Here it is – some quick and dirty coverage of Halloween. Halloween poses a few problems for a decent blog post:

1) It is dark, meaning every. last. picture. is grainy and full of irreparable red eyes.

2) It is late, so the baby is scared and the middle child is tired (“Mama, I’m a sad little owl.”)

3) It is Monday morning, the house looks like a tornado hit it, I have to leave for school soon, and I desperately need a shower. Also, the cable box is not working so I cannot distract the children with Dinosaur Train. This means I have to explain why Rex-Goliath cannot have candy until after lunch about once every three minutes. Lunch is hours away. It seems like a random line to draw in the sand, but for some reason I have this belief that good mothers do not allow cookies and candy prior to lunch. But I am fine with coleslaw and spaghetti for breakfast. I can’t explain it either.

One last note – I feel bad that I somehow did not get a picture of Elizabeth as The Joker or her costume for Princess Pug as a flying pig. Things got a little chaotic as we were trying to get out the door.

Here it is – Halloween 2010:

A baby bluebird!

Rex-Goliath flaps his wings

Chloë waits patiently for the adventure to begin

The obligatory picture with Bill. No clown costume = big disappointment for Team Wonderful

Owls ride bikes, right?

Team Wonderful on the move

Trick or treat!

Final attempt at a picture of all three of them = fail for Mama

Xavier gets a ride in the wagon

Check it out – Mr. Wonderful and I get out of the house at the same time without kids!

Mr. and Mrs. Draper

Sookie Stackhouse, Kat Von D, Betty Draper aka Stefany, Ashlee, Leah

–Mrs. Wonderful


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The Wonderful Minnesota Get-Together

Okay. So I am a little behind in chronicling the adventures of Team Wonderful. We’ve been a little busy. School is going well for all, and I even have an interview at the U of M College of Pharmacy on Friday. And two midterms this week. So in honor of procrastination (on studying, onpurchasing a handbag that matches my new suit, on hot gluing Try-Its on Chloë’s Brownie uniform), I bring you a trip back in time. Back when things were sticky, sweaty, mosquito-ridden, and green. And we meandered about in a Summit EPA-fog and ate the World’s Best French Fries, falafel-on-a-stick, and deep-fried veggies. We went to the art building, mostly to make the children suffer. We skipped the animal barns, because, duh, we’re vegan. And animals are not ours to use for entertainment. Other people in fanny packs and t-shirts with redneck sayings emblazoned across the back are, however, and that was glorious. We bought Chloë a bird whistle. And the baby got all political on us. We exited before the meltdowns began, and probably spent less than $80. It was a good day.

Although it proclaims to be mighty, we did not actually venture out of the kiddie midway.

The Safari Train seemed like an obvious first choice. Only because of the monkey, though.

Despite his intial excitement, the Safari Train was more terrifying than thrillifying for Rex-Goliath

I was really hoping that those animals did something. I was sorely disappointed.

Dan's attempt to thrillify Rex-Goliath

Apparently the carnie (I mean, ride guy? entertainment engineer?) has to put tape over this image (and others) in certain states. But we're not that progressive in the great old carve-a-lady's-head-in-butter state.

Fun Slide is the best name they could come up with.

I would totally let this dude on without a ticket.

Dan and Chloë catch some thrills in a dragon.

The kids on the whale-rider ride.

The topless, bubble-blowing mermaid on the whale-rider ride.

This man's sole purpose in life is to make the lives of parents difficult.

Obviously, the baby will be voting DFL this November. Fun fact: we learned of his forthcoming existence on the day Obama was elected.

Mmmmmmm. French Fries.

–Mrs. Wonderful

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She’s eight, folks

Okay, so this one is nearly a month late. But hey, better late than never, right? Come to think of it, considering that I have altered the date, I have no idea why I have even shared that I am tardy to the party. I am too honest.

It is hard having two blended families. It is hard spending half of your life at one house, and half at the other (I imagine). The big perk: three birthday celebrations. Here are the pics from celebration #1, a little shindig at the Ranchero De-Luxe with a very exclusive guest list (read: only people that reside in apartment 2C or stay here regularly):

Members of Team Wonderful are forced to make their own birthday cupcakes

Miss Chloë, expert pastry chef

Xavier catches up on reading while waiting for cupcakes

The batter was actually better than the cupcakes themselves. Especially with soy ice cream.

Would you believe that you can get eight candles into a mini-cupcake?

Her first grown-up gift, a joint project between Elizabeth, Dan and I

Elizabeth is CRAZY!

The birthday girl, contemplating her defeat of Daddy at checkers

After going through these pictures, I realized that I should clarify something: my children do own clothes – nice coordinating outfits, even. They just choose to rip them off and strew them about the house.

–Mrs. Wonderful

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First Day of School

We had several first days of school this year, since everyone in the family save for the baby is involved in some sort of educational endeavor. The first came in August, when Dan and I started school. For me, this was no big deal. I have been at it for a few years now. Dan, however, has not been in an academic classroom since high school. Here he is, backpack packed, coffee in hand, ready for Precalculus.

Chloë was up next. Also an old hat at school, she was ready for third grade with a vengeance. Pleased at the concept of starting third grade? Not so much. Ready? Yes. She grew up a lot over the summer – learned to ride a bike, shot up an inch or two, cut some bangs, and gained a fair amount of maturity. She seems like a third-grader.




On Chloë’s first day of school, we always take pictures in front of the Ranchero. We used to do it in front of a charming tree with orange berries on it, but the tree became diseased and had to be removed this year. So now we just do it in front of the Ranch. I have unfortunate visions of Chloë standing in this very same spot wearing her high school graduation cap and gown, an elderly Princess Pug snoring on the sidewalk in the background.


Here she is, ready for her first day of kindergarten at the Ranchero, standing in front of the tree before its unfortunate demise.



I read about a little German tradition where the kids kid little horns filled with school supplies and candy on the first day of school, and it sounded like the cutest idea ever. I think they are called tootwaffles. Or strumptoots. Or tootenstrumpen. Or something. I love giving gifts, the kids mildly dislike receiving gifts, and Dan hates picking up pieces from mechanical pencils and mediating fights over dessert-shaped erasers, so the whole concept seemed win-win to me.

Rex-Goliath had two first days of school – one for preschool, which has a parent-child component to it. On Mondays, Dan brings both boys, puts Xavier in the baby room, and hangs out with Rex-Goliath in the preschool room. Apparently they do an art project together (which Rex-Goliath has little interest in because there is a huge plastic truck beckoning him from the toy shelf) and sit in a circle and sing songs (which Rex-Goliath has little interest in because he is not too keen on singing and that truck is really calling his name). Then they allow him to actually play with the truck while Dan is forced to hang out with the other parents and talk about parenting. Which he really enjoys. They do provide hot water, he tells me. So if one were to bring tea bags or some Taster’s Choice and their own mug, sugar packets and stirring implement they could have a hot beverage. Or you could just bring a travel mug of vodka on ice and save yourself the trouble. On Wednesdays, Dan is allowed to just drop Rex-Goliath off, so he can enjoy his vodka on ice without comparing potty training progress and swapping discipline tips.

Here he is, ready to go to preschool orientation.

Xavier, also excited for preschool orientation.


The second first day of school is for Tiny Talk. Rex-Goliath, although actually speaking English these days, does not always speak intelligible English. So he is enrolled in speech therapy, which includes one day of speech preschool with other speech-challenged kids. They call it Tiny Talk, and he enjoys it. The best part of the whole thing is that a tiny bus comes to pick him up at our door – it is the cutest thing ever.

The little bus-shaped nametag they have to wear is adorable.

Here’s to a good year. Or at least survival.


–Mrs. Wonderful

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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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Rex-Goliath, Meet Thomas

We all know by now that Rex-Goliath is a fan of Thomas the Tank Engine. Since his birthday celebration was a little lean, we decided that one of his presents would be tickets to A Day Out with Thomas. The gist of this activity is that you cough up twenty bucks a person to ride in some dilapidated passenger coaches pulled by a life-sized Thomas the Tank Engine and participate in some “fun” activities. We decided not to forewarn Rex-Goliath of the occasion due to the risk of being asked when we were going to see Thomas for six months prior to the date. We figured we would get a huge shock-and-awe moment from him when he happened upon Thomas at the actual event, and it would be cute and everyone would be happy.

Once again, my parenting strategy failed me. We did happen upon Thomas, gleaming in the sunlight. “Rex-Goliath, who is that?” we inquired. He looked at us like we were idiots. “Thomas,” he replied, as is he saw a life-sized Thomas every day. This is how our kids are, though. Completely nonchalant at the event, but will talk about it daily until the next completely-totally-awesome-cool thing happens. Rex-Goliath probably would have enjoyed the whole shindig a lot more if Chloë had been present. He is still a little wary of things, and having a buddy might have made the experience much better for him. Xavier just isn’t quite a big enough partner in crime yet.

Here it is, pixel-by-pixel:

Rex-Goliath rides the mini-train they had to appease the youngins while waiting for their turn on Thomas.

Rex-Goliath, looking both suspicious of the whole event and a little lonely

The ubiquitous train tables

Sir Topham Hatt strikes a pose

More train toys

Sand toys. They also had kiddie pools full of soap and bubbles... thank God the kids didn't see those.

Hands-down the best part of the day. I don't know what tropical lounge singers have to do with trains, but this guy was the designated entertainment. And he got the joke.

All aboard!

I appreciate that they decorated the train in a festive manner, but it looks a little like they let Rex-Goliath do it.

Smile! You're getting on the train and I need this for the blog!

Daddy, Rex-Goliath, and Xavier

Mama and the boys

And that does it. Really, the best thing that came of A Day Out with Thomas is the catalog I picked up in the giftshop in lieu of buying the kid a $20 four in train with a face. It is already tattered, and every night, he shows me his plans for every birthday and Christmas gift until he is twenty-three. Next time, he tells me, he wants to ride on Percy. I haven’t broken it to him yet that Percy doesn’t come life-sized.

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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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