Round Beads in the Nose: A Full Circle Moment

It seems that I’ve passed on a genetic predisposition to shove beads in one’s nose. Don’t ask why. I can’t explain it.

A few weeks ago, I had one of those full circle moments as a parent. At bedtime, I tucked in my three-year-old son, and very plainly told him to stay put until morning. About ten minutes later, he crept out of his bedroom and into the hall.

“What are you doing?” I whispered in my accusing, angry voice.

He timidly whispered back, “I want you to get these out of my nose.” And in the darkened hallway, I saw his little nostrils flared wide with a colorful pony bead wedged in each nostril.

Exhibit A: A shiny round pony bead.  Perfect for making into necklaces, bracelets, and ideally sized for a preschooler's nose.

Exhibit A: A shiny round pony bead. Perfect for making into necklaces, bracelets, and ideally sized for a preschooler’s nose.

In my head I screamed, but on the outside I was all calm business. I placed my fingers high on the outside of his nose and made a swiping pass down, and the bead on the right side popped out. The bead on the left side remained. It was a toughie, but at least it was visible.

We went into the bathroom for more light, and with a little finagling, I hooked my fingernail onto the bead and pulled it out. Then I asked how many beads he put in there. “Two.” I arched his head back like a Pez dispenser to point his nostrils into the light to confirm his statement. It checked out. He was in the clear.

After that we had a little conversation. I played the responsible, concerned parent. I painted a very grim picture of the dangers of shoving beads in one’s nose. Such dangers included (but were not limited to) trips to the emergency room, large probes held by doctors, suffocation, and death.

I used my low, quiet, deadly serious voice. He listened with big blue eyes staring at me from behind his curly eye lashes. I believe the message sunk in, but time will tell.

And then I sent him back to bed, airways unobstructed.

All in all, I can’t say I’m surprised. This little boy’s eternal quest is to figure out how to make round pegs fit in square holes. He is his engineer father’s son, the little boy who rigs up three makeshift tow straps to pull all varieties of things behind his trike (including his sister on her ride-on car).

He’s forever creating contraptions. One of my favorites is a “fishing pole” he procured from a Lincoln log, a length of ribbon, a full roll of Scotch tape, and a bolt snap hook.

So, a few beads in the nose? Not so very surprising. He saw two cylindrical beads, and his sleepy builder’s mind created the connection that his nostrils looked roughly the same size. Apparently, the first bead went in with success. Having a second nostril available, he saw his project through to completion.

Exhibit B: One highly experimental three-year-old.  Excels in finding new and creative uses for ordinary objects.

Exhibit B: One highly experimental three-year-old. Excels in finding new and creative uses for ordinary objects.

Oh yes, I’m also not surprised because, well, I did the same thing as a preschooler. Except I ONLY put beads in one nostril.

And that little serious speech I gave about the dangers of beads in noses? Stolen straight from my mother.

In my head, however, we had an entirely different sort of conversation. That’s the place where the responsible parent gets to play out all of the less responsible reactions to predicaments like beads in the nose at bedtime.

“I know! You just see those colorful things and want to shove them in your nose?! I don’t know why either, but I get it. I did the exact same thing when I was your age! Ha ha ha! Oh wow, I was in big trouble. You’ll outgrow it soon. I did.”

All of those over-used parenting phrases also popped into my head, “Wait until you have kids,” “What goes around comes around,” “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” You get the picture.

Circle back about thirty years, and I clearly remember sitting on the pink carpet of my bedroom, playing with the mustard-colored Tupperware container full of beads. I believe I had the light off because I wasn’t supposed to have those beads in my room in the first place. It was during my crafting era of making everyone “beautiful” plastic bead necklaces strung on dental floss.

I sifted the beads through my fingers. And as I felt them, I just had the irresistible urge to put them in my nose. The first one I put in came out easily, but the next time (or two) I wasn’t as lucky. It was not my greatest preschool experiment.

Mom was not pleased one bit to find beads wedged in my nose. I heard a lecture about dangers including (but not limited to) trips to the emergency room, large probes held by doctors, suffocation, and death.

The lecture worked. I resisted poking things in my nose from then on. I do recall a time or two when I held a bead or a pea up to my nostril, um, just checking for size. But fearing the anger of my mom and an ER trip, my self-control won out.

So, there you have it. I was one of those kids that wanted to shove things in my nose. And I still turned into a fairly respectable adult. I never developed a snorting habit with strong substances or anything sinister like that. Nope, I just resisted the inexplicable urge, and then soon enough, the urge faded away. Hopefully the lecture does the trick for my three-year-old, too.

Someday when he gets a little older, big enough to fully appreciate the irony and humor of it all, I’ll tell him how I, too, once shoved beads in my nose.

You are just like your mom! Someday, you’ll probably fish beads out of your own child’s nose, too.

Then, give your child Grandma’s lecture.

Full circle.


The Beauty of a Snow Day (I Just Hope Winter is Almost Over)

Via my seven-year-old daughter, I relived that delicious, wonderful freedom of an unexpected day off.  Ah, the glorious power of mother nature.

Written March 2013

Hello again, everyone!  I’m happy to be writing again after taking some time off during the winter doldrums.  Right now the knee-deep snow in our yard suggests that winter may never end, but I’m not fooled.  Winter, you are on the way out, old man.  Longer evenings, more daylight…  Spring really is on the way, and I am so excited.

In the time while I’ve been off “on vacation,” busy life continued.  Here are a few of the highlights of our life during the interim:

Leaving Tennessee: My brother and his family moved from Tennessee back to our hometown in Minnesota.  They happened to move in on the coldest night of the year.  Our extended family turned out in big numbers to help, unloading two packed-full trailers in -25 wind chills.  Frigid weather, but lots of family…welcome to Minnesota, y’all!  Amazingly, that makes three of us siblings (and our families) moving back to MN from other states in one year’s time.

Leaving Iowa: I am an ACTRESS!  Well, kind of.  I performed in my very first play, “Leaving Iowa,” with the Lanesboro Community Theatre.  For that brief time, I was Jessie, the overly talkative waitress with a little attitude.

Jessie the Waitress. Photo by Pete Keith of Laneboro Community Theater.

Jessie the Waitress.   Photo by Pete Keith of Lanesboro Community Theater.

I had a blast.

I always secretly wanted to be in a play in high school, but I didn’t have the guts to try out.  I’m so thankful for community theater which makes it “never too late” to try something new.  I’m also thankful for meeting such a fun group of people in the cast and crew.  About ten of the 26 cast members were first time actors, so I got to experience the thrill (and butterflies) of the new experience right alongside many of my fellow cast members.

Truthfully, just walking into the audition almost took more guts than what I thought I had, but I am so thankful I summoned up the courage to do it.  I felt butterflies in my stomach for the first time in perhaps years, and I’m thankful for that, too.  I know I’m still alive and kicking.

Living in Minnesota: Most recently, what’s on my mind is the joy of a good, old-fashioned snow day. I realize a snow day for many parents means a stressful scrambling to figure out alternative plans while kids have no school and parents still need to head to work.  In that regard, I’m grateful for a work day that occurs right in our home.  Snow days just mean our two school age kids are home to play all day with our two younger children.

I will admit, though, on a recent snow day, I didn’t exactly start out the day with jolly good cheer.

Just before 6 AM, I checked online and then left a note in the bathroom for our kids announcing the two-hour school delay.  I headed back to bed hoping for a few more minutes of sleep after a restless night.  I got up for the day at 8:00, after a rare morning of sleeping in.  (Ten years ago, I never would have called 8 AM “sleeping in,” but my perspective has changed a bit.) And still, I was exhausted and crabby.  Four rambunctious kids, housebound in a snowstorm, didn’t sound very appealing.  I was not exactly in fine parenting mode, that I know.

However, I unexpectedly came downstairs to find hot coffee, a homemade quiche, AND a cherry pie, baked in the oven by my husband, Jarred, and his four willing helpers.  Warm food, good coffee, and kids so excited to surprise me jump-started my attitude adjustment.

After breakfast I checked school closings again online and discovered school switched from delayed to the big “C.”  CLOSED.

I beckoned my first grader to come upstairs and read the announcement on the computer screen.  She double-checked with me to be sure.  Then she was gone.

A few seconds later, I heard the rapid thuds of excited steps down the stairs and the triumphant yell: “NO SCHOOOOOL!!”

In an instant, my surly attitude evaporated.

I was a kid again, sitting in front of the radio listening to school closings.  I was pondering the likelihood of a cancellation, weighing the odds by the number and proximity of the other school closings.  “Ooh, good! Dover-Eyota’s cancelled!!  That HAS to mean we’re closed, too!” I remember the agonizing wait for the announcer to work down to the “S” portion of the list.  “St. Ansgar, closed! They’re always closed, so that doesn’t count.  But ooh, we’re next!”  And finally, the words I longed to hear, “St. Charles, closed!”

Via my seven-year-old daughter, I relived that delicious, wonderful freedom of an unexpected day off.  Ah, the glorious power of mother nature.  A big whopper of a storm, so powerful that even school didn’t stand a chance.  The joy of a full day to relish and squander greedily.  A snow day is indeed glorious.

The decibel level of my kids told me that they felt just as excited as I did when I was little.  One of the best things about being a parent is getting to see that some things never change.

Just before lunch, the snow ended and I poked my head outside.  Inside was mess, melee, and noise.  Outside, the world was silent and bright with deep, powdery snow on the windless day.  It reminded me of Bozeman, Montana, where I went to college.  Bozeman is nestled in a sheltering valley between mountain ranges, so time after time I saw a gentle snowfall pile up six inches of powdery snow, followed by a bright, windless, pleasant winter day.  It was a Bozeman kind of day.

Riding on a sled over knee deep snow.

Riding on a sled over knee deep snow.

I rounded up the kids and we headed outside into the powdery goodness.  I remember that as a little kid, the snow always seemed so deep.  Looking at our 23-month-old wading in snow over her knees, it suddenly made sense why the snow used to be so much deeper when I was young.

The kids meandered through the yard, playing on the snow-covered wood pile and pulling each other around in the sled.  They slid down the only hill in our yard: the piled mound of plowed snow.  Fluffy with new snow on top, with a frozen sheet of ice covering hard-packed snow beneath, the mound is just right for sliding and MN-style surfing.

Building a secret fort in the wood pile.

Building a secret fort in the wood pile.

I pushed our kids in the tree swings, their feet kicking up sprays of white powder with every arc.  Under a big snow-covered oak tree, watching smoke curl up from the wood burner, surrounded in a powdery quiet blanket interrupted only by the sound of kids in play, all felt right with the world.


Eventually, we headed inside and heated up some leftovers for lunch. And for dessert, snow cream.

Snow cream is a simple ice cream-like delicacy that I never heard of in all my snowy Minnesotan upbringing.  Ironically, I learned about the treat from my North Carolinian roommate in college, who had a giddy excitement over snow the first year we both went to Montana State.  The fresh powder from a new snowfall is ideal snow for making snow cream.

Ice cream made from snow.

Ice cream made from snow.

bowl of snow–6-8 cups
1/2-3/4 cup cream or milk
4 T. sugar
1 t. vanilla

Stir together until it looks like soft serve ice cream, and eat immediately!  I provided measurements for people who like exactness, but in all honesty, I don’t measure anything.  I just sprinkle sugar, drizzle in cream, add a dash of vanilla and then stir and tweak as needed.  Chocolate syrup is also a great addition.

So, if we happen to get yet another snowfall this March, take some of that four-letter “s” word, and go make yourself something yummy.  Enjoy!

Booby Traps, Sparklers and Ten New Year’s Countdowns

Nothing says “welcome, make yourselves at home” like a loud explosion in your face when you need to use the bathroom.  

Now that we’re a good halfway into January, I feel like I’m finally ready for the new year.  The round of sickness that plagued our house over Christmas vacation seems to be done.  (Although I hesitate to say things like that, because it sometimes comes back to haunt me.)

It turns out I won the game of “It Strep or Is It a Virus.”  My mommy senses predicted correctly and we got a lovely bottle of pink amoxicillin for my six-year-old as our prize.  A few days after starting antibiotics she finally started perking up.  Now she’s back to her normal self, dancing around the house while singing random songs and correcting her younger siblings about the proper way to do things.

We rang in the New Year at our house with several of my brothers and sisters and their families.  It was sort of an impromptu affair.  My sister from Rochester helped make the night with a heroic last-minute venture to three stores to find noise makers and shiny hats for the occasion.

Kids and even a few adults helped decorate our dining room by coloring "2013" signs.

Kids and even a few adults helped decorate our dining room by coloring “2013” signs.

Something about the New Year festivities sparked a memory in my husband that he had a box of fireworks out in his shop.  Two years ago, in Montana, we sold fireworks at our gas station.  What remained of those were the relatively safe (or boring, depending on your perspective) sparklers and exploding booby traps.  Yep, we had a hundred sparklers and approximately 800 (not a typo) of those exploding things on strings.  You know the kind.  Pull on each end of the string, and in the middle, the little skinny tube of something slightly explosive suddenly goes BANG!

Hearing an exploding booby trap again brought back a flood of memories (or maybe I should say “flashbacks”) from childhood.  Thanks to my brother, we grew up with booby traps tied on the bathroom and bedroom doors, hooked onto the old-fashioned hook and eye latches.  The door opened a few inches, just enough to make you think all is normal, and then POW!  An explosion, right at eye level, right when you need to pee.

And coincidentally, just before most guests arrived, my husband installed a new hook and eye latch on the door of our downstairs bathroom.  Then he quietly rigged up the bathroom with a booby trap.  We forgot about it until my niece opened the bathroom door.  BANG!  It was a total surprise, so mission accomplished, sort of.  I was hoping it would’ve been one of my brothers, but booby traps aren’t selective.

That’s our level of skill as hosts–a little hospitality mixed with a little juvenile delinquency.  While we did finally install a lock so people could comfortably use the bathroom without fear of someone accidentally walking in on them, I believe we negated the comfort level with booby traps.  Nothing says “welcome, make yourselves at home” like a loud explosion in your face when you need to use the bathroom.

We made up for it, though, with repeated New Year’s countdowns.

With lots of younger kids that can’t make it to midnight, we opted to do our own countdown around 8:00.  Through the magic of Youtube, we found the London 2013 New Year’s countdown on the internet.  We turned it on, and watched an enormous countdown clock next to Big Ben counting down the seconds, and then saw fabulous blasts of pyrotechnics for another five or ten minutes.  Regardless of the actual time here in MN, it looked like a New Year’s celebration, and that’s all that mattered.

Once we got to zero, 15 people in silly hats filled the house with the sound of those annoying noisemakers.  It was wonderful.

Noisemakers (1)

These noisemakers got a good workout with round after round of New Year countdowns.

In fact, the countdown was enough fun that we did it again about three minutes later.  You can do that if your New Year’s comes from the internet.  And then we did it again.  And again.  Why do that very best part of New Year’s only once a year?

Around 10:00, the “late partyers” had another round of New Year’s countdowns.  Turns out, even the sixth time around it’s still fun to obnoxiously blow noisemakers in your brother’s face.  It really doesn’t matter if you’re six or thirty-four, that sort of thing just reverts everyone to their kid state for a few minutes.  And hey, isn’t that what the New Year is for?  Starting over new and fresh and excited for a new year?

That night was pretty darn frigid, but we had several packages of sparklers to burn up, so we threw on our coats and headed out to the porch for some good old-fashioned “might poke someone’s eye with a glowing hot burning, sparking stick” fun.  Sparklers don’t improve with age, and some of them literally lost their spark, but we lit them off just the same, and it was very festive.

In the smoky haze that encircled us in the freezing air, my sister joked, “Well, at least it will keep the mosquitoes away.”  A few minutes later, my brother came outside and walked into the smoky cloud and made the same joke.  Obviously, great minds think alike.

Post sparklers, some people headed home and the rest went inside.  Back in the house I discovered, much to my dismay, that the auto-play of endless “Auld Lang Syne” songs had now switched to the Korean version of the song.  Terrible.  I switched it to Meatloaf, always a family crowd-pleaser.

At 11:00 as the New Year rang in over on the east coast, the last of us watched the ball drop in New York.  We hoped to see our sister, who made the trip to NYC with her husband for her “bucket list” New Year’s Eve moment.  An hour or so earlier, we all stood in the kitchen talking to her on speaker phone, as she stood in Times Square.  The wonders of modern life are pretty cool sometimes.

At our crazy New Year’s bash, all of our party-goers left our house before midnight.

When midnight rolled around, my husband and I laughed at hosting a New Year’s party, but celebrating the true New Year with just the two of us.  We stood amid a delightful mess of forgotten noisemakers and empty cups, and flipped through channels looking for one last countdown.  Thank goodness La Crosse had a wimpy fireworks display on live feed, along with some local commentators, “Oh ya, folks, and here we are, in da new year! You betcha”.  After celebrating about ten New Year’s countdowns in the evening, I felt properly ready to welcome in 2013.

The final highlight of the evening?  My brother took 144 booby traps, planning to rig up Mom’s house before she got home from her New Year’s celebration that night.  Yep, that guy that’s married and has a toddler is still my brother.  That made my night.  We’re awful sometimes.

I’m guessing it didn’t happen, because my mother never told horrific stories of nearly having a heart attack time and time again upon arriving home that night.  And now, I blew his cover.  But maybe not.

You never know when the explosions are coming, Mom.  You just have to continually open every door with caution.  And as everyone knows, it’s not the actual explosion that’s the big deal, it’s the worry that you might be next.  It’s the never knowing.  Is this the day?  That’s the real beauty of those things, the mental torture.  No, wait.  Maybe it’s not Mom.  Maybe someone else in the family will get the booby traps.  Open that cabinet door and…BANG!  Happy New Year, indeed.

Thanksgiving in Montana: In Numbers and Pictures

With half of our family living in another state, long distance road trips followed by marathon family visits are the norm.  When we only make the trips about twice a year, there is a desire to try to fill up a half a year’s worth of family interaction in just a week.  When it comes time to leave again, it’s never quite enough, but it’s certainly better than nothing.

This Thanksgiving, we made the trip to Montana.  Like many other trips, when we first saw our teenage nieces and nephews, I had a few moments of disbelief at how much all of them have grown.  In my head, I sometimes still picture them in their preschool size, but the reality is, almost all of them are now taller than me.  That really can’t be, and I have no idea how it happened.  We all exchange a few “I can’t believe how tall you are/how long your hair is/how long those legs are,” and settle into getting to know again the new versions of the family we love.

On our big family trips, the specific people gathered and the events vary, but every trip involves multiple big gatherings for family meals, plenty of sitting around together, and kids running through all of it.  After a week or so, we head home.  At the end, it’s all a busy blur, and the days and meals run together, but it’s just enough to get us through until the next time we can see our family in person.  As I write this, we are wrapping up our trip and preparing to make the drive back to Minnesota.  It’s always bittersweet to leave.  There’s the excitement of knowing we’ll soon sleep in our own beds again, but there’s the sadness in knowing that pulling away from Grandma’s house means we won’t get to see our family in Montana again for several months.

In that time, we’ll miss countless daily events in their lives, but we’ll have all sorts of stories to tell the next time we see each other again.  And in the middle while we wait, phone calls, text messages, and facebook help fill the gaps.

As I gather up our things to leave for MN, I took stock of our Thanksgiving trip in a few numbers…
1,000–Miles to drive each way.

Wide views of blue sky during the sunrise on Thanksgiving morning in Broadview, Montana.

Wide views of blue sky during the sunrise on Thanksgiving morning on Comanche Flat, south of  Broadview, Montana.

24–Family members gathered together on Thanksgiving day.

Our baby takes a Thanksgiving nap on Dad just before the big meal.

Our baby takes a Thanksgiving nap on Dad just before the big meal.

5–(At least) meals of turkey dinners over the days.  Yum.

4–Month-old niece, with adorably thick hair and blue eyes, that we all finally got to see and hold for the first time.

My three-year-old happily asked to hold his newest cousin several times, "Aww, she's so cute!"

My three-year-old happily asked to hold his newest cousin several times, “Aww, she’s so cute!”

3.1–Miles that I ran in Billings, Montana during the Run, Turkey, Run! race on Thanksgiving morning before the big feast.

On Thanksgiving morning I ran a 5k and got to enjoy a complimentary beer afterward, all before ten in the morning.  With the proceeds going to the food bank, I think this may be my new holiday tradition!

On Thanksgiving morning I ran a 5k and got to enjoy a complimentary Dirty Girl beer afterward, all before ten in the morning. With the proceeds going to the food bank, I think this may be my new holiday tradition!

2–Nieces baptized on Sunday, through a series of clever last-minute arrangements.

A big family crowd watched our two nieces get baptized over the holiday weekend.

A big family crowd watched our two nieces get baptized over the holiday weekend.

1–Snowfall, making my kids very happy for their first time playing in snow for this winter season.

Add to that countless smiles and laughs, a few tears, a couple of kid tantrums, and a great glass of wine with my mother-in-law.
It all adds up to great memories of this year’s Thanksgiving with our family in Montana.

An early Christmas present puppet theatre makes a very happy girl.

An early Christmas present puppet theatre makes a very happy girl.

Why Small Town Businesses Matter to Me

When I need groceries or something from the hardware store, my first choice for shopping is one of the small towns near my home.  Why? Because supporting small town business matters to me.

I support those businesses because I know what it’s like to live in a small town with no options available.

Ten years ago, my husband and I moved to his hometown of Broadview, Montana (pop 250).  At the time the gas station, the town’s only retail option, was shut down.  Need a gallon of milk or gas?  The closest option was thirty miles round trip.  Need something more substantial than gas station offerings?  Plan on 70 miles round trip.

Two years after moving to Broadview, MT, my husband bought the closed down gas station for the shop space it offered for his scale business.  Seeing a huge need for services in the town we called home, we then went through the enormous process of reopening the gas station.  A year after purchasing the gas station, that little town once again had a service station and a convenience store stocked with snacks, groceries, and even basic plumbing and hardware supplies.

It wasn’t easy.  We faced roadblocks all along the way, from financing, to finding vendors that could supply products to us for reasonable prices.  It didn’t make us rich.  We did it because we knew that providing products and services in our then hometown made the town a better place to live.  When we moved to Minnesota, we sold the business to capable hands so it could continue to serve that MT community.

Garry Ronnenberg is quick and careful as he bags and load groceries.

Garry Ronnenberg is quick and careful as he bags and load groceries.

And now in Minnesota, we continue to support small town business for many reasons.

1.  Convenience.  Shopping in a small town store is fast and easy.  Even on the busiest days, traffic and parking is never an issue.  I never lose my vehicle in the parking lot.  There are no of crowds or long lines.

When shopping at a mega store, more than once I lived without an item on my list because it was too much hassle to back track a quarter mile to the other end of the store with my kids in tow.  In small town stores, though, it’s a quick zip down a few aisles.  And better yet, in a small town grocery, on more than one occasion a store employee volunteered to grab an item for me when I had that “Oh no I forgot something” moment in the checkout line.

Even on days that I make a trip to Rochester for errands, I often stop in Chatfield on the way through to buy my groceries at the hometown grocery store.  It’s a more peaceful, easier shopping experience to get all my groceries in the small store.  And it’s faster.   I can fly through the store without hassle, easily get help when I need it, and get out quickly.  If I worked a 9-5 in Rochester, I’d do the same.  It’s easy to stop at the small local grocery for last minute items on the way home.  During the 5:00 rush hour, it simply isn’t a huge rush in a small town.

2.  Friendly Service.  The adage “Know Your Customer” means different things depending on where you shop.  The big box stores “know” me in a demographic sense (age, gender, family size, etc. as their computers track my transaction history and cross reference my credit card numbers).  That kind of “knowing” I find a little disconcerting.  On the other hand, my small town grocer knows my friends, family, and neighbors on a first name basis.

I love small town shopping where people genuinely care about helping their customers, who are in fact, their neighbors.  I love that when I walk into the local hardware store, in no time flat an employee is there to say, “Can I help you find something?”.   That allows me to get what I need before my kids dump out and rearrange all of the store’s plumbing fittings.

Little grocery carts are a big hit with my kids at the local grocery store.

Little grocery carts are a big hit with my kids at the local grocery store.

Because I see the same familiar faces time and time again, I know the people in the local grocery store can do speedy checkouts, bag my groceries without smashing my food, and then have the groceries loaded into my van before I even get my kids buckled in their car seats.

And when I leave the grocery store in a small town, the employees say “thank you for shopping here” and they mean it.  The truth is, I’m thankful, too.  I’m usually juggling 2-4 worn out kids and a cart heaping with groceries.  The small town store’s extra courtesy of loading groceries into my vehicle makes my life so much easier.

3.  We CAN Afford Local.  My family is cost-conscious on our spending.  We are a family of six who chooses to live on my husband’s income while I’m at home with our young children.  That said, we make the choice to shop in the small town stores.  I keep a pretty close eye on prices, and I generally don’t find a huge difference in prices between big mega stores and small town stores.  The smaller stores also have better sales, so sometimes prices are significantly cheaper.  If I do spend a few extra dollars buying small town groceries, I would rather put it into the local economy than burn it up in gas and time on the road.

Shopping in small town stores also reduces my over-all dollars spent.   By getting most of our groceries in St. Charles, Chatfield, or Rushford, I can often go a full month before I need to head to the “big cities” of Rochester or Winona to get other items on my list.  Less trips to mega stores means less time circling large glittering aisles, and less impulse items end up in my cart.  Shopping local helps keep our purchases to the basics, saving us money.

4.  Small Town Matters.
More than anything, I want the small communities in this area to thrive.  Small businesses create thriving communities.  I don’t want to another “oh what a shame that we don’t have a grocery store/hardware store anymore” to happen in my neck of the woods.  It’s much easier to keep a business around than to try to bring back one that closed it’s doors.  I know that first hand.  It’s small town stores that give a community identity and help make a place feel like a “real town,” rather than just a cluster of houses where commuters sleep.

rushford iga

The friendly help of Dean Hatlevig and Garry Ronnenberg of the Rushford IGA are two reasons why I shop local.

I like seeing familiar faces while I run errands, I like friendly service in stores, and I like shopping to be a simple convenience in a peaceful setting.  That’s why I chose to live here.  I support small town businesses because I want them to be here in the future.

Special Thanks to the Tri-County Record newspaper in Rushford, MN who also asked to publish this in their paper as well. See my front page story below:

Turkey Soup Days and Ibuprofen Nights…How I Spent my Christmas Vacation

The must-have item on the Christmas list this year?  Children’s ibuprofen.  It’s not exactly what I thought would be the most requested item, but I’m awfully thankful I had an ample supply ready for the holidays.

My kindergartner and first grader kicked off Christmas vacation two days early, thanks to the winter storm school cancellations.  My kindergartner celebrated with a fever on the couch those two days, glassy-eyed and wiped out.  Since this is the season of giving, he shared with his siblings, too.  A few days later, the fever and glassy eyes moved on to our littlest one.  And one by one, each kid complained of being “so cold” even though their bodies were burning hot.

The night before Christmas Eve I count as one of my worst nights of sleep in a long time, and I don’t exactly have high expectations in the sleep department.  Good nights of sleep ended seven years ago, and they haven’t come back yet.  Getting out of bed once or twice is the norm, as is getting woken up at 5 AM by a half-pint.

That night, though, was a monster.  We had three different sick kids crawl into our bed in the course of the night looking for snuggles.  Thank goodness for king-sized beds.  Although, the size of the bed doesn’t seem to matter:  any child takes up at least half, and then my husband and I get squished onto whatever remains.  I lost count of how many times I crawled out of the crowded bed to dose pain reliever, drinks of water, or find missing blankets.  When morning came on Christmas Eve, my Christmas spirit was decidedly surly.

Naps, though, do make things much better.  A nap for us all helped everyone feel functional enough to head to Christmas Eve church, and of course, kids mustered the energy to open a few presents before heading to bed that night.

Big smiles with a new blanket on the night before Christmas.

Big smiles with a new blanket on the night before Christmas.

Even with a crew of sick and half-sick kids, I have to say, on the night of Christmas Eve I felt filled to the brim with happiness.  As I held our 20-month-old and she nursed to sleep, I had a moonlit view of a snowy yard and our barn and silo.  On that peaceful, silent night, it felt like Christmas, and it felt like home.  I held a sweet, funny, beautiful little girl in my arms.  A few hours before, our family filled a church pew with four kids decked out in their holiday clothes.  Nobody lit anyone else on fire during the candlelit portion of the service, and until they petered out, we had a lot of joyful noise in our house on Christmas Eve.

I couldn’t ask for anything more than that.

Snuggling in with the new Christmas blankets before bed on Christmas Eve.

Snuggling in with the new Christmas blankets before bed on Christmas Eve.

My ideal Christmas is a little Norman Rockwell mixed with a little of the Griswold family from the movie Christmas Vacation.  And that is pretty doable.  On Christmas Day, we had a fine candlelit turkey dinner at noon in our pajamas with a few sides of ibuprofen.

Special thanks to children's ibuprofen, the unofficial sponsor of the Mosdals' Christmas.

Special thanks to children’s ibuprofen, the unofficial sponsor of the Mosdals’ Christmas.

Afternoon naps (highly valued at our house) followed by warm baths for achy kids gave everyone enough steam for a Christmas supper at Grandma’s.  Thirty-seven people, if my tally is correct, made Grandma’s house bursting full and slightly chaotic.  And if you’re from a big family like me, that feels just about right.

Having too much fun to leave early from Grandma’s, we earned ourselves a full-fledged Christmas Meltdown because we got home late, and three kids cried during most of the bedtime process.

The day after Christmas felt like holiday hangover.  Two very sick kiddos, one so-so, and one just tired, all of us were worn out from the rush of Christmas excitement.  On days like that, I don’t know where the time goes, but it stretches on and on in repetitive motions of holding, comforting, dosing, and stepping over Christmas toys.  I never have enough arms.

In that exhausting day, one of the highlights was seeing my sick, listless six-year-old eat two bowls of steaming homemade turkey noodle soup.  She hadn’t wanted anything because her throat hurt too much, but I put some in front of her anyway.  Slowly one bowl disappeared, and then another.  Afterward, she perked up and said her throat felt better, at least momentarily.  It was a small triumph in an otherwise exhausting mothering marathon.

My other highlight that day was seeing my husband pull in the driveway with a trailer full of wood in tow.  He and my brother-in-law spent the afternoon cutting and loading wood, and happiness is the sight of plenty of wood for a cozy, warm house.  Happiness is also seeing another parent return home to help share the load of sick kids.

And today, my Christmas vacation outing will be a visit to the Fast Care Clinic with my daughter.  We’re making the 45-minute drive to Rochester to play every parent’s favorite game:  “Is It Strep or Is It Just a Virus?”  If we guess correctly that it’s strep, we’ll be rewarded with a bottle of pink amoxicillin.  If we guess incorrectly, we’ll go home with some wonderful parting gifts:  free new germs from the clinic, and a complimentary wasted afternoon.  The best part, though, of the “Is It Strep or Is It A Virus?” game is that win or lose, every player receives a generous clinic bill just for participating.  Oooh, I can hardly wait.

‘Tis the season for sore throats and achy bodies, but all isn’t lost on this Christmas vacation.  As I write this, we’ve still got five days of vacation time left.  I predict a full recovery of the household, and ringing in the New Year with busy bodies ready to hit the sledding hill.  Just the same, I’ll replenish my stash of medicine while I’m in town today.

Wishing all of you a healthy New Year!

Taking Stock of 2012

December 27th is a special anniversary at our house.  One year ago today we still lived in Montana, but we signed the closing papers on our home where we now live in Minnesota.

Coincidentally, it’s also been one year since I’ve been writing for the paper, which is kind of special, too.  You’ve now had a full year’s worth of my musings about running our family zoo of four kids.

Earlier in the year, our inquisitive little boy discovered our iron, and flattened our carpet.

Earlier in the year, our inquisitive little boy discovered our iron, and flattened our carpet.

It’s a peculiar thing to write a weekly column for the paper.  And today, I’m writing in part about just that.  Every week I sit down and write for a vast group of people that for the most part, I never see or talk to.  I usually try not to think about just how many people might read this, because quite frankly, it makes me nervous, and then I can’t write.

Sometimes people wonder where my ideas come from, but it’s fairly simple.  I begin by sitting down and whacking my head against the table until inspiration strikes.  Truthfully, I spend most of the week with a deadline in the back of my head, casually mulling over ideas.  Then casual thoughts turn to a nagging feeling, which then turns into mild panic the night before the deadline, when I often still don’t have the topic figured out.

Usually I sort things out in a moment of quiet.  I often “write” while I’m rocking our littlest one to sleep.  That 15-minute stretch of quiet is my gold mine.

Back in my college literature classes, I generally envisioned writers as someone like Emily Dickinson: nestled away, in a little attic cove, perhaps sunlight streaming from a window onto a well-worn wooden table, with a peaceful wooded view.  Writing is done in peacefulness, serenity, and solitude.

And that’s pretty much how it is for me, too.  Like today, for instance.  We’ve got plenty of serene views out of the window.  Except put me at the dining room table with six of us stir crazy at home on a snow day from cancelled school.  Take away the peacefulness, the serenity, the solitude, and the reflective state.  And then, that is totally me.

At this very moment, my daughter is hanging on my leg, crying because I’m half an hour past her nap time.  “Can you turn the oven light on, NOW??!!! I want to see my ‘T’ ornament cooking!!” is what I hear on my other side.  And as a mom, I think about all of the other things I’m not doing because I’m spending a few hours writing.  Two kids on my lap while writing helps me to remember.  I often type while nursing.  I don’t know what my typing speed is with a baby, but it’s not too shabby.

I write in bits and pieces.  I write after the kids go to bed, at 3 AM when I can’t sleep, while the baby colors all over herself in the other room, while my son accidentally pees on the floor.  If it all comes together and makes a shred of sense, I count that among many small miracles.

And when it’s finished and I finally click “send” on my email to the paper, life is good.  I actually finished something.  Dishes and laundry never end, but hey, that article?  It’s really, truly done.

I used to keep a journal.  I don’t know if I made an entry this year, though.  If it wasn’t for the fact that I enlisted myself to write every week for the paper, I’d never do it.  I’m thankful for a written record of these busy days. There is so much I’d forget otherwise.

And for the people reading, you’ve had a front seat to many moments in our 2012:
–Life in my husband’s hometown of Broadview, Montana.

–Preparing and planning our move of 1,000 miles back to Minnesota where I grew up.

–My two-year-old’s carpet exploits involving chocolate syrup and an iron.  (It’s true that the biggest messes make the best stories later on.

–Writing from a hospital room during that same little boy’s emergency hernia surgery.

–The moving odyssey of packing up 90% of our things and hauling them to MN, and then living in a bare bones house in MT for another six weeks while my husband finished a work project.

–Celebrating our 10th anniversary in our new home with a second wedding that included our kids.

Our kids acted as flower girls and ring bearers at the wedding celebrating our 10th anniversary.

Our kids acted as flower girls and ring bearers at the wedding celebrating our 10th anniversary.

–Gardening adventures in our very first, very gigantic family garden.

–The triumphs and tragedies of chickens mixing with kids.

–My life as a mom, of late nights and busy mornings.

–Loving the good things in life: clotheslines, libraries, blankets, time with family.

I hope that in the course of the year, I’ve made you smile or laugh.  I hope I reminded you of life with your own kids, the joys of life in a small town, and life in the country.  I hope I’ve touched your heart a time or two during my ramblings about the universal conditions of being human and a mother.

Since many of my family and friends live outside the area and don’t see the local MN papers, I started putting past articles on a blog.  If you’d like to go back and read a previous column, or share one with someone else, you can find them all on  I’d love to hear from you.  Feel free to tell me what you liked reading about, what you’d like to hear more about.  You can even tell me what bored you, as long as you do it politely.  You can write messages to me directly on this website.

Thanks for letting me share the adventures of our past year with you.  I don’t know what life will bring for us in 2013, but whatever comes our way, I’ll be sharing some of it with you here in the paper.  Hoping all of you had a wonderful Christmas, and wishing you health and happiness in the coming year!