Friday, August 19, 2016

Counting Down

Fun fact:  Adelaide is not a morning person.

Another fun fact:  Caedmon adores Adelaide.  Put these two facts together and you get Caedmon skipping up to Adelaide for a hug as soon as she emerges from her cave in the morning, and getting a snarl for his efforts.  This results in Caedmon cowering behind me, peeking out to see when Mr. Hyde has gone, and in Adelaide retreating to a world populated by fake people, who are far less bothersome than real ones over breakfast.

Really, though.




This is the last week we'll be doing our breakfast dance, however; school starts next week.  My brain has done an admirable job of not freaking out about the fact that all three (giant) babies of ours will be in school, full time, five days from now.  Every once in a while I will torture myself with a mental image of Caedmon looking forlornly out the window of the school bus as he is driven away from me, but other than that, things are fine!  Totally good!

Thankfully, the same day I send my children out into the cruel world (aka to very nice schools with wonderful teachers) I will be going to work, as I have somehow managed to convince a library to hire me.  It's part-time, while the kids are in school, and I start next week.


In other, less dance-y news, I seem to have broken a toe.  Of all the things to break, this is obviously quite minor, but not to worry!  I have still used it as an opportunity to feel sorry for myself.

How did I break it?  Why, making the bed, of course!  I'm taking it as a sign from God that I should no longer do such things.

Really what happened is I stubbed my toe (while making the bed), heard a crack, saw the toe was at a slightly odd angle, and I've been icing and elevating and buddy wrapping ever since.  The worst part is I haven't been able to run for going on three days now.  THREE. DAYS.  Never mind that I have a race next weekend.  My new goal for that race is simply to be able to stagger across the finish line.  How fun!
Aww, this guy and I look exactly the same when we throw tantrums!

Now we have to go buy multiple pairs of shoes because our children jump a shoe size an average of once every three months.  This is not hyperbole.  Also on the docket is hugging those same kids just long and tightly enough to alarm them.  Parenting is so fun.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The Good, The Sad, The Distracting, The Extraordinary

The Good of last week's spelling bee:

The small army of women who volunteered their time and abilities at the bee.
It turns out retired teachers are exactly who you want to have organizing and hosting and making a spelling bee happen for your child.  Adelaide is in the photo above, standing at one of the microphones, chatting with two of the volunteers and another contestant while waiting for one of the later rounds to start.  These women and all their superhero(ine) friends were amazing.  They were smiling and affectionate and patient and calming and encouraging, had looks of such compassion on their faces when someone made a mistake, excitement when someone correctly spelled a word, and the coordinator of it all gave each kid a hug and a few words just for them along with their certificate when they were out.  Any kid facing a competition deserves to be so mothered.



The Sad

There was a fellow contestant, a young girl, who in early rounds proved herself to be a wily speller.  She was given the word "scissors" and immediately said, "Scissors:  C-...." and then stopped.  There was a long pause, followed by her admitting aloud, "I just ruined it for myself, didn't I?" and my heart broke for her.  When she was finally able to speak again, she did so with dark humor, not even attempting to spell the word, instead uttering a rushed jumble of letters:  "D-M-O-F."  I laughed sadly- smart and funny!  I want Adelaide to be friends with this girl!  Then there was the *ding* of the bell that signified the misspelling of the word, and the poor thing shuffled off to the side for her consolation hug and certificate.  It was the closest I came to rooting for anyone other than our daughter.



The Distracting

When I wasn't torturing myself by trying to wind my legs ever tighter around each other in an attempt to relieve some of the tension caused by watching Daughter in the bee, I found a welcome distraction in the form of our boys, who were very good considering they had to be quiet and still for two hours, although thankfully Derek's parents were there and helped us keep an eye on them.  Atticus in particular helped me get my mind off my anxiety when he peeled a sticky label off a water bottle, put it over his eyes, and soon found that this was an unwise move on his part.
"I have made a terrible mistake."


The important part is he struggled not to remove his own eyelashes and eyebrows quietly.




The Extraordinary

Among her many prizes and spoils, Adelaide received two coupons for free ice cream at the fair.  As soon as we had concluded our business at the bee, we headed to the nearer of the two stands offering her free ice cream for winning, the Barksdale Concession stand in the Varied Industries Building.

Even though she had just won a competition and we were very proud, I never miss an opportunity to teach/force our children to do certain things like learning to interact with the world at large.  I therefore urged Adelaide up to the counter at the concession stand, telling her first what to do, because really, she is ten years old and shouldn't need our help with this kind of thing.  I will say we were a mere ten feet behind her, ready to jump in, just in case, so back off, internet critics.

That stand is mostly staffed by very young-looking ladies and men, and one of them first accepted Adelaide's coupon before turning to the one slightly older looking person there- who I assume was a supervisor- checking for approval, I guess.  This guy got down on Adelaide's level, took in the information, and proceeded to heartily congratulate her, announced to the crowd that this young lady had just won the Iowa State Fair Spelling Bee, and led them all in a round of applause.  He also encouraged another employee to top off our daughter's requested mint chocolate chip ice cream cone with a little extra ice cream, because she had just won first place, hadn't she?

That's Daughter in the purple shirt at the counter, Mr. Nice in the glasses on the left.

Oh my goodness.  So much kindness.  Adelaide was flying high, recounting the entire episode to me in case I had missed a single detail, absolutely delighted, and I kept asking myself WHY ARE PEOPLE SO WONDERFUL? while hollering "Thank you so much!" to the guy over the large crowd.  He smiled and waved you're welcome, and now I'm kicking myself because I didn't get his name.  I've had to console myself by emailing Barksdale Concessions and the Iowa State Fair, recounting the story and attaching the previous photo but zoomed in on his face, praying he'll get some kind of recognition for just being dang nice.



Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The Iowa State Fair Spelling Bee

Last week, in the days leading up to the spelling bee, Adelaide was nervous.  So, so nervous.  What had been excitement and fun anticipation turned to straight nerves for our girl, and she began saying things like, "Only four more days until the spelling bee," "37 hours from right now until the spelling bee starts," and "This time tomorrow I'll be checking in for the spelling bee."

She also began to fret aloud about her possible performance.  "What if I'm the first one out?"  "What if I misspell a word I know just because I say it wrong?"  "What if I completely mess everything up?  Why have I told so many people I was in this spelling bee?!"

Now, my answers to queries such as these were statements like, "Well, you might," and "Yes, that could happen," because when I am in similar nerve-inducing situations, that is what makes me feel better.  I play the "what if" game clear down the line:  What if I fail?  Well, I've survived worse, so I'll probably feel bad for a while and then be fine.  What if I upset everyone?  I upset people all the time.  I'll either decide I need to apologize or they'll get over themselves and stop being such thin-skinned pansies.  (I am often not a very nice person inside my own head.)  I will What If to the metaphorical death. (What if I die?  "O death, where is thy sting?"  Hey, still fine!)

Somehow, somehow this turned out to be not the most comforting thing for our scared daughter to hear, but thankfully I married a man whose face gives me helpful visual cues; in this instance after I said to her, "Well, yeah, you might be the first person out," his face turned to me and managed to communicate What is wrong with you? with no words at all, because he is very talented.  Then he told her that she would not be the first person out, and that she was going to do great, because she is a fantastic speller, and other reassuring and comforting things that she apparently needed to hear, and thank God she has a dad is what I am saying.


The morning of the bee she was still nervous, but manageably so, I think in part because we were busy making sure we had all our baked goods in order to turn in to the foods barn at the fair (and oh, isn't that a story for another day), and then we were walking around, and getting delicious food like corn dogs and cheese curds and such.  Caedmon demonstrates how seriously we take this food in the photo below, double-fisting food on a stick.


And then it was time to head for the spelling bee.

Adelaide had been pretty clingy all morning, hanging on me and squeezing me at regular intervals, and thankfully by that time I'd learned to simply squeeze back and keep my big trap shut.  When we walked in, though, she put on a brave face, found her chair, and sat herself down, leaving the rest of us to find seats and watch all the other contestants and their families file in.  I realized very quickly that I was not going to handle the experience well, and communicated my feelings to my mother via text before Adelaide had even spelled her first word.



I'm assuming most of you have attended a spelling bee or similar event at some point in your lives, so I won't give you a blow-by-blow of the event, but I will say it started with a full room and 81 chairs for the hopeful spelling contestants,

and involved much squirming and clenching and anxiety on my part.  Derek put his feelings to good use via social media, where he gave live updates on Facebook so people could follow along, and when I looked back over his feed it was so entertaining.  I might try to get it all on here tomorrow, to give you a different perspective of the experience.

Adelaide ended up spelling word after word after word right, and really, most of the words were easily within her spelling abilities.  The only two words I worried about were "conscience" ("Please, please God tell me she knows it's spelled con-science, con-science... YES!  She knows!") and "indebtedness" (Surely she knows the root word is "debt," surely she knows that... if I hear her say the letter "b" I'll know that she knows what she's doing.... YES!  She knows!").  I also half-regretted telling her to take her time, not hurry, because it would be a shame to misspell a word simply because she rushed through it.  She did take her time spelling each word, but that also gave me time to have a mini-stroke in between each letter, I swear.

And then, after two hours of spelling, she won.


I'll be back tomorrow to talk about more of the details of the day's experiences, because you know one post is not enough to contain all the words I have for this event.  For now, suffice it to say:  We were so proud, not just because she won, but because she had the guts to get up there and try even though it was nerve-wracking and hard, and at the end of the day we had to tell her that no, she was not allowed to sleep with her trophy, but it could absolutely stay in her room with her.




Monday, August 8, 2016

I Could Totally Be a 1950's Housewife

Every once in a while something particularly delightful comes my way via the internet.  Yesterday was one of those days, where a website revived a 1955 article from Housekeeping Monthly magazine titled "The Good Wife's Guide."

I can't imagine reading this article and ever taking it seriously.  I can't imagine Derek ever expecting any of these things of me.  Every time I go back and read it, I think, "No...NO.  Surely not.  Surely no one ever read this and thought, Hmm, that sounds reasonable, or Something to aspire to!"  And maybe it's the raging optimist in me, but I have to think that most 1950's housewives found this equally ridiculous.  I know women who were housewives in the 50's, and I'm having trouble imagining them swallowing this garbage.

I feel like if anyone ever put these kind of expectations on me- including myself- I'd end up as some kind of insane cross between Passive Aggressive Wife, Murderous Wife, and It's Torture Tuesday! Wife, and the list put into practice would look, well, something like this.



1. Have dinner ready. Plan ahead, even the night before, to have a delicious meal ready, on time for his return. This is a way of letting him know that you have been thinking about him and are concerned about his needs.
Have dinner ready.  Make it a seven-course meal every night.  Insist he take huge helpings of each food.  Heap second and third portions on his plate.  When he begins to look sick and says he can't eat anymore, ask why he doesn't love you.  Cry.





2. Most men are hungry when they come home and the prospect of a good meal (especially his favorite dish) is part of the warm welcome needed.
Make his favorite dish for supper.  Every night.  For weeks on end.  When he carefully, politely asks if you'd possibly like to have something else for supper sometime, ask why he doesn't love you.  Cry.






3. Prepare yourself. Take 15 minutes to rest so you’ll be refreshed when he arrives. Touch up your makeup, put a ribbon in your hair and be fresh-looking. He has just been with a lot of work-weary people.







4. Be a little gay and a little more interesting for him. His boring day may need a lift and one of your duties is to provide it.
This is how I interpret being "a little gay and a little more interesting."  Definitely wouldn't scare him.







5. Clear away the clutter. Make one last trip through the main part of the house just before your husband arrives. Gather up schoolbooks, toys, paper, etc. and then run a dust cloth over the tables.







6. Over the cooler months of the year you should prepare and light a fire for him to unwind by. Your husband will feel he has reached a haven of rest and order, and it will give you a lift too. After all, catering for his comfort will provide you with immense personal satisfaction.







7. Prepare the children. Take a few minutes to wash the children’s hands and faces (if they are small), comb their hair and, if necessary, change their clothes.
Like this?







8. Children are little treasures and he would like to see them playing the part. Minimize all noise. At the time of his arrival, eliminate all noise of the washer, dryer or vacuum. Try to encourage the children to be quiet.
"Try to encourage the children to be quiet."  But what if I'm out of duct tape?  What then, Housekeeping Monthly?






9. Be happy to see him. Free him with a warm smile and show sincerity in your desire to please him. Listen to him.







10. You may have a dozen important things to tell him, but the moment of his arrival is not the time. Let him talk first — remember, his topics of conversation are more important than yours.
Still out of duct tape, and besides, that stuff hurts when it's time to take it off!  I have sensitive skin, Housekeeping Monthly.







11. Make the evening his. Never complain if he comes home late or goes out to dinner, or other places of entertainment without you. Instead, try to understand his world of strain and pressure and his very real need to be at home and relax.
Wait, if he has a "very real need to be at home and relax" then why is he going out to dinner or other places of entertainment without me?  Whoopsy, there I go thinking again!






12. Your goal: Try to make sure your home is a place of peace, order and tranquility where you husband can renew himself in body and spirit.
Too late, we already have kids.






13. Don’t greet him with complaints and problems.
Got it.






14. Don’t complain if he’s late home for dinner or even if he stays out all night. Count this as minor compared to what he might have gone through that day.
Raise your hand if you're familiar with this movie and can tell me why it's a reasonable response to #14.





15. Make him comfortable. Have him lean back in a comfortable chair or have him lie down in the bedroom. Have a cool or warm drink ready for him.
I thought waterboarding was illegal now?





16. Arrange his pillow and offer to take off his shoes. Speak in a low, soothing and pleasant voice.
+
?





17. Don’t ask him questions about his actions or question his judgment of integrity. Remember, he is the master of the house and as such will always exercise his will with fairness and truthfulness. You have no right to question him.
I'm pretty sure this is how you end up married to a grand wizard of the KKK.




18. A good wife always knows her place.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Good Stretching and Bad Running

Recently a friend of mine asked if I'd be a guinea pig of sorts.  She's a physical therapist, and needed some of her runner friends to come in so she could practice getting video and analyzing exactly what's wrong with us (or... something).  She first said this is in a way that indicated I'd be doing her a huge favor.  Based on past race photos, I knew I had a janky stride and something was up with my form, so my response was something like, "Sure I'll help you out!  When do you want me to come in?  This afternoon?  How about right now?  Is yesterday too soon?"

So a couple days ago I went to her clinic and got to see my friend in all her Physical Therapist glory.  This was fun and unusual because normally we're all sweaty and in running clothes when we're together, or, as the case was last weekend when I went to watch her in a triathlon, I was in civilian clothes and she was in costume.  I think she said it's actually called a "kit" but growing up a dancer I'm much more comfortable with the term "costume."  It was the first triathlon I've ever attended, and after watching her and several hundred other sadists compete my thoughts were, "This is so cool!  So amazing!  So inspiring!  I would never ever ever do this to myself!"  I have read multiple times that triathletes suffer far fewer injuries than straight runners, but I have to think my lack of injuries would be a small comfort when I'm drowning in a lake trying to swim over a mile.

Anne had a student with her at the clinic, and they started by pumping my ego, oohing and aahing over my flexibility, diminished as it is by this hamstring injury I've been nursing for the past couple months.  Speaking of which, our middle child may look more like his daddy, but this kid's flexibility is courtesy of yours truly.

He's always been like this, too.  I mean, I know most babies and toddlers enjoy relative flexibility, but Atticus has always had crazy range of motion.


He frequently falls asleep like this,
and it's one of the first things we do when he's in the midst of a night terror- unfold his body from whatever position it's pretzeled itself into and back into a straight line. To a certain extent I can I understand this sleeping position, because every time I do this in yoga, I can feel myself begin to doze off if I stay here too long.
Then again, that might be the sleep deprivation talking.  (Photo by Atticus, who loves to hang out next to me while I do yoga, trying to imitate the poses, but always ends up lying on floor asking to take pictures.)



At the clinic, after testing my flexibility and strength, it was time to hop on the treadmill for a few minutes, followed by some outdoor running.  Then it was time to pop the helium-filled balloon that is my pride and gleefully watch it plummet to earth.  This was done by the time-honored way of watching a video of myself run

from behind

in slow-motion.


Gravity, thou art a cruel mistress.


In the end, I got to see how specifically wonky my stride is, and Anne gave me some great advice on things I can do to begin to correct it.  Why correct it?  Well, because that wonkiness likely led to my apparently-not-so-random hamstring injury.  Plot twist.

I've spent the last three days attempting to implement some of her exercises and tips, and as a result I feel much like this when I'm running:

At least the scenery's been pretty.  Run early enough and there are only trees out there to judge you.

There is a tree I avoid running past two blocks from our house, though, as the owner has attached a scary face to it.  It's one of those that you don't even notice until you're close enough to do one of these:

I keep meaning to take a picture of it, but I'm too scared to because two things are possible here:  1) This is a tree with an actual menacing face that grew out of it and it most likely does not care for scared runner paparazzi, and 2) the owner of the house and tree are people who do things like attach mean faces to their trees to frighten unsuspecting passersby.  One of these is admittedly more likely than the other.  Guess which one I believe to be true.  

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Corn and Ice Cream, But Not Corn Ice Cream

Most of the time, when I'm on one of my longer runs, out on a trail, far from town, I find all the sky and cornfields and farms pretty.

I took this photo yesterday morning.  My brain allowed me to enjoy such scenery for right around three miles, when it then decided to bring up an image from this movie- you know, for fun.


Now, do I actually believe all those cornstalks I run past are sheltering The Children of the Corn, or that this corn can in some way be displeased with me?  Of course not!  (...Mostly.)

That being said, if a child ever did run out of the corn and into my path, I think it's safe to say I would have a fatal heart attack, whether they referred to me as an "Outlander" or not.  Still not sure why I don't run with pepper spray.

To distract myself from the prospect of He Who Probably Doesn't Walk Behind The Rows, I listened to a podcast where an ultra runner was interviewed about all kinds of stuff related to running super long distances- she was one of the top female finishers at Western States 100 this year- and one of the things she talked about was how ultra running strips a person, leaves them at their most raw and vulnerable, and exposes their truest self.

All I could think was that I feel the same way about watching people eat ice cream.
Look at that one in the middle.  He is not kidding around about getting that goodness into his mouth, and he tends to attack much of the rest of his life in the same way.  See?  Raw, exposing his truest self, and he didn't even half to run 100 miles to do it.  

So maybe I'm not meant to be an ultra runner, or even a long distance runner (discussing the fact that I don't currently have any ambitions to run a full marathon with my mother, her response was:  "I will come up there and hog tie you if you try to run that far."), but man, can I get after an ice cream cone. 


It's funny, my second thought upon finding this photo was, "Aw, look at seven-year-old Adelaide!" but my first was, "Mmm, I remember that strawberry rhubarb ice cream."

Sadly, one of the few really serious and devastating things that Iowa lacks is Braum's.
If you just gasped, all I can say is I know, right?  Feel sorry for me.



Friday, July 22, 2016

Testing My Ability to Ruin Anything

We are T minus 20 days to the Iowa State Fair.  This is important and glorious news for those of us who feel this way about corn dogs:

And when your whole family feels this way about corn on the cob:
Why, yes, that is Caedmon at the Iowa State Fair, five years ago, not quite one year old.  Be still, my corn- and baby-loving heart.


I entered a number of items in our sad, local county fair a couple years after moving to Iowa, and while I won first place in open class for my cookies and placed in a few other categories, as it turned out, they don't give out ribbons here, but instead stickers that merely look like ribbons.  See?  Sad.

So this year, I began looking into entering items into the state fair- the huge, gigantic, competitive Iowa State Fair.  The one that has more than 65,000 entries per year, according to the fair's website.

That information kind of scared me away- I mean, I know I make a decent cookie, but against 65,000 other people who also believe in their cookie-making abilities?  Yeesh.

I then, however, made the mistake of calling my grandma, who was all "Wonderful!  Yes!  You should do it!"  And then an envelope arrived in the mail from her a scant two days later containing entry money for Adelaide, so that she, too, could take part in the madness.


So we've been practicing.  I even went out and bought a cookie scoop, so you know I mean business.


Really, though, I have zero expectations for this whole fair-entry-competition experience.  We're in it to try something new, and to stretch ourselves a bit, plus it's a handy excuse to spend more time at the fair.  I am determined not to let myself freak out about any of it, and to treat it as an excuse to have fun, and be adventuresome!  Sooooo basically suppress my whole personality.

What could go wrong?