Friday, April 29, 2011

Old-Fashioned, Continued

A couple years ago, Derek and I spent an eventful night battling bats.  The next morning, we woke up tired but victorious. 

As I was helping my daughter get dressed for the day, she told me about a dream she'd had the night before, about a bird that was flying around her room, then came down and bit her.  One of the bats had been in her room the night before, so I had a mini- heart attack when she said those words and immediately got online to try and figure out my next course of action. 

Amid all this searching and googling, I discovered many interesting facts about the little brown bat- the type we believe invaded our house.

  • They can enter spaces as small as 1/4 inch.
  • It flies at speeds of 4-21 miles per hour.
  • It can consume up to 600 insects per hour, and feeds 1-5 hours per night. 
  • It eats bugs like mosquitos, corn earworm, and other crop pests.
At this point I started to feel bad.  I felt even worse when I learned that the little brown bat is a protected species. 

Then I read (from several reputable sites, not just Wikipedia) that bats are known carriers of rabies, and that their teeth are so small that bite marks are often invisible.  I further learned - from a helpful flow chart provided by the Iowa Department of Public Health- that Adelaide may need a series of vaccines.

Rabies vaccines.

This information assuaged my guilt.

I called the Department of Public Health, and spoke to a delightful women who told me in no uncertain terms that Adelaide would, in fact, need a series of seven shots to make sure she didn't develop rabies.  She then took down my name, address, and phone number so that she could follow up and make sure we had vaccinated our daughter.

We spent the next month taking Adelaide into the doctor's office every few days for her shots.  She began to cry every time she found out we were driving in to Ames:  "I don't want to get rabies shots!" 

I spent the next few days cleaning the small amounts of bat guano I kept finding on the walls.

We had two more bats fly through our house in the next few weeks.  I tried to remind myself they eat lots of icky bugs, but I had trouble mustering any sympathy for them. 

Six weeks after the first incident, we had Batman (okay, a nice man from Complete Wildlife Control) come out and insert one-way valves at various points on the roof of our house.  Bats can exit through these valves but can't get back in. 

Batman informed us that houses made before World War II usually have something like 18 inches of space in between the floors, and the bats were getting in through the entrance points in our roof, traveling down the walls, and getting into this space in between the first and second floors of our house.  They were then entering the living area of the house through my beloved pocket doors. 

I still love our old house, but I now approach the pocket doors with some trepidation any time we go to open or close them.  I don't want to get rabies shots, either.

Thursday, April 28, 2011


I love old things.  Old books, old photos, old houses.

Our house was built in 1900.  I fell in love with it the first time I saw it.  I love the woodwork, the built-in benches, the pocket doors. 

When we first moved in, I was an old-house novitiate.  I grew up in a newer-construction house, and had never before lived in a structure as old as this one.  I quickly learned that there are qualities unique to old homes, and certain things you need to beware of.  I learned one such lesson one late summer night, just a few months after we had moved in. 

Derek and I were sitting on the couch in the living room.  Atticus and Adelaide were tucked away in their beds.  The tv was on, but Derek had fallen asleep, all tuckered out after a long day.  I was sitting beside him, absorbed in a book.  Suddenly, I saw something out of the corner of my eye.  "Hmmm," I thought.  "That was an awfully big moth."

Still reading, but also aware that there was some kind of flying insect in the house, my head snapped up when the moth again flew by.  By now, however, I knew it wasn't a moth.  I jabbed Derek in the side with my elbow and said, "Derek!  There's a bird in the house!"  My husband roused himself enough to open his eyes and look sleepily around for a couple minutes.  When the bird didn't reappear, he mumbled something like, "I don't see anything," and went back to sleep.  I continued to try and read, but by now it was hopeless.  I was too jumpy.

I poked Derek and told him I was going up to bed.  He woke up just long enough to haul himself up the stairs and fall into bed.  I settled in next to him, still awake, still sure I had seen something.  After a few minutes, I heard something downstairs.  I again poked Derek and hissed, "There's something downstairs!"  He heaved a deep sigh and layed there, listening, for a full minute. 

Silence.  "I don't hear anything," he said, undisguised annoyance coloring his voice.  I got the distinct feeling he was tired of his paranoid wife waking him up when he was exhausted, so I laid there, determined to ignore any more sounds from downstairs and go to sleep. 

A few minutes later, I heard more sounds from the first floor of our house.  But these were different.  They were extremely high-pitched chattering sounds.  And I finally knew what was in our house.

It was a bat.

I knew very little about bats.  So I figured I'd just let it hang out downstairs for the night, because I sure wasn't waking my husband up again.  And going downstairs to take care of it myself was out of the question.  I closed my eyes, smug that for once, there really was something in the house.  I wasn't just being paranoid. 

I was nearly asleep when I felt an odd whooshing sensation over me.  My eyes flew open, and with horror I realized  the bat was in our bedroom, flying over our bed.  I threw the covers over my head and kicked Derek awake, shrieking, "It's-a-bat-it's-a-bat-it's-a-bat!"  He jumped out of bed, and the games began.

Before that night, I had no idea how fast bats are.  They fly with amazing speed and maneuverability.  That bat swooped throughout our house, back and forth, and every time I thought it was going to hit something, it would make a hairpin turn and flash back out of the room.  It would have been impressive had I not been so terrified.  Derek spent the next hour trying to get that thing out of our house.  He opened the front door to try and coax it outside, he tried chasing it through the house.  Bats are very nimble prey. 

I was a big help.  I followed Derek downstairs, because I was too much of a pansy to stay upstairs in our bedroom alone with a bat on the loose.  Instead, I cowered on the couch, squealing and pulling a quilt over my head every time it flew back into the living room.  Eventually Derek made it clear that I was going to have to help, and I was stationed in the doorway between the front entryway and the kitchen, holding up the quilt to close off that doorway.  His plan was to seal off all possible areas of the house, trap and then catch the bat.  After awhile, we realized the bat was no longer flying around.  We couldn't find it upstairs.  We couldn't find it downstairs.  Earlier, I had gone upstairs to make sure the kids' bedroom doors were closed to keep the bat from bothering them.  As we found out that night, however, bats can squeeze through very small spaces, and managed to get into Adelaide's room.  I darted in and carried our sleeping daughter out of the room, while Derek continued to stalk his prey.  He found the bat in the corner of the room, behind some bins holding stuffed animals. 

Derek and the bat battled.  Derek won.  He disposed of the bat, and we went back to bed.

Not ten minutes later, we heard something downstairs.  There was another bat. 

We drug ourselves back downstairs.  Fortunately, Derek is a fast learner, and was by now an efficient bat-stalker.  He captured and rid us of another bat. 

We went to sleep.  There were no more bats that night. 

Apparently, it's quite common for bats to find their way into old houses.  After that night, I felt I had successfully (if cowardly) made my way through a bat-experience.

Until the next morning, when our sweet three-year-old daughter came to me and told me about the dream she'd had the night before.  She had dreamt there was a bird flying around her room, and it came down and bit her on the cheek. 

And I freaked out.

Because this has already become a novella, I'll have to continue it tomorrow.  The chitlins are hollerin' fer some grub.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Random Easter Photos

I've been noticing something lately.

Our children kind of look alike.  Almost like they're related.

They're also growing up really, really quickly.

And another thing? 

It's nearly impossible to get a picture where all three children are looking at the camera and smiling.

Someone's always scowling.

Or coughing.

Or receiving unsolicited kisses.

What I should have done was taken pictures while they were eating their Easter cake.

  At least then they're guaranteed to sit still.

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Sound of Music

When I was growing up, my parents listened to very different kinds of music.  Because of this, my sisters and I received a diverse musical education.  Had there been a syllabus, my mother's portion would have included artists like Billy Joel, Patsy Cline, Rodgers and Hammerstein, and the Carpenters.  My father's portion would have listed bands such as Blue Oyster Cult, AC/DC, Queen, and strangely enough, quite a bit of classical music. 

One of my Mom's contributions was a wide selection of musicals.  I grew up watching and listening to music from Cinderella, Oliver!, and the Sound of Music, to name a few.  I learned many valuable life lessons from these musicals, such as:

  • No matter how hungry you are, never ask for more gruel.
  • Beware of men named Rolf.  They are likely Nazi jerks and are not to be trusted.
  • If you meet a strapping farmer named Adam, don't agree to marry him the same day you meet him.  He may have six brothers living in his cabin, and they'll all expect to you to cook and clean for them.    (Note:  If you have never seen Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, you must rectify this flaw in your musical upbringing immediately.)
In addition to life lessons, I have found that the music from these movies can be used in everyday life.  This is especially true if you spend all day with three children under the age of five and don't often find yourself with another coherent adult to converse with.  Let me give you some examples of how to incorporate musical numbers into your daily routine.

  • When your daughter is misbehaving, sing "How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?" only instead of the name Maria, fill in your daughter's name:  "How do you solve a problem like Adelaide? How do you catch a cloud and pin it down?  How do you find a word that means Adelaide?  A flibbertigibbit, a will-o'-the-wisp, a clown."  Do this in your best nun-in-her-habit voice.  (Read:  Loud soprano with a strong vibrato.)
  • When you're looking through photos in your wedding album with your children, and they ask where you got married, tell them, "Oooooooo-klahoma where the wind comes sweepin' down the plain, and the wavin' wheat can sure smell sweet, when the wind comes right behind the rain!"
  • When your kids ask you to make them a sandwich, get them some milk, button their shirt, etc, sing, "I'd do anything, for you dear, anything, for you mean everything to me!"
  • When your daughter turns sixteen, plan on singing "You are sixteen going on seventeen..." for that entire year. 
  • When your children are squabbling, won't stop hitting each other and destroying the house and you've had it up to here, park your chair in the corner, sit down, and sing around your thumb in your mouth, "In my own little corner, in my own little chair, I can be whatever I want to beeeee!"
Just kidding on that last one.

Why not start today?  We could all use a little more musical drama in our lives. Your family and co-workers will thank you.  Especially when you poke your head in their office and start crooning,
"Bless your beautiful hide, wherever you may be..."

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Sibling Easter

For her first two Easters, Adelaide was the lone child.  She had no siblings to love, smother, irritate, help, or hurt. 

Then this guy came along.

It took him awhile to get used to the camera.


It took him even longer to get used to his sister.

I'm starting to think I shouldn't be scolding him for hitting his sister.

Maybe he just has a really long memory.

By the next Easter, he was bigger- better able to defend himself.

Better able to return her affection.

There were still tears.

Adelaide was still entirely unconcerned by his distress.

For the most part, though, they enjoy Easter together.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Easter Dress

When I was a kid, I loved getting a new Easter dress every spring.

Then I had a daughter of my own.  I discovered the joys of picking out and dressing up my own living, breathing doll. 

Please note that I only do this on Easter.  I am not one of those frightening pageant moms.  And even on Easter, I do not whiten my little girl's teeth, paint make-up on her face, or apply spray-on tanner.

Or parade her in front of scary adults and ask them to judge her.

But I do dress her up in frilly dresses.

At eleven months old, 

this was Adelaide's first Easter.

The next year, my Grandma sent me a Laura Ashley-style dress. 
What was I to do but get a white straw hat and white heeled shoes?

Had I been able to find white gloves, I would have made her wear those, too.

She was almost two.

The following year, she wasn't really interested in posing for picture after picture.

That Easter, she was all about the thrill of the hunt.

The Easter egg hunt.  Almost three here.

And last year, she just seemed so grown up.

Almost four.

Jumping for joy:

"Jesus is Alive!"

Okay, so it was probably more like,


After going through lots of photographs, I've noticed a certain trend with Adelaide's ensembles.  I seem to really like polka-dotted Easter dresses.  "Well, not this year!"  I thought.  "This year, it's different."

Then I dashed upstairs to confirm her dress is made from floral-print fabric.

Sure enough, there is a floral border along the bottom hem of the dress.

The rest?


Monday, April 18, 2011

Cast Iron

I love my cast iron skillet.  It was a hand-me-down from Derek's mom.  I feel that used cast iron cookware is usually better than new because it's already been seasoned, so I don't have to mess with any of that business.  I love to use my skillet for upside-down cakes, cornbread, and elementary home defense.

Perhaps I should explain.

Derek was gone on a business trip last week.  This meant I had to hold down the fort for a few days by myself.  Fortunately, it was warm and beautiful outside, so I let the kids run themselves into exhaustion in the backyard every afternoon.  This gave us all space during the day, and they slept soundly at night.

My nights, however, were a different story.

After I finally get the older two kiddos into bed, I bounce Caedmon around for awhile before laying him down.  Peruse the bookshelves for something to re-read because I haven't been to the library in a while.  Settle into the rocking chair in the living room.  Immerse myself in a favorite story.

Hear strange sounds.  Outside the window.  In the basement.  Upstairs.  In the laundry room. 

I concentrate harder on the book and tell myself it's just the house settling.  It is, after all, an old house, and after 111 years on this earth I think she's earned the right to creak a bit.  Even if it does cause minor cardiac episodes in the chest of her owner.

After an hour or so of this, I put down my book, tidy up a bit downstairs.  Load the dishwasher, wipe down the high chair.  Grab the cast iron skillet out of the kitchen cabinet and carry it upstairs with me.

I wash up in the bathroom, change into my pajamas.  Nestle the skillet into Derek's side of the bed.

I really feel at this point that I should explain something.  I don't have a weird skillet fetish.  This piece of cookware just happens to be my weapon of choice- I need something in reaching distance when an intruder takes advantage of Derek's absence and breaks into the house.  We don't have any guns, and knives are out -our children often climb into the bed to wake me up in the morning.  Plus cast iron has a nice, reassuring heft to it.  I need two hands to lift it any higher than shoulder- height, (I had to practice, didn't I?) so it's pretty heavy. 

I may or may not have read Fried Green Tomatoes At The Whistle Stop Cafe one too many times. 

And seen the movie once or twice.

But I promise, if I ever do whack the boogie man over the head with my skillet, I will not chop him up and serve him to you barbeque-style. 

Although I do think Head Country barbeque sauce could make just about anything taste good.  Maybe the secret really is in the sauce. 

I did not end up having to use the skillet in a defensive capacity.  Derek returned home, and I returned the pan to the cabinet, where it will stay until I make an apple cake.

Or my husband leaves again.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Florence Nightingale

My mother is a nurse.

She is respected both in her field and in my hometown.

When I was young she worked as an infection control nurse.  This means as a young child I was not allowed to drink out of public drinking fountains and was discouraged from shaking people's hands. 

Sometime in the midst of my elementary school years, she changed fields and became a school nurse (to middle schoolers, no less, proving she harbors some mild masochistic tendencies).  This means that unless on the brink of death, I got very little sympathy for various injuries and maladies.  It also meant that her affectionate pet name for my sisters and me was "vector."

My high school had slightly less than a thousand students spread over four grades.  This, coupled with the fact that my mom worked in the school system, meant that many of my fellow students knew whose daughter I was.  That in and of itself is not unusual.  What was odd was that at various times during those four years, one classmate or another would approach me and begin describing a list of symptoms they were experiencing. 

"Hey, Kristy!"

"Hey, so-and-so, how's it going?"

"Okay.  Well, actually, I wanted to ask you something.  I have a really bad headache, and my face feels kind of swollen here and here, and when I tip my head like this I can't breathe and my cheeks really hurt... so what should I do?"


At this point, several things would float to the surface of my mind:  Sinus infection, Common cold, Why isn't this person asking a medical professional about this?  Decongestant or Ibuprofen...

Instead of contributing anything worthwhile, however, I would  find one of two pieces of advice springing to my lips- the same advice my mother invariably gave me.

Remedy #1:  Go take a shower.

Remedy #2:  Go for a walk.

It didn't seem to matter how sick I was or from what I was suffering, this was always, always, always her reply to my queries.  These phrases have become a long-running joke between my sisters and I, a parody of the conversations we've had with our mother:

"Mom, I don't feel well- my stomach hurts, and I'm really tired..."

"Go take a shower."

"Hey, Mom, my ear kind of hurts, and it feels really hot and painful..."

"Go take a shower."

"Mom, I think I have cancer."

"Go take a shower.  Or, I know- go for a walk!"

My poor mother has the misfortune of being a parent to three sarcastic, smart-aleck girls.  Here's the kicker, though-

She was right.

My allergies are killing me, I feel my throat closing and I'm wheezing up a storm.  Guess what helps better than anything else?  Taking a shower.

My stomach hurts and nothing I'm doing seems to help.  The best medicine?  Going for a walk.

This revelation has been coming on for awhile now, beginning when my daughter was just a few months old.  She was suffering from her first major cold, and had that awful, croupy cough infants get.  I didn't know what to do for her, and even though it was nearing midnight, called my mom. 

"Mom, Adelaide's really sick.  She's coughing and seems to be having trouble breathing, especially when I lay her down... what do I do?" 

"First, go run a shower-"

"MOM!  I'm not kidding here!"  I was panicking in the way that only a first-time mother is capable of, and didn't appreciate her feeble attempt at humor.

"Kristy, I'm not joking.  Go run a hot shower.  Sit in the bathroom with Adelaide, keep the door closed, and let the room fill up with steam.  This should make it easier for her to breathe and help loosen up some of that gunk in her chest."  (She uses the word "gunk" a lot.  It's a technical term that I think you learn in nursing school.)

The shower worked.  As it almost always does.  And now, when Adelaide starts whining, "Mommy, my tummy hurts,"  I know exactly what to say.

Monday, April 11, 2011

'Member That Time?

'Member that time I made the mistake of turning on the television during Adelaide's naptime?

Adelaide was about a year old.  We were living in Connecticut.  Derek was at work, Adelaide was down for her afternoon nap.  I don't watch a lot of tv, but for some reason I decided to turn it on.  The first thing I saw was a 30-second preview for a remake of "The Omen."  I turned the tv off.

When I was younger, I watched all kinds of horror movies.  I thought they were more funny than scary, and when I did get scared, I just thought it was a delicious kind of fun. 

Then I grew up and turned into a pansy.  I don't watch horror movies anymore.

Back to that afternoon in Connecticut. 

I knew that watching that preview was a mistake.  I guess the movie is about a little boy possessed by (or just is?) the devil.  It made me shudder and want to watch something completely benign like Pollyanna. 

Soon after this Adelaide wakes up from her nap.  I've still got devil-boy on the brain, and this, of course, leads me straight back to my old friend paranoia.  Only this time it involves my own cherub-faced girl.


I find myself watching her out of the corner of my eye, just waiting for her head to start revolving in 360-degree turns or for her eyes to take on a tell-tale red sheen.

I'm afraid of my own daughter.

I would really prefer to forget that time.  It was one of the creepiest afternoons of my life.

'Member That Time Monday.  Van Voorst's.  Go.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Oh Come, Let Us Adore Him

It seems vaguely blasphemous to use a line from a hymn written about Christ in the year 1743 as the title of a post about my husband on a blog in 2011.  (Holy run-on sentence, Batman!)

But I don't care.  (About the blasphemy or the run-on sentence.)

Christmas 2009.  Derek is looking at and interacting with everyone else in the room.

Atticus only has eyes for Daddy.

The hammock in our backyard, Fall of 2009.

One of our older son's favorite Let's-Maul-Daddy locations.

When Derek comes home from work each evening, the older two kids are all over him.  He does his best to bestow attention on all three children, but Atticus and Adelaide tend to monopolize his time.

Then A & A go to bed. 

 And it's Daddy- Caedmon time.

On a related note, we recently began to let Adelaide answer the phone when it rings- especially at 5:00 when I'm almost certain it's Derek calling.  But a problem has emerged. 

See, I've always been the one to answer the phone at this time, and it's a relief to hear Derek announce that he's on his way home.  We exchange some of the important points of our respective days, then hang up. 

But Adelaide won't let me answer the phone anymore.  So on weekdays at around five in our house, here's the scene you would most likely witness:

I'm in front of the stove, cooking up whatever's for supper with my right hand and holding Caedmon in my left.  Adelaide is often sitting at the desk in the kitchen, coloring.  Atticus is either playing, tormenting his sister, hanging onto my legs, or destroying something upstairs.

Then the phone rings.  Adelaide and I both race to pick it up.  Whichever one of us has reached it first hurries to push the "Talk" button and say, "Hello?" before the other can snatch the phone away. 

Then the winner gets to talk to Derek. 

The loser whines, "But I haven't gotten to talk to him all day!" and the winner hisses, "Neither have I!" 

The loser then crosses her arms and sulks. 

It could really go either way- it just depends on the day and how fast each of us is at that moment in time.

I'm sure Freud would have a field day with that one.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011


I love 'em.

I love the thought of squeezing every last penny out of an item of clothing, of pushing my kids' clothes to the absolute limit of usefulness. 

Even I, however, have to admit that this may be pushing things too far. 

Normally, I would just sew this little hole up and slap it back on the boy.  But the reason he has holey toes in his clothing is that these are just too small.  I've been squeezing him in to try and make it last, and thought it was all going swimmingly.  Until I saw that little toe- and knew that it was time to admit defeat.  On to the next size.

On the bright side, I've always wanted a blue- and gray- striped dusting cloth.

Monday, April 4, 2011

State Loyalty

Derek was raised in Iowa.  He is an Iowan.

I learned this within days of meeting him.  Hours after that, I learned of his love for his home state.

I'm not sure what tipped me off, but I think it might have been his penchant for referring to Iowa as "The Promised Land."

Please be warned:  If you are neither from Iowa nor currently live in Iowa and you happen to meet my husband, you will be treated to a series of lectures.  I lovingly refer to them as "the Iowa sermons." 
Sermon titles include: 
  • The Iowa State Fair
  • Iowa State University
  • Cyclone Athletics
  • Iowa Corn
  • Iowa Blizzards
  • The Four Distinct Seasons
  • B-Bop's
  • Iowa vs Kansas
  • Iowa vs Connecticut
  • Iowa vs Any Other State, Province, or Country
One particular sermon that I heard with some regularity, not just from Derek but also from his family, was on the topic of Iowa dirt.

Yes, you read that right.  Dirt.

Ahem.  What I meant to say (and the way they actually phrased it), was Iowa soil.

It got to the point where any time I heard them start up on that "rich, black, Iowa soil" I would roll my eyes and start joking about black gold. 

Fast-forward several years.  Derek and I and our two children have moved to Iowa.  We have bought a house.  We have a backyard, where I am kneeling, getting ready to prepare the ground for a modest vegetable garden.  I dig my rake into the ground, pulling up grass.  After freeing the allocated section of this grass, I am greeted with the sight of this famous dirt.  It is black, and as far as dirt goes, yes, it's pretty.  But I'm still mentally rolling my eyes. 

Then I dig my hands into the dirt.  And I encounter soil.  Rich, moist, loamy soil. 

I flashback to watching my parents spend hours trying to install a garden in the backyard of my southern Kansas home.  A high clay content and flint rock make raised bed gardens a must down there.

I look around at the flowers growing in my flower beds.  Irises in the spring, roses, lilies, bleeding hearts, hostas, hibiscus and more in the summer.  These flowers can't seem to help but thrive in this beautiful Iowa dirt.

Excuse me.  This beautiful Iowa soil.