Monday, July 28, 2014

The Veggies of our Labors

Last week, in the midst of crazy vacation-prep hullabaloo, I stepped outside for a few moments so I wouldn't kill anyone.

This is how God speaks to me, by the way.  Moses got a burning bush.  Isaiah got rockin' visions.  I get a still, small voice that says, "Get out of the house, for Me's sake, before you maim someone."

So I got out of the house.

See this?

It's one of those sunflowers of the gorgeous packaging- the only one to grow of dozens I planted.  All my eggs are in this basket.  It better bloom, and it better wait til we get home.  

It's also well over six feet tall, so I'm glad the one that chose to grow is right next to the deck, so we'll actually be able to see the top.  

The coneflowers are in their prime, and usually playing host to pollinators.

Adelaide joined me outside for the reaping.  

"Reaping."  That word has such a sinister quality to it, post-Hunger Games, but not to worry.  We're just talking about vegetables.

The gourds are really starting to take off, too:

These 10 Commandments gourds are each bigger than my fist.

I felt much better after all that.  Nothing soothes like gourds, right?  I'm pretty sure that's an old Jewish adage.  Or something.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

I'm Giving Away a Book! To You!

Do you remember the part in The Chronicles of Narnia- I believe it's The Voyage of the Dawn Treader- when the horrible Eustace becomes a dragon, and at first you're like "Haha, about time, I can't stand that guy," but then he shows some remorse for his selfish, obnoxious ways and you start to feel sorry for him and then you're like, "Aw, crap, I'm Eustace," so when he starts peeling off layers of his dragon-y skin you're relieved, until you realize he can't shed that skin on his own, but then there's Aslan to wonderfully-painfully peel that thick, ugly, knotted old dragon skin off of Eustace until it's just his real shining self standing there.

Then you decide you'd best turn the page, quick now, and not think on that little scene too much, because remember, you're Eustace, and this little piece of allegory is beginning to mirror your own life and self to a decidedly uncomfortable degree.

This is how I've felt each time I've read Jen Hatmaker's book 7.  (That's right.  I'm talking about it again.  But wait!  I've got another JH book to force on you now!  Squee!)  I read it and I laugh and I wince and I despair that I will never be a real agent of change, much less change myself.  But after each reading, I rearrange and re-prioritize and change just enough few small things about myself and the way I live my life that when I look down, there's a new, thin layer of hideous dragon skin lying at my feet.  The best part is that when reading the book, Ms. Hatmaker never takes a stance of "Here's how you suck and I'm awesome- too bad for you, huh?"  She's very clear that she is no better and no worse than anyone, that we're all walking through this together, that we all suck, quite badly at times, together.  (Somebody put that on a t-shirt.  We'll makes dozens of dollars.)

And so it was, when I received an email from Jen Hatmaker (not a personal email; trust me, she doesn't know I exist, I'm just on her fun little email list), calling for people with blogs or websites to receive a free copy of her book Interrupted, I hesitated.  I've shed quite a bit of dragon skin, thank you very much and yes you may pat me on my sanctimonious little back, but a lot of that has been me peeling my own skin away.  I have yet to let Aslan have a real go to get the worst, thickest parts off, and I was scared that Interrupted was going to kick off that uncomfortable but necessary process.

Still, this is Jen Hatmaker we're talking about, and this is a book we're talking about, so I emailed the publisher:  Sign me up!

Shortly thereafter I received a confirmation email and I squealed and my friend and fellow JH-acolyte Deanna squealed with me, and a few days after that I opened up the mailbox to find this book:

Book in hand, I spent the next 48 hours reading and pacing and reading and laughing and reading and contemplating calling a priest to perform an exorcism because GET OUT OF MY HEAD, JEN HATMAKER.

I loved this book.  I want everyone I know to read this book.  I need to read this book again and again, because dragon skin doesn't come off easy, you know; it clings and binds; it's tenacious.  But I'm working on it.  I'm working on it.

Now here's the fun part:  I'm giving this book away.  To one of YOU.  And let me just say that my email from the JH merely suggests the possibility of giving the book away.  I could keep it if I wanted to.  However, it's well-established that I have a tendency to go all Gollum on books, and it has been pointed out to me that this is borderline unhealthy (by someone who no longer has fingers for pointing), so.  It's yours.

Here's how we're going to do this:  You're going to leave a comment on this post.  That's it.  You don't have to "like" anything, you don't have to sign up for anything, just leave a comment letting me know you want to enter the giveaway, and be sure to include some way to contact you: email address, physical address, post office box number because you're completely paranoid (hey, man, I understand), whatever.  I'll do a random drawing on, say, July 28th, which gives you a good five days to enter.  I'll also include a little something special from me in the package, because you're worth it.

I'm so excited!

NOTE:  Cooooongratulations, Karen!  You are the super-mega-grand-prize winner!  Prepare to have your life utterly ruined in the best way possible!  Squeeeeee!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

"You Know What They Call That?"

"They call that a decade.  It's a long time."  (If you are not familiar with that movie quote, then I feel sorry for you.  Do yourself a favor and go watch Open Range.  For the children.  Or something.)

Ten years ago today, in north-central Oklahoma, it poured down rain, the wind blew fierce, a funnel skipped along the ground for a short time, and Derek and I got married.

We're just now reaching the point where sweet young things about to marry their young men will ask me questions about marriage and how to make it work.  My answers are invariably wise and articulate:  "Uh,"  "Hrm," "Hooo," and "You should pray a lot," which is GOOD ADVICE, but sounds vaguely threatening to newlyweds.

I don't even know where to start when asked that question, because to begin with, I never wanted to get married, and I know for a fact that young twenty-something me wasn't smart enough to look for someone like Derek in a mate.  I'm lucky he came back for more abuse after the first time I shut him down (in my defense, I truly don't like volleyball, and in his, Super-Jock Derek had no way of knowing he was talking to Anti-Jock Kristy), I'm lucky we lived far away from all our friends and family the first four years of our marriage (no well-meaning loved ones to run to when the going got tough with things like ARE YOU KIDDING ME SHE BETTER NOT HAVE and NO WAY YOU ARE NOT EVEN GOING TO LET HIM- for better or worse, we were stuck with each other and the surly inhabitants of the Nutmeg State), I'm lucky God was more concerned with pairing me with a good spouse than a clone of myself, which is probably what I'd have looked for if I was the one doing the looking.  I don't know how many people have said things like, "You and Derek are the funniest couple- I'd never think to put you two together," and "How did you even start dating each other?" and "You guys are like Ricky and Lucy from I Love Lucy!" which is completely true except that Derek isn't a tiny Cuban band leader and I'm not a beautiful red-headed charmer- so, it's not true at all, aside from the fact that I can be completely exasperating to live with and am often baffled by everyday things.

It's comforting to me, though, to know that it had to be God who paired a sports broadcasting major to someone who was like, "Sports?  HAHAHA NO THANKS" and "Television?  Eh,"  and a Psych Major with someone who was openly disdainful of, well, psychology.  We don't make sense on paper, but we know to put God first and how to be kind to each other and how to laugh and build each other up and are forever on and by and at each other's side.

Plus we make spectacular babies.

Happy Decade Anniversary, Husband!

Monday, July 21, 2014


This summer.  I don't even know what's happened to it.  I mean, I can look back and pick out a few things here and there, mostly because I remembered to snap a few photos, but other than that?  It's just gone.  It feels like I was just meeting Adelaide as she got off the bus on her last day of second grade a week or so ago.  But no, here it's almost the end of July.  Two of our kids go to school one month from yesterday.  It's not enough time.  It's just not.

Before this post devolves into me planning how to make our home an impenetrable bubble from which our children can never escape, let's go over some high and low lights as to what we've been up to lately.

We went to go see Mike (Steve?  Bob?  Some other man name?) the Bubble Guy do a show.

Adelaide and Atticus both got called up to participate, which was fun.  I'm always pleased when any of our children (particularly Adelaide) refuse to let shyness or fear rule their experiences.  I think it was brave of them to get up in front of a big old group of people and volunteer.  

Even Derek had fun:

At one point this month I was forced to take a week off of running due to plantar fasciitis.  This made me a (fallen) angel to live with.  I've got it mostly under control now, but I've still had to decrease my weekly distance, trying not to exacerbate whatever's going on in my stupid, stupid foot.  One plus to all this was I had to go hunting for more yoga routines and found Rachel Scott, one of many yogis who has posted videos on  I love her teaching style:  she speaks in a strong, confident voice, none of that w i i s s p p y y, breahehehethy crap so many female yogis seem to be fond of, and she's very precise about where and how you need to place each part of your body, and why.  I'm a fan.

The kids and I went to our small local zoo:

The bald eagles were my favorite; they scared Cade.

The wallabies were more or less given free reign in the Australia section.

We headed down to the creek that trickles by a block or so from our house.  

This was ostensibly to collect small rocks to do this craft, but in reality to provide the local mosquitoes with their evening meal.

Oh, and remember those baby robins living in our front yard a few weeks ago?

I checked on them one day at the beginning of the month, and they'd gotten huge!  I couldn't believe how fast they were growing.  Then the next day, when I went to check again, they were gone.  Exactly zero people were astonished by this, except for me.  I was not emotionally ready to let go of these little guys who were most likely terrified of me.  The nest has remained vacant and desolate.

I need this next month to sloooow the heck down.  I need it to crawl.  I need to not panic at the thought of having two children in school in a month.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Lifestyles of the Sick and Obscure

I was sick a couple days ago.

Not terribly, horribly sick, so don't be feeling too sorry for me (unless you really really want to- I mean, I won't say no to a few extra pity vibes thrown my way; I'll save them up for the next time I really am disgustingly sick and our children care not the tiniest iota); it was just a nasty cold.  The kind of thing a little extra rest, a bit more fluids will heal more than any medicine.  (Never mind that I try and think that about most illnesses, simply because I HATE taking medicine and will do just about anything to get out of taking it, excepting, of course, my inhalers, Chuck and Mother Mary.  The orange inhaler is Chuck- because he looks like a Chuck, obviously- and the rest are Mother Mary, because when I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me and gives me something even better than words of wisdom- lovely, life-giving albuterol.)

I have always thought of myself as pretty low-maintenance, even, dare I say it, stoic, when it comes to being sick, because I don't require much help when feeling poorly.  I do not want someone hovering, I do not want people crooning and touching and really even being there at all.  I want to be alone, which somehow always made me feel strong and superior, until, that is, a couple nights ago when I realized just how many props I need to surround myself with in my aloneness when I have nothing worse than a piddling cold.

Let's start with our base layer of pampered malingering-wear:

My favorite blankets.  The brown one is incredibly warm, the lettered blanket has the first lines of classic works of fiction.  Because who isn't comforted by Beowulf when they're under the weather?

Next, and arguably the most important:

A rice pack which must be heated for between one minute and one minute thirty seconds in the microwave; less than that and it loses its heat too quickly, more and it's too scorching to put against my spoiled little pelt.  A heated rice pack mends everything from a sore back to a headache to cold toes to a foul mood.  They're so magical and perfect I bet there's one in the foot of every bed in Hogwarts castle.  

Just as important:

Now.  I am, in general, not a brand snob.  I can make do with all kinds of generic brands for all kinds of things, from food to clothing to whatever, but when it comes to my nose, it would appear that I am a big fat baby, as I must have Puffs with lotion IF you don't mind.  

The obvious ingredient:

A book, BUT- it mustn't be anything too heavy or taxing for my feeble febrile brain.  This favorite author fits the bill perfectly.  Congratulations, Ms. L'Engle, for this highly dubious honor.

Water WITH ICE if you please, because I'm an American, for cryin' out loud.  This is one where I've actually gotten better as I've gotten older; as a child I would only drink water out of the bathroom faucet when sick because it tasted better and colder.  I did not ever demand this of my mother, of course, because I always wanted to survive my illnesses.

And all this had to be collected on the couch so that I could sleep with my poor little head (actually, my head is rather large, thank you so much, mother) elevated, and so that I wouldn't wake Derek every time I blew my nose, which was only once every five minutes or so all night long, jeez, Derek, and I am of the belief that if I don't achieve a loud noise when blowing my nose I'm not really getting everything out, and because I'm an eldest child I'm hard-wired for over-achievement, if only when emptying facial orifices.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Virtual Garden Tour

When I recently saw Common Household Mom propose the idea of a Virtual Garden Tour, my first thought was, "Aw.  Too bad I don't qualify."  Because in order to participate in a garden tour, you need gardens, of course, of the studied, orderly, English variety.  Sure, I love to garden, and sure, I love to take low-quality photos of my flowers to the point that my camera has more pictures of flora on it than Crisler-begotten fauna.  Besides, my sunflowers aren't blooming yet, and without them, there's just no point.

Still, I've been reading some terrific stuff lately about how perfectionism is the death of productivity and creativity and probably more important things like the Oxford comma, so... here goes.  Here's what's blooming in my neck of the woods.

Daylilies!  A couple years ago my mom's husband's niece (still with me?) moved to a house in Wichita that had previously been home to an older gentleman who had been a member of the Wichita Daylily Society (how wild and raucous do you reckon those meetings are?) and had planted all kinds of daylilies all over the yard.  This niece isn't much of a flower person (fortunately I have met her and she is exceedingly nice, and thus did not allow my brain to judge her too harshly), and so chose to do the right thing and gave a bunch to me.  Well, she gave buckets-full to my mom and Mark, and they shared some with me.  Whatever.  So this year I have several new and unexpected splashes of color around our yard, although I can already tell I'm going to need to re-transplant several varieties; not enough sun on some of them.

This one came with a little plaque that reads "'Firepower' E.W. Brown-1984."  I'm assuming E.W. is the person who created this hybrid?  Or something?

The next two were already here; I planted them a few years ago.  I love them just as much as the flashy new guys, and tell them so every time I'm outside.

These are less orange and more of a buttery-yellow outside of my demon camera.

The above red ones look similar to the Huning lilies I wrote about recently, except they have more red and aren't taller than I am.  They're wet because it never stops raining in Iowa.  At least not this summer.

The coneflowers are also blooming:

They're usually home to a few spiderwebs:

And speaking of spiderwebs-

I'm convinced Viktor weaves these webs nightly, doing his part to protect our family.  

You can't take two steps across our grass without encountering one of these.  It's funny, spiders completely eek me out when they're in the house, but outside, I want to see as many as possible, perhaps because this is what our children look like right now:

Click to embiggen and see Cade's poor, poor forehead.

A cool, wet summer means millions upon millions of mosquitoes, all feasting upon the flesh of my babies.  This angers me.  It angers me greatly.

Not all the bugs are ire-provoking, however.  I spent an absurd amount of time watching this little fella on a sunflower leaf this morning.  He was right at eye-level, after all.

Anybody know what this multi-colored friend might be?  Because I am, as usual, clueless.

The vegetable garden's sending out its first produce of the summer (aside from the mass quantities of lettuce it attempted to drown us in, of course):

And look here- the gourds are starting to grow!  I could have sworn I planted 10 Commandments here, but this doesn't look quite right, so... blargh.  One of these years I really, really will start a gardening journal.  I mean it this time.

The zucchini are also just gearing up, and it's beginning to look like I'm going to be breaking and entering people's homes just to leave some surprise zucchini and get it out of my garden.  I'll be the Zucchini Fairy, which is like the Tooth Fairy except I won't traffic in human body parts!  

That's it:  An Iowa garden in July.  Thanks for hosting, CHM!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Mine Daughter

I've been feeling guilty lately.

I ask myself questions like, Why do you let Adelaide stay up during nap time but not the boys? and Why do you let Adelaide have special treats when her brothers aren't around? 

Then I wake up and realize I have nothing to feel guilty about, because it's not our daughter who awakens me in the mornings by gustily exhaling in my face and stage-whispering, "CAN I HAVE SOME MILK?"  Adelaide can not only get her own liquid nourishment; she can make her own oatmeal.  Her own oatmeal, friends.  She can use the dry measuring cup and the liquid measuring cup and push the buttons on the microwave and spoon acceptable amounts of brown sugar over the whole thing, then put it all away when she's done.  This is like a miracle.  If we were Catholic I'd submit our daughter for sainthood, because I'm pretty sure that's how that whole process works.

It's not our daughter who makes it necessary for me to clean a bathroom a day.  Let's be clear:  we do not live in a six bedroom, five bathroom American McMansion Monstrosity, okay?  We have two toilets in our house, and our boys are incapable of hitting either target with any kind of regularity.  Derek needs to let any quarterback dreams he may be harboring for our young'uns die now, because I'm pretty sure you need aim to fill that position, and as our bathrooms can attest, no one aims in this house and succeeds.  Although apparently an economist employed by an airport in Amsterdam to make their bathrooms less nasty had the idea to etch a picture of a fly just to the left of the drain in the bowls of the urinals.  Post-etching, there was 80% less spillage.  Someone come etch a little feather or something in my toilets.  It could be a special project for your budding art student, right?

It also wasn't our daughter who, while walking alongside our grocery cart two days ago, turned to me and in a clear, carrying, 5-year-old boy voice, asked,

"Does the Hulk have a penis?"

I didn't know.  Nor did any of the other people in that aisle, or if they did, they were content to simply stare but not answer the question.

Viva la Adelaide.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Freedom and Stuff

July 3rd I put on my dusty Creative Mom hat and had our kids do a fun Independence Day-themed craft that ended up looking like we trailed random bits of glue and salt all over black construction paper then sprayed it with blood.  This was all true except for the blood- that was just food coloring.  The sad part was when Atticus asked what the heck they were supposed to look like and I told him, "Fireworks, of course!" his response was "What are 'fireworks'?"

The problem with fireworks is that they're usually set off when it's dark which has a disturbing tendency to come about late at night.  I have this thing about our kids sleeping at night, so... it's true.  Two of our three children had never seen fireworks.  I'm not sorry.  (A friend of mine unabashedly dislikes fireworks.  "It's like watching money explode in the air!"  This is hilarious to me.)

This year, however, despite the fact that Derek had to work, I decided to brave the throngs of patriotic people (another reason not to attend fireworks displays- no offense, my fellow Americans), solely because Derek's parents offered to come help wrangle the children.  So off we went to Reiman Gardens to listen to a local municipal band and look at flowers and harass Derek while he tried to work.  And watch fireworks.

They say grandchildren keep you young (although I have a sneaking suspicion "they" are people without grandchildren), probably through activities like this one:

Take this little child-flippy-thing times fifty and you have a substantial percentage of Derek's dad's evening.

As our children see any grandparent trying to rest on the ground as an open invitation for super-fun-human-trampoline-time, Dennis soon suggested we tour the gardens.  

Why, yes, this is a statue of a rabbit in a giant garden, but I can't decide whether I should be crying "WHYYYYY?" to the heavens when seeing this or laughing because he looks like Psycho-Not-To-Be-Trusted Rabbit, which, in my possibly unbalanced opinion, is how all gardeners should view rabbits.  

Gnomes are, of course, another popular garden feature:

Friends, meet Elwood, the World's Largest Concrete Gnome.  Elwood was nice and everything, but he's no Viktor. 

He meant nothing to us, Viktor.  Nothing.

And what did we find in the children's area?

A whole string of Tardis's!  (What's the consensus on the plural for "Tardis"?  Tardis's?  Tardii?)  I'm not real sure what Doctor Who has to do with flowers, but when something this awesome happens, I'm not inclined to question it much.

Weeping Angels plus Children's Area equals... Fun?  Education?  Nightmares?

Never mind that, children- look at this Sonic Screwdriver Windchime!

You know, for being at a public garden and, you know, loving flowers the way I do, I took very few photos of flowers while we were there.  And by "very few" I mean ZERO, because I'm a failure.  

I did photograph some Wild Caedmon while I was there, though, so it wasn't a total loss.  Is it just me, or does Cade look more like a forty-year-old man here than a three-year-old boy?

We also made sure to pester Derek a bit before the fireworks started:

Believe me, we are terrific pester-ers.

We finished the evening by introducing our children to the wonder of a fireworks show.  They liked it.  A bit.

I've spent the past four days recovering from all this frivolity, and reckon I'll be ready to do it all again in right about one year, which is an 95% attitude improvement from how I felt while waiting 45 minutes to get out of the blasted parking lot because no one was there to direct traffic.  

Merry America, friends!