horses rolling up and down, a monkey that played the piano, cars of every sort, a doll that putted a golf ball, a pop can crusher, things that flew, a bubble blowing machine.

I was in awe that an assignment could go in 170 completely different and perfectly wonderful directions! A guy whose contraption mixed beverages made glasses of lemonade for our little kids, and while we waited, I looked out at all the intelligent, animated faces of the students, and the room felt absolutely shimmering bright, bursting with potential.

After dinner that evening, I took Maria to vision therapy. Part of our genetic code around here includes dyslexia, and Maria's included. I know it’s supposed to be a disability, but I don’t believe that. I’ve seen too much. Dyslexic people have ways of seeing that are nothing but an asset.

And still, vision therapy helps. It helps the kids access the part of their brain that processes print. Maria’s vision is getting better—it’s right on the verge of blossoming.

We drove through the neighborhood near the eye clinic where the branches of the maples on each side of the road touch, making the street feel like a dappled tunnel in summertime, and yesterday I noticed the first shadow of light green up high in the tree tops.

It feels all around me this week! Everywhere I look, the whole world feels stretched full with potential. As we blew along in the evening sunshine under the outstretched branches of the maples, the radio was playing and Maria was singing along with Nelly Furtado: “…I don’t know where my soul is. I don’t know where my home is…”

It’s a beautiful song, but we know exactly where both are.

Best wishes for a wonderful summer, love, Val

Sunday, April 24, 2011

easter day

There was the usual pancake breakfast and Easter egg hunt at church.

Early, we were pulled aside and asked if we'd help take down the tables and stack the chairs afterward. The guy said, "We could use your helpers." Sure, plus tall boys are good for stacking chairs.

It made me chuckle a little. All the jokesters with their super-funny wisecracks about how many kids we have--there actually are times having a lot of kids comes in handy.

Then party at my sister's house--dinner, Easter egg hunt, pinata, spring birthdays celebrated, trampoline to jump on, a wildly pleasant afternoon.

They're waiting for the eggs to be hidden. Notice Dan and Tim in a little brotherly bonding. Touching, isn't it?

Actually Dan's only teasing him, not really inflicting pain.

But back in the day when when I was a young parent, there was a book written by some guy--wish I could remember the name of it, where he suggested giving a little maneuver to the neck like Spock on Star Trek, to tame your squirrely child. I thought, "Good Lor-ED. I can come up with crap like this on my own! This is the kind of behavior I'm trying to AVOID!"

They're looking for the eggs my sister filled with candy. Ten each--if you find ten, then you are done and should help the toddlers.

Here are John and his uncle getting the pinata ready.

It actually took a lot of whacking to break it.

What's up with that face? Hates Dots? Not sure.

My brother told the kids it was filled with jalapeno peppers. Really? Noooo.

Back in the day he also referred to his child's diaper as "The Pinata of Doom." He doesn't remember this, but the name stuck in my family. This is still how we refer to a poopy diaper.

Yes, indeed. Pinata of Doom.

If you've ever been scared to crack open a diaper, you know.

What my dad is telling the girls, we don't know. (It's Maria in the middle with her cousins on each side.) My parents are getting chickens this summer--could be about that?

Here are a couple grandbabies on the trampoline. Check out the static in b.g.'s hair.

l.c. talks now and kept yelling to Dannell, "Look at this, Mom!" He's perfected the seat drop.

I think they're both sleeping well tonight. l.c. jumped until his voice was raspy. Alicia was actually sitting in the trampoline during all this, and in trying to coax b.g. off it, she offered him milk. He threw himself down across her lap to nurse.

That cracked us up. When you have nursed on a trampoline you have definitely nursed everywhere. She rolled her eyes and diverted him. Time to go inside.

Here area few pics from the birthday party.

My mama and Dan

John and Dannell

And upstairs where m.c. called John to observe the Barbie house model she wants him to build her. That Barbie house practically takes men and a crane to move.

Thank you Pamela, and also Paul and family for hosting a truly spectacular party today. We love you so, Val and Jay and Everybody

Saturday, April 23, 2011

gloomy saturday

It is.

And yet it was fine in the house. We have lights and heat.

Little Jay and James went back to college to visit friends. Maria's at a movie with a friend. Lydia's a quiet as a cat.

It's just these giddy people--in the dirt in socks, driving people nuts with their laughing and the shrieking from the smaller one.

We did the eggs, raked the yard, had a fine supper of hot dogs and chips.

And now a little schoolwork--they're happy about the dinosaur pencils I found when the closet was cleaned.

I'm so glad Easter is not my holiday--no cleaning, no cooking, gorgeous. I love my sister.

We have filled the pinata for tomorrow, though what a pinata has to do with Easter nobody knows. They're ready.

Onward to Easter. love, Val

Friday, April 22, 2011

first communion

The first communions were at two different churches across town from each other, but we met up for one shared reception afterward.

Their lively suburban church had a reenactment of The Last Supper, and t.c. was so excited he yanked on Dannell and asked, "Is that JESUS!? How can he be up there and in my heart? I have a pain in my heart!" I guess m.c. whisper-yelled that those were ACTORS, not actually JESUS. When Dannell told us this I laughed so hard it hurt. Oh, he's hilarious, so literal, so serious.

At our church in the city it was the usual formal service, candle light, choir, a sermon about love. And trust.

At the party afterward things were predictable.

It was loud and there was a lot of food and kids cried when it was time to leave. One feisty squirrel rolled around on the floor in the shoe pile, and had to be helped to his cantankerous feet.

We don't know why. Crazy. Kids are crazy, that's why.

My kids used to do this at their grandparents too. Julia and Tim still do sometimes--like Wednesday when Jay arrived to pick them up from being babysat.

I guess Julia leaped out of the Jacuzzi and slammed the bathroom door and locked it because she and Tim were swimming and didn't want to leave.

I also understand there was even standing water on the window sill.

They don't know how that happened. (My mother snickered and shook her head. It's a mystery.)

Oh, this is good though: I know a grandma who had a kid in a bathing suit in her Jacuzzi and the little darling turned all the jets to point upward and then hit the switch.

Whoosh. Geyser and glory.

She said, "Yes, he came out of that bathtub by one arm. Right now."

The ceiling was dripping. Oh yeah. They're crazy.

Anyway, it's a dark and rainy FRIDAY, best day OF the week, and this is who we have sleeping on her grandpa's pillow.

I think it's time to boil some eggs and find that coloring kit. love, Val

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

watching babies

We started watching p.j. this week, and it's gone well, and life's changing again.

We'll get good at it, find our stride.

keeping a baby happy is a tough job all right

It's been a very sweet couple of days. Today we also had b.g. and that was the real test.

here are the babies watching dinosaur train in our bed. b.g. is wearing a pair of Tim's old baby blue velour pajamas, break my heart, okay? i can even tell you i ate a mc-d filet o fish at the park that day, and tim had no teeth so he chewed on a french fry

look at that yawn!

But, as I told myself, I've taken care of a baby and a toddler before.

It's the same.

There were a couple short-handed moments, like at lunch time, getting p.j. fed and also b.g. and the other kids rushed to help. Julia loves to help b.g. with his meal. This winter she's taken it on as her job, slicing up the banana, sprinkling out the berries and green beans.

There was no crying, no trouble, just an awful lot of hugging and toys strewn around.

b.g. was actually snoring here

Tim spent the afternoon doing this. It was attacked by b.g. a couple months ago, this huge Christmas gift project, so we took it all apart and bagged up the bits, along with the directions. Today Tim decided to reconstruct it. This counts for homeschool, doesn't it? I think yes.

James did his laundry and held the baby while I got her bottles ready. That's somewhat educational, perhaps? Little Jay's coming home this weekend. He's actually the really good math teacher. James understand him better.

Last week I got after James about being a slacker on his packets. "You don't even try." A couple hours later he tossed me his packet, and I gave it up. He did a little research, filled out things, wrote coherently in complete sentences and paragraphs about Stonehenge and coral reefs.

It's over.

He's educated enough to manage next year in high school. We're just playin' now. The job is done.

Anyway, more baby tomorrow--more snoozing in the pouch and nuzzling of the ears.

Here's a mama who's happy to get back home again.

Happy Tuesday. love, Val

Sunday, April 17, 2011

mom's birthday

Her, yep. The nicest woman in the world had a birthday this weekend.

This party started because I asked her what she was doing on her birthday, and pretty soon it mushroomed, as these parties will do.

If we get together we should include my siblings, who must include their kids because the kids live at home, hello, which means we also include my kids, and my kids' kids.

It's fun, perfect even. It's just a lot of people.

I did this to my parents--had all these darn babies, who then grew up and had kids, and it's a great thing having a cushion of family like this all around. And yet supper with the fam is definitely SUPPER WITH THE FAM.

This is how having cake turned into a party of almost 30 people. My mom made potato salad and Ruth's Salad, and all sorts of other stuff. My dad grilled. We all brought food. It was awesome.

We haven't all been together since Christmas and it was really, really fun, and she's the perfect reason to celebrate, actually.

Here are some pics for fun. It was a little chaotic. Not everyone was there. John came home from a business trip in the afternoon (including a plane with an engine fire--on the ground, thank God) and stayed home with l.c. who had a fever, and John needed some personal time with his little buddy. I understand.

Heidi was busy nursing her little peanut most of the evening, so there are no pictures of her either. Who knows where the rest of them were?

But that's okay. It's all good.

James, Maria, and their cousins

This guy sitting in my Goodwill pile--no pics of him at the party either.

Kirby and Maria

Kirsten and James

We're all expecting Tim to have whipped cream in the eye next.

And just because I can, here's one of the two of us back when we were both very young. It was 1962. We've been buds that long.

Plus besides me, she's been a mentor and a friend to my kids too, and my sister and brother, and her other grandkids.

We say it all the time, but this is even still different: This family isn't better because she's in it--it wouldn't even exist without her.

Lucky me, lucky them, lucky all of us. Mom, you are a gift to us every day. Happy Birthday, with love for always, Val and everybody.