Wednesday, December 9, 2009

You can NOT be SERIOUS!

Colleen got into the car this afternoon after preschool, and immediately said, "Mom, I have a problem. Mrs. Carr said to bring boots and tennis shoes to school tomorrow.

"But I don't have boots. And I don't play tennis."

We'll have to see what we can do. Been a fun day here with the snow. The kids loved playing outside in it yesterday. It's been prime hot chocolate weather.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Yep, we're still here

General apologies for the huge gaps between posts. This fall seems to be busier than most. Here are a few cute stories we missed sharing. Hopefully I can add some pictures tonight.

This morning in the car, Colleen was singing a song for her preschool Christmas show, over and over. Robert was annoyed and "asked" her to stop. I reminded him that just a couple weeks ago he was singing his Thanksgiving songs (pictured at performance) and how it annoyed Elizabeth at the time. I asked him if he remembered what I said to her. He said with a scowl, "That I was definitely allowed to practice singing. I hate it when you're right, Mom."

Colleen was complaining about the sun being in her eyes in the car. I said that we could bring her sunglasses next time. She said, "My sunglasses don't work. The sun is boiling my blood! Do something!" Evidently her old sunglasses didn't cover enough of her eyes and would let the sun through. So the next time we were at Target we found these huge bug-eye sunglasses. Now the sun doesn't boil her eyes anymore.

Besides working extremely hard at school and earning terrific grades to prove it, the past few weeks for Elizabeth have been about The Birthday. Twelve years old last Tuesday. Colleen told everyone at preschool - "yesterday she was eleven and today she is twelve." Her birth"day" was actually drawn out over a couple of weeks, starting with Nonna taking her and a friend, Jack, to a wonderful performance of The Wizard of Oz at Hopkins High School. She had a blast; there were actual flying monkeys. Then two books from Mom and Dad that she just couldn't wait 5 days until her birthday to read so she got them early. Then her actual birthday with a package from Nanny (beautiful Guardian Angel that now hangs over her bed) and cupcakes with the special-made cinnamon butter cream frosting. Then from the St. Paul Colemans she got "awesome" Smencils and cold hard cash to go toward her new desk chair (note to self: get E to Ikea!). I confess that I succumbed to the ease of using the Thanksgiving gathering for the official "Happy Birthday!" where she (and others I hope) enjoyed her favorite Pineapple Mallow Pie (thank you to Betty Crocker and to Nonna for the loan of Betty Crocker) and got the coveted Star Trek reboot DVD from Uncle Ryan. She and Robert watched it 3 times the next day. With all the extras and commentary, they watched it practically all day.

We took advantage of our Friday off to clear some more boxes from the living and dining room so more and more it looks like we live her permanently. It's a great feeling to get the number of boxes down to regular storage, not moving boxes. Our garage is ridiculously large and my next big project is to organize the storage in there.

On an unrelated note - hey, where's the snow? The weather is very un-Minnesota-like at the moment and we're getting nervous about Christmas. Robert asked me after Thanksgiving, "Is it possible that we won't have a white Christmas?!"

Friday, October 30, 2009

Settling in

It seems like every waking moment is taken up by one thing or another, whether it's working, singing or just getting the house in order. Cate and I have a list two memo pages long of things that the new house needs.

The girls' room was probably the first to be completed, due in no small part to the fact that Elizabeth, first of all, was capable of unpacking her stuff by herself and secondly, was very motivated to get her books out of the boxes they've been in for nearly a year and a half. Click on the photo for a bigger version and get a look at a slice of our backyard.

One of the first things I did when we got into the house was hang photos. Maybe that's not the usual top priority, but I wanted to get something of ours on the wall, since even in Sterling we didn't put a whole lot on the walls. Here there are nails in the walls all over the place already for us to take advantage of.

But all in all, we are enjoying living by ourselves and living at our own pace and to our own standards, even though we've raised those standards in the past year.

As for what's new: the kids are enjoying school and Cate is off to look at a preschool next week for Colleen. We've met neighbors on each side. No other 11-year-old girls, 7-year-old boys or 4-year-old girls yet, however. We've spent a couple of days just raking leaves, though it's hard to get too far when there's been about 25 rainy days since we moved in.

The fridge has been restocked -- multiple times now -- and the pantry and spice rack are pretty much back to normal. There must be, somewhere, one more kitchen box we have to unpack, unless we broke four bowls and lost eight spoons from our original set. I started to unpack a box a few weeks ago that was marked stemware, looked at the newspaper that it was wrapped in and thought, "that's odd, I thought The Washington Post didn't look like that anymore." (Yes, I think in italics when necessary.) On closer look, it was paper from the summer of 1996, and they were Patty's stemware. So they're back in the box.

Patty has been out to visit and the kids had a great time with her here for a little over a week. I'll let Cate write more about that sometime.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Snow, already?

Less than a week in the new house, and this morning I woke up to this in the backyard. Unbelievable for Oct. 10!

Surely some Minnesota native is going to come back with a know-it-all response, but I don't want to hear it.

Meanwhile, having a great time in our new house so far. We will post more, with pictures, at some future point, promise.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

It's a very, very, very fine house

The basement has a TV, an electric piano and some toys.

The kitchen has a table and two chairs.

The living room has a rug, a chair and a table.

The refrigerator contains the remnants of a 12-pack of Diet Coke, two jars of pickles and a container of mustard.

But it's our house. Finally. Thank goodness. Back to the unpacking tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Yo tub

"Guess what I saw? I saw a fire engine made of cake!"

"No way," Cate says, playing along, "you can't make a fire engine out of cake!"

"Yu huh! I saw it! I saw it on Yo Tub!"

Those of us who have been reading for more than a few months might more readily recognize this Web site as YouTube.
But that was how Colleen described to Cate recently the results of her apparently random surfing.

Perhaps Elizabeth bookmarked it for her, or maybe she just somehow stumbled on it from another link or video. But it's become her favorite destination on the Web of late. She can watch baking and cooking shows literally for hours on end. Howdini has a bunch of videos demonstrating various cakes: panda cakes, mermaid cakes (with fruit rollups for fins), turtle cakes, rubber ducky cakes, blue jean cakes, butterfly cales, teddy bear cookies, guitar cakes (she loves the bright green icing), barn animal cupcakes, jungle cupcakes ... the list literally goes on.

She speaks fondly of the doll cake Nonna made for her fourth birthday, patterned after one that she made for Elizabeth for age 2. She is so ready for birthday No. 5, which won't come until next April of course. When that time comes, she may have a hard time deciding what cake she wants. But she knows how to make them all. How many 4-year-olds know what a crumb coat is?

Video below.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Hooray for a new school year

Yesterday was Day 7 for Elizabeth and Robert in their new schools. I picked Elizabeth up yesterday and asked her what she did in school and got a 20-minute explanation of a really cool project they did in their science class.

Beats the heck out of fifth grade. She's really fired up.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

What a drag it is getting old

We haven't written about Pa much in the course of this blog and the 13 months we've been back in Minneapolis. Truth be told, I often don't know what to say to him or about him.

Pa is 96. He lives on the other side of the lake, in a nursing home. When we got here, he was still in assisted living, where he had his own two-room apartment with a little kitchen and a bathroom, and 24-hour assistance. but some months back, Pa got to the end of his savings and had to let them go, put the apartment up for sale and had to move into the nursing home wing of the facility. Only through the generosity of my cousin Chris does Pa get a room to himself.

Nanny has been gone for 12 years now. Pa lived in the old house in Niles, Ill., with help, until one day he drove his car through the back wall of the garage and Mom brought him here to live in Minneapolis.

It's hard to visit him sometimes. Pa still functions pretty well, mostly knows who we are and who the kids are. That's especially true for Colleen. When we first moved here, Colleen would be very shy when we'd get to his room, and if we spent an hour there, she wouldn't warm up until the final 15 minutes. That shyness went away a little while ago and now she is very playful with him, and I know he appreciates it. When I think about what he's gained by living what can only be seen as beyond his expected time, I know that relationships with our kids are on the list.

We brought him over on Labor Day for dinner on the patio and just hung out. He hates the food in the nursing home but to be honest, he can't taste it anyway, so it doesn't make much difference. He spent a good amount of time trying to recreate these great paper airplanes he used to fold when we were kids, but couldn't quite figure it out.

Mom gets exasperated with her dad, calling at all hours, not always remembering who he's spoken to already or what they've spoken about or agreed to. And Cate, bless her soul, has taken Pa to heart in our time here. We went over to visit on Sunday and Cate basically drove the conversation. I sat there in awe of her.

Tonight Pa called -- having trouble with his television remote for the first time in a while. All Pa wants to do is watch the ballgame, and sometimes he gets in his own way. There are too many buttons, and he really only needs five of them. He gets so frustrated. I went over there to fix the remote and he wanted to know what I had done, but I couldn't tell him because sometime he might want to fix it himself. And that would only make it worse.

I don't want to be 96. Sure, 85 maybe. And fifty years from now, maybe 96 will be the new 86. But old and frail and unable to help myself, that's not something I want to be. I don't care how many great-grandchildren I would live to see.

But I don't get the sense that his time is up. The last time I spoke to Nanny, she was deep into the throes of Alzheimer's, and even though I only got the true Nanny for a couple of minutes, I was thankful because I knew I wouldn't get another chance.

I have yet to feel that with Pa.

Friday, August 28, 2009

The wonders of Mylar

Robert got a Mylar balloon at his birthday party, with Star Wars characters on it. You know Mylar, the shiny helium balloons.

Today, about 11 weeks later, it finally fell.

That must have been some funky helium.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Elizabeth and J.J. Jumper

In March 2001, Catholic University won the national championship of Division III men's basketball. Cate and Elizabeth drove down from Reston, Va., on game day to see them play in the title game, which I was in Salem covering for They got there just before tipoff and cheered us on as the Cardinals beat William Paterson.

After the game, pyrotechnics blew from the ceiling and confetti poured down on the floor. There was jumping and celebrating, net cutting and the whole 94 feet. Or nine yards. Since I was working, I was there long after the game, and Cate and Elizabeth were, too, with Elizabeth walking around the floor, picking up the colored strips of paper and stuffing them in a popcorn box.

It's her only memory of the game. She was not quite 3-1/2.

The following November, the Harlem Globetrotters came to Catholic University for an exhibition game, part of the spoils of victory. It was a packed house, and I was sitting on the floor, taking pictures. Elizabeth, at times, was sitting next to me. So was Jack Lonergan.

Jack is the son of then-Catholic U. coach Mike Lonergan. He is a little over a year younger than Elizabeth. But of course, he's in the gym all the time. That's his second home.

J.J. Jumper, the official mascot of NCAA basketball, was there entertaining the crowd. At one point, he was tossing out shirts to the crowd. Elizabeth was just about to turn 4. She was dying for a shirt, and supplies were running low.

Jack, Elizabeth and I were sitting on the sidelines near center court and at one point J.J. turned his back and Jack bolted for a shirt. You know, as much as a 2-year-old can bolt.

Elizabeth turned to look at me and I told her, "Go ahead!"

I mean, she was running out there with the coach's son. Who was going to stop her?

She got back to our spot on the sidelines, beaming, before J.J. turned around. Jack got his too. The shirt was an XL, down to her feet.

She's had it ever since, and in fact, she's sleeping in it tonight.

And seven years later, it's still big.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Fa ... so, la-ti-do

When I auditioned for the Minnesota Chorale two months ago, I figured I was in it for the notes. Not the ones I'd be singing, but the ones I'd hope to get from the director. As in, "here's why we didn't select you and here's what you can work on."

So, when I was not only offered a spot, but offered it on the spot, I was a little surprised. And the whirlwind to being back on stage at Orchestra Hall two months later has been a rush. Six weeks of rehearsal, twice a week, almost three hours a night, learning a piece of music (Aida) I not only had never sung but had basically never heard before, in a language I'd never sung in before. (Why not Latin? Ugh.)

Other things I've done -- I've sung on a big stage (Kennedy Center) with a large group in a full orchestra. But this was a little different. There were more tenors in this performance (25) than every other choir I've sung with, combined.

I was a little worried when I had a really sloppy first act in Saturday morning's dress rehearsal, but I nailed down almost all of the loose ends.

In all, it was a lot of fun, certainly a great first project with the Minnesota Chorale. It's sounding like a lean season for the Chorale because of budgetary cutbacks with the Minnesota Orchestra, so it's perhaps not the best time to join the group, but many people have been in the Chorale for decades, and clearly, they must be desperate for tenors, since they took me. We'll find out later this week what else we'll be doing this year -- the thing about the Chorale is not everyone does every project, so I might only sing in a couple of things with them this year. But so far, it's been just a blast.

Very enthusiastic audience. Our Aida (Latonia Moore) was just spectacular. Verdi, of course, wrote a beautiful opera.

And afterward, Cate and I got to go out for a little late-night refreshment.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Gap kids

Who lost a tooth now you ask? Robert!

He lost his first tooth at bedtime tonight (evidently a good time to lose teeth, who knew?). He calmly handed me his tooth and said "It's out." This doesn't seem to bother either of them. Doesn't anyone freak out when losing a tooth anymore? I remember coddling my loose teeth until they were hanging literally by a thread.

Robert doesn't really get to have a gap tooth picture though. His permanent tooth has been coming in steadily right behind. He still looks like a shark though, the spot right next to his new gap has both the baby tooth and the permanent one behind it.

Okay, so that's an inventory of Robert's teeth, just in case the world was wondering. Now, he's off to sleep. Right, Robert?

Pizza on the grill, round two

We went back to the pizza-on-the-grill concept last night for dinner and I was pretty pleased with how they turned out. We'd planned to do this a couple weeks ago but the propane tank ran out at the wrong time, so we ended up cooking them inside, which took a lot longer and was a lot less fun.

We didn't have Neil's expertise rolling out the dough, and that's my least favorite part so Cate took care of it and I stuck with the grilling part. Cate and the kids had plain cheese pizza, nothing too fancy. (We'd eaten up all the pepperoni from a couple weeks ago.) Elizabeth had red onions on hers as well.
By the time we got to mine, we were basically out of pizza sauce, but I wasn't too broken up about it. There was plenty of other stuff to work with. Mine has pesto, red onions, artichokes, chopped basil, sun-dried tomatoes and a little bit of cheese on it. (My camera's phone doesn't do justice to anything with colors in it, I'm afraid.)

The best part was that there was leftover crust from the kids' pies for me to eat, so I only ate half of this pizza. Heading downstairs to go reheat the other half and eat lunch now!

With this blog post, we reach the 200 mark for Colemans' Couch. Once upon a time I thought we might do something more creative with post 200 but it took a little longer to get here than I anticipated with just three posts in May and five in June.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Capturing Colleen's attention

It's hard, and it's been harder of late, to get our youngest child's attention.

That's why it fascinates me to look at her face when I am reading Colleen a good-night story. She is so incredibly focused, even if it's a book we've read before.

I love those moments.

Monday, July 20, 2009

The perfect capper to a long day

At about 10 p.m. last night, Elizabeth came into our room and handed me a tooth. It had been loose for a while, no worries, but just figured it was the only way our pretty packed Sunday could end.

No money under her pillow. Like Santa Claus, something we don't really subscribe to. We did the rewards when she was younger.

Robert still has yet to lose a tooth. He's at the dentist, now, though, with one tooth really wiggling and another pushing it out. Like with the bicycle, he's afraid of the pain, so he won't eat on that side of his mouth and won't eat corn on the cob at all.

Of course, none of this compares to Saturday. Sunday was supposed to be the easy day, while Saturday we started the day with a Bloomington Chorale concert at the farmer's market in Bloomington and finished with a family get-together because Aunt Kathleen and Uncle Jim were in town from New Hampshire. That and I left in the middle to go sing at 5 p.m. Mass and returned later. Sunday was just supposed to be the golfing. And just ours, not Tom Watson's.

Tee for two

Well, I wish I could drive like Cate, and I think Cate wishes she could putt like I do. And that was the upshot of our first husband-wife full golf outing, part of a pretty packed Sunday this weekend.

As I said when Cate and Jennifer went golfing a couple of weeks ago, we haven't been golfing together since a pitch-and-putt outing sometime in the mid-1990s. And by full outing, I mean nine holes of a par-three course, but hey, it was time outside and without the kids.

I only had two holes of my personal nightmare. I've always feared I would be unable to make solid contact with the ball and would end up dribbling the ball up the fairway 20 yards at a time. Then Cate gave me a couple of pointers (oh, you mean I shouldn't stand centered over the ball?) and I finished with a par and back-to-back double bogeys. Hey, for us that was a high point. We each parred the 71-yard sixth hole, and Cate bogeyed the opening hole, but other than that it was fairly dismal. We finished one stroke apart; definitely would consider it beginner's luck.

Stuck behind a fivesome that included a 3-year-old, it took us just about two hours to play the nine holes. But the kid could swing and had at least one drive off the tee that was better than mine. Made for a lot of waiting, though.

Thanks, of course, to Neil and Alicia (again) for the use of their clubs and Kyle and Jennifer for watching the little ones. And there's one more Pretty Packed Sunday post to come, probably on my lunch break.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

He's got a ticket to ride

Robert wasn't, shall we say, the most enthusiastic learner of the ins and outs riding a bike. I guess in the end many kids aren't. I mean, who likes falling off and skinning their knee, right?

To add insult to potential injury, the bike we've had Robert practicing on isn't exactly the best suited for a barely 7-year-old. It's probably a bike he would be riding next summer, even the summer after. It's tall and it's heavy. But he's been a gamer and this afternoon he finally got it. I mean, it has a hand brake and a coaster brake.

By got it, I mean he rode the bike by himself, four houses before coming to a relatively controlled stop. He rode it so far that I had the chance to come out from running alongside him and ran backwards out ahead of him.

We had been up and down the level section of the block in front of the house three or four times already and he was getting kind of tired of the process before I pulled out the card I was hoping I wouldn't have to play -- his friend, Cate Jensen, learned to ride her two-wheeler earlier this week and we were about to take him and Colleen over there for a play date.

"She's going to be very proud she can ride her bike. You're one more trip up the block away from being able to say that yourself. Wouldn't you like to be able to say you can, too?"

Bingo. And he had a good time at the Jensens, too, from all I've heard.

Congratulations, Robert!

We don't have photos or video from today, but here's a clip of a previous attempt.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Almost-reader Colleen

Colleen has been making leaps and bounds with her pre-reading skills.

Many, many times in the past couple of months she has asked us "how do you spell... [insert any random thing within her sight line here]?" but she's branching out on her own now. She's taking her best guess from a few letters.

Today on a trip to the zoo, we had some funny ones. We parked in front of a sign that said "Remember you are parked in the Gibbon Lot." Well, Colleen told me she was glad we were going to get Dippin' Dots (that really frozen pellet ice cream). I told her not today. She angrily pointed, "But that sign says Dippin' Dots!!" There was some foot stomping and hrmph-ing. She certainly likes her sweets.

And later we stopped to have a snack at an eating area and she asked me, "What's a zoo coffee?" She was reading the "Zoo Cafe" sign.

This reminds me that we need to find her a preschool for this fall.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

I missed my camera

I've been without my camera for a little over a year before finally getting it repaired (thanks Ryan, and Canon). So for a long time I've been borrowing Cate's, or Elizabeth's, or dad's. I am just glad to have it back.

Been a nice week-plus here since Cate and the kids got home. Spent some time down at Lake Harriet last night visiting the Lake Creature (don't ask) and just missing the end of the concert at the bandshell ... again. But a nice long walk and the kids even almost fully cooperated with a group photo.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

A hole in three

It's been two and a half days and Cate is still talking about her golf outing from Friday.

Cate hasn't picked up a golf club since she and I went to a pitch-and-putt sometime in the pre-Web age. She used to golf much more regularly as a teenager, took a few lessons, but didn't have anyone to golf with.

Meanwhile, our friend Jennifer had the day off on Friday, like most of us, and has been looking for a golf partner herself. She's been threaten... promising to take Cate out golfing since we got here 11 months ago and on Friday, the planets aligned.

Cate had just a great time. She's been talking about things that I've only heard on television, like doglegs and that sort of thing. It was a nine-hole par-three course and it seems Cate and Jennifer were a good match, as they finished within two strokes of each other. Both came back raving about the fourth hole, which Cate parred after both got on the green with their tee shots.

Thanks, Neil and Alicia, for lending Cate your golf clubs.

"I'm consistently inconsistent," Cate said. She'd also like to thank "that great man, Theodore Wirth, who had the great foresight to include a park with a golf course in North Minneapolis."

No photographers were permitted at this outing.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Where did everyone go?

It's been kind of a quiet June on the blog, and for that I apologize.

Currently, Cate and the kids are visiting Patty at the Jersey Shore. I hear they're having a good time and loving the water. They also visited the Philadelphia Zoo and the Franklin Institute.

I'm still in Minneapolis. I auditioned for and got into the Minnesota Chorale, which sings with the Minnesota Orchestra in Orchestra Hall downtown and all sorts of good stuff, so if I had gone, I'd have missed the first two or three rehearsals for our Aida concert in August. I'd have been pretty royally screwed. Luckily, there were good airfares and they could fly instead of us all driving.

The kids spent their last days in Lake Harriet school a couple weeks ago. We'll be putting both Elizabeth and Robert in Bloomington public schools next year. Elizabeth got into Dimensions Academy, a gifted and talented program that is at one of the junior highs. We feel pretty fortunate that she got in, since the program starts when kids enter fourth grade and there aren't many spots that open up after that.

Hope you and yours are doing well and enjoying the beginning of summer.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

A birthday for Robert

We had friends over to celebrate Robert's birthday today, and although it was the first rainy day in six weeks, we grilled anyway.

Cate had already come up with the idea of doing pizzas on the grill, and although I had never attempted such a thing, we went for it. The Taste section in Thursday's Star Tribune wrote about making pizza on the grill, too, so it seems we weren't the only ones thinking about it.

Cate and my mom assembled this massive list of possible toppings: Pepperoni, chicken, homemade Italian sausage, Neil's fresh basil, tomatoes, mushrooms, black olives, peach chutney, anchovies, roasted garlic, hummus. Then, all of these grilled vegetables: red peppers, poblano peppers, scallions, red onion, leeks and pineapple. Also, fresh and shredded mozzarella, and tomato sauce.

Process was a little slow, but basically every pizza came out great. It was a cold, wet day outside and we went four kids pizzas at a time, then two individual grown-up pizzas at once. Neil was in charge of rolling out dough and I was in charge of grilling. Guests were in charge of selecting their own toppings and for the most part, I assembled them and cooked them. We had the grill on fairly low, cooked the crust for 4-5 minutes, flipped and put the toppings on, then cooked until the cheese melted.

It was nearly two hours in front of the grill, all told. And I saw some great combinations of toppings go by. Elizabeth had black olives, red peppers, pineapple and red onions. I saw something with sausage, chicken, basil, tomatoes, a veggie or two and just a sprinkling of cheese. A handful without tomato sauce. Just cool stuff. We would definitely do this again. (Ryan's photos included here.)

And when the group got big and involved some newcomers, we went with name tags. Ryan's girlfriend and her daughter were there, as well as friends of ours that hadn't been exposed to the whole group yet. People were named, and most of them labeled. To wit:

Robert: Birthday boy
Cate: Patrick's wife, Birthday boy's mom
Elizabeth: Robert's awesome sister
Colleen: (Not sure, though she is certainly awesome as well.)
Mom: Nonna, mother of the brood
Neil: Neil
Alicia: Alicia
Amelia: Mom Alicia, Dad Neil
Ryan: I don't know, but I later saw it stuck on his forehead.
Jennifer: Colleen's godmother
Kyle: Belongs to Jennifer (I hear Jennifer wrote this)
Cate: Just the first and last name
Max: Just the
first and last name
Carrie: Friend of Patrick (the world-traveling soprano -- my label, not theirs)
Charley: Journalist (I didn't write this personally but when I refer to Carrie and Charley around the house it's as "our soprano and journalist friends")
Lindsey: Lindsey
Jazmine: Jaz, Jazzy

Robert received cool stuff, a couple of things which I'll spotlight: Finally, his own poncho, which Cate crocheted for him; a kite from the Jensens (he has been dying to fly a kite for a long time); bases for the backyard from Ryan; a crocheted creation from Neil and Alicia; a crystal mining set from Nonna and Da.

And no pony, no moon bounce, no Chuck-E Cheese, great 7-year-old birthday. Thanks, all, for coming and sharing an otherwise dreary day with us!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Farewell, sweet Nissan

It's been across the country three times and been on its last legs for more than a year, but it took an inattentive driver to finally put our 2000 Nissan Sentra out of commission.

Not our driver, of course, but the idiot who couldn't read a green arrow. Or read a green arrow he didn't actually have.

The car was drivable, of course, but it doesn't take much damage to total a nine-year-old car with 113,132 miles on it. Once the frame was bent, that was all she wrote. That and the check State Farm wrote, that is, which might have been the book value but was far more than we ever could have gotten on the street.

I had to pour power steering fluid into the car every couple of months because it had a slow leak. The air conditioning stopped working in 2007, maybe 2006. CD player hasn't worked in more than a year. The trunk couldn't be released from inside the car. The remote car locks stopped working. The headlights were dimming.

And we'd just decided to bite the bullet and put new tires on it and replace the battery last November.

This was the car, if you remember, that I wasn't sure would make it to Minnesota. We pondered selling it before leaving Virginia, and even when we decided to move it, we didn't pack anything essential in it, thinking that we might have to abandon it on the side of the road in Indiana somewhere. But it got here. And it lived outside all winter, but never once did it fail to start, even on the coldest days of the year.

We're going to try the one-car life for a little while, anyway. It's been almost a week so far, and I've been working at home a lot. The house is pretty crowded, though, and about to get more crowded with school out soon, so I don't know how long that will last. So we'll be shopping.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Last day as a 6-year-old

Robert and I went to a Twins game Wednesday night as an early birthday present. He loves to go on the moon bounce that's outside the Metrodome before we go in to the game, so we headed over there. We were surprised to find this sign next to it.

Last chance!

The game wasn't nearly as fun, nor were our neighbors as interesting as the last time Robert and I went to a game, but we still had a good time. Robert was much more into watching the game itself this time, and since we had seats upper deck behind home plate, the game laid out right in front of him, much better than deep in left field.

But I think the $25 a ticket was more than I've ever paid for a regular-season baseball game.

Happy Birthday, Robert! Hard to believe he's going to be 7!

Monday, June 1, 2009

The dangers of a reading child

Cate and Colleen were in Creative Kids Stuff earlier this afternoon, and they had some books on sale. So, naturally, Colleen wanted one.

"No, Colleen," Cate said, as she relates the story. "It's a workbook."

The workbooks are basically homework exercises. Elizabeth and Robert have been through many a workbook in the past few years.

"But Mom," Collen said, "it says 'preschool' on it and I'm going into preschool next year."

Next thing you know, she'll know how to spell, too, and we'll have to change how we talk around her even more.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

What hath T-ball wrought?

'No, that's OK, you're not very helpful, Cate. I'll just go and micromanage him myself.'

-- Cate's response, mock quoting me, after she offered to take Robert to T-ball and I declined

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Party weekend

Last weekend was a pretty busy one in the Coleman household, as we celebrated Colleen's fourth birthday party, Elizabeth made her First Communion and Robert had his first-ever T-ball practice.

Saturday was a beautiful day to be outdoors, so we tried to make the most of it.

The weekend hadn't started off so hot, however. I tried to take the new grill that we bought Mom for her birthday and Mother's Day out for a test drive, and, lo and behold, the Weber grill caught on fire. Spent a couple hours Friday night at Home Depot and on the phone with Weber, so I was less than happy. Thankfully, our neighbors let us borrow theirs for Saturday cooking.

Colleen's aunt and uncles and godmother and family came over Saturday afternoon for cake and presents and the fruits of the grill and we had a great time. Nonna made Colleen the traditional doll-in-a-cake cake, similar to what she made for Elizabeth's third birthday when we were here for Thanksgiving in 2000.

Colleen got a great set of clothes, a kickball for backyard playing, a tricycle (honest-to-goodness red metal trike with assembly required and everything), books and Wii paraphernalia. Too often Colleen has been forced to play a spectator role while the older two play, but now she has her own Wii controller.

On Sunday, Elizabeth made her First Communion, part of a gigantic class at St. Thomas the Apostle, 60-some kids split over six Masses. We've been doing her preparation work ourselves so she didn't have to sit in a class full of 7- and 8-year-olds, and that was an interesting experience. I'll be glad when Robert goes through the class with everyone else and we just get to sit back and smile.

And Robert had his first T-ball practice. Today they actually played their first "game" -- you know, the one where everyone bats, they play about three innings, there's a minimum number of outs, everyone changes positions, coaches stand in the field. Mostly a lot of hitting and running, sometimes throwing the ball in the general direction of first base.

Robert got a new glove for the occasion (don't ask whose signature is on it, though at least Derek Jeter hasn't tested positive yet), but we drew the line at cleats. There are a couple kids on the team who wear them, though, one who has his own baseball pants.

And this morning, everyone had a coat. Brr.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

What reading level is required to put someone to sleep?

Colleen seems to be able to go to sleep with someone of a fourth-grade level reading out loud to her. Robert brought a very nice reading progress report home with him from school today that has him reading at a fourth-grade level.

We got a full display of this tonight, as Robert and Colleen kicked Cate out of their room at bedtime, and Robert read poems to his little sister. Cate and I heard one of our favorites, Ickle Me, Pickle Me, Tickle Me Too, in which Robert didn't even hesitate with the words "mulligan stew."

After that poem, Robert came out to ask us if we'd heard it, and I went back in with him to "close" bedtime and get what I was sure would be an easy save. Colleen surely wouldn't need more than a couple verses of Silent Night and she would be out like a light.

Except when I got in there, Colleen was already in her bed, out like a light. So Robert gets a complete-game win.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


Happy Birthday, Colleen! Cake will come later. I promise.

This morning I asked Colleen what she wanted for breakfast, waffles or a bagel. She looked around the kitchen curiously and said "I don't see a cake." She thought the cake came first thing, like finding a quarter from the Tooth Fairy under your pillow or something. Cake will have to wait until her party on Saturday but she did recieve three phone calls today with special birthday wishes from Nanny, her Godmother Jennifer, and Nonna (on her own birthday vacation in sunny Iowa).

And... she and Cousin Amelia had their first fight at lunch. Amelia really wanted to trade her sippy cup for Colleen's water bottle. Amelia tried to hand it to her but Colleen said, "I have my own water. I don't want yours." Amelia grunted and tried again a few more times, with pointing and everything. Amelia finally gave up and chucked the sippy cup at Colleen's head. She's pretty strong and of course hit her mark. Colleen whipped around and shouted at her, "Amelia, you are so rude. I don't like you anymore and you are NEVER getting my water!" Amelia screamed right back, something which will in the near future be "MINE!"

The argument didn't last past Amelia's tears because Colleen then gave her a kiss on her cheek and told her "Poor little kid. Don't be sad. " Amelia forgave her too, leaned in for another kiss and patted Colleen on her shoulder. Amelia then handed her some watermelon to share and Colleen accepted it. Awww.

Colleen just came in as I'm writing this. She wants to know why her name is everywhere. I told her that I'm writing about her birthday. She wants you all to know that she looked but there was no cake.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Singing a rainbow

Robert said something tonight that triggered my memory of seventh grade choir. Here are some of the songs we sang.

Keep in mind, this is 1985.

Theme from Ice Castles
Brian's Song
You Light Up My Life
Sing a Rainbow
For church, Pass It On and Amazing Grace.

So Robert got three completely new songs for him tonight. And I got to curse this steel trap of a brain that can remember every lyric from songs from 24 years ago but not to fold the shirts the way Cate wants them.

Monday, April 20, 2009

What she said

Was it wrong that you had to go on even numbers?

That's what Elizabeth just stumbled into our room to ask us. She used to do this all the time when she was littler, stumble out into the living room, rub her eyes, while we were watching TV, and say something completely incoherent.

Then again, Robert has been known to do the same.

I kind of miss those days.

Saving the Earth

Shame on Minneapolis North High School for not recycling pizza boxes. Cate and Elizabeth rescued these 56 boxes that were destined for the trash bin following the city-wide fifth grade math competition.

Yes, fifty-six. Cate and Robert flattened them out and bundled them up, and they're going out tomorrow with the recycling. Just in time for Earth Day.

At said competition, Elizabeth brought home an honorable mention ribbon and worked with a team that earned another honorable mention ribbon.

I quizzed her as she came home, and it's a legitimate honorable mention, putting her in the Top 15 of 250-plus fifth-graders who participated. (Division III football fans know how I hate fake honorable mentions that simply honor everyone.) Twenty-three kids from Lake Harriet Community School took part, with one of her classmates taking home some pretty impressive honors.

About the recycling, I can say we've been glad to be in a neighborhood which is part of the rollout for the city's composting program. We generated a ton of recycling when we lived in Virginia and this house generates even more, thanks to the newspapers. Can't imagine that all ending up in landfills.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Still the Beatles

I'm working from home today and a Beatles song just came on the radio. Colleen jumped off her chair, literally, and ran over to the radio, before announcing Here Comes the Sun!

It's all right.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Easter from the Colemans!

Quote of the day

After 9 a.m. Mass today we all had brunch at the homestead. Afterwards, Pa (you know, our 95-year-old grandfather) told Ryan, "you're getting fat."

Ryan paused for a second, before blurting out, "you're getting old!"

Oh, and Happy Easter, everyone. Photo to come.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Tales from the bedtime

While I've been at church the past two nights, Cate has taken more of a hands-off approach with bedtime, leaving Robert and Colleen to their own devices after a short time.

This involves a lot of giggling and shoving. And eventually, sleeping.

Thursday night, Colleen sang songs to Robert to try to get him to go to sleep. Her memory is rather limited, but she sang Mary Had a Little Lamb, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and Jingle Bells. But Robert had enough pretty soon, and stopped listening.

"I think Robert loves
Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, you go try that."

So Colleen goes back to the bedroom and asks, in her customary outdoor voice: "Robert, do you still love
Twinkle Twinkle Little Star? Robert? ROBERT? RO-BERT??"

Colleen came back and reported: "Mom, Robert stopped talking. I can't see his face, there's a pillow over his face."

Yes, Colleen, that's the international sign that he's sleeping.

"He stopped talking!"

Cate replied: "You stop talking! Go to sleep!"

Robert related later that he wasn't really asleep. Robert playing asleep and lying still for any amount of time is a tremendous effort.

Last night I got home before they fell asleep. Robert had been singing for Colleen but was already out of songs, so I finished them off. "I don't sing Up on the Roof or Swing Low, Sweet Chariot," Robert told me.

Future diva, that one.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Kids and their technology

I recently discovered that Colleen can shut down the desktop computer by herself. In fact, she's so good at it that it takes her about two seconds to do. Click the Start button, hit Turn Off Computer, select Shut Down, bam.

Also, when her turn is done with the computer and Cate or someone else takes over the browser, she says, "Open a new tab -- I'm not done with my game!"

Elizabeth keeps her email account more organized than anyone else I know -- she has all sorts of tags filtering her email by -- I don't know, sender, subject, color, Harry Potter book referenced, etc. And Robert is the expert in terms of switching the television from the DVD player to the Wii. (Not enough inputs for both, so only one of them can be plugged in at any given time.)

Sunday, April 5, 2009

We three kids

The kids went to pet farm animals at the garden store, you know, just another typical Sunday. But the real purpose of this post is to introduce the newest photo of the three kids. Now if only we could have gotten them all to both smile and look at the camera at the same time.

Not so much. But at least nobody was poking anyone's eye out.

We also had brunch at Dixie's on Grand, thanks to a gift certificate from Neil and Alicia for Christmas. Thanks!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Happy Birthday, Amelia!

We had about 30 people here today for Amelia's first birthday party. While I'm sure this will be covered in more depth on Baby 365 at some point soon, I'll just say we all had a great time. (In fact, new photo at Baby 365 now.)

She didn't go face-first into the cake, or throw food all over the place, or anything like that. She didn't pitch a fit or get overly tired at the gigantic pile of presents.

I've seen football games with fewer cameras than this birthday party. Neil counted nine cameras at one point during the present opening, not counting cell phones. I posted two photo galleries on Facebook with many more photos, including shots of ... the shots.

Cate and Elizabeth's present was a big hit with the adults. Amelia, of course, didn't seem nearly as interested in the doll (which Cate crocheted, with accessories crocheted by Elizabeth) as she was in the box that it came in. But while I could try to describe all the steps and all the work that was involved, I couldn't possibly do it justice. Hopefully Cate will elaborate.

Colleen, Amelia's Aunt McKenzie and her second cousin, Nina, were among the hits of the party. Colleen is about to turn 4, Nina is 5 and McKenzie is 6.

Oh, and after everyone left, Amelia took her first steps. Great day for all.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

One more step to full Minnesotahood

We got a little closer to being fully Minnesotan today as we (read: Cate) registered the Honda and got Minnesota plates on it. So now both cars have Minnesota plates.

Cate likes the irony that I'm the only one still carrying a Virginia driver's license. I also still have a 703- number on my cellphone. But I did have a Minnesota driver's license once, and, there's still that whole thing of having a house in Virginia. We're getting close to being rid of that, too.

Robert helped me put the plates on the car, and yes, I blurred out the license number.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Still snowing

Yes, March is going out like a lamb. A big, fluffy lamb. With big, wet, fluffy flakes falling from the sky.

I walked out of the house this morning and it was snowing, but it sounded like rain -- the flakes were so heavy and the ground so warm that they hit the ground with a splat.

Bring on April. Please.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Ever made 60 pounds of sausage?

Yeah, I hadn't either, not until yesterday. I'd been in the house when such projects were being undertaken, but one of the things about being gone for 18 years was missing sausage day. But just take five Colemans, 60 pounds of pork shoulder butt ($1.45 a pound, I believe), a bunch of spices, some ancient equipment and sausage, and voila, six hours later, you have authentic Italian sausage.

And sore shoulders. Not the pig's.

It started with cutting up pork, 10 pounds at a time, trimming the fat and cutting the meat into pieces small enough to fit into the grinder. (Neil demonstrates, above.)

The pork gets ground into chunks. Not exactly ground beef, mind you, but small enough to fit into the sausage casing, of course. I did a lot of the grinding and was more or less cutting pork the rest of the time, so I don't have pictures of that grinding process.

The ground pork is mixed with the spices, which you can see Mom doing in the sink. The spices were measured out and chopped up in the blender, then mixed by hand. With one batch, we got to the bottom of the bowl and saw a lot of spices at the bottom, which prompted us to pull as much pork as we could back out of the packing mechanism and respice it.

If you get that batch, lucky you, very hot.

Very important: Each of the batches must have a small part grilled up and tested for proper spiciness. As a teenager, that was my favorite part of the process, and about the only part I participated in.

The grinder attachment is then removed and a funnel attached. The sausage casing is ... let's say threaded onto the end of the funnel, using a technique that you might be familiar with if you took health class in a public school, and pushed out into the casing.

It's then parceled out into one-pound increments, wrapped in plastic wrap, then foil, and sent to the freezer, where it sits for anywhere from weeks to months to years before being consumed.

Let's be honest, that's a lot of pork, and nobody needs that much fat, right? Each of the kids got four pounds to take home, and since none of us has anyone else to share them with, it should last for a while.

Plus, it'll only get spicier the longer it stays in the freezer.

Oh yeah, and then Neil cooked dinner. But he'll do his own PR. He doesn't need my help.

Where were the kids through all this? Blissfully ignorant and entertained: Nanny sent Legos, 40 various people with their attachments, from rakes to ray guns. Hours upon hours upon hours of fun.

Yep, definitely progress

Colleen just completed her third night in a row sleeping the whole night through in her own bed and waking up with a dry pull-up. Nonna has been bribing her with a trip to Wonderment, a shop she loves in the neighborhood, for staying in her bed all night Seems that may have put her over the top.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

One year at goal weight

Last year when I left for the D-III Final Four, I had pretty much finished my journey to my final goal weight of 180. As I left for Salem, Va., I was pretty sure that I was going to need some more time to finish that off -- that trip is usually marked by a fair amount of beer, some food and the like.

Of course, it's also marked by a lot of stress, work and a lack of sleep, and those factors combined to help me burn more calories than I took in. So when I got home, I was at my goal weight, to my shock.

Six weeks later, if you recall, I was still there, centered around 180. Over the course of the year, I've gradually worked that down as well. I was hovering around 175 for most of the past four months, then after I was sick a couple weeks ago and it hurt to eat, I found myself centered around 172, and I kind of like how that feels for now. I started at 234, which is what I weighed when I came west for Neil and Alicia's law school graduation. There's a better picture than this one, one with Neil and Ryan which actually helped inspire me to make a change, but I can't find an electronic copy.

Now it's been a year, and it feels like this could be for the long haul.

Alas, there are still foods that I have trouble with sometimes: I still like bread, which doesn't do much for me; french fries are tough to ignore (except fast food fries, I can pass those off or even just leave them in the bag); the cookies Cate bakes; etc. But there are all manner of things I can ignore, like ice cream, hot dogs, anything with cheese.

There are a couple of bad eating habits I'd like to cut back on as well, most notably my Diet Coke intake! During the D3 seasons I feel like I need the caffeine in order to put in the hideously long hours, but I'm sure I don't need all the phosphoric acid. Or the aspartame. Considering it's not good for my singing voice, either, I'm trying to replace some of the caffeine with drinking tea, and I've been feeling alright.

Thanks, as always, Cate, for your support. I remember trying to do this by myself and failing utterly. I could not have come here without you.

Monday, March 23, 2009

A quarter century later

Twenty-five years ago today, we left Ypsilanti, Mich., and moved to Minneapolis. For some reason, the date was emblazoned on my brain.

A few years ago I was in the old neighborhood, which was fairly depressing. Mom and Dad had always said the plan was to live there for a couple of years and then move to Ann Arbor, but considering we couldn't sell that house even when it was time to move to Minnesota, I can see why that didn't happen.

I remember being bummed at the time
about leaving my friends and such. But it turned out alright.

Hopefully Elizabeth and Robert feel the same way 25 years from now. I don't think Colleen will notice.

The last day at St. Francis of Assisi school in Ann Arbor, Neil and I both had gotten pink eye, so we were leaving school early. I remember my sixth-grade teacher sending me down to the office with some meaningless paperwork so they could get set up for my going-away party. We'd only started going to that school that year, but it was a nice gesture.

Dad will remind us, if I don't, so I'll just note that on the drive home from school I threw up in the back of the car. That was a car he had borrowed from a co-worker to bring us home, since we had only one car and he took the bus to work.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

It's good to be home

Another Division III basketball season is over and I'm glad to be back in Minneapolis after what seemed like a fairly surreal week in Virginia, driving familiar roads and such.

For some reason I'm wired and can't get to sleep, so I heard Colleen get up to get herself some water. I usually get up to intercept her in the hallway so she heads back to her own bedroom, but as I went toward the bathroom, this three-quarters asleep little girl was making some strange noises:

Sssssssssssssluurrrrrrrp ... mmmahhhhhh ...
ssssssssssssluurrrrrrrp ... mmmahhhhhh ... ssssssssssssluurrrrrrrp ... mmmahhhhhh.

When I got there she was stepping down off the foot stool with her face all wet. No cup in the bathroom, so she had to improvise at 11:40 at night.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Our Mother Bear

Nonna was on TV last week!

That's her, with her name spelled right, and everything. Mom has been volunteering with the Mother Bear Project for several years now, and unfortunately I haven't done nearly enough reporting on this to know the whole story. Knowing that she's a regular reader of the blog, though, hopefully she'll take the time to tell us more.

You can watch the video of the piece that ran on WCCO last week, and read an accompanying story that quotes her one extra time.

Meanwhile, Cate has been knitting as well, as has Elizabeth. Cate just put the finishing touches on a bear for Robert that didn't take her much time at all, while Elizabeth has been knitting leaves, mice, skyscrapers ... interesting stuff.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

A developmental milestone, perhaps

Colleen still tends to wake up in the middle of the night, more often than not. Sometimes I can succeed in getting her back into her own bed without too much issue, sometimes I'm lazy at 3 a.m. and let her sleep with us. (Heck, she climbs in on Cate's side, so most of the time I don't notice her coming in.)

But lately I've been up at all hours because of's March Madness, busy time of year. If the light is on in the bedroom when Colleen wakes up, she won't come in. Last night was one of those nights, and she was padding around in her feety pajamas out in the hallway. And then ... lo and behold, she goes to the bathroom!

It sounded like all was well, but after a few minutes she was back in the hallway, whimpering. I called to her to come into the room, figuring she was just looking to crawl into bed, and she sniffled and said, "It doesn't work!"

She walked in the door, with her pajamas off except wrapped around one foot. She got the PJ's off but couldn't get them back on.

I helped her get all zipped up and such. And she went back to her bed.

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh ...

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Since she's been gone

Cate has been out of town for a few days helping her mom out, so it's just been the six of us (Nonna and Da, not some new-found offspring). And tomorrow I go out of town for a meeting at Verizon, so there's a span of 24 hours where neither of us is here.

But everything's been fine so far. Emptying the notebook of what you might have missed if you were out of town or otherwise really, really busy this weekend.

  • I took Elizabeth and Robert with me to Stevens Point, Wis., for a D-III basketball game. Just 220 miles each way. I sat Elizabeth down beforehand and told her, "Now, Robert is going to annoy you, and he's going to annoy me. That's just the way he is. You and I need to deal with it and not let it stress us out, ok?" Elizabeth didn't get very stressed out. We saw a great game. Well, at least I did. Robert mostly sat on the floor under the media table because I told him he couldn't sit at the table and read Garfield at the same time. He chose the floor. And he's little, so that's great. Elizabeth drew pictures, some of them basketball-related. Afterwards the Wis.-Stevens Point men's basketball team had an autograph session and there were sets of trading cards, which Robert had a great time tracking down and getting signed while I was conducting postgame interviews.
  • We listened to both of our Beatles compilation CDs. Elizabeth needs to show you her picture of I Am The Walrus. I also introduced them to the joys of listening to the Beatles one speaker at a time. You know, where the vocals are in one speaker and the instruments are in another, or the lead vocal is in one and the background vocals are in the other. Good times.
  • After the game we stopped at a Noodles for dinner because Elizabeth had never been and Robert enjoyed his one meal at one. We got there about 10 minutes before a bus pulled up. Good timing.
  • On the way home, they slept, at least for the last three hours or so. But before they drifted off, we pulled over by the side of the road, turned our lights off, rolled the windows down and looked at the stars. Neither of them had ever seen so many stars before. We've found something Abbotsford, Wis., is good for.
  • Friday night we met a high school friend of mine and his family for dinner, Broadway Pizza. Our kids had a great time and his kids warmed up pretty quickly. You'd be surprised how well 3-year-olds can converse with each other over pizza. Robert had chicken fingers, of course. Elizabeth and I split a white pizza. She was the only person at the table between the ages of 7 and 35. And she did just fine.
  • I have sitting next to me a worksheet Robert brought home from school, where there are six pictures and you color the needs one color and the wants another color. Well, he does great -- roller skates, a television and a cat are all wants, while fruits and vegetables and places to live are colored with needs. Then there's a shirt. He colored half of it one color and half the other color. Not every shirt is a need, definitely. There's also a second worksheet, asking what you would buy with a hundred dollars. He answers a toy ($20), candy ($10) and a job ($50). He also does the math to show that that's only 80 bucks. Hopefully he's saving the rest.
  • Colleen got to stay with Nonna while the kids and I spent all day driving and hooping. They went to Aunt Alicia's birthday party and hung out with Amelia and Mackenzie and the like and reportedly had a grand old time.
  • I took Robert and Elizabeth to church this morning. Since I sing in the choir, I go over a half-hour early for warm-ups and practicing, and Cate usually follows with the three kids at 9. But Colleen stayed home and I took the other two in. Robert sat very nicely during rehearsal and then he and Elizabeth sat in the congregation, very close to the choir's space, and behaved very appropriately. I was proud.
  • On Friday night, Colleen did not crawl into bed with me. Robert reported that she crawled into his bed instead, and he pushed her off, "because she was literally all over me, Dad!"
  • Nonna took Robert and Colleen over to visit Pa this afternoon. Robert impressed him with his reading ability and Colleen sang Skip to My Lou. Yeah, Colleen. The one who buries her head and won't look at her nearly-96-year-old great-grandfather.
  • Elizabeth was off playing with a friend of hers from school. They went sledding. She didn't bring back any physical or emotional scars.
  • Tonight we had lamb. Yum!
  • We didn't have one tough bedtime the whole time I was here and Cate was gone.
  • Stuff is all getting done, just maybe not at the same time that it would have otherwise. Robert's lunch box got cleaned out ... on Sunday night. Elizabeth has been practicing her clarinet, but mostly before school.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Dutch ... and Farsi

Those were the two other languages Robert could name. This was after Nonna mentioned that the directions for a new cordless screwdriver were in English, Spanish, French and German.

Robert has fellow first graders who speak Dutch and Farsi. Guess Mandarin isn't taking over the 55410 any time soon.

Friday, February 13, 2009

'It sounds gross'

Robert asks a lot of questions, as you may have noticed. The latest, yesterday: "Mom, is savvy a good thing? Because it sounds gross," he said, wrinkling up his nose.

"It means you know what you're doing," Cate responded.

"Oh, OK," Robert said.

One of those things we'll probably never know why.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Everything but Rosebud

I took the kids sledding this morning.

They've been bugging me and Cate for a sledding trip all season. Our sledding opportunities are fairly limited by sunlight and school hours, and by, frankly, our own lack of desire to take the kids sledding. That's because everyone loves to go down hill and nobody loves to go back up.

This morning was the harmonic convergence, however. I woke up in a good mood, though maybe not overly rested. It was warm today, and dry, so we weren't going to get snowed or rained on and we had 40-degree temperatures or so.

We had four people and three sleds, but then again, Colleen isn't ready to go sledding alone. Elizabeth and Robert, though, definitely are! See the video:

Now, like most sledding trips, this one seemed doomed to disaster. But it wasn't until our last trip down the hill that we stopped courting it and it found us.

Silly us. We decided we would go down the hill three sleds abreast, starting from the top of the hill. There are two sledding runs, with a tree and a stump in the middle. I found us drifting toward the left, toward the tree, and tried to slide us even further left to get around it. But, well, not so much. All three of us hit the tree, and hit it hard. I twisted to try to take the brunt of it and I flipped over the stump. So did Elizabeth, landing square on her back in pain. Robert lost a boot but quickly gave me a thumbs-up.

Elizabeth has a nice big scrape on her back and another one near her elbow. Robert has a scrape and a bump on his forehead. My tailbone and right arm are a little sore.

Colleen wasn't affected -- we didn't take her down on that run. I needed an arm to hold onto her when we went down the hill and that didn't mesh with our plan.

But we had a great time. Next time we'll choose a less-challenging hill.


Friday, February 6, 2009

I'd say they're acclimated

It's been another pretty nice day around here today, reminding me of a story Cate told about a warm day earlier in the week.

Robert was daring to go outside without a hat or gloves. It was a really warm day, up to about 40 when it was all said and done. Cate was telling him he needed to finished getting dressed to go outside.

"After all," I was told, "it's 30 degrees out!"

Robert gives a quizzical look at Cate, and says, "minus?"

Robert clearly knows the difference between 30 and minus-30 degrees.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Breaking the mold

Robert's wedding cake turned into a disaster, but when rebranded as a "lone volcano," it ended up winning first prize.

Sadly, Patrick didn't take a picture of it because he was so crestfallen and he didn't want to remind him that it wasn't what he was hoping. You can see it off to the right of the white rabbit with the spooky eyes.

Robert's was a too-tall jello mold (three tier). We think our jello wasn't sturdy enough for the height. And Robert carried it on the plate for a while so it got extra jiggled. It sort of melted/fell over. He was very upset and then was very surprised when they announced his name about a half hour later.

He was even more surprised when he found out there was an actual prize (a clip-on pen). He said, "I thought I just won but really there's a prize too!!!"

We think his natural charm had a lot to do with it. Teenage girls (in charge of the tallying) love him.

We might work with the jiggler recipe next year. Elizabeth's design held together better with the sturdier jello.

This was a Pizza/Jello/Bingo Night at church. Not sure how such a tradition got started but the Bingo cards were circa 1955. I was shuddering at the idea of kids with sticky jello fingers (you get to share the jello creations for dessert) playing bingo with those vintage cards.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Audition time

I've been preparing for almost a month for tonight's audition with the Bloomington Chorale. I didn't have to audition to get into the group, but there are many solo parts in this spring's concert series and I'm hopeful of getting at least one.

This has been a great experience. I heard the chorale sing in concert back in December and decided this would be a good outlet for me, since I was looking for something in addition to the church choir. This group, like most, has a very small tenor section. I'm one of four.

It turns out three of the four of us are auditioning tonight. There are about a dozen parts available. It's comforting to know I'm not the best in this group, not by a long shot, but it was suggested to me that I should audition anyway, as they can split the parts up.

I've been working pretty hard on two pieces and when I saw nobody was auditioning for a third one, I threw my name in just for the heck of it. I've been trying to take care of my voice as much as possible -- if you can picture just one drink on Super Bowl Sunday! I've had more tea to drink in the past 24 hours than beer.

And I'm a little nervous. The last time I had an audition I cared this much about, it was to get into the music school in college. And that was taped. This would be a little different, and if I'm fortunate enough to be given a piece, it'll mean for the first time that people are paying to attend a concert in which I am soloing.

Note that I didn't say people are paying to hear me solo. I'm not that foolish!

Now I'm just killing the last few minutes before leaving. I don't want to be late, but I suspect I'll be very early.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

All about the location

Cate and the kids were out running an errand this afternoon, and one of them noticed a house was newly on the market.

As Cate relates the story, it goes as so. Cate said, "Oh look, there's a house for sale,"

Robert said, "But it's on Xerxes!" (Xerxes is a busy street, which has had a lot of houses on the market, none of which we would want to buy.)

And Elizabeth responded, "Well, we're not going to buy it anyway."

Tomorrow the kids will have been here for six months.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Your skin doesn't make any difference

Last year we shared Robert's take on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. This year his understanding has grown. We were watching Dr. King's "I have a dream" speech on YouTube and talking about the March and why so many people came. Robert said:

"Why did we need new laws if the Constitution already says that everyone's equal?"

"There used to be water fountains that had a sign on them that said 'white people only' and I don't think they should have done that. That's wrong. They definitely shouldn't do that cuz your skin doesn't make any difference when you're thirsty."


Saturday, January 17, 2009

A lesson in chess

I have to share another bright spot in the struggle to teach our kids (how to be kind, Golden Rule, etc.).

Today I overheard Robert say this to his friend Luke who had just received a bronze medal at the chess tournament:

Robert: "I'm proud of you Luke. You did a good job."

Luke: "Thank you Robert. You too."

Robert won one chess match and contributed to the Lake Harriet Elementary first grade team finishing third in its division at a huge chess tournament that ran all day today. At the end, Robert and Luke were the only ones left from the team, so they got to pose with the certificate.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Her own name

We've been trying to get Colleen to spell her name for a while, and she's been doing her cute little passive resistance, refusing to play along.

We try to get her to say her last name on command, tell people who her mom and dad are, things like that, in case she gets lost and she has to communicate with security guards or police who she is. And she isn't interested in doing anything but teasing joke responses.

But today, Cate tells me, we got some progress. She was playing a game online and it asked for her name. This is what she typed:


Thursday, January 15, 2009

Sheesh -- so cold!

It's been below zero essentially all week. When we get down into the minus-teens (and it was minus-20 this morning), some things tend to change. Some tales from the cold:

I drove the car this afternoon. Had it parked out in a sunny spot so it could get the maximum non-frozenness possible, not that it helped much. Most of the winter I could start the car and get out, scrape off the windshield while the car ran and the engine came up to speed, but not today. While the engine cranked and turned over without incident, I couldn't put it in neutral without it killing.

With a minimum of warmup, the gear shift was pretty stiff. Combine that with the stiff feet in the cold and it's not a great drive.

Amazingly, even at minus-10 degrees, there are still patches of water on the streets in the mid-afternoon in spots. Making a note so I don't drive down those streets after it refreezes.

Went through the drive-thru teller at the bank. Rolled down the window -- with some hesitation -- to talk to the teller, and she asked, "How are you today, other than cold?" I answered, "That's pretty much it, just cold."

Last night I walked to choir practice, two and a half blocks away, for this very reason. I figured the car wouldn't even begin to get warm or the stick get unstuck. I felt great about the decision at 6:15 p.m., walking there. Walking back at 8:30, however, was a different story.

Tomorrow, it's supposed to get above zero. I'll probably work from the office instead of home. But we'll see.