Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Things, They Have Happened!

Many things have happened!  Our children are registered for school!  I have a job!  We took a trip to the DMV and it wasn't as heinous as I had feared!


First:  school.  It took an inordinate amount of paperwork to get these chitlins registered.  I learned the difference between a state-issued and hospital-issued birth certificate and that not every state gives you both, much to the confusion of this school district. When I got to talk to real live human beings, they were very gracious, but there were multiple times I found myself growling at this very Chromebook, "Look, I didn't intentionally birth three children in three different states, it just happened that way, okay?"  But finally, here we are, with a transportation schedule and everything.  Although that little thing provoked more questions than it answered; the middle school apparently releases before 3 p.m. while the boys' elementary school begins after 8 a.m., both of which are departures from what our kids have experienced in their previous schools.  I have quested through the bowels of the district's website and learned nothing about the schools' apparent staggered schedule, which leads me to believe I am supposed to gain this information in another way- swimming in the creek by town hall, maybe, or putting on a red coat and flapping around the yard.  Whoops, I left out a pertinent detail that will allow you to get that previous joke:  our high school's mascot?  The Redcoats.  No, we don't understand how this came to be, because one would think that an area of the country that was the site of so much of the Revolutionary War would swing the other way.  Why not the Minutemen?  Or the Patriots?  Or the Colonists? 



Second:  I have a job!  In a library!  The job is part-time, the library is huge.  I'm two whole days in, but all the other staff have been incredibly nice so far, so it's shaping up to be a good thing.  I'm hesitant to say more at this point, so I'll leave it at this for now:  working at a large library is different than working at a small library, but also the same.  I hope you feel enlightened.


Third:  the DMV.  The last time we lived here, our visits to the DMV were like every horrible movie scene set in a DMV you've ever witnessed.  The long waits, the public languishing in uncomfortable chairs as they mentally willed employees who had lost the will to live to call their number.

Our recent visit was very different.  Yes, it was busy, but there were still far fewer people than in my memory, due, I believe, to a magical invention called the internet.  Why go to the second circle of hell when you can now get half that stuff done online?  I also have to wonder if perhaps I'm just more patient, though; the last time we were there I was newly married and childless.  This time I was happy to wait as long as it took:  just me, Derek, a book, and no children needing anything from me.  It was like a vacation!  With all that and air conditioning, they're lucky I left when our task was complete.

All that being said, we still haven't gotten our CT driver's licenses, and I know that will be the lengthier visit.  I admit I'm a little concerned, because I understand you are no longer allowed to smile in the charming photo shown on licenses.  I feel nervous laughter bubbling up my throat just thinking about it.  There is no way I'll have anything other than a bizarre grin-suppressing, squinched look about my face simply because I know I'm not allowed to smile. 



P.S.  I went and looked on the school's website one more time because I was uncomfortable claiming I'd been in the bowels of the site when I'd likely only been in the stomach or duodenum at the lowest.  I found the staggered start and release times for the kids' schools.  Thanks, conscience!


Sunday, July 21, 2019

Sticky

Our children have little to no memory of living in a house without central air conditioning.  Anymore, central air seems to be an asset Midwesterners take for granted, as sure a thing as tornadoes in spring and the fair in late summer.  Of course we all remember sweltering summers spent at the grandparents' house where you trailed ice cubes over your face as you sat inches in front of the fan, and who could forget that May where my third grade classroom's window unit quit working (PURE, SWEATY MISERY), but at least in my experience, central air is anything but uncommon in the Midwest.

Here, it is a different story.

Few houses appear to have central air, excepting new construction, of course, of which there isn't that much.  Window units abound, and we can usually pick out a few ductless units here and there on our walks.

Why all this riveting HVAC talk?  Well.  Yesterday at 3:30 p.m. the temp was in the low 90s, with a "real feel" of 105 degrees.  We're living in a house without central air, which has been, shall we say, a learning experience for our precious children.  Learning that no, Adelaide, we're not going to bake a pie when it's already 85° in the kitchen, and no, I'm not buying that chocolate-covered whatever; it'll melt in our cabinets and I've already over-stuffed our fridge trying to keep everything fresh.

We did go out and purchase window units for the kids' rooms, because if the kids aren't sleeping well, we aren't sleeping well.  Derek's rigged a series of fans to try and pull some of that cool air from one of their rooms into ours, and it's provided some relief.  I'm sleeping just fine, but I feel like I tolerate the heat better than Derek, possibly because at any given time I seem to operating around ten degrees cooler than he does.  Hover your hand over his arm at any given time and you'll feel that he simply radiates heat, whereas most of the year my hands can double as ice packs for your sore muscles.

Fortunately the temperature's supposed to take a dive Tuesday, so we've only got a couple more days of stillness.  That's how we've been coping:  by being very, very still.
Contraptions!

Activities that don't require much movement are current favorites in this house, which means we've been playing a lot of games like Quirkle and Roll For It, with Contraptions being an ongoing favorite of the boys.  Atticus suggested Twister the other day and I'm still desperately sad I wasn't quick enough with my phone to capture the look of disgust on Caedmon's face at the idea of allowing our sticky selves to touch each other.  We've spent considerable amounts of time at the two local libraries, at the pool, and have been eating outside in the evenings.  Ice cream is also a balm.


While I don't remember Connecticut winters to be as brutal as Iowa's, I still know that there's going to be a time come February when I'll curse my summer self, wailing that I didn't appreciate the ability to go outside, that I wasted precious time moaning about the heat that my winter self longs for.  So yay for summer, sticky heat and all.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

In-Between Time

Throughout this process and even now, people we speak to ask how the kids are doing with the move. 

I appreciate this thoughtfulness.  Each of our kids have struggled with the whole process in different ways and to differing degrees.  Right now the boys seem to be doing okay, but that might be simply because it's summer break, where their mornings are spent trying to accomplish all their daily tasks that must be completed in order to earn time on the Nintendo Switch.  Oh, you're not the kind of parent who regularly employs bribery to assert some measure of behavioral control over your children, and your panties are becoming increasingly bunched over my last statement?  My guess is that your progeny are either babies, or imaginary.  Please move along.  There is nothing for you here, in the land where I'm afraid we do have to say things like, "You must complete X amount of creative time, and X amount of reading time, and X amount of outside time before we will allow you to rot your brains with X minutes of Zelda.  Why, yes, we are the cruelest possible parents in existence; thank you so much for noticing!"

This isn't even getting into chores.  In the space of time our 10 year old spends poring over the day's chore list to make sure it is fair and just in every possible way, with no unequal distribution of tasks, he could have finished half of those chores.  I tolerate the cries of "Why do I have 2 hard chores and one medium chore when she has 3 easy chores?" because this is also the kid who prefers to see the chore list first thing in the morning so he can do his right away; no unfinished work is allowed to dangle over his head all day.  What makes a chore "medium" or "easy" in his estimation?  No one knows.
I get an almost indecent amount of joy out of taking pictures of our kids doing chores.  Hey, you have your weird hobbies, I have mine.


With all that, I don't know that our boys have the additional emotional bandwidth for existential angst over the move.  It also helps that we've been to the pool almost every day for the past week and there we met a nice family with two boys of matching ages to our own.  Sometimes God answers prayers through affordable family pool passes.  Not what I would have expected, but then, that's God for you.


Adelaide is paradoxically eager for school to start, in order to "get it over with."  The two of us ventured out last week to The Book Barn, which consists of three locations of a book store within a mile or two of each other, each more charming than the last (providing you start with the least charming location, of course).  We've both had a hard time putting into words what we loved so much about this used book store; Adelaide loved the goats, the whimsy, and the books, while I loved the gardens, the whimsy, and the books.  And the clever shelf markers.  And the rambling-ness of the place.  And all the rest.
Please enjoy this example of their cleverness taken through my dirty windshield.

It definitely feels as if Real Life has been put on hold.  Currently I am banned from the kitchen as the boys prepare a "surprise" for Derek.  I have been told it's not something to eat, despite their needing a pan and food coloring, and just now I overheard Caedmon say to his brother, "If you use cooking ingredients, even if you're not, like, cooking, it often turns out well."  Forgive me for my apparent deep-seated cynicism as I say there is no way this is turning out well.

I'm thankful for this slow time before school starts and I find another job.  (Will I ever find another job?  Who knows?  But rest assured I am handling the unsettled quality that currently characterizes this aspect of my life super duper well.)  It's allowing the kids and me a gradual easing-in to this new life of ours, one where there's time to drag them on hikes, and on walks around town, and where we get to try pizza place after pizza place until we find Our Favorite.  I don't think anyone can complain too much about their life if they're getting pizza once a week, and I am not exempt from that. 

Friday, July 5, 2019

What I've Learned, with Gifs

When asked how things were going as we prepped for our move, I found I was finishing many anecdotes by saying, "I'm learning a lot."  Sometimes this was my nice way of saying, "Big changes are hard and this really really really sucks."  But sometimes I meant it a little more literally; an author I follow posted this at one point during the process, and it felt like God had shoved important words in front of my face, trying to get me to pay attention:




I can be more than a little myopic and have asked God repeatedly not to be subtle in His messages to me.  This can be a dangerous request.

Nonetheless, "Don't waste the pain" became my go-to phrase when things were painful whilst saying farewell to Iowa.  The pain was going to be there no matter what I did, so I figured I may as well learn from it, try to glean whatever it is God was trying to teach me.

For starters, I've learned that I like my comfort.  I don't mean a plush easy chair, feet kicked up, eating kettle corn- although, hmm, that too- I mean that while I say I enjoy new experiences, I apparently only enjoy those when I get to take a few steps, brush up against some kind of pleasant novelty or other, then retreat back to my comfort zone, where I can mentally process that experience at my leisure.  Being plucked out of my comfort zone and plopped miles and miles away?  Not so much.


I've learned I get overwhelmed when I have 47 tasks in front of me, but can manage so much when I chunk a list up into sections.  I look at all I accomplished in the months before we moved and I am astounded.  From getting a house ready to sell, to running herd on three kids on my own for two months- in APRIL AND MAY, no less, when each day has a concert or a field day or a history project due- to seeing as many beloved Iowans as possible in that span of time as possible?  I may not have done it all, but I did a lot.



I learned that asking others for help doesn't kill you dead.  I still don't like it, and only feel comfortable asking for that help from a handful of people and within a very narrow set of parameters.  Your mower has died but you still have two weeks' worth of mowing to do before you move?  You can ask a friend if you can borrow their mower, but YOU MUST do the actual mowing yourself and you WILL NOT ask that same friend two weeks in a row; gotta switch to someone else.  One of your kids has truly gone off the rails over this move and you're so worried you're on the verge of vomiting for 10 straight days?  You can contact people very strategically asking for prayer, intel, or a shoulder to cry on/ lose your ever-loving mind to.  None of this will kill you, which is hard to believe when it feels like there's an elephant sitting on your chest as you stare at your phone, willing yourself to ask someone for help.  Asking people for help is second only to asking people if they'll be your reference for a job application.  That is when I fervently start praying that Jesus would come back STAT. 




Since arriving back in CT, I've learned that I'm different at 36 than I was at 21 when I first moved here.  It's like I'm kinder, but also less willing to let anyone walk all over me.  More compassionate, but somehow also less tolerant of what I would consider unacceptable behavior.  I guess I'm just... older.  I'm also trying to be retrospectively gracious toward my past self who lived here before:  she was young, and and both worked and lived in areas that showed some of the worst sides of this area (retail and a rather ugly town, respectively).  She also hadn't yet realized that being outgoing as a personality trait doesn't have to be inborn- it can be learned.  This realization served her well in Iowa; we'll see how things go here this time around.




I'm sure I learned loads of other things, but this has gone on for a while.  Too much introspection invariably begins to feel like wallowing to me, and I don't wallow well.  I am spectacular at avoidance, however, which might be why I have so many hobbies to reach for when the thinkin' gets too deep.  Anyone up for a run?  How about a book?  Hiking?  Baking?  Walking?  Board game?  Gardening?  Writing?  Puzzles?  If it's an old-person activity, I probably like it.
I also enjoy sudoku.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

IA to IL to IN to OH to PA to NJ to CT

When we were planning how to transport our family from Iowa to Connecticut, we discussed a number of options.  Thankfully our stuff was chug-a-lugging its way eastward on a moving truck, so the only things we had to get from point A to point B were the five of us and the various and sundry items I had overpacked for the trip.

When deciding what I wanted to travel in the van with us, I evidently thought that bringing every cleaning product we owned would be crucial, along with most of the blankets we own, this despite the fact that it's a warm time of year and we only had two nights to camp in our old house without our belongings.  I did restrain myself from digging up most of my flowers, but only because I didn't believe they'd survive the trip.  In the end the only plant that came with was six or so iris rhizomes I got from my grandparents' Kansas farm.  The potted rain lily that came from my great-aunt and great-uncle in Texas-by way of my grandparents, again- also happily survived the move.

So Friday morning our van-full of cleaning items, blankets, plants, and humans set out toward Connecticut.  We made good time, arriving at Lagomarcino's Confectionery right at lunchtime.

That place was so dang charming.  Quaint little wooden booths, plus a counter by the soda fountain, plus a long case filled with handmade chocolates- it was wonderful.  The food was pretty simple, with the shakes definitely stealing the show.

After lunch we stretched our legs, walking around quiet downtown Moline, IL, and then stretched our legs some more as Derek went into a branch of our bank and tried to put out fires that were threatening to ignite surrounding our two house closings.  Because we closed on our Iowa house Thursday night and then planned on closing on our CT house the following Monday morning, everything had to line up and occur on a pretty tight timeline.  There are lots of moving pieces when it comes to real estate and banks, however, and not everyone was playing nice, so Derek was monitoring it all and shifting and switching and overall being his uber-responsible self.  For my part, I made the kids walk laps around the bank.  This was apparently evidence of my innate cruelty; never mind that they had already been sitting and would continue to sit on their tuchuses for hours.  

What is the plural for tuchus, anyway? 

Derek's parents completed their application for sainthood by presenting to Adelaide the complete series of Mork and Mindy on DVD shortly before we left Iowa.  This being her current favorite show, she ended up watching hours of it over the miles and states of this trip.  She even got the boys hooked.  Posthumous credit goes to Robin Williams for generating giggles from the backseat of our van when we expected to hear pitiful weeping.  

Day two's stop was Marblehead Lighthouse on the shore of Lake Erie.  The boys and I loved how incredibly windy it was there that day, but it freaked Adelaide out.  Well, that and all the water.  Not caring for wind and water together is problematic when you're on one of the Great Lakes.  Still, she climbed the winding wrought iron stairs inside the lighthouse with no problem, while I was finding myself shorter and shorter of breath due to some height-induced panic.  Yet again I forgot how much I don't care for heights until we were well off the ground.  


It all seems like a good idea when my feet are planted on the firmament, but then we begin climbing and I remember just how little I trust my fellow man and the things he has built.  Never mind that the lighthouse has stood without incident (well, without a lot of incidents) for close to 200 years; my weight will be the straw the breaks the camel's back- or the flesh that crumbles the limestone, I guess.  Once at the top, my back was firmly glued to the outside wall of the structure while small children capered about the balcony.  I did allow myself small shuffles from side to side, but did not get a picture of this because I was trying not to die.  
We also enjoyed hopping around on the boulders that line the shore, because, well, boulder hopping is fun. 


Our final day on the road we elected not to stop at any of the Pennsylvania rocks the kids were decidedly not excited about seeing- the timing just wasn't right- and instead stopped at High Point State Park in New Jersey.  I believe I forgot to mention New Jersey as one of the states we were traversing.  We were at the state park for all of 30 minutes; a few hikers emerged from the forest just as we were preparing to set out and told us that any grass higher than ankle-height would end in legs covered in ticks.  This was problematic as we were all clueless Iowans wearing shorts.  We followed a well-cleared trail for all of a quarter mile before it grew more overgrown and we decided that it was not a good day to become five walking, talking hosts for opportunistic families of ticks.  So we turned around.  Then I read two pamphlets aloud I'd picked up at the ranger station; I was determined we'd all get something out of this stop, and if wasn't going to be exercise, it would have to be more facts about black bears than we'll likely ever need. 


Other fun facts about the trip:  

Adelaide got uneasy when we entered Jersey and the roads turned close, hilly, and windy.  We told her this boded ill for one year from now when she'll be learning how to drive on Connecticut roads. 

We were given a number of thoughtful gifts for the road trip, but the kids' favorite was from one of my yoga ladies, who gave us a generously-sized bag of snack food:  single-serving Cheez-Its, pretzels, cans of Pringles, and homemade monster cookies and Kringla.  From now on this will be our standard gift to families embarking on cross-country moves.

A couple times Atticus said, "I keep almost asking when we're going to turn around and go home- but then I remember we're not."


Even with all the stops, the kids' favorite part may have been the hotel pools.

Atticus is still talking about "the mosquitoes with tails."  They were some kind of bug we kept seeing on the shore of Lake Erie.  I repeatedly told the kids they were not mosquitoes.  They will not be convinced.

Adelaide's favorite was the chocolate malt at Lagomarcino's.  And Mork and Mindy.

And yes, I can confirm that Caedmon's favorite part of the trip was "probably the hotel pools."  Does this mean you should save your pennies, not take that trip, and instead head to the nearest hotel that will let you swim and get family ear infections for an afternoon fee?  Not necessarily.  But this definitely doesn't make me want to spend all our dollars on certain children's admittance to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.


Saturday, June 29, 2019

Unexpected Perks

When trying to sell Adelaide on the idea of moving across the country, we brought up a number of points:

We'll be close to New York!

Close to the ocean!

They have a lot more ice cream shops!

There's a massive used bookstore in CT with a number of live-in cats!

Free tickets to Disney World, which, okay, maybe doesn't excite you, but it greatly increases your chances of visiting the Wizarding World of Harry Potter!


Some of these she seemed to take in and ponder, and some she lobbed right back at us.  One pro I never even considered, however, was the cemeteries.
That's right:  Connecticut has loads more dead people than Iowa!  Yaaa...ay?

Daughter and I both appreciate a good graveyard.  It doesn't take much to make it "good" in our estimation, either; really just a few headstones that are legible.  There's something about getting only a few tantalizing details to a greater story that sets your feet to walking to read the next one, and the next one, and the next, forever and ever until both Atticus and Caedmon are slumped on the ground moaning and wondering aloud, "Whhhyyyy do you like dead things so much?" 


What's not to like?  I mean, just look at the winged cherub (or is it a death's head?) on this one!

AND look at the dates on this one!  We'd explored a number of Iowa cemeteries, and I apparently had that kind of timeline in my head; when we walked to our first cemetery here in town I thought maybe we'd get lucky and see a few Civil War-ear headstones.  Imagine my delight at so many pre-Revolutionary War inscriptions!  I am admittedly a down-to-the-bone Midwesterner who is impressed with this kind of antiquity.  Don't get me wrong; I still appreciate a good Iowa pioneer cemetery, and you'll find an entirely different kind of history in the cemeteries of the Midwest that's just as fascinating. 

But look at these names!
You just don't see a lot of "Hephzibah, Relict of Hosea Goodrich"-type markings in the middle of our massive country.  And yes, I have a lot more pictures like these clogging up the camera roll of my phone. 

And these were just the local cemeteries- we haven't even begun to search out some of the older or well-known within CT, of which there are so many!  Please take my word for this, unless you knowingly want to trip down that internet hole, in which case might I suggest you start here or here or maybe here.


I do have more than just pictures of tombstones on my phone, I'll have you know.  I can't get too up in arms, though, because it's mostly just screenshots of books I want to read,




ideas relating to house projects,





recipes,






and pictures of our kids working.  Because nothing gives me greater joy.



I didn't choose the boring life, the boring life chose- oh, wait, yes I did!

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Good Plant, Evil Plant

I'd like to begin by giving thanks for the God-given, science-driven, ANTIBIOTIC.  I'd also like to thank Him for stretching out His mighty right hand and blessing us with steroids in their many forms.  Fear not, friends, this is not about to become a fire and brimstone post fueled by 'roid rage; I'm talking about the steroids that help those of us with immune systems that insist on acting like a stereotypical teenager (Daughter excluded, of course):  either too lazy to do much of anything or losing it in a fit of pique when something barely brushes its arm.

What I mean is this:  I went to the doctor.  I think we're going to be getting along just fine, given that she ordered up a couple kinds of steroids and an antibiotic because infection had set in a patch or two.  She also more or less said, "HEY, DUMMY- you are severely allergic to these plants.  Do not go near them.  Do not try to burn them off lest you inhale the smoke and do some real damage.  Get someone else to clear your yard of it."  The line, "I already know all that, Mom," did run through my head, but then reality snapped back into focus:  I was, in point of fact, sitting in her office covered in what my sister is calling "boils" because I was dumb enough to work up a good poison oak lather, this despite spending multiple childhood summers sidelined due to poison ivy.

So.  Yes.  My boils are improving.  I am still waking up throughout the night having already scratched myself half to death, but my days have significantly improved, where I'm able to move through the hours in relatively good humor, without falling asleep in public spaces because of Benadryl fog.

When not obsessing over "the devil's touch" (online poison oak sufferers are a hilarious but scary- and scaly- bunch), I've been working on making our house habitable!  For many this might mean unpacking or something equally practical, but unfortunately for my family, for me this means staining wood and planting flowers.

What I eventually want is a profusion of coneflowers all along the front of our white picket fence.  Coneflowers because:  they spread, they're pollinators, they come in a bunch of colors now, and they'll give me that cottage garden look I think a picket fence calls for.  For now, however, we'll just have to use our imaginations that the 10 clumps I've planted so far will be fruitful and multiply.  For you coneflower people, I've got Cheyenne Spirit Mix, PowWow Wild Berry, Virgin, and the original purple.  For you non-flower types, I've got, well, the usual purple, plus red, orange, yellow, pink, and white.  We'll see how many of them make it; I've had mixed luck getting anything but traditional purple to come back after a couple years.  I'll get a whole mess of bulbs in there this fall for spring color, and then I'll need to think of something for fall color. 
Cheyenne Spirit Mix

The wood staining has been done in our scary basement WHERE I BELONG (sorry, like I said, the poison oak is still able to seize control from time to time).  The layout of our kitchen is more than a little confounding, but my sister suggested tearing down the upper cabinets in the middle of the room so I asked Derek to do whatever she said (well, I omitted tearing out the back wall and putting in a sliding glass door because Budgets), and as soon as he got them down the room felt markedly improved.  The wood- ha, you'd forgotten the point of this story, hadn't you?  Me, too!- is for some open shelving we're putting up, because although the square footage of this house is similar to that of our previous, it's laid out quite differently with a notable lack of storage space, excepting the basement.  For this reason we've found ourselves at IKEA (because Budgets) three times in the last week looking at shelves!  And wardrobes!  And sideboards!  And other ways to hide our crap!

 
Tomorrow I can almost promise not to mention poison oak again, but there will be plenty of cemeteries!  Old cemeteries!