Archive for Approaches and passings

The End of an Era

We are moving.

Tonight is our final night at the Ranchero De-Luxe, and I have been surprisingly sentimental about the place. It shouldn’t be surprising. We brought Rex-Goliath home from the hospital when we lived here. We planned, financed, and threw a wedding when we lived here. I went into labor with Xavier here. We had terrible fights, funny jokes, sad moments, and live-changing ecstatic times. The Big Plan was both conceived and realized on this patch of beige carpet that I am currently sitting on. We came up with the “Smell Ya Later, School” Party concept at our kitchen table. Both boys learned to crawl and walk, said their first words, threw their first tantrums. Chloë started kindergarten, lost her first tooth, had her first slumber party, and learned to ride a bike here. Dan and I both went back to school here. Chuckë lived and died here. A lot of hard work and time has been put in here. We have cleaned a metric ton of child vomit off of the floor here. We became a family here.

Tomorrow morning, we will move into the Family Student Housing at the University of Minnesota. For the most part, this is a move up in the world. We’ll have two levels. It will be a better commute for me next fall.

But we’ll have no pug dog. Grandma Vicky has graciously taken the crazy messed-up dog. P. Puggs and I have been through a lot – she used to curl up behind my knees in a sleeping bag when we lived in a house that none of the residents could afford to heat, we subsisted on peanut butter crackers for months when finances were tight. She has put up with so much tail-pulling and eye-poking from kids. She will be missed, but now she has a doggie friend (Tate) and someone to dote on her. No one pulls her tail at Gramma Vicky’s. All dogs go to heaven.

It feels appropriate to move at this juncture. A lot has changed in four years – we have a good thing going. We are ready for the next phase – on to bigger and better things. Stay tuned.

Bonus pic for Ashlee, because she thinks that it is funny that I label my boxes with words like “crap.” It is not funny, however, that Dan labels boxes containing my Martha Stewart magazine collection with “stupid magazines.”

— Mrs. Wonderful


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Phase 1 is Over

We never had a Plan B. So I guess it is a pretty good thing that Plan A is going, well, according to plan.

Today, this very morning, I received an email from the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities offering me admission to their Pharm D program. I feel like I just delivered a baby. A three year-old baby.

We have been at this for some time. This little plan was hatched shortly after Rex-Goliath was born, and the kid is nearly four. I want to make this clear: this whole thing was a joint effort. Long before I was even able to enroll in classes, Dan was working two (sometimes three) jobs to make this financially possible. There were weeks where I was hardly home because I was studying microbiology. I didn’t do dishes for an entire semester. The man is amazingly supportive, and I am so lucky to have him.

For those of you not familiar with the process, getting in to pharmacy school is the hardest part. In general, if you can get in, you will graduate. It takes a long time – you cannot just decide to apply and be done with it the next day. They look at a lot of factors – GPA, PCAT score, extracurricular activities, leadership, volunteering. You have to write an essay summing up your life and your desire to be a pharmacist that cannot be longer than a page. You have to enter every single college transcript you have into the application system (PharmCAS), despite the fact that you have to send the damn things to PharmCAS anyway. I have six transcripts under several aliases. Just tracking all of those down took time (and fees). Then they take weeks to verify that what you entered matches what is actually on the paper copy. And they charge you $150 plus $50 for each additional school (I applied to seven). Then you fill out supplemental applications, repeating much of the information you already put on the PharmCas application. You write about a billion essays. You pay about $50 a supplemental. At this point, you’ve so much money on fees that you feel as if you are throwing wads of cash out the window. You have to endure the nerve-wracking interview while wearing pantyhose. If you are the spouse, you have to listen to the applicant talk about this crap ad nauseum. For years. And then you wait.

The whole thing has felt like a big checklist. After every semester (heck, every exam), I would say a little prayer of thanks (even though I am atheist) and breathe a sigh of relief. After the PCAT. After the interview. Things have gone so smoothly up until this point, it seemed like I was due for a hurdle. I was preparing myself to be waitlisted.

I wasn’t even expecting the news to arrive until tomorrow. And I was expecting snail mail, not email. I was wondering if Dan would intercept it while I was at class. And if the envelope was thing vs. thick, would that be an indicator. I about fell out of my chair when I clicked on Gmail this morning.

I have to say some thank-yous: To Mr.Wonderful, for being the best partner I could ever wish for, to the kids for putting up with how difficult this has been (and it will not change for some time). To Ashlee, Abdi, and Phil for writing my letters of recommendation. To Vicky, for all of her support. Warren and Deb, for the support and all of the advice. The three of you have been our biggest cheerleaders. Thanks to all of our friends and family.

Off we go. On to Phase Two.

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A New Era

The nerve center for Team Wonderful. Calendars, lists, schedules, oh my!

We are entering uncharted waters over here at the Ranchero. Dan is going to school. College. It has been over a decade since he has been in a classroom not containing miniature chairs and crayons. So tomorrow, we both start class. This should be interesting.

He is already annoyed at the school’s website, miffed at the bureaucracy, resentful of the cost of books, confused as to why the instructor of one of his classes was named “Staff” on the online schedule until this evening, and distrustful that the Financial Aid Office will actually get it right. Thank God Metro doesn’t require a parking pass – that would have sent him over the edge.

He claims to be excited, though. His backpack is all packed and sitting by the door, which is pretty cute. He is going to rock this – I know he will. He is so smart. I am so glad that he decided to go.

A mere $700 in books for the two of us. We got off cheap this semester!

For me, the summer flew by – six weeks of in intense study for the PCAT, six weeks of hell waiting for the results, a day or two of elation when they arrived (for those of you who don’t Facebook or talk to us regularly, I made the 92nd percentile, which is good), then three weeks of waiting for school to start again. We had some adventures that we haven’t posted about yet (Elizabeth came for the week) and some misadventures (community garden=fail). Everyone except Xavier made it to Target field one way or another, we purchased a total of three be-wheeled items for kids to ride, and managed to grill about two dozen blocks of tofu on our tiny grill.

Schedules, completely full. The schedule for Chloë weeks requires two full sheets of paper to print it out.

The current plan is as follows: Dan and I go to school with our schedules offset so as to avoid daycare. Chloë goes to third grade in a couple of weeks, and Rex-Goliath will go to preschool (!). Xavier will continue to pull laundry out of baskets and drag around the rice cooker at home.

Mama Leah at work, fueled by Diet Coke, coffee, Franzia, and Skinnygirl margaritas.

I am almost finished with my initial application to pharmacy school, and if the professor that I beg for a letter of recommendation tomorrow says “yes,” then I will hit submit tomorrow night. I’ll have to fill out a supplemental application for each school, then hopefully someone will invite me for an interview. With any luck, I’ll have an answer by next spring.

Our inboxes, already jammed full. I probably should have tackled that before school. Plenty of room left, though!

For those of you that are interested in trivia, our classes are as follows:

Mr. Wonderful – Precalculus, Writing II, General Psychology

Mrs. Wonderful – Biochemistry, Genetics, Cultural Anthropology

My planner for the year, titled Entropy. Bonus points if you get the joke.

By now, we are fairly adept at tag-team parenting, but this will be a whole new ball game as far as that goes. Dan and I will probably seldom see each other. It will be good, though. We’re moving forward, one semester at a time.

–Mrs. Wonderful

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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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I’m Back

After being on hiatus during the previous semester, I am back in rotation on the blog. This semester was a tough one, but, as you are already aware, a success. Here is a snapshot of the numbers:

Credits: 17
Total cost of said credits:$3122.26 (a heckuva deal)
Classes: 4
Labs: 3
Labs where I actually learned something while attending: 1
Number of people in my anatomy and physiology lab that graduated from my high school: 2
Number of people in my anatomy and physiology lab that graduated from high school in my father’s class and remembered that was a purveyor of the ganje: 1
Notecards purchased: 1200
Notecards torn up due to errors and my own perfectionism: 30
Notecards saved from the aforementioned fate when I discovered Wite-Out: 42
Minutes spent thinking about why they dropped the h from “wite”: 3.6
Soy lattes consumed: 109
Times chastized by Mr. Wonderful for spending too much money on lattes: 3
Money management computer programs installed by Mr. Wonderful specifically to send him real-time updates on Mrs. Wonderful’s Caribou expenditures: 1
Hours spent in class, at the library, or at a coffee shop studying: 692
Hours spent at home, effectively studying: 0
Number of attempts at studying at home with children screaming like banshees, climbing in my lap, demanding snacks and bridges constructed of wooden train tracks, etc. before realizing that studying at home would never happen: 7
Number of attempts made at studying during naptime, only to have a child wake up ten minutes into said attempt:6
Hours spent sleeping: 630
Hours spent watching The Bachelor or Dancing with the Stars: 30
Number of times was annoyed by the Bachelor when he was on Dancing with the Stars: 53
Books purchased:14
Books purchased with the word “Dummies” in the title to enhance classroom understanding: 4
Books purchased that cost over $150 a piece: 3
Sharpie pens purchased: 20
Number of times shook head in disgust over cost of Sharpie pens: 17
Number of times shook head in disgust over fact that Sharpie pens do not come in pink: 38
Number of pink water bottles purchases made in an attempt to drink more water: 3
Ounces of water consumed:2600
Ounces of Diet Coke consumed: 6300
Number of obscenities yelled in frustration due to lethal combination of children and school: 756
Number of times smiled to myself as I walked into school, grateful for the opportunity: every damn day.

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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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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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