Saturday, July 30, 2011

Bandshell Thursdays

Throughout the summer on Thursday evenings, the Ames Municipal Band performs live concerts at Bandshell Park.  Channel 12 records and airs these concerts, which means Derek is always there at the park for the duration of the show.  For various reasons, the kids and I have not made it in to any of the concerts this summer.  Last night was the last concert of the season, so I rounded the kiddos up and we made the trip into town to play at the park and listen to some live music. 

The older two had a grand time playing on the playground equipment.

They played on the alligator-crocodile-dragon-thing.

They traveled through wormholes.  At least, that's what this cylinder always makes me think of.  Because all wormholes are made of energy and green metal mesh.

They rode on the green reptile again.

They helped Daddy set up his equipment and tell his interns what to do.

As is so often the case, I'm left wondering:  Why didn't we do this more often?

Friday, July 29, 2011

This Guy

He's two years old and just like his Daddy.

He has his Daddy's blue eyes.

He's bigger than most of the kids his age.

His voice already seems to be a full octave lower than Adelaide's- and she's no chipmunk.

When he's outside, he loves playing football, golf, and soccer.  When he's inside, he loves watching football, golf, and soccer.

And he gives me this look a lot.

Yup, he's his Father's son.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Home Again, Home Again

One of the first things I checked upon returning home was the state of the garden.  There were a lot of weeds, a few small zucchini, and one monster zucchini.

The baby boo pumpkins are coming along nicely, too, despite (or perhaps because?) growing outside the garden fence.

We also have this giant beanstalk that we're going to try climbing any day now.

Adelaide started growing it in a little container during the last few weeks of preschool, then brought it home so that we could plant it. 

Did I say beanstalk?  I meant sunflower.  It's a giant sunflower. 

We were also greeted by drifts of black-eyed-Susans, hibiscus, and some new lilies.  Adelaide has been roaming the yard, exclaiming and letting me know exactly which flowers had the audacity to bloom in her absence. 

In spite of all these beautiful offerings of summer, I find myself looking forward to the day our mums start blooming, because it will mean fall is close and cooler temperatures are here. 

Ask me if I feel the same way around mid-January.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A Week In Photos

As usual, we crammed a lot into our little vacation down south last week.  Here's a not-so-brief photo recap:

(Please note that the term "we" is always used very loosely.)

We were pushed on the swing when it was approximately one million degrees outside.

We played games on Xbox Kinect and didn't want to stop.  Ever.

We were held and cuddled until we fell asleep.

We were read to over and over and over and over...

We played outside, again the million degree heat.

We sat on each other and laughed.

We ate s'mores.

And then ate s'more s'mores.

We cooled off at the pool.

We played naked under the table.

It was an eventful week.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Don't Be Like Me

Arrive home in Iowa after visiting southern Kansas.  Thank God it's 15 degrees cooler here than it is down there.

Remember that 15 degrees cooler than 105 is still 90 and you don't have air-conditioning in your house. 

Lie on your kitchen floor like a dog trying to find the coolest possible place inside.  Cry.

Don't eat anything all day because you're just too hot.

Go grocery shopping.  Break your promise to yourself to wait until the watermelon is ready in your garden and buy one at the store. 

Eat 1/3 of a gigantic watermelon for supper.  Nothing else- just watermelon. 

Have cereal for breakfast the next morning because that cold, juicy, thirst-quenching watermelon sitting in the fridge doesn't control you.

Eat another 1/3 of a watermelon for lunch.  Nothing else- just watermelon.

Take a bunch of allergy medicine and slather ointment all over your eczema that is flaring up, due to the fact that...

You're allergic to watermelon.  You've known this for years, but eat it anyway any time it gets really hot.

Curse yourself for being so stupid.

Have another slice of watermelon.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Atticus is Famous

The kids and I just spent the past week and a half down in southern Kansas.  Like so much of the country, that area was caught up in a killer heat wave.  Ten minutes from our destination, I looked up at the rearview mirror and took note of the digital temperature readout:  108 degrees.  That's Fahrenheit, people. 

The dj on the local radio station confirmed this moments later when he announced "...and the current temperature is 108 degrees!  But don't worry, folks, the heat index is only 111!" 

Let's just say it was hot. 

Yesterday, as we were driving home, I got to watch the temperature drop from 98 degrees at 10:00 am all the way down to 80 over the course of an hour as we drove north and into a cool front.  It had climbed back up to the upper 80's by the time we got home, but that was still an improvement over temps that make you feel like you're going to keel over if you walk more than ten steps outside of the air conditioning. 

One of the ways we stayed cool during our visit was by visiting the local pool (excuse me, the local aquatic center- since when did public swimming pools become so snooty?  It's happening up here, too).  It just happened to be Free Swim Day sponsored by the town VFW.  There was a big turnout, and a photographer from the newspaper was there taking pictures. 

Guess who made the front page?

True, you can't really see his face, and we're talking about a paper in a town with all of 13,000 residents.  But still!  We blow into town on Saturday, and six days later the kid is front-page news. 

Pretty cool.  (Pun most definitely intended.)

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Lucky Number 7

One of the interesting things about marriage is that every year, you learn more about your spouse.  That first year is nothing but learning. 

It was Fall.  Derek's favorite season.  The year was 2004.  The year we got married.  We were living in an apartment in Connecticut, and the Minnesota Vikings were playing that day.  Derek had settled into the living room to watch the game, and I was in the kitchen, preparing some food to sneak back into the bedroom, where I would be camped out during the duration of the game with a snack and a book.  As I was tip-toeing through the side of the living room, careful not to get in between my new husband and the television, Derek waved a frantic hand in my direction, keeping his eyes glued to the tv, and said, "SHHHH!  Too much movement in my peripheral vision!" 

Thus, one of my lessons that first year was that Derek's enthusiasm for the purple and gold is really more of an obsession.

Another time that year, the two of us were preparing to leave that same apartment when he decided he wanted to take along a can of pop.  He went to the fridge, got it out, then turned toward me and did something truly shocking:  he threw it right at me. 

I did my best to move out of harm's way, threw my hands in front of my face, closed my eyes, and squealed, "What are you doing?"

Derek looked baffled and replied, "Throwing you a can of pop.  What are you doing?"

Thus, Derek learned that throwing things to me is always the same as throwing things at me, in that I will have a stereotypically girlish reaction and often hurt myself in the process.

So today, as we celebrate 7 years of marriage, I'm reflecting on what I've learned about Derek this year.  I think what stands out more than anything is that he doesn't exaggerate much.  Throughout our marriage, as he has related different anecdotes and stories, there have often been times that I have absently assumed he was exaggerating a bit about this or that.  Over the past year, however, I myself have witnessed many different places, people, and situations that he has told me about in the past, and realized that he wasn't stretching the truth at all.  That food really is delicious, that person really is a little bit crazy, and Iowa really is a great place to live. 

I'm not sure why it's taken me seven years to figure this out.  I may be a fast learner in some ways, but in others I am still ponderously slow. 

Happy Anniversay, Derek!

Thursday, July 14, 2011


Good Housekeeping magazine regularly features these charts on how to do various good housekeeping-type things.  They divide it into two main columns:  the "Good Housekeeping Way" and the "Good Enough Way."  You can learn how to starch and iron your shirts to the absolute limit of perfection (that would be the Good Housekeeping Way), or how to starch and iron your shirts just well enough to get by (the Good Enough Way).  They do this for all kinds of things:  cleaning out your fridge, sewing a button on a jacket, making pot roast, butchering and cleaning an impala.  You get the idea. 

For about the past month, most days I've been making smoothies (that's "smoovies" in Atticus-speak).  I usually make them as part of our lunch, because they help cool us off and keep the two A's and me full for most of the afternoon.  I love them because they're easy, healthy, and tasty, but Beware:  my method for making smoothies is definitely a Good Enough Way. 

To make about two and a half smoothies- that's a full one each for Atticus and me, half of one for Adelaide (the boy eats a lot), put around a cup of low- or fat-free vanilla yogurt, about two cups of frozen fruit, and about a cup of skim milk all into a blender, smoothie machine, or other food-obliterating device.  Mix well.  Pour and enjoy.  And if you hadn't already noticed, all ingredient quantities are vaguely approximate, because I'm more of a dump-random-amounts-in kind of cook.

If I'm feeling really crazy I'll add a fistful or two of fresh spinach.  This works especially well with a fruit like strawberries, which have a strong enough flavor to mask the taste of the spinach.  It's really quite good.  Adelaide's favorite is Strawberry, mine is either Pineapple or Strawberry, and I believe Derek's is Strawberry-Banana.  Atticus likes them all.

Now, if you're more of a Good Housekeeping Way kind of person, I would invite you to check out Paige's post on smoothies.  Be prepared to make your own yogurt and add things like cod liver oil.  Definitely healthier than my way.

Funnily enough, this seems to be the only picture I have of one of our kids drinking a smoothie, and it just so happens to be Atticus drinking the failed combination of orange and spinach.  I think he drank a couple pints of this stuff; no one else liked it, so he just went around and finished off everyone else's servings. 

Another warning:  if you make these and expect them to taste like restaurant-style smoothies, which are often just milk shakes masquerading as smoothies, you will be disappointed.  They are sweet in a fruit-and-yogurt kind of way, but not in a teaspoon-of-fruit-and-half-gallon-of-ice-cream kind of way. 

Don't make orange-spinach smoothies.  Do make pineapple, Good Housekeeping Way or not.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Next Day

Our backyard Monday morning:

Our backyard Tuesday morning:

Thanks to Derek's efforts, the tree was all chopped up, the major limbs already taken care of.  All that was left was to go around the yard gathering the smaller branches, sticks, and bark that had been peeled off the tree during the storm.  This task fell to Adelaide and me.  Adelaide performed the work with enthusiasm; she enjoys helping and revels in our praise.  Atticus threw exactly two sticks into the firepit, picked up a third, and spent the next 30 minutes wandering around the stumps, hitting pieces of wood, jousting imaginary foes, and swinging his new favorite toy over his head. 

At one point, I made a rare stab at being super-mom and called Adelaide over to examine one of the largest logs.  I pointed out to her the rings in the cross-section of wood, and we discussed annual rings and the age of trees. 

We picked three different places in the wood and counted them.  Each time we got a number around fifty, but here's the thing:  this tree has one main trunk, which then forked into two main limbs.  It lost one of those limbs in the storm, so the part of the tree that we were looking at was from a place perhaps ten feet above the base, and definitely smaller in diameter than the very bottom of the trunk.  Doesn't this mean that there would be more rings there at the base?  So is the tree actually older than just fifty years?  Am I the only one who knows practically nothing about figuring the age of trees?

So what started as a bit of a natural science lesson for Adelaide ended with me scratching my head and arguing with myself.  Being used to this kind of behavior in her mother, our daughter soon wandered off to pile more debris into the firepit and sing to herself.   

Monday, July 11, 2011

Last Night

Atticus and Adelaide.  Our backyard.  Around 10 this morning.

"Awww," you're saying.  "There's Adelaide and Atticus, playing in the summer sunshine.  But wait- what's that over their heads?"

Oh, that? 

That is a tree.  Well, half of a tree.

We had some severe storms around here last night.  Right around 3 am, heavy winds, loud thunder, continuous lightning, and rain blew into town.  Shortly thereafter, we lost power.  The cessation of fans in our un-air-conditioned house, coupled with all the noise from the skies made Caedmon conclude that he was done sleeping.  Which meant I was done sleeping.  To escape the sticky humidity inside the house, Caedmon and I went out onto the front porch, which was actually cooler than inside, and reasonably well protected from the rain.  Thanks to all the lightning we were able to see that several trees in our neighborhood had already sustained damage, and multiple neighbors were shining flashlights around their yards from the safety of  porches and garages.  We were actually quite fortunate;  two houses down from us, a large part of a mature tree splintered off onto the roof of a house, creating a hole and all kinds of damage.  Reports from people walking around trickled in all day:  Most of the town was without power, one family had damage to both their roof and their van due to falling limbs, and tree damage, tree damage, tree damage. 

The power finally came back on at 3 pm.  We rejoiced, turned the fans back on, and made smoothies to help cool off. 

At 6:30 pm, just as I was writing the above sentence, 'Shortly thereafter, we lost power,' we lost our power again.  Oh, the irony.  It was restored at around 9 pm. 

Derek came home from work with a borrowed chainsaw and got right to work, dismantling the tree and doing other heavy duty stuff that make me say I'm glad I'm the woman in this relationship and I don't care if that makes me a walking affront to feminism.  After awhile one of his coworkers came over and joined in on the fun, for which we were thankful. 

After several hours outside, Derek had conquered the tree, throwing the smaller branches over the fence by the side of the road for the city to chip, and cutting the trunk up for firewood.  Again, glad I'm the female.

Let's all pray for a less eventful night.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Did You Know...

... that my children like to wait until I have scrubbed the bathtub top to bottom before making themselves truly and thoroughly filthy?

... that our two year old son can't resist the backyard firepit when we've recently burned a brushpile and it's full of soot and ashes?

... that it takes copious amounts of shampoo and time to get large amounts of ash out of our five year old daughter's hair? 

Did you know that?  DID YOU? 

Don't mind me.  I'm just getting re-acclimated to having the older two kiddos back home. 

So is Caedmon.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Backyard Golf

Atticus has developed a new favorite activity this summer.  For some reason it reminds me of croquet, although I've never seen anyone swing a croquet mallet that hard. 

Is it mallets that they play with in croquet?  Clubs?  The sum total of my croquet knowledge comes from the movie Summer Magic.

Maybe it's more a mix of croquet and golf.  Although I do know that it's clubs they use in golf, not mallets.  Or rakes, like our boy does. 

He prefers the kind of child's rake that is designed more for the building of sand castles, although he'll use Adelaide's Dora the Explorer gardening rake when he gets desperate. 

Here's how it works.  He drops a plastic golf ball (or any ball of similar size) down into the grass of our backyard.  Then he winds up, takes a mighty swing, and whacks the stuffing out of that ball.  Sometimes it just skitters a few feet across the grass, but usually it travels in a nice arc through the air and lands a short distance away.  Then he goes to where it landed, bends over, and whacks the crap out of it again.  Over and over and over.  His own version of golf, or croquet.

Caedmon prefers to watch from the safety of the deck.

He's learned not to approach his brother when he has a weapon in hand.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

I Blame 4-H

Ah, summer. 

Summer inexorably brings to mind things like running through the sprinkler, smearing aloe vera on sunburned skin, and spending lots of time outside. 

Somehow, though, every summer, I find myself being drawn inside.  It's not the heat that chases me indoors, or even the bugs. 

It's things like these: 

Ribbons.  Beads.  Bar pins and hair clips.  Crafty things.  I am powerless against the siren call of a good hot-glue gun.

During that precious time in the afternoon known as "naptime," I should be outside mowing or weeding my garden.  I should be planning supper or cleaning. 

Instead, I find myself spending many summer afternoons making things like these:

Hair clips and pins and other girly things for Adelaide.

I blame 4-H.  It's just that time of year.  I grew up spending much of my summers making crafts, cross-stitching, matching plaids, hunching over the sewing machine, and perfecting whatever cookie or food basket I thought would earn me a purple ribbon.  It's almost fair-time, which means it's time to get up and do all the stuff you should have done months ago, all so that you can haul it down to the fairgrounds and spend lots of sweaty miserable hours in some un-air-conditioned barn setting up and waiting for your creations to pass in front of judges who have the power to either reward you with a purple ribbon- or a not-as-good-as-but-still-pretty-good-blue, or slap down your hard work with a red ribbon- or even worse, a white.  Although I've never actually heard of anyone getting a white.   

Is it sick that I kind of miss it?