Friday, March 17, 2017

Damages Incurred

If you don't count the weekend, today is the final day of spring break!  Adelaide has been singing something called "The Shark Song" on repeat for the past 35 consecutive minutes, Atticus keeps bringing Caedmon to the brink of violence by pausing outside open doorways, gesturing for his younger brother to precede him and then smirking before smarmily saying, "Ladies first!" and I am wondering what it feels like to be alone.  I can't really remember.  How did I keep my sanity for a solid decade while I was staying at home with these heathens full-time?  OH, RIGHT.  I didn't.

Other spring break casualties, other than my patience:  Atticus's noggin, which is currently sporting a nasty, bruised lump behind his left ear where he attempted to vault a bench but miscalculated and instead of smoothly landing beneath the dining table instead bounced his head off the edge; Caedmon's knee, which got caught on a nail, leaving a mighty impressive wound; Caedmon's nose, which was somehow the only casualty when he fell down several stairs, bouncing his head off each step,
and I don't even know what else.  Thankfully, as the above photo shows, our children have Wolverine-like healing powers, and usually 24 hours or so are enough to take the edge off of whatever damage they've currently done to their bodies.  Also seen above is five or so months worth of sunlight withdrawal, aka we are all pale, pasty creatures right about now.  Send help.  Send spring.  Send something.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Through His Stomach

For several years now I have speculated on what, specifically, our children's love languages might be.  Words of Affirmation?  Physical Touch?  Maybe Acts of Service?

I think I got at least one of Atticus's locked down, finally:  Food.  His love language is Food.

Never mind that this is not one of the love languages identified in the eponymous book.  I am telling you:  food is how this boy knows he is loved.

He hasn't exactly been subtle about it.  When his teacher gave each student the prompt, "I love my mom because..." his answer wasn't "she tells me she loves me every day," "she doesn't crawl away when I drape my sick and fevered limbs over her," or even "my shoulders were as big as my head at birth which made the delivery process even more of an unforgettable experience for my sainted mother."

No, his answer was, "Because she cooks for me," accompanied by an illustration of, yes, me cooking, done in Crayolas.  That's right, this isn't something I puzzled out after eons of observation and heart-to-heart conversations with our son.  He made this as clear as possible for me, reinforcing the idea by asking me every day after school, "Are we having something hot for supper tonight?  Can we have something hot?"  This might sound like a rabid affinity for Cajun or other deliciously spicy food, but all it means to him is he does NOT appreciate it when I say we're fending for ourselves tonight and he can help himself to yogurt or a sandwich or whatever.  Adelaide and Caedmon love those days.  Atticus decidedly does not.

He was certainly excited today when his sister decided to make a pie to celebrate Pi Day,

but what really got him going what the fact that I was making a new recipe tonight for supper.

Now, normally any announcement of new recipes is met with groaning on the part of our children, seasoned with a judicious amount of tearing the hair from their own scalps.  It doesn't matter how many times I reason, "All your favorites dishes were once new recipes," they act like I am trying to poison them when something unfamiliar is on the table (to be fair, there have been times when I thought poisoning might be preferable to the crap I've ended up with after all that work).

For some reason, however, the sound of BBQ Chicken, Apple, Bacon, and Cheddar Quesadillas was perfectly suited to his 8-year-old palate.  He was so excited.  So pumped.

This excitement soon turned to anxiety however, which became obvious as he began to haunt the kitchen while I was crumbling the bacon, dicing the apple, shredding the cheddar.  He started asking, repeatedly, "Wait, if you don't like this, are you going to make it again?  Mom?  What if you don't like it?  Will you make it again?  What if I like it, but you don't?  What if everyone likes it, but you don't?  Does that mean you won't make it again?  Mom?  Does it?"

The explanation for his agitation is this:  I won't make food I don't like.  There have been times in the past when I made a new dish, one or two of the members of our family enjoyed it, but I did not.  This means we are not having it again, unless someone else wants to make it, in which case, be my guest.

To Atticus's immense relief, I loved the new quesadillas.  So did Derek.  So did Atticus.  Adelaide and Caedmon tried it, but ended up opting for their standard chicken and cheese quesadillas, because they have boring baby taste buds.  I did not say this to their faces.

Luckily for all of us, it's spring break, so it's easier for me to make sure I've made something "hot" most nights. This includes a new recipe for beef stew with homemade bread here in a couple days, because if it's going to snow during spring break, I am at least going to get soup out of the deal.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Three Things

  • I feel like I've had pretty mediocre luck with books lately.  I was thoroughly fooled by all the amazing blurbs on the cover of the The Rising ("I couldn't be more excited about this book," and "A classic in the making," etc, said by several well-known, decent authors) and picked it up.  Well.  Talk about bleh.  Thankfully I then found The Universe Versus Alex Woods by Gavin Extence.  
The problem is I'm having trouble putting to words why I liked it so much.  I didn't agree with much of anything the author had to say (via his characters) on a philosophical or existential level, and given the nature of the plot, there's a lot of both in there.  I really did enjoy the characters, though, from the protagonist who is hit by a meteorite as a child (and no, this novel does not fall within the fantasy genre) to the crusty, cranky widower with a penchant for Vonnegut.  I guess it's the same with some friends:  You have completely different viewpoints, to the extent that you sometimes look at each other and say, "It is so surprising to me that we are friends," but hey, you like the person.  Just as I like this book.  (Man alive, just when I think my book reviews couldn't get any more meandering and circuitous, I find a new way to do anything but get to the point.)  And here, a barely related image that I nevertheless find amusing.

  • Speaking of books, we can't get enough of these:  
Pardon the shoddy photography; I am, as ever, a poor photographer.  This is one of the Usborne Shine-a-Light books, a series that includes such titles as Secrets of the Rainforest, On the Space Station, and the above, The Human Body.  They take children through the subject matter by showing them pretty if rather standard illustrations,
but then have the reader shine a flashlight- or hold the page up to a light- and discover what's beneath the surface.
The reverse side of the page includes an explanation.  It is awesome.

  • The internet is constantly providing me with things that remind me of Derek.  I helpfully send these on to him immediately after viewing.  I am sure he appreciates this 100% of the time.

Comic by Poorly Drawn Lines

Sunday, February 26, 2017

And Then I Started Teaching Yoga

I had a professor in college who, if you were in a meeting with the organization she led, just a-brainstorming away and then raised your hand to contribute your idea, would say to you, "That sounds great!  That is a good idea for this reason and this reason and this one, too.  You are now in charge of making that idea happen.  I will check back with you next week to see what progress you have made."  And you would blink back at her and realize that you were now actually being forced to do something with your ideas, for once, rather than just yap-yap-yapping away, which really is exactly what college kids need.  This is one of the many things that make her a terrific professor but also make raising your hand in her presence slightly terrifying.

I'm thinking of this because last summer, when I interviewed for my job at the library, the director and I were discussing the current programs at the library along with potential future programming.  She mentioned the possibility of yoga.  I told her that I love yoga!

Six months later I was teaching a yoga class.

The circumstances were a trifle different this time, as I was first asked if I'd like to lead a yoga class, plus I'm teaching alongside one of my co-workers.

Teaching yoga has been... interesting.  Wonderful and delightful, but also interesting.  In the past I've pretty much done whatever the heck I want to do when practicing yoga.  Tight hips?  I think I'll do 45 straight minutes of hip-openers.  Tree pose getting a little boring?  Then I'll just practice dancer pose forever and ever amen just because I love it so much.

Well.  You can't do that when you have a dozen people staring at you, waiting to tell you what to do next.  Especially when you're trying to keep the knee problems of one, the back problems of another, and the hip replacements of the third in mind.  I don't exactly tailor my sequences to the needs of our participants, but you have to keep the ability level of the people you're working with in mind.  45 straight minutes of hip openers and no one will come back, unless you're me, of course.  So when I'm in Warrior II and would normally hold it for another ten breaths but can see that half the class is dying, I only make them hold it for another two.  Two and not one because sometimes you have to be a little bit mean.  I speak out of a place of love, of course.  (Or do I?)

As for co-teaching, here me now:  If you are ever asked to teach a yoga class (because take it from me, this does happen, apparently), and you have a chance to teach it alongside another person, DO IT.  Yes, teaching is rewarding and you get to choose what you're doing and how to lead the class, but what's even better than all that is leading four or five poses and then getting to just follow along for the next few- sure, demonstrating all those poses for your peeps, but also listening to Suzy's voice as she tells you to let your shoulders slump over your knees, or to twist just a bit further, or to hold that foot stretch longer than you ever would on your own, because she is flexible and strong in ways that you are not, and vice versa.  Marvelous, I tell you.

We began the class in January, and while I was at first worried that no one would come, I'm now starting to worry about space.  We are a small library, and each program we host requires some serious Tetris skills as we move furniture around to make everything and everyone fit.  Yoga is no different, as we average around one new person signing up each week, which I suppose isn't so surprising, as it is, after all, FREE, and as I told my mother-in-law, could also be called "yoga for people who have always wanted to try it but are too intimidated to do it at a gym."  Thankfully not everyone comes on the same day, so we tend to have one set of people with us on Monday, and another on Thursday.  Both days share the same favorite pose, however:  Corpse.  I've decided to believe that this is because it is so relaxing, not because it signals the end of class.

I'll just add yoga instructor and self-delusionist to my resume.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

The Thing That Lives in Our Chimney

Note:  Please excuse the abundance of the word "thingy" in this post, and feel free to replace it in your own mind with the proper term.  My vocabulary of plumbing/ventilation/construction-related items is abysmal.

When Derek was installing our (beautiful, glorious, spectacular) new hot water heater recently, he had to pry off a metal thingy that was covering a hole in the old chimney that goes from the roof, through the center of our house, and on down to the basement.  This was because he had to connect this silver tube thingy from the top of the water heater to that hole in the chimney for... ventilation?  I do know we majorly sweated over whether there was the proper amount of rise- I think it was a quarter inch per foot of tubing- from the water heater to this ventilation(?) hole; our new water heater is much taller than the old one, and for a while there was some question as to whether we were going to be able to make this work.  Derek's dad threw around fun words like "poison monoxide poisoning" just to make sure we grasped how important this whole proper ventilation thing was.

After Derek opened up that hole in the chimney but before he attached the new tube thingy, we took a moment to peer into the hole.  I suggested a picture be taken, but that Derek be the one to stick his hand in there to do so.  There was absolutely no question whatsoever that if I were to attempt the picture taking, I would have somehow dropped my phone in the chimney, never to be retrieved.

Picture my phone at the bottom of that chimney, wailing and gnashing of teeth from Derek, and yours truly sputtering, "What- But- I don't- How- I WAS HOLDING ON TO IT!"

So, yeah.  Derek took the pictures.

He first took the previous one, looking down, then the next pic, looking up.  Hello, 117-year-old chimney!  Hello, daylight!

When I looked at this photo later, though... what the heck?  What is that?  That thing?

Bird's nest?  Wasp's nest?  Alien cell waiting for the signal from the mother ship to activate and whir into action? 

Clearly it could be any of those three things, but a word to the wise, friends:  do not google "nest in chimney."  Most of the results are fairly benign, but a few will serve to further your belief that Australia is not, in fact, fit for human habitation.  Just trust me on this.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Two Things and a Book Review

Well.  It would appear that our laptop has a virus.  This has made it impossible to access the internet from that device, which I need to get onto Blogger, where I do all my bloggy things.  Which as resulted in the lack of recent posts.  Derek suggested I type my posts out on the word processor on the (EVIL INFECTED) laptop, save it to a thumb drive, then publish it at the library.  The man is clearly a technical genius.  (Why did this not occur to me, you ask?  Because I am excellent at wailing in anguish when things like this go wrong, but problem solving, well... it's not exactly my forte.  If you need me to point something out in the fridge that NO ONE ELSE CAN SEE WITH THEIR FUNCTIONING EYEBALLS, HOWEVER, I'm your girl.)  Oh, except there is nary a thumb drive to be found in our house, so I typed this out on laptop, took a picture of it with my phone, and am now transcribing it into Blogger at the library.  Now that is dedication to blogging (happy, Mark?).

Because I can't use my beloved gifs on these pecked-out-on-the-word-processor posts, I guess I'll have to fall back on my old stand-by:  The List.

  • We drove down for a whirlwind visit to Kansas last weekend.  Included in this visit were:  The holding of babies, the baptism of babies, golfing, and visiting the church I grew up in.  Highlights included all those babies and being so lovingly embraced by the church that helped raise me, to the extent that I had old ladies talking to me through bathroom stalls even after I had closed and locked the door and was taking care of my business.  I think it's safe to say that Evelyn and I are now very close.  (But don't tell her I called her Evelyn.  She is the type that will tell you her life story as you pee but be offended if you address her by her first name.  I know this because, again, very close.)

  •  Our children are all still alive.  (Pumping my fist victoriously in the air, as these days they often seem to live their lives as if they're engaged in some sort of familial version of the Hunger Games.)  Why do boys seem to so enjoy throwing each other to the ground when they see one another?  This morning my normal "Separate!" edict wasn't enough; I had to instruct them not to so much as make eye contact with the other, lest it be construed as an act of aggression.  Then Caedmon stumbled down a couple stairs and Atticus rushed to his side to help him up.  SOMEONE HELP ME UNDERSTAND THIS.  Not to worry, though, we have Adelaide who is always happy to lend advice to those in need, which means I find myself frequently replying, "Daughter.  I appreciate your concern, but I do not need your help parenting.  So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, good-bye."  Then she points out that she has read more parenting books than I have.  Which is true.

  •  This book?

It is good.  The kind of good where I lost time to it.  The author is a reporter who began having mild but rather random symptoms one week, which rapidly progressed to the point that she had descended into full-blown madness (her words).  They- and by "they" I mean a whole team of doctors and specialists- couldn't figure out what was wrong with her.  Nervous breakdown?  Schizophrenia?  Alcoholism?  (Yeah, you're not going to like the doctor who gave that last diagnosis.)  If you're a self-aware hypochondriac, maybe give this one a pass, but if you like medical mysteries that move quickly, induce empathy, and have (spoiler alert) a happy ending, check this one out.  I included the link below, something I would usually embed up there in the paragraph, but library computers don't allow the copying and pasting of hyperlinks.  *groans-wails-gnashes teeth-admits how spoiled I am*

Friday, January 27, 2017

I Hate California

Last night, I spent a good chunk of my time brooding over how much I hate California.

This happens every year right around this time.  It's been cold forever.  It takes a million years to get the kids out the door because of all the layers, and every evening each kid has to lay out not just their school attire upstairs, but by the front door I make them lay out their snow pants, snow boots, hat, and gloves or mittens, because if they are missing a single one of those things the school will not allow them out the door for recess.  This, of course, makes perfect sense, as another of the school's policies is that if it is above zero degrees, those kids are going outside.  Because I love that our kids get regular recess times, I love this rule, even if it does occasionally make me question why we have more than one kid (SO MANY GLOVES. SO MANY MITTENS. SO MANY HATS. SO MANY BOOTS.), but that is what winter does to you: it makes you start mentally paring down on how many children you should have.  It is a cruel, merciless time.

Enter California hatred.

Just to be clear, I don't hate California in actuality.  (I think.)  Although the number of people I personally know from that state can be counted on just one hand, every one of them is lovely.  The one time I visited California, it was nice.

It's the idea of California that I hate.  The always warm, always sunshiney, all the people who live there squeal and huddle into their parkas when the temperature drops to 50 degrees, oh, and all they eat are salads- that California is positively loathsome.  Particularly when you've been living under near-constant cloud cover for what feels like weeks.

Again, I know:  California is a big state.  There's major variety in topography, weather, cultures, etc, depending on where you're at.  And if it's just the warm places I want to stab with my abundant supply of icicles, why not Florida?  The Gulf coast?  The southwest?

And this winter hasn't even been that bad!  Way less snow than normal, and there for a week or two we had highs above freezing most days!  It was like some kind of (global warming) miracle!

I'm telling you, I know the whole thing doesn't make sense.  But man... California.  I hate that guy.

This morning, though?  There were no clouds in the sky, including those low-hanging ones that feel ever-present this time of year.  If Iowa is a trailer park, then those clouds are a dangerous, rusted out old swing set: inevitable but so dang depressing.  (Criminy, even my similes are sad this time of year.)

Back to no clouds today:  Do you know what that means?  DO YOU?


As soon as I saw that the sun did not hate us, that it had merely been hidden by the trailer-park-swing-set-clouds, my spirits lifted.  I also felt this strange sensation where the light touched my shoulder- why, it was warmth!  As it turns out, the sun makes you warm!

I did the only sensible thing, and took myself right on over to the forest preserve, where I traipsed hither and yon in that sunshine, the same sunshine that made the snow all sparkly and reminded me that I like the feel of crunchy, ice-crusted snow underfoot, and the feel of cold air in my lungs, and the silence that winter brings as all the sensible people are driven inside.  The presence of the sun made it feel at least twenty degrees warmer than it has been in weeks, although a look at my phone showed me that the perhaps the sun is not to be completely trusted.

Almost every person that walked through the doors of library today immediately exclaimed, "The sun is out!" or "Can you believe that sun?" and the few that didn't were promptly reminded by me or my co-workers that it is risen!  It is risen, indeed!  Hallelujah!

If any of those conversations sound sad, well, it's probably because they kind of are, but hey- the sun was out today!

But I still hate California.

Winter in Not-California