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Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Celebrating the #Fam

Last weekend we celebrated two events in our family: 22 years of wedded bliss and 15 years of raising our bouncing baby boy. Our anniversary and Cole's birthday happen to fall on the same day: August 27th. When I tell people this, I often get a look of sympathy. Some say, "Oh! That's too bad." As if we are sad or shortchanged by the overshadowing of a kid's birthday. But here's the deal: We scheduled Cole's birth to be on our anniversary. Yes we did.

Doug and I had always planned to have kids–almost from the day we met! (Maybe that was just me...) But when it didn't happen so easily, we began to recognize what a gift children would be for us. When we did finally get pregnant and squeak out a couple of babies, we were utterly and fantastically grateful. It wouldn't have mattered what day they came. My birthday! Christmas! Yom Kippur! Groundhog's Day! You wouldn't hear any complaining from us.

A family celebration is a family celebration, no matter what the reason or the date. I will use any excuse to commemorate the love and closeness of our family, even when not everyone can be together. Case in point: my college daughter sent the most awesome of texts on our family group message this weekend despite her inability to depart from Iowa City:

Say what you will about technology, but not much makes my heart happier when our core family banters on the Kramer vs Kramer vs Kramer vs Kramer messaging. We'll find anything to connect about: the defeat of the Red Sox, a puking spell, the intersection of a birthday/anniversary, or the best thing of all–poses of a weird cat.

Monday, August 22, 2016

#familytrip unplugged adventure

My friend and coworker Janet Buman always come back from her family vacation with absorbing tales. I believe this to be a combination of her exuberant personality and sense of adventure. (The other day I noticed she had posted a video of herself taking a minnow-shot. That's exactly what it sounds like...a shot of alcohol hosting a live minnow.) 

Janet and her husband Jeff have three kids (Tyler-16, Justine-13 and Trey-8) and apparently  all seem to share a resourceful and undaunted spirit. With her talent for writing, I asked if she would offer her experience on my blog. I think you will all enjoy!

Buman Family Travels

Lightning, CRACK! 

The day before our annual vacation the family was just getting out of our "county fair coma" and my husband Jeff and our three kids Tyler, Justine and Trey had one day to get ready for an 11-day trip north. Lightning had just fried our TV, fridge and other items and it should have been an omen of things to come for us. 

The next day we spent the entire day at amusement/water park , but when we got to the van, our trunk was wide open!  I had my purse with cash and cards in there - partially covered by a towel - but no one had touched it! 

From then on, the unexpected turns came on fast.  We then found the side van door was opening on its own too. Then, in the middle of high-traffic Minneapolis, something large blew out of the truck in front of us. Our front tires ran it over, but it got caught before it hit the back ones, so we dragged that around for a bit before it broke free and on to the next poor soul behind us. A little while later, Trey upchucked his entire lunch. Family tradition - someone always gets sick.

Our destination was Jeff's aunts cabin in Ely, Minnesota, a place we adore. Just before getting there we received word that the cabin was inaccessible.  There had been a huge storm, there was no power, trees were downed everywhere, we wouldn't get in. I suddenly felt like a refugee. Plan B - Call Jeff's Uncle John in Wisconsin.  

We've stayed with John before in a fairly decent guest house, but due to the storm that house had no power either, so we were put up at "The Camp". It became immediately clear that no one had been habitating the camp for quite some time. It was dark, dirty and musty so we tried to do everything away from it while we were there. 

For three days we rode a boat, swam, collected clams, played mini golf, and watched a lumberjack show. For the first time I can ever remember, the kids were nice and allowed me to take the first shower. This sounds like a nice gesture, but it was actually disguised as a dare.  The water there is terrible rusty and it makes their shower look like a complete rust bucket.  I wanted to shower in my socks. I made it through, but unbeknownst to them, the water heater didn't hold too much. Justine got lukewarm water and Tyler got hypothermia.  

One thing I haven't mentioned yet were our unwelcome house guest - the ants. We tried bug spray and hung up our trash from the ceiling, but the ants told the rest of the colony we were there and they kept coming in. Finally, we received word that the roads in Ely were clear enough we could drive there, although there wasn't going to be any electricity. Oddly, this still seemed like a step up from our current conditions. The next morning we said goodbye and high tailed it out of Antville!
Once we got to our cabin in Ely, the substantial amount of downed trees was overwhelming.  Had we gotten here just one day earlier than we originally planned, our van would have certainly been smashed. Having no electricity in a cabin really wasn't that bad, it was the lack of water turned out to be the area we had to get a little creative. For every 5 gallon bucket of water we needed to flush the toilet, Jeff had to haul lake water up and down a small hill. The water is pristine and we washed dishes with it and used a lot of bottled water for everything else.  

We made a 40 mile round trip every day getting the provisions we needed, such as food and ice. Jeff  made all our food on a wood fired grill and at night we ate by the light of the LED and our cell phone lights.  Every year that we've been to Ely I organize a scavenger hunt and this year Jeff threw in his own game, a Treasure Hunt. We had the kids on the hunt for clues, figuring out cryptic codes and messages. We played games inside went to bed listening to the loud hum of the mosquitoes outside. 
If we wanted to bathe - we had to take a 'lake shower'.  If I had known that the shower I had in Minneapolis was going to be the best real shower I would have in nine days, I would have enjoyed it more. Justine worked out a two-person system for washing her hair in a bucket so we all followed her method. 

We had better luck on the way home with our accommodations. But, the van doors were still opening on their own in ghostly fashion, we had a wheel bearing going out, and plus, the van was just really dirty. I spent time researching a new vehicle on the way home. 

When I tell people our tales of no power, water, ants and tree destruction, most say it must have been a bad experience. In fact, it was quite the opposite. We became resourceful and embraced the adventure together. One week later, we had already purchased another family van complete with extra storage space so we can carry all of our stuff up to the cabin again next year.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Departure Grief Reboot

Many of my friends have sent their kids off to college for the first time this past week. I remember the feeling all to well, equal parts proud and equal parts sad. I coped by blogging or crying to my dog. Here's one of the posts after I had sulked a couple of weeks. One year later I can tell you all who are grieving for your kid: next year will be a different story. It will be only a teensy bit sad. Maybe some teary eyes, but no waterfall. You'll start thinking more about tailgating aspects...and how happy you are that your kid is moving on brilliantly.

From last year:

It’s been just over two weeks since the dropoff and here’s what I know.

Forget wrinkles and achy joints. The worst part of getting old is taking your kids to college.

Yeah, I know. This is why you raise your kids—to be independent and find their way in the world. Blah. Blah. Blah. I simply want my little girl back. The little girl with the big brown, curious eyes and bobbed haircut. The five-year-old, asking me to read Olivia for the billionth time. I'll tell you what I would NOT do if I could back in time: I wouldn’t sigh about rehashing the clever little pig's mischiefs. Nor would I calculate all the tasks required to uphold an averagely-kept house. Nope. I'd let the laundry go undone! I'd leave the dishes sit on the counter! I might even allow the pets to puke on the carpet without throwing a tantrum. Maybe.

Some of you (the few, the proud, the followers) might have notice this blog on hiatus. The break was merely due to my grief. The perpetual lump in my throat and swirl about my guts as I ponder what's going on in my college-bound daughter's world. Everyone keeps asking me how’s she doing? I think to myself, How’s she doingI DON'T KNOW FOR SURE! GHEESH. THANKS FOR REMINDING ME SHE'S GONE!  

I have an inkling she's adjusted well. Clambered into to her new college life by jumping off the high dive. It’s me they should be asking about. How are YOU doing, mother of student? 

I guess I’m coping. I think about her all the time...probably too much. I wonder if she misses her family as much as we miss her. I’ve reached out to her a bit (quite a bit as she has pointed out), hoping we could Facetime. Apparently, I’m catching her at bad times. Almost always a bad time. Two days ago she said she’d call me back later. I’m still waiting for that call. It’s like I’m in high school again, waiting for the boy to ask me to a dance. And he's just not interested in the nerdy bookworm.

In three days, we reunite—to celebrate the opening season of the Hawk’s football season. But really? It will be a celebration of my endurance. My ability to step away from one of my most favorite people in the world and let her mess up her room without me saying a word about it. Really, I won't. We can simply talk about cool stuff. Like English literature classes. Or if anyone has tempted her to taste a beer. That happened to me once in college.


As I was finishing this blog, I received that call from Alex. Eerie, huh? (She didn't recall she was to call me back a few days ago. Kids!) Anyway, hearing her voice instantly lifted my spirit. And as we talked, it quickly became evident, that my role of mother wouldn't be going away anytime soon.

Maybe I'll bring Olivia with me this weekend.

Here we come Alex!

Sunday, August 14, 2016

#dadconversation with mr. cellophane

For anyone who knows my husband and me, it will come as no surprise that I introduced myself first. As a matter of fact, when I mosied over to the cute guy standing against the wall in the bar and asked, "Do I know you?", he quickly replied. "I don't think so. And I'm divorced."

I couldn't help but giggle at the sweet and shy response. I knew right then I was in love. Beyond the cuteness factor, I was startling drawn to his unassuming manner. Doug very much condones the mentality of "blending in and not making a fuss." If something is wrong with his restaurant order, I'm the first to flag down the waitress as he holds my arm down to say, "That's okay. It's fine." This attribute of not wanting to draw attention to himself and can be amusingly problematic. There's a standing joke with our friends how he's always the guy who gets forgotten. When drinks come back for everyone except Doug, we will look at each other, and mouth the lyrics to "Mr Cellophane." (Yes, my husband has been to a Broadway musical.)

In the spirit of the mom conversation series, I decided to mix it up to honor my soulmate who celebrates his birthday this weekend. It wasn't easy attaining this interview, but I somehow I did it. Hope you enjoy.

Quick Bio: I've lived in Earling all my life. Currently I farm and am married to a beautiful and talented wife (Stef) with the most amazing kids (Alex and Cole).

Note: Doug didn't actually say this. He actually said, "You know my life." I embellished his response.

Favorite Family Tradition: I don't know Honey. You mean our family? Like the four of us? Let me think about it.

Most surprising lesson you've learned about being a father?  (Laughter.) Why are you asking me this? Okay. Let's see. I think it's how much smarter the kids are than me.

Note: Alex piped in here to explain how she and Cole actually pay attention in school. Brownie points kid.

Opinion on Work/Life Balance:

Note: Here Doug scrunches his eyebrows and asks, "Why are you doing this with me? Isn't this supposed to be a mom thing? After some wifely persistence, he talks.

I do my work first. If there's something going on, I do that, then I do my work. That's all there is to it.

Note: This is the most succinct response I've received on this question...

Guilty Pleasure: Drinking beer, probably.

Note: Not probably. Definitely.

Go to Movie: Any of the Bourne's. Not porns, Bournes.

Most used App: Grower's Edge.

Note: This is an app to check the grain markets. There is no doubt Doug checks this app, almost incessantly on certain days, as most farmers do. I would also argue that the Solitaire app is a close second. 

Celebrity Obsession: Milas Kunas.

Note: There was no hesitation here. Not one millisecond. 

How you recharge: Drinking beer and spending quality time with my wife.

Note: "Quality time with my wife" was not what Doug said. I rephrased this. It's a PG-13 blog, as noted in other blogs.

Last book you read and couldn't quit thinking about: (Laugher, again, as if the question were impossible before he realized he's not all Mr. Baseball and does read occasionally.) Oh! One of the Dan Brown's.

Note: Author of the The Da Vinci Code, Angels and Demons and Inferno. My hubby likes a smart thriller.

Favorite Kid Story: Taking the kids on rides. The photos of my scared family always makes me laugh. Also, teaching the kids to drive.

What advice do you have for new parents?  Don't do it. Kidding.  I actually don't think I'm in any position to give advice. I don't consider myself an expert at parenting.

Note: Who does? But I found the honesty of this response refreshing.

Anything else you'd like to add about being a working dad? Working dad? What do you mean? Don't all dads work?

Note: Yes. True. And so do all moms. Why do we even bother with these redundant terms?

I finished the interview with Doug squeamish about the idea of being featured. Again, he's not one for attention. So, before this can be edited by my unassuming mate, I'll end with this message to him:

Doug, you're my favorite guy. A guy's guy with a nose for sports and beer. A guy who laughs easily. A guy who is unmistakably honest. A guy who loves his family above all. That's the best thing about you. That and your cute butt.

If this embarrassed you, I'm sorry but not really. Love ya to pieces, Mr. cellophane.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

#badmoms #goodmoms #bestmoms

Every year I'm overcome with jealousy when I see a “Mother of the Year” award and realize all too quickly, I wasn't even considered. What's it take to achieve this coveted prize? How many children must she have? Can she work outside of the home? How attentive to her kids does she really need to be?

Last Thursday night, our local theater hosted a Ladies Night with a showing of Bad Moms. It was a splendid affair with prizes and gifts sponsored by the Harlan Theater and Megan Sorensen of Chloe+Isabel jewelry. My friend Amy and I decided to make a night of it, suffering through a pedicure and meeting other moms for drinks before the movie. It took a took a lull in kids' activities and a small favor from God to make this happen. But it did happen. Moms Night Out.

I won’t lie. It was more fun than a soccer game. The theater roared with belly laughter over the assault of one-liners, terrifically catered to mothers. There’s something deeply satisfying about watching another mom’s messy life, especially when that mom is a ten-ish Mila Kunas who happens to capture the attention of your husband as she brands whiskey barrels.

Not to spoil the movie, but a few of the lines imprinted on me:

  • “We're not quitters! Quitters are for dads.”
  • “The best thing about a mom party is that it’s over by 11.”

  • "I love my babies so much. God. They hate me."

And a million more zingers. Really. A million.

Now, for some irony. I like to pride myself on my maternal intuition. Well, it’s either intuition or an unwarranted sense of worry, I’m not sure yet. But on this mom-movie night, as I was laughing it up with my friends, not a bit worried about the whereabouts of my family, something was happening. While I sat drinking my Select 55 at the Westside, I had not noticed texts coming in to me. Especially the one of the tornado next to the soccer field where my son was set to scrimmage. 

I had no inkling he was in danger! So much for my maternal intuition! Did it go haywire? Obviously, guilt doused me as soon as I comprehended the facts. What if he would’ve been killed? While I was in the bar, drinking? What kind of mother am I? Why did I think it was so important to go out with the girls? Did I really need to curl my hair? (Not sure why that question was relevant, but it did go through my mind.)

Bad Mom.

After  the show, I confirmed the safety of my son in the bathroom of another mom's home. Carrying a speck of guilt, we moms continued the party in the spirit the show.  Oh, it got wild. We invaded the man cave. Non-driving moms were doing shotskis. We joked about men's appendages. We passed around our phones, bragging of our cute kids. Then, at the exact same time, we moms stood up, was time to go. The clock struck 10:59 p.m. I’m not even kidding.

There’s not a mom I know who doesn’t fret about whether they’re raising their kids right. Should I let her eat Cheetos with its red dye #6 for breakfast? How did I let him watch Family Guy? Did I shout too loudly at the soccer game? The list never ends.

Cole and I were cleaning his room this weekend when I came across a college-ruled paper with some of his scribblings. I began to read it, and instantly my heart transformed from being judgy about his filthy habits to being happy about his goodness. The paper was called, "What My Mother Means to Me." It was beyond sweet and to give you a taste of the theme, he outlined his main points at the top:

  1. She listens to my gibberish.
  2. She likes to talk to me.

It ended like this: I love my mom. I hope you love yours too.

Are you crying yet?

Good Mom.

A friend and I were discussing how kids can really test their mothers. It's because they know they can. They can forget their homework or poop on the carpet or feed broccoli to the dog. They know we'll still love them. No matter what.

Best Moms.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

How to Watch #Baseball with your Hubby

When I met my future spouse in 1991, he told me he played baseball. I assumed he meant he played on one of those recreational softball teams which are infused with former high school athletes. When I asked when his next softball game was, he quickly corrected me. "Baseball, not softball."'

Thus, my education began.

Before we dated, I knew a little something about the sport. And I mean, a little something. Here's what I knew:

  1. Three strikes, you're out.
  2. A player can walk to a base if the pitcher hits you with a ball.
  3. Baseball players are oh-so-cute in their uniforms.
I've come a long way in 25 years.  Be prepared to be impressed, because now I things, like:
  • The suicide squeeze
  • A knuckle ball
  • Warning track power
  • Baseball players are still oh-so-cute in their uniforms.
Admittedly, I wasn't a great student of the sport in our early years. Truthfully, I only liked to watch Doug play. When I tried to watch a game on TV with my new boyfriend, I'd be astonishingly bored. I'd try to ask questions, but here's the thing about that. Asking remedial questions to someone who's infinitely passionate about baseball is something like explaining tax law to a toddler. You tend to respond in abrupt and purposely oblique answers to quiet the interrogator. That way you can get back to the game.

I'm a strong believer in broadening horizons. And finding common interests is one of the most rewarding experiences in a relationship. So through the years, I learned the secret to watching baseball with my hubby. If you're married to or dating a baseball aficionado, here's some guidance: 
  • Watch a complete inning without asking any questions. Be amused by the commentator, even if you don't completely understand the jokes.
  • After picking up on some of the basics, begin to write down phrases that have perplexed you. Again, don't ask questions yet.
  • Google all of the phrases you've collected–make sure to attach the word baseball to your list of phrases or you might find yourself in some sketchy territory.
  • Don't try to learn everything all at once. You've got all season, from opening day in April (a big deal, btw) to the World Series in October (another big deal).
  • When you begin to feel comfortable with a baseline knowledge, understanding terms such as a grand slam or no-hitter, feel free to begin light discussion of a game, IF AND ONLY IF your husband is watching a meaningless game like the Braves versus the Blue Jays.
  • Don't ever laugh at reaction to a call that appears to be so heated, he must be joking. He's not joking.
  • Finally, if the Royals are one out out away from losing the World Series, quietly finish watching the game in another room. Don't worry, there will always be another year, when they do win, and you will celebrate with your spouse the entire evening. That will be fun.
Doug rarely traveled before we got married. Traveling happens to be something I love to do. As mentioned before, finding common ground is how healthy relationships thrive. And it's been really, really great. Now we travel together quite a see many-a major league baseball game.
Watching da