Saturday, January 30, 2010

A Derby to Remember

We raced in our sixth Pinewood Derby this morning. Over the years we’ve built a lot of cars, and we’ve built a lot of character. At the moment, I’m tired on both accounts.

We’ve engineered tug boats and rockets, fire engines and tanks. We’ve been up into the wee hours of race day adding fins or turrets or stickers. We’ve been found, hair-dryer in hand, finishing a paint job minutes before the checkered flag (or whatever) flies.

We’ve spent a pretty penny on these jobbies. Base price: $4.99. Purchasing a new Dremel on the eve of the race will set you back another $60.00. Then there’s the ultra-accurate scale for $19.99 plus shipping. Reminds me of camping. Every year is pretty much the same.

Today’s race, however, was a first.

I show up a few minutes into Kolbe’s race to meet a grim-faced Dave.

I get the verdict: The weight of Kolbe’s car is pushing the wheels into the wheel wells. His car is slow. Painfully slow.

I plunk myself down track-side to hear the dad behind me quip, “We just come to watch the meltdowns.” He’s a father with five boys and a good sense of humor. He's been there, done that. I give him a friendly slug and tell him to be quiet already – this year it’s my son facing drama at the derby.

Kolbe loses every heat. In point of fact, he comes in dead last in every heat. We dry a few tears and give the standard pep talk.

All this is hard. Because parenting is hard. Because being a competitive person turned parent is even harder. I have laughed about this with my friends over the years. Oh, we put a good face on it. We say the right things and encourage the correct responses. We’re building character, by golly! But at a certain point – character schmaracter – we just want our kid to win. We maintain a thin veneer of civility, but scratch the surface and you find a Hollywood stage mom.

We get to the awards. A little time and a bowl of junk food leave Kolbe downright jovial. The Cub master calls the awards for Kolbe’s den.

“And second place …Kolbe!”


Kolbe collects his trophy and makes a joke about it. Dave has a chat with the Cub master as the tournament of champions finishes up. The Cub master calls Kolbe forward.

"I asked Kolbe how I could make this right," the Cub master shares. "Kolbe said he'd be happy to take the first place trophy, or he'd settle for ten bucks."

That's my boy. We laugh and applaud Kolbe being Kolbe.

The Cub master calls up the actual second place winner, Kolbe’s good pal, Daelyn. Kolbe hands over the trophy. Daelyn’s dad, a kind man and a class act, makes a point to share a few words of encouragement with Dave and me. All is right with the Derby world.

After the race I putter around in the kitchen and overhear Kolbe talking to his dad.

“I had a great time at the Pinewood Derby today, Dad,” he says. I want to cry. Maybe there’s something to this character schmaracter.

I vacuum up sawdust. Dave boxes up the Dremel. We put paints, sandpaper, brushes, and decals into the storage room to race another day.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Flake, My Favorite Poet

As Tim and I are reviewing information about tigers:

Tim: Tiger, tiger burning bright/ In the forests of the night...

Me, so impressed with our English department: Where did you learn that?

Tim: Calvin and Hobbes. Calvin says, "Apparently Blake saw a tiger get hit by lightening."

Kolbe: Who's Flake?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

My Snuggly Toddler

Here They Come...

PicturesWhen your hairstyle resembles Peter Tork's and your mother makes you wear a knit cap all through breakfast just to flatten your wayward mane, it's high time for a cut. I'm shocked I haven't seen a note or two come home from school. See you this afternoon, Heather!


The boys are looking at our light-up snowman sitting on the dining room table.

Kolbe: It's funny - he changes colors, but he never moves a muscle.

Tim: He doesn't have any muscles.

Odd things amuse me these days.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Home Again, Home Again!

The Boy Scouts returned safely.

Tim came through the door with lots of stories, 50 pounds of sodden equipment, and socks that should have headed straight to the waste treatment facility across the river.

Not only did Tim manage to corral all his stuff, we actually gained two items: a cup Tim lost last summer and some other scout's long underwear (thankfully, still in the package).

Mothers everywhere will understand my glee.

Friday, January 22, 2010


Fast from judging others; feast on the Christ dwelling within them.

Fast from emphasis on differences; feast on the unity of all life.

Fast from apparent darkness; feast on the reality of light.

Fast from words that pollute; feast on phrases that purify.

Fast from discontent; feast on gratitude.

Fast from anger; feast on patience.

Fast from pessimism; feast on optimism

Fast from worry; feast on trust.

Fast from complaining; feast on appreciation

Fast from negatives; feast on affirmatives.

Fast from unrelenting pressures; feast on unceasing prayer
Fast from hostility; feast on nonviolence.

Fast from bitterness; feast on forgiveness.

Fast from self-concern; feast on compassion for others.

Fast from personal anxiety; feast on eternal truth.

Fast from discouragement; feast on hope.

Fast from facts that depress; feast on truths that uplift.

Fast from lethargy; feast on enthusiasm.

Fast from suspicion; feast on truth.

Fast from thoughts that weaken; feast on promises that inspire.

Fast from idle gossip; feast on purposeful silence.

Gentle God, during this season of fasting and feasting, gift us with Your Presence, so we can be gift to others in carrying out your work. Amen.

Saint Teresa's Bookmark

Words of wisdom from my favorite saint:

Let nothing disturb you
Let nothing dismay you
All things pass
God never changes
Paitience attains all it strives for
He who had God finds he lacks nothing
God alone suffices

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Small Successes


Danielle Bean hosts a weekly column aimed at encouraging moms to keep fighting the good fight. My small successes:

1. I'm conscious after a week of the least amount of sleep I've had since Basic Training in 1982.

2. When I felt like falling apart last night, I chose to pray instead. I also drank wine.

3. I enjoyed an hour at the park with my precious John.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Can I Hitch a Ride?

As we were leaving the grocery store yesterday:

Me: Kolbe, be calm.

Kolbe: I am calm. I am serene. I am hopping the next flight to Bora Bora.

It's been two weeks of tenacious ear infections, a wide-spread rash, all night nursing, sky-high fevers, and watching Thomas and the Magic Railway at 3:30 in the morning.

I am exhausted. I am irritable. I am grateful for a son who makes me laugh.

P.S. Read The Baby Whisperer yesterday. Ainsley slept from 8:00 until 11:00, nursed briefly, and then slept until 7:30 a.m.! Hallelujah! HT: My friend Amy for loaning me the book.

Science Fair!

As we delve into the Science Fair for the first time, I am reminded of Dave Barry's Eighth Law of Motion:

A body at rest will remain at rest until 10:00 p.m. the night before the Science Fair at which point said body will jump from the couch and yell, "Mom, we gotta go to the store!"

I'm paraphrasing here. If I can get my hands on the original column, I'll send it to Mr. Swenson at school.

Tim turned in his topic today. He and his friend have settled on an interesting hypothesis far preferable to their original idea involving bullets and a variety of firearms.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Ainsey at Five Months

So you didn't sleep practically at all last night ... Your mother flat adores you nonetheless.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Myth Busters - The Camping Edition

There's a myth out there - widely believed - wholly untrue. It says that camping is cheap. A cheap way to vacation. A cheap form of recreation.

In the early years of married life, Dave and I camped any number of times. Each and every camping trip required a trip to a sporting goods store to pick up a few items that, I promise you, cost more than a night or two in a mid-range hotel.

First we shelled out a pretty penny for a good tent. Then it was the cook stove. The lantern. The pots and pans. A coffee maker that never worked.

Each time we camped, we thought "Well, once we accumulate the basics, it won't cost so much."

There in, my friends, lies the heart of the myth. You're never done. There is an ever growing and evolving list of wares so vast I promise you camping will never mean throwing a few things in the back of the truck and peeling out of the driveway.

Last fall, prior to a One Night Event, we began to assemble an enormous pile of gear. We took stock of air mattresses in the house - queen that leaks - one each, queen that doesn't leak - one each, twin - one each, air mattress pump with missing attachments - one each. Off I went to pick up a second single air mattress and a pump that would work. Not cheap.

Tim and Dave leave next Friday for three days in the North Georgia mountains. Cold weather! Snow possible! The sound I'm hearing isn't woodland animals in a muffled blanket of snow. No, it's more like cha-ching, cha-ching, cha-ching!

Long underwear that fits? Zip, zero, nada! Chemical feet and hand warmers? Fresh out! Water bottle? Never made it home from the last camp out. Off to the big box up the street.

Two batteries for a headlamp? $5.99

Original price of the headlamp? $4.99

Spending a weekend hiking with your Dad? It had better be priceless.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

In the Atrium

I sat with my gang of children, and we meditated on the flight into Egypt.

We looked at the role Joseph played in the incarnation. He received message after bewildering message. And he responded, again and again, with faithfulness.

His foster Son was God incarnate and his spouse was conceived without sin, but Joseph was an unexceptional man who led an exceptional life.

"Joseph was an ordinary man," I shared. "Just as you and I are ordinary people."

And then, from the back, Kolbe piped up, "I'm not ordinary. I was on News Channel 12!"

Yes, one year on Earth Day, News Channel 12 broadcast a fleeting image of Kolbe planting a tree. His feet haven't touched the ground since.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


Kolbe, slathering peanut butter on a slice of bread: Thank you, George Washington Carver!

Is Anyone Home?

So they say insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting a different result.

Kelly, repeat after me: Don't buy cheap diapers. Don't buy cheap diapers. Don't buy cheap diapers.

Time to go strip beds. Argh!

Saturday, January 09, 2010


John conked out on the ride to the hill.

Just thrilled to be put on cold plastic in 15 degree weather.

I'm lovin' it!

Seven Quick Takes - The Christmas Edition

Thanks to Rachel for walking me through how to link to other blogs and to Jen for hosting this series.

A few favorite moments from our trip:

1. Watching my niece Megan spend three hours baking her magnificent Yule Log. No doubt the most lucious confection ever to pass my lips. I had it for breakfast two days in a row.

2. Sledding with my gang of boys. Watching John transform from a just-awakened and very whiney toddler to a little boy thrilled to tackle the hills by himself. Returning home to Grandma's hot chocolate. Everything she makes tastes good!

3. Riding through Auntie Karen's woods on the Polaris with a load of squirming, yelling boys. Watching huge snowflakes fall. Appreciating Uncle Curt's love for his farm. We love it, too!

4. Seeing Tim open Mindstorms NXT. It's a dream come true for him.

5. Walking Auntie Kate's dogs through a snowy park with John on a sled. The first time. The second time John came down with a major case of the whines.

6. Listening to my boys chatting in the far back of the van for 16 hours. Hearing Kolbe sing.

Actual lyrics: Sarah had a baby. It's a miracle. It's a miracle.

Kolbe's version: Your mother ate her baby. She's a cannibal. She's a cannibal.

Yes, yes, I know. It's horrible. Why can't I stop laughing?

7. Arriving home.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

My Nemesis

The peanut butter, that is. Yes, John's at it again. But tell me what message I'm sending when I laugh and head for the camera ever time he does this?

Space - Part I

I have always been a bit of a minimalist. Adding two children in twenty-four months to a smallish house has only served to fuel my urge to purge.

I don’t want two spatulas if one will serve. Coffee mugs? I’m ruthless. I’ve whittled my wardrobe down to the bare necessities (as evidenced by the fact that I wear the same pair of jeans over and over and over again.)

Books, I freely admit, are an absolute exception to this policy. I am shamelessly over-indulgent when it comes to books. Walk through my house and the evidence, I’m afraid, is everywhere.

Space is a funny thing. Dave and I married relatively late in life – we were 34 and 32 respectively. Both of us had lived on our own for quite a while and had accumulated the requisite furnishings. We toyed with the idea of writing “No Gifts, Please” on our wedding invitations. After all, we owned two queen-sized beds, four couches, three cars, two microwave ovens, etc.

We bought our house from a family of seven desperately in need of more spacious digs. In came couches, beds, et al. When all was sorted out, we had two bedrooms full of “stuff.” When Tim arrived, we cut the stuff in half to make room for a nursery. When a friend moved in for an extended visit, the stuff was further reduced to what could fit under a very tall rice bed – still a whole lotta stuff. When Kolbe arrived, out went the rice bed and the twenty-something boxes supporting it.

Somehow we eliminated two entire rooms full of stuff we really needed.

Six years later our sweet John arrived. What to do, what to do? I am firmly of the opinion that with the arrival of a third child, friends should host a “reverse shower.” Show up with a box of diapers and take at least three items with you as you leave. Trust me, the mother will thank you.

So it is as families grow. Tim had the gorgeous nursery with all the trimmings. Kolbe took over the guest room. John got a bassinet and an armoire. And Ainsley? I’m painting a shelf to hold a decorative letter “A”, a cross, a piggy bank, and a lovely tea pot.

Just To Prove I Really Did Spend Christmas With My Family ...

Moms never seem to make it into the pictures.

Frosty the Snowmant!

In honor of Frosty the Snowman, the large man in the back is Oatmeal, and the small one is Raisin.Temps in the high 20s made for perfect packing.
We had an awesome snowball fight.
So much fun. We were so grateful for the snow!

My Favorite Photo

God knew what He was doing when He made toddlers so cute.

Monday, January 04, 2010

In My Opinion...

Anyone who can articulate "Ma diaper is too tight" is fully capable of using the potty.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

I Love My Comfy Sweater!

Auntie Kate knit her fingers to the bone to produce this gorgeous number. We love it!