Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Baby News

I got something exciting in the mail yesterday. It wasn't even just a letter, it was a whole package. I love getting news in the mail, and surprise news is even better. I didn't recognize the return address, but that didn't matter. I slit tape and hurriedly opened the cardboard box. The first thing I found was a letter, and out of polite habit, I read it first before diving into the rest of the box.

"And now, life with baby begins."

I read with an ear-to-ear grin.

"The birth of your baby is one of the most important moments in your life," I continued, as my smile slid into a perplexed expression that took over my entire face.

I stopped reading and let my eyes shift back and forth as I tried to remember whether I might have actually forgotten this most important moment. I hoped that the letter might have some more information, so I kept reading.

"And with the arrival of your little bundle of joy come feedings, and lots of them."

My confusion transformed to complete panic and I threw down the letter, letting newborn maternal instincts resurface. I ran through the house checking under couches and searching through covers on the beds. I opened closets and dumped out the laundry baskets. In each room I ran into one of my three kids, ranging in age from 4-9, and they each queried about what I was looking for.

"Apparently, we just had a baby," I said breathlessly,"...I think maybe I forgot about it, and I guess it might be hungry."

They each shrugged off my ridiculous ranting...as if they were kindof used to it, and I continued with my search. The effort was futile, and after silencing any noise in the house, I sat for a moment to see if I could hear the newborn cries of a hungry baby....nothing.

Then it hit me...maybe the baby was in the box!

I ran back to the counter, where I had left the package, and I quickly opened it. I held my breath as I reached in and discovered the two cans of formula that had been packed inside.

My husband came in as I pulled them out, and he commented, "is there something you're not telling me?"

"I don't think so...Have you seen a baby around here?"

"No" he said tilting his head in curiosity.

"Was I pregnant at all the last nine months and maybe I was just too busy to notice?"

"No, I'm pretty sure I would have caught that one," he said.

"Oh...okay," I said letting the anxious tension fade from my shoulders.

"I guess there must have been some sort of mistake...whew. I knew we were busy, but why in the world would the Similac people spend all that money to send me formula, unless they knew important baby news?"

"There isn't any news... right?" my huband hesitated as he asked.

"No," I hugged him. "Barring any real baby surprises, we are still just a family of five. Except, you know what," I let my arms extend as I leaned away from him, "we are now a family of five armed with a couple cans of formula in case a wandering baby ever actually does show up on the doorstep."

Good news came in the mail yesterday...it was just meant for someone else.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Maintain ICE (In Case of Emergency)

We made an emergency trip to the cabin today. Racing both time and temperature, my husband and I climbed into our snowpants, our sorrels and our hats and gloves so we could save our outdoor rink. It is only the end of January here in Minnesota, and there is entirely too much winter left to give up on skating at the cabin. So we sent the big kids off to school, loaded up our littlest, and drove the hour to the cabin for our workout.

While we strained under the slushy, wet snow,the kind that would turn into rockhard chunks of immovable ice if left unattended, I started thinking (because that was easier than singing through heavy breathing).

Anyway, I thought about how outdoor ice maintenance was a good metaphor for life. There are some parts of maintaining outdoor ice that is in our control, but for ninety percent of ice creation, we are at the mercy of forces much larger than we are. Ice happens at 32 degrees fahrenheit, and there needs to be a stretch of weather cold enough to make the freezing happen. If it gets too cold, the ice will break off in brittle pieces. In order to smooth it out again, you'll need to flood it with a fresh layer of water. If there are drastic changes in air temperature, and the ice you are trying to maintain is on a body of water, you will absolutely end up with a crack or two. If there is a snow storm, you need to shovel and if there is a wet rainy, sleet storm, like what we had all weekend, you may have to make an emergency rescue. And, eventually the sun will warm and the ice will melt...ending the winter fun.

Life lessons on the lake:

Waiting for freezing temperatures....live with patience, if it is worth it, it is worth waiting for.

Brittle ice that is too cold breaks....some things that you work for may not go the way you want, but buck up and do what you need to do to fix it.

Flooding with water to smooth it out...sometimes you just need to get a fresh start, so don't be afraid to start over.

Cracks happen...expect that life will throw you jagged curves and while you are skating, just know that is where you need to jump.

Keep the shovel handy...when you get dumped on, don't spend a whole lot of time looking at it, just move it out of your way, so you can get back to doing what you want to do.

Emergency rescue...sometimes you need to drop everything in the name of something you love.

Ice does melt... so make the most of every day you are given.

I don't ice skate, but everyone else in my family does, and my kids equate winter at the cabin with skating and boot hockey. The outdoor rink that we maintain there is a huge part of our recreational time together, and it is something that keeps them moving and makes them smile.

Stealing from the recently released movie Tooth Fairy "If you love something enough, it is never a waste of time." I don't love outdoor ice, but I do love what it does for our family, so I will never consider my time shoveling and scraping as a waste of time.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Pullin' for Purple

On the eve of arguably the biggest football weekend for Minnesota Vikings fans in nearly a decade, I am sure that it seems appropriate that I would write about the "Purple People Eaters". I am cheering for them this weekend, because any other choice would be disastrous in this house, but the Vikings purple is not the purple to which I am referring.

This week has been an interesting one, in the political arena, and I think it is fair to say that I am officially rooting for purple. I don't think that I am the only person pulling for purple since the presence of independent voters in this country continues to rise. Those of us who are neither red, nor blue, but rather a mix of ideologies from both sides of the fence.

"You have to choose sides!" I can hear the chants of staunch Republicans and dedicated Democrats. "You can't sit there...if you are on the fence you are not really for us and you are not really against us...and I don't know how to yell at you... or with you."

It has gotten so noisy in this country, and it sounds like the noise is only going to increase with next November's election when corporations and unions have free reign to financially support political ads, even attacking ones. It is a cacophony of emotion without objective listeners.

The President of the United States needs to be a purple leader. Picking out the most dominant pigment from blue and red arguments and melding them in a way that they both still recognize their color in the newly created hue of purple. It is not just an attack on the current administration, because we have not had a purple leader in recent history.

We need courage, and I am starting to be more convinced that that courage needs to start on the ground level. That courage looks still and sounds silent. It is not popular to listen. The side with which you are aligned gets uncomfortable when you are not yelling, but rather listening and considering. I may very well choose the quietest candidate in future elections...as long as what they whisper rings true with my principles and beliefs.

People who have known me for a long time, know that this straddling the fence approach to life is not a new one for me. When asked which football team I support, I reply, "I just like football, and I enjoy great games." Even my husband gets frustrated with me when I express my boredom over a Viking blowout. We are a country who loves taking sides, evidenced in every football arena around the country on any given fall Sunday. The problem with taking sides when it comes to legislating this country is that people in blue see people in red as the enemy, and vice versa, and when they are enemies they can hardly work as a team.

I will take sides watching the game this weekend because it is fun to go through the emotional ups and downs of a football game. Plus, it is just that, a game. We need the leaders who are currently taking sides at the political game, as fun as it may be to play, who realize that it is no longer recreational fun when this country needs jobs and healthcare and leadership that listens and doesn't yell.

Laundry Masters Unite

I did it! I actually achieved the seemingly unachievable. I share this accomplishment in hopes that my successes are of encouragement to others out there who have a dream. Never, ever give up.

The laundry is done! I mean all of it…and at the same time.

It has been almost ten years since I had every piece of laundry in our house clean at the same time. Ten years of never-emptying baskets. I got close a couple of times when I thought it was all done, and I would find a straggler sock under one of the kids’ beds. I got over the heartbreak of being so close, so many times, and I had almost resigned myself to the fact that it was never going to happen.
That was until, as if inspired by a greater good, I found the motivation to continue pursuit of my dream.

It started a few weeks ago, and each week I have built up my efficiency. One week I did a load a day, but I quickly realized that there was always a load waiting for me by the end of the day. I tried the Monday laundry day approach, but there was too much going on in the house and the clothes that were folded that day were not put back in drawers until Friday. With the one day of laundry method I was too tired to put all the clothes away at the end of the day and I had piles of dirty laundry waiting for the clean clothes to leave the baskets they occupied. So I was forced to do something drastic…but sometimes crazy works.

I woke up at 4:30 in the morning, armed with a plan and a decision that I was not going to be denied. I went to gather the clothes from everyone’s baskets to put the plan in motion. As soon as everyone was up and ready for school and work, I stripped the beds and sheets and spent the rest of the day washing those things. I put the clothes away as they came out of the dryer and when everyone returned to the house I could not stop the momentum of my goal and I simply took the clothes right from the kids’ arms and legs.

The kids eyes of anxious anticipation was surprising, but I know that they are just too proud to speak. They can’t believe that I would go to all this trouble to keep their clothes clean for them, and it leaves them with awestruck admiration. Nate even tried to call 911… I’m sure to announce the good news that I had accomplished my laundering goals, but I modestly told him, as I wrestled the phone from him, that he need not make such a big deal of it. As the children hid in their rooms, with strict instructions not to touch the sheets or covers, for fear my nearing achievement would be thwarted, I waited for my husband to contribute his threads to the last load. He didn’t seem to have any trouble giving me his clothes, but I think he thought I was after something else. Huh? Go figure.

Anyway, I just finished pulling out everyone’s clothes from the dryer and putting them away. I have bribed the kids to stay without clothing for just a few minutes while I celebrate this victory. I just showered…air drying so that I wouldn’t dirty a towel, and now this celebration can commence.

If you would, could you indulge me for just a moment? Let’s toast a cup of coffee to this grand occasion. I am, admittedly, dressed. It is a clean outfit against my clean skin, and I am shivering with anticipation for this momentous occasion. I am lifting my glass….Won’t you? I am trying hard to contain my enthusiasm…

Oh crap! I just spilled all over myself....

(Side Note: No children were harmed in the fictional creation of this story. They have never gone naked in pursuit of an impossible laundering goal…and, since the arrival of our third child, I have never actually finished the laundry)

Friday, January 15, 2010

Guilty Pleasures

No school for the Franks today and I feel awful about how great the day was. I slept in, under the new comforter and in the warmth of our heated, clean and spacious home. It's not fair that I put our kids out in the backyard to ice skate and sled while I exercised in the basement and listened to music. We took our pick of what food we wanted for lunch and then I dropped Nate off at a friends for a day of tubing, movies and an overnight party. The girls and I had fun shopping, doing crafts, going out to dinner and watching a movie, while my husband rode on the bus with his hockey team for a weekend of games.

I've had trouble today fully enjoying all of it because there is such a spotlight on the devastation in Haiti. I cry watching the images and the only way to make it any better, is to turn off the television. I feel guilty about doing that too, because I feel the same way when I avert my eyes from a homeless beggar on the corner. I help the ways I can from here: donations, packages and prayers, but when catastrophes like this happen, I hate the helplessness. I want to go pick up a boulder and move it out of the way, or comfort a crying baby with a hug and a song. I, of course, can't do that and I can't really stop doing the things that are the great parts of my life either. So I am stuck, and I have to come to terms with this battle.

The hype of the media will eventually fade, and the third world conditions that exist there, and other places in the world, will continue to exist, but not in my living room. I know enough to know that the conditions in Haiti are exasperated by the earthquake, but that it was in pretty dire condition before the quake. Why does it take something that costs so many lives to finally get people moving? Myself included.

At some point, I know I will go back to blissfully living my life without a "real" worry, but maybe I'll take with me more gratitude for my blessings. I'll hold my kids tighter and not take for granted the little things that make my days great. I accept the fact that I cannot effect change on the entire world, but I vow to make a difference in my immediate world. I want to stop averting my eyes when I am forced to see desperation, and I pray for the courage to do something when it needs to be done. That is the point, right?

May God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.

It's that wisdom part that seems troubled right now. I just get mad that I can't change the bad things that happen, and I am hardly of any use to anyone when I let myself get stuck in that anger. I do hope that this weekend and the coming week are full of more positive and funny than dark and desperate, because I am not that great at embracing both at the same time.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Thank God My Dad's in Jail...Again

It is easy to think that that title is a joke, but I assure you that I am legitimately and wholeheartedly thankful that my dad is sitting in the county jail tonight. He has done nothing to me and in all likelihood he has probably not done anything too terrible to anyone else either. My gratitude is not because some awful man has been taken off the streets, but rather that a frail, unhealthy and stubborn man has a warm room and three square meals a day...plus he can't get to any alcohol.

Don't get me wrong, I wish more than anything that he were well enough that jail wasn't the better alternative, but that just isn't the case. The worse alternative is living on the fourth floor of a sketchy hotel when he can hardly walk. The worse alternative is having a choice to use the little money he has in his pocket to buy alcohol instead of food. The worse alternative is worrying that he'll fall down outside and freeze to death overnight.

It is sad and tragic and a reason to be overcome with negative emotions, and I am probably going to have to seek help to figure out why I can't help but to laugh about how ridiculous all of this still is to me.

I should explain that my dad has battled alcoholism for nearly 30 years. There have been days and weeks and months of sobriety, but for the most part, he has shuffled from VA hospitals, to shady apartments, to park benches, to emergency rooms, to jail cells, to sketchy hotels, to nursing homes and sometimes back to places he has already been. It is unbelievable to me that addiction can be so consuming, but I've seen firsthand what alcohol diminishes and what sobriety can reinstate.

My dad was put into guardianship of my uncle when it became apparent that he could not take care of himself. When sobriety cleared his brain, the brilliant lawyer in him realized that he could fight for his rights, and he won. The guardianship was revoked and he was free to live on his own again. It didn't take long for the alcohol to cloud his judgment enough to land him back into a guardianship, but this time it was that same uncle accompanied by two more of his brothers, and me. The four of us were co-guardians for time enough that he got sober. The sober lawyer took us all to court, and the guardianship was revoked...again. There was a third guardianship put in place by the state, and the poor social worker assigned my dad's case was not quite prepared for the fight she would have on her hands when he sobered up enough to take her to court and regain his independence, for a third time.

So it is no wonder that no one took on guardianship last year when he was found on death's door in one of his shady hotel rooms. We all knew what would eventually happen when he got sober again, and we've learned the hard way that we can't win the fight.

So,my brother, along with my uncles (one who is ex-SWAT and has a pulse on the police beat, and the other, a retired surgeon, who has an in with the emergency rooms)and the third brother who was the original guardian, take turns checking in on my dad and encouraging food and better living conditions. That's all the family has been legally allowed to do. Those of us who live far away from my dad, well, we sit praying that he'll just get locked up somewhere. At least when he is locked up, we know where he is and we know that he's safe.

So, if anyone has suggestions about what can be done with an aging alcoholic who tests at genius level when sober and will fight your pants off if you try to help him...I know an entire family who is amazingly still willing to try anything.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Remembering the Past...And Needing to Retire

I am a field trip nerd...

The bench rattled beneath me as the lightning and thunder crashed outside the little window on the wall. Terrifying sounds of wood splintering and glass breaking happened in the small, dark space that was filled with five kids and two adults.

Haley and I sat through a tornado today. It wasn't actually a tornado, it was a tornado simulator that was supposed to recreate what it would have been like to be in an F4 tornado in Fridley, Minnesota in 1965. It was a tornado that really happened and the voices telling the story were real survivors of that storm. Haley screamed, and I hoped to God I would never have to actually endure a storm like that.

That room wasn't the only room in the Minnesota History Center that changed my perspective today. We walked through the Greatest Generation Exhibit, and I got excited when I recognized knick-knacks and appliances that resembled those of my grandparents'. I wanted to stand and read every photo description and story, but I was in charge of 2nd and 3rd graders who didn't have the attention span that I did. We whizzed through the Ben Franklin exhibit, where I got to see his REAL bi-focals, the chess set that he REALLY played with, and a whole host of other things that I am sure are really cool, but I didn't have time to investigate. There was a playroom that was the big grain elevator...something I knew nothing about, until today. And there was the celebration of the 150 years that Minnesota has been a state. We ran from place to place. Aside from the loud and energetic class groups that walked through the exhibits today, the other visitors were likely members of that Greatest Generation.

It was then and there that I decided that I need to retire. There are truly too many places I want to go and things I want to see, and if I don't retire by the end of next year, I will never see all of it. My bucket list is already too long to complete, and I am looking for a get-rich-quick scheme so I can feed my field trip addiction. I know I can go as a chaperone to places like the History Center and I should probably tell you: Nate's class goes next week, and guess who is chaperoning? That's right...yours truly!

Friday, January 8, 2010

And the Wanna-Be-A-Good-Mom Award goes to...

I want to win, so this is my fair warning to all other potential applicants. This is a new, totally made-up and completely irrelevant contest to see who is the most inept, seasoned mother who really tries, but who often falls short of "Mom of the Year." Think of it like the Darwin Award... without the unfortunate, untimely death of the winner.

I had one of those days today where I caught myself posing like a mom, but when I looked harder realized that I wasn't doing that great of a job. Like when I was holding my four-year-old by her ankle and lowering her down the back of the dryer so she could retrieve some clothes that had fallen there. She brilliantly requested to have herself turned around so she could grab them with her feet.

Or, when I was so happy about the hour and a half I spent ironing the patches on the Brownie vest and after double, triple and quadruple checking the troop number, ironed them on in the wrong order. For any other moms who ever do this, they can be melted off and re-ironed.

My resume', for those of you thinking that you may have what it takes to outdo me, extends much further than today. Like yesterday when I took the kids to the local Great Clips to get their haircuts. My girls, my beautiful girls, who are stuck with a mom who doesn't even comb her own hair, took off their hats to the horrified looks of the hairstylists. Both girls looked like they had just stuck a fork in the electric socket and, having survived the jolt, retained every particle of energy in their hair.

"Do you condition your hair?" One of the stylists asked Haley, as I cringed for her honest response. "How about brushing it?" I thought to myself that I have requested that she do that... at least a couple times.

Let's just say that we walked out of the salon with tamed hair and a bag filled with about $40 of moisturizing shampoo and conditioner. I guess it wasn't just a winter thing.

It really is unfair to my girls, and I guess my heavily-haired boy too, that I don't really care about hair. I mean, I do care about it, and I enjoy having it on my head, but even after spending a ton of money on my own, it ends up in a hat or pony tail anyway. That is why I have vowed to NEVER-EVER-UNDER-ANY-CIRCUMSTANCES-CUT-KIANA'S BANGS AGAIN. She is the one pictured, and that is what her hair looked like TWO months after I tried to be a good mom.

So, that most definitely will put me in the running for Best Wanna-Be-A-Good-Mom of the Year. The absolutely defining moment of my parenting prowess, however, came over Thanksgiving break. Kiana, who is now thankfully wiping herself, had told me, as usual, that she was going to the bathroom and that she wanted me to come help her. I got to visiting and got entirely caught up in a totally unimportant conversation, when I heard a blood-curdling scream from the bathroom. She had probably been in there, on the pot, for nearly 15 minutes, and I never heard her cries for help. You may call that abuse and neglect, but I call it tough love...and now she doesn't even need my help any more.

***Don't worry...we save simultaneously for college and counseling, and as confident as I am in winning this contest, I do truly try to be a good mom.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Signs, Signs Everywhere are Signs

I almost stepped on a crow the other day. A cawing crow was sitting outside on the sidewalk and completely ignored the fact that I was walking straight at it. It finally flew up to the fence, but that couldn't have been a good sign right? I wondered what he might have been trying to tell me...

"Careful!! It's icy!"

"Hey...do you know where I can find some food?"

Who knows how black crows got a bad rap, but I took it as a sign of warning. Just after seeing the crow, I ran into someone with whom I have had an incredibly strained relationship. We both pretended that everything was fine and that our last conversation, that was so, so, soooo uncomfortable, really didn't happen. That was what the crow was trying to tell me.

"Watch out! It's coming!!"

It worked out fine, but right after my surface conversation ended, I knew immediately that the crow had prepared part of my psyche for the chance encounter. I was grateful and a little weirded out.

Then, that same day, I was scheduled to go to a local coffee shop and bakery, and I was already thinking I was fated for something with a visit there. I should probably tell you what happened to make me think that the visit was going to be more than just lunch.

Over New Year's Eve weekend, I drove from our cabin into town to get some work done on campus. I stopped at my favorite coffee shop, Cravings, only to discover that it was closed down. I was so sad and of course worried about an impending headache, but I got my work done quickly enough to get back to the cabin before my caffeine addiction caused me any trouble. New Year's Eve, I was talking with a friend who had come over for the evening, and I was talking about how my favorite coffee shop had closed.

"I don't want to go to the big chain coffee place...it is not buckaroonies. Where do I get coffee now?" I asked her...she is local and I commute.

"Oh, there are a couple places. There is that little kiosk that, I think, has the best coffee in town."

"I'll have to try that. I've heard it's good."

"Oh, there is the Golden Leaf Cafe' too, have you heard of that?"

Actually, I had. I noticed the building on one of my drives through town and I was struck by how cute the outside was and how creative the name sounded. It had been a blip on my radar, but it was on the side of town that I rarely visit.

That was the end of my coffee house investigation, or so I thought.

Sunday, January 3 I was coaching the soccer clinic that we run on Sundays in the winter, and at the end of the clinic, one of the moms, who is also a friend of mine, came up to me carrying a business card.

She handed it to me and said, "Hey, I just stopped by this place while you were doing the clinic, and I had mentioned where I was, so she asked me to give you her card. I don't know her, but she is hoping to maybe do a promotional deal for the kids, if you're interested."

I looked down at the card and it said: Golden Leaf Cafe. I couldn't believe it. Yes, it is a small town, and it is not really that big of a deal, but I tend to read in a lot to coincidental events.

I took the card and every part of me became interested in visiting this place that had been the topic of discussion twice in three days. So that is how I ended up scheduling a lunch at the Golden Leaf Cafe.

Driving from campus to the cafe, I passed the newspaper office where I had worked for five months. It was a short stint, but a memorable and important one for my writing. I thought about pulling into the parking lot to visit my editor, but remembered that I had some actual work to do on campus, so I pressed on to the cafe so I could get my lunch.

As I pulled into the parking spot at the cafe, I noticed in the window a pair of women talking. I recognized one of them immediately...it was the editor from the paper where I had worked. I jumped out of the car, interrupted their conversation briefly to hug her and we talked quickly about the progress of my book and life with my three kids. It is always great to see people with whom you will always connect, no matter how much time and life can separate you.

Sauntering up to the counter, to order my lunch, I am struck by the creative energy in this place. There is a small area for gifts, a menu of feel-good items that includes scones, cookies, pasties, paninis and a long list of teas and coffees. I order some tea and a pasty, introduce myself to the owner and find a seat near a window. I am browsing through a magazine when Elena, the owner, pulls up a chair to talk about the options for promotion with the camp.

The entire time we are talking, I cannot help thinking how perfect this place is, and how the space seems just right for hosting a book reading tea party. We finish our conversation about the soccer clinics, and I move the discussion to whether they ever host events.

She gets me out of my chair and shows me to a back room that is in the preparation stage for events such as mine. We are standing in the room, and everything about it feels right. Then, seemingly out of the blue, Elena starts talking about how things used to be in her native Ecuador.

"Every day at 4 o'clock, you were welcome in anyone's home for tea. There would be a long table filled with delicious pastries and the women would gather to drink tea and to talk. It was the gossip talk about who was sleeping with whom and who was having affairs. Us girls would quietly sip our drinks and nibble on our treats. We dare not say anything because if we did the women would scold with a finger and say, 'I was not talking to you.' So if we wanted to get the gossip, we stayed quiet and just listened."

I am floored and fascinated by this description. I asked about whether men were ever present and she told me that the women didn't work, so the 4:00 tea was women and children, but the men would gather at their place of work for a 4:00 coffee break.

The Golden Leaf is a perfect place! For six years I have periodically attempted to recreate a tradition that I feel is slowly disappearing. With the research for my book, I brought women together for "tea parties". I was tired of getting together with other women under the stipulation that I buy something at the direct sales parties. I wanted just to get together to talk, and the success of the parties tells me that I am not the only one who feels that way. Women rarely gather just to gather, and it is not a good thing.

I will be back at the Golden Leaf Cafe, and I hope to set up a couple tea party readings this spring. I realize that everything that happened to me that day could be purely coincidence, and I could be seeing what I want to see, but if seeing what I want to see makes me feel like I am in the right place at the right time, I will continue looking for signs with my jaded glasses.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

No Sweat

Anyone who knows us knows that we are arguably one of the most competitive families around. My husband and I are both college coaches, and all three of our kids are incredibly active. We schedule most of our lives around game and practice schedules, and for the most part I think it is a fabulous way to spend our family time, and all of our money.

I have been extremely excited for our youngest to get into the mix like her siblings. She has been chomping at the bit for probably two years and I just know she is going to love competing as much as the rest of us do. There have been small signs of her passion for sport...like the time she hauled off and slashed Nate in a family hockey game in the basement. She got a penalty for that one. Or...there was that time that she hit Nate across the face in the backseat of the car because I told her she was going to take a nap when we got home.

"I know, Nate...I will wait until you are out of arm's reach next time."

Oh, and then there was the time that she ran full speed across the room and tackled Nate to the ground at his knees. It was a brilliant take-down. Cataloging her track record I think I'll encourage Nate to wear his hockey gear when he is just hanging around the house.

There are also the multiple times through the day that I see Kiana running around the downstairs loop: entryway, kitchen, playroom, entryway, kitchen, playroom...Sometimes she has a ball on her foot, and sometimes she is timing herself while she counts out loud. I should stop her to tell her that there is a number between 15 and 17, but I think her teachers will be better equipped to pass that information along.

Ki loves gymnastics, and in an effort to save some of our sport money, we enrolled her in a little less rigorous program this winter. It is not as intensive and if she were any other kid, she would be thrilled just to be hanging out with her pal who is also enrolled. Oh no! Not our Kiana. She has commented on more than one occasion that she cannot do somersaults at this gymnastics and she wants to go back to the place where she could "jump to the sky on the tramp-o-thing!"

The first soccer camp she attended took place at the indoor bubble in Stillwater, MN. She was in her shinguards for four hours before the practice was supposed to start and seemed happy the entire time, but when it was over she came storming off the pitch with that crazed look in her eyes.

"What's wrong Kiana?"

"We didn't even have a game with goals! I hate this soccer." I started immediately drafting the letter of apology to the first opponents she might face in whatever sport catches her fancy.

With all of my kids, I hope they find a sport that suits their personalities and their gifts, and I don't think I am too far off with my assessment when I say I think she would make a heck of a hockey player. She likes to hit, she likes to go fast, she is not afraid of falling, and then the heads of her opponents are already helmetted. That has to be a little less liability for us right?

She is around hockey a lot, and she has been on skates for a couple years now, but she always gets pretty frustrated that she can't keep up. She is getting much more proficient at skating, and our last outing on the ice she sprinted from one side to the other, only stopping at a bank of snow on the other side. She has never really wanted to slowly take on anything, and I know she will seem much less angry at the world when she can channel some of her aggression in the positive sporting arena.

In his perfectly presented parental encouragement, my husband suggested that Kiana might like to try playing hockey, like her sister and brother.

"Oh no dad. I'm going to play figure skating, because I don't like to sweat!"