Friday, July 7, 2017

Fireworks and Naps and Libraries

Growing up, my dad used to make his own fireworks.  Except they weren't so much fireworks as small bombs.  There wasn't any sparkle or dazzle or "Oooooo"s and "Aaaaaaah"s.  There was watching him run like the dickens after lighting one as he yelled, "CLOSE YOUR EYES, CLOSE YOUR EYES, CLOSE YOUR EYES!"  There was also feeling a wave of pressure move through your body as it exploded/detonated and, one year, the sound of a motion sensor light shattering on our friend's garage.  

Our children listen to such stories with fascination; prior to this year we'd never bought so much as a snake to celebrate the Fourth, and they treat my Independence Day anecdotes like they do all my stories from my childhood:  like missives from another planet.

Even with that upbringing, somehow my own family has never purchased a single firework.  We have also never set our money on fire and watched in awe as it burns.  At least, not until this year.  That's right, we went crazy and spent two whole American dollars on sparklers.  It turns out that waiting to introduce your kids to fireworks- other than attending big fireworks shows- until they're a bit older makes them a little leery of holding something that sizzles and sends out tiny burning sparks that land on your skin.  I can't imagine why.
The lighter is obscured by Derek's giant paw, but the anxiety on Atticus's face is clear enough.  

Not to worry- he got over it.

It seemed kind of sad that Adelaide had had zero exposure to home fireworks until she was eleven (although, I don't know- do sparklers even count as fireworks?), but then I read on the packaging that they were to be used only by those twelve years of age and older and felt better.  I chose to continue feeling better as I ignored Derek's comment about that warning only being there to keep themselves from being held liable.  

When we haven't been holding burning sticks in our hands as a natural outlet to celebrate our freedom from British rule(?), we've been at Big Creek, where the children bob about in the water and I refuse to leave the shade of the shelter because since moving northward I have become a whiny, cranky baby about the heat.  
 Then we stop and get some of very favorite ice cream, because again:  whiny, cranky baby.

The added benefit to all this is it leaves our children utterly wiped out.  I am not ashamed to tell you that this has long been a major factor in my parenting. 

When we haven't been doing any of the above, we've been at the library.  For the most part (but honestly, not all the parts), the kids have handled coming to work with me most days rather well this summer.  It helps that we have programs geared toward them (Tween Book Club, Lego Club, etc) many of the times they're there, but still- it's a lot of library time.
This of course only reinforces my urge to wear them out any time we're outside of the library.  Oh, how fun it must be to be a child of mine.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Your Word Is "Syni-Kyni-Doty-Chody"

Last week, Adelaide finally received her spelling bee packet.

You may remember that last year, Daughter competed in- and won- her division in the spelling bee at the Iowa State Fair.  It was a wonderful experience.  She wanted to participate again this year.

As it turns out, that is easier said than done.  We heard about the whole thing last year because a kindly former teacher of Adelaide's saw the paperwork at school and thought that would be right up her alley.  This year, Adelaide started bugging me in, oh, probably December, to sign her up for the bee.  

I looked on the (really pretty good) State Fair website.  I made calls.  I left messages.  I sent emails.  And nothing.  

Derek's dad joined the search, calling around, trying to figure out just how the heck do you sign someone up for this thing?  Is there even going to be a bee this year?  What is happening?

Finally, finally, I managed to reach a helpful intern.  You should have heard me on the phone with this poor girl:  "Oh- OH!  A REAL PERSON!  Oh, thank God!  I'd like to sign our daughter up for the spelling bee please don't hang up please please help me I'm so happy to be talking to you right now."

She clearly read the despair in my voice, as she spoke in very soothing tones and said things like, "Okay, I'm emailing you the form right now.  No, I won't hang up until you see you have it.  Now just fill out it out and email it right back to me, and I'll print it out and get her entered right away.  Well, you are welcome."  

That was back in May, though, and Adelaide (and, okay, me too) was getting a bit nervous that her packet hadn't come, confirming she'd made it into the bee, as they do cap the numbers at 70 (although there were closer to 80 kids competing last year, so it would seem they're not as strict about the ONLY 70 CONTESTANTS thing as the application would have you believe).  

A few days ago, though, it came:  the letter of congratulations, exhaustive list of rules, packet of sample words, and ticket to the fair.

This picture has nothing to do with spelling bees.  I just wanted a cute picture of Daughter somewhere in here.  At the above moment, she was thrilled about having finally gotten the timing down for saying "Lumos" as her sparkler sputtered to life, then "Nox" as it died.  She is thrilled about the bee, too.

As we've been going through her packet of possible words, though, we've run into a familiar problem:  she and I both enjoy above-average vocabularies in terms of definitions, spelling, and using the words correctly, but our pronunciation is, ah... not so great.  I've gotten better as I've gotten older and been forced to interact more with actual human beings than books, but Daughter is just not there yet.  She was recently talking to Derek about something or other, and mentioned "waiting in a quay-way."  Astonishingly, he did not know what she was saying.  Eventually he did figure out she was trying to communicate the word queue, but only because he is fluent in Adelaide-ese.  (Adelaide-ese:  A dialect that uses rather advanced words, but pronounced phonetically, with the emphasis nearly always on the wrong syllable, and most mangled when the word is of french origin.  She hates franco-based words.)

Thankfully, we live in the internet age, and it's the work of seconds to pull up canny little videos instructing us on the correct pronunciation of coxswain and wokas and, my new favorite, synecdoche.

Oxford Dictionaries is a great resource for these videos, as is Emma Saying.

Sometimes, however, we need a little levity in the midst of such quizzing.  Pronunciation Manual is there for us.

Do you have any favorite words?  How about words you mispronounced for far too long?

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Four Things

  • No one coddles our youngest like his big sister.  Derek and I tell him to settle down, or shake it off, or any of the other things you say when your child is crying more for attention's sake than anything else, then along comes Adelaide, who picks him up and gives him the sympathy his cruel parents insist on depriving him of.  Never mind that it's blatantly clear he is getting too big for such things.

From what many native Iowans have insisted upon telling me every year since we moved here, corn should be "knee-high by the fourth of July."  (Note:  Never have I met a people group who enjoy talking about corn as much Iowans.  After writing the following, I must accept that I am now one of them.)  As you can see above- where I pulled the car over on the way to the library to get this picture as photo evidence for CHM- it is significantly above knee-high.  As of about a week ago, the conversations I overheard from area farmers were positive; they were pleased with their corn and soybean crops this year, although they did mention how dry it had been.  It's rained several inches in the past week, so hopefully that has helped.  We've also had a pretty cool summer thus far- Atticus has his arms wrapped around him in the photo above, as sixty degrees was a little chilly for his t-shirt-and-shorts attire.  From a cranky gardener's standpoint (that would be mine, always), my vegetable garden is not producing this year.  My tomato plants are tiny, my pumpkin plants are tiny, my pepper plants are tiny.  The lettuce has done really really well, no doubt due to the cool weather, and I got more strawberries than ever in early June, but that's about it.  

  • This is our library's Overdue Fines chair.  
Kidding.  A representative from a local science center gave a presentation at our library, and at the end anyone who had always dreamed of sitting on a chair whose seat is made up of sharp nails- pointy side up, of course- could give it a go.  The point of the whole thing (pun INTENDED) was... um... something about pressure per cubic whatever... or something- and look, I was busy helping other people during the presentation and couldn't really listen, so lay off, okay?  Anyway, it was not the most comfortable chair I've ever rested upon, but it was still better than those restaurant booths that have a weird piece of trim that protrudes from the back and hits you right at the neck (or mid-back for Derek).  

  • And now, a gratuitous photo of one of my nieces.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

On the eighth day He created Soccer Camp. And it was good.

If we were to sign Adelaide up for soccer camp, the results would be marked and severe.  We can barely get her out into the backyard for a family game of fĂștbol without groaning and tears and the ever-present question, "Why?"  (Or, more accurately, "WHHHHHYYYYYY?") The answer to this being a sensible, "You have been reading for nearly four hours.  That is why you have a headache, and don't feel well, and are, ahem, the tiniest bit cranky.  Come outside, breathe the air, and interact with the human race for thirty measly minutes."  So soccer camp would no doubt be seen as akin to trying to kill her clean off.

Our boys are a different story.

When the opportunity arose for them to attend a camp staffed by British college students studying to be soccer coaches (because evidently that is a thing you can major in outside of the United States where we more or less collectively suck at soccer, at least on a world stage), both jumped at it.

I didn't really know what to expect.  I had a couple friends whose children had participated in this camp in the past and had nothing but praise for the organization, but the coaches change every year and, to my mind at least, you'd have no way of knowing whether or not you're going to get stuck with a real stinker of a coach for five straight days, two hours each morning.

Thankfully, no stinkers made their way to Iowa last week.  All the hallelujahs.

Please click to embiggen and see Caedmon (third from the right) joyfully bellowing, "LET'S MAKE IT HAPPEN," their mantra for the week.
The boys were pleased, I was pleased, Adelaide was... maybe not pleased, but certainly helpful, as she escorted the boys between the library and the camp most of the week.  Most tellingly, Derek was pleased, and as a former soccer phenom, he is by far the most difficult to please of us all.  He said their skills and drills were good, the scrimmaging was good, the [insert words he could have made up for all I know] was good.  Good!

I got to attend their final day of camp, and was so impressed with our boys.  I mean, I'm impressed anytime they don't cringe away from a ball flying toward them, or scream unnecessarily when a ball flies toward them, or watch a ball as it pointlessly rolls past them- all things I have been known to do in middle school P.E., in high school P.E., and last night in our backyard.  I am nothing if not consistent.

And they looked so happy to be out there.  The befuddlement was thick in the air around Daughter and me.

I mean, look- here Caedmon finally managed to get it the ball past the goalie, Coach Mark.  He is thrilled.

That's not to say that never had a similar expression on my face before.  Holler "CHEESECAKE!" and watch me fly.

Atticus, too.
Happy to be playing soccer, I mean.  Not the cheesecake thing.

Honestly, it was downright bewildering.

The boys also learned some unexpected things, like what the coaches referred to as "party tricks,"

and that they speak English in England.  (Atticus to me:  "Mom, if Coach Isaac is from England, how can he speak English?"  Oh, sweet boy child.  How terribly and adorably American of you.)  

Every once in a while, though, I'd see a little of myself in the boys.

That extension!  That pointed back toe!  Why isn't this boy in ballet? 

If that gif shows anything, though, it's that there seems to be plenty of drama on the soccer field, or football... pitch?  Field?  Stage?  Anyway, who needs Giselle when you have this
and this
and of course this?

Although I see that last one and think, "Poor guy!  He just found out his childhood best friend finally lost his battle with cancer."  Because all this emotion can't be for a game, right?  (Raise your hand if you're wondering how thirteen years of marriage to Derek the Rabid Minnesota Vikings Fan has taught me nothing.)

 One moment while I pull myself out of the whirling vortex of gifs I just allowed myself to be sucked into.
Okay.  I'm back. 

So:  Soccer camp was good, nay, fantastic, our boys learned a lot about soccer and where our language comes from, and I thanked the good Lord above that in this case, Derek's genes prevailed. 
All the hallelujahs.

Big, juicy, soccer-y thanks to Derek's parents for gifting the entrance fee to the camp as our boys' birthday presents.  It was obviously a success!

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Exotic Travels

I'm going to be honest:  I will not be sorry to see the backside of June.

What's supposed to be a warm and somewhat carefree month has been cooler than usual and full of unexpected change.  No me gusta.

Still, there have been good pieces to this month.  I got to go see my sisters and their families.

I am evidently an exhausting house guest, as most of my six nieces passed out toward the end of my stay at each house.

I spent most of that visit trying to cram as many words as possible into the time with my sisters, and marveling at how each niece is so unique.  Growing up in a family as one of three girls, and seeing my mom- also one of three girls- with her sisters, you would think this wouldn't be quite so astonishing, but you would be forgetting how slow I sometimes am.  Both of sisters now have three girls of their own, and each child is so different, there is no lumping them into categories.  Their natures refuse to let this happen.
This is the one who started it all, who made me realize that being an aunt is ah-mazing, as you get to do all that playing and cuddling and marveling at their traits and personalities without having to ask yourself regular questions like, "Just how much did I screw them up today?" and "Hmmm, what are the chances they'll remember that?  Hopefully very, very small."  Instead you just get to try and smother your laughter when they're sassy or naughty, although this is especially difficult when they're being just like their mother and it's all you can do not to say, "Man, I remember that glare appearing on 5-year-old Kelli's face."  

I also swung by southeast Kansas and got to spend some time with my grandparents.  Hallelujah.
I was unable to get solitaire working again on my grandpa's iPad, marking me as a failure of a granddaughter.  Grandma saved the day by helping Grandpa figure out how to play on her iPad, but only after making him promise "not to get cranky because it's different and you have to learn something new."  Grandpa promised, possibly because he would swear anything to get his hands on the solitaire.  

Grandpa also dug up carrots and onions for me to take home.  Anytime I tried to help he waved me away, never mind that it felt shameful to watch an 88 year old work while I just stood there.
So I took a picture, because that's better.

I also spent an inordinate amount of time staining wood for a big project we've had going over the past several weeks, which deserves a post of its own.  Also needing their own posts:  the boys' soccer camp, running stuff, and a State of Our Yard Address.  Putting it here means it will happen... right?

Also, our kids are still the cutest.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Four Things

  • If you are on Instagram, consider giving Merriam-Webster a follow.  Yes, as in the dictionary.  They post a Word of the Day that puts most of those desk calendars and toilet paper to shame.  Here's a recent one I'm still thinking about:
Can you imagine using this in a sentence around people?  "I don't know what it is about tulips, man- I just grok them."  They'd think you were crazy, throwing random nonsense syllables into what was a normal conversation.  

This, of course, means I'm going to try using it at the library today.

  • If you happen to be at the national school nurse conference in San Diego next month, I recommend going to this session:
Why, yes, that is my mom presenting it, because who else has favorite pediatric infectious diseases?  Or refers to themselves as a "former 'Germ Wench'"?  I can promise the whole thing will be a hoot, and am currently taking bets on how many times she mentions hand-washing.  
Pre-test:  Who can tell me three things that are wrong with this combatant's hand-washing technique?  I am not even kidding, and I promise my sisters know.

  • One Friday of every month, our library hosts a little thing called Soup and Sound, where the library staff makes a meal and a person or group comes in and performs.  Over the past year I've heard a presentation by the Iowa Honey Bee Queen, a contingent from our high school speech team came in, and last month, a local hammered dulcimer player shared his talents.  I pulled Adelaide out of school to attend, much to her delight.

I believe she enjoyed listening to Mr. Greenlaw play, and it was so generous of him to let everyone fiddle around with the instrument, but if I'm being honest, the carrot cake was probably her favorite part. 

  • Derek's won a bunch more awards for his work over the past few months, but one is a doozy:
He won a Telly!  What's a Telly, you ask?  It's a big ol' honking international competition with thousands and thousands of entries and only the best win the good stuff.  I did not take that from their website.  

I believe I've shared his winning video before, but just in case, here it is again (and before you say, "Resource Recovery Plant?  No, thanks," well, this is actually interesting and will make you question what your own community does with their trash):

Congratulations, husband!


P.S.  What do you think the past tense of "grok" is?  "Grokked"?  And why isn't it "grock"?  I can't think of any other English verb or noun that ends in "k" rather than "ck."  Mock, shock, lock, hock, chock, dock, why can't I let this go, knock, pock, sock... 

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Summer Break: Day the First

Caedmon came downstairs this morning wearing shorts and a tank top and shivering.  "Why is it so cold?" he asked as he chattered his way over to me and tried to steal what little warmth I had by wrapping his skinny arms around me.

"Because it's 55 degrees outside."

"But it's SUMMER VACATION!"  He was adorably indignant.  Don't tell him I said that.  He still hates to be called adorable or any of its synonyms.  Even if he is, especially like just now, when he came inside telling me he's scared to go back out into the shed.  When I asked him why, he said that "I heard a rumbling sound while I was in there!"

"What do you think it was?"

"Well, it was either my stomach, or something scary.  So I'm not taking any chances."


In end of school year news, all of our children survived.  Adelaide won the fifth grade spelling bee.  I was delighted for her.  She was conspicuously underwhelmed.

Atticus ran 32 miles throughout the spring in Mileage Club, an activity sponsored by a local hospital where volunteers track how many miles participating students choose to run at recess.  It's his highest mileage to date, and he is thrilled.
Okay, so this isn't exactly his thrilled face, but you get the idea.
As a matter of fact, this is his first season to make it to 25 miles, finally earning him the eye-searing t-shirt above.  When I asked him if he was excited to finally get that t-shirt, his answer was, "Kind of.  I'm kind of excited about it, but kind of not, because I know when I grow out of it, Caedmon will get to wear it even though he didn't earn it."

I probably should have tossed some parental pearls of wisdom his way, but I couldn't as I totally get what he's saying.  I feel the same thing when I see leftover marathon finishers' tech shirts at athletic outlet stores, wondering who the heck would buy those when they're clearly meant for people who actually finished those specific races?

Adelaide had a couple music concerts, including band.
We got to watch her perform on a variety of percussion instruments.  She still enjoys band, and we enjoy watching her.  My eardrums already seemed less likely to spontaneously implode out of sheer self defense at this concert compared to her first five months ago.  Apparently elementary school band members improve at a rapid rate- well, that and they already shed the people who quickly discovered they didn't want to be there.

Caedmon was dragged around to this and all kinds of other events:  the life of the third child.

The boys are currently attempting to dislodge a badminton birdie (shuttlecock?  Is that the right word?  I feel like I could be making that up) from the roof of the shed, so when, just now, I heard what sounded like a gunshot echoing through our neighborhood, I jolted out of my chair and out the door to make sure our boys weren't responsible for said noise.  Never mind that we don't actually own a gun, or that they're using a jump rope to coax the birdie off roof; I feel like stranger, more inexplicable things tend to happen when they're within four feet of each other.  Gah, my heart is still racing.

I guess it really is summer vacation.