Archive for July, 2010

Terrible day. Also, the worst. Also, very bad.

Most days around the Ranchero are pretty good. Passable, at least. Yesterday, had I checked my horoscope (if I were the type of person that did that sort of thing), I can about guarantee that I would have been given a one-star day.

We had big plans (waterpark!). Dan was delayed for hours while working on a project, so those plans were scrapped. I probably don’t have to detail the response of the children. Let’s just say that certain members of the family were very disappointed. Best part of that is that said family member a) doesn’t really know what a waterpark is, and b) has no concept of time, so explaining that we would go next week did not appease him. I should have just taken the kids around the block and told him that the fire hydrant was the waterpark.

I made the mistake that most people do at one time or another – I believed something that I read on the internet. I belong to a forum for pre-health students, and there has been a fair amount of speculation as to when we will be receiving our PCAT scores. Any other test date, the damn things would have been here by now. They usually arrive around the five-week mark (because it takes five weeks to feed a scantron sheet through machine).

The PCAT people have somewhat of a scam going where they post scores online right after sending the score reports. Sometimes the score reports take a few days, and I just don’t trust our post office. The lady behind the counter is quite mean, and she might have pulled mine out just to spite me. She is probably laughing about it right now. But I digress. The online scores are available for a $20 fee. A large number of desperate exam takers willingly fork over what seems like a nominal fee compared to the outrageous fees we are already paying for the test itself, the PharmCAS fees, and supplemental application fees. Twenty bucks is nothing when you are already dropping a grand on all of this stress and paperwork.

So yesterday, when people on the internet said that they called Pearson (the testing company) and that scores had been mailed, I believed them. It should be only a matter of time before the online scores came up. In the past, the website has gone down for a thirty minute period between 8:30 and 9:00 PM, then scores were up. Or maybe that happened once. Either way, the internet people were pretty sure that this was the plan. I wish some of these people would have informed Pearson of the plan.

Later, some other internet person called and Pearson told this person that online scores would not be up until Friday, but that the scores had been mailed a day earlier than the previous internet person. So I got all excited for nothing, and now have two or three more days to wait.

This is not good.

I am all twitchy. I have bitten all of my fingernails (Probably would have done the toenails, too, but I just had a pedicure. Plus, at my advanced age, I might not be flexible enough.). I have not been sleeping well, and I feel hungover (but without the fun of partying the night before). I have a rash, which I could not stop scratching due to nerves. At this point, it is more like a spread-out wound than a rash. And it is in my armpits. Who does that? Who scratches an already bleeding rash in their armpit? I need help.

Since I needed immediate help, I decided to go to one of those MinuteClinics that are in some CVS pharmacies, since I wasn’t really in the mood to make an appointment and wait. I like instant gratification. Unfortunately, instant gratification was not on the menu.

Apparently, the city of Woodbury necessitates two CVSs. It is without question that I went to the wrong one first. In order to confirm this, I had to wait in line behind an elderly lady standing at the counter, arguing about how many rewards points she would be receiving for her purchase. The manager had to be called over, etc.

A u-turn or two later, I was at the correct CVS. There was a decent-sized line of fellow invalids, so I opted to purchase a few magazines to entertain myself. I had to wait in line after an elderly lady standing at the counter, arguing about how many rewards points she would be receiving for her purchase.

I have to be honest, I just don’t get the concept of doing the bulk of your shopping at the pharmacy. This is Woodbury, not midtown Manhattan. It takes just as much effort to go to Target, and the selection is so much broader. You can make impulse clothing buys at Target! Diapers don’t cost an arm and a leg (merely and arm)! Target’s house brand of medications and personal products have markedly more attractive packaging! Get this – they even have a pharmacy. And a clinic, but their stupid clinic doesn’t take my insurance. So I am at CVS and in the minority because my hair is not blue.

After an interminable wait, the nurse practitioner takes one look at my rash, writes me two prescriptions, and spends twenty minutes trying to find the name of my condition in the computer so she can properly document it. She sends my script to Target because that is where normal people go. And I need portobello mushrooms for dinner and CVS does not appear to carry produce.

Woodbury is one giant construction zone, and after following various detours, I wind up on the jam-packed freeway going in the opposite direction of Target. Forty-five minutes later, I arrive at my destination.

Return home. Frantically check website. Disappointment. Pour large glass of Franzia with ice.

Really, the only thing I have at this point to give me pleasure is a greeting card with a dancing hamster in a cowboy hat that plays a remix of The Hampster Dance. And Rex-Goliath threw it in a puddle earlier in the afternoon, so the thing only works sporadically. I have hit a new low.

–Mrs. Wonderful

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Miniature Wars at the Ranchero

This morning Miss Savahn and Rex-Goliath were engaged in some rather involved railroad construction in their bedroom, all the while oblivious to a struggle of life and death unfolding right beside them.

A heat register against the wall was the scene of a vicious tug of war between a tiny spider with its web implements and an ant with its comparatively massive size advantage. The prize? A desiccated fly. Eeew…I know, right? Who am I to judge.

Chloë was the first to spot the battle, but Rex-Goliath and I were quickly in attendance, and we saw an amazing little spectacle. The ant at first had the fly in its mandible, and it wasn’t immediately apparent that there would be much trouble, but it seems that the invisible strands that the spider, a few inches away, had spun was sufficiently holding the fly in place. While the ant tried to wrench the fly out of the web, the spider quickly joined the fray. I’m not sure what the spider had going on, and because the ant was so much larger, I figured it was a lost cause. The two of them, with the fly in the balance, thrashed for a moment and the ant retreated into the gap between the wall and the register. At this point, I’m pretty impressed, seeing the spider’s web craftsmanship apparent prevail.

The ant, however, had one last surge in him.

I saw first his shadowy antennae dancing from the wall, followed quickly by his black body pushing forward, heading straight for the fly. As soon as the ant showed itself, the fly miraculously levitated, pulling up and out of reach of the ant’s grasp. The spider, and his intricate web work had finished the job, and claimed the prize.

And here I though the most dramatic thing that would happen today would be the season four opener of Mad Men.

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Happy Birthday, Professor Smoochums

The newest member of Team Wonderful has officially made it to one year. It has been a good one – we’ve babbled, crawled, walked, cut seven teeth, dumped approximately 34 items in the toilet, and tipped over the dog’s water bowl nearly 267 times.

Last night we celebrated with gusto – a little Grandma Vicky, a little cake, and a few balloons make anything a party. Here are the greatest hits:

We decorated with a colorful summer theme.

Hands-down my favorite outfits of the summer. The kids are cute, too.

Dan attempts to show Rex-Goliath proper picture-posing technique so I can capture the cute outfit in megapixels forever.

Ranchero De-Luxe's Next Top Models

Chloë changed outfits to match the party theme. I think Tyra would approve.

You really only need balloons and it is a party. Cake is optional.

Birthday wishes from Xavier's honorary sister. Love you Elizabeth!

Xavier is about to find out the birthday tradition that way outranks ballons in the minds of American children.

We decided to give the birthday baby a present appetizer prior to his birthday meal. I decided to purchase one of those baby bowls with the suction cups on them and matching flatware in an attempt to get Xavier used to eating out of something, with something. This would be in lieu of just dumping food on his highchair tray, which is the equivalent of me pouring individual piles of kung pao tofu in front of each family member and letting them shovel it into their mouths with their hands. Then instead of politely asking to be excused, the children could hurl their cups and silverware to the floor in order to signify the end of the meal.

Xavier foils Mama, again.

Like pretty much anything else in parenting, the suction cup bowl was a good idea in theory, but not so much in practice. It took Houdini Baby about thirty seconds to completely disassemble the thing and divest himself of the nuisance of table manners. Then he licked the toppings off of his pizza and promptly fed the crusts to the waiting pug dog.

Dan makes a mean vegan pizza.

Dan, approving of his Mean Vegan Pizza.

Grandma Vicky and Rex-Goliath, about to sample some Mean Vegan Pizza.

Who's ready for Mean Vegan Pizza?

Who invited Frog?

Time for gift-opening!

I make the mistake of letting him open the card that plays *I Wanna Rock N Roll All Night* first.

Xavier and Grandma Vicky, rocking and rolling all night.

Grandma Vicky, after rocking and rolling all night. She parties every day, you know.

If you could just open this present for me, I have a musical greeting card to attend to.

Just hang in there, Xavier. The toil of unwrapping will be well worth it when you see the gift!

Mama assists with the opening and closing of the greeting card.

The elder children descend like a pack of vultures (vultures couldn't possibly come in flocks) on the baby's presents

The Stay-Puft Baby mounts his defense.

Dude... CAKE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Baby, post first-cake experience.

Chloë, who is well-versed in utensils, post-cake.

Thus ends the First Birthday Bash of Xavier Merten Wonderful. Babies are tough – they want what they want, when they want it, how they want it. The gummy smiles, the off-kilter toddling, and the belly laughs make it all worth it. I hope your first year on the planet was good for you, Little Man. It was good for me. Mama loves you.

–Mrs. Wonderful

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Family Fun ‘n’ Run

I had two goals this summer: take the PCAT and run a 5K. I signed up for the Torchlight 5K this spring to force myself back into running. I knew that I wouldn’t want to waste the $23 entrance fee, so I was going to run that sucker come hell or high water.

Once the PCAT was done, I had a month to get myself able to run three miles. I ran a little pre-PCAT, but come June, I felt the need to really focus on the exam. To get started, I used some podcasts based on the Couch-to-5K program, a regimen designed to take you from watching Law & Order with Fritos stuck to your bum to an elite runner. Or at least someone able to hack and stumble their way through 3.2 miles. The program is nine weeks. I wound up using the early weeks of podcasts, but once the race loomed closer, I switched to just running as much as I could, which was not as often as I should. If one were to have the full nine weeks, the program is pretty sweet. The music is electronic-y and changes tempo to tell you when to walk and when to run, taking willpower out of the equation. This is helpful for me, because my idea of a good interval involves forty-five seconds of running, followed by ten minutes of walking. DJ Steveboy (no, I don’t know if that is the name on his drivers’ license) keeps me honest.

I tend to only enjoy running only in perfect conditions: minimal sun, cool, no humidity, light to no wind, flat land or downhill the entire way. Running in South Saint Paul during July offers none of this. The whole run is torture and I want to die. Although I came close, I did not actually run a full 5K prior to the race. So I was a little nervous.

The Torchlight 5K takes place in downtown Minneapolis as part of the Aquatennial celebration. The Torchlight Parade follows the run. The atmosphere is festive, and there is a large crowd (mostly people staking their claim on prime parade-watching territory with those no-sew fringed polar fleece blankets that are ubiquitous over the holidays in the midwest – people were camping out hours before the parade with pizza and board games). Family Fun Night (read: glorified school carnival) was occurring in Loring Park, so we decided to bring the boys for a little pre-race “fun.”

Rex-Goliath, suspicious of the concept of Family Fun.

Rex-Goliath, not even really in the mood for Family Fun.

Rex-Goliath, participating in Family Fun despite serious reservations as Daddy bought $10 in tickets and we were going to have at least $4 worth of fun, dammit

Xavier is down with Family Fun.

Rex-Goliath, not so sure that fishing for ducks so sad that they are laying sideways in the pool is going to be good Family Fun. Carnie Dude in the background is not exactly enthusiastically promoting his booth.

Rex-Goliath was most impressed by the one attraction not requiring tickets.

Cute baby with a cute butterfly on his shoulder.

Ah, finally a bit of Family Fun.

Some of the runners take these races seriously. These are the weirdos running around before the race to warm up while I am wiping noses at Family Fun. Then there are people like me – I try to limit my walking prior to the race. Overexerting myself might bring my time up from the Granny category to the Invalid category. The race ends with drinking in the park, and I am pretty sure that some of my race cohorts had already partaken in a few beverages. There were girls in tutus and argyle kneesocks. There were the dudes in super-short jorts and trucker hats, one of whom had speakers duct taped to his shorts playing such hits as “Vogue” and “Dancing Queen.”

The large number of racers definitely helped my performance because the pack was huge, slow-moving, and took a good mile to thin out even a bit. We ran down Hennepin, around the Mill City Museum, and over the Stone Arch Bridge. I was able to run the entire way , which was my goal. I passed the finish line triumphantly, with plenty of people behind me. All week I had been having visions of being dead last, the float carrying Miss Aquatennial about to run me over, clowns pointing and laughing. 5K run? Check.

–Mrs. Wonderful

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Funny Guys

Rex-Goliath (hearing a noise in the hallway): That isn’t Daddy – that’s a person.
Mrs. Wonderful: Is Daddy a person?
Rex-Goliath: No! He’s a funny guy.

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Equal to 20,000 Words

Let’s be honest: Just like Playboy, people really only read blogs for the pictures. So we bring you the pictures of the first 1/3 of summer, uninterrupted by useless prose.

Bath time on the balcony = fun time for babies


Rex-Goliath, giving that lazy bum Frog a ride


Dan teaching Chloë to ride a bike


Xavier, stylin' and profilin'


Rex-Goliath with Leah and Frog


Rex-Goliath will turn anything into a train. Notice how all of the other kids are doing all of the work, though.


Daddy and Xavier on a trip to Grandpa Steve's


J and Bill, in coordinating outfits as usual. Note: on his lower half, J is sporting cargo shorts, black Pumas, and knee-high white socks. If this were a dressy occasion, he might wear a paisley button down in lieu of the tank top.


Only Grandpa Steve takes out the trash with a cigar and a glass of red wine.


Rex-Goliath, cashed out on Grandpa Steve's floor after a hard day of tractors and trains


Dan defiling Grandpa Steve's grill with seitan ribs


Xavier, shortly after taking his first steps. Princess Pug, dejected upon realizing that she is now the sole family members on all fours. Also, confused as to how he did it. She might ask him for some tips when he learns to talk.


This walking thing can tire a baby right quick


Rex-Goliath and Willy play in the sand bottom pool at Willy's house


Xavier watching Rex-Goliath and Willy


Rex-Goliath at the pool


Xavier participating in his own impromptu Pride Celebration


Rex-Goliath's new bed - a half-height bunk bed with room for trains below and a train tunnel on top


The tunnel


Chloë plays in the little house we created behind her lofted bed, much to Dan's chagrin

And that should cover June.

–Mrs. Wonderful

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Smell Ya Later


Team Wonderful held its second annual Smell Ya Later, School! party in Chloë’s honor this June. One of my favorite things about this event is that it is solely a Team Wonderful tradition. It is something that our family (and our family alone) does. It is a nice way to welcome summer and give the kids one last hurrah together before parting ways until the next September. I cannot wait until all three are in school and we have kids from three different age groups running around like crazy.

We decided to do vintage-style postcards as invitations for this party. Normally, Chloë and I make the invitations for parties with supplies from the scrapbooking store, and the invites wind up costing about what Dan and my wedding invitations did on a piece-by-piece basis (I hope he isn’t reading this). They are fun to make, though. Given that I was taking the PCAT the Saturday prior to the party, we opted for something a little less labor intensive:

One of my greatest worries pre-party was the question of keeping track of the kiddies. Chloë is at the age where parents start dropping their kids off at these sorts of functions, happy to be free of them for a couple of hours. We had the party at Highland Park Reserve, aka “Chutes and Ladders” park. The play structure is installed on the side of a hill and the thing is massive. On a nice day, their can be two hundred children and parents milling about. The noise is deafening. It is the perfect place for a kid to get lost.

To combat possible abductions, I devised a somewhat complicated system to periodically corral the party guests. Each child was given a name tag, but we wrote on it what they wished their name was instead of their given name (At that age, I would have killed to be called “Crystal”). I’m pretty certain that I read somewhere that it was dangerous for children to be out in public with accurate name tags. I also retrieved Chloë’s whistle for its hiding spot (What the PTA was thinking when they gave them out at the school carnival, I do not know – aren’t these people parents?). When I blew the whistle, which is rather loud for a fifty-cent piece of plastic, the children were to come down from the play structure so I could count them. It was the best thing that I could come up with.

On one hand, my crazy security system was not needed. The weather was rainy, and some of the guests that RSVP’d did not show. Most of the parents stayed and chatted amongst themselves. My fears were not unfounded, however. A suspicious-looking man who went by “Uncle Charlie” was skulking about the park, handing out candy and talking about giving rides in his van.
Despite the weather, a good time was had by all:

Chloë and Sierra conspire


Val, aka Daphne, getting her play on


Rex-Goliath, damn-near giving mama a heart attack


I was razzed for the suncreen, but in MN, you never know


Morgan and Sydney are chipmunks


Rex-Goliath thinks Jackie is the bee's knees

And thus ends Chloë’s second grade year.

–Mrs. Wonderful

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