Posts tagged Pugs

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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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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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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