Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Halloblaaarghween *Updated*

Halloween is two weeks away.  Uuuuuggh.

I feel like I should be more excited about this, but when you live in a time and place where people think nothing of spending waaaay too much money on their kids' costumes (note: anything more than $10 TOTAL constitutes "too much" in my book, which practically guarantees our children are going to have those sad "my mom tried to get creative with a black trash bag and now I want to kill myself" looks), Halloween fills you more with dread than excitement.  

Adelaide is still undecided, costume-wise.  I keep killing her buzz with questions like, "So how exactly are you going to execute this coffee mug costume?" and "You do realize I'm not going to allow you to draw on your face with Sharpie, right?"

Atticus wants to be Robin Hood, but the only Robin Hood-ish costumes I've been able to come up with are made from my own brown and green clothing, so it'll be a battle to make sure he has a "robs from the rich to give to the poor" look and not a "I like to prance around the woods in women's clothing" Robin Hood in Drag look.  

As for Caedmon, I'm pretty sure he's going as a Communist, as all he likes to talk about anymore is working.  "Welp, I'm going to work," "No, mom, I'm working," "Mom, working is more important than anything."  I just won't feed him for the next two weeks and dress him in burlap for trick-or-treating.  On the plus side, he won't be able to complain when I divide his candy equally between each member of our family.

And real quick:  Nobody panic.  I'm not going to force our six-year-old into tights or starve our four-year-old.  I just need to get these negative Halloween feelings out so I can work on actual obviously-homemade costumes that our kids can proudly complain about for years to come.

I don't know how I'm going to top last year's four-dollar roasting pan and spray paint turtle costume, but I'm working on it.  I'm working on it.  (Heh.  I just looked, and Atticus is wearing my clothes in this photo, too.  Hrrmmmm...)

UPDATE:  I'VE GOT IT.  I'll just throw paint on the lot of them, and when people ask, "What are they?" I'll muster up as much disdain and superiority as I can and scathingly tell these obviously uncultured peasants that "It's ART," and if they look skeptical I'll string a bunch of nonsense phrases together relying heavily on words like "visceral" and "symbolism," plus I'll heave a bunch of huge sighs because true artists are never appreciated in their own time.  

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Mystery in the Cathedral

(Despite the sound of that title, I saw zero Nancy Drews in the Cathedral of St. Paul.)

Let me begin by saying this:  I am not Catholic.  I was not raised Catholic.  Yes, the pope and I are best one-sided friends, but there are many things I don't understand about Catholicism.

Like this:

Now.  Have there been times when, all other disciplinary measures having failed, I have sprayed water our on children, chanting, "THE POWER OF CHRIST COMPELS YOU!"?  But of course!  Sometimes the only thing that will do is a good old-fashioned exorcism.  I'm pretty sure I read that in The Happiest Baby on the Block.  

Seriously, though, sisters of mine, what on earth is this for?  Is this one of those things I didn't even knew I needed until I had it, like my bendable cutting mats or good, warm socks?  Is this for cooking the best, most pasta-y pasta this side of heaven?  Am I going to hell for joking about this?  

Fortunately I wasn't quite so befuddled by all the wonders contained within the Cathedral.  I may not go to the kind of church that houses massive statues of the doctor, but I still understand this one.  I think.

Not The Doctor, of course- Dr. Luke.  OH, OH, OH, UNLESS... no.  I have tip-toed uncomfortably close to blasphemy already in this post.  I will restrain myself from suggesting that the gospel writer Luke and Doctor Who are one and the same person.

It's true- we don't have any of this fun statuary in my church.  Or, hang on, whaddayoucall'em- shrines, I think.  Is that right, my Catholic brethren?  Shrines, correct?

Whatever they are, I enjoyed the heck out of them.  Partially because they were so beautiful, so impressive, but also because most contained elements I wouldn't have expected.  

Take the above photo- is that a pegasus there on the bottom right, next to Luke?  I don't really remember reading about a pegasus in the book of Luke, or in any of the gospels, to be perfectly honest, which is really a shame.  Was this a strange whim of the sculptor ("You know what this disciple needs?  More pegasi.")?  Or is this yet another mystifying Catholic thing?  Do you unlock the mystery of the pegasus when you're going through Catholic confirmation classes?  Because in the Lutheran ones the most mysterious thing ever discussed was the Office of the Keys, which, after nine years of Lutheran school and two years of Lutheran catechism classes, I still can't tell you exactly what that dang thing is.  It just sounds cool. 

My questions about this one were answered by the tour guide:

I took these photos before the guided tour, and I may or may not have discovered the unfortunately impressive acoustics in the Cathedral when I snorted aloud at this picture of Catholic story time:

"Goodnight light, and the red balloon."
I was taught during the tour that these are Saints Cyril and Methodias (don't ask me which one's which, they're like those identical twins you went to school with, where you could never quite remember if Mandy or Mindy was the one with long hair, except with beards here, I guess), as in the Cyrillic alphabet.  I've decided that until they name an entire alphabet and its associated language after me, I should probably forfeit the right to make fun of them.  This notion was followed by some pretty intense guilt, which they apparently pump right into the air in these places.

Unlike the rest of the shrines, however, I knew this guy the moment we made crazy-eyed contact:

Oh, John the Baptist, with your hair toga-thing and your steady diet of locusts.  


It's a little frustrating to look at these photos now, because they really don't give you any sense of the scale of this place.  It's massive, that dome up there soaring some 186 feet above the ground.  

It's the same with the stained glass.  The Cathedral's just dripping with it, but you're not experiencing the incredible play of light and color through them unless you're there.  

And while I may not be Catholic, I'm Lutheran enough to know that you don't just sashay up to the altar to walk your dirty little sinner's fingers all over everything, something a lady in our small tour group started to do, prompting two other women and I to audibly gasp and the kind elderly gentleman who was our tour guide to do a kind of, "UBUGUHGGG-D-D-DON'T GO UP THERE!  *Ahem* Excuse me, you are permitted to walk behind the screens to view the shrines, but please don't approach the altar."  It was a moment.

I just loved the whole thing- the beauty, the incredibly knowledgeable tour guide, the insane amount of detail, the shrines, all of it.  Makes me want to put stained glass in one of our windows, and maybe one of those bathtub shrines you bury in the dirt in our backyard.  Probably exactly what the architects of the Cathedral had in mind.  

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Six Years' Worth of Atticus

We interrupt the regularly scheduled St. Paul recap for this important announcement:

Atticus is six today.

See that little scrunchy-faced thing in my arms, still covered in vernix caseosa?  That would be our very own Atticus.

It's hard to believe that on this day, six years ago, Derek was taking me in to the hospital to be induced.  I was four days overdue, and the doctor was getting anxious to get the little guy out, worrying he was getting too big in utero.

They started the pitocin drip, we were assured we'd have a bouncing baby boy within a few hours, and everything was going swimmingly.

A few hours in, however, my contractions began to slow down.  They started saying alarming things about our baby's heartrate.  The words "emergency c-section" were mentioned.  

Our (wonderful, wonderful) OB (seriously, I've had three babies in three different states with three different obstetricians, and while I liked all three, Dr. H is the clear winner) had just finished updating us on what was going on and what might be happening soon, etc, etc, patted my arm, and was getting ready to walk away when he looked down and said, "Why is there a puddle right here?"

Well.  It turns out the nurse had accidentally detached my drip, so all that pitocin had been dripping out onto the floor instead of into my system, explaining the slowed contractions, along with everything else.

I was about 1% irritated and 99% super sympathetic for that poor nurse, who was clearly mortified and red-faced and quailing under the strong, disapproving and "WE'LL TALK ABOUT THIS LATER" gaze of Dr. H.  

They hooked me back up, everything sped back up, and within the hour we had ourselves an Atticus.  He weighed 9 pounds, which to me meant the doc was right, we did need to get him out before he went all Monstro on us and I had to deliver a giant (bad enough that just when I thought I was done the doctor said, "Okay, looks like you've got one of those whose shoulders are as big as their head, keep pushing,"), but to Derek he was still teeny (my husband was 11 lbs, 11 oz when he born, and I think was secretly hoping to have babies as big as he was, never mind that such a thing would surely have split me right in half).

Now we have this guy:

Also this guy:

And this one:

That thing on his forehead is a temporary tattoo that's begun to fade.  Because I'm the kind of mother who says, "Whatever," when he asks if he can put the tattoo on his face.

He loves golfing and riding his bike and building with legos.  He's the only kindergartener I know who was seemingly born with the gene for delayed gratification:  If he's offered a piece of candy, his first question will be if he can wait and eat it later.  If I say, "You can either have dessert now, or after supper," he will always choose after supper.  I thought I knew what all his favorite clothes were until recently, when he told me, "Mom, do you know why I always pick the clothes I don't like as much?  It's so I can wear my favorite shirts later, and they'll be clean if I need them on a different day."  He has a backpack full of suckers and other small rewards they hand out at school, and nothing seems to make him happier than quietly adding to his little stash.

He's incredibly physically affectionate.  He loves to be hugged and held and never wants to sit next to you so much as half-on you, a leg and an arm draped across your body.  He's friendly and laughs easily and makes friends quickly.  He's tall and skinny and so, so dear.

Five short years ago.  Gracious sakes.

You should really click to embiggen this one, because Atticus still stares adoringly at Derek in this exact same way.

Bless my stars.  You guys are lucky I can't access his baby pictures on this computer, or today would be a total wash.  It's not my fault I have a ridiculously cute son, okay?  A six year old son who woke up this morning and joyfully exclaimed, "I'm six!" at least a dozen times before he left for school.  

Oof.  Six.  Happy Birthday, Atticus!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Wednesday, Wednesday in St. Paul

Wednesday was rainy and cold, so I spent a comfortable morning scribbling blog posts in a notebook, working through a bible study (tell me friends:  Am I the only one who can't stand David?  I know it probably says something terrible about me, but I have a feeling if David and I were to enter an episode of Doctor Who and somehow co-exist within the same earthly timeline, we would loathe each other.  I'm suspicious of overly charming people- I feel like I'm being manipulated- and David does a number of seriously heinous things, realizes he's been a naughty, naughty David, and whines about it for the rest of eternity.  I decided to do this study because I was hoping it would change my long-held opinion about David.  So far, nope.), and reading bits and pieces of The City, An Altar in the World, and The Yiddish Policemen's Union.

Around 12:15 I finally got sick of myself and decided I need a little stimulation, so I went for a 45-minute walk through the St. Paul Skyway, where by minute 20 I had gotten all the stimulation I needed, but was by this point, of course, lost.  (HEY.  Those skyways are positively labyrinthine, not nearly as straightforward as the maps would have you believe.)

I did finally make it back to our hotel room, and vowed never to leave again.  Have I mentioned how much we loved our hotel?  WE LOVED OUR HOTEL.  It occupies three floors of a downtown St. Paul building constructed in 1917, and so much of the original ornate detail still exists in the lobby and select pockets of the building:

Just a slice of the view from the second floor balcony down into the lobby.  You can't even see the grand piano or the front desk.

As for our room, the parts you want to be tasteful and charming were, well, tasteful and charming, and the parts that you want to be just a teensy bit more modern (read:  shower, kitchenette, mattress, Keurig) were perfectly updated.

Hello, room.  I miss your big, original windows that actually open.  I miss your soft lighting from four separate lamps.  I miss your high ceilings and your two capacious built-in wardrobes and your complementary K-cups (replenished daily!) and your little tubs of flavored coffee creamer and the helpful nonjudgmental people working at the front desk who gave me all the extra creamer I could want.  Oh, and?  Every single room is different, which means we have no choice but to go back.  Our hands are tied.

Hello, big ol' bed with built-in drawers there at the bottom that you unfortunately can't see in this photo.

Yes, this bathroom was on the small side, but whomever it was that set up this little boutique hotel put all kinds of space-saving bits of genius all over.  

Plus, there's a little step-up to get into the (scrupulously clean) bathroom.

I don't know why I geek out over little steps and old doors.  I just do.

Two steps to get into the shower.  I didn't know what to do with myself.

Wardrobes are my love language.  Especially when they have waffle-weave hotel robes hanging inside.  Especially especially when the hangers holding onto those robes contain a (nicely) sarcastic little note informing you that if that robe somehow finds its way into your luggage when you leave, you can go ahead and have it for the bargain price of $75 a pop, or you can contact the front desk and they'll get one for you for a much more reasonable price.

You can see why we didn't want to leave.  Ever.  I'm sure we could have found a place to stuff the children.  I mean, there are two wardrobes.  Not mention free breakfast for hours and hours every morning.  I do believe all three of our kids would agree to a wardrobe for a bedroom in exchange for waffles every single day.  

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Tuesday, Tuesday in St. Paul

Tuesday was more productive.  I began the day with a bracing run, "bracing" being code for cold with a light sprinkle designed to chill that soon morphs into a driving rain.  I decided to treat this as a high adventure spectated by fellow rueful runners and the errant homeless who surely wondered at the fact that society views them as crazy.

Later that morning I embarked on a 3 1/2-hour walk that began with the Cathedral of St. Paul.

Magnificent.  Breath-taking.  A welcome sanctuary when you could do with a break from the hubbub of the city.

This is just one little piece of one wall.  It's not even one of the focal points of the cathedral; I just like beautiful stained glass.

I noted that there were free tours every afternoon, and determined I would return on a different day.  This means you will be subjected to far more photos and adjectives of the cathedral in a couple days.

After I wrestled my way out of the giant church (huge, heavy wooden doors vs me), I finally finally found my first bookstore.  It was charming and twisty and in the basement of a building that houses a cafe that sent down a steady stream of bewitching scents that has to be torturous for those working in the bookstore.  If I were running the place, I'd offer free books to anyone willing to bring me a treat from above any time they wandered down the stairs.  I'd also have to change the name of the shop from "Subtext" to "Lair of the 700-lb Broke Woman."  I'd get a AAA Diamond Rating in no time.

Next I hoofed it, and hoofed it, and hoofed some more, trying to reach Garrison Keillor's bookstore Common Goods.  On the way I stumbled upon an absolutely delightful bookstore by the name of Sixth Chamber Used Books.  It was stuffed to the ceiling with- spoiler alert- books, plus book-scented candles and t-shirts for an upcoming event titled Potterfest.  On a related note, I am moving to St. Paul for the sole purpose of attending this extravaganza.  Our children will understand.

After buying one lonely book (my restraint will go down through the ages) from the friendly and extremely knowledgeable staff (I may or may not enjoy subtly quizzing bookstore employees to see if they are worthy of their calling), I looked at the map and decided Keillor's bookstore just wasn't going to happen.  Woe!  My life is so hard!

That evening Derek and I dined at Cosetta's (thanks for the rec, Cheryl!), but whilst we were venturing back to our hotel, Derek noticed a steady stream of people heading toward a large performance hall- and not just any people; old people.  He insisted on investigating, because Derek knows that where there are large amounts of older people, there is often music or theater that young people are too stupid to appreciate.  My spousal bloodhound was rewarded when we discovered that the operatic baritone Nathan Gunn would be performing, accompanied by his likewise impressively accomplished wife, pianist Julie Jordan Gunn.  It was a lovely cap to a lovely day.  (Except for that lady two rows in front of us who spent the first 15 minutes of the second half flipping through photos on her iPhone.  It was incredibly distracting, and believe me, she was old enough to know better.  I promise, lady, 9 out of 10 doctors state that it is possible to go an hour and a half without looking at your phone with little to no side effects, aside from engaging in the world around you and not making your companions hate you.  YOU CAN DO IT.  I BELIEVE IN YOU.)

Don't worry, I didn't forget about the sassy sign- I mean, really, what's not to like about a city whose No Parking signs look like this:

Tomorrow:  Books and Getting Lost Again and a Hotel Room Tour, Oh My!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Monday, Monday in St. Paul

If you have some deep-seated latent objection to the state of Minnesota, the city of St. Paul, or aimless rambling about nothing, you are in the wrong place this week.  Consider yourself warned.

Monday was spent in this charming practice of mine where I have a destination but quickly become hopelessly lost, briskly walking along city streets not because I know were I am going, but merely because I am a fast walker.  All this ever does is get me lost in a hurry.  You'd think I would learn.  You might further surmise that I would stop and eat when I felt hungry, especially in a situation like this, where a brief respite with a sandwich and a map could possible solve the entire dilemma.  You would be wrong.  Why be smart and sated when I can be starving and irrational?  

For some completely addled reason I would instead plunge blindly ahead, blood sugar plummeting, sure that the bookstore is right around this corner- no?  Well, how about this one?  And so one for two hours where I accidentally got to know the streets of downtown St. Paul rather well, all without actually finding a bookstore or stopping for food.  I don't know what is wrong with me.  

Before my tumble down the rabbit hole I did enjoy a run along the Mississippi, where above the water I beheld the beginnings of the yearly chlorophyll exodus, turning the leaves such pretty warm colors, while my mind's eye constructed a rather more gruesome scene for what surely lurks beneath the surface of the water.  This is why I'm wary of large, naturally-occurring bodies of water.  I mean, I'll still swim in them, occasionally, but it's with the understanding that I'm cavorting in a brine of waste and death.  

Okay, so I seriously did enjoy our trip.  I'm not sure what just happened to this post.  I swear, Tuesday of St. Paul is cheerier:  Cathedrals!  Bookstores!  Sassy signs!  A decided lack of the decomposing stew that the yeomen refer to as "lakes"!

I miss you and your disturbing secrets, Mississippi river.

Note:  Two things about this post are driving me crazy; I'm going to share them with you for absolutely no good reason.  1)  It's not really a chlorophyll exodus, is it?  I mean, it's not like the existing chlorophyll in the leaves is departing, much less for a photosynthetic Promised Land.  And 2)  I referred to the fact that I've swam in lakes and rivers that I think of as a brine of waste and death, when, in fact, most of these were fresh water entities, and a brine is a salt water solution.  I considered going back and changing both of those erroneous terms, but I really just didn't feel like it.  Writing this completely extraneous paragraph is obviously a much better use of my time.