Sunday, December 30, 2012

Ode to a Grandma: Millie Walquist, 1914-2012

I haven't had a grandma for quite a while. My grandma on my dad's side died when I was young, either 5 or 6, I'm not exactly sure. Unfortunately, I don't have very many memories of her. My grandma on my mom's side died in 1997, which sometimes seems like yesterday, but when I actually sit down with my calculator, I realize that it's already been 15 years now.

Almost 8 years ago I was fortunate to get a third chance at having a grandma. That was when I married my wonderful wife, who just happened to come with a grandma of her own, Grandma Millie. At the time, Grandma Millie was a spry 91-year-old who was active in every facet of life, even to the point of picking up her younger friends from church to drive them to and from whatever appointments they might have had.

That wasn't the only amazing thing about Grandma Millie, but it was one of the first amazing things I learned about her. Over the years I would learn so much more, from how she had shoveled her own 100-foot-long driveway by herself until she was almost 80, to how she had also taken care of all four of my sister-in-law's kids every day, when they were all under the age of 10! That, too, occurred when Grandma Millie was well past the age of retirement.
Grandma Millie, in March, holding the Baby shortly after she was born.

Throughout the past 8 years, I got to know Grandma Millie better and better, and quickly started to think of her as my own grandmother. She was an amazingly generous and loving woman, and I am proud to say she was my Grandma. We lost Grandma Millie this morning, just a few short months from her 99th birthday. It's been a terribly sad day for everyone in the family, but we all know that she is now celebrating in heaven with Jesus and her beloved husband, George.

I love you, Grandma Millie! Thanks for everything!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

My Daughter, the Artiste'

Did you know that the Girl's middle name should probably be "Ansel"? No, of course you didn't know that. None of us knew until a few days ago, when she picked up the Wife's digital camera and starting shooting. I know that you know that I'm not usually one to brag about my offspring, but I am inclined to say that she is pretty good. Or at least she's prolific! When I looked at the camera after she was done, I think I counted right around a billion photos that she took.

Obviously, I am not going to post all of her shots here on this blog, but I have picked out some of the better ones. I'm thinking about contacting one of the more prominent museums out there to see if they'd be interested in having her do a show. I have narrowed it down to the Louvre, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Oakdale Public Library. Wish us luck!
"Blurry Bubba"

"Blurry Bubba, Break-Dancing"

"Blurry Daddy"

"Really Blurry Daddy & Baby"

"Daddy's Softball Wound That Won't Go Away" or "Look At The Pipes On That Guy!"

"Where Did Daddy's Eyes Go? Vol. 1"

"Blurry Christmas Tree"

"Really Blurry Christmas Tree"

"Chair: A Still Life"

"Self Portrait" or "Can You Find The Girl?"

"Where Did Daddy's Eyes Go? Vol. 2"

Monday, December 17, 2012

No More Bragging, Please!

You know how your eyes instinctively roll around in your head, and you feel the sudden need to suppress a little bit of vomit, every time some parent you know goes on and on and on about how brilliant their child is? Listening to parents like that might be the most annoying thing in the history of the universe. I can't stand parents like that.

I mean, what could these people's kids have really done that was so amazing, any way? Kids are kids. They all do the same things. Sure, maybe some kids learn to do things more quickly than other kids, and maybe they are taller and cuter and funnier than other kids their age, but does that mean they are brilliant?

Take, for example, my daughter, the Girl. She's only 3-and-and-a-half years old, but just the other day she successfully changed her little brother, the Boy's, diaper, without any assistance, or even knowledge of what was going on, by her parents. The act of changing a diaper by someone her age is one thing, but actually getting her little brother to lay still during the procedure is a whole different story. This was obviously a momentous undertaking on the Girl's part. But do you see me going around bragging about her to anyone and everyone within earshot? I mean, come on.


Or later on that night, when she decided it was time to turn their tiny lanterns off and go to bed, without the Wife or me telling her to do so, which is a very mature thing to do, since most 3 year olds would be more apt to put up a stink when their parents tell them it's time to turn the lights off. Do you hear me going on and on and on about that?

Seriously, some of these parents out there need to get a grip. Kids are kids! There's no need to keep bragging about yours. Do us all a favor, and just stop talking. Thank you!
On Friday morning I was just starting to decide what silliness in my life I could write about, when I heard about the tragedy that had just happened in Connecticut. The whole rest of the weekend I was just kind of numb. I wanted to get on here and write some kind of deep and meaningful essay, but there's really nothing I can say that would be of any use. Instead I will just say that our thoughts and prayers are with the families and loved ones of all the victims.
Luke 18:16-17:16 But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 17 Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Blind Rage and the Number 12

If you are living under a rock somewhere, you might not have realized that yesterday's date was 12/12/12. I was hoping that something significant would happen in our household for me to write about, but nothing ever did. So I'll write about something else.

Being inundated with the number "12" all day made me think about my own life, and especially me at the age of 12. For some reason I remember being 12 much more than I do any of my other formative years, and yesterday I kept thinking that writing about it would make a good story.

I could write about the summer I turned 12, which would have been right around 1986. That summer was memorable for a couple reasons. First of all, that was the first year my Little League baseball team made it to the playoffs in all the years I had been playing baseball, or tee-ball, for that matter. We weren't a great team, but we were good enough to win our division, so we automatically qualified to make the post-season. I don't have the faintest recollection of how we did in the playoffs, but I know we didn't win the championship, so it must not have been too good.

That summer was also significant for me because it was the last year I played organized baseball, since I didn't make the cut to be on the traveling team the following year, even though I had been one of the best pitchers in the league the year before. Bitter much?

Another thing happened that summer that I would just as soon forget about, but I guess it's a part of who I am, so instead of forgetting about it, I'll write about it here so now everyone will know. I think it would be fair to say that I am usually pretty mild-mannered, if not teetering on the edge of comatose, but apparently even I have a boiling point, and that point reared it's ugly head one day in the summer of '86.

I'm not even sure of all the details of this story, and I don't know exactly what my older sister and I were arguing about, but I do remember that I was in our backyard, which could only be reached through a door in the back of the garage. For some unknown reason in the middle of our arguing, my sister thought it would be fun to lock that door so I couldn't get in, and for some other unknown reason, I felt it was imperative that I did get in. I really don't remember what happened next, because of the blind rage that completely took over, but for some reason I ran at the door with all my force, and put both my hands right through the glass window, shattering it completely, and cutting myself on pretty much every finger, in both my palms, and very close to the artery in my left wrist.

Needless to say, my blind rage quickly subsided. I don't know if it was the sight of my own blood dripping all over the garage floor or the sound of my sister screaming hysterically that made the rage leave. Whatever it was, it was very effective at scaring the rage so badly that it has never come back. So, that's a good thing.

Thankfully I was OK. The carnage could have been much worse than it was. And, actually, if my memory serves, I played a baseball game the next night with bandages everywhere. I guess getting a little dirt in an open gash never hurt anyone...

There were some other memorable things that happened when I was 12, but after writing about that last incident, I am tired of going through old memories. From now on, I'm only writing about the present. I'll take chaotic kids over blind rage any day!

Monday, December 10, 2012

The 2012 Version of the Snowstorm Of The Century

Well, I am officially tired of shoveling snow. I figure we got about 20 inches at our house. That might not be what we actually got, but that's what it seemed like when I was shoveling. It seems as though I spent every waking moment of the last day and a half with a shovel in my hand. Not only did I shovel our driveway twice, I also shoveled my grandma-in-law's enormous driveway (with help from a couple of nice ladies I know, one of whom is the mother of my adorable children, so props go out to her), I helped shovel the sidewalks around church several times while we were there, and I helped dig one of the cute little old church lady's car out of the church parking lot. All of the shoveling meant my old golf callouses got a nice workout, so that was fun. And I did learn one valuable lesson: if I shovel out my aforementioned grandma-in-law's 100' long driveway first, my own 35' long driveway seems miniscule by comparison. Not that I plan to do that ever again...

The last two winters, the Girl has wanted to come out and help me shovel whenever we have had any accumulated snow, but in reality, she has just waved her tiny toddler-sized shovel at the snowpiles for a few minutes, and then either moved on to cavorting in the snow, or going inside to have some hot chocolate.
The Girl and I conquered the Snowstorm of the Century with these meager implements. We are good!

Yesterday, she actually was helpful. We both got bundled up to head outside, and by the time I walked out the door, she had already started clearing off the sidewalk. (Reminder to everyone: she's only 3 1/2 years old!!!)  It was amazing! Every few minutes while we were out there, she would look at me and ask "Aren't you glad I'm out here helping you, Daddy?" What could I say, but "Of course I am!"

The Boy was another story. He didn't even want to go outside the first time we shoveled our driveway, which was yesterday morning. The second time, when it was really deep, he did come out, and he did wave his shovel around, much like the Girl had done the last couple years. But, for the most part, he was more interested in playing and having fun. And who can blame him? He was especially funny whenever a gust of wind would come up and blow a bunch of snow off our roof and into our faces, because he would yell out "It tickles, Daddy!!" I am not sure he fully understands what the word "tickles" means. I'll make sure he reads his dictionary before our next snowstorm.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Good Intentions Gone Awry

We had good intentions for this afternoon. We planned on taking our three kids to our bank, Lake Elmo Bank, which every year hosts a real live Santa and a real live reindeer for kids of all ages to meet and have their photo taken with. We have taken our kids every year since we only had the Girl, and have included the photo in our Christmas letter for all of those years. The plan was to do that again this year.

All of us looked really Christmassy today, dressed in either green or red. Except for the Baby, that is. She insisted on wearing pink. Babies can be so stubborn! We planned our afternoon around the event, and even had Grandma D. and Grandpa S. come with to help herd the kids, and to take the pictures.

Everything was going as smoothly as we could have ever hoped. And then we walked into the bank. As soon as the Boy saw Santa sitting there in the back of the lobby, he turned into a raging ball of angst. He did not want to go anywhere near that guy with the white beard, and clung to his mom with every ounce of strength his little body could muster.

So, with the Boy not wanting to be in the picture, the Wife and I decided to also sit out, and just have it be about the girls this year. Both the Girl and the Baby seemed excited to have their photo taken with Santa. The Girl stepped right up and told Santa what she wanted for Christmas, and then took her spot next to him. Then I handed the Baby over to Santa, since he was going to hold her on his lap for the photo. She seemed to like his long white beard and his red hat.

It was all going beautifully. And then Comet, the reindeer, entered scene. I don't know if it was his antlers, the fact that she had never been so close to such a large animal, or maybe he needed a breath mint. Whatever it was, the Baby did not like Comet. And that may be the understatement of the year. She screamed and kicked so hard I thought Santa was going to drop her. And who could have blamed him? Actually, Santa handled the situation like a pro. Probably because he deals with screaming kids all the time. We saw several kids, some of whom weren't even ours, having the same reaction. So he must get lots of practice.
This was right after Comet entered the picture. I think the Girl was the only one in the whole place who thought it was funny. Obviously Santa didn't.

So, the jist of the story is we aren't going to have a photo of our family with Santa and his reindeer on our Christmas letter this year. That's OK. Personally, I think the photo we did get is even better!

Update: 15 Days and Counting

A few days ago I wrote about how we are hosting my family's Christmas gathering this year, and how we only had 30 days to get the house clean and in a condition that would befit such an occasion, and I promised that I would have daily updates on how the cleaning process was going. I started it on that day by stating that, so far, we had done absolutely nothing as far as cleaning was concerned.

Well, I really had no intention of actually posting daily updates, probably because I knew there would be lots of days that we wouldn't get much, if anything, accomplished. And who wants to keep admitting, via such a public forum, that they are lazy? Not me.

But, to my astonishment, I have actually had several people ask me for updates. This fact blew my mind! People actually read and pay attention to what I write here. Will wonders never cease?

So, here is a quick update. First of all, I was informed by my better half that we are actually celebrating on December 22nd, three whole days before Christmas. If you are not good at math, that means that we have three less days to clean. This news was met with much wailing and gnashing of teeth by me, but I quickly got over the anxiety and got back to work being lazy.
This is an exact replica of the outfit I wear when I clean. I wonder how this guy found out about it...
No, we actually have gotten some good cleaning done around here. We cleaned up and re-organized all the toys in the basement, moving them out of the paper ream boxes they had been in, and into nice fabric bins we got at Target. The toy area was much more visually pleasing. That is, until the kids went down there and scattered everything around again. I guess it doesn't pay to clean up toys until the day of.

We've done a bunch of other cleaning, as well. I won't go into any more details, because I don't want to be the reason you fall asleep at your desk. Maybe I'll post some photos of our clean house when we get closer to Christmas. I may be too worn out to push the shutter button, though. We'll see how it goes.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

A Warning to All Future Parents

When the Wife and I began our spirited quest to have kids, and lots of them, a few years ago, we thought we knew what we were getting into. We knew there might be some sleepless nights. We knew there would be some expense involved. We knew there would probably be some irritability at times, but for the most part, I've tried not to let my irritability affect my parenting skills.

Having children is not cheap. There are all sorts of things that you need to have, all of which cost money. Children need clothes, and, since they grow out of one size and into the next size just about every other week, you need to keep buying clothes. That can be expensive.

Children need to eat. Luckily, when our kids were babies, the Wife was able to keep them well fed, but we have had to buy some supplemental baby formula every once in a while, and that stuff is spendy, even if you get the generic stuff, like we do. (Also, here's a little tip for any new parents out there - every time you go to your pediatrician, ask if they have any formula samples. We got several medium sized cans that way. Saved us a lot of money.)

Children need things to do and toys to play with. If you haven't walked through the toy department at Target lately, you should. You will see that all toys, even fairly simple ones designed for babies, are astronomically priced. We have been very lucky that all of our kids' grandparents and several aunts and uncles live nearby. They have a tendency to lavish our kids with so many toys that we haven't had to buy many ourselves. Not everyone is so lucky, though.

We knew about all of the expenses I've written about here. But there was a child-related expense that we never thought about, and it reared its ugly head almost as soon as we brought the Girl home from the hospital 3-and-a-half years ago.

That unexpected expense was: batteries. I hate to even think about how many batteries we have had to buy since we became parents. There's a good chance that even the simplest of toys will require batteries, and all toys are notorious for using up their batteries' juice in a rapid way.
We don't have a Teddy Ruxpin doll at our house, only because I heard he runs on 25 "D" batteries, and we couldn't afford them.

We have a really fun mobile that has hung on our babies' crib since day one, but that stupid thing runs through batteries like nobody's business. It wouldn't be so bad, except it takes eight "D" batteries to run! So, every month or two we have to go out and buy another huge pack of "D" batteries, just for that one mobile.

We have toys that run on pretty much every battery you can think of. Along with the millions of "D"s we have had to buy, we also have toys that run on "C"s, 9-Volts, "AA"s, "AAA"s, and about 4 different types of watch batteries. Why can't all watch batteries be the same?!?! This is a question that I'm sure does not have a good answer.

OK, I will end my rant now. This was very therapeutic for me. Thank you for listening. But, really, I wanted to write this as a warning to all future parents out there. Start saving your money now. Teddy Ruxpin can only run so long on his first set of batteries.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Rise and Fall of the Nuk

As parents, the Wife and I love nuks. You may know them as pacifiers, or even binkies, but in our house we call them "nukies", (which rhymes with cookie) as in "Daddy, can you help me find my nukie?" (spoken in a whiny, 2-year-old's voice at approximately 2:48 AM, when all I want to do is sleep.)

Nuks are an amazing invention. Who would have ever thought that a simple plastic oval with a rubber nipple attached to it could bring so much calm to a household. We have given nuks to all of our kids, from an early age, and thankfully they took to them like a pack of starving hyenas to a bloated wildebeest.

We try to only give our babies their nuks at nap time or when they are on the verge of a nervous breakdown, which is often. Having a nuk in their mouth brings an almost immediate sense of calm to a screaming baby. At least some of the time. Once they are a year old or so (my wife may contradict what I say about how old they were - she remembers things better than I do, so that's cool), toddling around the house, we switch that to only at nap time and night time. We did that with our oldest, the Girl, because we thought that if she only had her nukie when she was in bed, it would be easier to ween her off of it when she got older. That wasn't necessarily the case, but she is finally almost entirely weened, now that she is 3-and-a-half.

The Boy, who is 2, still clings to his nukie like one of the aforementioned starving hyenas, but we are hopeful that we will be able to ween him off it in the coming months.

With the Baby, we have had an entirely different set of problems concerning her nukies. We lose them. She's only been on God's green earth for a little over 8 months, and we have already lost approximately 4,000 of her nukies. Who knows where they end up? We certainly don't. And we never had that problem with either of the other kids' nukies. I don't think we ever lost a single one of theirs. It's an odd phenomenon that can only be attributed to Mommy and Daddy's lingering cases of threechilditis. Hopefully we'll find a cure for that by the time all of our kids are weened off their nuks. Don't hold your breath.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

An Ode to craigslist

I'm not entirely sure who Craig is, or how his list got started, but wherever he is, I would like to thank him dearly. We feel that craigslist.com is one of the best things ever. Not only have we pretty much furnished our entire house with stuff we bought on craigslist, but we have also found oodles of awesome, gently used baby and toddler things for our kids to enjoy, and we have spent very little money. And every transaction has transpired with ease.
Craig's list?
If I wanted to list everything we have purchased on craigslist, the list would be so long, and you would have to scroll so far down the page to see everything, that your index finger would start to cramp. So I won't do that. But, to name a few things, we got the beautiful bedroom set that we have in our room (which includes a gentleman's closet, whatever that is), our wonderful dining room table and chairs, the very comfortable sleeper sofa in our living room, and the awesome rolltop desk that I use for fly tying, which lets me just roll the top down to hide any furs or feathers that we don't want our guests to see.

As far as the kids are concerned, we got the two older kids' bunk beds on craigslist, as well several car and booster seats, almost all of their Thomas trains and tracks, and a boatload of clothes, to name just a few of our many purchases. We have been fortunate to receive a lot of the kids' clothes as hand-me-downs from friends and family, but we also have gotten several huge lots of clothes from people on craigslist, usually for a small percentage of what they would have cost new.

Hopefully this post won't cause you all to rush over to craigslist and buy up everything in sight. But, I would suggest you at least take a look the next time you are in the market for something. You may be glad you did.

Monday, December 3, 2012

A Boy and His Shoes

The Boy got some new tennis shoes from Grandma D a while back. At the time, pretty much the only shoes we had that fit him were some well-worn sandals that he had been wearing all summer. And when I say "all summer", I mean all summer. Those were the only shoes he would ever let us put on him, so he wore them all day every day, no matter the weather, and no matter whether they matched his clothes or not. He wore them out in the mud, and he wore them with all of his dress clothes to church every Sunday. He loved those sandals.

He loved those sandals so much that we were a little worried about how he would react when he outgrew them, which kids are known to do. He just wanted to keep squeezing his feet in them, no matter how tight they got. Finally the weather was cold enough this fall that we decided we couldn't let him wear his sandals any more, and we would have to introduce him to a new pair of shoes.

So, Grandma D got him a new pair of tennis shoes. Initially he wasn't too keen on them, which is a nice way to say that he ran kicking and screaming and hid under the dining room table when we showed them to him. But, eventually he let us pry his new shoes onto his feet, and it didn't take long for him to realize they were comfortable and they were warmer than his old sandals were.

If these didn't have the fancy soles or the designer logo, they would look a lot like the Boy's new shoes. Photo courtesy of aliexpress.com 
Now, he LOVES his tennis shoes. He can't wait to put them on every morning, and as soon as they're on, he is ready to run. He comes up to me and proclaims "I run fast, Daddy! Watch me!" And then he runs in circles around our kitchen, and in figure-eights through the kitchen and dining room. And up and down the hallway. And, if we're outside, he'll run around and around whatever vehicles are in the driveway. And he will do that for whoever happens to be close enough for him to show off to. He and his new shoes are a non-stop blur of activity. He loves those shoes. Let's hope he never outgrows them...