Brace Yourself

It’s a pretty common game around here…especially mid-afternoon, when we’re both tired. Sometimes he’ll suggest it; sometimes I will. Today, it was my idea, and Quincy (who is home from college this week) watched in amusement as I rested on my stomach and Feff drove his train all over my back…and up and down my arms…and across the back of my neck. It’s a win-win…cuddly, one-on-one play for him…and almost a massage for me. So relaxing.

Relaxing, that is, until I listened to his running commentary as he directed his train…”this is the bridge” as he ran down one arm, across my joined knuckles, and up the other arm…”down the track” as he went from the nape of my neck all the way down my back…and…wait for it…”look, Quincy Beth, we’re going down a really big hill” as he prepared to drive over my…um…buttocks.

Good heavens.

Shopping Like a Boss

Fiffer’s birthday…Quincy home from college for a week…Thanksgiving.


Three carts…three lists…three shoppers…done in no time. Too bad I was the only one willing to pay:)

Circumstantial Evidence

“Brush your teeth!” I said.

“Kris! We did!” they insisted.

(This was the time of evening…also known as “bedtime”…when we speak to one another in italics.)

I’m not convinced. Oh, sure, there was plenty of evidence that the toothpaste had been opened


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but did any of it make its way onto their toothbrushes and into their mouths? I’m skeptical:)

Catching Up…in Three Parts

Part One: The Wedding

I left early Friday morning with these two dorks awesome kids…


We were headed to my cousin Thomas’ wedding. Here are a couple shots of the rehearsal dinner…

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Quincy and Tom arrived later that night.


The next day, of course, was the wedding.


There was a decent amount of sitting around and/or drinking time between the wedding and the dinner. Since we weren’t drinking, we had a lot of time to “plan” Quincy and Tom’s wedding…

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I think Tom was wishing we would start drinking:)

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After dinner, my poor dad had a fainting/low-blood-pressure spell. After hem-hawing around for about a half hour, we finally called 911. They came in a side door, lifted him out of the reception hall in his chair (impressive!), hooked him up to an IV, and took him to the hospital. After a bag of fluids, he was fine…and a little fussy with us for panicking:)

After he was squared away, the Rensner crowd (plus Tom) slipped away to drive to Seward…no easy feat, since they had had some snow and ice. I followed Tom, which helped. (Question: What’s the difference between a young man from Minnesota and a middle-aged woman from Illinois? Answer: About ten miles an hour.)  We made it, though, and fell into bed at the hotel (at least Josiah and I did; Hayden stayed with Quincy in the dorm), exhausted.

There were two quotes running through my head all of Saturday. The first is from the movie “My Sister’s Keeper” (I’m not sure if it’s in the book or not): “Sure, we still enjoy the usual day-to-day happinesses of family life. Big house, great kids, beautiful wife. But beneath the exterior there are cracks, resentments, alliances that threaten the very foundation of our lives, as at any moment our whole world could come tumbling down.” This was the sad truth about the day. For the most part, the cracks and resentments stayed underground all day. But they were right at the surface, and we only made it through by the hair of our chinny-chin-chins. Oy. Sometimes life (particularly family life) is hard.

And the other quote? This one is from the Bible: “With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.” That was talking about big family occasions, wasn’t it? Or maybe I’m taking that out of context:)

Part Two: Concordia

We spent Sunday sleeping in, going to church (I love St. John’s!), eating Mexican food, touring the music building (where Quincy and Tom spend a lot of time)…


listening to Quincy play…

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and hanging out with friends…


Quincy’s, Josiah’s, and mine. It was a nice, quiet, fun, relaxing day.

Monday, Josiah had his official college visit.




We attended chapel, and met with a physics professor (Hayden got a little drowsy), someone from admissions…


a music prof, and an education prof. I. Love. Concordia. They do such a fabulous job with the visit, and I love seeing so many people I know…either because they were teaching when I attended (gasp!) or because I went to school with them. I smiled a little as the education professor described student teaching to Josiah…how he will go somewhere and stay with a host family…who will make sure he has a room and food and a place to do laundry. I ran into the reason for my smile on the way to lunch…Joel…Dr. Helmer now…current professor of geography…but my infamous student-teaching partner back in the day…and we laughed about the fact that if it hadn’t been for the pizza place down the street from the high school we would have starved to death…good times:)

After lunch with Quincy and Tom, we headed out for an uneventful (alleluia!) trip home…and found this delightful welcome (this is Hayden’s bed…mine looked similar, but I didn’t get a picture)…


Such a good, good time.

Part Three: Back at the Ranch

The news on the home front is that Dillon is getting away from us. After months of trying everything we can think of (including counseling), he is only escalating in aggression and lunacy. After spending several days with him, Jason was more than ready to keep our Monday appointment with the pediatrician, where they discussed medication, psychiatric evaluation, and when to cry uncle. I met with a DCFS worker today (since Dillon was adopted through them, we still have access to some services…hopefully) to see what they can do too. Oy. To admit that we need help just about kills me…but we do. And he does. If you have a spare minute, please pray for answers and wisdom and good decisions.

So…we’re back…and eager for Quincy to come home Friday…and grateful that Haley is safe in the midst of Buffalo’s snow…and waiting for a phone call about Zach and Raven’s baby (but hoping the little scooter stays put for a while)…and making plans to celebrate Fiffer’s eighth birthday this weekend…and getting ready for Thanksgiving. Wow. Life is good. And big. Let’s end with another quote, shall we? This one is from “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

Letter to the Editor

For the memory archives…a local issue…

OK, I admit it. When I saw the first headline about the proposed medicinal marijuana plant, I raised my eyebrows. Visions of Woodstock floated through my mind, complete with mental images of pot-smoking teenagers dressed in tie-dyed clothes and peace-symbol necklaces. I know…pretty ridiculous. I’m a little embarrassed at my gut-reaction, almost-adolescent thought process.

Because, of course, that isn’t at all what we’re talking about. We’re talking about providing medicine for people. As I read through Wednesday’s article about the proposal, I was a little bewildered by Mr. F’s reported comments, wondering about the perception of the deal…particularly the perception of the city’s young people. Evidently, he sees it as some sort of contradiction that we would have a medicinal plant in our community, while still urging our children and teenagers not to abuse drugs.

First of all, let’s talk about young people. I love teenagers. My husband and I have a few of them, and we work with several more at our church. Many of the teenagers I know are bright and perceptive and mature in their thinking. These young people would very easily understand the difference between the proper and improper uses of drugs. However, some of the teenagers I know are bright and perceptive and…immature in their thinking. Just this past week, my own thirteen-year-old told me that doing upper level math is ridiculous (and he defines “upper level” as anything beyond seventh grade). He also thinks that he would be completely fine living on his own right now. I love the kid, and he has a good brain in that skull of his, but his thinking is immature and inexperienced and oftentimes…wrong. We don’t make a whole lot of family decisions based on his current perceptions of the world; we certainly wouldn’t make any city decisions that way.

Second of all, surely we don’t really think that making medicine is the same as advocating drugs. I am extremely grateful that scientists have created all kinds of medicines…but that doesn’t mean that I think we should hand them out to young people on Friday nights. To equate the two is to sink to the worst kind of adolescent thinking. As a mature adult, I can take cough medicine to ease a pesky cough but not chug it to get high. I can use cold medicine without using meth. And…if it becomes necessary…I can take medicinal marijuana without smoking it at a party. I am able to make those distinctions.

Approve the project or don’t. But let’s make sure that we’re thinking like adults.

Toys for the Destroyers

So…what Christmas gifts do you buy for children who are hell-bent on destruction? That is a burning question around here right now. Because they are determined to destroy. Finding a ripped up book…or a broken toy…or a drawing on the wall…or a hole in the wall…are all too common occurrences around here…and while we try to get to figure out the psychology behind this…the facts remain unchanged. A couple of days ago, when I caught Feffer trying to destroy one of his trucks, I said, “Why in the world would I spend money on toys for you?” But, seriously…kids need toys…especially during the winter. (On a side note, he was trying to destroy the truck because he was angry at me. I thought about pointing out to him that breaking his belongings doesn’t really hurt me, but I thought better of it…I don’t want him coming after my stuff.)

So. Back to Christmas. We need things that are (a) virtually indestructible…and (b) cheap enough that I don’t have a nutty if they are destroyed.

One idea we have is blocks made of two-by-fours…like a giant Jenga set.


A friend from church made a set for the youth group, and they’re pretty awesome. Even at their angriest, I don’t think our kids could break a two-by-four (and they haven’t started breaking windows yet…so I think we’re safe there).

Another idea is to put together a little dress-up box with finds from the second-hand store.

Our final idea (so far) is to buy a set of Mr. McGroovy rivets.


These little dandies are used to attach boxes together to make dollhouses, forts, rocketships, and whatever else the kids can think up. We’ve started stockpiling boxes already. Plus, when I mentioned this idea to one of the kids’ workers as a solution to some of their behavior, she said their department would buy it for us to give to the kids. Even better.

In the meantime…this is the new building toy of choice…

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They played for a long time yesterday, and only one cup was destroyed…which only cost me about $0.06. Score.

Monday Musings

1. You know how you read stories about how families survived the Great Depression. And they’re all full of heartwarming quotes about how…no matter how little they had…they were so happy to be together…so grateful for health and hearth and loved ones…that the lack of a giant stack of gifts on Christmas morning didn’t mar the holiday for them at all. About that. What the stories don’t mention is the ever-so-precious teenage son who started sulking about his perceptions of a smaller holiday as soon as Halloween was over and didn’t let up for even. one. lousy. day. about how he really deserved so much more than he thought was coming. Oy. The beauty of editing.

2. People in Effingham…beware! My seven-year-old went to school today, a little irritated because I wouldn’t put clips in her hair. She got off the school bus this afternoon with…wait for it…two clips in her hair. But she didn’t put them there. Oh, no. Two girls gave them to her. And they weren’t classmates either. They were strangers. Two complete strangers were on her school bus at the end of the day, forcing hair clips onto poor, trying-so-hard-to-be-obedient second-graders. What is this world coming to?!

3. Since I have a little trip coming up (to Kansas for a family wedding and then to Nebraska for a college visit), it has come to my attention that…I dress like a hobo. Good heavens. The beauty of my lifestyle right now (rarely going anywhere fancier than Walmart) is that I don’t have to spend much time/money/attention on my wardrobe. Until I’m going out of town. And it’s not to a vagabond convention. Thank heavens that I have a fashion-savvy sister that happily (at least she pretends to be happy enough) gives me free advice. I think I’m finally set.

4. Insurance is a beautiful thing. At least in theory…we’ll see how this whole thing pans out in reality. But as we were explaining the process to the kids today…it dawned on us again…how very, very blessed we are.

5. Very little delights me like watching kids first decode the written language. Letters and sight words and easy-reader books…they tickle me. And being able to look at the my always-reading teenagers at the other end of the spectrum…ah…good stuff.