Thursday, June 1, 2017

Four Things

  • If you are on Instagram, consider giving Merriam-Webster a follow.  Yes, as in the dictionary.  They post a Word of the Day that puts most of those desk calendars and toilet paper to shame.  Here's a recent one I'm still thinking about:
Can you imagine using this in a sentence around people?  "I don't know what it is about tulips, man- I just grok them."  They'd think you were crazy, throwing random nonsense syllables into what was a normal conversation.  

This, of course, means I'm going to try using it at the library today.

  • If you happen to be at the national school nurse conference in San Diego next month, I recommend going to this session:
Why, yes, that is my mom presenting it, because who else has favorite pediatric infectious diseases?  Or refers to themselves as a "former 'Germ Wench'"?  I can promise the whole thing will be a hoot, and am currently taking bets on how many times she mentions hand-washing.  
Pre-test:  Who can tell me three things that are wrong with this combatant's hand-washing technique?  I am not even kidding, and I promise my sisters know.

  • One Friday of every month, our library hosts a little thing called Soup and Sound, where the library staff makes a meal and a person or group comes in and performs.  Over the past year I've heard a presentation by the Iowa Honey Bee Queen, a contingent from our high school speech team came in, and last month, a local hammered dulcimer player shared his talents.  I pulled Adelaide out of school to attend, much to her delight.

I believe she enjoyed listening to Mr. Greenlaw play, and it was so generous of him to let everyone fiddle around with the instrument, but if I'm being honest, the carrot cake was probably her favorite part. 

  • Derek's won a bunch more awards for his work over the past few months, but one is a doozy:
He won a Telly!  What's a Telly, you ask?  It's a big ol' honking international competition with thousands and thousands of entries and only the best win the good stuff.  I did not take that from their website.  

I believe I've shared his winning video before, but just in case, here it is again (and before you say, "Resource Recovery Plant?  No, thanks," well, this is actually interesting and will make you question what your own community does with their trash):

Congratulations, husband!


P.S.  What do you think the past tense of "grok" is?  "Grokked"?  And why isn't it "grock"?  I can't think of any other English verb or noun that ends in "k" rather than "ck."  Mock, shock, lock, hock, chock, dock, why can't I let this go, knock, pock, sock... 

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Summer Break: Day the First

Caedmon came downstairs this morning wearing shorts and a tank top and shivering.  "Why is it so cold?" he asked as he chattered his way over to me and tried to steal what little warmth I had by wrapping his skinny arms around me.

"Because it's 55 degrees outside."

"But it's SUMMER VACATION!"  He was adorably indignant.  Don't tell him I said that.  He still hates to be called adorable or any of its synonyms.  Even if he is, especially like just now, when he came inside telling me he's scared to go back out into the shed.  When I asked him why, he said that "I heard a rumbling sound while I was in there!"

"What do you think it was?"

"Well, it was either my stomach, or something scary.  So I'm not taking any chances."


In end of school year news, all of our children survived.  Adelaide won the fifth grade spelling bee.  I was delighted for her.  She was conspicuously underwhelmed.

Atticus ran 32 miles throughout the spring in Mileage Club, an activity sponsored by a local hospital where volunteers track how many miles participating students choose to run at recess.  It's his highest mileage to date, and he is thrilled.
Okay, so this isn't exactly his thrilled face, but you get the idea.
As a matter of fact, this is his first season to make it to 25 miles, finally earning him the eye-searing t-shirt above.  When I asked him if he was excited to finally get that t-shirt, his answer was, "Kind of.  I'm kind of excited about it, but kind of not, because I know when I grow out of it, Caedmon will get to wear it even though he didn't earn it."

I probably should have tossed some parental pearls of wisdom his way, but I couldn't as I totally get what he's saying.  I feel the same thing when I see leftover marathon finishers' tech shirts at athletic outlet stores, wondering who the heck would buy those when they're clearly meant for people who actually finished those specific races?

Adelaide had a couple music concerts, including band.
We got to watch her perform on a variety of percussion instruments.  She still enjoys band, and we enjoy watching her.  My eardrums already seemed less likely to spontaneously implode out of sheer self defense at this concert compared to her first five months ago.  Apparently elementary school band members improve at a rapid rate- well, that and they already shed the people who quickly discovered they didn't want to be there.

Caedmon was dragged around to this and all kinds of other events:  the life of the third child.

The boys are currently attempting to dislodge a badminton birdie (shuttlecock?  Is that the right word?  I feel like I could be making that up) from the roof of the shed, so when, just now, I heard what sounded like a gunshot echoing through our neighborhood, I jolted out of my chair and out the door to make sure our boys weren't responsible for said noise.  Never mind that we don't actually own a gun, or that they're using a jump rope to coax the birdie off roof; I feel like stranger, more inexplicable things tend to happen when they're within four feet of each other.  Gah, my heart is still racing.

I guess it really is summer vacation.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Balance... Beam of Mashed Potatoes!

If you're thinking to yourself, Gosh, lately it seems like most of Kristy's posts are food-related, well, that's because they are.  Anymore it feels like my biggest chunks of time not spent at work are somehow tied up in food.  Shopping for it, looking up recipes for it, making grocery lists for it, prepping and cooking supper or making school lunches, cleaning up in the aftermath.  These children seem to expect food to go into their mouths every dang day.

Because working my tail off while everyone else goes about their business breeds resentment and makes me act downright hateful, I usually rope someone into supper prep with me.  Most of the time this person is Adelaide.  That is because Adelaide is the easy choice.  She enjoys cooking and baking (except when she abruptly doesn't), she is responsible, and she takes around one thousand percent less oversight in the kitchen than her brothers.  Plus I just like her.  She is funny, and insightful, and fun to be around.  (Except when she's abruptly not.  She's like her mother that way.)

Unfortunately easy doesn't always equal right, especially over time.  I've chosen the easy option for so long that at this point, neither Atticus nor Caedmon have the culinary abilities their sister did at the same, respective ages.  This sucks.

This has all been slowly dawning on me for some time now, but our family has also been in a fairly significant season of change over the past nine months as I went back to work and we all adjusted to new schedules, new expectations, new lots of things.  There were certainly times, especially at first, when this is how I felt when concerned family and friends asked how I was doing:

Getting the boys in the kitchen with me just wasn't a priority.  Heck, it's still a near-daily basis that they ask, "Did you go to the store today?" and my response is, "Exactly when would I have done that, sweetling?"

But now that we've all more or less found our footing in this brave new world, I recently decided it's time to get all the kids into cooking with me.  And because I am sometimes a world class idiot who doesn't consider the wisdom of taking swimming lessons before jumping into the deep end of the pool, last week I panicked and said, "ALL the kids into the kitchen to help me with supper!"  I know there are only three of them, but there's some kind of mysterious transformation that takes place when you put more than one of them into the kitchen at the same time, and by "mysterious transformation" I mean

"I wanted to turn the burner on!"

"It's my turn!"

"Why does Adelaide always get to put salt and pepper on things and I don't?"

"He's stirring way longer than I got to!"

until I turn into an angry panda chef.

We did finally end up with our pork chops with garlic and wine sauce over mashed potatoes, but nothing was hot, nobody was happy, and for some reason I felt slightly ill for the next three days after consuming half of my pork chop.

My takeaway from all this?  Pork chops are only meant to be cooked on the grill by Derek.  If you think about it long enough and allow all reason to vacate the premises, this makes sense.

Also that balance is perhaps key here.  I need to find the proper ratio of kid-to-food.  Maybe 1 Atticus:10 chicken fajitas, or 1/2 Caedmon:2/3 beef noodle bowl.

Anyone else feel like this is making me sound like I'm trying to lure little German children into my gingerbread house?

Then last night I had a dream I was trying to make my way across a balance beam, no doubt brought on by my late night pondering on that whole kitchen balance thing.  But the balance beam was made of mashed potatoes.  In waking hours, I have excellent balance due to yoga, but my dream-state balance was otherworldly, as I made my way across those mashed potatoes just fine.  Jung would no doubt say the mashed potatoes represent civilization's oppression against feet and my incredible balancing act represent my struggles to overcome procrastination or something else completely insane that is nonetheless reprinted in psychology textbooks every year.  I think I just really like mashed potatoes, especially with roasted garlic mashed into them, because otherwise why bother?

Friday, April 28, 2017

Let's Talk About Picky Eaters

Most nights in our house when I make supper, we have at least one kid who isn't thrilled with what's being offered.  Every once in a while someone's feeling particularly spicy and chooses to sit there, letting their food cool and become way worse than it would have been had they just eaten it when fresh.  We don't usually have that problem, though; they can choke down most of their entree, even if it's not their favorite, or they can starve.  We're still working on how to properly express themselves when the food does not cause their tiny palates to salivate.  "What is this?" is not allowed, neither is "Did you have to put so many green peppers in it?" nor "Ew.  Onions."

Now, listen, I remember being a bit of a picky eater as a kid.  My sister still seems to carry a little nugget of hate in her heart toward me because I didn't like chicken pot pie and that meant mom didn't make it as often as chicken pot pie-loving Kelli would have preferred. This seems to be repeating in our own children: Adelaide doesn't like my chicken enchiladas, so I don't make them as often as I would otherwise.  Atticus has expressed his bitterness toward this state of affairs a number of times.  I could just change my recipe to exclude salsa verde, which is the part that our daughter seems to find so offensive, but it's easy and fast and everyone else likes it just fine, so... whatever, Adelaide.

You know what?  I think chicken pot pie may be the key to all this.  I enjoy chicken pot pie now, but I had to make it for myself first.  Peas are not scary on their own, nor are carrots, nor chicken, nor delicious flaky pie crust.  It's when they're presented to you already all clumped together, and it's a mystery as to how they got in there or just what else might be lurking under that top crust that it becomes scary.  I'm still not likely to order chicken pot pie from a restaurant with a kitchen I don't trust implicitly, because chicken pot pie can still go so egregiously wrong.  Or as the ten year old lurking in the corners of my brain whispers, "What is in that thing?"

At this point the problem is that while I know I used to be a picky eater, I'm starting to forget what that feels like, so I have less and less patience with picky people in general.  This all came to a head recently over eggs.  You know- as things do.

See these?
Those are eggs.

See this?
That is the inside of one of those eggs.  Yolk?  Check.  White?  Check.  

Came from a chicken?  Well, no.  You see, these are duck eggs.

That is where, as turns out, people start freaking out.  And I start rolling my eyes.

A friend of mine at work lives in a bit of a menagerie- all kinds of animals, including ducks.  Because she also has chickens and sells those eggs, it is natural for her to gather the eggs from the ducks and sell those, too.

Or attempt to sell them, anyway.  But as it turns out, people don't want duck eggs.  They are afraid of duck eggs.  She's having trouble giving these things away.

Are duck eggs different from chicken eggs?  A little.  They're a bit bigger, and the shell is tougher to crack.  But they cook up just like chicken eggs.  I've been using them interchangeably with chicken eggs for the past few months, careful not to let the family known exactly what's going on in the kitchen, because I am not an idiot.  This woman refers to them as being a little richer than chicken eggs, like you've added cream to a chicken egg.  I use them mostly in cooking and baking, and can't tell a lick of difference.  

I don't understand how people can balk at duck eggs when even chicken eggs are a food you don't want to give too much thought to prior to shoveling it in your mouth.  Where do these things come from?  What is an egg, exactly?  What is its biological function? Ick.

Honestly, though, I probably don't have any room to talk on this subject, as I won't touch a recipe where even a chicken egg isn't completely cooked through:  Over easy, Eggs Benedict, whatever; I need my eggs thoroughly cooked, no runniness, do you hear?  Probably because I have asked myself those questions:  Where do these things come from?  What is an egg, exactly?  What is its biological function?


Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Things I Learned on Our Son's Field Trip

Despite the fact that we have had at least one child in public school for nearly six full years, prior to this spring I had somehow managed to escape chaperoning a field trip.

This was 99% because we always had a younger child at home, one young enough they could not tag along on the various school-sponsored excursions.  The other 1% was pure self-preservation on my part.

But now, this year?  All our children are in school.  And I work at a place that gives me a ridiculously flexible schedule- great for dentist appointments, but at the same time siphoning away any excuses I have not to go on these field trips.

A few months ago, then, when Atticus came to me, brandishing papers from school declaiming the details of not one but two upcoming outings, I knew I was sunk.  My draft number had been drawn. It was all over.  And any other overly dramatic hyperbole you can think of.

I saw that one field trip was to the science center and immediately said no.  (Actually, I cackled for quite some time and then said, "No.")  We had a family membership to that place for a year, and while we all loved it, by the end of each visit I felt that I was barely escaping with the four things I had carried in the front doors with me- my sanity and all three children- so to help wrangle a few hundred children through there?  I'm good, thanks.

I did feel a little twinge, like maybe I should chaperone the trip to the science center- deserved to, even- when I remembered that I hadn't gone when Adelaide visited with her first grade class (small children at home, remember), and that this particular trip had just so happened to occur within the time that our daughter was deathly afraid of getting sucked into escalators.

The science center has an escalator.  Two of them, actually, since that's generally how escalators work.  And apparently the mother who chaperoned had a heck of a time with Adelaide and one of those nefarious, child-sucking escalators.  Is it terrible that I'm laughing hysterically recalling that story, but still refuse to chaperone a trip to the science center/escalatorland?  Or does it just make me smart?

Since the science center was out, it meant I was going to see a play with Atticus and the entirety of the second grade.  Hey, a play sounds fun, though, right?  And my goodness, it's Elephant and Piggie's We Are in a Play!  We love Elephant and Piggie, and the entirety of the Mo Willems canon, as a matter of fact!

It's sweet how naive I am sometimes, right?

Let me just say that the play was great.  Charming, entertaining, maybe one or two songs too long, as the vast auditorium full of children, who had previously been entranced with the goings-on on stage all began to squirm in concert when the second-to-last song began.  But cute, and a great celebration of the books and characters we love so much.  

The truly terrible part was the bus ride.

Why did I elect to ride on the School Bus of Horror?  Why didn't I drive myself?  (Oh, yeah- I'd never done this before.)  It's hard to describe what the ride there and back were like, except to say it was difficult to breathe.  It was an unseasonably warm day, and apparently there's still no air conditioning on school buses (?).  On the way there the kids were asking if they could put their windows down to get some air moving, but I was worried about the boys around me (I was surrounded by boys, most likely because I was sitting with our own boy) losing a limb as, being second grade boys, they inevitably waved it out the window.

By the time we'd gotten back on the bus to head home, I no longer cared whether or not I delivered those boys back to their mamas with all their limbs or not.  So down the windows went.

Also, an equation I don't remember learning in any science class ever but that would have served me well that day is HEAT + 8 YEAR OLD BOYS = A THICK MIASMA OF STENCH.

Oh, gosh.  It was so bad.  And the noise.  Another previously-unknown-to-me equation was BUS RIDE + 8 YEAR OLD BOYS = LOUD OBNOXIOUS SOUNDS COMPETITION.  

Atticus tried to warn me when we first settled in our seat at the beginning of our trip:  (whispering) "Mom?  Just so you know, that boy there and those two boys there are kind of wild.  Like, they're the wildest boys in our class."  "Wild" in our house doesn't so much mean Where the Wild Things Are but more "poorly behaved heathens who make you yearn for the days of corporal punishment." And when did second grade boys get so big?  It's hard to stink-eye a kid into submission when they're the same size as you.  Don't you worry, though, having two boys of our own and a brewing migraine, I managed just fine, thank you very much.  I probably don't have the reputation of Nicest Mom in our son's class, though.  This does not break my cold, icy heart.

A dear friend of mine and fellow introvert was similarly ensconced further back in the bus.  Toward the end of the trip we sent texts back and forth celebrating mile markers that meant we were that much closer to home and threatening to throw ourselves out the now-open windows into oncoming traffic.  I also sent Derek texts requesting he have water and ibuprofen waiting for me on my return.  You see, once Atticus and I returned, our family was immediately jumping into the car for a trip to Kansas, and I knew that if I allowed the field trip-induced headache to continue to grow, I would make everyone in the car miserable with my piss-poor attitude, plus possibly start puking.  Yay, field trips!

After all that, I am going on a field trip this upcoming Monday with Adelaide's class.  It's Pioneer Day at a park.  We have been instructed to bring bug spray and given specific instructions on what to pack in our tin cans so that even the lunch is period-appropriate.  What sedative would have been available to pioneer moms, I wonder?  The papers from school didn't say.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Good Books and Infuriating Books

Eight-ish months into my tenure at the library, things are good, things are comfortable but interesting, and I'm still learning new things every week, which I like.

This week, for instance, was the first time I had to suppress the urge to set a book gleefully on fire, and instead process it, as it is a new book that just came into the library and we need to do all the things necessary to get it ready to go on the shelf where it will hopefully NEVER BE CHECKED OUT.

I will not pass this opinion on to any patrons, though, because uuuuuggghhh integrity and ethics and garbage.

Still, though...

Dear Mr. O'Reilly,

I can't imagine what it's like to hold so much hatred within one body.  It must be exhausting!  I do hope you're hydrating.

Yours sincerely,
One of the many you disdain

In other, less incendiary news, I survived our second book sale, but this time I also helped box up all the books that didn't sell.  This proved to be dangerous.
 I mean, they were free, and they were about to be homeless, and I only meant to take one!

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Three Things

  • Last weekend our little library hosted an Easter egg hunt.  The weather was beautiful, the Easter bunny creepy.

I was a little surprised when Atticus told me that yes, he did want his picture taken with the Easter bunny- but he waited until Caedmon was there to get in the picture, too.  No sense in getting that close to something so obviously inbred without the support of your brother, right?

  • When I want to impart a message to our children, I might say something like, "Come here, guys!" or "Children, I have some important information I wish to impart!" or "STOP TRYING TO KILL EACH OTHER AND GET IN HERE!"  When Derek has something to say, he will sometimes say, "Kids, take a knee."
Sports-inspired parenting

  • I've been looking for solutions to my current problem:  I don't have a whole lot of time to read right now.  Of course I can eek out a few minutes here and there, but when I'm trying to plow through a tome of a novel, I really prefer bigger chunks of time, for mental continuity and so I don't have to keep flipping back, repeatedly asking, "Now who is Sophie, again?"  
One solution:  Read young adult and juvenile fiction.  It's quick, yet you can still find just as many high-quality books as in the adult genres.

This book is a few years old now, but my gosh, is it good.  I recommend this one if:  Someone in your life has dyslexia, if you've ever felt different or left out or not good enough, if you have children, or if you yourself were once a child.  Click on the link for a proper synopsis.

I know I just recommended a slew of picture books in a recent post, but this one, this one you have to find.  It is clever.  It is hilarious.  The writing is so good, and the illustrations so perfect for the text, you'll read it over and over again, to a kid or maybe just to yourself.  

The end.