Saturday, November 29, 2008


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.


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.