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?




Thursday, July 21, 2016

Stocking Up

Last week I started our back-to-school shopping, because we do most of our school supply shopping in nearby Ames, where if you wait til August you're going to find yourself vying for binders and ballpoint pens with thousands of Iowa State students.  I must admit, however, that these creatures are actually a lot less annoying inside the store than out, where they will blithely wander in front of your moving vehicle, too used to having the right-of-way on campus to remember that their flesh sack will always lose against even a small car.  Either way, I try to stay the heck out of Ames come fall semester.

This is the first year I've had three children to prepare for full-time schooling, three separate supply lists clutched in my hand as we've roamed store after store because I'm determined to get the best deal on all items and I apparently hate myself.  I thought I knew what shopping for three school-age children was going to look like; I mean, Adelaide's going into fifth grade, right?  I know what I'm doing, here!  [laughs hollowly]

I think I first realized I was in trouble when I walked past a display of 30-packs of glue sticks.  "Thirty glue sticks?" I asked myself.  "Who the heck would need thirty glue sticks?  Are they expecting an influx of preschool teachers here?"

Then I read through our children's lists and began adding things up.  12+4+10= 26 sticks of glue, oh, and don't forget to buy extra supplies for when your child runs out throughout the year!

Me.  I need 30 glue sticks.  And 18 highlighters, and 24 dry erase markers, and 68 pre-sharpened #2 pencils.  Those packs are meant for the likes of me.

This makes me wonder about large families:  What kind of frightening numbers are they adding up across multiple supply lists?  Oh, so that's why so many of them homeschool!  (I know, I know, it's not just because of school supplies, but really, that has to be a factor, right?)

I just keep dumping the sacks full of supplies here.  I won't let our kids take them out or touch them in case I find them at a better price elsewhere.  Finding new neuroses is so fun!


One of my favorite experiences shopping for all these things this year was one day last week when I had one kid picking out eight folders and one finding just the right size of protractor and one right next to me because "CAN YOU PLEASE STOP TOUCHING EVERYTHING?"  I was shuffling through the lists and checking things off and noting down prices if I suspected I would be able to find an item more cheaply elsewhere, when an older couple moved within earshot.  The woman had a list of school supplies, and the man had what looked like an identical list, and although she was steadily and quietly making her way down the list, adding items to their cart, he couldn't seem to get past his outrage long enough to actually get anything done.

"Crayola, Crayola, Crayola!  What does it all have to be Crayola?  This store brand is less than half the price!  And why Fiskar scissors?  And Elmer's glue? Is this teacher sponsored by Elmer's?  Does she have the Elmer's cow on her car and all her clothes?  And I can't find these tie-con-der... whatever pencils anywhere! Why are they making this so hard?"  

Because of this.



Evidently it had been a number of years since this man had last shopped for school supplies, and he was unaware of the trend to require brand name supplies.  Honestly, I get it, as it would be tough to be a teacher and have half your class with non-functioning cheapo scissors and crayons whose colors aren't so much classic red and classic yellow as reddish-pinkish and yellowish-orangish.  On the flip side, I have given up on getting the exact brand of pencil some teachers require, as there is no way I'm spending ten bucks on Ticonderoga when I have a drawer-full of spiderman and First National Bank pencils that I'm almost certain function in exactly the same capacity as their city mouse relatives.  

My phone is full of photos like this, with a corresponding shot of its price.  This is SO SO helpful when comparison shopping.


At this point, I have 90% of our school supplies purchased, and am a temporary expert on where to get the best prices for each item.  Derek's sister pointed me toward Staples and Office Max last week, and although I found the latter severely picked over and not worth the drive to the other side of Des Moines for the few things I found there, Staples was surprisingly great, with their $0.17 notebooks, $0.50 composition books, and $0.97 Crayola items, whereas Wal-Mart can't be beat in terms of dry erase markers (must be Expo brand, of course) and Post-Its (again, must be Post-It brand- blargh).  


I was informing/ outright bragging to Derek about how on top of things I am in having this done already when he asked if I had the kids registered for school.  

Registered?  You mean, like, signing our children up for the place that requires all these nit-picky things?


Really, now, what kind of sense would that make?







Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Pretty Things and Jumping Beans

I don't know about you, but events from the past couple weeks have been difficult to process.  Day to day this looks like
Except without the glowing skin and perfectly styled hair.  Gee, it's a great time to be alive!


When not crying over, well, Earth, we've been doing day-to-day type things.  Nice things.  Things I like.  Such as having long, involved conversations about toast.  This is one of the great things about having a five year old.
We can stumble downstairs, sleepy-eyed, and sit on the kitchen floor with a loaf of bread and discuss the magic of melting butter and strawberry preserves on toast.  Not everyone will do these things with me, you know.

Then we admire the beauty to be found in eggs.  Yes, eggs.  I have never claimed to lead a life fraught with adventure and intrigue.  Eggs do just fine for me.  Big ol' thanks to Derek's parents for being such good sharers.



Speaking of beauty:
These plants are all over our local public garden right now, just for me.  Well, me and whomever else just loves striped, striated leaves, which is surely everyone, right?  

Thousands of species of flowers and plants for our children's viewing pleasure, and what do they do when we visit the gardens?
They jump off the temporary wooden structure- and not the front, which is supposed to be explored and climbed on, but the back, where you discover which planks are coming loose and beginning to swivel alarmingly under the weight of your offspring.
"Ninja training," they call it.  "Future broken limbs," I holler at them from my comfortable bench in the shade of some nearby trees while taking pictures of them engaging in risky behavior.
Some refer to this as natural consequences parenting.  I think of it more in terms of "How much can I wear them out before bedtime?"  

For the (child protective services) record, no one broke any bones, and I drained their batteries as low as I dared knowing we had yet to eat supper.










Saturday, July 16, 2016

Thoughts by the Mile

Here's a taste of the things that rabbited through my brain on this weekend's long run.

Mile 1
It's so early.  It's so dark.  I hate running.  I hate waking up.  I hate everyone.  I hate myself.  Why do I do this?  At least it's not cold.  Yes, that's what I'll hang on to.  It is not cold, nor is it too hot.  And hey, there's Casey's.  Man, even Casey's isn't open yet!  There's just one car there; that must be the doughnut maker.  I salute thee, Morning Doughnut Artist, and shall pay my respects to your good establishment to taste your wares later!  I mean that in the least creepy way possible!







Mile 2
Ooooh, fog.  I love fog.  I don't love mornings, but I love fog.  And I guess I don't hate running.  Exactly.  







Mile 3
Okay, yes, finish this mile, and you're done with the first leg!  Remember, it's not 12 miles, it's four 3-mile runs you just happen to be doing in a row.  12 miles is overwhelming and tiring, but I can do 3 miles, right?  And look- more fog!  And corn!  I definitely don't hate running!







Mile 4
All right, first leg done, time to turn around and run right back.  Second three miles.  Hmm, it shouldn't feel this hard.  I'm only on mile 4, it definitely should not feel this hard already.  And- what was that?  Was that a twinge in my right hamstring?  It was, wasn't it?!  Dang it, I knew that injury was going to rear its ugly head on this run!







Mile 5
Hello, I-35!  My hamstring has calmed down, I-35, isn't that fantastic!  False alarm!  

WAIT.  Is that another runner?  It is.  Coming this direction.  Okay:  Man or woman?  Man or woman?  Please be a woman, please be a woman, please be a- craaaaap, it's a man.  Please don't be a rapist, please don't be a rapist, please don't be a rapist... hello, yes, we are waving, and I have my key sticking out between my knuckles and whoooo-boy my pace is soaring from all this adrenaline, aaaaand... he's past. 

Listen for footsteps.  Has he turned around to sneak up on me from behind?  WHY DO I NOT CARRY PEPPER SPRAY ON THESE RUNS?  Maybe albuterol would still sting a bit if I sprayed it in his eyes.  I'll just whip my head around quick to check-

and we're clear.  Not a rapist.  This time.  Note to self:  BUY PEPPER SPRAY.






Mile 6

Finish this mile and you're done with the second leg, halfway done overall!  Okay, you're getting ready to run past the house, check your supplies:  How are we doing on fluids?  Fine, not even halfway gone.  Do I need my hat?  Nah.  Whoops, I should have started in on my fuel already.  Gummy bears, yay!  Why is this kind so superior to other gummies?  Hmm.  Don't care.  Hey, look, a fox!  Two foxes!  Foxen?  Foxes?  Oxen but not foxen?  Don't care.



Mile 7
Okay, third three-mile run of the morning.  Finally starting to feel good.  No, now don't speed up just because you feel good, this is supposed be long and slow.  Finally, some for-real wind.  I love wind so much.  So so much.  And I love corn.  Hamstring feels good.  Well, okay...ish.  Good for a few more miles, anyway.  Hello to you, car, and to you, truck, and another truck, and another.  Thank you all for not hitting me.  I will wave to thank you for sparing my life.  Yes, hello, I realize it's not yet 6:30 AM and I am out here asking you not only to be awake and outside of your house but also not to kill me.  It's a lot, so hey- here's an extra wave.  You guys are the best.





Mile 8
Hey, look, it's me, I'm running!  Running with the corn.  Hey, remember last weekend when I waited way too long to start my run, and didn't set out until 9:30 AM, and wanted to die for two straight hours?  That was awful.  Okay, check the time, make sure I don't need to turn back early, gotta be back in time for Derek to head out for his golf tournament.  Nope, I'm good.  Another mile and I'm done with the third leg!







Mile 9
Look, a deer hanging out by the corn!  And sun!  Oh, yikes, sun.  Bright sun.  Maybe I should have grabbed that hat.  Who cares, there's my watch beeping, that's nine miles completed, which means Hallelujah, I'm officially on my final leg of the day!  I have run nine miles and have three to go!  Wait, no, my brain does not care for that information, it says, "Nine miles?  If we've already run nine miles, then surely it is time to be done.  No more miles for us."  So, fine, I'm on a three mile run, that's all.




Mile 10
I feel like I feel too good.  Something must be wrong.  I'm about to pass out, aren't I?  My brain has lost all connection to my body.  It is the only explanation.  Keep eating, keep drinking, keep eating, keep drinking.





Mile 11
What is that giant crane doing out here, anyway?  What are they building?  Almost done.  Almost done.  Last bit of gravel, and here's the highway.  Maple cake dougnut.  Maple cake dougnut.  Maple cake doughnut.



Mile 12
Done!  Haha, screw all that three-miles-four-times crap, I just ran twelve miles, and I don't feel like dying!  Oh, except I can't stop moving.  Don't stop, and certainly don't sit.  If you sit, you will never get back up again.  Quick, stretch a bit before all your muscles seize up.  Time for a doughnut and a rest day.  All the hallelujahs.














Tuesday, July 12, 2016

I Didn't Even Have to Throw a Shoe

After four days without access to our kitchen sink, on Sunday Derek restored peace and equilibrium to my favorite tiny boring kingdom and fixed it.  Over the weekend there was much disconnecting of things under the sink and rooting around with our ten foot drain snake, followed by pouring an entire bottle's worth of a truly scary chemical concoction down the drain, all mixed with generous doses of frustration and angry muttering, not to mention yelling back and forth from the kitchen to the basement between the two of us. ("CAN YOU HEAR THE SNAKE?"  "I CAN HEAR IT BUT I DON'T KNOW WHERE IT IS."  "WHERE IS IT?  CAN YOU TELL?"  "SOMEWHERE BETWEEN THE WALL AND THE LIGHT BULB, MAYBE?  MOVE IT AROUND AGAIN!  NO, WAIT... THERE, MAYBE?  OR MAYBE IT'S OVER THERE?"  "HAS IT MADE IT AROUND THE BEND?"  "I CAN HEAR IT BUT I STILL HAVE NO IDEA WHERE IT IS.")   This was all exactly as clear and helpful and exciting as I am making it sound.  We party hard in this house.

This all culminated in Derek purchasing a fifty-foot drain snake and finally dislodging whatever disgustingness was wedged in there.  Derek's face after I shared my suspicion as to what the clog was made it clear that our minds are still two very different kinds of creatures.  Derek seemed to think it was an obstruction shoved down there by certain children.  I suspected a mouse king.  Either way, it has been vanquished by Husband, my very own Nutcracker!  (If you are lost at this point, then please allow me to say that I'm sorry your childhood was so sad.  Multiple readings and attendances of The Nutcracker through my formative years have given me an acute appreciation for Hoffmann and Tchaikovsky and Balanchine, with the minor side effect of suspecting mouse kings lurking in just about any dark space.  Worth it.)

Please notice Caedmon's toy tools that he scurried to retrieve once he realized Derek was about to go about fixing something.  Atticus was just there for the show.  Like I said, a tiny boring kingdom.  I love it so much.

It took just long enough to get the whole thing fixed that I am majorly appreciating it today.  Every time I walk through the kitchen, I smile happily, because hey!  I have functional indoor plumbing!  I can cook again, and do dishes, and not worry about mouse kings summoning their army!  I celebrated all this by trying a new recipe today, because with access restored to my kitchen, I can once again to do that!  Apple, Cranberry, and Almond Coleslaw, Derek and I both love you in a way that is strange, considering you're basically a big bowl of cabbage.  This is the traditional way to celebrate the absence of rodent royalty, you know.

Monday, July 11, 2016

The Speller

Adelaide is all in a tizzy today because

She's been waiting for months for this letter, informing her that yes, her dreams have come true, she gets to participate in the Iowa State Fair spelling bee next month.  Day after day, trotting out to the mailbox, only to be disappointed by a notable paucity in spelling bee-related letters- until today.

For whatever reason, our schools don't have their own spelling bees, which is a problem when you have a daughter whose favorite game is, "Give me a word to spell!"  Now she finally gets a chance to have a stranger with a microphone give her many difficult words to spell while she stands on a stage in front of large state fair crowds.  I have not described the experience in quite this way to her, which is probably why she's still looking forward to it.


When she hasn't been obsessively checking the mailbox- giving me the opportunity to crow, "No post on Sundays!" an average of, oh, say once a week?- Adelaide has been, among other things, volunteering at our local library.  She was excited to begin several weeks ago, but I wondered how long this job would hold its charm for her; I was a little afraid she was expecting hours of reading, rather than whatever tasks actually need doing.

The first day, I picked her up after an hour and she was so dang excited.  "Mom, it was awesome!  I got to shelve books, and dust, and spent a long time denewstickering!  I want to stay longer next time!"  After I ascertained that she had peeled "New!"stickers off of no-longer-new books, among other things, I answered that, yes, she could stay longer next time, as long as the librarians really did have things for her to do and she wasn't underfoot.  A month later, she still loves it.

See?  Not walking but running toward her volunteer hours at the library.

Eldest child has rounded out her summer by playing with her brothers like they're her favorite people in the world, except for the times she's engaging in what appears to be a fight to the death with them.  She's well-rounded like that.