Thursday, November 21, 2013

Things That Were Said To Me Yesterday

  • "Doesn't take after Mom, does he? *chortle chortle chortle*"  Said by the doctor after calculating the percentile rank for Atticus's height at his yearly well-child appointment.  My son is tall.  I am not.  I get it.  
I desperately wanted to respond with a hearty, fake "HAHAHAHAHAHA," but the key to the faux guffaw is cutting it off abruptly with a stony glare, and anytime I do a big fake laugh I get about three "Ha"s in before I start to laugh for real.  So instead of communicating sarcastic chastisement I'd end up looking completely psychotic, and I generally try to avoid that when in the vicinity of medical professionals evaluating our children.

Of course all this was running through my head immediately after his little joke (Should I try the "HAHAHA"?  Am I finally ready to pull it off?  Or do I really want to risk having my children taken away today?), so I totally missed everything the nurse was saying at that point.  Something about developmental milestones. Probably not important.  (If you're reading this, Derek, don't worry.  I'm sure our son is completely normal.  AS AM I.)

  • "Congratulations!  What are you going to do with it first?"  This was from the lady at the Des Moines Public Library Foundation when I was picking up the Kindle I won.  (Yay!)  My answer was something like, "Thank you so much!" and then I purposely avoided answering her question, because I figured it would just come to me when I had a chance to mess around with my prize.  
I got it home, opened up the box, stared at it for a few minutes... and then closed the box again.  I still don't know what to do with it.  I feel like all my books are looking at me all accusingly, like I'm some kind of traitor.  I've never really felt the need for an e-reader; don't get me wrong, I'm grateful to have won the drawing (which I entered by filling out a survey after attending a talk by the author Amy Tan, who, by the way, is immensely entertaining to listen to- if you ever get a chance to hear her speak or to go to one of her readings, definitely, definitely go), but I'm very much an ink-and-paper kind of person.  Books make me happy.  I redecorate my house by rearranging my books.  True, I've had Fahrenheit 451-esque nightmares before (literally), but still... I don't know.  So now I have this lovely prize sitting in my house, and I don't know what to do with it.  Help!  ( I can't help but think this is nothing like the time I won that one awesome prize- I absolutely knew what to do with that.  First I made cookies.  Then I made more cookies.  After that I went a little wild and made cookies again.)

  • "Woman, are you crazy?!"  This was from Adelaide when I informed her we were having popcorn for supper.  Our family eats enough that anymore it's actually somehow less work to just cook a regular meal every night, but we're scraping the bottom of the food barrel and my sister and I decided via text that popcorn is an excellent source of fiber and therefore healthy.  (Don't bother disabusing me of this notion.  It's called willful denial, friends, and it's oodles of fun.)  I'm sure it was especially healthy after I added melted butter and garlic salt.  Supper of Champions.  (And people with high cholesterol.)

Monday, November 18, 2013

Lists, Glorious Lists

  • Atticus and I were baking together recently (boy loves to bake and cook and do anything remotely related to food prep, so I've been putting him to work and calling it education), and we were examining one of the measuring spoons.  I explained that "1 tsp" means "1 teaspoon," but he also wanted to know what all the other words on the spoon said.  "Well, 'Tailormade' must be the name of the company that makes this spoon, and 'China' is the country where it's made," I said.  He mulled that over for a few seconds, then rather firmly told me, "China is in hell."  I did my best to explain basic world geography and where China exists on the globe in relation to us, but I'm not sure he believed me.  Maybe because I was laughing the entire time.  

  • I'm thinking of converting our laundry room into a laundry/operating room- you know, with scalpels and super bright lights and flattering face masks?  This isn't just a random whim on my part (this time); Adelaide has gotten... I don't know, six?  Seven?  Call it seven splinters over the past several months, and I don't mean tiny little slivers of wood in her fingers, I mean small twigs that the school nurse has to call and tell me about because she tried to extricate it at school but was afraid to do too much, especially given the fact that that one was in her belly (I know, okay?  I don't know what that child is doing at school), where the skin is pretty sensitive.  I spent twenty minutes digging one out of her heel Saturday evening that was around a quarter inch long and way thicker than the needle I was having to use to peel all the skin away just to get to it.  After sterilizing a needle and tweezers and rigging a Black and Decker heavy duty flashlight to shine just right and laying her down rather awkwardly on a bench so I could get at her foot, I decided I just need an OR right on site.  Because Adelaide didn't find the whole thing traumatic enough.  (But I got that sucker out!)

  • I'm going to a cookie exchange in a few weeks.  I've used my two favorite cookie recipes at the last couple exchanges and am hunting for a new one to take- right now I have it narrowed down to Kitchen Sink Cookies (which I've made for a couple different crowds, all with excellent reviews) or Brown Butter Salted Caramel Snickerdoodles (which I've never made but sound divine).  Or should I do something completely different?  Do any of you have a cookie recipe that's the bomb diggity?  Care to share?

Friday, November 15, 2013

What Is Wrong With Me? And My Sister?

I have many memories, as a teenager, of coming home in the evenings to find my youngest sister camped out on the living room couch, channel surfing for the most depressing show she could find.

Now, maybe she wasn't actively searching for melancholy featurettes, but I think the fact that she so often landed on those bits from St. Jude's speaks for itself.  You know the ones I'm talking about:  they featured the cutest little girl you've even seen in your entire life as she bravely endured needles and charmed you and anyone else watching, swimming in her child-size hospital gown (how depressing is it that they even have to make those things?) and grinning shyly into the camera right before the screen faded to black, followed by a photo of her captioned by the words "Sally McCutie, 1992-1997."  Then you felt horribly betrayed because they made you fall in love with this tiny cancer patient in the space of six minutes only to reveal the devastating truth, followed by a plea for your help (at which point you're screaming, "TAKE MY MONEY!").

You know, those.

I don't know how many times I came across Stephanie watching those.  I don't know if she was just a glutton for punishment, or her body was harboring excessive amounts of salt that needed to be drained via a torrent of tears every few days, or what.  Sometimes I'd find myself sucked in by the darling children, and would seem to black out for several minutes before I'd come to and find Steph and I clutching each other and crying because the children.  (And come to think of it, Stephanie was all of 10 when I left home, so she was just a child when she was watching these.  What the heck, Steph?)

Since then, I've met all kinds of people that do this kind of thing; people that watch movies like Titanic and Beaches and The Green Mile even though they know it's going to end in a big old snot-fest.  (I think everyone has a go-to cry movie.  I think mine would be What Dreams May Come.  Or Dumbo- the Mama elephant rocking baby Dumbo on her trunk through the bars of her prison- I have to stop, I'm going to cry right now.  Or just that scene with Sean Penn screaming for his daughter in Mystic River.  All elicit the ugly cry.)

I've always wondered about that penchant Stephanie had, though, for purposely watching things she knew would make her cry.  I just could not understand it.


Until, gracious sakes, I found my own version of the St. Jude's commercials:  the thing that will always make me weep but I just cannot seem to keep myself from watching.

You wanna know what it is?  It's those dang videos of soldiers being reunited with their families.  Oh, my land.  Oh, my stars.  Little kids, minding their own business in their elementary school classrooms until they look up and see their uniformed father standing at the door, where their little faces crumple and they run to their daddyTeenage girls running across soccer fields and football fields because their dad came home early and surprised them?  I. can't. handle. it.  And I know I can't handle it, but if one of those videos pops up while I'm otherwise minding my own business on the internet, I swear to you I am powerless to resist the force that drives my pointer to the "play" button.  Oh, I can watch a video that will make tears and snot gush from my face and make me all puffy and scary looking?  DON'T MIND IF I DO.


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Best List Ever

That was a lie.  This is going to be perfectly average list.  Perhaps even lower than average, as Atticus is sitting next to me in our rocking chair, peppering me with questions while I type ("How do your fingers know where the letters are without even looking?  How can you read so fast?  I know what S-T-O-P spells, do you?  When are you going to be done so I'm allowed to talk again?").

  • It is 28 degrees outside right now, and the "Real Feel" (factoring in windchill and what not) is 20 degrees.  This is as warm as it's going to get today.  I know that in a couple months I'll look back and berate my pansy-November self ("That's almost above freezing- how can you complain about that?"), but at this point it feels pretty freaking cold.  This happens every year; I'm somehow shocked that cold is just so cold, I insist on running from the house to the car and back again (which perhaps helps explain the inverse relationship that exists between the number of injuries I sustain on a regular basis and the temperature outside- I also don't actually run; it's more of a mincing kind of jog that I'm sure is a beauty to behold), and I do things like shove the kids out of the van when dropping them off so I can shut the door and sustain the tropical environment I have created inside.  

In it, a mother of a five-year-old explains that as she's been reading the first Harry Potter book aloud to her son, she's been childproofing it: making sure the characters are receiving proper punishment for wrong-doings, editing the scary parts, deciding that for her son, Voldemort wasn't going to try to kill Harry; he was just going to try and hurt him a little bit. 

I hear about this every day: parents trying to cushion and soften every tiny piece of their children's lives, making it as rosy and dishonest and just plain boring as a Christian romance novel.  It's a very short-sighted parenting strategy, because one day those little darlings- the ones who have had every twist and bump in the road straightened and smoothed over by their well-meaning parents- are going to be unleashed onto society, and you know what they're going to find?  The Real World.  The one where people die and senseless acts of cruelty abound and VOLDEMORT TRIES TO MURDER HARRY POTTER WHAT IS EVEN WRONG WITH YOU.

Believe it or not, this is my majorly scaled back reaction to this little article; when I first read it, I may or may not have dug my fingernails into my cheeks in abject frustration.  And lost it.  And died a little inside.  Keep in mind I was raised on classics like The Little Match Girl (still one of my favorites) and at no point did any of the adults in my life try to tell me that "No, see, she's just sleeping, there aren't really things like cruel fathers and dead mothers and little girls freezing to death in this world!"  To do so would have minimized that story's powerful message: one of compassion and charity and eternity and the significance of every human life.  

I also realize this woman has a five-year-old son.  I was a bit more protective when Adelaide was five, but then she got older and the children kept piling on and I learned to let things go, like making every meal perfectly balanced and bathing them every day and Doing Everything Just Right. 

And now I'm going to let this go.  (On the blog.  Don't kid yourself- I'm going to torture myself with this for weeks.  Milquetoast Children of America, BEGONE!)

  • This has been kind of a whiney, ranty post, hasn't it?  I'll finish on a positive note:  Almost daily Atticus has been cutting out little squares of paper and coloring them purple, then giving them to me so that "you'll always have your favorite color right in your pocket."

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Maybe Nessie's Just Stuck In That Loch

When my mom and Mark were visiting a few weeks ago, Mom and I decided to brave a new (to us) place called Sky Zone with the three kiddos.  It's basically a giant warehouse full of trampolines, so I figured at the very least our visit would exhaust the children, which is, sadly, the primary motivation behind half the stuff I do.  ("Hey, Kristy, wanna go do [insert random activity here]?"  The first and most important question I ask myself:  How likely is it that our children are going to fall asleep after said activity?  A) Not likely at all- "Yeah, sorry, but we're super busy that day,"  B) Somewhat likely- "Maybe... could we somehow involve more running and/or obstacle courses?" or C) Very likely- "WE'D LOVE TO.")

Most of the parent/guardian types I saw there were sitting at the provided tables, enjoying some time away from their little monsters while the children bounced around on the trampolines.  

This was not me.  Nor was it my mom.  We are bouncers, she and I.  This is not to say that we are chirpy, effervescent creatures in our everyday lives; we just seriously enjoy some trampoline time.  She has a big ol' trampoline in her backyard (the first major purchase of my sister Kelli after she got her first job, so I suppose we're a family of bouncers); I have pleaded with Derek to get a similar contraption-o'-fun in our own backyard, but he said the only way we could do that was if I made every single guest to our house sign a waiver before stepping foot on it (something about trampolines being death traps and insurance statistics- I'm not sure if you've gotten this by now, but Derek is the practical one in our marriage, doing things like ensuring we're not sued and making sure we have a house to live in.  I am the one that likes to bounce on trampolines.).  I'm guessing something about the way I said, "Well, of course I'd make everyone sign that piece of paper before going into our backyard, and I definitely wouldn't accidentally/on purpose lose it every time someone came over," didn't inspire a lot of confidence.  

Anyway.  Adelaide jumped.  Atticus jumped.  Caedmon jumped.  My mom jumped.  I jumped.  

Right about here is where I would put a whole bunch of photos of our kids having a blast bouncing around, but I have enough trouble getting decent shots when they're stationary; when they're constantly on the move in a poorly-lit-for-photography (for me that's anything dimmer than sunlight) warehouse, my pictures aren't so hot.

Still, I did get a few, mostly of Mom out-jumping her grandchildren.

"Yes, Grandma sees you've fallen, Children, but I am on a trampoline and thus do not care."  I love making my mom seem more callous than she actually is; for some reason it really tickles my funny bone.  Although she is a nurse.  I'm just saying.

Click to embiggen and see my "Hahaha I want to die" face.
This is the part where I jumped down the trampoline runway and into the foam pit.  Unlike our children, who went before me and intentionally misled me into thinking I'd jump in and just kind of land on top of the cubes of foam, I sank completely down into the pit over my head, perhaps because I weigh just a tiny bit more than our kiddos.  (Physics is hard.)  I thrashed about for around ten thousand years trying to get out before losing the will to live and giving up.  I had made peace with the fact that I would be a foam pit version of Nessie, occasionally grabbing unsuspecting children and making them scream, perhaps lifting my head above the foam for grainy photos and inspiring countless legends in my honor when I noticed the employee manning the foam pit looking at me like "Seriously?  I do not get paid enough to help heavy moms out of this thing.  GET OUT OF MY PIT."  (He had a very communicative if derisive gaze.)  I eventually managed to haul myself out, helped along by my mom's helpless laughter at my predicament.  She's always been a bit of a "Well, you got yourself into this mess, now get yourself out while I laugh at you" kind of parent.

See now, my mom also jumped into the Pit of Foam Despair, but she had little trouble extricating herself, perhaps because she is freakishly strong, which I chalk up to being bred from hardy German peasant stock.

There was also a trampoline-basketball area and a trampoline-dodgeball area.  The kids played basketball for a while but I wouldn't let them go into the dodgeball area because dodgeball is the devil.  I was the kid who got "out" as quickly as possible on those days in PE because some kids play dodgeball like they're in the Hunger Games and I'm not stupid.  

To wrap up:  If you have small children and a trampoline place near you, you should definitely go.  But maybe avoid the foam pit.  And the dodgeball area.  

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Caedmon Confessions

One day last week we were dropping a friend off at her baby sitter's house.  Across the street stood a lady on her front porch, smoking a cigarette.

Caedmon asked, "Why does that lady have a pencil in her mouth?" to which Atticus quickly corrected, "That's not a pencil, it's a stick.  Mom, what's that lady doing with that stick?"

I tried to explain cigarettes and why people smoke them while stressing how unhealthy they are and the physical repercussions that come from smoking, then tried to answer difficult questions like "But then why do people smoke cigarettes?  Why do they want to die?"  I found I'm pretty terrible at describing things like addiction and denial, at least to a three- and a five-year old.

A couple days later Cade and I were making a visit to the library when he announced to one of the employees there that "My Dad likes to smoke!"

I was a little baffled and said, "Caedmon, your daddy doesn't smoke!"

The employee gave an uncomfortable laugh while our son rounded on me and protested, "YES, HE DOES!  Daddy likes to smoke all the time!"

This kid does this to me constantly.  When we're in public he'll announce things like "My mom hit me this morning.  In the head.  Right here.  She did it yesterday, too," and what the listening strangers don't know is that yes, I accidentally him in the head with a loaf of bread because the child is constantly underfoot in the kitchen.  I'm left to stammer pathetic-sounding explanations and forcing a laugh while these would-be child saviors eye me suspiciously.

At least Caedmon chose to (eventually) clarify when we were at the library:  "Remember, Mommy?  Daddy smokes hot dogs and pork chops for us!"

He also likes to tell people things like, "My mommy is the nicest mommy in the whoooole world," which would make me swell with pride, but I know what's coming: "...except when I'm naughty, then I run away and hide because I'm scared."

I don't know why he wants to be taken from us.  

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Halloween Rundown

Last week was Halloween.  Thursday, I think.

Was it Thursday?  I don't even know.  Today has been one of those days where I'm constantly confused by even the most menial tasks and questions.  Earlier Caedmon asked me how to spell "DVD" and I had no idea.  Some very basic part of my brain immediately said to the rest of it, "It's 'D-V-D."  But then the bigger part my brain- the part that's not to be trusted- thought that didn't quite sound right.  "DeeVeeDee?  Is 'Vee' even a letter?  And surely it can't be that simple.  'D-V-D.'  No, that's can't be right.  This must be a trap."  Then the small part of my brain gave up.

Then I started to wonder if my brain was inhabited by tiny politicians, because this all seems like their modus operandi.

You know, this was just supposed to be a post containing photos of our children in their Halloween costumes.  Now my brain is sabotaging the blog.

Kind of like that day last week when it convinced me that "brown" isn't a real word.  It just sounded too strange to be actual English.  (Say "brown" 50 times in a row, really enunciating each letter, and you'll see what I mean.  Well, you'll hear what I mean.  Or maybe you won't.  This is the kind of thing I tell Derek and he does that thing where he purses his lips, closes his eyes, and shakes his head, probably because it's kinder to do that than say what he's actually thinking.)

PICTURES.  Before I can say anything else.

Let's see:  Adelaide was a cheetah, Atticus was a turtle, and Caedmon was a cowboy riding a horse.

Sadly, this isn't just a pose for a photo.  She did this most of the day, even at school, according to some friends of mine who happened to walk by her classroom; she's still heavily into her cheetah phase.  Bless her teachers.  And everyone else who interacts with her but doesn't judge her weirdness.

Oh, yeah, and the costume rundown:  My mom made Adelaide's costume for her birthday and we already had the face paint, so total cost of her costume (for us):  $0.

We got a surprising number of compliments on Atticus's costume.  I'm not sure if it's the repurposing, or the frugality, or the obviously homemade factor that appealed to everyone, or if we just have really nice friends.  Probably a combination of all of the above.

The roasting pan was $0.98, the light green spray paint was $1.98, we already had the darker green paint, and those ties are just scraps of brown corduroy fabric I had on hand.  I also painted Atticus's nose black, which we already owned, but that's just because he saw Adelaide getting face paint and wanted some, too.  Oh, and that's my green sweater he's wearing, because it turns out he doesn't have one of his own.  Total cost of Atticus's costume:  About $3.

Caedmon remembered his manners this year and went with the more conventional "Trick or Treat" greeting when people opened their doors, as opposed to last year's demands.

I got Caedmon's costume at a garage sale last spring for $5, and we borrowed the hat from a friend.  Total cost of Caedmon's costume:  $5.

I also felt guilty for not carving the pumpkin and did it about an hour before we went trick-or-treating.  We left this burning on our front porch for any late night Halloweeners.  

I just said, "Halloweiners" to myself and snickered.  Atticus overheard me and is now rolling around on the floor laughing.  This is our family.  We're not sorry.

Monday, November 4, 2013

I've Honestly Never Seen That One On A Spelling List

The other day Adelaide and I were going through her spelling words; specifically, the words she and her teacher come up with to pad her spelling list and make it a bit more challenging.

Normally the teacher gives her a sound: short A, long O, etc, and she and the teacher take turns coming up with words containing those sounds.  Last week their list was comprised of double consonant blends; words like blend and scarf that both begin with two consonants and end with two consonants.

We were just about finished when Adelaide informed me that "I came up with another word but Mrs. C didn't write it down."

"Why?  What was the word?"

"I can't quite remember..."

She hemmed and hawed for another minute while I continued to fold laundry, then began to perk up.

"I know it had something to do with how babies are formed..."

Horror bloomed.

"Oh, yeah!  SPERM!"

I was silent for maybe two seconds while my poor brain processed this, then I began to laugh and didn't stop for a very long time.  Adelaide got a bit upset and embarrassed, but I told her she wasn't in trouble and that she'd just caught me off guard and she settled right down.

Right about now is when I should probably explain that when Adelaide was very young I decided I'd always do my very best to be as honest as possible with her, even when it was tough or uncomfortable (especially when it was tough or uncomfortable).  I do try to adjust some of my answers for age appropriateness to the endless line of questions that have been issuing from her mouth for the past six years or so.

It was this rather inconvenient pact that somehow caused me to one day find myself not only baking cookies with a six-year-old Adelaide but also having a rather comprehensive discussion on sex.  SHE JUST WOULDN'T STOP ASKING QUESTIONS.  For every question she asked, I gave her an honest answer (not brutally honest, though, okay?  More of a soft honest.  I used the correct terminology but I did what I could to not scare her.).  Because of this conversation she's had a somewhat premature working knowledge of human reproduction, which can be a little jarring when certain words (OR MORE QUESTIONS) come out of her little mouth, but at least I know her information is accurate and not a crazy playground legend some kid with three older brothers has been spreading (<----- that's actually happened at Adelaide's school already).  I've also cautioned her with the instructions not to make it her quest to educate her classmates (unless Little Brother strikes again- I don't see anything wrong with correcting erroneous information), not that it seems to come up much in the endless Cheetah and Turtle Shells games Adelaide plays at recess.

I did ask Adelaide what her teacher did when she suggested the word "sperm" for her spelling list (it is a double consonant blend, after all).  She said she smiled like she was trying not to laugh but didn't write it down.

Parent Teacher Conferences are this week.  Should be fun.

Friday, November 1, 2013

The Scariest Part of Halloween

Around our house, Halloween tends to be pretty tame.  Between me being kind of a pansy and having a kid plagued by night terrors, steering clear of all the gore and fright- however fun and good-intentioned- really just seems like the wise course.

This Halloween was a little different, at least for our sweet, gullible, three-year-old Caedmon.

Shortly after arriving home from picking Atticus up from preschool yesterday, I suddenly heard Cade start shrieking, and he quickly came running into the kitchen, crying and panicked and gasping.  I was actually a little concerned; this crying seemed pretty extreme, even for our house, where daily bouts of tears and crying are so normal they hardly register anymore.

It took him several tries to finally stutter out his cause for alarm:


Then, message delivered, he buried his head in my shirt and sobbed.

At that point Atticus the Armless came waltzing into the kitchen, swinging his shoulders to and fro, empty sweater sleeves whipping around his body.  He was chuckling.

I don't know how many times the old tuck-your-arms-into-the-torso-of-your-shirt gag is going to work on Caedmon, but I'm praying it's not many.  He laughed while I was recounting the story to Derek, so hopefully he now realizes it's more comedy than horror.

The problem with this story is that it seems to have opened Atticus's eyes to the joy of terrifying your younger siblings.  At preschool he received a Tootsie Pop that had black pipe cleaners wrapped around it to look like a fuzzy, not even slightly realistic spider.  He took that silly, googly-eyed spider off the sucker, very seriously told Cade that when it touches a kid it turns into a real spider, and threw it onto Caedmon's head.

I don't think I have to tell you the rest.  Screaming.  Running.  Tears.  Promises of Vicious Retribution.

There were a couple other more minor incidents.  Each time Caedmon's response is a little less severe/gratifying.  Hopefully this whole thing will play itself out relatively quickly.

I don't even know where Atticus gets it.  I mean, sure, I used to do this thing that absolutely terrified my sister Kelli, where I'd bend slightly forward at the waist, then stagger forward, letting my straight arms swing back and forth in a pendulum-like motion, head lolling to the side, eyes wide and a deranged smile on my face while I softly called, "Kellllliiii.  Kelli!"  It's somewhat difficult to describe, as my performance of this character was never anything short of inspired.  Kelli's screams always sounded authentically petrified.

On a completely unrelated note, another year has gone by and Kelli has yet to nominate me for Big Sister of the Year.

I'm sure it's a simple oversight on her part.