Archive for January, 2010

And So It Begins

Last semester, 9:20 on a Wednesday night, I stood in the Great Hall of Metro State’s New Main building. The hall goes up several stories, all windows. A terrace wraps around the building (it really is a decadent structure). It was still warm and there was a light breeze. The air had that end-of-summer feeling. I felt an undeniable urge to go out there and look over the city. I did, and a feeling of overwhelming gratitude swept over me. I am so thankful to have this second chance at something that I should have accomplished nearly a decade ago. I have felt it hanging over my head all of these years.

I have moments like that. I am trying to savor every minute of this experience. To enjoy it for what it is. Obviously, there is a bigger goal out there. But I want to enjoy the journey. I am so lucky to have this opportunity.

I know that people are dying to know how my first week back at school went. I’d be happy to share.

On Monday, I start the day bright and early with Anatomy and Physiology at 8:30 AM. In a classroom that we are not allowed to bring coffee into. Why, you ask? I have no idea. I can understand prohibiting beverages in the lab – no one wants a dash of formaldehyde with their latte. But the lecture hall? Come on, man. My kids get me up at 5:30. I need every bit of 1,3,7-trimethyl- 1H-purine- 2,6(3H,7H)-dione that I can cram into my bloodstream.

Aside from that, A & P seems like it will be just fine. The professor has been teaching for nearly thirty years and is not shy about telling us what you need to do to earn that A. I am taking notes. A dirty little secret that I have is that I once took a fair amount of A & P 1 in a different life but withdrew before the end of the semester. I have almost a personal beef with the class, and I will beat it into submission this time around. It pains me to admit that the slides of human tissue are not any more clear ten years later.

I am taking A & P at Saint Paul College because it is not offered at Metro State. So after class, I drive across downtown, park the Taurus in the back row, and do what all nursing mothers must do: pump breastmilk. If you have never been the mother of an infant, you might not realize that while nursing, you just cannot go that long without feeding your baby. Unfortunately, Xavier just isn’t all that into microbiology right now, so he stays home and I pump milk for him. After this, I eat, then trek over to the library to cram in some homework.

Microbiology is in the afternoon. Class got off to a slow start as the professor was a relative of the Somali men who were murdered in the Seward neighborhood, and he was understandably a bit preoccupied on the first day of class. I have a good feeling about the class, though. He seems to want his students to succeed and to genuinely enjoy teaching. At this point, I figured I was two for two.

Tuesday is just A & P lab and studying. Wednesday is a copy of Monday, except Microbiology includes a lab portion (the class is three hours long on both days). Micro lab should be fun, provided I don’t inadvertently infect myself with the ebola virus.

Thursday is Calculus. People ask me what Calculus is, and I am still not entirely sure. “Math for smart people” might be the best answer (not that I am saying that I am smart – anyone can register for Calculus provided you have taken the prereqs, but not everyone can earn a decent grade. We’ll see what happens). It is something about comparing rates of change, but in reality, it is like a different language that I can understand and speak but not translate.

Friday is a study day. Saturday brings Chemistry, Society and the Environment. It should be an interesting class and fairly easy, but quite annoying. In my group of four, not a one thought that climate change was one of the most pressing environmental issues – they had “litter” ranked above it. Really? Really? Litter? People who ignore science really stick in my craw.

And that is it. I am already tired. The sheer amount of crap that I must remember to bring with me each day is ridiculous. On a Wednesday, for example:
Books:A & P, Microbiology, Calculus. Each of these are huge. I can only fit two in the backpack, max.
Solutions manual for Calc
Notebooks: 1.5 inch three-ring binder for A & P, 1 inch binder plus lab notebook for Micro, flexible 1 inch binder for Calculus
Notecards for various classes
Calculator: Pink TI-84 Silver Edition
Sexy Visorgogs
Bag containing breast pump and pump parts (several), breast milk freezer bags, sharpie for labeling said bags, special wipes for cleaning pump
Receiving blanket to function as a hooter hider while pumping
Assorted writing instruments
Bag containing personal items (lipstick, ibuprofen, etc)
Diet Coke

The next fifteen weeks will be an experience. My poor husband and children are just along for the ride.

–Mrs. Wonderful


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Last Weekend of Vacation

I always have big plans for winter break. Study for the PCAT, organize the pictures on the computer, put all of that crap I’ve been meaning to sell on ebay. I always for get that the first portion of the break is eaten up by Christmas preparations. Then there is Christmas itself, which eats up several days of our time. After that is the weird few days between Christmas and New Year’s where you try to find places for all of the new crap you have. We live in a house strewn with gift boxes for that period of time. It feels as if time is standing still. Then you celebrate New Year’s. Finally, there is one week left before school starts, this one of which I spent dealing with Financial Aid, buying books ($782.43 so far, still a few course packets to buy), convincing Dan that we need to purchase a MyRide65 car seat for Xavier, and rearranging the furniture.

This last weekend before the craziness ensues, I decided to enjoy a little time with the kids. Dan was gone Friday night, so we spent a lovely evening at home, giving Xavier his first bath in the sink, among other activities.

Chloë and Rex-Goliath helped, showing him the best way to play with squirty toys.

Rex-Goliath loves playing with water, so the sink coupled with his baby brother splashing was beyond exciting. I sure am glad we forked over $20 for that baby bathtub that was useful for less than six months.

I couldn’t resist doing this picture, cheesy as it may be.

This may be the type of thing that only a parent finds endearing, but I am going to post about it anyway. For better or for worse, this blog has become the record of the kids’ childhoods, and these are the type of memories that make you smile years down the road when your children are different people, yet the same people. A few weeks ago, when going through pictures on the desktop computer, I came across one where Rex-Goliath had plugged in all manner of electric appliances to a stool from IKEA. I remember when he used to do that! He did that for a good year, there were always things plugged into his crib, or the stove. He was fascinated by fans and would turn them on and off, plug them in and unplug them. My mommy instinct was shrieking “No!” the entire time, but I held back. He was so meticulous about it, so careful. So fascinated.

As most of you know, small household appliances have given way to tank engines. Most boys that play with train sets do things like set up the tracks and run the trains along the tracks. Santa knew Rex-Goliath better than that, and conveniently left a roll of duct tape and a rubber band ball in his stocking. Because Rex-Goliath does things like this with trains:

To be completely accurate, Mama helped with this one. But Rex-Goliath directed the action. I have assisted in attaching many items to trains – trains that are not meant to be part of the train set, cars, baby toys, even a Playmobil carriage meant to be pulled by a plastic horse. Sometimes the carriage contains princesses, sometimes it contains Santa Percy.

On Saturday, we met Melissa and Willy at Edinborough Park, an beautiful indoor playground with a giant play structure, a bounce house, and a room full of scooters and bouncy balls. The “park” has a park feel to it – plenty of trees, pathways and a stream.

For those of you who do not have children – these things did not exist when we were kids. Or maybe my parents were ogres and hid them from my brother and I. I would have adored this sort of thing when I was little. They are so tall – like three McDonald’s Playlands stacked. I was wearing Xavier, so unfortunately, I wasn’t able to do much climbing around, but next time we’ll bring Dan so I can.

Rex-Goliath and Willy had a good ol’ time on the little trike/bike thingies.

Xavier spent some time chilling in his car seat while the moms drank coffee and chatted.

Chloë collected bouncy balls.

Rex-Goliath and Willy, contemplating the meaning of life.

Rex-Goliath, in the play structure.

Okay, fun’s over. Starting tomorrow, we’ll see what Mama Leah is made of. I wonder if my model train-rubber band skills will be useful?

–Mrs. Wonderful

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Dan is Now Officially The Man

Many of you know of my not-so-secret obsession with Martha Stewart. Love her. Love her. She is so organized, always cooks the right thing or has the right craft for the occasion, probably made in her special crafting room, wrapped at her special wrapping station, then scrapbooked about at her special scrapbooking station. Or at least profiled in her magazine. Or possibly made on TV with Jennifer Garner in front of a live studio audience.

Over the years, I have amassed a sizable Martha Stewart Living collection, including somewhere in the neighborhood of ten years’ worth of issues. In addition, I have a few of the special issues of Martha Stewart Kids and Martha Stewart Baby. Of course, I have many years of Martha Stewart Weddings (now useless to me… I’m waiting for some nice person that I know to get engaged so I can pass them on). Lastly, I have every issue ever made of Blueprint, Martha’s attempt to be hip and current – I am so pissed that it never caught on. It was like Martha for my generation. The holiday issue one year had a blond woman in a sparkly dress on the cover, pink Christmas tree in the background, fat pug at her feet. Someday, when I have my own bathroom, I am going to have the thing framed. You just can’t get any more “Leah” than that picture.

I kept my collection, organized by season, in the bottom four cubbies of our IKEA Expedit shelving unit. As a housewife, I needed access to the things. At the beginning of each season, I would page through my issues, getting ideas for recipes and such. It was great fun.

We rearranged the living room this week. Partially due to the embarrassing addition of a very uncouth and much-too-large electronic item, but also partially in preparation for a baby that will be crawling and getting to know the world at the expense of his parents that must clean up the mess. When Rex-Goliath was a little thing, he loved to push over those stacks of magazines. It was great fun. I moved them up a level, but then he started pulling himself up, and the game continued. The Expedit shelf now has toys on the bottom shelf (and a bunch of unsightly wires – must get Martha on this). Why fight nature? Every day, the living room looks like a toy bomb went off. Why not make clean-up easier?

So the vast Martha collection has been relocated to the closet in the kids’ room. This was difficult for me – it is somewhat symbolic of the changing of the guard around here. Dan will be running the house and looking after the kids; I will be learning about integrals and microbes, which may or may not be great fun.

I have to give up some control – this is tough. I have ways that I do things. Systems in place, household routines. Is the world going to come to an end if the laundry isn’t done just the right way? Depends on whose it is – if it is mine or the kids, quite possibly. There are only certain things that get put in the dryer. There are certain ways to hang up wet clothing so that it dries with the fewest wrinkles. I use only the Downy Orchid Allure fabric softener in the Downy ball. I sent Dan to the store last week to buy some “Downy” and he came back with dryer sheets. Dryer sheets. The point of the fabric softener is to keep the things that don’t go in the dryer from being all crispy. He was just proud of himself for remembering to buy the “Orchid Surprise flavor.”

The man wants me to give him the file which contains my grocery list (usually printed and posted on the fridge, highlight things as we run low, list is in order of things as they appear in the supermarket that I prefer to shop at) so he can modify it to suit his shopping habits (purchasing weird food at dirty grocery stores). He buys things that I would not buy, brands that I am unfamiliar with, and does not take into account all of the things that I do when shopping. I tried to explain to Dan my thought process during a shopping trip. We realized that our brains function in completely different ways when pushing a cart under fluorescent lights:

Leah Shopping

Dan Shopping

This will be a great experiment in role reversal. I must remember to teach Dan that when faced with a household dilemma, the first thing to ask himself is, “What would Martha do?” It probably would not involve dryer sheets or Doritos – I can guarantee that.

–Mrs. Wonderful

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Spend the Holidays with the Wonderfuls

The holidays at the Ranchero are a patchwork of gatherings that extend to New Year’s Eve. We start early – Chloë arrives on December 23rd (if it isn’t already our week) and Santa comes that night.

I like to draw out the excitement of opening presents, so we usually open up a couple that evening. I used to love that as a kid – they sat under the tree, beckoning us for what seemed like weeks. It seemed a little like cheating, but opening those one or two early gifts was one of the most exciting parts. I remember laying under the tree, inhaling that lovely pine scent, wondering what could possibly be in those beautifully wrapped packages. My mom was a perfectionist when it came to wrapping – everything coordinated, had just the right amount of sparkle, the wrap was on straight. I inherited that tradition and take some amount of pride in perfectly wrapping the perfect present.

While everyone was sleeping, Santa had a few glasses of wine, I mean cookies and soy milk, while laying out the gifts. Santa is a smart dude – he knew that Chloë wanted Polly Pockets, so he watched and waited on e-bay for just the right discontinued playsets, as the selection at Target was not what he had in mind. He knew that Rex-Goliath would love a train set, so he brought one of those and expertly assembled it while posting on Facebook about how ridiculous the directions were. It was convenient for Santa that one of the items that Rex-Goliath opened on Christmas Eve Eve was a playboard for setting up train track configurations, decoupaged by Mama. Santa filled the stockings, with everyone’s favorite critters poking their heads out of the stockings. Santa loves it when things match, so he was particularly excited that Xavier’s wee elephant coordinated with his elephant-print sleeper.

The old man left some tracks on our balcony, but with the snow falling as rapidly as it was, they were completely obscured by morning.

Rex-Goliath was the first up, and he did not quite know what to make of things. He is still a bit too young to fully grasp the mythology of Santa. This train set was basically his dream come true, transported to his very own living room. He seemed almost in disbelief at first. But he rallied, lining up his trains on the tracks and then smashing up the landscape.

It was Xavier’s first Christmas – good thing his siblings were around to assist with his loot.

After discovering Santa’s gifts and opening up our presents under the tree, we attended the Schmitt family Christmas at Dan’s Aunt Kris and Uncle Chad’s house. The kids opened gifts and the adults played Dirty Bingo (aka the Dice Game) for gifts. Somehow a couple of Snuggies made their way into the mix, and Dan’s cousin Shauna and I spent the whole game conspiring to keep possession of our respective Blankets with Sleeves.

Upon returning home, we had a brief impromptu visit with Dan’s sister Kesah and his mom. Dan made pizza, we drank prosecco and chatted. Chloë was at her mom’s at this point and Rex-Goliath was asleep, but Xavier was the life of the party, cooing and smiling for his Auntie.

On Christmas Day, we picked up Chloë and headed up to North Branch to visit my dad, stepmom, and brothers. It was a low-key day, but enjoyable. My littlest brother Bryce received a video game that Chloë has been coveting, so the two of them spent the holiday with the Mario Bros.

The day after Christmas, Grandma Vicky and Auntie Kesah returned for an evening of tempura, potstickers, and presents.

Auntie played a round of Polly Pockets with the kids, brought a gift of a digital camera, and some Thomas jammies for Rex-Goliath.

Grandma Vicky and Tate gave Princess Pug some much needed attention, and did not hold a grudge when Puggy relieved herself on the couch. She also, of course, made goo-goo eyes at the baby.

All in all, a quality evening.

Our last holiday event consisted of a trip down to Warren and Deb’s house in Elysian, MN (Warren is Kesah’s dad). We love visiting them – there is always something fun to do for the kids and great food and conversation for the adults.

Warren and Xavier, just hanging out.

We all opened presents – Deb always has the most thoughtful stocking stuffers. She loves gifting like I love gifting.

Deb bought dress-up clothes from the thrift store in anticipation of our visit – here are a few shots of the kids playing:

Xavier was able to join in the fun with a pint-sized Santa hat:

My last picture – Dan immediately after hurling the Christmas tree over the balcony (which was immediately after spilling tree water all over Rex-Goliath’s train playboard, which was immediately following by a string of curse words from Dan and a glaring look from me over the potential undoing of hours of mod podging). Although one would think that he would appear elated in this picture, as the holidays were over, he is not, because he knew that he only had vacuuming up pine needles with a one-wheeled vacuum (thank you, Rex-Goliath) to look forward to.

This appears to be the end of gleeful holiday posts. Stay tuned for exciting mid-winter in Minnesota posts demonstrating just how batshit crazy we all get when the days are this short: The Wonderfuls Do Their Taxes, Leah Scolds Dan for buying the Downy Orchid Allure Dryer Sheets Instead of the Fabric Softener, and possibly Princess Pug Goes to the Vet But Dan Says “No” to Having Her Reeking Teeth Cleaned Once Again.

–Mrs. Wonderful

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Smell Ya Later 2009

Let me preface this by saying that I should be sleeping right now. I am about to be a little more serious and a little more sappy than I usually am in this blog. This is what we do at the end of a year – reflect on the previous 364 days. Most of us also use it as an excuse to purchase sparkling wine, which, does not come in a box. Major splurge. So whilst consuming said sparkly wine, by myself at the kitchen table while the rest of the family is snuggled in slumber, I shall consider the change that takes place over a year.

It was a big year for Team Wonderful. Lots of change, the Plan is really underway, lots of fun moments as well. Things are not always easy or perfect – sometimes it is just enough to get through the day with everyone fed and in one piece. But every once in a while, you get a moment of loveliness, like dancing with your husband in the living room to your first dance at your wedding, or having your new baby smiling up at you, cradled your arms immediately after being born. Waking up snuggled between your kids. Having a glass of wine or four and staying up way too late with your dad, of whom you refer to as “Grandpa” now, on Thanksgiving. Watching one of your kids open a gift of a book from a series that you loved as a girl and being genuinely excited.

We’ve come a long way – Dan is no longer complaining about his job, Rex-Goliath can make some intelligible conversation, and Leah remembered how to write a midterm paper. Little by little, we keep on keepin’ on. Team Wonderful is the tortoise. We’ll get to the finish line someday. But I’m sure we’ll just enter a new race at that point. We always have a plan, a goal. We are always on the way somewhere, always working toward something. Life could not be any other way.

One of the coolest things in recent years has been the formation of our little family. Few people really understand how much damn work we put into this. Into making our family a family. Which is different than a family with an additional kid that visits every other weekend. Way different. We don’t do it that way. The blended family thing isn’t the freeway method. It is the using-directions-from-Crazy-Uncle-Ned-that-take-the-side-roads-and stop-by-the-world’s-biggest-paper-clip-sculpture-on-your-way-out-of-town method. And let me tell you, Uncle Ned is neither wise nor sober. Be he has heart.

Dan and I are at the point where we feel like we made this little thing, grew this little family together. We have our own little way of doing things, our traditions, our family culture. It draws on our pasts but is uniquely ours. Sometimes our family traditions are not solely ours – sometimes they are a joint venture with the other half of Chloë’s family. We have lots more work to do, but the big things, the hard stuff – that is over. Team Wonderful has been cleared for takeoff.

And with that, I bring you some of our greatest hits from 2009.

Biggest Moments of 2009:

1. Xavier’s Birth
Obviously this had to be number one.
2. Rex-Goliath’s Name Change
He bears the official matching name – Meestah Rex-Goliath X Kraupa Wonderful. Yes, Rex-Goliath is his first name. No, we don’t call him Rex. No, the X doesn’t stand for anything. Yes, the Kraupa part is important.
3. Dan’s “Career Change”
Big things to come. An understanding of Leah’s reality for the last three years if nothing else.
4. Leah Starting School for Real with the 2 Year Plan
Pre-Calculus? Check. Perspectives? Check. Registered for seventeen credits next semester? Gulp.
5. Chloë’s Golden Birthday
Three, count ’em, three celebrations.
6. Chuckë’s Passing
7. Chloë’s Smell Ya Later School Party
We’re making this one a tradition – if only for the mix-your-own-flavor Kool-Aid bar
8. The Wonderfuls Get a Land Line
I don’t know what’s up with that, either.
9. Dan and Leah Celebrate Their First Anniversary
Looking forward to knitting together in our rocking chairs on the porch while smacking our hearing aids and yelling in not so many years.
10. Dan Finally Concedes That Yes, a Dishwasher Would Make Life So Much Easier
Once again, I was right.

Best Discoveries of 2009:

1. Xavier
Obviously this had to be number one.
2. Waterbirth
Why would you do it any other way?
3. Coke Zero
For Dan – Diet Coke still rocks my world and makes up a fair amount of my bodily fluid.
4. The Wire
5. Thomas the Tank Engine
He’s our number one, snurgling, I mean, shining in the morning sun.
7. The Blog
It can’t be all that bad if you are reading it.
6. Mad Men
My self-esteem would be so much higher if I had been born in the forties. My gigantic ass would be an asset.
7. Skinny Jeans
I was afraid that Chloë wouldn’t wear them, but I’ve almost worn them out washing them for her. We have a little fashionista on our hands.
8. Taaka Vodka
Why drink the Belvedere when the Taaka does the same thing at a third of the price?
9. General Tao’s Tofu and Pan-Fried Dumplings at the Tea House
So good they’ll make you turn vegan
10. The Snack Drawer
The end of fetching snacks (or, snahs, according to Rex-Goliath) for the children. Originally a function of being busy with the baby, it has now morphed into a Montessorian self-reliance exercise. Or possibly an “I’m busy watching Top Chef and too lazy to get off my ass” exercise.

Happy New Year!

–Mrs. Wonderful

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