Thursday, October 31, 2013

Golfing Ballerinas. Or Dancing Golfers.

A while back Derek and I did a kind of date exchange.  He got to pick the activities for one date, and a couple weeks later I got to choose.

We're a pretty religious dinner-and-a-movie couple, so this kind of thing constitutes us showing our daring and adventurous side.  Although in our defense, a meal away from the kids is just about the most awesome thing ever at this point.  Neither of us has to cut up anyone's food.  We get to sit down and stay seated throughout the entire meal.  We're not constantly interrupted by arguments like "I bet I could eat that whole pan of enchiladas."  "No, you couldn't."  "Yes, I could."  "No, you couldn't."  "YES I COULD."  "WELL YOU'RE ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS WRONG."  "I DON'T EVEN CARE BECAUSE I CAN'T HEAR YOU BECAUSE I PUT REALLY REALLY FLUFFY BIRDS IN MY EARS SO THAT I NEVER HAVE TO HEAR YOU SO THERE."

Just in case you're curious, that was our lunchtime conversation today.

So, yes.  A meal that's overlaid with intelligent adult conversation and that contains drinks only spilled by me is simply delightful right now.

For our date exchange, however, we went a little outside the norm for date night (don't kid yourself, though, we still went out to eat.  You did read that paragraph up there, right?).  Derek chose golf.  Derek loves to golf, and goes either by himself or with the boys whenever he can, but the last time he and I went together was in the sweltering humidity of Florida while I was in my first nauseous trimester of pregnancy with Adelaide.  It was miserable, although I did see an alligator on the course.  At least I think it was an alligator; I can never remember what the difference is between crocs and gators.  Anyone have a useful acronym or something that would help me out?  Wait... do we even have crocs in North America, or are those just kind of an Australia-thing?  And how painfully obvious is it that the sum total of my croc-knowledge comes from the movie Crocodile Dundee?


Our first golf outing there in Florida was so successful we didn't repeat it for eight years.

Raise your hand if you think you know how this is going to turn out.

Well, you're wrong!  (At least, I'm guessing you're wrong.  This whole blogging thing is great for some things, but it's kind of a one-way street.  I guess you could leave a comment and let me know how you thought it was going to turn out.  Or not.)

We actually ended up having a great time.  Derek quite literally played the best round of his life, and I enjoyed myself way more than I thought would be possible- and that's paying attention to the game; I only read three pages of the book I brought!  (I should probably explain that I didn't golf, I just rode along while Derek did, although if you know me at all this little aside is completely unnecessary.)

As for my half of the exchange, I chose to go see Matthew Bourne's Sleeping Beauty at the Des Moines Civic Center.  One of my favorite parts actually happened a few days before the performance itself; I mentioned something in passing to Derek about the date, and it turned out Derek thought Sleeping Beauty was a musical; he had no idea we were going to the ballet.  The mixture of chagrin and resignation on his face was priceless.

The ballet itself was beautiful if a little unusual.  I'd read up on Bourne a bit before we went and knew that his interpretation of this ballet was a bit gothic, but I really started to worry when we got there and the playbill described it as "a mix between Twilight and Downton Abbey."  Um, what?  It ended up being much better than that terrible description, although I definitely felt for the parents who brought their little girls all dressed up in Disney's Sleeping Beauty costumes, because with its fairy/vampire corps and unorthodox ending, this was no Disney production.

That's right, I said fairy/vampires.  I don't even really know how to describe it, but the lead vampire... fairy... guy...well, he was fantastic (let's see, it looks like his character is Count Lilac, because of course I still have the playbill), as was the young lady playing Princess Aurora, and the choreography was fresh and really lovely.  I enjoyed myself immensely, and Derek didn't fall asleep.  I'm actually not giving him enough credit:  Derek is an excellent sport about attending the ballet every so often and listens attentively as I critique all the minutiae of the production afterward.

Golf and ballet- they go together like ham and chocolate, peanut butter and pesto, Richard Simmons and Colin Powell.  (I don't even know what I'm talking about anymore.  I was trying to think of opposites and things that just don't go together, and Richard Simmons popped into my head.  I would apologize, but I'm being overcome by the urge to do Sweatin, With the Oldies.  Don't hate, that stuff is fun.)

Clearly we belong together.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

He Does Sleep Sometimes

I keep trying to write this post about how recently a waitress at a restaurant thought Derek had four kids and I was one of them, but it keeps alternately sounding like I'm fishing for compliments (which I'm not) or turns into a rant where I sound really cranky about how women treat the aging process in our country (which I am).

Because I can't seem to write more than a paragraph without sounding like a curmudgeon, I'm just going to show you a few photos and video showing what a weird sleeper Atticus is (I can do that because we got a new laptop, yay!).

For about three months I sent photos to my sister Kelli on a weekly basis showing the strange ways I had found Atticus sleeping.  Fortunately for all of you, I took those photos on my old phone and can't put them on here.  Instead I just have a few I took more recently.

Atticus on a bed...

... well, a vertical mattress.  

It took me a good five minutes of scouring the house and yard before I finally thought to look in there.

This one doesn't look too strange until I tell you he slept like this for thirty minutes before his leg gave out and he fell flat on his face on the floor.  That was fun for everybody.  I actually did laugh, which for some odd reason didn't help matters.

I'll spare you the countless photos I have of him completely covered by blankets except for his toes poking out.  I don't know why he likes to have his head completely buried when he's sleeping.  I also don't know why I have to take a picture every time I find him like that.

And now the video:

That's some kind of food substance around his mouth, not premature facial hair, although if you've ever heard him speak, you'd think it was a valid guess.  His voice dropped right around the ripe old age of two because he takes after his dad; one time Derek found an old cassette of he and a friend (they were making a band, or something?), and when I heard his voice on there, I asked, "Exactly how old were you when this was recorded?" to which he replied, "About ten," which was alarming, because he sounded almost exactly like he does now.  And keep in mind that one time Derek called me at work and the co-worker who answered the phone said, "There's either a Viking or a lumberjack on the phone for you."  So, yeah: food, not facial hair.  He's saving that for when he turns six next October.  

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

I Will Never Be A Costume Designer

Yesterday it snowed.

First I cried because it was snowing in mid-October.

Then I cried harder because I realized it's not mid-October; it's close to the end of October.  In fact, we're just about a week out from Halloween.

Then I panicked.

Just a little bit of panic, though.  I have two of the kids' costumes more or less set:  my mom (thankyouthankyouthankyou) made Adelaide a cheetah costume for her birthday last May, and I made it pretty clear to her that she was going to wear that thing for as many Halloweens as I could stuff her in there.

I found one of those cowboy-riding-a-horse costumes (I have no idea how to describe that thing if you don't know what I'm not talking about, so... just wait for the inevitable post-Halloween pics I guess?) for Cade at a garage sale last spring, so he's pretty well set.  Just need to borrow a Caedmon-sized cowboy hat.

And then there's Atticus.  (I feel like I say that a lot, you know?)  He hasn't been able to make up his mind over the past few months, but I finally pinned him down to his most recent choice of 'snapping turtle.'  Okay.  So.  Time to construct a snapping turtle costume that 1) costs very little money and 2) requires very little time and/or energy of me, because spending oodles of time I don't have preparing something he'll wear for two hours at most isn't really my thing.

I knew where to go for ideas and inspiration (Pinterest, of course!), but I was half-terrified to do so.  Pinterest is chock-full of crazy-ambitious moms who apparently live to do things like weave their own fabric on hand-constructed looms and hand-dye it with natural dyes derived from the plants they grow in their native plant gardens that fill their backyards.  (You think I'm joking.  And... well, I am, but JUST BARELY.)  I knew that I would probably find a clever idea for a simple turtle costume, but I'd have to weed through 1) parents who don't mind spending a fortune on costumes and 2) parents who don't mind spending weeks sewing and gluing and losing sleep and probably pints of blood, because if 4-H taught me anything it's that you lose a lot more blood trying to sew late into the night while getting ready for an event, be it the county fair or Halloween.

I finally found the courage to brave Pinterest yesterday (after shedding my snow-induced tears), and I was right.  Partly right.  I found groups 1 and 2 (moneybags and time- and blood-donors), but I also found:

3)  Slutty turtles.

I'm not even kidding.  I'm well aware of the recent trend for youngish females to dress themselves in the strangely provocative versions of pirates and witches and medical professionals; I've spent many a merry hour with my friends being, um, perhaps a little less than generous in our commentary of these no doubt super duper smart young ladies.  But I really thought that I was now able to predict what kinds of costumes you'd see on these, ah, modesty-challenged girls.

I was so, so wrong.

I don't even know.  I just... I just can't.  Did I miss something in biology and my backyard?  I remember picking up a turtle when I was a kid, and I really don't recall seeing a green lamé bra anywhere on it, and it may have peed on my hand but it did nothing with its tongue that made me recoil in horror.

I did eventually get over my shock at the thought of sexually promiscuous turtles (oh, jeez, I don't even want to know what kind of skeevy human being is going to find this blog because of their google search for "sexually promiscuous turtles."  GO AWAY, CREEPER.), and found an idea for a turtle shell that involves a big disposable roasting pan and a great deal of paint.  Will his costume look tragically homespun?  Oh, no doubt.  But I presented the idea to him and his only concern was that it wouldn't be "like a snapping turtle."  I told him to eat his candy by snapping it into his mouth and then he'd be a snapping turtle, and he seemed satisfied.

I tell you what, you set the bar low when they're young and you make everyone's lives that much easier.  Feel free to write that down.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Tao of Parenting

I don't like parenting books.

There's just so many of them.  I can go to just about any section of a bookstore and feel perfectly at ease, right at home.  I can nearly always find what I'm looking for, or at the very least something I wouldn't mind plopping down and spending the next couple hours absorbing its text.

Science Fiction.  Medicine.  Fine Art. Cooking.  Electrical Code and Repair.  I can handle all of them.  (And I say all of those with confidence because you can't test me on that last one; their manuals are usually plastic wrapped and can't be opened until you've bought them, which I would never do, because they're expensive and I'm clumsy, clumsy, clumsy, a quality I'm guessing your average homeowner does not look for in their electrician.)

The Parenting section makes me twitch.

Just one book with Jenny McCarthy on its cover and off goes that adorable little tic under my left eye, like it's trying so very desperately to communicate to the rest of my body via morse code: "FLEE NOW.  DANGER IMMINENT.  IDIOCY ABOUNDING."

I cannot handle parenting books.  I've started dozens, but I get a couple chapters into "Your child is a precious, precious gift from God that you should treasure and snuggle and hold hands with them all the time even when they're teenagers and you're warping them for life" (paraphrasing here) and I'm throwing the book across the room with more enthusiasm than any PE teacher was ever able to wring from me.

I usually can't even finish the books that I know are really good.  Dobson's Bringing Up Boys?  I couldn't do it.  I just couldn't.  50 pages in I'm sitting there, reading, reading, reading, thinking Wow, this is really good, I'm so glad I'm reading this, I should get some kind of parenting merit badge for reading this, Oh crap I'm not focusing, I haven't taken in anything he's said for the past three pages, Oh screw it- Where's that Lee Child book I picked up from the library yesterday...?

Enter Dr. Kevin Leman.

First of all, he has the credentials: Doctoral degree in Psychology, Family psychologist in private practice for umpteen years, regular guest on television and radio programs like The Today Show, Oprah, Focus on the Family, and most importantly to me, successful father and raiser of five perfectly sane children.

I read one of his books a few years ago and enjoyed it, but nothing like his most recent book:  Parenting Your Powerful Child.

Why do I love this newest book so much?  Here's a fine example:  After listing a bunch of very frustrating and very plausible traits of powerful children, he asks, "Do any of these sound familiar?  If so, you of all people can understand that there's a reason some animal mothers eat their young."  And that's just the Introduction.

Saccharine, lovey dovey parenting advice?  Booooo.  Animal moms eating their babies?  Yaaaaaaaay!

Basically, if you have a powerful child in your life, this book is an excellent resource.  You know who I'm talking about:  The one you can't predict.  The one that drives you crazy.  The one who's fiercely independent.  The one who's just like you.

If you're looking for squishy sentimentalism, this is not the book for you.  If you're looking for straightforward advice that's very applicable to your family but will also make you laugh?  You should definitely pick this one up.

It's not just me that loves it, either!  Hours after finishing it and setting it down, I went upstairs to help put the kiddos to bed.  There was an open book on the top bunk- Adelaide's bed- which is certainly not out of the ordinary, but this one looked a little different.  I asked our daughter what book she was reading, and she held it up and answered, "Parenting Your Powerful Child."

She was almost halfway through it.  At my raised eyebrows, she defensively said, "What?  It's good!"

I'm not really sure what she makes of chapters like "Raising Attila the Hun" or "The Quiet, Shy, Sensitive, Walk-on-Eggshells Manipulator," but she carried it around with her for a couple days and giggled frequently while reading it.

So... this book is recommended by 30- and 7-year-olds alike, I guess.

Note:  I'm not reviewing this book for anyone but myself.  I'm not getting paid or compensated in any way for this review.  Dr. Leman does not know I exist.  I just liked the book.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Cow Juice!

A few days ago, our new fridge was delivered.

That in and of itself is not blog-worthy.  Stay with me, friends.

As you might guess, the delivery itself wasn't too exciting.  They took away our old fridge.  They put the new one in its place.  They hooked it up and leveled it (which is very important in our slope-floored old house).

There was a moment of confusion on my part when the two guys had it all done, stepped back, looked at the fridge, one said something like, "Looks real nice," then just sort of stared at me expectantly.  I had already thanked them several times, so I just said, "Wow.  That looks great.  Very clean and new.  And so level.  Yes.  Very nice."  Because honestly?  It looks like a fridge.  Pretty much exactly like our old one, except cleaner and newer, which I made very clear to the delivery guys.  I'm not sure what they tell them to expect at Refrigerator Delivery Guy school, but apparently it involves more bowing and exclaiming than I was prepared to do.  (And I asked the sales lady at the store if I was supposed to tip because I once had a bad experience in New York City with tipping- or my lack thereof- and I'm now a teensy bit pathological about it.  Her answer was a pretty emphatic "NO.")

Here's the thing, though:  If those delivery guys were here today, I'd have a lot more to say.  I would declaim, I would expound, I would gush.

Because of the milk.

Maybe 12 hours after the new fridge had been installed and I had transferred all our food into it, Derek got a glass of milk.  Upon drinking it, I swear to you his eyes rolled back into his head, and not in the creepy way that yoga lady does it on my yoga DVD.  This was eye-rolling of pure pleasure.  So I got a glass of milk, and gracious.sakes.alive.

Imagine wandering in the desert for 40 years before finally being delivered to a land of milk and honey.  This milk was better than that milk.  That's right.  I'm pitting our Aldi-brand skim milk in our new fridge against Promised Land milk.  It is out of this galaxy.  (Geddit?  THE MILKY WAY?  It's truly sad how hard I'm laughing at my own joke right now.)

It turns out milk is seriously delicious when it's cold.  I'd somehow forgotten that.  I used to love milk, and had thought that I'd just grown out of it in the last year or two.  Truth be told, it made me kind of sad.  Turns out we just had a really crappy fridge!

We knew it wasn't working exactly like it should.  For the past couple years our food has been spoiling well before it should in there.  There's been a mystery leak in the freezer.  Milk has been merely cool.

You should hear Derek and I when we drink milk now.  We wax poetic about milk, except neither of us are poets so it ends up sounding like "Ohmygosh.  OHMYGOSH.   It's so good.  So good.  Why is this milk so good?  It's just so cold!  And refreshing!  And... and milky!  And cold!"

And don't even get me started on ice.  The ice maker on our old fridge gave up the ghost about a month ago, but with this new fridge, we can once again enjoy ice water ANY TIME WE WANT IT.  Not as life-altering as our new, nourishing milk, but still.  Pretty cool.  (Hardy har har.)

This whole fridge/milk/ice/cold food thing has really got me into delayed gratification.  That's basically what has happened here:  We haven't had cold, cold milk in a couple years because we had a poorly-functioning fridge.  As a result, we now appreciate our milk like it's our fourth-born child.  Derek has even named the new refrigerator.

Imagine how much we're going to love our someday-dryer- you know, the one that doesn't make a perilously loud squealing sound every time you run it?  And new vehicles?  Ones where you don't have to avoid certain doors and knobs for fear of breaking them further/again, don't have to ignore ominous sounds and dash lights?  Do you have any idea how much we're going to appreciate that stuff someday?  Honestly, we do just fine without.  But it's still certainly something to look forward to.

In the meantime, we have delicious milk.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Sugar and Spice and Dip and Everything Nice

A few weeks ago, Caedmon had to go to the doctor for his 3-year check-up.  While in the waiting room, I had the rare opportunity to read a short paragraph in a pointless interview of a pointless pop star.  The question was, "What relationship is there between music education and math testing scores, and what kind of neurological connections do you believe exist between music and math in the minds of elementary-age children?"

Oh, ho ho.  I almost got you, didn't I?

Of course that wasn't the question.  It was more along the lines of "*gushgushgush* Ohmygosh you're so skinny!  How do you stay so thin?! *squeal*"

Obviously, it was not the question that piqued my interest; instead, it was her answer: (paraphrasing)  "I dunno, I've just never been that into eating."

What?  What?  What?  <--------  This is me, dumbfounded.

What does that even mean?  How can one "not be into eating?"  How?  How?  How?

I'm hoping you understand my bafflement.  I spent a long time in a wilful state of disbelief that Patrick Henry actually yelled, "Give me cookies or give me death!"  It's always made more sense to me than that "liberty" line, anyway.

I like to think I come by it honestly.  I grew up in a house that threw "Crap Night" parties (now just keep reading, it's not what you might think) where all the guests brought their favorite kind of "crap" food (cookies, cakes, every kind of chip and dip you could ever imagine), then stood around and ate and talked all night.  If everyone was feeling really wild we'd play Forks (which is like Spoons only more dangerous, 'cause that's how we roll).  This was my family's idea of fun.  If you'd dropped this starlet into our midst, we either would have done our level best to stuff her face full of delicious crap or simply chopped her up and made her into yet another delightful dip.  (Oh, I'm kidding.  She'd be way too stringy and tough for our tastes.)

Of course both my parents now have Type II diabetes.   It would be easy to blame the Crap, but the truth is neither of my parents ate like that on a regular basis, they're both very diligent about exercise, and neither are even the slightest bit overweight, which means my sisters and I basically lost the genetic lottery and I may actually have to make a Cookies or Death decision one day.

I don't even remember where I was going with this.  All I know is I really want Scotcharoos (a dessert I discovered in Iowa!) now.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Whining and Moaning and Groaning

Getting older is a curious thing.

On the one hand, I find I'm more patient with people in general.  A little more willing to extend grace, if you will.  If someone is a little cranky or not quite behaving themselves, I try to give them the benefit of the doubt, imagining that perhaps they've just lost a loved one or they have a killer migraine or maybe they're just having an exceptionally crappy day.

I think part of this is due to simply having been alive a little longer on this earth.  I've had enough of my own days where I wasn't as kind or forgiving as I probably should have been, and those around me still let me go on living.  I've also seen more of the everyday suffering of those around me, and learned that sometimes life just sucks, and you don't always have it in you to paste a fake smile across your face.  And that's okay.

On the other hand, I find I'm not as patient with people in general.  Yes, I recognize that this is a contradiction.  I have never claimed to be the most logic-driven person on earth, okay?

I think the people on the receiving end of my impatience are those who complain all.the.time.  Nothing ever goes their way.  They are rarely happy.  And they are always ready to tell you aaaalllll about it.  (Although somehow this doesn't bother me as much if they can at least be a little funny about it.)  I suppose I've never been partial to whiners.

I think this is, again, due to the fact that I've experienced a little more and met more people as I've gotten older (funny how that works).  And you know who complains the most?  People who have no real right to do so.  The people who seem to have been hit by hardship after hardship, who have had truly tragic childhoods, who you swear really have walked through the valley of the shadow of death?  They're not the whiners.  Not in my experience, anyway.  They tend to be the ones who have more of a "You know what?  Bad things happen to everyone.  Might as well focus on the positive and move the heck on," kind of attitude.

I'm not sure what spurred this little moment of introspection.  Actually, scratch that.  I do know.  I went to book club this morning, and this month's book was almost invariably dour.  What is with this trend among current fiction that communicates, "I'm negative and depressing and thus real."  These books are often critically acclaimed for being so real and everyone always talks about how great they are because they're just so, you know, real.  Standing in direct counterpoint to this really terrible book are the members of my book club, most of whom are two generations older than me, most of whom have seen hellacious tragedy in their lives, because that's what happens when you've been alive for a long time.  Guess how many of them whine about it?  Guess how many I've heard complain about their pasts or their lot in life?  Zero.  They acknowledge the bad stuff, the things that sometimes make my mouth fall open, then they move on.  Because that's what you do.  You brush yourself off.  You make a joke.  You move on.

Okay.  Grump-fest over.

NOTE:  I do not intend for any of this to apply to those suffering from clinical depression, anxiety or bipolar disorders, or any of a host of other mental illnesses.  For many people, you can't just make yourself move on, and you can't simply choose to be happy.  This post is solely about whiners.  And authors who are incapable of lightening up.  The end.