Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Crislers v. Bees

Bees.  I am so sick of talking about bees.  Now, I am normally a lover of bees, planting bee-attracting flowers in our beds, trying to increase the number of native plants we have, etc, but last week one of our children came into the house screaming.  Not my-sibling-has-pissed-me-off screaming, but rather I-am-dying-mother-come-tend-to-me-now screaming.  It took a couple minutes, but I got this kid calm enough to explain to me that they had been stung by a bee on the leg.  Sure enough, the affected area began to redden and swell, but said kid was down to sitting on the floor, snuffling and moaning, when suddenly they began to twitch.  Once, twice, then jumping up, saying, "There's... there's something in my pants!  There's- THERE'S A BEE IN MY PANTS!"  

Commence more screaming.

I yanked their pants and underwear down, and sure enough, there was a bee in their underwear, and a second, fresh sting on their backside.  

Long story short, this child stood in the middle of the kitchen for another five minutes screaming and crying and refusing to pull their pants up for fear of another stealthy insect hiding in their clothing, waiting to attack their precious bits and pieces.  This meant the other two kept trying to walk into the room, then making a sharp U-turn saying, "Oooookay," because although we're a relatively close little family unit, we're not "hang out half-naked while trembling and panic-breathing" close.  

Aaaaaanyhoo, after that intense little episode, we've been talking a lot about bees.  See, I thought I was being a good parent by showing this kid the tiny corkscrew-shaped stinger still attached to the (dead) bee, but apparently this only served to further traumatize the kid.  

Note to self:  Do not view My Girl during family movie night any time soon.




The other thing I'm sick of discussing is bees, again, of the spelling variety.  Adelaide once again participated in the Iowa State Fair spelling bee, but this time she got 11th place, an abysmal showing, to borrow her words.  Was she the 11th-best speller there?  No.  She was easily one of the top few spellers, but she was not one of the most focused this year, and you need both excellent spelling ability and intense focus to do well in a spelling bee.  She got out on a word she knew perfectly well, rushing the end and missing a letter.  Devastation ensued.  She is eligible to compete one more year; we'll see what she decides.  Congratulations must be showered upon both Derek and I for not saying some hearty I TOLD YOU SOs, as she performed in the bee the way she practiced, and we more or less saw this coming.  May I just say that this whole part of parenting, the part where you want to guide your children, yet also let them make their own mistakes, even when you see disappointment on the horizon as a result- that part?  It sucks.  I so badly wanted to nag Daughter throughout the summer to better prepare for this event, but did not.  And I still don't regret it.  Mostly.


Atticus provided some fun during the ill-fated bee (this ill-fated bee, I mean, not the previous one); sitting still and not talking is tough for our most social child, but he found a way:  he was sitting clear to the side of the stadium-type seating, and his perch overlooked the table where the contestants who had just been eliminated got to choose a free book as a consolation prize.  Atticus rarely wastes an opportunity to interact with other people, so he designated himself the official Book Table Greeter and whispered things down to them like, "What book are you choosing?" and "You're choosing that book?" and "Don't forget your book!"  He's the kid who actually enjoys those paralyzing moments in church when the pastor announces that he hates all introverts and instructs us to say hello to those around us.  Adelaide greets one person (the minimum we have cruelly inflicted upon her), Atticus shakes all the hands and announces to everyone around that his name is Atticus, and Caedmon is the third child and there is only one of me so I'm not exactly sure what he does.  I think he says hello to the overtly friendly people near him.  Sorry, Caedmon.  Maybe Dad has been paying attention.



Bees:  2,    Crislers:  0.

(Or is it Bees:  3, since our kid was stung twice?  Whatever, the point is WE LOST.)


Thursday, August 17, 2017

It's a Confusing Time of Year

It is the week before school starts, which means all the things I put off throughout the summer are now demanding to be done.  I mean this quite literally, as our middle son comes to me every day and asks, "Have you sewed the appliqués on my backpack yet?"

Appliqués on the backpack but no bed skirt on the bed, because who am I, Joanna Gaines?  Leave me alone.

First of all, yes, our son does know what the word "appliqué" is and how to use it in a sentence, of which I am duly proud, and second of all, yes, I did offer to sew appliqués onto our children's perfectly fine backpacks, because... I make poor life choices?  I don't know.

Oh, wait, yes I do.  We'd been back to school shopping, which consists of me standing in the middle of a store and sounding increasingly obsessive about school supplies.   "Okay, Atticus, you need 6 dry erase markers, and they must be EXPO brand, and they must be black, but Adelaide, you need 4 dry erase markers, EXPO brand, but they have to be different colors.  Caedmon, you need two, in black.  ...No, dry erase markers, Caedmon.  Dry erase markers.  I am not talking about highlighters right now, that is three further items down the page, so I will not talk about those right now, just dry erase markers.  Atticus, focus, we are only focusing on dry erase markers, not red pens.  I do not care if you need red pens and they're right next to the dry erase markers, that is not the item we are discussing, just dry erase markers.  PUT THE COLORED PENCILS DOWN, ADELAIDE.  DRY ERASE MARKERS ONLY."

Anyway, it had been a day of so many rigid lists and "no"s that I faltered and told them that sure, I'd sew some appliques on their backpacks, and okay, yes, I'd embroider a few words on there, too.  I know why I had no trouble making these insane promises; it was mid-July and the start of the school was still ages away!  I had all kinds of times to make these things happen!  And yes, we do our school supply shopping in the middle of July, because I am a human being capable of learning from the past; in this case, knowing that THOU SHALT NOT:

  • Shop for school supplies in August.
  • Buy those Ticonderoga pencils the list always specifies, that cost FOUR TIMES AS MUCH as regular #2 pencils.  Junior can make do with 48 pencils cobbled from random drawers and sporting jack'o'lanterns, past politicians running for office, and Spiderman, just like the rest of us peasants.
  • Shop for school supplies in the college town, unless you like bare shelves and almost hitting that one college kid who wanders back and forth across the parking lot in such a haphazard fashion you begin to wonder if he perhaps suffers from severe vertigo.  He doesn't, he's just oblivious.  You will see him again in February, when it is -3 degrees outside.  He will be wearing shorts.  

The new THOU SHALT NOT of school supply shopping that we learned last year was "Buy backpacks from Wal-Mart."  Two of our three children had almost completely dismembered their backpacks by the end of last school year; Atticus because he kept swinging his around and around over his head (as a lasso when he pretended to be a cowboy, as rotor blades when he pretended to be a helicopter), Adelaide because she insists on carrying no less than thirty pounds of books with her wherever she goes.  She is actually the one that has the most work to do at the end of each year, as it takes some time to return all the books she's borrowed from three different libraries and five separate teachers.

I'm sure I'll accumulate a whole new list of THOU SHALT NOTs this year, as we break new ground:  Middle school.  Adelaide is going to middle school.  We've already visited once, to get her locker assignment, wage war against the lock (*sing-song* guess who's crazy smart but doesn't know clockwise from counter-clockwise?  our daughter ), and find her new classes, where she insisted on snooping in each room and either glorying in or judging the books they had on their shelves.

We're going back tomorrow to put all her supplies in her locker and work some more with The Lock That Hates Her, where I will get additional practice not saying aloud what is in my head ("HOW DO YOU STILL NOT KNOW WHICH WAY IS CLOCKWISE?" and "It's very strange that you are starting middle school given that just yesterday it was your first birthday and you were shoving your first cupcake so forcefully into your own face that I kept having to wipe frosting off your nostrils so you could breathe.").




Friday, August 4, 2017

Of Bishop's Weed and Books

I was recently reading a memoir in which the author references the troubles of bishop's weed.  She spoke of how difficult it is to get rid of, its root structure, how very weed-like it is.  Being unfamiliar with this chlorophyllic pest, I googled it.  What stared back at me on the screen was my beloved snow-in-the-mountain.

How dare she?  I was flabbergasted and flummoxed and furious in a way that you only get over something that matters not even a little bit.  But then I saw a map.  For someone with such a tenuous grasp on geography, I seem to love maps in an unreasonable amount.


[Side note:  I am currently attempting to complete my bishop's week/ snow-in-the-mountain thoughts while one child butchers the lyrics to The Star Spangled Banner, the other asks me to play "the chainsaw video" for the umpteenth time, and the other hollers to me from the laundry room that I should maybe wash the sleeping bag today as she's pretty sure a close-knit family of insects took up residency while she had it at camp.  If another person asks me why I've been such an absentee blogger as of late, I'm going to station all three children around said person and have them interrogate at will, because that is a fairly accurate picture of summer break.]

Maps.  Bishop's weed.  Right.
This map illustrates which states find bishop's weed to be an invasive plant.  The author in question lives in upstate New York where, according to this map, snow-in-the-mountain is not invasive, but apparently in neighboring Vermont it is.  Since we all know how respectful plants and other wild things are of state lines, I think I'll give this lady a break.

Also, it just dawned on me that perhaps I enjoy maps so much because I have such a poor grasp on world geography.  They are truly useful to me and my reaction is often one of delighted wonder.  I know my North, Central, and South American geography quite well; the rest of the world, I mean, it's really far away.  (Why, yes, I have used this as an excuse in the past.)  This means I more or less shackle Derek to me when we are going to play any sort of trivia game, as his knowledge of all things geographical and really anything involving spatial relationships is excellent.  I excel in the Harry Potter categories, which come up more often than you think.

[And now Caedmon is upstairs yelling things out his bedroom window at his brother in the backyard.  Something about listening to the Eragon audiobook without Atticus, a grave sin indeed in the context of their relationship.  Adelaide is snuffling over the fact that her brothers already know who their teachers are but she doesn't and how could the United States Postal Service fail her and why is life so unfair?  It would appear that I am expected to answer these questions to her satisfaction.  Spoiler alert:  Even those newspaper advice columnists could not generate a reply that satisfied Daughter when she is in this state.]

Speaking of newspaper advice columnists (why, yes, forced and clumsy segues are kind of my thing), the book that provoked this plant-based inner turmoil?  It's fantastic.
Ms. Dickinson has been giving strangers advice for years through her column Ask Amy; I don't confess to being particularly acquainted with this column except on occasion.  I read an excerpt of this book a while back some place or other and knew it had to be mine, or at least the library's.  As soon as it had been processed, I snatched it off the library shelf before anyone else could (a disturbing practice of mine that I confess is becoming more and more habitual; the only problem with this is I have less time to read than ever, so half the time I return the books unread), and have plowed through it over the course of yesterday evening and in small snippets this morning.  It's short, and relatable, and you'll find yourself wanting to underline passage after passage- although if you are a person who engages in this type of behavior with library books, may I instead recommend the following:
A charming children's book about how to treat library books that would benefit more adults I see at the library than kids.  (Interaction with a very nice, responsible patron some months ago as she is checking out:  "I'd like to check this book out, but there seems to be something on it.  Is it just me, or is that blood?"  Me, appalled:  "Let me just clean that off for you."  *Uses an excessive amount of Clorox wipes, makes weak joke about finding blood on the cover of a murder mystery.*)




Also, because our children have altered my brain in such a way that it hops back and forth more than ever, here is "the chainsaw video" that was incomprehensibly introduced to our daughter at church camp and that all three of our offspring are more or less now obsessed with.



Adelaide spends half the time this video is playing staring at my face, as it wears an expression of apparently hilarious bewilderment.  Really, though, this is supposed to be farcical, right?  These people aren't doing this with any degree of seriousness... right?  (See also:  "Signs you are getting old.")  And now, to round out this meandering and increasingly digressive post, a multiple choice question:  How many of our children can currently be found doing "The Chainsaw," a dance move seemingly engineered to make Christian kids look as profoundly not-cool as possible?
Is it
a) 1
b) 2
c) 3
d) I don't know because they are in the backyard and under no circumstances am I upsetting a climate in which I get to think my own thoughts for five straight seconds.


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 fútbol 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!