Friday, October 31, 2014

Three Costumes, One Halloween

It's that time again, friends: That magical holiday that, more than any other, brings out my desire to be proclaimed the Cheapest of Them All.

Yes.  It's Halloween.

For whatever reason, last night was our little town's night to Trick or Treat (also known as "Beggar's Night" 'round these parts- I do not remember this label from my childhood.  Is this an Iowa thing?  An upper midwest thing?  A thing they don't do only in southern Kansas?  What say you?), which actually worked out rather well, as tonight- Halloween night- is supposed to be cold and windy and really rather miserable for walking around with small whiney-ish children.

That means it's time for- duh, duh-duh DAAAAH!- our Annual Cheap Halloween Costume Round-Up!

Adelaide's costume took me zero time to execute, as we already owned all its incipient components.

Child:  Adelaide
Costume:  Vikings Fan
Materials:  One of Derek's old Vikings jerseys, one of Derek's old Vikings stocking caps, and stickers meant to look like those black marks football players put under their eyes.  I obviously don't know what they're actually called, but we already owned those, too; they were the souvenirs we picked up for the kids on our recent trip to Minnesota.
Pros:  Easy.  Fast.  Made from materials we already had in the house.  Warm.
Cons:  None that I could see.
Total cost:  $0

Caedmon decided to be Batman (exactly zero people keeled over in shock when they learned this).  For the record, I offered to finagle some sort of Batman- costume out of clothing he already had, but he was adamant:  He wanted to wear the hole-y, worn, nearly too small Batman jammies he got a year ago for his birthday.  We compromised (read:  I cruelly imposed my will upon our poor, abused son) and he wore regular pants with the pajama top, as I didn't believe his four-year-old bum needed to be exposed to the October evening air via the aforementioned holes.  After I had broken his spirit, however, it was relatively easy to force him to wear another shirt under the Batman top for warmth.


Child:  Caedmon
Costume:  Batman
Materials:  Batman Pajama top, t-shirt cape I made last summer, Batman mask-glasses-thing borrowed from a friend (thanks, Shayla!), Batarang that I think was a kid's meal toy or something, toy sword we already owned which he insisted on carrying despite Atticus's stance that a sword is not, in fact, part of Batman's arsenal, random belt he pulled from my drawer for holding that sword.
Pros:  Easy, fast, warm, Caedmon was pleased with it, we already owned all the pieces except the one that was kindly loaned to us, plus Cade can make just about anything cute.
Cons:  It looked like a costume that had been thrown together from disparate elements, probably because that's exactly what it was.
Total cost:  $0.

I mentioned a couple weeks ago that I was afraid Atticus's costume was going to turn into Robin Hood in Drag, and never was this fear so real than yesterday when dressing him in all the random items of clothing I'd dug out of my scrap fabric bin, hoping enough green and brown layers would magically turn him into a robs-from-the-rich, gives-to-the-poor woodsman.  Mercifully, by the time I'd added all the little accessories, it ended up working rather well, although there was a bad moment when Atticus was freaking out a little about wearing his sister's leggings; he had no pants that I deemed worthy of the rest of the costume, but it turns out six-year-old boys care very little about whether or not their pants "go" with the effect their mother is trying to achieve.  I did some very fast talking about how Robin Hood lived in the woods and needed lots of layers of clothing to keep warm and all these (um, women's) clothes were exactly the type of thing Robin Hood surely wore.  He, thankfully, believed this claptrap.

Child:  Atticus
Costume:  Robin Hood
Materials:  Green Goodwill sweater I bought years ago for some long-abandoned craft, black leggings of Adelaide's, brown cardigan that was once mine, but which the, uh, washer shrank (yes, that's why it's too small now... the washer did it), but I couldn't bear to get rid of because I still loved the fabric; for the costume I cut the sleeves off to make a vest, then took the sleeves and pulled them on over Atticus's feet to partially cover his tennis shoes and further the scrappy-woodsy look, tan cord randomly wrapped around sleeve-leg warmer-things, left over from another long ago craft project, braided belt of mine I bought at a garage sale for $0.50 a couple summers ago, paper towel tube for quiver to hold (broken) arrows, leftover felt rubber banded on the bottom, twine threaded through to wrap around Robin, hat sewn by me via this helpful tutorial, although I had to use more felt than it called for, as our children have large adult-sized heads, feather in hat hurriedly cut by me out of paper ten minutes before we left and pinned to hat, bow and arrows a past birthday present, broken sword also a past gift.  Whew.
Pros:  Cute as a button.  Already owned everything but two of the three pieces of felt needed for hat.  Warm.
Cons:  Took me around 30 minutes to make the hat, then another ten whole minutes to put the outfit together, five minutes more than the other two children's costumes.
Total cost:  $0.54 for the two pieces of felt.

Candy was gathered.  Cute children were observed.  Trick or treating done in one hour, both boys asleep within another thirty minutes, Adelaide off to bed after stern warnings to both parents not to eat her M&M's.

I'm going to declare this a successful Halloween Most Frugal, so I can get on with the important business of stealing our children's candy.  

Home again, home again

Thursday, October 30, 2014

And Then I Accidentally Set Myself On Fire

Last night I was doing my usual supper prep tango, the back and forth from the stove to the sink to the counter to the stove, stepping over children and crayons and homework, just me making a giant tray of loaded nachos, when I smelled something burning.

I shuffled back over to the stove to see if some kind of food had fallen too close to the flame, but that wasn't it.  What the heck was creating that smokey smell?

Oh!  It was me!  My clothes were on fire!  What was my first clue, you ask?  Only the flames dancing in my face, licking their way up my scarf.

I shrieked, told Atticus to GET BACK GET AWAY I'M ON FIRE HERE, slopped some of the boiling water from the pot I was holding onto the floor, finally got myself together, man, heaved the pot in the sink, yanked the scarf from my neck, and threw it, flaming, to the floor.

I did a quick check to make sure nothing else was en fuego- sweater, hair, flesh- but I was mercifully fire- and burn-free.  It was then pretty quick work to put out the pretty little fire eating away at my scarf on the kitchen floor, suppressing the errant cinders hopping onto the rug in front of our sink.

An hour later I couldn't figure out why I still smelled smoke everywhere I went in the house, 'til I took a sniff and a close look at the collar of my sweater; the fabric was melted and scorched on either side of my face.

Let this be a message to all you hippies out there:  SYNTHETIC FIBERS SAVE MAYBE NOT LIVES BUT DEFINITELY FACES.  And the bonus is that my unflinchingly shapeless and unflattering but oh, so warm sweater now gives me that cozy campfire smell whenever I don it, Mr. Rogers-style, moments after walking in the door.  I should have set myself on fire months ago.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

A Coffee Timeline

September 30th:  Drink coffee.  So good.

October 1st:  Drink coffee.  Mmm.

October 2nd:  Drink coffee.  Southern butter pecan creamer, you complete me.

October 3rd:  Drink coffee.  Feel a tiny niggle of... something... deep in the recesses of my brain.

October 4th:  Drink coffee.  Ah, yes.  I know what that is:  Paranoia.  Hello, old chum.

October 5th:  Drink coffee.  Dismiss paranoia and its associated nonsense regarding my coffee.

October 6th:  Drink coffee.  Attempt to dismiss paranoia.  Stare distrustfully into my coffee cup.

October 7th:  Drink half a cup of coffee.  Upgrade paranoia to suspicion.

October 8th:  Do a google search.  Find this article, begin to roll my eyes, believing it to be yet another "All your food is evil and also chemicals" post (newsflash, internet:  EVERYTHING is chemicals), but its source is an NPR interview.  Confirm I have been drinking essence of cockroach.

October 9th:  Discover this handy/terrifying chart illustrating how much ground insect the FDA allows in ground coffee.  Retch.

October 10th:  Buy bag of whole coffee beans.  Use canny little mini-blender thing I got for Christmas last year but have never used.  It has a grinding blade!  It's a (10 month overdue) Christmas miracle!

October 11th:  Drink coffee.  Yes to the creamer but hold the cockroaches, please.

Oh, that?  That's just a teensy piece of roach carapace, daughter mine.  Drinky, drinky.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Do You See What I See?

Today we're going to do that thing they do in movies where they show a shot of one invariably sad/brooding/pensive character staring at some celestial body or other, cut to a shot of the moon/stars/whatever, then cut to a shot of another character staring at the same sky, suggesting they're connected in some way, even when apart.  It'll be like you're right here with me in central Iowa just by forcibly looking at the same things I'm looking at.  Or something.

The view out our front door:

Leaves that I should probably rake up or mow over, but why the heck should I?  They're just too pretty.

The view when I wake Cade up from naptime:

I found these next to our sleeping four-year-old, and when I asked him what exactly happened to his sister's purloined Lip Smackers, he yawned and nonchalantly told me, "Oh, I ate them."  Right.

The view of our kitchen today:

Both the boys are now sick with whatever gunk Adelaide had, and they'll play with their usual vigor and energy until they collapse.  Then they'll play again, hunting for bad guys or fighting dust motes, then collapse.  Then draw and color in treasure maps to roll up and tuck into their belts, then collapse, because evidently even coloring will drain it right out of you when you're sick.  I keep finding them lying in odd places around the house and yard.  It's somewhat disconcerting.  

The view of me most mornings at home:

The morning after the half marathon, I was tidying up around the house, mostly trying to keep moving so my entire body didn't stiffen up and go all Petrificus Totalus on me when Caedmon asked me to kneel down to his level.  With great solemnity, he placed my finisher's medal from the race around my neck, then went back to playing.  I wore it for the next couple hours over my jammies while getting household stuff done- I mean, I already had it on, okay, and I wouldn't dare risk offending our youngest child, and it did lend a certain air of accomplishment to my highly important dusting of the blinds and reading of the picture books.  Cade, for his part, was tickled I'd left it on, and we've gone through a makeshift awards ceremony almost every morning since.  

The view of my garden's last offerings of the season:

Gourds.  Gourds coming out of my ears.  I had already foisted at least half of them upon unsuspecting friends, and this is what I'm left with, plus a few more I just found hiding among the weeds a couple days ago.  I ended up dumping most of them on the front porch, because Lord knows I needed some kind of color on there, what with the demon squirrels constantly uprooting all the ornamental kale I tried growing in my containers.  THERE ARE NO NUTS IN MY FLOWER POTS, SQUIRRELS.  TAKE YOUR DIRTY PAWS ELSEWHERE.  YOU'RE RATS WITH FANCY TAILS.  GOD REGRETS YOUR CREATION.

The view of our piano-top:

More late-season garden produce:  Ornamental eggplant!  Gracious.  Remember when the lovelies in the above two photos were just tiny little egg carton sprouts?

They just grow so fast!  *sob*

Monday, October 27, 2014

Today We're Going to Talk About Gross Medical Stuff

After three weeks of on-again-off-again high fevers, achey-ness, headaches, and other fun, Adelaide is finally feeling better.

The fact that it took me three weeks to take her the doctor's office should probably cause me more mother-guilt, but the fact is, it takes a whole heck of a lot more to induce said mother-guilt than it did just two short years ago.  Whether this is because I've realized the best mothers I know also screw up constantly or because I've just become astonishingly good at shrugging my shoulders, I don't know.  What I do know is that when I realized Adelaide had been sick for three full weeks, I decided that, sure, I guess, I can take our only daughter in to the see a medical professional.  You know, for a lark.

The diagnosis was one bacterial infection that piggy-backed on top of the initial virus.  Antibiotic prescribed, prescription filled and picked up (say it with me, now:  $4 Rx's are the BEST), and 48 hours later, our daughter stopped her near constant litany of tears and moaning and I don't FEEL well's (what's that, you say?  Sounds like I should have taken her in earlier?  Please see the above paragraph and go ahead and imagine me shrugging my shoulders.  Also building character in our offspring and stuff), is back to constant chatter and charming interrogations.

One of the (many) reasons I didn't take her to the doc sooner is that, see, we were just there a couple weeks ago.  No, it wasn't for Adelaide, and no, it wasn't because someone was sick, but really, I had just been there.  No need to go back for quite some time.  (Please don't try to make sense of this.  There is none to be made.)  That initial trip was because Caedmon had gotten another giant splinter in the sole of his foot, and because this time he was gracious enough to do it on a weekday during our doctor's office's normal operating hours, I was able to take him in to have a medical professional perform the extraction, rather than me rooting around in his skin for an hour and a half while Derek held him down.  This way was much better, as it only took ten sweaty minutes of flesh-digging by the PA while the nurse held his leg and I held the rest of him (don't kid yourself, 4-year-olds are strong).  (Also, sorry to Derek's mom for the words "flesh-digging," I can just see her blanching now, as opposed to my mother, who is probably reading this going, "Mmm, flesh-digging, my favorite."  And now I've managed to further gross Becky out by typing "flesh-digging" four times and made my very nice, excellent nurse-mother sound like Nurse Ratched does Night of the Living Dead.  That one's my bad.)

(Oh, but a quick aside to Becky and anyone else squeamish who might ever be tempted to randomly scroll through the photos on my mom's phone or camera, hoping for cute grandchild photos:  Just Say No.  Well, unless you have a jonesing for pus and boils and inflamed skin and other head-scratchers more suited for a Victorian Oddities Museum.  Or if you're one of those people who continues to harbor the notion that school nurses sit in their offices reading books until some poor poppet stops by with an owie.  Then BY ALL MEANS, look at her phone.  Also ask her for the story about that time a kid sliced their finger off in a locker.  It's a doozy.)

Aaaanyway.  We're all more or less healthy now, although both the boys are now overdue for their yearly check-ups.  Whatever, shrugging my shoulders, I'll get to it when I get to it.  Probably.


Friday, October 24, 2014

5 Recipes (DON'T WORRY; They're Not Mine)

I'm not sure what statement strikes the most terror in our children's hearts, but I know this one has got to be in the top ten, easily:


Now, first of all, come on, children.  JUST COME ON.  I cannot stress how not-scary the food I make for this family is.  Do you know how many times I've tried to sneak things like mushrooms or escargot or backyard rabbit into their meals?  Zero.  Zero times.  I get being a bit picky; I have a serious aversion to cream-of-anything blobs from a can, and if my mom tries to tell me that sugar-free jelly tastes just like the real thing one more time, I'm having her committed.  (Tastes like I licked the inside of a beaker in Chem 120, Mom.  A strawberry-flavored beaker.)  But I cannot eat Lazy Beef Lasagna and Sour Cream Noodle Bake (which are basically the same recipe but with different spices) every night of the week like certain ungrateful underage heathens currently residing in this house.  Sometimes you just have to try a new recipe.  Or five.  In the space of a week.

So, it's entirely possible I brought this whole thing on myself.

I liked almost all of the new recipes.  Derek only once droned, "I love everything you cook," which is his nice way of saying This food is the worst.  Where's the sour cream noodle bake?  

Here's what I've been subjecting our family to, so you, too, can torture your own ungrateful loved ones:

  • PW's Chicken Pot Pie.  I had forgotten all about chicken pot pie until my sister made a rather bitter comment recently about how she loved this dish growing up but never got to eat it just because her picky older sister hated it.  I decided I'd try making it for myself, because sometimes food you didn't like as a kid is less scary once you can see for yourself what all the ingredients are, in addition to controlling what exactly goes into it.  Well.  It was delicious.  Derek and I both loved it, and it was possibly even better heated up for lunch the next day.  I'm also not sure why I've been so intimidated by PW's homemade crust; that thing was easy as pie (THAT'S RIGHT.  I WENT THERE).  There's also a delicious kind of irony to loving something now that my sister couldn't have because I wouldn't eat it as a child.  (Really, for the most part I've given up my life of younger-sister torture, but sometimes... well, sometimes you just can't help yourself.  Love you, Kelli!)

  • PW's Hamburger Soup.  I liked this.  Derek liked it.  One of the kids liked it, but I really can't be expected to remember which kid likes which thing anymore (don't you judge me).  None of us just really, really loved it.  I liked that it had a lot of veggies in it, and is really pretty easy to throw together, although it took longer than her supposed prep time, probably because there was a lot of chopping and I'm rather attached to all eight of my fingers and both my thumbs.  I'm selfish that way.  I'd halve the recipe next time; if it were something all three kids loved I'd need the whole recipe, but as it was I had a ton of leftovers.  Good for the impending cold weather.

  • PW's Cajun Chicken Pasta.  Now, this, THIS I loved.  I was pretty much the only one, though.  Derek ate it and said it was fine, none of the kids cared much for it, although Adelaide really liked the chicken in it.  I do think next time I'll cook the chicken the same way but omit the pasta and double the veggies to make my very own perfect meal that will keep me in lunch leftovers all week.  Even this first way, though, I had it for supper Saturday night, lunch and supper Sunday, then lunch again on Monday and still wasn't sick of it.  I only stopped because I ran out of the chicken and veggies and was left with a big container of noodles.  I can't wait to make this again with my adjustments.

  • Foodie Bride's Slow Cooker Honey Chipotle Chicken Enchiladas.  This was super easy and super flavorful.  My family all did this adorable thing where they acted like their mouths were on fire after one tiny chipotle pepper in adobo sauce-bite, and everyone scrambled for milk and yogurt.  I thought the heat was fine, but then, I love spicy food.  I almost never cook it for the fam because this is how they react, and as a result, their heat threshold is depressingly low.  Derek admitted it had good flavor, was just a bit spicy for him, the kids all acted like I was trying to kill them through their mouth-holes.  I thought it was very tasty both for supper and left over for lunch.

  • Foodie Bride's Mojo-Brined Chicken.  Now, listen, my people.  If you're going to make one recipe on this list, make this one.  And just in case you've lost interest in this post and are only skimming the remainder, I'll put it in caps to catch your attention:  THIS IS THE ONE YOU MAKE.  It's an easy and quick brine that will render your grilled chicken so juicy and full of divine flavor that you'll give thanks to God for delivering you from the bland, dry chicken wilderness you've been slogging through into the promised land of tasty, tasty poultry.  The end and amen.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

For My Next Half Marathon

Not that I'm definitely doing another one, you understand.

Things I would do differently:

  • Carry my inhaler while running.  Do I have allergies?  Yes.  Do I have asthma?  Yes.  Have I had asthma attacks before on runs?  Yes.  And yet, stupid, idiotic, imbecilic, insert-your-own-favorite-adjective-that-describes-a-complete-ignoramus ME didn't carry any of my two dozen inhalers.  I know why:  I haven't had a running-related attack for a couple months now, have never had an attack during one of my long runs, and took an allergy pill before I left the house, thinking that would be enough.  Oh, Lawdy, WAS I WRONG.  Right around mile two I could feel my lungs tightening up, and for the next four miles couldn't draw anything deeper than a very, very shallow breath.  This sucked.  I almost gave up and walked close to the beginning of the attack, but saw a lovely, lovely friend of mine standing on the sidelines who cheered wildly when I yelled her name and she saw me, and this helped carried me through.  I kept running, I did not walk.  I saw her again just as my demon lungs were opening up and begrudgingly letting some oxygen back into my system, and I felt so much better after my Lori/oxygen hit.  

  • Bring an allergy pill with me to the race, take it thirty minutes prior to start time.  I left the house so far in advance of the race, and was so nervous and, well, running so much, I believe I burned right through it, so it couldn't cover me through the whole two and a half hours I needed it to.

  • Try to enjoy the course and the running itself a bit more.  This is one I can keep in mind for next time, but I really don't think I could have done it this first time.  I was so overwhelmed with the thousands of runners around me, the crazy, intense (but positive) atmosphere surrounding the whole event, and my own jangling nerves I really don't remember a lot of the details of the race itself.  Somehow over two hours of running went by incredibly quickly.  

Things I would absolutely do the same:

  • Rely on my running guru the Magnificent Mindy for advice and my training plan.  I whined, she listened.  I freaked, she stayed calm.  I said, "I'm thinking about signing up for a half marathon," she said, "LET'S DO THIS.  Here's what you're gonna need."  I freaked out again, she bought me coffee.  I was one and a half miles into the actual race wondering what malevolent dissociative personality apparently lurking in some forgotten corner of my brain had signed me up for this, and there she was on the sideline, hugging me fiercely when I trotted over.  Running gurus for the win.

[I would just like for everyone to know that I wrote all of the above last night, and am now forcing myself to finish this post before I have a single cup of afternoon coffee, freshly ground and brewed and staring me right in the face over there on that kitchen counter.  I am a cruel, cruel task master.]

  • The half marathon training plan detailed in the book Train Like a Mother.  This is the book and the plan within its pages Mindy prescribed for me, and while I may not have stuck to the letter of its law every single day, I definitely stuck to its spirit, using it as a general guide.  The morning of the race I woke up, my brain decided that it was Crazy Time, and I convinced the part of me that was still waking up that I was not ready.  I had trained all wrong, all wrong.  This was going to be the worst morning of my life, and I had brought it all on myself.  Having ample past experience, I managed to beat back most of the Crazies by the time I was starting the actual race, but there were still some trace doubts floating around in there- until my asthma attack.  The fact that I was able to keep running through four miles of not even really being able to breathe- then run seven more good, faster miles after?  I chalk it all up to a great training plan that had me physically and mentally ready.  Well, that and God.

  • Ride down to the race with the Amazing Anne.  (If you haven't given all your friends alliterative mental nicknames, I don't know what's wrong with you.)  She's done all this racing stuff many times before, so she knew right where to park, had a loose pre-race routine in place, plus she's kind and funny and knowledgeable and fast.  Hoo.  We lined up together, knowing we weren't going to be running together, because, well, she is fast and I am slow and we are both okay with that, but man.  Seeing her take off was so fun; it's always enjoyable to see someone do something really well and with great proficiency, except for maybe this guy:

The six-fingered man:  Really good at torturing people.

  • Focus on the cheering crowds and their homemade encouraging signs.  Among my favorites:  "Run fast, you will:  May the 'course' be with you."  "You're doing all this for a free banana?"  1st person:  "Go, Becky!"  2nd person:  "Go, Karen!"  3rd person:  "Go, random stranger!"  "Worst. Parade. Ever."  [Terribly unflattering candid head shot of a shaved head Britney Spears] "If Britney can survive 2008, you can survive 13.1." "I bet this seemed like a much better idea three months ago."  Yes, many of the people were there to cheer on their loved ones, but they also didn't hesitate to cheer for every other runner who passed them.  The nicest people ever may be found on the sidelines of a marathon, I'm now convinced.  

I'll probably think of a bunch more over the coming weeks, but for now:  Coffee Time!