Monday, December 29, 2008

Pay day

Tonight I got home and on the table was an envelope I never really expected to see.

It was a check.

For $26.

Not a lot of money, right?

But I'm pretty excited about it.

When I was accepted to the BlogHer ad network late last April, I was thrilled. But I never figured out how to log in to my account to see how much money I'd made or anything, and I never saw any money, so I sort of just assumed I wasn't ever getting any.

But today, I got $26.

Pretty sweet.

So click away, friends. In six or seven more months, I just might get another check.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Bah humbug

Christmas ended with a thud at our house this year.

The tree came down today. It's being hauled away now. I've already vacuumed up the green carpet of needles it left behind.

And I'm anxious to organize and do something with the presents we all got, too. Mostly, it's Rye's new toys that are just out and about.

I hated Christmas this year. Times aren't good.

Rye is wonderful as always. And despite some I suspect inevitable greed that crept in during present opening ("Can I open another present now?"), he's been well-behaved and seemingly happy through what has been some rough times at home.

Do you ever feel this way? Like you don't have any idea what happened, how you got where you are? Like you don't know what should happen? Or you think you know, but every choice seems unbelievably scary?

That's where I am.

And so Christmas, and all the joy it usually represents, is over. And I'm glad.

Maybe New Year's will be better. Or maybe that's too soon for anything to be better.

But 2009, I have hope.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Sweet 13


Today is my sister's 13th birthday.

On this day, I wish for her these things:

1. An adolescence easier than my own, easier than most.
2. Friends who are true and good and won't go away.
3. Notes -- if kids still pass those -- that are filled with only good things.
4. Teachers who like her and, more importantly, are fair with her. Ones who challenge and inspire her as well. Those, I recall, are few and far between but invaluable.
5. Boys who will always be nice, always genuine, always in it for the right reasons.
6. Clear answers in as many situations as possible.
7. Some sort of divine guidance to do the right thing, follow the right path, even when choices are hard.
8. Self respect.
9. Laughter.
10. Love.
11. Happiness.
12. Direction.
13. Confidence.

Thirteen wishes for my sister's 13 years. I was a sophomore in high school when she was born. I was awash then in my own self-centered universe, focused mainly on my own problems. As she got a bit older, though, I remember how fun it was when she came upstairs to my room. Sometimes, she'd dance and sing along to music I'd be playing. Other times, she was just cute.

And now it won't be that long before my little baby sister is a sophomore in high school, likely awash in her own problems. I just hope they are tolerable.

And if I could give her any wish for her birthday, the first of her teenage years, it'd be the perspective that I'm only still gaining now.

I'd tell her those relationships that we think then are worth the world really aren't. I'd tell her to pay attention to what she wants in life. And to listen to that.

I'd tell her everything works out in the end, even if the road there is long and bumpy. If there even is an end.

But what do I know?

As an adult, a mom and a wife, I don't feel lately like I know much of anything.

Still, I know what I wish I would have known when I was 13. For whatever that's worth.

Happy birthday, Ashley.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Single mom


I'm alone this weekend with Rye. And I wonder what it's like to be alone with your child all the time.

So far, the interaction is far more intense, the needs more needy, the demands more all on me. But so far the reward has also been just a little bit better.

I'm the only one here to get him juice, find the right Clone Wars episode on the tape, put the weapon into the Star Wars guy's hand, play with him downstairs, get him a blanket when he's cold, make him breakfast, get him dressed, help him go to the bathroom, wash his face, brush his teeth, do the laundry, make myself coffee, clean up from breakfast ... before I know it it's lunchtime and we start all over again.

Usually, I have help. And I'm not complaining today that I don't have help. Everyone should get a break every now and then. Often even. As adults, we don't get to do what we really want to do often enough, or ever at all. There ought to be a way we don't have to give up our own desires, interests when we grow up, even when we are parents to someone else. So I'm glad Dane is skiing this weekend with one of his best friends in the world. I wish he could go more often.

Despite the demands all on me, Rye and I have had a pretty beautiful morning.

We played downstairs and I helped him get stickers out of a Star Wars book he has and put them on a tackle box turned Star Wars box. At the same time, I used the computer and we listened to music. After an hour or so of that, he let me take a shower, and now I'm ready to do I don't know what and he's coloring by himself.

Tomorrow, I'm sure we'll do the same thing. And Monday morning I'll probably feel like the weekend was too short after all.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

It's here

Christmas.

Whether I like it or not.



We decorated the tree tonight, and for the first time in my life it was so much more about Rye's excitement than anything else. I cared about three ornaments -- all from my childhood -- but the rest ... I could've taken or left.

Rye, though, was so excited to be decorating the tree he was basically jumping up and down. I'd worked late, and he'd been picked up early. But they waited for me to decorate and I think his patience was at its limit. The minute my car pulled into the garage, he was standing in the doorway, asking, pleading, please Mommy, can we decorate the tree now?

When I tried to say I wanted to change my clothes first or eat or feed the cats since they were swarming me, he whined just a little and I could tell how badly he really wanted to hang those plastic ornaments on the tree he'd helped pick out the night before.

He dug into the box as if they were all mini presents wrapped just for him. He said how cute all the cat ornaments were (there were years, it seems, when all anyone in my family gave me were cat things as presents), and at one point, he said, "I LOVE that Cinderella castle."

Yes, he's a boy. But that castle -- it lights up -- is pretty cool. And he just knows what's cool.

He helped the whole time and was very careful about not breaking anything (minus one ornament that was old and brittle anyway) and asking for help if he needed it.

When we were done, he looked up at the tree and said, "Wow, this really is beautiful. It even has a star on the top."

For how happy it made my little boy, I'd decorate the tree every night, if he really wanted to.

Here is a picture of him helping hang lights outside on Sunday:



And one of him and his blankie two nights ago, just because it's cute:

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Holidays

Thanksgiving is over and now the build-up to Christmas is on. I'm never sure if I like this time of year or not.

Thanksgiving for us this year was nice and quiet, if maybe a little too quiet. Rye's cousins couldn't come to the celebration, which was too bad. But the food was good, and the company was, too.

A highlight for me was running that morning on the empty country roads around my in-laws' home. I think that's got to be the purest form of running, the freshest, the simplest, maybe the most rewarding. Alone with nothing but my thoughts, the soft pounding of my feet in the dirt, the wind and the sun -- it's about perfect.

I read about the Black Friday shopping madness yesterday and felt how I do every year on that day: Why in the world do people put themselves through that? I understand the huge deals on big-ticket items that people maybe couldn't afford otherwise, but standing in line to get DVDs for $7.99? Or a down comforter for $40? Saving a little bit of money is simply not worth it to me. Like my friend, Bryan said, it's just stuff, people! Consumerism, sometimes, just makes me feel bad.

That said, Thanksgiving really kicks off the Christmas season and all the fuss that comes with it. The tree, the lights, the decorations, the presents. Do any of us really need anything anymore? My mom and I have talked several times about how really, as adults, when we want something affordable, we just go buy it. We're lucky to be able to do that.

The aftermath of Christmas always makes me feel a little overwhelmed (yet thankful, of course, for the generosity of everyone who has given us gifts) and a little like I need to simplify: Go home and clean out my closet of clothes I haven't worn for more than a year, sort the toys from the playroom that are never touched. I've already told Rye we're going to go through his toys this year and give away the ones he no longer uses. He is lukewarm to this idea. But it matters to me. I want to try and teach selflessness and empathy and the importance of being socially aware. Still, it's tough when toy ads arrive in our newspaper every weekend and a trip to Target usually includes a swing through the toy aisle, even if it's just to look. And then there's that sense that we want our children to have everything they've ever wanted and everything they'll ever dream of.

I'll keep striving to find the right balance, this Christmas and after.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Baby names

So I'm having another baby.

I accidentally announced this in the New Kids post from last week. I don't really know what I was waiting for to talk about it on here (as if a blog posting makes it completely official or something, right?). But I didn't mean to just slip it in. Like I did.

I'm past the first trimester and as of yesterday am 13 weeks pregnant. I've had two ultrasounds (the last one unplanned after several agonizing minutes of the doctor not being able to find a heartbeat with her little heartbeat-listening tool. I finally said, "So ... is my baby dead?"). But the baby was fine and when I saw her on the screen, she was moving and punching her little fists in the air. A fighter already.

Good.

So Rye has been giving us name suggestions.

They are all from Star Wars.

And lately he's insisting on just one.

Here's how a recent dinner conversation went.

Rye: "I know what we can name the baby." Sly smile and sparkle in his eye like he is the cleverest kid ever.

Me, as usual: "What?"

Rye: "I know. I know! CHEWY!"

As in Chewbacca, the hairy monster guy from Star Wars, who I know is a GOOD guy, but who, dude, freaks me out. And that noise he makes? I can't take it. Here is his photo. See what I mean?



So Rye knows this, and that is why he continues to insist we name the new child Chewy. But only if it's a girl.

If it's a boy?

Rye: "If it's a boy, let's name it Herbie Husker."

Uh, no. Mommy vetoes that one as well. Never could I name a child after a football mascot who eerily resembles George Bush. See:




So what will we name the baby?

I know what I'd like for a girl. Dane doesn't agree with me on my choice for a boy.

I fear a nickname coming on, though, regardless of what the real name ends up being.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

New Kids


It's often difficult for me to write about things that I care about too much, or things that I know too much about or things that I'm just too all wrapped up in.

When I interviewed Joe McIntyre as an intern at the Lincoln, Neb., newspaper in 2001, for example, I had no idea what sort of story to write. I just knew too much. And to me everything seemed important. I struggled to take myself out of the story and just tell the highlights.

So that is why I have not yet posted about the New Kids concert Wednesday night. It just meant that much.

Jenny wrote about it the next day, and her account was great. Like she said, I wouldn't have wanted to go to this show, to relive this giant part of my life, with anyone else. It meant so much that we were there together.

So yes. I'm 29 years old, married with a 3-year-old and a baby on the way. But as soon as the lights went down in that arena Wednesday night, I lost my mind. I screamed like I was 11, I jumped, I pumped my arms in the air. And when they came out, I almost sort of had to remember to breathe. I just couldn't believe it.

I know there are so many of you out there who think I'm lame, who just don't get it, who want me to be cooler than I am. But I simply don't care.

So many will never understand what the New Kids on the Block did for me -- and for so many other girls -- back in the late 80s and early 90s when around us our parents were divorcing and cliques were forming and boys weren't liking us back and our best friends were finding new friends and all those other things that happened back then when we were trying to simply figure out who we were and how to get by unscathed.

New Kids and their Magic Summer tour and their Step by Step moves and their charm and innocence and everything were what gave us that hope, that happiness.

So seeing them for the first time really up close, even as an adult, Wednesday night was just about surreal.

And for the two hours they were up there singing and dancing and talking to us, nothing else mattered.

Was I happy to see my little boy when he crawled into bed with us at 5 the next morning? Of course. That adult part of me is the most important thing I've ever done.

But the little girl part of me will be excited about the New Kids being back -- even if it is just for this one tour -- for a long time.


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Growing up

So I took Rye to the Children's Museum on Saturday, while the men of Nebraska spent their afternoons in bars watching the Nebraska football team.

And the museum, though it was pretty busy, was maybe the most fun it's ever been.

The best part by far: I noticed in Rye a curiosity so much more mature than it's ever been before.

On Saturday, instead of simply focusing on putting as many balls as he could into one of many receptacles in the huge ball maze that they have, he was more interested in watching where his one ball went.

He'd place a red ball, for example, into one of the openings and then track it as the air pressure pushed it through one tunnel, up another and then shot it across the room to a different area entirely.

Then he'd do it again.

In another area, he'd turn a crank that made his yellow ball this time travel up a conveyor belt until it, too, fell onto a track that took it to the other side of the contraption. Then he'd run over there, turn another crank and watch as his ball took another journey.

It was cognitively challenging and hands-on and it was great. I could almost see his brain working.

Sure, we still danced in the dark "Recollections" room where Jamaican music plays and we can watch our thermal images move like we do on the screen in front of us. And we played on the fire truck and in the little pretend house.

But we didn't spend nearly as much time doing those things as we have in the past.

Rye says his favorite part was a giant crane he could sit on and turn a wheel to make the whole thing turn around. Working with other kids -- of several different ages -- he figured out how to turn the crane one way to collect balls from a tray (that would only work when another child pulled a rope, causing the tray to dump) and then another way to deposit the balls in another tray on the other side (again, another child had to pull another rope to make this happen).

Even upstairs in the special dinosaur exhibit, we talked a lot about when the dinosaurs lived and the fact that they were here long before people. I told him about how some dinosaurs ate meat and how some only ate plants. I tried to tell him it was sort of like how our family doesn't eat animals. We talked about how some dinosaurs lived on the ground, some under water and some flew in the sky like birds.

When we found a tent with books inside, he desperately wanted to read them.

So we did. I think he really liked this, too.

In all, it was fun for me to see a place we used to go to just to run around and occupy a Saturday afternoon become educationally enriching as well.

And it was another reminder how quickly he's growing and changing. He is the age now that I couldn't wait for him to be even when he was just still growing inside of me.

I hope it doesn't go too quickly.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Our new president

Congratulations, Barack Obama.

Here's looking forward to a new administration.

Election day

The polls close in Nebraska in 12 minutes.

This is a big day.

Again, because I'm a journalist, I can't write here about my political beliefs. But I'd like to.

Instead, though, I'll just say how cool it was to see all those people voting this morning. We showed up at the small Lutheran church that is our polling place about 15 minutes after the polls opened. There was a line well out the door.

We made sure to bring Rye with us, only bringing him to daycare after he saw what this thing called democracy is all about. I wanted him to be sure to see early on in life how we really can have a say.

The poll worker who took my ballot at the end even gave Rye a sticker, which he had really wanted. So we were all glad about that.

I was heartened to learn that our daycare provider even had the preschool-aged kids vote at her house today, too. She simply printed pictures of the two presidential candidates, talked the to the kids about what was happening and asked them who they'd pick.

They voted Obama 5-0.

Our provider chalked that up to a better smile and an unusual name.

I don't know ...

Anyway, enjoy the returns tonight. And here's to a historic election, either way the final tally falls.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween, etc.


My dad got me a Wonder Woman action figure for my birthday.

It is sweet.

And it came with a sign that says "Infinite Crisis."

Just now, Dane asked me what that meant. I said I had no idea.

And then he said, "That's kind of like you."

Excuse me. I do not think I am always in crisis. I mean, come on. Sure, I get stressed at work when it's busy. And I get frustrated when we're late picking Rye up from daycare for the third time in a week. And when I'm cold, I might tell him -- or anyone -- that I'm cold.

But crisis?

No.

So tonight was Halloween, which might still be my favorite holiday, even though I'm grown up (yes, I'm finally admitting it). And Rye was excited for about the first 10 minutes. And then he started asking to go home.

No, I told him the first 15 times he asked.

But then 25 minutes or so later, we finally gave in.

Seems like we timed it, though, so that we missed most of the trick-or-treaters who would have stopped at our house, had we been home with our porch light on instead of soliciting candy from neighbors we've never met.

The end result: We have lots of candy.

But this is not a crisis.

So here are some more pictures, including one of my birthday on Monday.



Sunday, October 26, 2008

Ice skating: not a debacle

Ice skating yesterday went better than I expected. I did fine (though weird muscles in my legs are sore today).

Rye tried out the ice with just his shoes on first but then did attempt it with the skates. Mostly, he let Dane and I hold him up and move him along, but he did it for the first time ever and I was proud of him for that.

Later on that afternoon, he came down with a fever and fell asleep in my lap and then slept for two more hours at home. When I took his temperature before bed, it was 103.

He's still sick today. I feel bad for him.

Perhaps I'll get to stay home from work on my birthday after all (Leap Year be damned).

Here are a couple photos from both ice skating and my birthday dinner Friday night. Yes, I requested not cake but an apple pie. It's my birthday, right?

Here we are blowing out the candle.


Yep, he's officially a teenager. Check out the earbuds (and he was watching Star Wars clips on Dane's iPod Touch).


Lacing up the skates.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Happy weekend

So far today, I've been about as lazy as I can remember being in a long time.

I'm liking it.

I've done basically nothing besides read the paper, eat and catch up on various blog postings, Facebook updates and e-mail.

All of us are just sort of doing nothing, except I can tell Dane is sort of ready to get ready. Or something. He's sort of now wandering aimlessly in circles around the living room.

Rye is finally eating the bagel I made for him at least an hour ago. And he is more than content playing Star Wars guys.

It's nice.

In a little bit, though, we are going to my brother's birthday party. He turned 9 a few weeks ago, and he's having an ice skating party today. I haven't ice skated in years, but I'll do alright, I think. Dane and Rye have already declared they don't even want to try.

I'm not surprised.

After the party, we'll come back and perhaps work on doing more of not much at all! It's my birthday on Monday and we may go out to eat tonight or tomorrow morning to celebrate that.

And we need to get some pumpkins to carve.

But that's it.

And I'm totally good with that.

Here's to a relaxing weekend for all of you, too.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Batman

My step-mom made Rye a pretty cool Batman costume last week.

So we made a movie.

Here is my directorial debut (be nice):

video

The right thing

Officials at my alma mater late last week announced that a scholar of controversial background would be speaking on campus in November.

And then -- about 24 hours later -- they cancelled his appearance after much public outcry.

William Ayers about six months ago was probably not a common name. He is now, though, because of the connection presidential candidate Barack Obama has had with him in the past. They served together on the board of a Chicago group that works on welfare reform, affordable housing and reducing poverty.

John McCain and others have mentioned Ayers repeatedly in an attempt to discredit Obama and his associates.

Ayers in the 1960s and 70s did some bad things in protest of the Vietnam War. He bombed public buildings -- major ones. And fairly recently, he was quoted as saying he wished they'd done more to protest the war.

I do not agree with violent protests, even if the sentiment is anti-war.

I'm not for bombing. I'm a pacifist. I don't even like it when my 3-year-old pretends to shoot toy guns or hits his dad when they're wrestling.

But I'm also for free speech.

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln's College of Education had invited Ayers, an education expert who teaches at the University of Illinois-Chicago, to speak to graduate students as part of the college's anniversary celebration.

He was invited back in February.

University officials sent out a press release about Ayers' appearance, though, after reporters noticed his name on a calendar.

And then all hell broke loose.

There were parents threatening to pull their students from school if Ayers was allowed to come. The governor urged the Board of Regents to pull the plug. Many of the Regents publicly decried the university's invitation. One even compared it to inviting Osama bin Laden to campus. Even the NU president, while citing the need for free speech and a free sharing of ideas, said he thought it'd be best for Ayers' not to come.

My guess is the final blow was when donors -- big ones - started threatening to withhold money from NU.

In the end, the chancellor said it was a safety threat that prompted officials to cancel his talk. They'd gotten enough e-mails and phone calls, officials said, that they couldn't ensure the safety of Ayers or folks at his talk.

That might be true, maybe a little bit. But I'm not really buying it.

And it's unfortunate that at a public university, a place of learning and discourse and growing and at least hearing all sorts of views about subjects, we would disinvite someone who has valuable knowledge and experience -- whether you agree with it or not -- to the table.

UNL has played it safe, I guess, and maybe that's the smart thing.

But what about the right thing?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The silent partner


My husband seldom wants things.

Besides beer, he hardly ever buys anything for himself.

So when he began talking about the iPod touch for weeks without end, I finally said, "Why don't you just go ahead and get it?"

The original plan had been to ask for money for Christmas from the various sets of parents. But it became apparent that he shouldn't have to wait that long. Seriously, I heard about the Touch ("It's got all these games -- like air hockey! You like air hockey, right?") just about every day.

So about two weeks ago, thank God, he ordered it. And in true Dane fashion, he saved 10 percent and avoided all sales tax by ordering it from Amazon.com. A savings of about $30. Great, except it meant he had to wait two agonizing weeks for the king of all grown-up toys to arrive.

Today, it came.

I got home from the gym after work and rather than a greeting, I got: "Look."

And, yes, lo and behold, there it was, on the living room floor, plugged in in all its glory to our laptop.

Hallelujah, a new day has begun.

So tonight, we've played air hockey (I beat the computer 7-6, thank you very much), waved it around while it made light saber noises (a true hit with Rye, who actually instructed me how to do this within a minute of my arrival home), played Labrynth (you remember - this is where you maneuver a ball through a maze without letting it drop into a hole. Just now, Dane said, "OK, I just have to stop. This is getting stressful!") and bowled. Dane has also done a myriad of other things, I'm sure, like check his e-mail, comment on friends' Facebook statuses, visit Huskerpedia, plan our retirement ... I'm thinking there is no end to what the Touch can do.

Earlier, he said, "You're never going to hear me talk again."

Hmm.

I didn't sign up for that, but I am glad the grown-up boy in our house finally has a really sweet toy.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Mostly better

I feel the need to post a short update after last night's woe-is-me post. (I apologize for that, by the way. I just couldn't help it).

Tonight, though, I'm happy to report that I'm feeling much better.

Work was productive today and largely uninterrupted. And the best part: I got to eat lunch with my best friend, who was visiting from Connecticut. That was great, but I would have taken more time to just be like that again.

Tonight, after supper, Rye and I played outside until the light faded, forcing us in. We ran races around the backyard, fought bad guys with a fly swatter (me) and a wooden sword (him) and built castles in the sand. The lingering warmth this fall made that doable. And I'm already sad that within a few weeks, the early dark and the cold will probably make evenings outside undoable.

Still, like lunch with Alexa, I'll take what I can get.

Happy weekend.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Ah-choo!

I have a dreadful, dreary cold. You know, one of those full-blown colds that makes your head hurt, your eyes water and your nose completely full, so full that you have to leave your mouth slightly ajar to breathe.

I hate this.

I went to bed at 9:30 last night, hoping that a lot of sleep would make me miraculously better. And I did feel better today, a bit.

But now, I feel awful again.

And I still have bath time and bed time looming.

Plus, I have to watch The Office tonight, too (no, that is not a bad thing, but it will push bedtime later).

I just want to feel better.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Ah, the pumpkin patch


We braved the busiest pumpkin patch in Omaha yesterday for an outing with Rye's daycare. And despite how crazy it has seemed some years, last night was really fun.

We met at 5 and then gathered around a campfire to cook hot dogs -- and later s'mores. Then we rode a train around part of their farm, attempted to jump on a giant inflatable "pillow" in the ground, looked at bunnies and then took a 15-minute or so hayrack ride to the pumpkin patch itself.

It was dark by the time we got on the tractor-pulled hayrack, and just a little bit chilly. We spotted the big dipper through the clouds and the sliver of a moon. Rye curled up against me, and I wouldn't have been surprised if he'd fallen asleep.

Once in the field of pumpkins, we tried to find a few "wee little ones" in short order. We did fairly well with that and then enjoyed an equally long hayrack ride back.

Perhaps Rye's favorite part was the $1 glow necklace we bought next. Back at the campfire, he and his friends -- who also had one -- pretended they were Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader fighting with their light sabers. The light-up novelties served a practical purpose, too -- in the almost pitch black, they were illuminated name tags for our children.

Here are some more photos:

"All aboard!"


It's the giant pumpkin, Charlie Brown!


On the hay-rack ride

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Eco-conscious

I stopped by one of Omaha's largest consignment sales twice last week -- on opening day and again on the final day when most items are half off. Basically, they are giant garage sales filled with nothing but children's things.

They're generally great.

This year was no exception. On Saturday, for example, I got 17 articles of clothing for $25. Great.

So I brought one of my reusable bags to the sale to put items in as I went along, and when I checked out I assumed I could put my things back in there after the price tags had been removed.

Two junior high-age girls were helping me and when one reached for a plastic bag, I said, "Oh, I've got my own bag."

She sort of paused and looked at her friend and then down at the plastic bag in her hand.

"I think we have to use this bag," she said.

Hmm.

No, that's ridiculous, I thought.

So I said, "Well, I'd really rather use my own bag."

And finally they gave in, warning me they'd have to tie the neon green ribbon to the handles of my bag then to prove I'd paid.

No problem, I said. And then I added, "I'm trying to save the environment by using my own bags."

I smiled.

And they just looked at me, blankly.

Troubling.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Outdoor fun



We've been taking advantage of the summer-like fall.

Yesterday, we spent a couple hours at a pumpkin patch that was fun and super low-key. We crossed paths with maybe 10 other people the entire time. They had animals -- goats, horses, sheep, chickens, llamas, bunnies, plus a pet dog and cat -- and an assortment of other kitschy Halloweeny-type stuff. Rye's favorite part was the pit filled with feed corn that we jumped into over and over again.

We also took the hayrack ride to the pumpkin patch. And though it wasn't technically a patch -- they had obviously picked the pumpkins from elsewhere and placed them in this well-kept grassy field -- we still got the feel of picking our own pumpkins. Plus, Rye didn't know the difference. We picked two pumpkins to take home.

Rye also got his face painted for the first time ever. He choose a witch and it turned out really great, but he was being shy about it after the fact.

Last weekend, we went to a place called Fontenelle Forest, in Bellevue, about a 25-minute drive from our house. Even though it was "free day" and therefore packed with people, it was really cool. The highlight was a brand new outdoor nature classroom, which was the coolest I've ever seen. And the trees, of course, were amazing.

Here are some more photos of the pumpkin patch:





And from Fontenelle Forest:



Sunday, September 21, 2008

Halloween already

Our neighbors -- I'm not kidding -- decorated their yard for Halloween right after Labor Day.

And I don't mean a scarecrow and a bale of hay on their porch. I mean plastic pumpkins and ghosts and cut-out witches on posts stuck in the ground. I also mean an assortment of gaudy Halloween ghouls hanging from their tree.

Halloween is my favorite holiday.

But this is a bit early. In my book, it at least has to be October before the witches and skeletons come out.

When I was a kid, I remember picking out my Halloween costume a week or two before the big night. We'd go to K-Mart or some other discount store and get what I liked on the rack. I remember very fondly being Oscar the Grouch the year I was four. Later, my friends and I would sometimes raid my dad's costume shop and get a little more creative. Still, I'm pretty sure I was the Wicked Witch of the West at least two years in a row.

But back to the timing. Rye declared two weeks ago that he wanted to be The Emperor from Star Wars. In the past, he has said he wants to be Luke or Obi-Wan or Darth Maul. So I figured we'd just narrow it down a few weeks before the holiday, enough time for Dane's mom to make the costume.

She heard his choice, though, and couldn't wait to get started on the costume.

So now it's done and he's tried it on several times. We completed the look yesterday by attaching blue pipe cleaners to knit gloves - the Emperor shoots blue fire or lightning or something from his hands.

If little boys can look cute as really mean guys, Rye looks really cute.

He's planning to say, "Execute order 66."

Yeah, that's the command to kill all the good guys.

He's told me I can be Padme (Luke and Leia's mom), and Dane gets to be Obi-Wan.

I was planning on Wonder Woman this year.

But I'll let the little boy win out.

Happy early Halloween!

Check out Rye's blog for his take on the costume -- and a photo.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Back again




The weekend we left Rye alone with grandparents for the first time went just about absolutely fine.

They locked themselves out of our house yesterday -- no, we had not given them a key -- so spent the night in a hotel.

But to Rye it was just another adventure.

We called home a lot and just about each time he said, "Hey, Mommy, how was the wedding?" Finally, this morning, I was able to tell him it was nice.

Our weekend away was not as great as I'd hoped it would be, for a number of reasons. One, it rained. Two, the wedding was so fancy I couldn't shake the feeling that I didn't belong. Three, we didn't get to spend as much time with a couple friends as we'd hoped. But that might be just the way things go sometimes.

Highlights: The wedding and reception were both really beautiful. The booze was free. The hotel was just a walkway away, which made getting back afterward simple. The Boulevard brewing company tour was lots of fun (mainly the free beer at the end) and the dive of a restaurant/brewery we went to afterward was as well. One friend is maybe even better than I thought. We slept about 10 hours Friday night and watched grown-up TV all we wanted. The room had Starbucks coffee, and even had the to-go cups you'd get at the actual cafe. I ran on a treadmill again for the rest time in many months. Rye had, I think, a good time without us, which proves again how well-rounded and adjusted he is, even at 3.

And, you know, it was something different, something we don't normally do. And that is often a good thing in and of itself.

Today is our sixth wedding anniversary, but so far Dane hasn't been able to do much but sleep. He had perhaps a little too much wedding fun last night.

That's OK. I feel a lightsaber fight coming on in the living room anyway.

Here are some photos from the weekend:





And this one, just because:

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Wet blankies in the middle of the night

I've been in work mode the last two days. The reason: Dane and I are going on our first ever post-Rye adult vacation on Friday, and before we go, I feel the need to get my ducks in a row, as my mother-in-law would say.

That means: vacuuming, sweeping, laundry, dusting, stocking up on cat food and people food and toothpaste and anything else I might possibly need when we're not even here this weekend.

At work, too, I'm like this. Efficient, quick, even prolific is what I'm aiming for even more this week. The bottom line: I just really really don't want to have work hanging over my head. I don't even want to have to cram it in and be all stressed like I probably will be anyway Thursday afternoon.

So last night, well on my taskmaster way, I washed all of Rye's clothes, including the sheets on his bed and his jammies and his blankie that you can only wash when you sneak it away from him (which means we only wash it about every other week).

And then last night around 2 in the morning, I heard him whimper. And then I heard him open the door to his room and pad down the stairs and through the dark into our room. And then he stood by my bed and said, "Mommy, my pants are wet."

And they were very wet and he was shivering and sad. And I got him cleaned up and changed and then he slept the rest of the night with us.

It was not a big deal at all. And accidents happen to everyone, of course.

But here's the thing: Rye never wets the bed. Like maybe once before.

So. Of course, it happens the very night I give him clean sheets and blankets and even a clean blankie. He had had a bath, too.

I think these things don't just happen.

(Yes, I did wash again today, blankie included).

Friday, September 5, 2008

Rock star drummer

I interviewed a little boy the other day who said he wants to be a rock star drummer when he grows up.

But if that falls through, he said, he'll settle for a veterinarian.

Rye has not yet announced what he wants to be when he grows up. And given his mother's complete lack of musical ability, I wouldn't guess rock star drummer -- or singer or guitarist or anything -- is in the cards for him.

Still, he has recently begun singing along to one song in particular.

He calls it "the Rye song" and he often requests to hear it in my car. Really, it's "Mr. Brightsides" by The Killers.

But it's been nicknamed "the Rye song" because long ago Dane made a movie of video clips of Rye's first 18 months of life set to, you guessed it, "Mr. Brightsides." (Note: I would love to post that video here, but Blogger long ago stopped letting me load videos. Hmph.).

So yesterday I took Rye to daycare and he requested the song.

It started, and he immediately started bobbing his head and singing along.

You can imagine how cute that was.

But, if you know the song, you would also imagine that there's no way he knows all those words, which are sung rather fast.

You would be right. He does not know all the words, but as kids do, he sang them anyway, so that no actual words were coming out of his mouth but rather mumbles and partial words and whatever else he thinks The Killers are saying in that song.

It was pretty great. But I did not laugh out loud. Rather, I listened secretly, smiling to myself as I drove.

When the song was over, he quickly asked me to "Turn the music off please, Mommy." I did, and then he said, "Did you hear me singing?"

"I did, Rye," I said. "I liked it."

And he smiled, content with himself and, I suppose, pondering a possible future career.

(Side note: Rye has two new posts on his blog. They are good. Check them out here.)

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Because I'm a journalist

I am not allowed to write about what's going on in our country right now politically.

Luckily, Heather Armstrong, the mommy blogger of all mommy bloggers, did it for me.

Go here.

It's worth it.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Four friends + a wedding weekend = how things should be more often


One of Dane's best friends got married this weekend.

That basically meant really busy, really fun days starting last Thursday night with a couples bridal shower. Friday night was a rehearsal and dinner, Saturday was the wedding and Sunday was a brunch that somehow stretched all day.

That was the basic plot. But the details were much better than that.

One of the things I really hate about being an adult is that all the close friends we made when we were kids -- and a few from our early to mid-20s, too -- live really far away. So the people who know us best, who get us, who we'd love to have as more permanent parts of our lives, are often nowhere near.

That's why this weekend was as fun as it was. We slept very little (which was compounded when Rye started throwing up at 3:30 Friday morning -- after I'd gone to bed at 2:30), and I drank more than I have in the last couple months.

But it was all OK. Because just hanging out was really fun.

Yesterday's brunch was at the groom's aunt's house, which is tucked away in a northwest Omaha neighborhood that might be as good as it gets in suburbia. Out the backdoor was a lake, a willow tree and a swing. It looked straight out of Dawson's Creek. And I loved it.

We twirled and spun on the swing. We picked overripe vegetables from their garden, we built an ewok village in the sand. Rye got really wet, and even he said, "Well, that's OK."

And it really was.

Here's us right after the wedding (Dane officiated, by the way):


Check out the bug Rye found at the lake:


Dane and his friends:



And this morning, we ran a race. Here's Rye before his half-mile holding the carnation I got after my 5K:

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

"I'm tricking ya"


Watching Rye play Star Wars guys is like watching someone totally in his element. It's like watching a cat lick its face or snow fall outside.

Tiny Lukes and Darth Vaders and Mace Windus and Obi-Wans dance across Daddy's back. They are fighting, and Rye is making the sound he thinks lightsabers would make if they were real.

He is hiding behind a corner of the couch and peeking one guy around. Now, he is making shooting noises, taking out invisible bad guys.

Daddy plays, too, but only sort of. This is Rye's show.

Tonight, he is tricking Mommy by dressing some guys in other guys' clothing.

Each time, he comes up with a guy behind his back and says, "Mommy, what do you think of this guess?" and then he pulls the guy out, a smirk on his face and looks up at me with a mischievous grin.

"It's Luke," I say, just about every time.

Ha-ha! he laughs as he reveals the true identity, screeching the name. "It's Han!" he says or "It's grumpy, naughty guy!" or "It's Obi-Wan Kenobi."

This is great fun.

The initiative he's showing and the creativity and the precociousness and the little personality is just about all I can take.

It keeps going. He's on about guy 15 now. Each time: "Who do you think this guess is?"

And then -- after the reveal -- ""Daddy, let's trick her again" or if he's busy and Daddy is interrupting, "Just a minute, Daddy."

Just now: "You must die you will, Master Yoda." In complete Yoda voice.

This is why people have babies.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

If Saturdays can be perfect


today was close to it.

Why?

Mainly -- the weather. It was perfect. Sunny but not hot. A slight, cool breeze. It's the kind of day that just makes me want to be outside all the time.

We weren't outside all the time today, but we should have been.

Still, it was one of those lazy, relaxing days where nothing really needed to be done. It was the sort of day where I might have laid outside and read a book and taken a nap if I'd wanted to before I became a parent. Instead, Rye played outside in between bouts of Disney movies on TV, I went shopping for a while and then we got takeout Thai. Now, Rye and Daddy are playing hide and seek in the backyard, their voices and laughter floating through the open windows.

Post-party last night, the no-pressure, perfect weather day was just what we needed.

I hope all of you had equally near perfect days.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Scissors? For me?


At the store last night, I stopped in the crayon and marker aisle. Rye's supplies needed refreshing, I'd been thinking.

So he got new washable markers ($1.50), a pack of four paintbrushes (just under $2), children's safety scissors (50 cents) and a pack of ABC flashcards (97 cents).

After I got home and had lugged in the groceries -- mostly pop and water and juice boxes and paper plates and chips for a party we're having tomorrow night -- I called Rye over.

Look what I got for you, I said. It was right before bedtime, but still I wanted to show him.

When he saw the scissors, you would have thought I'd just handed him Luke Skywalker.

Mommy! he said. What did you get for me? Scissors? For me? Can someone please open these for me? RIGHT THIS SECOND.

So I did and we got him a piece of notebook paper. We sat at the kitchen table and Rye got serious.

I showed him how to hold the scissors and how to watch out for the fingers of his other hand that are holding the paper. He did short cuts and quick cuts and little tiny cuts for about 20 minutes until he had cut up the entire piece of paper. Tiny shards of paper littered the floor around him.

After babies learn to walk and talk and use the bathroom by themselves, it's easy to forget that there are still a lot of firsts to come in their little worlds.

But there are.

Cutting with scissors was a first for Rye last night. And it was a fun one. We were both proud.

felines

My sister got new kittens. They are adorable.


Thursday, August 14, 2008

The fate of bad guys

Tonight, in the bath, Rye was playing with "white Luke" and "black Luke." He's given the Luke Skywalker action figures these names based on the color of their clothing.

I was sitting on the side of the bath, with my feet in the tub, and before long both Lukes were fighting on my left leg. They'd start on my knee and then "white Luke" would grab "black Luke" and throw him into the sea below. "White Luke" was bad, Rye said, and on this night "Black Luke" was good.

"Bad guys have to get hurt," Rye said the next time one Luke pushed the other over the edge.

They do? I asked.

He looked at me and furrowed his brow a bit.

"Yeah," he said. The future teenager in him was coming out. Duh, mom.

Huh, I thought. Do bad guys always get hurt? In life, it doesn't seem they do. I can think of plenty of bad guys who just seem to keep being bad.

But in Rye's 3-year-old world, that is just what happens. That's what keeps balance in the galaxy.

And that's an OK thing to believe.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Back to nature



Today was my first Monday back at work after three days off at the beginning of last week.

I'm missing the freedom, the ability to wake up in the morning and say, "OK, what should we do today?"

On Wednesday, Rye and I went to a nature center in eastern Iowa and hiked along a ridge overlooking the Loess Hills. We ran and walked about a mile one way on a trail before winding up in a forested campground where we looked at wildflowers and butterflies and sat on logs. We talked about going camping there sometime, and we planned where to put the tent and what to cook over the campfire.

Rye picked up sticks and played. Outside. Which we don't always do enough.

On the way back to the trailhead, Rye asked me to carry him. And I did. And I tried to look around extra hard, to soak it in just a little bit more.

We were tired and hot when we were done. It felt good.

To get some semblance of that feeling -- just the tiniest bit -- I take my shoes off whenever I can. Especially on days that I have to go to work. I drive barefoot. And I generally go into daycare to get Rye barefoot. And I take them off at my desk whenever I can. No one knows the difference. And it just feels better.

The weather now feels like fall, and oh-so nice with its slight chill and mostly sunny days. It's got me thinking about pumpkins and Halloween already.

Next weekend, we may camp. In the backyard. And that will be better than nothing.

Here are some more pictures from our hike.




Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Premonition


Last night, I dreamed that Rye went potty standing up.

You know, like an actual grown-up man.

I did not share this dream with anyone, nor did Rye and I talk about going potty today any differently than we normally do. Normal, by the way is usually something like this:

Me: Rye, do you have to go potty?

Him: No!

Me: OK ... I just don't want you to go potty in your pants.

Him: I won't go potty in my pants.

This conversation usually happens in the morning. You know, after he's slept 10 hours and obviously has to pee.

Anyway, tonight, he said, "I want to go potty standing up."

Out of the freaking blue.

And then he did it. Just like that. And then, later, before bed, he did it again.

These things don't just happen.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

In our neighborhood


We like Mr. Rogers.

On the days Rye wakes up early, (read: 6:30 a.m. or before), we turn on the PBS show from my youth. Rye always points out the trolley meandering through the toy neighborhood at the beginning, and he always seems mesmerized by Fred Rogers welcoming us into his home.

Dane asked the other day why Mr. Rogers changes from a suit coat to a cardigan. Really, I thought? Well .... just because he does. It's so he can be more comfortable at home, I explained.

Yes, Dane said, but he has a TIE on. Ties = uncomfortable.

I grew a little flustered. I don't know, I conceded, but don't mess with Mr. Rogers.

In September, PBS officials announced earlier this summer, Mr. Rogers Neighborhood will no longer be included in Monday through Friday programming that is given to local stations. While local stations could still choose to air Mr. Rogers, chances are good that they won't. Rather, most markets will get one weekend showing.

Really?

In a time when children squeal over Kung Fu Panda books and Lightning McQeen cars and Handy Manny jammies and all sorts of other manufactured, heavily marketed toys and licensed characters, we need Mr. Rogers. Maybe more than ever. He is a stronghold of sorts for parents concerned about the commercialization bombarding our homes and our lives.

He's also just a really nice guy.

A campaign has been started to save Mr. Rogers. Check it out here. There's also a Facebook group.

I plan to at least send an e-mail to the two PBS stations here. I'll tell them how much I want my child to get to know the man who taught all of us 80s children about sharing and kindness and tolerance and make-believe.

I went to the library two weeks ago to get books for me and Dane. But I secretly hoped they'd have a Mr. Rogers DVD, too. They did, and Rye has asked to watch it just about every day since then. Though I'm thoroughly sick of the Land of Make Believe by now, I'm happy to put this show on for my child.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Summer fun



Yesterday was one of those hot, humid late summer days that seem to go on forever.

Despite the uncomfortable conditions, we played outside a lot. Rye's highlight: the slip 'n' slide.

Even Mommy went down a few times.

Rye and Daddy also tricked out the old swing set with new swings and rock climbing wall handles on the stairs up to the slide. It's amazing how a little bit of time and money really makes something old and worn out much better. That lesson probably applies to other areas of life, too.

I pulled LOTS of weeds. So many that when I closed my eyes that night, I saw weeds. Not exactly the picture I want in my head! I learned, though, that when you pay attention to something, it starts to matter more. This is the case with our yard. With the time spent in it this weekend, I sort of like it more. If that makes any sense.

Here is some of the slip 'n' slide fun:

video

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Lists

My husband is all about lists. Top 10 lists. Top five lists. Greatest of all time lists. Give him a list -- he'll fill it out. And then he'll ask you to fill it out.

Every time.

I am not so much about lists. It's not that I hate them or anything. It's just hard for me to narrow things down to the absolute number one best movie or song or experience of ALL TIME.

But.

Let's try out some lists here every now and then.

Want to?

Here's my list for today, timely thanks to a World-Herald feature of late. They are calling it Music to My Ears. I am going to call it Best Music List Ever.

Favorite song
1. "Mr. Jones" - Counting Crows
2. "Unchained Melody" -- Righteous Brothers
3. Current because it's just too stressful to narrow the rest down: "New Slang" by The Shins

Favorite album
1. "August and Everything After" -- Counting Crows
2. "MTV Unplugged" -- Alanis Morrisette
3. "White Ladder" -- David Gray

Favorite artist, group, band
1. Clay Aiken
2. Counting Crows
3. Maybe Jack Johnson?

Top three concerts
1. Tie: Clay in Appleton, Wisc., summer of 2004, and Clay in Denver, also summer of 2004.
2. Radiohead at Red Rocks, Colo., summer of 2003.
3. I can't pick (see, I'm not very good at lists): James Taylor, U2, Bruce Springsteen, Bon Jovi. They were all good.

Guilty pleasure
1. Well, Clay.
2. New Kids on the Block
3. Pink

OK, obviously rounding out the lists with the third choice stresses me out! Your turn.

Go.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Always tell the truth

I just sort of thought he would live forever.

But Randy Pausch didn't. The man who most of us never knew but knew about died Friday of pancreatic cancer.

But he won't be forgotten.

I meant to write about him here over the weekend, right after he died. But I didn't feel good last week and couldn't muster the energy. Still, that was only part of it. I also just procrastinate writing about things that really matter.

Randy Pausch, if you don't know, delivered his "Last Lecture" at Carnegie Mellon University. Millions have watched the speech on the Internet since then. He also wrote a book.

His message is so simple, yet profound: Never lose that child-like wonder. Tell the truth. Don't forget your dreams.

Live.

Yeah, of course. That's it. Don't worry so much about the things in life we can't control. Accept them. Find peace. And actually live, working with the hand we've been dealt. Why can't we all see it so simply?

Diane Sawyer had an hour-long tribute to Pausch last night. I cried through most of it. There were many scenes with him and his wife, and he looked at her like there was no one else in the world. And then those scenes with his kids. Those were tough to watch. So were the clips of him getting to live out the one childhood dream that had alluded him - playing professional football. ABC sent him to a Pittsburgh Steelers practice and his hero, Hines Ward, threw him pass after pass. He caught every single one.

It was strange to watch, knowing he was already dead. But as Dane pointed out, we are all dying. He was just dying sooner.

I think before he died so many of us just chose to believe that he was going to live forever. Because the idea of someone so inspirational dying was just too tough to think about. Just like we refused to believe Michael Jordan could ever falter as the best basketball player of all time, we didn't want Randy Pausch -- who stared death in the face and laughed at it and was of all things just as happy as ever -- to die.

Now that he has, does it dampen his message a bit? Maybe. But I think people still can -- and will -- cling to the hopefulness that he provided. That absolutely, of course, is his legacy.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

My little blogger


Ahem.

My 3-year-old has a blog.

It is basically all about Star Wars.

Because that is what he really loves.

Yes, he is newly 3. And he can confidently tell you the plot line of the entire saga.

Daddy gets much (by that I mean ALL) of the credit for the blog, which so far has prompted one grandparent to leave a comment in yoda speak. Does it get any better than that? I mean, come on.

Yesterday, Daddy bought something he has never purchased in his life (nor will he ever again, I imagine): a tackle box. But this is not for fishing. No, us vegetarians do not eat animals, let alone kill them. This tackle box was for something much bigger than fish to fry.

It was for Star Wars guys.

And they love their new home. It's amazing how well this tackle box accommodates the how-did-this-collection-get-sooooooo-big since May bundle of Star Wars action figures. The top two tiers -- which have small compartments -- are perfect for light sabers, guns and other small pieces. And Luke, Leia, Darth and crew have plenty of room to hang out in the roomy luggage compartment down below.

Check it out. On Rye's blog.