Sunday, December 18, 2011


Today Kooka was the "angel candle reader" in the church Christmas program. She was so beautiful, and the way she smiled and waved to Yoda when she heard her calling for big sister, was my favorite moment of the whole thing.

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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

spin doctors

It sounded like a snake oil sales pitch -

"Ten spins on our amazing spin board and your baby will be walking the line better than Johnny Cash . . ."

Whatever.  I didn't think it would work.

I am surprised (and a little weirded out) to say - it did.

Yoda's gross motor skills have always been a little slow. It wasn't concerning me much, because she has a decent vocabulary, can identify half of the alphabet, and understands almost everything we say to her, but still the not walking was getting old.

At her 15 month check up, Dr. M, suggested we see a physical therapist for an assessment.  

I had been, and knew that it had value for me, but I couldn't help wondering, how they intended to get Yoda on a treadmill, or working resistance bands, or doing anything at all for that matter.  So it was with some reluctance that I packed our toddler up for her "not covered by our insurance" meeting with the therapist.

Walking into the pediatric clinic was not reassuring - it was nearly an exact replica of our basement: fold-out gym mats, a giant exercise ball, scooters, stuffed animals.  What did this place have that we didn't?


Yoda's therapist massaged her little toes to loosen the muscles, spun her this way and that, goaded her through tunnels, and helped her push a shopping cart so she could get food for her baby doll. That night she called with an assessment.

She was up to 4 months behind in her physical development.  Not off the charts - she was still in the "normal range" - but barely. We were given a high powered sit and spin, instructions for daily massages, and permission to wrestle until she turned green.

So we did.

Every day I spin her. She loves it.  We massage baby toes - and her baby feet are starting to loosen up.  She walks now - all over the place.  She rights herself, and gets up on her own. She lets go of our hands and explores the store aisles, and the windows at the zoo. 

She is so happy and much less frustrated.

I still don't know exactly why this worked - but it did. She still has flat arches, which will not benefit her ballet career, but I figure we'll just focus on honing her tap dance skills instead.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

quick update

It feels like eons since I posted - and it probably has been.

Here are some quick updates:

* pro: after only 6 months Kooka got her braces off, and her teeth look amazing. con: she needs to have baby teeth pulled to make room for the new ones, or we may have to start all over.

* While Punk and Kooka spent Thanksgiving weekend with their dad, Rico Yoda and I flew to New York for our first holiday with Rico's family. They were welcoming, and sweet. Yoda was most thankful for the bling bestowed upon her by her aunt - she's been wearing it for nearly a week straight.
 *The next day was spent in Connecticut, where we hung out with Yoda's biggest sister Leah. Rico also took me to Cheshire, which is where he lived when we first met.  We checked out his house, met a few friends, took a walk on his favorite path, and ate some amazing bagels.
* We had one more stop, before we headed back to MN  - a stop at Rico's boyhood home.  We met up with two of our favorite people - Eric and Stef, for a tour of Flushing, NY. Rico had a chance to sit on his old stoop with one of his best friends, we tried two NY pizzas (tastes like Sabbarro to me), and three Italian ices (which were absolutely, hands down, the best thing I have eaten in years).

*The ride home was uneventful, except for the fact that the pilot kept pointing out the fact that the radar was predicting bumpy weather.  he was right - but being a nervous flier, I don't want to think about radar, or instrument panels, or anything like that.  I want to imagine that somebody is below my plane shouting "wingardium levi-o-sa" at teh top of their lungs, until we are safely back in MN - home of Pizza Hut - which is (don't tell Rico) the way pizza is SUPPOSED to taste.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

all i want for Christmas

We started our Christmas season the same way we always do: a trip to the mall for a picture with Santa, followed by a few hours of red-kettle bell ringing for the Salvation Army.

As soon as the Christmas season starts, the planning and questions do too:

"When will we get the tree?"
"What part will I have in the Sunday School program?"
"When can we make cheese balls?"
"What are you wishing for?"

This year, I was pretty clear with the big kids.

What I really want this year is for them to do something nice for somebody - anybody at all, write it down on a piece of paper, wrap it up, and put it underneath the tree. What I really want this year is to know that I am raising, thoughtful, well-intentioned people, who will help the world be a better place.

I think I am.
I hope I am.
But having the proof wrapped up in a little box, sure would be nice.

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Thursday, November 17, 2011


I am pretty sickened that stores are opening on Thanksgiving day.  I do not intend to partake.  I hope you won't either. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


I always meant to post this little snippet from our summer roadtrip. I love Kooka's commentary, but it's pretty tough to take my eyes off of the background.

physical therapy

Today Yoda went to physical therapy.  She has what doctors like to call "delayed gross motor skills" and what her mother likes to call "a case of spoiled-rotten-itis".

Actually "rotten" isn't quite fair - she's a sweet kid, full of hugs, kisses and giggles.  She'll give you a bite of her cookie, wait her turn for the slide, and shares better than any other kid in her mom-n-me class.  So, I'll recant the "rotten" - but not the rest.

According to the professionals, she just has slightly low muscle tone in her quads, but is still completely in the realm of normal for her age (especially since the PT estimated she could have been born as much as 3 weeks premature). I still contend that our family's "always on the go" lifestyle, means this kid gets picked up and carried way too much.

Regardless, at the end of physical therapy today (I didn't even know it was possible to get a baby to do squats - let alone 3 reps of 5), she pulled off this astounding feat, and the whole family was there to help her celebrate:

Saturday, November 5, 2011

why i love halloween

Halloween has always been a big family event.  Costumes are planned months in advance, the front yard decked out with gravestones and lights, fog machines rolling, hot cider and guests until 10 even on a school night - it's a big deal.

This year, as I rambled through the neighborhood with the girls (Punk was out with his own posse), I started wondering why I love this holiday.  I couldn't come up with one good reason, but I can up with a list why this year's was particularly fantastic.

1) The weather was amazing. October in Minnesota is unpredictable, but this year, the weather was perfect.  Chilly enough to be autumn, but not so cold the kids had to wear jackets over their killer costumes.

2) The bazillion kids that come to our house.  Rainman Rico did the math - we passed out over a thousand pieces of candy (and we only gave 1 or two per kid!)

3) Our good friend Alisa was here. She had "just stopped by for a bit" but ended up staying for the mad rush of trick or treaters.  She cracks us up and makes everything more fun.

4) Bonfire in the backyard.

5) My new secret cider recipe.

6) the best part for Punk and Kooka was having both of their parents and step-dad here with them.  Dad airbrushing Punk's face, Rico cooking, Mom doing makeup and hair. Everybody having cider. It meant the world to the kids.

7) Savoring the last of the neighborhood hoopla, before the snow packs us in for the winter.

8) Yoda keeping her spider suit on most of the night.

9) White-chocolate-ghosty pretzel sticks.


Friday, October 28, 2011


We allow ourselves about 2 nights of junky TV a month.  Last week, it was Kooka and I snuggled on the couch, when we ran across an episode of Ghost Hunters.

The three guys and two mediums were exploring the Lizzie Borden house, at 2am.

I told Kooka we should turn the channel.  She begged me not to, and instead got me talking about the history of the place, and the trial, and before I knew it, 15 minutes had passed, and there was no way for me to take back what she'd already seen.

It was some scary-@$$ stuff.  Drawers moving, unearthly voices that were clearly screaming "Tell her about the girl."  "Lizzie did it." 

Nevermind that after Blairwitch, nobody believes any of this documentary style stuff anyway. Still, I told her it was time to shut this off.  It was NOT appropriate bedtime viewing.  What kind of mom lets her 9 year old watch this freak show this late at night? She rolled her eyes and assured me she was fine. (Punk on the other hand, took one look at the screen, looked disgusted at both of us, and bolted back upstairs).

So the show ends, Kooka goes into her dark room to sleep alone, calls out "goodnight mom."


I spent the entire night with a light on, holding Rico's hand and swearing there was somebody (or something) in my closet.

I TOLD her it was inappropriate bedtime viewing.

new game

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


As Punk prepares to go on a three day camping trip with the entire 7th grade, I say to him.

"I expect that you will behave exceptionally, and that I will not get any phone calls telling me you've done something you shouldn't."

Him:  "Of course you won't Mom. . . . they don't have phones up there."

Monday, October 24, 2011

Thorncrest farm

We love to go to Thorncrest farm to pick our pumpkins. Kooka is the pickiest pumpkin picker. Punk loves the animals. Rico loves the novelty of it all. I love the family that owns the place. And Yoda, loved it all.

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Thursday, October 13, 2011


I often think about the amount of stuff in our house.

I hate stuff.

Wait - I take that back.  I love stuff, everybody loves stuff. BUT, I hate too much stuff; I hate unnecessary stuff; I hate stuff that comes wrapped in three layers of plastic and two layers of cardboard; I hate stuff that clutters the closets and the counters and the foot of the bed.

I am constantly trying to get rid of things - which is funny, because people are constantly trying to give me things.  This is tricky for me, because try as I might, I can't seem to find the right words to say,  "Listen honey, I have trouble enough organizing the 4 mixing bowls that I allow myself to own, so while I appreciate you thinking of me while at the Kohl's 17-hour sale, I really don't need any beaded throw pillows, tangerine/musk ox shower gel, or 8 mint-in-the-box monogrammed handkercheifs." (Especially when the monogram is an F.)

I must look like some sort of "crap" magnet - because I seem to attract more stuff than I know what to do with.  And lest you think I sound ungrateful, I assure you - I'm not. It's just that too much stuff in the house stresses me out.  We love the generosity of our friends and family, but I'm just not getting why somebody buys pomegranate/goat-urine hand lotion in the first place - and why they think I need a bottle.

But I digress.

I make monthly trips to the Goodwill in an attempt to divest myself of the suffocating mound of clothes these kids seem to outgrow. Usually, I buy new things there as well - shirts for Yoda, snow boots for the big kids, jeans, sweatshirts - whatever.  And the other day, as I was looking around the house, I realized that Rico and I have furnished this entire house with almost entirely used stuff.  Everything from Craigslist, to Goodwill, to random things the old landlord said we could keep.  Even our new bedroom is almost 100% totally, completely recycled - which feels really good.  I sleep a little better knowing I didn't dump a bunch of packaging into a landfill, or import even more crud from a Chinese sweatshop. I'm not sure how environmentally sound the paint is . . . but seriously, we all have our limits.


one more time (and this time I mean it)

We really do have a life.

It doesn't seem like it from these lame blog postings - but it's true.  I intend to write about the reading hour and breathing room, and the things we inherited . . . but not until I finish this stupid logo.

Obviously I just was not happy with the purple one, or I would have posted it on the art in motion website.  So I retooled it a bit  - and I think this is finally, really, truly, probably it.



Friday, October 7, 2011


Yoda lost both of her grandmothers last night.  One 34 years ago, and the other has been gone just hours.

It would be easy to sit here and ruminate - to be upset for everything that she will never have, so instead, while Rico is in Florida (he made it just in time to say goodbye), Yoda and I will go celebrate Grandmas.  I will take her to the library and read her as many books as she wants, let her eat extra cookies, rock her a little longer at naptime, play peek-a-boo instead of folding the laundry. 

Today I will love her in all of the ways they want to - and never could.

Monday, October 3, 2011

one more time

OK - I think this is close . . . the guy is heads up, and the color is different.  Please tell me what you think, so I can finish this and get back to my life . . . .

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

more help

Thanks for the input on the logo.  I've rearranged it - but haven't had time to put it up yet (class is going well, but keeps us busy).  Next question is color - Kooka likes purple, but says we could also leave it red.  Punk likes red. Rico is color blind.  Yoda licks the screen. And I am convinced taht my opinion does not matter nearly as much as the people who will keep seeing it.

What do you guys think - options on the table are: red, turquoise, purple, and possibly a very vibrant yellow.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

new logo

New logo for the new studio is on the right.

Like it?
Loathe it?
Please tell me before I spent any money actually using it.

Friday, September 16, 2011


It's been strictly madness since school started . . .

 - My new dance studio opens this week.
 - Rico started his new job teaching at the college.
 - Kooka is keeping up with 4th grade homework, dance and piano lessons.
 - Punk has joined the school news team, where he anchored the morning announcements and actually signed off today in his best Porky Pig voice -  "That's all folks."
- Yoda started ECFE classes, is doling out kisses like crazy, and can say "more" "water" "dada" "up" "woof" and "yeah, yeah yeah". My left bicep is a testament to the fact that she still hasn't figured out to walk.

I wish there was more time to write. But there is barely time to think. Yoda is a needy kid, and when she naps, it is time for homework with Punk and Kooka. By the time we climb into bed, I have hardly seen Rico and we are both exhausted.  I hope it gets better soon.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


In Punk's school planner, it says that every child is entitled to a free public education. 

Why then, have I dropped over $400 in school and field trip fees in under a week?

WTH is free about that? 

Homeschooling was a notebook, a pencil, and a library card.  Total cost 86 cents.  If we splurged for annual memberships to the zoo, and science museum, as well as art class - it was still under 200 bucks. Grrrrrrr.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

first day

I hate the first day of school. Hate the way that the whole neighborhood goes deadly silent from 8 to 3; hate the 6 am wake-up call; hate that Punk and Kooka all but disappear from my daily routine.

One child was very much looking forward to the first day. The other not so much. Bet you can't tell from the picture who's who - but if you've ever met them, you know.

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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

home again, home again, jiggety jig

We're home again - safe and sound (well, safe at least).  And no, I didn't write anything about the last day, because after 4 long road trips, I have surmised that there is nothing to write about between here and Cedar Rapids, Iowa. That is not an exaggeration - it is fact. The only thing that kept me from throwing myself out of the moving vehicle was the knowledge that Punk would eat the last of the licorice and Rico would have to deal with the ramifications of that all on his own.

I think the rest of our road trips will necessitate flying over the "corn basket" and parachuting directly into a rental car.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

the great american road trip take 3 - owensboro to st. louis

Rico and I ate fried chicken in Kentucky last night - we had to - it just seemed like the right thing to do. Of course, we pulled into the hotel late, it was from a chain (Zaxby's) and it was dipped in so much butter that we probably took a few months off of our lives. Then again, road-tripping like this has probably done the same thing.

We left Owensboro, Kentucky and made for St. Louis again. We had promised a stop at the City Museum. Yoda Nika's godfather, Bob told us about it, and her godsister told Punk that it was "the coolest thing he'd ever do." So of course, it was all we heard about from the minute we set off.

Alison knows her stuff. This place is like a giant, hand-sculpted, fully recycled, super-dangerous, how-the-hell-did-they-get-insurance, Chuck-E-Cheese. There were climbing tubes in the ceiling (with lead pipes right at forehead level), a 10-story-slide with nothing but a rickety fire escape to get you up all 10-stories, tunnels that led to god-knows-where and wire contraptions hanging over the balconies so you can climb down three floors if you feel like it - or simply slide your leg right through and FALL down three floors if you feel like it.

The museum is the work of an artist who purchased a warehouse, and used nearly 100% recycled materials to create the world's coolest jungle gym. The wristband says "use common sense - City Museum takes no responsibility for injuries you may incur." No kidding. Punk took a lead pipe to the head, Yoda fell through a hole under a tree (and I mean Riki-Tiki-Tembo fell - she was IN the hole - thank god there was a way out and she found it), Kooka flat out refused to go down some of the slides, but had no trouble scaling up a three story slinky.

Having said all of that - we hated to leave. It was the world's largest playground, and there simply isn't enough time to write about it tonight - but you really should check it out.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

the great american road trip take 3 - charleston, knoxville, mammoth cave, owensboro

A day late and a dollar short - that's how today feels.

I missed yesterday - mostly because we spent so much time on the road. (It took us 2 hours to get through a 20 mile section of the Smokey Mountains, because we were following a triple-long semi carrying a long-range-ballistic missile - yeah we saw it, and yeah we all freaked out.)

Despite the long drive (and the 'holy crap' feeling of following a nuclear warhead down a winding mountain road) there were some nice stops along the way:
*A roadside peach shop, where we ate fresh South Carolina peaches, cider, bread and salsa. The kids were amazed to discover what a real peach tastes like.
* A sidetrip to Asheville, North Carolina, which I loved nearly as much as Savannah, Georgia. We stopped at the Woolworth's Walk - which had been converted into a funky artesian shop. The old soda fountain was still in full swing, and we stopped at the counter to share a chocolate egg cream.
* We camped at a Red Roof Inn outside of Knoxville, Tennesse, where we had our 5th pizza of this trip.

Today was more eventful.

After a 3 hour drive in the backwoods of Tennessee and Kentucky, we arrived at Mammoth Caves National Park. We all agreed that the short tour would be plenty for us (especially since no strollers are allowed, and we knew we'd have to trade off carrying Yoda the entire hike). After our tour, we all agreed that it wasn't enough (despite the fact that Yoda fell asleep in her carrier and I had to carry her myself the whole time). The portion of the cave we saw was unbelievably HUGE. The tour was peppered with just enough cool history and creepy facts to keep everyone wanting more. But the best part was when the guide turned off all of the walking trail lights and we were immersed in complete darkness and total silence. It was one of the strangest sensations we'd ever experienced.

Almost three hours later, we pulled into our hotel in Owensboro, Kentucky.

Tomorrow we head back to St. Louis and The City Museum. the kids have been waiting for this museum since the day we embarked on this journey. We better catch some Zzzzs.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

the great american road trip take 3 - charleston

Soaking up a bit of the old South was on our list, so we decided to spent 2 days in Charleston, South Carolina. We had breakfast at the hotel, before heading to Boone Hall plantation in nearby Mount Pleasant.

After touring the mansion (the same one used in the movies The Notebook and The North and The South), we toured the slave cabins, where up up 16 people lived at once. Kooka seemed to be the most taken with this side trip, wondering how people could live in such opulence, at the expense of others. She noticed the receipt for a bag of sugar, a teapot and one Negro girl. We were all quietly scanning the advertisements for slave sales which listed the name, age and attributes of each human being. (Jane, age 14, house girl, bad leg).

Punk got up to leave shortly after the Gullah speaker gave a pointed look at both kids and announced that most people wanted to buy slaves between the ages of 9 and 14, because children were easier to break. Kooka listened to the rest of the talk, while Punk headed down to the cotton docks to be alone with his thoughts, and about a thousand crabs scuttling across the rocks.

Nobody could shake the deep sense of history after this, so after a quick lunch at Chik-fil-a for lunch, and a walk through the City Market, we pressed on.

We drove past the Slave Mart - a sobering visit to one of the only places left in the U.S. where slaves were actually bought and sold. We were all pretty quiet as we pulled away.

Next we headed to the Old Provost and Dungeon, which held pirates before they swung from the gallows. The animatronic pirates looked Disney-esque (circa 1964), and were more distracting than informative. And while the dungeon was creepy the third floor was beautiful, and we all had fun dancing on the exact same floor that George Washington waltzed upon during a visit to Charleston.

Dinnertime was spent at the Early Bird Diner. Homemade meatloaf, fried-green-tomato sandwiches, cheesy mashed potatoes, buckwheat pancakes and home style mac and cheese.

A swim in the pool, packing up for tomorrow, and bedtime for everyone.
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Monday, August 22, 2011

the great american road trip take 3 - savannah to charleston

There were so many good things that happened today. There is really no time to write - but here is the top ten list:

1) Waking up to giant pretzels for breakfast. Punk slept with his so the rest of us wouldn't eat it.

2) A trip to Savannah's Candy Kitchen, where the choices were astounding: candied apples as big as Yoda's head, fresh pralines, gellato, fudge, and warm saltwater taffy - delivered to the barrel in some rube-golbric/willy wonka like contraption, that not only pulled the taffy, but twisted it, wrapped it, lifted it to the ceiling, and sent it over our heads into the next room, where it dropped neatly into a little tin bucket ala ever-lasting-gobstoppers.

3) Another stop at Ellis Park Fountains, where the four big kids got drenched.

4) A walk around Mercer house. (read Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil - just do it).

5) A slow drive through Bonaventure cemetery. Even punk declared it "beautiful" - and he has a tendency to call things like this "creepy".

6) A drive on the backroads heading to Charleston, including stop at the sweetest little roadside shop, where they gave free samples of everything, including Georgia Peach cider, deep fried peanuts, bene cakes, glazed pecans, pickled garlic, and fresh blueberry jam. We bought a small pecan pie and shared it in the car.

7) An afternoon dip in the pool at our hotel - the Best Western Sweetgrass Inn. Surprisingly charming, with wonderful hospitality.

8) Dinner at Andolini's pizzeria. The pie was gigantic, and even Rico (who's incredibly picky about his pizza), proclaimed it to be "good". Punk and Kooka loved it as well, but christened Rico a blasphemer when he told them it was better than Casey's.

9) A short drive through Charleston at night.

10) A stop at the Piggly Wiggly, where of course there is a pig photo-op as you walk in the door.

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