Sunday, June 23, 2019


This poison oak reaction of mine has accelerated to the point that I'm being forced into a seated position for an extended period of time.  This means I have time for blogging!  Oh, but I'm also all hopped up on Benadryl, so prepare yourself for a format that looks more like a maze than a story arc.

We're coming up on two whole weeks lived in Connecticut, which also means our family has been reunited for just over two weeks.  One of the things that we tried to keep a bit under the radar was the fact that Derek arrived here in CT in early April, while the kids and I remained behind in Iowa.  I'm trying to find the right word that would illustrate what it was like to be apart for so long; "excruciating" feels like overkill, but "hard" is too milquetoast.  Whatever word lives halfway between those two extremes is the right one, so your homework for today is to fill in the blank:  "It was                          for the Crislers to be separated by 1,000 miles for two months."  

Part of what made that time apart so difficult was the enormous amount of stress we were under.  There were huge amounts of things to be done, and while I tackled my share of those tasks in Iowa and he his in CT, after 15 years of marriage we're not really divide and conquer-type people anymore, but Unite and Conquer.  That is hard to do when there are 1200 miles between you.  The kids suffered, Derek suffered, I suffered.  Military families:  how do you do it?  We went two months and it felt like it was close to killing us off; I cannot fathom months on end.

June 6th became a much-anticipated date, as Derek flew into Des Moines that evening.  It was such a relief for us all to be back together, even though it was our last night in Iowa.  Our belongings had been packed and loaded by a moving company on the 5th and 6th, so the five of us spent a final night sleeping on the floor of our beloved Iowa house.  Emotionally speaking, each of our kids have gone through rough patches when it comes to this move, and that night it was Caedmon's turn.  He was bereft at the idea of leaving the only house he has ever known.

Thankfully none of our kids have been emotionally drowning at the same time; when one's face starts to slip beneath the surface, the other two are treading water.  So you go and you haul that kid up, assessing and reassuring and loving and praying over them.  That kid stabilizes, so you turn around and another kid starts to go under.  This is parenting, and it is exhausting, but it's also much easier to keep them all afloat when there are two of you life guarding.  

Amongst all that were the good-byes we had to say to so many friends.  At some point I will write about how taken care of I felt as we prepared to leave, but that's just not something I feel up to right now.  Blame the poison oak, not my penchant to avoid any and all negative feelings.  That's right... poison oak.  No feeling of any feelings allowed.  Quick, look at this weird but captivating gif instead!

We signed the last of our paperwork for the sale of our house Thursday night, got up bright and early Friday morning and chatted with the new owners who, you might remember, were also our neighbors.  We walked through the house, pointing a few things out to them we thought might be helpful.  We had a few stops to make around town, returning camping pads to friends (so we didn't have to sleep on the bare floors), honoring Adelaide's request for that last trip to Casey's, etc. 

And then we were on our way!  We had three days worth of road tripping ahead of us since we'd elected to turn the voyage east into a mini-vacation.  I'll expound upon that soon, but for now I'll just say:  I was so thankful for those three days.  They were a real gift, an in-between time where reality was suspended.  I wasn't killing myself trying to get everything done to wrap things up in Iowa, but we hadn't yet closed on our house in Connecticut.  All we had to do was drive, visit lighthouses, watch Mork and Mindy, and be together.  Well, plus a few other things.  But still together.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

All I Need Is a Bridge To Live Under

It's been quite a week.  We took the kids on their virgin trip to IKEA, which Adelaide loved and the boys tolerated.  Derek and I basically looked at ten different ways to put shelves in ten different places; this new house has very little in the way of storage space, so as we continue to try and unpack it consists of us unwrapping an item, looking around for a place to store it, finding nothing, and putting it on whatever horizontal surface is within arm's reach.  Repeat x1000.

We got a new couch, which is exciting, because the one that has faithfully served us for the last 11 years only fits three people, and last I counted there are five of us.  It's nice and plump, although I haven't really allowed myself to recline on it yet; I currently look like a cross between a burn victim and a leper due to the increasingly widespread poison oak rash covering my body, and I don't want to get blister ooze on the new cushions.  Each day also brings with it a heightened sense of self consciousness in terms of bringing this open flesh wound out into public, although the real problem there is that I don't like for any fabric to be touching the rash, which hurts on contact but really starts barking when I later try to peel the fabric off that has inevitably fused to my weeping skin.  Clearly the answer is to go around topless, but something tells me this would attract the wrong kind of friends.

I started taking Benadryl a couple days ago to try and combat the incessant itching and pain, but did so with reluctance:  I'm pretty sensitive to the stuff.  I know this due to past experience, which consisted of me taking some Benadryl at Derek's parents' house years ago and then waking up an hour later, face-down in the middle of the living room.  I don't know why I didn't choose one of the beds, couches, or really any kind of furniture and instead chose to stretch out where there was a regular pattern of foot traffic.

But itchy and oozy am I, so Benadryl it is.  I've been keeping the operation of heavy machinery to a minimum, but yesterday I felt like it was safe to walk a block up the hill to the small and sweet Berlin Free Library (not to be confused with the town's public library).  I remember sitting down in a chair to read while the kids made their book selections, and then I remember waking up to my phone buzzing in my lap.  I'm pretty sure I only fell asleep for a few minutes.  I really really hope no one stumbled upon me in my (legal) drug-induced coma.

I am going to the doctor Monday morning.  I am hoping for more powerful, but still legal drugs.  That or they can just skin me and I'll start anew.  Whatever it takes.

Monday, June 17, 2019

We Have Arrived

We're here!  We made it!

One week ago yesterday we arrived in CT, and one week ago today we closed on our house in the morning and spent the rest of the day moving into it.

There's so much to say, so much to document, that I don't even really know where to start.  I'm in another library, except it's 1200 miles from the one I was writing in last week.  It's a nice library, but I find I'm struggling to accept it as it is and not zero in on all the things I'd change if I could get my hands on it.  (What would I change, you ask?  More new middle readers.  Less staff just milling around, looking bored.  Library stuff.)  I feel gross as I sit here, not because I'm actually dirty- we have a functioning shower now, hurray!- but because my skin is covered in light pink patches of dried calamine lotion.  It turns out we have quite the crop of poison oak in our new yard, and although I have spent a large portion of the last week helping to clear it out, I don't really remember rolling around in it like a pig in mud.  Or a dog in mud.

Given that I did not make any crowns of poison oak to rest charmingly upon my brow, I'm wondering just how I ended up with a rash behind my ears, of all places.  And my back.  And my shoulders.  The rash on my hands and forearms, I understand.

Oh, wait, I know!  See, if you're allergic to urushiol oil, as I am, then you know that after exposure to poison ivy, poison oak, etc, you have to wash aaaallll the fabrics you even thought about touching.  Clothing, sheets, towels, etc, or you'll keep re-exposing yourself.  But our washer is still broken.  Something in my possession has that oil on it, so it just keeps spreading.  Awesome.

The possibly-good news is that the repairman is scheduled to pay us a visit tomorrow; the washer needed a new pump.  But we really really need that pump to arrive today, or he'd just be coming over to have tea and cookies.  Except that I'm not a big tea drinker, so I guess we'd just be having cookies.  Cookies and calamine lotion.  Sounds like the name of a scented candle.

Many other things have happened, too, both good and bad.  Derek and his dad hooked up the dryer, which included cutting through the side of the house to vent it, as we chose a new location for the washer and dryer.  Well, I'll put "new" in quotation marks, because it was likely the original location, before the Flippers From Hell got their hands on this house and did nearly everything wrong, including moving the washer and dryer to the second floor and kitting out a laundry room around it the size of a bedroom.  We wanted that fourth bedroom, so back down the washer and dryer needed to go.  I'll finish this riveting paragraph by saying that they had to cut 8.5" through that exterior wall for the dryer vent, and 7.5 of those inches were solid wood.  So... maybe the house is well-insulated?

When we haven't been working on the house (which is almost never), we've been exploring this new-to-us area.  There are plenty of things here to recommend our location, but one of my favorites is the abundance of trails- at least compared to where we were- in this section of New England.  I picked one of the closest ones and packed the kids up two days ago while Derek was at work in the evening.  Now, hiking isn't one of their favorite things, but I can usually get them to go along at least half-cheerfully for a solid mile or two, so when we studied the map at the trail head I chose the blue trail.  1.5 miles is very doable for our kids!  No problem!  Piece of cake!

Except, whoopsy daisy, we instead set out on the blue/red trail, and while my suspicions were mounting about my mistake almost from the beginning, I didn't say anything until we were over 1 1/2 miles in.  Then I looked it up on my AllTrails app, and sure enough, we were on the 5.5 mile loop.  To their credit, the kids took the news with relative aplomb (or maybe it was just exhaustion?), and we turned around to hike back.  It was very hilly, especially for newly-arrived flatlanders, and extremely rocky.  

Of course, we knew that was coming, given that one of the trail runners we saw at the trail head held up a shredded shoe and told her companion, "This is what Ragged Mountain does to shoes."  But it was beautiful, and I was so pleased with how the kids handled the challenge.  

Tomorrow (or whenever I get to it):  Reunions!  Flowers!  A weeping house!

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

And Tomorrow They Load the Truck

I am sitting at my local library, writing what I assume will be my last post from Iowa.  There are strangers in our house, packing up our things, which makes me simultaneously say, "Waaaaaah!" and "Oh, thank God."  I mean, I'm sad that we're moving, but I'm also thankful it's not me in there packing it all up.  I about killed myself trying to get it all ready last night, loading up cleaning supplies, making sure everything was unplugged, etc.  Do you know how many aerosol cans we have?  Multitudes.  So so many.  Why do we need four giant cans of wasp killer?  Have we been living in a bad '60s horror film and I never realized it?  Here I was thinking I was living a normal life of an Iowan when apparently I was a bumbling extra, oblivious to the fact that there's a giant wasp on the loose in the town of Brave New World.

My head's in kind of a weird space today.  You understand.

Speaking of Brave New World, the moniker I long ago gave the little town we've been living in, I think it's now safe to tell you that its actual name is Huxley.  Just me having my own, private, long-running, literary joke there. 

Other items I evidently hoard?  Soy sauce.  Field guides.  Aldi-brand Rotel.  Because I guess you never know when you're going to need to identify a species of North American tree while eating Mexican and Asian food both?  I'm really not ashamed of what these choices say about my priorities. 

I've also been spending my time trying to see as many Iowa loved ones as possible in between working and grabbing our children by their cheeks, peering into their faces while asking, "You okay in there?  Any irreversible trauma going on?"  They love this about as much as you think they would.  Also I'm running around like a crazy person because moving involves paperwork.  Lots and lots of paperwork.  Post office.  Doctor's office.  Schools.  Etc.

Then, two days ago, as I manically attempted to wash every scrap of fabric in our house (everything I do now is manic, except when I slip into deep lethargy and depression- is there such as thing as situational bipolar disorder?) so it would be clean for the move, where it can get dirty again in the moving truck, our washer abruptly went on strike.  It stopped about a quarter of the way into a cycle, so I manually drained it, ran a spin cycle, did all the things the manual told me to do when the washer's cry for help is "5E," the error code that appeared on the display.  I thought I had it fixed, evidenced by my triumphant text to Derek.  Then the same thing happened, so I drained it again- which, if you're curious, consists of me gracefully sprawling on our laundry room floor surrounded by all the shallow vessels I could find; the drain tube is only a couple inches off the floor, and each time I drained around three gallons of water- and ran the spin cycle again, and then pronounced it... maybe not dead, but grievously injured.

We knew it would be nigh on impossible to get a technician out to fix the washer within the 36 hours we had until the movers arrived, but I still tried.  No luck.  But then Tami made herself my new best friend by announcing that YES, they could get a technician out to Connecticut to look at it after the move!  God bless nation-wide warranty companies!  God bless warranties themselves!  God bless Tami, the kind lady on Assurant's online chat for whom I left a stellar review in the post-conversation survey!

Gratitudinals- that's right, I remembered that in everything I'm supposed to give thanks and all that junk.  Here's what I'm thankful for today:

1.  Marco Polo, the video chat app my friend Mindy introduced me to several weeks ago.  It allows you to record a video that can only be seen by whomever you decide to put into a group- I have a group that consists of Mindy, Anne, and me, one with just Derek and me, and so on.  It's eased the thought of moving far away from my people, because now I'll be able to go back and watch their videos whenever I want, still seeing their faces and hearing their voices.  It's a nice alternative to Facetime because you can record your videos and watch your friends' responses at your leisure.

2.  The fact that I have several thank yous to write once this post is done, because it's evidence of people helping us and doing any number of things to ease our transition and show their affection for us.
A good start.

3.  Derek's mom Becky, who is even now at the movie theater with our kids.  It's helped make a difficult day easier.

4.  Our kids' teachers, who made time in the death march that is the month of May to lavish extra affection onto our children.  Atticus's teacher made up a story to get him out of the classroom so that his classmates could each write what they like about him or what they'll remember about him on pieces of paper.  One of Adelaide's teachers sent her a thoughtful email after the last day of school encouraging her and giving Daughter her personal address so they can be pen pals.  Caedmon's teacher pulled him aside and gave him an extra hug ("she squeezed me so tight, Mom") and words that express all the goodness she sees in him. 
And now I'm crying in the library.

5.  Chili lime cashews from Aldi, especially on top of a salad.  So crunchy and spicy and flavorful.  My mouth is watering just thinking about them.  Leakage in my eyes and my mouth.  What a day.

Monday, May 27, 2019

The Road Trip of Sadness!

When talking about how to get our family out to Connecticut in (eep!) 1 1/2 weeks, multiple options were discussed. We could ship the van and fly out.  We could drive the van and not fly.  We could do other things that I cannot now recall because all these conversations happened weeks ago and it's all I can do to remember what I said yesterday. 

In the end, we decided to drive the van out, all five of us, 1200 miles. 

At first we thought we'd try to drive 9 hours a day for two consecutive days because it's actually only 18 hours from here to there, not 24 or however long it was from where I lived in Kansas when I had to drive out years ago.  Benefits to this included the fact that Derek would have to take fewer days off work, we'd be able to dive into the work waiting for us at the house in CT more quickly, and, well, only two days on the road.

However, I told Derek that although I knew this was going to be a tough journey and that most if not all of it would be tinged with melancholy, I did not want this to be our family's Trail of Tears, just a van full of sadness hurtling down I-80 over two days.  I wanted to somehow redeem this journey, find a way to make positive memories over those miles. 

We decided to add a day to the trip, building in some stops and taking our daily travel time to just six hours.  We'll be passing through Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, and Connecticut.  Whew!  We will not be stopping in each state- sorry, New York- and the stops we do have planned depend at least a bit on nice weather. 

Here's the plan:

Day One
The closing on our house in Iowa is on Day One, hopefully first thing in the morning so we can get on the road immediately following and at a decent time.  Adelaide has requested to stop at Casey's one last time before we leave the state.  Casey's is not a hometown store or local watering hole; it's a gas station chain, which makes all of this sound way less poignant.  Casey's headquarters are a scant 15 miles down the highway, however, and their locations are so abundant around here that we have two in our town of 3,500 people.  They also make surprisingly good pizza, and we nearly always stop for road trip snacks before heading off on any journey longer than a few hours.  This trip will apparently be no different.

Our first stop beyond the boundaries of beautiful Iowa is in Illinois, at Lagomarcino's Confectionary.  We'll be eating at their old fashioned soda fountain, although how I'm supposed to choose between a malt and homemade chocolates, I don't know.  Question:  what's an egg creme and do you think I should try one of theirs? 

Night One
Stay at a hotel in Indiana.  It was vitally important to Atticus that each hotel had a pool.  It was vitally important to Derek that each hotel included breakfast.  Indiana is supposed to deliver on both.  I'm hoping it's not too much to ask to also find no bed bugs.  Strike that:  no insects of any kind, please.  I'm picky that way. 

Day Two
Our plan is to stop at Marblehead Lighthouse in Ohio, where hopefully we'll be able to frolic and scamper to our hearts' content at the state park by the lighthouse, and maybe tour the lighthouse itself.  This will be our family's first exposure to one of The Great Lakes!  At least... I think it will be?  Definitely our first time at Lake Erie, anyway. 

If it's raining Marblehead wouldn't be an ideal stop, so our backup plan is Seneca Caverns, self-described as "the caviest cave in America," which is probably what landed it on a website I love, Roadside America, which highlights the kookiest roadside attractions by state.  Derek and I toured Fantastic Caverns in Missouri in college, and I remember it as being, well, fantastic, but also pricey.  Seneca Caverns looks similarly expensive, so it's definitely our second choice, but it would allow us to stretch our legs and move our bodies around a hopefully pretty cool place (ha, "cool" because it looks neat but also because it's a constant 54 degrees in there please don't leave I can't help the way I am).

Night Two
Stay at a hotel in Pennsylvania.  Pool.  Breakfast.  No bed bugs.

Day Three
Our PA plan is to look at rocks!  This has been a hard sell to the kids as I've presented it to them in just such a fashion:  "Pennsylvania = rocks!  Yessss!"  The Frontier Rock Formations really do look beautiful, though, and since one of my personal priorities for these stops is being able to move and walk around after hours in the car, this could be a good one, but again, we need decent weather.  We do not currently have a foul weather plan for PA, and so far all the attractions I've found on Roadside America, although neat sounding ("Green Mannequin Aliens and UFO," "Skeleton of Old Coaly the Mule"), all appear to be outdoors.  So... pray for clear skies, I guess?  Also on the docket for PA:  wave to Carolyn!  Oh, wait, and I think in Illinois I wave to Ernie!

Night Three
Hotel in CT not far from our new house.  Closing is first thing the next morning, after which the moving company will hopefully be there and ready to unload all our junk/treasured possessions into the house.  Goals for the hotel are same as in previous nights/states:  pool, breakfast, no bed bugs.

What else?  We've been on enough long trips with our kids to know that something will go wrong.  Flat tires, locking my keys in the car (while in Kansas City, pregnant with Caedmon, two small children in tow- that was an interesting day), sick kids, sick adults, screaming kids, sleepy drivers, road construction, scary weather, etc, etc, etc.  Something will go wrong on this trip.  It is inevitable.  I will attempt to be like bamboo, bending but not breaking.  This is difficult when you are from Kansas where the state tree is the Cottonwood; flexibility is not one of its characteristics.

I'm also bracing myself for the sadness.  We are trying to make memories on this trip, but one of those might be crying into our old-fashioned sodas in Illinois.  We may just end up infecting the eastern half of the United States with our feelings along this journey.  Sorry, U.S.A.
On a more lighthearted note, Derek is going to be vlogging throughout our trip!  He's hemmed and hawed and talked about vlogging and considered and reconsidered- after all, he knows video, he knows editing, he knows all the things and jargon that I don't even have the language for, and I like the idea of having these memories to keep in a more lasting format.  I did warn him that while I am looking forward to this trip because of the stops we have planned, I do think there will be a considerable amount of tears and crankiness due to its inherent purpose:  our exodus from our beloved Iowa.  He is aware of this.  He also said "That's what editing is for."  I'll be curious to see how he chooses to tell this story.  All of that content will be on his public YouTube channel; I'll put a link to that channel in a future post rather than buried here at the end of this one. 

Congratulations.  You made it to the end of the longest post ever.  Go have some chocolate milk to celebrate- that's my celebration drink of choice because it's delicious, and... I'm a child?   

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Less Than Two Weeks Now

Hey-ho, I have some positive news, good news, even, about this house we're trying to buy.  What a delightful change of pace, right?

Where we last left off (possibly where we last left off, anyway; I can't be bothered to go back and look right now, showing me new lows within the depths that encompass my laziness), the inspector had come and gone, emailed us a 73 page document that we were instructed to read in full (and which, by golly, I did) after which we knew that the cast iron plumbing was rotting and the chimney needed help in a multitude of ways and the knob and tube wiring in the attic was live... which is maybe illegal?  I don't remember. 

As you may recall, we are attempting to buy this house from a cold, soulless bank who does not care if a property of theirs burns down around us as slowly asphyxiate in our beds.  Because of this we assumed that we would be stuck fixing absolutely everything, large and small, that needs fixing in this house.  But lo and behold, miracles do occur, and they fixed the wiring and put a new liner in the chimney (or something chimney related- I'm finding through this process that I know zilch about chimneys).  They did this for reasons that I believe I will be able to divulge after our closing date but not before.  How will you ever sleep at night between now and June 10?

This gif could also be used to illustrate around 40% of my mental state when contemplating this move.  Things are very jittery up in here.

We're down to T-13 days until we leave Iowa.  We're sad, but also ready to stop feeling like we're half in one place, half in another, not really belonging in either.  Caedmon and Adelaide have both had to tour schools they will never attend (upper elementary for C, high school for A because the 8th graders will be there next year as the district does construction on the middle school).  All their friends are talking about the various fun summer plans they're making together which is normal, and natural, but not so enjoyable to listen to when you will be around for none of them.  I'm working on registering the kids for school in a different state, which is time-consuming but necessary.  Thankfully much of this is now online, so I can at least get the first few steps done remotely. 

People keep asking me how the packing is going, but I haven't been packing.  Like, at all.  The movers are packing our things on June 5th and loading them onto a truck on the 6th, so I don't think I need to pack anything else at this point- we packed a ton of crap away just getting the house ready to sell- but I'm getting increasingly jittery (see above gif), thinking that there must be something I'm forgetting I need to do.  At random times of day I'll suddenly dive for pen and paper or for my phone to use the Notes app, remembering that I need to get the oil changed on the van before we drive out to CT, and I need to put the giant saw in the shed on the swap page, I need to call and put an end date on our garbage service and water and who knows what all else. 

Oh, I know- I'll just ignore all of it and continue this (so far fantastic) book!  Maybe everything else will go away on its own?

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Inspectors Inspecting, Banks Bullying

Yesterday morning, Derek accompanied the inspector on his tour of our potential house in CT.  Then he called me, said he had good news and bad news, and told me a bunch of bad stuff.

To be fair, I was at work and he was in the middle of a bunch of errands so we didn't have time for a lengthy chat.  I was still left reeling from news of a chimney that needs help and rotting cast iron pipes and live knob and tube wiring in the attic that we eventually want to reclaim and use as a third floor.  That's not to mention the carpenter ants that were thankfully remediated a year ago.

I think it's funny that in the world of pest control they use terms like "remediated" for carpenter ants and "excluded" for bats.  Even someone who loves finding the perfect word for each situation wouldn't mind more plain language here:  how about "we killed the snot out of those ants" and "the bats now know they are not welcome in this place." 

When we spoke again later in the day, Derek shared the positive parts of the inspection, because it turns out there are positive parts!  The floors are in great shape, it's a great lot, and something else good that I can't think of because I keep dwelling on all the work we might have in front of us.  

The good part about taking care of all these problems ourselves is that we'll get to live with nice, new pieces of the house as soon as we move in.  If you've ever sold a house before then you know what I'm talking about:  when you put your house on the market you're forced to finish all those little projects you've been putting off or have been allowing to hang there, unfinished and dangling in your peripheral vision.  This means you look around at all your finally-completed rooms and say, "Man, this place is nice!" and then you move.  So if we replace the five windows whose seals are broken, replace the pipes, tear out the shrubbery that's way too close to the foundation, etc, etc, then we'll get to enjoy knowing those things are new and sturdy and we're building something that will last.  

There will still be surprises, of course.  In this house it was bats, burst pipes, clogged pipes, a cranky old air conditioner, a cranky old hot water heater, downed trees, and many, many other things.  But we improved it and we made it ours, and now we get to do the same to a comparatively newer house in Connecticut.  Our Iowa house was built in 1900, while the one we're working on buying is from 1920.  I don't feel safe stating outright that we're definitely buying it, because it's currently owned by a bank because it was a flip/foreclosure.  Let me tell you:  buying a house from a bank vs human beings is very different, and by "different" I mean "completely horrible," and by "completely horrible" I mean "googles Elizabethan torture methods for the heads of impersonal national banks but deems branding and pressing too compassionate."  

So there's that.

On the Iowa house front, it's officially Sold and not just Pending.  I know this because I walked outside the other morning and the topper on the realtor's sign in front of our house had been switched from "Pending" to "Sold."  I do well with this kind of obvious messaging, and frequently ask God to make His directions as unequivocal as this one.  I mean, I don't ask for a realtor's sign staked in front of our place of residence, but I do frequently say, "Please don't be subtle about this, God; you know I don't do well with that."  He never seems to listen, though.  OR... maybe I'm the bad listener?