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.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Feel the chill

Yesterday I should've listened to my instincts and stayed home. I'd told myself at the beginning of the winter that I would take advantage of my ability to work from home if it was cold out, and yesterday it was on the verge of being really cold. But I knew that it was only going to get worse, so I decided to suck it up and drive to work.

I was immediately regretting not asking for a spot in the garage the night before, since one was open, and was cursing scraping off the windshield.

I got about 10 blocks from the house when my back windshield basically shattered. It left a hole over about a tenth of the window, with the rest of it hairline cracked. I got out of the car (it was at a stoplight), looked in the hole and saw nothing that might have been thrown through it or could have fallen from a building. The guy in the truck behind me had no idea. (And he wasn't holding a rifle or anything.)

All I could think of was that the glass was simply tired of being heated and frozen twice a day this winter and gave out from the stress.

Turned around and limped home on back streets at about 20 mph, while the glass fell into the back seat piece by piece. (Commuting to work, no kids in the back seat, just my lunch.)

Today, new glass, and 15 degrees below zero when I left for work. (Yes, that's Fahrenheit.) Felt the moisture in my nostrils freeze within about 10 seconds. The car hesitated once but turned over. The thing has 110,000 miles on it and has been outside all winter but has yet to fail me on startup.

The trick today -- after starting the car and cleaning it off, I went back inside to trade off for a dry and warm pair of gloves. Much, much better.

Cate drove the kids to school today so they didn't have to wait for the bus. At least they start at 9:30 instead of 7:30.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Finally fishing

Robert has been waiting for this day for a long time, and I wouldn't have pictured it would come in the dead of winter.

Ever since we got here for Robert and Elizabeth to visit Nonna and Da in August 2007, he has wanted to go fishing. And today, actually, was the easiest way to get it done.

The annual kite festival was held on Lake Harriet this afternoon, with just enough wind to provide for a spectacular show but not so much that we froze our faces off. We took a horse-drawn cart ride up the west side of the lake, had some hot cider and Robert took part in a scavenger hunt.

There was also ice fishing, but I don't have the patience for it. Robert and I made it a little further into the day than Elizabeth and Colleen did, but we didn't fish for ice. And that really bummed Robert out. He trudged all the way home, about five blocks, upset and not really interested in my suggestion that we would go fishing when it was warmer.

But Da came to the rescue. He was willing to take Robert back down and do the whole ice fishing thing.

And since Robert had waited about a year and a half for this moment, he made the most of it.

They had about 25 holes drilled in the ice, and kids had been fishing those holes all day long, with poles and bait provided by the Minnesota DNR. So the odds were pretty long that he was going to come up with anything. But he sat, and waited, patiently, watching the bobber, for about 45 minutes.

No luck. But he wasn't discouraged. He came home and told us all what a great time it was.

And an hour later, his cheeks were no longer red.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Cousin to the rescue

Colleen really enjoys having Amelia here during the day. She gets to use her high-pitched "who's a pretty baby?" voice and joins in the general hoop-la associated with Amelia. Amelia is very tolerant of the commotion and extra kisses.

Baby milestone: Amelia gets herself into a standing position and then doesn't know what to do.

Colleen to the rescue. Oh but wait - there's mom with the camera. She didn't know whether to pose or help Amelia.

I snapped off this shot and then pried Amelia's fingers off that cabinet knob. She was holding on for dear life.

Clothing-related note: We were mid-wardrobe change when this happened, which is why she's in her undershirt (carrots for lunch, 'nuf said).

Saturday, January 3, 2009

That Elizabeth trip with Dad

Cate mentions that Elizabeth was off on a special trip with me this weekend. I'm not so sure how 'special' it was, though.

The last time I took Elizabeth with me on a basketball trip, we had a great time in Gettysburg, Pa. But that was a trip planned ahead of time, in part around her. This time, not so much. I went to kiss her good-bye Friday night on my way out the door and she asked, "Ooh, can I come?"

Robert had gone to a game with me in St. Paul earlier in the week, so I think she was feeling a little left out.

Little did she know it would require about 13 hours in the car and not much in the way of kid-friendly activities. I didn't even book a nice hotel because I thought I was traveling by myself. The game was in Grinnell, Iowa, at 1 in the afternoon, so we didn't really have time to seek out anything interesting to add to the itinerary. We stopped at a gift shop in town, which had absolutely nothing to offer, even to the point where Elizabeth noticed we were the only ones in the store, and said, "We can't even sneak out!"

She also had hot chocolate -- actually three times Saturday, in fact -- and a cinnamon roll at Saints Rest, a coffee shop in town. She helped me maintain my cover (I went to the game unannounced) and watched it with me, and was interested for a while but even a 130-109 game couldn't hold her. She was patient as I talked to players after the game.

Where she broke down was after two hours in the car on the way home, when I was suggesting we would stop anywhere but an Applebee's.

See, we were about 65 miles south of the next Applebee's on the interstate, and the road was not in great shape, so I was hoping we could stop and eat in hopes that the road would get treated and be a little more drivable. But no, not so much. Her response was, "when we go out to dinner, we never get to eat anywhere NICE!"

Real tears. And yes, apparently Applebee's is the definition of nice.

So, Ryan confirmed for me that the next Applebee's north of us (there was no chance I was backtracking 20 miles in that weather) was in Mason City, Iowa. And Elizabeth wanted to wait. So we trudged north at anywhere from 40-55 mph to get there.

Elizabeth ordered steak, but I was impressed: The first thing she ate off the plate wasn't the steak, or the gigantic baked potato (with its -- honest to goodness -- three tablespoons of butter), but the zucchini. And then the broccoli. She rattled off for me all the things she loves about Applebee's: the kitsch (my description) on the walls mostly. But honestly, it's almost the only place she's ever been on a regular basis, going back a decade. I remember taking her to Applebee's with the Jensens when she was a baby. Before she ate, frankly. And it's the place she would go to dinner with Patty most frequently. (Breakfast, IHOP, different story.) So it's sentimental value for her. Much like ... uhh ... yeah, I can't come up with anything for me. We stopped going when we started needing to feed and entertain three kids there.

My car doesn't have a functioning CD player, so we were at the mercy of the radio the whole trip. Elizabeth's popular musical appreciation is somewhat limited, but she's familiar with just about anything the folks at Kids Bop have covered, which apparently includes John Mayer's Waiting for the World to Change. I got a kick out of listening to her sing that.

I'm sure she'll remember it as boring, and I know it was for her. But it was nice to have her riding shotgun. And if I have more than five minutes' warning we can work on the itinerary with her in mind.

Light up the Night

With Elizabeth on a special trip with Daddy to Iowa, I decided Robert and Colleen would get a special treat too: ice cream for dessert, as many bedtime stories as they could stand and a double sleepover with Mom. My throat is paying for the bedtime stories promised but we had a great time. We had just been to the library so we went to bed loaded with 12 new books (one of which was a 4 book treasury). We stayed up to 9 p.m. - 2 hours past bedtime. It was great fun and we all were very ready for sleep. But the sparks came after lights out.

In my family we always got new pajamas on Christmas Eve so we'd wake up in brand new PJs on Christmas morning. We've continued that tradition with our 3. This year (and the 2 previous years at least) the kids got coordinating fleece PJs from The Children's Place.

Someone kicked me in the face around 1:30 a.m. and I woke up. That someone was Robert sleeping upside down so his feet were on the pillow. When I looked down he rolled over again and he sort of sparkled. That looked weird so I put on my eyeglasses. And I saw Colleen shift and sparkle too! It was static electricity from their fleece pajamas.

I admit that I poked them a few times just to see it again.