Saturday, June 30, 2012

Guess What?

Just about everything Connor says lately begins with "Guess what?"  Most of the time, he uses this phrase to make sure that he has your attention.  You're not expected to actually guess what he's going to say but you do have to verbally acknowledge that you are listening to him.  "What?" is usually the acceptable answer.  Also acceptable is the ever-popular "chicken butt", though that is known to lead to a tangent of silliness.

On our way home today, Connor started to feel the effects of a full day of summer activities.  After a few yawns, the boy's brain started bouncing from one topic to another, firing off "guess whats" left and right.  It's his way of talking through the tired.  Here's a sampling of our car ride's conversation:

"Guess what?"


"There's something in my body that's tickling me. Guess what?"


"Every day, everyone's phone is wrong. Guess what?"


"Nobody ever dies on Mercury. Guess what?"


"Snow melts but snowflakes don't."

By the time we got home, I was tired enough for the both of us.  Trying to wrap my brain around these statements and how he comes up with this stuff is exhausting.  Guess what?  zzzzzzzz

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Hair Today...Gone Tomorrow

Right now, Cara is in Colorado visiting Craig's parents. She went home with them after our trip to South Dakota and we'll pick her up when we go back to SD over the July 4th holiday.

Throughout her visit, her grandfather has been taking pictures of Cara and texting them to me.  It's been a great way to "share" her adventure with her.
They hit the ground shopping. 
Not pictured: Grandpa holding the purses.
Helping to earn her keep by picking cherries.
They turned the play yard into a water slide.
On a side but related note, Cara has been planning on donating her hair to Locks of Love for over a year now. Now that it's long enough, it's just a matter of her picking a new hair style and getting it cut. During one of our phone conversations during her Colorado stay, Cara said that she and Grandma had been talking about finally getting her hair cut. She wanted the cut to be a surprise, so she was going to wear her new hat (that she got on one of those many shopping trips) with her hair tucked in it so that I couldn't tell when she had it done.
The 80s have returned and they've landed in a retail store near you.
Another day, another trip with the chapeau.
And then, I got this text....
What an amazing gift!
I texted her Grandpa to make sure that she was still excited about the idea of the new cut now that there was no turning back.  He assured me that the excitement level was still peaking.

About an hour later, I got a phone call.  She was done with her haircut and LOVED it.  She couldn't wait to show us her new hair.  I told her to prove it and send a picture.  No go.  I worked a little harder, explaining that seeing it in person was still going to be a surprise, so she could just send me a sneak peek.  Nothing.  She really was sticking to her "surprise" guns.   

So, now I have to wait about a week to see my child and her awesome new look.  Momma doesn't do well with waiting for surprises. Cara knows this which, I am sure, is adding to her love of this adventure.  I will be counting down the days until the big reveal and working on her every day until then by phone.


Thursday, June 21, 2012

Punny Girl

I was chatting to Cara on the phone while driving to the store today.  I mentioned that these guys that were walking were in my way.

Cara: "If you hit them with your car and they die, you'll turn them into superheroes."

Me: "Huh?"

Cara: "Yeah, killing them will turn them into superheroes."

Me: "?????????"

Cara: "They'll be ex-men."

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Five Year Checkup

Today the boy and I went to see his pediatrician for his five year checkup.  We were met by the nurse that we've had ever since Connor was first born.  Mindy.  She's the sweetest thing with the thickest Minnesota accent.  We adore this gal.

Mindy checked his height (just under 45 inches) and his weight (just north of 36 pounds) and then proceeded to the vision and hearing screening.

Now, I've needed corrective lenses of some kind since I was about nine years old.  My husband still doesn't wear any.  So, whenever either one of my children get their vision tested, I always keep my fingers crossed.
Daddy's genes were the winner today.
Then, on to the hearing test. The machine they used on Connor today looked like it was the same one they used in my elementary school days with one main exception. In "the olden days", we'd have to raise our hand to signify if we heard the electronic beep. Right hand if we heard it in our right ear. Left hand if we heard it in our left. This machine had an awesome Jeopardy buzzer that Connor got to press any time he heard the beep. I was a little jealous. I would have so cleaned up during the Audio Daily Double.
The test confirms that he DOES hear us. He just ACTS like he doesn't.
When our doctor enters, she does the routine checkup. Checks his reflexes. Looks in his eyes, ears, and throat. Checks out the white patch of hair he developed since his last checkup. She asks Connor what he likes to do for fun. He was a little too quick to answer "play the Wii", but I guess it's a sign that he's not coached, right?

The doctor then sits down to put all of her examination notes into the computer and she then shows me Connor's height and weight on those growth charts. While he's in the 50th percentile for height, he's only in the 16th for weight.

She turns to Connor and asks, "Do you like ice cream?"  My internal mommy dialogue sounds a little like this, "Good God, woman! Don't ask him that unless you plan to give him some!" followed by "Why would you ask that question without talking to me first?"

After he answered an emphatic YES, she turns to me and says, "A little ice cream before bedtime might be good for him. I normally have to tell parents to cut back on calories but in his case, he seems to be burning most of his. A smoothie or ice cream or something like that after lunch or before bed might be in order."

No wonder my kids love their pediatrician. I would too if I got doctor's orders to eat ice cream.

After the doctor had left, I let him know that it was now time for shots, something I had prepared him for the night before. I said that I was very sorry that he had to have shots and he assured me, "It's okay, Mommy. It helps get rid of bad stuff in my body." I have no idea who provided him these pearls of wisdom, but hearing my little boy trying to comfort me when it was his stick legs that were about to get punctured three times in a row brought me that much closer to tears.

Three Snoopy Band Aids for two stick legs.
There were tears. Not all of them were his. He was extremely brave and only needed about three minutes before he was ready to go choose a sticker. I took a little longer to mentally gain my composure.

Before we get to the sticker counter, Connor pulls me down by my arm so that he can whisper in my ear, "Can I get one for Cara, too?" Mommy's composure after I answered that question? Gone. As stubborn and argumentative and frustrating as this boy can be, it's his huge heart and compassion that keep us from selling him on Ebay.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Adventures on the Farm - Day 2

Day two on the farm was full of fun and adventure.  If they weren't following Uncle Duane, they were taking turns leading the others around.  They the whole day running and playing and having a total blast.

There were animals to watch...
The farm cat got a special treat.

Uncle Duane teaches the kids about gopher anatomy. Connor wanted no part of this demonstration.
Farm equipment to ride...
Cara actually got to drive this. She liked the air conditioned tractor better, though.
Craig even got a turn on the four wheeler. 
Uncle Travis took Collin for a spin on the riding lawn mower.
Things to climb...
Cara got to look in the silo full of feed corn. 
Cara and Aidan loved scaling the hay bales.
And cousins to play with...
Adventures of the Blue Shirts.
They didn't take too kindly to me sneaking up and taking their picture. 
This time, Connor's in the lead.
We celebrated Connor's and Collin's birthdays. Each boy claimed their piece with their fingers.
Oh yeah.  They're related.
As the evening approached, the kids were still in good spirits and still looking for adventures.  Uncle Duane started a campfire with the help of some very eager children and we all roasted marshmallows.  When the novelty of the marshmallows wore off, the kids were all given hammers (yes, hammers) so that they could assemble some better seats for themselves.
One of the only times we saw Duane sitting down the whole day.
It finally started to get dark and that was our cue to head back to the hotel for the night.  It's always hard to say goodbye to the farm, but after over ten straight hours, even the idea of leaving couldn't wipe the smiles off of the kids' faces.
Already planning her next visit.

Adventures on the Farm - Day 1

Last weekend, the whole family took a trip to Mitchell, South Dakota to meet up with some of Craig's family and spend some time on his great-uncle's farm. The kids and I have been to the farm a few times in the past few years, but this was Craig's first time back since he was much younger. Craig has plenty of farm stories that should have been enough motivation for me to keep my kids way far away from this farm. But there's just something about this place that feels exciting and new and familiar and comfortable all at the same time.

Within moments of arriving, all 4 kids were following Uncle Duane around as though he was the Pied Piper. My daughter, having been to the farm the most, knows that, if you want to have an adventure, he's the one to stick by. He took them to see the cows and told them about how they feed and care for these animals.
Fence sitters...and the exception.
After checking out the cattle, Duane took the kids to the old dairy barn. It hasn't been used in years, which is clear by its appearance and only adds to the adventure.

Who can tell what mysteries await them inside the barn?
Uncle Duane and the four cousins head into the dairy barn.
Not pictured: The Pied Piper's flute

A hole in the roof of the dairy barn.

Duane lifts Aidan up to see what's in the nest.
"Yeah. That's a dead bird," he states, matter-of-factly.
To the kids' surprise, the bird was not actually dead but was very much alive
and had a lot to say about being removed from his nest.
Connor was the only one of the four that would touch the bird.
I wonder if this further changed his view on having one as a pet.
At home, I tell my kids not to pick up bird feathers because of the diseases that could be on them. At the farm, my children touch WHOLE BIRDS! While I do not consider myself a helicopter mom, I am protective. In some ways, I am sure my protectiveness has sheltered my kids in ways that aren't always positive. But on the farm, that all melts away.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Balancing Act

In my daily life, I often fluctuate between being lazy and having OCD.  On days when laziness wins, things like Wearing a Swimsuit Under a Dress Because I Don't Feel Like Putting On a Bra happen.  On days when the OCD rules, I start organizing books on the bookshelf by height, grouped by author, and further grouped by title.  Then there are days when both of my tendencies fight it out.

Yesterday was one of those.

I had a hankering for something that tasted like Oreos, but didn't actually want to purchase Oreos at the store (lazy).  I looked on my favorite recipe site and spent about as much time searching for what I was looking for as it would take to go to the store and come back. Twice.  Searching for an Oreo recipe that didn't include Oreos as an ingredient is like trying to ask someone for a Kleenex without using the word Kleenex.  Wait. There's a way to do that?  I could just say "tissue"? Wow.  

After figuring out that "chocolate sandwich cookie" is code for Oreo, I was headed in the right direction.  I found this recipe  for Soft Chocolate Cookies.  Based on the reviews (another reason I love that site), I knew I had a winner.  The only variation to this recipe that I made was to roll the balls of dough in sugar and to press them with the palm of my hand on to the cookie sheet.

Once the cookies were made, I whipped up a quick batch of buttercream frosting, matched up the cookies according to size (OCD), and added a creamy center.
Voila! Homemade Oreos, I mean, chocolate sandwich cookies.
They were much softer than Oreos and, the best part about them? I didn't have to go to the store to buy them. Just thinking about them now makes me drool. Pass the Kleenex  tissue.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Welcome, Summer!

Today is the first official day of summer for my two children, a fact that each child feels differently about.

Cara calls summer "bittersweet".  The sweet part would be sleeping in, swimming, no homework, summer camps, and trips to visit family. The bitter part is that she misses seeing her friends every day and honestly misses the routine of school.  I love how, even going into fifth grade, my daughter still  enjoys and looks forward to school.

Connor, on the other hand, declared without prompting, "I'm glad school is over. I don't want to see my teacher and have her tell me things I don't want to hear."  Translated, that means his teacher is doing her job well, keeping him on task and preventing him from spending the whole day socializing with his best friend.  (Although I haven't confirmed this yet, I am fairly sure his teacher is glad that school is over, too.)

We have a very full summer ahead of us.  By the end of August, Cara will be chomping at the bit to get back to class.  Connor, on the other hand, will probably have a long debate with us about how he has learned everything in his school and doesn't need to go back.  I am going to need these next three months just to rest up for that argument.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Crazy Hair Day

Each year, on the last day of school, Cara's school has Field Day as well as Crazy Hair Day.  In previous years, we've gone fairly tame with the crazy hair, opting for multiple ponytails or a wig or colored hair spray.

I asked Cara what she wanted to do with her locks this year and she said that she wanted to have her hair sticking out, Longstockings-style, but not exactly like Pippi.  Okay.  We can do that.

Side note: I am fairly competitive, a fact that I was in denial of for MANY years.  My competitive nature has come out in the weirdest times.  Like with phone app games. (Curse you, sister-in-law's sister who continually beats me in Scramble with Friends!)  I don't have to even know the person that I'm competing with (multiplayer Solitaire, anyone?) nor does that person need to know that I'm competing with them.  

So, Cara and I took to Google and entered "crazy hair day", amazed at some of the hairdos we found.  After I saw this picture, I mentally had someone hold my purse, took off my shoes and earrings and said, "Oh, it is so ON!"

We had practiced the do a few days ago, using various types of wire (thanks, basement remodeling project for leaving us wire to play with!) to get her hair to stand up. Nothing worked satisfactorily until we came up with the pipe cleaner idea.  After a trip to Michaels with my 20% off coupon (NEVER go to Michaels without going here first), we picked up the pipe cleaners, googly eyes, and wooden fish.  
We hot glued the fish to some of the higher-gauged wire we had and the googly eyes to pipe cleaners.  
The night before, we divided Cara's hair up into the sections we'd need for the next day so that we didn't have to wake up so early the next morning.
She could have gone to school like this and it would have been crazy enough.
I had dreams all night about Cara's hair.  It was variations of her having taken this pre-Hair Day hair down in the night and having to do all of it from the beginning, having overslept and leaving us with not enough prep time, and her deciding that she really didn't want to do this after all.  

Friday morning finally came. Like Christmas.  We were so excited to see if we could get her hair to turn out like we both had pictured it would.  

I began by wrapping each ponytail with about 5 pipe cleaners each, making them malleable enough to make any shape and sturdy enough to hold the weight of her hair in that shape.  Once that was done, I took the top rectangular section and wrapped it around an open hair clip, much like you would with a sponge roller.  I affixed the clip to the base of that section of hair and then poofed the curled section so there was a bit of height (think Snookie).

We then went outside with our colored hair spray and, when I saw that the spray matched the pipe cleaners  perfectly, I almost shed an OCD tear. We sprayed the poof and the sections surrounding it with the purple and waited for it to dry before we began attaching the fish and the googly eyes.

I was so excited with how her hair turned out that I had to Facebook the picture right away. (Yes, I'm aware that I used Facebook as a verb. Yes, I know it really isn't.) 

She's crazy octopus head. Give her some candy!
Reminds me of the "starving brain sucker" jokes from grade school. Minus the starving part.
So, next year's Crazy Hair Day is going to be even awesomer.  (Yeah, red squiggly lines. Awesomer is not a word but I'm going to use it anyway. Watch me not backspace!)  Next year, we'll be competing with ourselves.  We are so gonna win!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Corrode-y to the Max

At Cara's school, homework isn't introduced until their fourth year.  As a fourth grader, her homework is assigned Wednesday and is due the following Wednesday.  This assignment usually consists of reading a story and writing a small essay in her journal about what she had read.  Nothing too terrifying.  

Little did we know that Cara had been harboring anxiety about having to do homework from the first through third grade.  The panic that this three year build-up produced closely resembled a Pavlovian experiment.  During her first few weeks of homework, I could literally hold up her assignment sheet and Cara would break into tears.  When I tucked the paper away, the tears would subside.

We tried a lot of different techniques to get the weekly assignments to be less stressful.  I've gotten all kinds of frustrated with my child throughout the school year, having tried bribing, threatening, and just plain leaving her alone to get her homework done each week.  Further into the school year, the Pavlovian reaction about the homework subsided and really the only obstacle was in getting her to just do the work.  No clue where she got the whole procrastination gene. *cough* both sides of the family *cough*    

A couple of months ago, Cara's class started working on their individual science experiments that each child would present at their Science Fair.  Cara's original idea "I want to make stuff rust" had to be refined into a testable hypothesis and backed up by research.  For this assignment, I nominated Craig to assist.  Partly because he's much better at the science stuff.  And partly (read: mostly) because there were A LOT of due dates connected with this assignment. I was plum tuckered out from being the one shooting smoke out of her ears when it was the night before a due date and nothing had been done.

Craig worked with Cara and they got a workable hypothesis and experiment set up.  I helped with the purchasing of materials (because I can handle the job of shopping) and stepped in here and there to make sure she was still on track, but, for the most part, I tried to stay out of it. I had told myself that I would take a back seat and let the results be her own, whether it was success or failure. 

With the Science Fair date quickly approaching, I was very nervous that Cara wouldn't have all of her work completed.  There were due dates coming and going and, other than a quick reminder that they were coming up, I left Cara alone to do what she thought that she needed to do.  Since most of her final work was to be done at school, I had no clue how her project had turned out.

Last Thursday was the moment of truth.  The Upper Elementary Science Fair.  

I walked into the Science Fair with my camera in hand.  Cara was set up in the middle of the gym, so I got to browse the experiments of many of her classmates.  I was impressed with the amount of work that had to have gone into each of these experiments.  I wondered if Cara's display would give other parents that same thought.
She was explaining her experiment to another parent when I approached.
This is the cover of her report. I adore the meticulously-cut letters in the word "rusty".
The only way she could have been more proud would be if she was me.
 Her report looked amazing and I do believe that the other parents were just as impressed with my child's work as I was with theirs.

Cara has come a long way this school year.  It has been such a joy to watch her grow and mature.  From the Pavlovian tears to the confident, "I've got this, Mom" attitude towards homework.  We still need to tackle procrastination. Maybe we'll work on that next year.  

Friday, June 1, 2012

Happy 5th Birthday, Connor

I wanted to do a nice, retrospective post in honor of Connor's birthday, but we've been busy today celebrating. Instead, I am just going to post the photo collages that I sent with Connor to school today for his classroom birthday celebration.  I think it gives a nice perspective of how much he has grown, but it also shows just how much he's always been "Connor".  To go with the photos, here are some quotes from the kids over the past five years.
With the the birth of her new baby brother approaching, we were explaining to Cara the difference between how boys and girls play. We said, "Boys like to wrestle and play rougher than girls." To that, Cara replied, "I like cats."
After Connor was born, I reminded Cara that her suggestions for her brother's name were Fred and Junior. I then asked her, "What would you name the baby if we decided to have another one?" Immediately she answered, "Pain."
Connor: "Can I scare Cara?"
Me: "No, that's not nice."
Connor: "Is it funny?"
Craig told Connor to do something and Connor refused. Craig gave him the warning that, if Connor didn't do it, Craig would make him. Still no compliance. So, Craig began counting. When he reached the number two, Connor, with his body shaking in fury, says, "I will DESTROY YOU!!!"
Connor:  "I'm gonna put something in my pants.  Wanna come with me?"
Happy birthday to the most hilarious, stubborn, argumentative, brilliant, goofy, compassionate, imaginative five year old boy I've ever known.  I am so proud to call you my son. Except for when you're being a donkey in public. Then you're Daddy's kid.


Many years ago, before Craig and I were married, my mother-in-law said, "You can't get a Bortnem male to do something that they don't want to do." When she said this, my immediate reaction was, "Well, you just didn't try hard enough."  It only took me eleven years of marriage and five years of living with TWO Bortnem boys to realize that she was right.

Today is the 11th anniversary of the day that the older Bortnem boy and I got married (which he had to have wanted to do, given his mother's previous advice).  What I remember most about that day  was trying to get through our vows without laughing.  Not that the vows were particularly funny, mind you.  You know my propensity for laughing at inappropriate times?  Well, couple that with the fact that our Judge's name was Philip D Bush (say it out loud....wait for it....yep, that really was his name) and I can tell you that there were a few explosive giggles during our short ceremony.

Flash forward exactly six years later and the bigger Bortnem and I are in the hospital, getting ready to give birth to a junior Bortnem.  Laughing.  This time, it wasn't the fact that I shouldn't be laughing that was contributing to the lightened mood.  We genuinely had fun when Connor was born.  My midwife, the head nurse, Craig and I  were laughing so much that I actually said, "Delivery isn't supposed to be this much fun."

When we talked about how long we've been together a few months ago, I got nostalgic and a little mushy and said, "I love you, Craig."  To that he responded, " your baked goods."  Eleven years later and that Bortnem boy still makes me laugh.  But only because he wants to.