Thursday, August 28, 2014

And So It Begins

The good news:  I am one week into half marathon training and- so far as I know, at least- have not yet died.

The bad news:  I am extremely annoying to be around right now.

If you do not set precise boundaries around our conversation, it will eventually end up at the topic of running, racing, or half marathons vs 5k's vs marathons vs 10k's vs whatever.

I am like a very excitable and frantic puppy.  It's like when you're pregnant with your first baby, and you talk about every single tiny detail, both significant and insignificant, to anyone who will listen, then you learn American Sign Language because no one around you should be spared news of your magnificent, excruciatingly fascinating pregnancy.

Then you get pregnant with your second and people ask questions like, "When are you due?" and you have no idea both because you don't keep track of that kind of thing this time around and you can't quite seem to remember what the date is on any given day.

With your third pregnancy the question "When are you due?" provokes first confusion then astonishment because you are often caught off guard with the news that you are, indeed, pregnant.  I can't tell you how many times people started to talk to me about pregnancy and I thought, Man, this lady REALLY likes babies, followed closely by HOLY CRAP THAT'S RIGHT I'M PREGNANT.  I can only guess at what it's like with the fourth pregnancy on; I imagine you're making supper for your slavering horde of offspring (I don't mean to sound derogatory- this is in fact what our children resemble thirty minutes before supper), and you're stirring the marinara and telling Junior to Put the granola bar down, for heaven's sake, we're eating in 90 SECONDS, then you feel something shift in your abdomen and turn around and look at that!  There's another one!

This may or may not be why we don't have four children.

This is my first half marathon, so I am that first-pregnancy woman, both amusing and slightly irritating to veteran long-distance racers.  Thankfully I have a running guru-friend who dropped off her copy of the book Train Like a Mother (it's excellent, I'm starting my second read-through as soon as I finish this) two days after I got ahold of her and told her I'm maybe-possibly-kind of thinking about signing up for the Des Moines half marathon, then met Cade and me for coffee this morning so she could answer my 4 million questions, all while being very encouraging and not even close to patronizing, despite the fact that she's training for a 50k (that's five-zero, 50 kilometers, an over 30 MILE RACE).  I check the race website obsessively, have attacked my legs with a rolling pin (to roll out sore muscles and areas of potential injury, not beat them into submission, although that's sometimes tempting), and yakked Derek to death about the whole thing.

As a result, I'll probably be posting a bit more about running and training and such until race day (OCTOBER 19TH.  I'M NOT FREAKING OUT AT ALL ALREADY.), unless I get injured, in which case you won't hear from me at all, as I'll be curled up in a ball crying and binge-watching Doctor Who.

So:  Exhibiting higher amounts of irritating traits, even more anxious than usual, and courting injury on an almost-daily basis.  Running is obviously excellent for my health.

Monday, August 25, 2014

A List

We haven't done a list in quite some time and Mondays are prime list-making days.  Expect this one to be random and make no sense.

  • Caedmon and I are re-adjusting to having the two big kids gone for much of the day.  He talks about Batman a lot.  A common refrain from him goes something like this:  "Mommy, Batman just texted me and we're going to work together at naptime," or "Mommy, I just texted Batman, and we're going to share our candy, 'cause sharing is nice."  
He does all this Batman-texting on this thing:

It's an old hand-held video game of Derek's, now Caedmon's "Batman Phone."  

  • I cut these hydrangeas today.  I wanted to have some kind of flower in the house because I can't bring myself to spend any appreciable time outside in this heat and humidity.  People of the South:  How do you do it?  Because we're not even a week into the heat and I'm feeling sick, homicidal, or both when I spend too long out there in Satan's mouth.  

  • One more thing I forgot to mention about Charleston:  Everyone is unfailingly polite, even on their street signs.

The end.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Wo wo woo woo wooooo

How's your week going?  Good?  Bad?  Hideously awful?

How about a little video of our Atticus to cheer you up?  How about I write this entire post in question format?

[You're going to want your volume up nice and loud for this.  Trust me.]

I have watched this video approximately thirty times.  I cannot help myself.  It's just so... Atticus.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

"I'm SO excited." *Updated*

Today is the first day of another school year.

Adelaide's first day of Kindergarten, she was half excited, half anxious, wanted to stand at the very back of the line of kids at the bus stop, and would not allow me to leave her side as the other kids embarked and the line slowly moved forward.  When we reached the steps and it was her turn, she decided that Nope, Kindergarten wasn't for her, thanks anyway.  I had to go up the steps with her, and while the driver very kindly offered to let me sit with her while he looped around before dropping me back off, once Adelaide was on there and spotted an open seat, she was okay.  She sat down, I got off the bus, and away she went.

We watched the video Derek was shooting of this whole thing a couple weeks ago.  You can tell the exact moment she realizes this was a terrible, terrible idea, as she tries to awkwardly back away, looking more like a dog being dragged into a car on its way to the vet than anything else.

Over the past couple weeks Atticus has at random times quietly stated, "I'm scared about Kindergarten," into empty moments in our day.  Our elder son has a substantial streak of bravery running through him (years of attempting to survive night terrors?), so while I figured the whole thing would be easier than it was for Adelaide, I still worried a little about how he was going to feel on this first of many, many whole days away from me.

6:30 this morning, I woke the two A's up.  They tumbled out of bed, excited for the day, and were immediately drawn first to their bedroom windows.  There was a kind of diffused yellow, buttery pre-thunderstorm cast to the dawn, and it was beautiful.  It felt like a gift, a new mercy waiting for us, and the perfect beginning to this day of Beginnings.

Atticus has had trouble remembering his teacher's name over the past couple days, and spent his time getting dressed muttering, "Upah, Upah, Upah, Upah," under his breath.

This may have made me increasingly nervous for him except for the fact that he spent the next 45 minutes exclaiming "I'm SO excited," and eating breakfast and "I'm SO excited" and brushing his teeth and "I'm SO excited."

In the car on the way to the bus stop, and he's SO excited.  She's reading.

We were the first ones at the bus stop, Adelaide and Atticus were the first in line.  Well, and Caedmon, who probably would have marched right onto the bus, too, had we not kept a sharp eye on him.

You should click to embiggen this one:  Adelaide's reading has been interrupted and she's kind of over this whole school and picture thing; Atticus is SO excited, and Caedmon is just precious.  Derek is... tall.  Hard to tell what emotions were going on up there.

When the bus arrived, Atticus prodded-pushed-shoved his sister toward the bus and up the steps, quickly ascending right behind her, the extreme opposite of what she had done three Augusts ago.  Derek and I had both reminded Adelaide that she was to sit next to her brother on the bus, even if her friends wanted to sit beside her.  We watched her walk quickly down the aisle and sit in a seat, then we watched Atticus keep right on going and sit in a separate seat of his own, turning eagerly to wave and grin hugely at us out the window.  We grinned and waved right back.  I couldn't see Adelaide in her seat on the opposite side of the bus.  She was probably reading again already.

Then the bus drove on, carrying them away from us.

Derek looked down at our Caedmon and said, "I don't know, bud, I think Mommy may really cry when you go to Kindergarten."  Then he looked at my face, asked, "Are you crying?" and laughed at me.  I wasn't weeping in abject despair or anything, I just had something in my eye.  Like a tear.  Or two.

I mean, our five-year-old didn't have to be that excited to leave me, did he?

I am glad he was so pumped to start school, and satisfied with Adelaide's tolerance for school.  I'm hoping Atticus's enthusiasm doesn't wane anytime soon, and that Adelaide remembers learning is fun and dives into third grade.

42 minutes 'til we go get them from the bus stop.  Not that I'm counting, or anything.

UPDATE:  How did each of their first days go?



Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Of Books and Beaches *Updated*

I find it ironic that it was our 10-year anniversary trip that really reinforced to me how different Derek and I are.  I guess that paragon of wisdom Paula Abdul was right:  Opposites really do attract.  (Aaaand now I'm cackling and refuse to feel guilty about it because she was dancing and being borderline inappropriate with an animated cat, for Pete's sake, and no, "It was the '80's" is not an acceptable excuse; Thriller came out a full five years before Opposites Attract.  And yes, I was raised on a steady diet of MTV as a young child.  Some of my earliest memories are learning the finer techniques of head banging from my Dad while watching Head Banger's Ball together.  WE WERE BONDING, OKAY?  Speaking of wisdom, who hears about a new musical/dance fad called HEAD BANGING and thinks "Man, I gotta try that!  Waaay too many properly functioning neurons up in here!")


At one point while in Charleston, Derek and I decided to visit a nearby beach. When we arrived, Derek carefully spread out his towel, wrapped his phone and glasses in his discarded t-shirt, and laid them ever so precisely next to his towel, then lowered himself onto his towel to wait 'til I got tired of the beach because he was only there because I wanted to go in the first place.  By the time he had finished his little Beach Arrival Ritual, I swear to you I did not see a single grain of sand on his towel or his person.

I promise you, I did all the same things he did.  I carefully wrapped my lip balm (I cannot be without lip balm, okay?  It's my standard deserted island answer) and my phone already in a sandwich bag (because I know myself) in my own t-shirt, and laid them veryvery carefully on the sand after only dropping all of it in that same sand twice.  I spread my towel out very exactly, laid down on it, and got my out my book.

Ten minutes later I got up from my towel to find a fine layer of sand over almost every inch of me.  My [library] book wouldn't close properly because of all the sand in between its pages and caked in its spine.  I spent the next two days scouring a layer of skin off my lips because there was so much sand in my lip balm.  Derek looked at me when we were wading in the surf and said, "Your face is covered in sand.  How do you have sand on your face?"  To which I could only say, "I DON'T KNOW."

Covered in sand

Entirely clean

I also found a crab burrowed in the sand, pulled Derek over to see it, then yelped and jumped back when it ATTACKED.  (And by "attacked" I mean suddenly sideways-skittered away.)  I did not know that crabs are like giant spiders with an exoskeleton and eye stalks.  Why are there not more crab-phobics out there?

Derek did not yelp or so much as flinch when the crab ATTACKED.  Actually what I think he said was, "What did you expect?"  I can only assume this is in reference to the fact that I kept getting closer and closer to the crab, leaning over it until I finally scared it away.  I am from KANSAS, husband.  What do I know about shellfish?

Our final day in South Carolina, we drove past a used bookstore while killing time before our flight.  I walked in and saw this:

Take this photo times about SEVEN because that's how big this bookstore was.  I immediately found a Garrison Keillor for one singular dollar, and was about to start frolicking and burrowing when Derek said, "I don't want to spend too much time here," to which I started doing this weird jogging in place thing in conjunction with a distressed, whimpering "HUH-H-H-H-H" sound until my somatic nervous system caught up with the autonomic and was like ohmygosh you are so embarrassing and I stopped.  I found a couple more books and may or may not have darted around corners anytime I saw Derek coming.  Then we left and went somewhere else I don't even remember because it wasn't this bookstore, but my husband took pity on me and suggested he drop me back off at the book palace while he gassed up the rental car.  

And that is how I left Charleston with six more books than I had upon arrival.

This one's for you, Common Household Mom:

See the comments if you're experiencing (abnormal amounts of) confusion.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Under-Achieving Moms Anonymous

Do you know what I spent my Saturday doing?  Paying for a mistake I made three years ago.

August of 2011, and Adelaide is getting ready to enter Kindergarten.  She is anxious, positive that she will have no friends and get lost and be bored and not entirely sure why I'm abandoning her to the cruel whims of the United States public education system.

Included on the exhaustive supply list was a required 12x12-inch pillow.  They use this for the post-lunch rest time, which five- and six-year olds need so they can get ready for some afternoon learnin' and I can only assume the teachers need because they spend their days in a cramped room with 25 small children, in return for which they receive a pittance of a salary and, ahem, "feedback" from parents even more irrational than their "genius" offspring.  ("Genius":  the second most overused word in the English language, right after "surreal.")

Because Adelaide was having such a hard time with the idea of going to school and being away from me, I wanted her to have something at school that would be familiar and comforting, and so, rather than a generic pillow, I cut up one of my old shirts in her then-favorite color- pink- and made it into a pillowcase,  embroidering her name and some multi-colored flowers on the front, because I am an idiot.

I knew better.  Or I should have.  I do not scrapbook.  I do not throw lavish birthday parties.  I do not celebrate arbitrary holidays created by vast corporations with a product to push.  I set the bar as low as possible the first time around, because I know that each time I do something and label it a tradition, as far as our children are concerned, I am signing a blood contract to forevermore execute said tradition in at least as exciting a way as I did the first time.

I understand the impulse to over-celebrate the crap out of every tiny milestone that comes your child's way, and I am not saying you shouldn't make your child feel cherished and loved to absolute pieces on a daily basis.  What I am saying is that every time you're in the store and you see that simply darling last-day-of-summer-vacation pinata or you're on Pinterest and All The Moms are making four-course breakfasts for their child's first day of school, the question you need to ask yourself is this one:  How much do I hate myself?

When you're doing that extra-special kid-centered thing you've gotta realize that you should be taking the time, money, and energy spent on it times the number of years they're going to live in your house times however many children you have, because even as I was hunched over Atticus's Kindergarten pillow embroidering his name into a scrap of some old corduroy pants of mine, Caedmon was mouth-breathing in my face, "When am I going to get a special pillow with my name and a picture on it?  Can you make it out of this?"  He was touching and asking for the actual shirt off my back, and three years too late, I realized this is the price you pay for over-achieving even once.

I finished our second-born's pillow, then made a gourmet lunch of popcorn, raisins, and granola bars, which I wouldn't even allow them to eat in the house because I was just done.  That pillow used up, like, a three-day supply of motherly patience and creativity.

The one upside to my anti-Martha Stewart parenting practices is that our children are in awe when I make the slightest effort.  I made them each a little book to write in out of squares of white paper I cut up and stapled together.  You'd think I'd felled the trees to create the paper, mined the iron ore from the ground for the staples.  Their mouths were literally hanging open at this wizardry.  So if one of our children shows you one of their "books" they've written, do me a favor and act astounded at this creation.  Maybe throw around terms like "Best Mom Ever" and "Luckiest Child Alive."  Also don't show them all the incredible things you do for your own children.  It takes a village to keep expectations this low.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Five Things Friday

  • It's been one of those weeks, hasn't it?  Everywhere you turn, terrible, terrible things are happening, and then, when you're still reeling from the news, people start saying the most moronic, the most utterly hateful things and then have the gall to call it capital-T Truth, because apparently you get to do that when you're a Christian blogger and there is no end to your finger-pointing and your ugly, disturbing pride.  I see this man's blog shared and liked by well-meaning Christian acquaintances all over social media, and even though I know it's going to make me so angry stars bust across my vision, I do it.  I click through and I read.  Then I go on and on and on about it to Derek who eventually asks, "Why were you reading this guy's blog again?" and I have to say "I DON'T KNOW."  
I ended up spending waaaay too much mental energy on the whole thing, but thankfully I had the two Ann's to pull me out of the fury twister I was riding; both wrote beautiful pieces on mental illness and Christ and suicide and compassion.  (Actually it's Anne and Ann- I think I've made it clear how important spelling is to me.)  I encourage you to click on their correctly spelled names and read what they had to say.

  • I have seen one, I repeat, ONE, Japanese beetle this year.  According to the Iowa Gardener, this is because of our last brutally cold winter; it killed most of the larvae happily sleeping in our soil (now millions of tiny corpses, MUAHAHAHA), and the large amounts of rain we got in the spring drowned out the rest.  Hal-lay-loo-yer and pass the basil that hasn't been eaten alive by beetles this year.

  • This was our last full week of summer vacation.  School begins next Wednesday.  Adelaide is mostly ready.  Atticus is pensive.  I am saying what I say every summer:  "Hmm.  Homeschooling is suddenly very, very attractive."  Caedmon still believes he will soon be attending preschool, because he's three and when he says, "I am Batman," in his mind he is Batman, so why shouldn't "Adelaide's going to third grade, Atticus is going to Kindergarten, and I'm going to preschool!" likewise work?  Never mind that I've spent the last four months telling him he has a whole 'nother year before preschool- I'm just the Mother, what do I know?

  • This week has been a good running week.  Not too hot, not too humid, and my various injuries have finally shut themselves up enough for me to run, run, run. 
I appreciate this all the more because this summer was the summer that I realized I'm not 21 anymore, and when my old lower back injury flares or my shin splints make themselves known I don't just get to elevate a foot or apply a heating pad for an evening; nooo, I have to rest and ice and coddle these high maintenance body parts for days on end before they'll give me so much as a couple miles.  Let's not forget about the asthma attacks, either, one that started to hit me when I was four miles from home and turned legitimately scary- and honestly, I don't scare easy when it comes to these two divas that I call lungs- I imagine the home that they have made in my rib cage to be some sort of Liberace-meets- the creator of the Bedazzler monstrosity, and they have one whole wall with different velvet knotted ropes hanging, each with each own placard:  "the gut," "the throat," "the skin," and on and on, and when they pull on each they make its subsequent organ break out in hives or swell or do a peristaltic boogie and Dance, Monkey, Dance.  I realize that it's my immune system that's really the problem, here; it's just that I've long thought of my lungs as my own personal mental whipping boy.  They're not to be trusted, and I'm sure they feel the same way about me.
I do try to keep in mind that even when All The Parts are hurting All at The Same Time, I still don't feel as bad as I did in my third trimester of my pregnancy with Caedmon, when my body said, "You want another pregnancy?  Okay, lady, I'm going to pregnancy symptom you TO DEATH."  This is why I laughed so hard when I first saw this on Pinterest a couple weeks ago:

I feel like that cat's face is the mental face I'm making half my waking hours.  Somehow Derek didn't find this photo as funny as I did (I roar every time I see it)- but then, he's never been pregnant.

  • I couldn't think of a fifth thing in the three minutes I have to finish this post, so I called upon Adelaide in my hour of need, and here's what she's happy about right this second:
"Back To School Night is only three days from today, and school is only five days from today."  It's almost like she wants to leave me.  

Thursday, August 14, 2014

A Braggart of a City

Hello, Charleston.

Cobblestone alleys, buildings all immaculately maintained or restored to their 18- and 19th-century glory, a secret garden around every corner- is it any wonder we're so enamored of this city?

I mean, really, though, Charleston is almost embarrassing in its loveliness.  

Just the teensiest bit show-offy.

And did I mention the window boxes?

Or Rainbow Row?

Or how every other nook contains a surprise- even quaint little houses tucked away?

Or how I took right around one million photos?

And I'm not even done.  You have been warned.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Hostess City of the South

I've been meaning to write about our trip to Charleston, but I'm having trouble condensing the trip into a couple of paragraphs and a photo or two.  I took too many pictures and we did so much fun stuff, but the best part was probably things like Not Doing Dishes and Sleeping Through The Night and Not Answering Questions and Using A Bathroom That Smells of Something Other Than Eau de Urine.  You know- magical stuff.

We flew into Charleston late Saturday night, and stayed in a hotel on the south side of the city, because we were planning on driving down to Savannah the next morning.  The best thing I can say about that hotel is that it wasn't dangerous.  The worst is that I refused to take my shoes off the entire time we were there- as in, walk over to the bed in my pajamas and shoes, slide my feet out of my shoes and into the bed; the next morning, swing my legs over the side of the bed and put my feet right back into those shoes before shuffling off for my ante meridian ablutions.

This was my, and Derek's, first trip to the oldest city in Georgia, and can I just say:  Savannah, you are lovely, all soaking heat, dripping Spanish moss, and green, shaded squares.  I had a delectable cone of Honey Almond-flavored ice cream (made with local honey, which means it was practically health food, because local honey is, like, good for allergies and stuff) and Derek got to come in physical contact with a piece of history.  (Derek watching ignorant innocent fellow tourists as they passed by us:  "Look at them, just walking on by- people, GEORGE WASHINGTON TOUCHED THESE AND YOU DON'T EVEN CARE.")

Derek cared.

One of the good things about being married to a history buff is that he doesn't mind you stopping to read every single historic plaque you see (I'm a bear to visit museums with, I admit), and will indulge your whims- even when those whims are going up and down steep, crumbly, semi-dangerous staircases.  (I don't know why I loved those things.  I just did.)

The Iowa summer we've been enjoying this year has been rather cool, with just a day here and there above 90, and most days barely reaching above 80.  This means that when we walked around Savannah, with its high temps and heavy, smothering humidity, even sitting on a lovely bench in a lush square, surrounded by historic houses, it was incredibly sweat inducing.  I'm talking the kind of perspiration where, when you try to cross your legs, they can't find any purchase and slide right off of each other, so even though you're trying to be a freaking lady and wearing a skirt, you end up sitting with your limbs all splayed out, more something you'd find as a cautionary warning in an Emily Post guide than anything like genteel Southern femininity.  Oh, well.  Scarlett O'Hara would've been eaten alive in the midwest anyway:  We don't truck with drama and rich, entitled debutantes need not apply.

We were only in Savannah for three hours, just long enough to get a feel for the flavor of the city.  We walked by a gorgeous B&B (which I just checked out online, and while the interior photos look equally impressive, at $300 per night, I think we'll content ourselves with trotting past, oooh'ing and aaah'ing) and a number of small museums we would have enjoyed ducking into, had we had more time.  The problem is, with our beloved Charleston so close, it's hard to spend any time anywhere else. Boohoo, poor us.

Clearly bereft on the Charleston Battery.   Because of our height difference, Derek and I can't take a good selfie together to save our lives; I take it and he's scalped, he takes it and my face is either half-gone or straining upward to remain in the frame.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Learning To Ride Bikes, Only Almost Died Once!

One of my goals for this summer was to teach Adelaide and Atticus to ride their bikes without training wheels.

I knew Atticus would be an easy sell, as he's been begging to have his training wheels taken off his bike for some time now, but Adelaide... well.  Eight year old Adelaide feels the same way about bicycles that eight year old Me felt about them, in that we each looked at our mothers like, "Hang on, so you want me to climb aboard this two-wheeled metal contraption that can't even stand up on its own unless you're pedaling hard enough to make it travel so fast that a slight bump can cause serious injury to my person?  My gosh, woman, you still haven't let go of that whole body-writhing pain experience that was my labor and delivery, have you?  Will the paybacks never end?"

I spent one evening running alongside giant Adelaide on her giant bike, trying to keep the pair of them- who were just about as big as I am put together- upright and not brain-damaged, getting whacked in the face every time we ran past our neighbor's cursed tree whose limbs extend over the sidewalk at a height of right about five feet.  As much as I loved providing that day's entertainment to all our neighbors and random passersby, by the end of the night I was literally pulling leaves out of my hair and mouth and Adelaide was no closer to riding on her own.  The next day we packed up the bikes, went to the high school parking lot, and within about two minutes of unloading, Atticus was cruising easily across the pavement, biking like he's been doing it his whole life.  It took one extra day and a smaller bike to have Adelaide riding unassisted, and I still don't think she ever would have seen the need to master bike-riding if her little brother hadn't caught onto it so easily and had the nerve to out-perform her.

Over the past week, they've been riding quite a bit, getting the hang of riding on narrow paths such as dead end streets and sidewalks.  Atticus, again, has taken to it all extremely well, while Adelaide has been more timid, but still working on it, steadily improving.

Sunday evening, Derek and Atticus were out golfing, and so Adelaide decided to take advantage of her brother's absence and work on increasing her own two-wheeling skills.

At one point, I went inside to get Caedmon some water, came back out, and didn't see our daughter.

I looked up and down the sidewalk, but couldn't find her.  I did, however, see a large truck driving slowly in front of our house, almost like they were waiting for an obstruction in the road to move.

Right about then, Adelaide came from around the lilac bush and into sight, walking her bike onto the sidewalk, crying a bit wildly, blue eyes huge.

As she came closer, she dumped the death trap into the grass and told me that "The bike tipped over and into the street and I couldn't get up right away and then there was a truck coming right toward me and it was about to hit me and I almost died!"  (Insert near-hyperventilation every third word.)

Remember how I have this thing where I laugh at extremely inappropriate moments?  Like when I'm telling people someone's died, or conversely, when our daughter is telling me she almost died?

I could feel it coming on.  I had to fight to keep the smile from spreading across my face as soon as she started talking.  By the time she was done I was trying to turn the escaping laughter into a sympathetic, "Oh, Adelaide, I'm sorry."  I had the merest inkling that I'd failed because of her quavery reply of "STOP LAUGHING AT ME!"  This sent me completely over the edge, and I dashed inside to try and catch my breath, I was laughing so hard.

Of course our neighbors were outside.  I can only imagine what we looked like:  young girl crashes into the street, truck comes down the street, mother nowhere to be seen, girl has to pick herself up lest she be crushed, girl appropriately traumatized, limps out of the street and recounts the horror to her reappearing mother, mother laughs in her face, girl wails, mother flees back into her house gasping and guffawing, all while impressionable 3-year-old brother watches.

As I told all this later that night to a shaking-his-head Derek, I mused, "I really don't know how you leave me alone with these children."

"Neither do I."  Poor Derek.  He's probably ready for school to start again, just so he knows his children have some kind of sympathetic adults nearby, because Lord knows they don't here.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

How To Make New Friends

One week before we left for vacation, I made the mistake of talking to my mom.

If you live near her and work either in the medical community or for the school district, chances are good that you've sat in one of her in-services.  My sisters and I have been told for years that "your mom is SO FUNNY."  What was so hilarious about CPR and infection control was always a trifle mystifying, but as a child all I knew about those gatherings was that my mom got up in front of groups of people large and small to talk about washing your hands and how not to be nasty and that it somehow involved washing my own hands while singing Yankee Doodle in front of a video camera on a semi-regular basis.  (The purpose of the song is to make sure you're washing your hands long enough to restore your hands back to non-disgusting status.)  Kelli, Steph, and I never really understood what "so funny" about our mom until one of Kelli's friends sat in an in-service and reported back to my sister that "your mom has lots of jokes.  Unfortunately you're the punchline."  Mystery solved.

Being one of her daughters, I get these talks whenever I want (aka whenever she wants), which is how, a week before I was to take multiple rides on those big metal birds in the sky, my mother regaled me with such classic tales as "The Truth About How Often Those Tray Tables Are Actually Cleaned" and "Airplane Ice Cubes Are the Dirty Old Men of Ice" and "Airplane Armrests and Bacteria:  A Love Story."  She then sweetly told me precisely where I might find little packs of anti-bacterial wipes at Wal-Mart (the travel section, friends), as if she were doing me a favor.

I purchased the wipes.  I readied myself for the trip.  Derek and I boarded the plane for the first leg of our flight.

For various reasons, I was always in the middle of three seats on each flight, which meant I had to look like I had lost my ever-lovin' mind as I wiped down everything within reach with those wipes as a bemused stranger sat two inches to my right or left watching me perform my little psychotic ritual.  If it was a woman, I made sure to tell them that hahahaha, I'm not always this weird, haha, my mom just told me some disturbing things about airplane germs, hahaha, don't mind me as I gingerly lift your arm to scrub at our shared armrest.  The one man I sat next to was spared this speech simply because I'm slower to warm up to men.

The lady on that very first flight was also forced to become my airplane best friend, as it turns out that I do not deal with moderate-to-severe turbulence well at all.  Every time we'd do one of those little drops that makes it feel like the plane is free-falling for a second or two, my body would involuntarily sit straight up in my seat and my mouth would emit a shaky "HOOO-KAY," while Derek sat to one side of me, ear buds in, calmly watching golf like our children weren't about to become three tiny pathetic orphans.

I tried to keep myself to myself, reading my book and not pestering the poor lady next to me, but I discovered that while reading can distract me from many, many different things, turbulence is not one of them, and I told her so, and basically (in the nicest way possible) demanded she talk to me.  She was very kind, and I learned all manner of interesting things about her.  Every so often there would be a lull in the conversation, then we'd drop and I'd say, "HOOO-KAY- so, your dad has 8 cracked ribs from a terrible car wreck and you had to miss your family vacation, let's talk more about that."

The one comforting factor in that turbulent flight was the off-duty flight attendant sitting across the aisle from us, sound asleep, who didn't so much as twitch during the whole bumpy ride, but came magically awake as soon as the wheels hit the tarmac.  I figured I wouldn't really start to freak out until she did, and she never so much as regained consciousness, so we were good.  We saw her again on our last flight back into Des Moines, and while I briefly thought about telling her something along the very creepy lines of Watching you sleep was very comforting, Derek assured me it wasn't the best of ideas.

I think I can safely add "Makes friends easily against their wishes" to my resumé.

Monday, August 4, 2014

"Mom?" "What?" "Mom?" "What?" "Mom?" "WHAT?"

We were all gone for the past week, Derek and I to South Carolina and the kids to their grandparents' house.  I have lots and lots of stories and photos to share, several days' worth, unless I get tired of talking about it and abruptly stop posting.  Actually, that sounds more like me, so just in case, I have to tell you this:  I had Nutella-flavored gelato in Charleston.  I am a changed woman.  Swoon.

Rather than starting at the beginning, I'll begin at the end and tell you what it's been like since we got back.  No, it hasn't been the re-entry hell that so often accompanies a return to home and routine, but it has given me fresh ears to hear the incessant, I'm talking NON-STOP questions our children ask.  One day, while we were away, Derek and I called his parents to talk to the children.  The first thing his mom said to me was, "How many times a day do you say, 'What?'?"

It's true.  Our three children could teach graduate level courses on interrogation (verbal interrogation; the state of Iowa frowns on juvenile waterboarding), and sadly, I have only myself to blame.  When Adelaide was little and I was still a naive, fresh-faced mother I decided I would encourage inquisitiveness, and answer every question I could to the absolute best of my ability.  Then we had Atticus and I was still adorably quixotic and encouraged still more questions- "How else will they learn?" I chirped.

Two years later we had Caedmon, I arrived at my current state of chronic befuddlement, and the questions kept coming, times a million, because answering a child's question is like blowing on a seeding dandelion- a hundred more are spawned from a single breath.  I am eager and enthusiastic for right about one hour every morning, then I become like that horse I rode at 4-H camp: old and sway-backed, sleep-walking my way through the trail, relentlessly chased by my children's need to know how absolutely everything ever created works and why.

We were reunited with our darling children Saturday morning.  By Saturday evening, I was spent.  I had answered more questions than Google.  I readied the little'uns for bed, jammies, teeth-brushing, the works.  I read them a bible story, one about Jesus healing a blind man.  I attempted to frame intelligent answers to thoughtful questions:  "What's a Pharisee?"  "Where's Judea?"  "Can blind people open their eyes?"  "So even Jesus's spit was holy?  What about his snot?  Could his snot heal the owie on my knee?"  "Was Jesus's human body divine, too?  Or was it God dwelling in it that made it holy?"

And so it was that I found myself saying "NO MORE JESUS QUESTIONS," and not feeling even a tiny bit guilty about it, because I have since found that saying, "I don't know- you should ask God when you get to heaven," defers a full quarter of their questions.  I do feel a tiny bit guilty about that, because they have a lot of questions saved up already.  God's not going to know what hit him when these children of ours show up.  He'll have to create a new heavenly department, headed up by an angel incapable of developing headaches.