Saturday, September 27, 2014

The Book That Both Took Over and Explained My Brain All At The Same Time

I just finished the book Quiet:  The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, by Susan Cain.

This book is fascinating.  This book is insightful.

This book is messing with my head.

I'm seeing everything and everyone in terms of extroverted or introverted tendencies.  I hear Atticus breathe a relieved, "GOOD," after I tell him that no, we're not going anywhere today and think, Hmm.  I don't know that I would previously have classified him as an introvert, but now, I'm not sure...

I tell Caedmon the same thing on Thursday- that we're not going anywhere that day- and he begs and begs and finally places my phone in my hand, begging me to call Paige so he can see the Other Atticus or get ahold of Cheryl so Mason can come over.  We've been out of the house every other day that week, but apparently even one day at home with just Mom is not enough stimulation for our possibly-extroverted Cade.

It's like being a psych major all over again, mentally diagnosing someone at the grocery store with a personality disorder because of the way they picked out their bananas.

If an extrovert is someone who is stimulated or draws energy from being around people and new experiences and an introvert is someone who is exhausted by the same, I've long placed myself deep into Introvert Territory on the introvert-extrovert spectrum.  This is not news to me.

What was new in the book were all the little things about me that are apparently strongly associated with introversion.  "I don't enjoy multitasking," "I often prefer to express myself in writing," "I prefer not to show or discuss my work with others until it's finished," and "In classroom situations, I prefer lectures to seminars"- just four of the twenty statements in an informal assessment within the book.  It reads, "The more often you answered 'true,' the more introverted you probably are.'  I answered "True" to 19 of them.

So many different sections were incredibly, helpfully enlightening:  Adelaide's complaint about how she's seated at school, in a group of five other kids, desks all facing each other.  The way she won't tell me much about school as soon as she gets home in the afternoon, but will instead begin to offer up nuggets during bathtime or at supper, after she's had time to decompress and read alone for awhile.  Her extreme, emotional, and very negative reaction to the possibility of being advanced a grade.  You'd think that I, an introverted mother to an introverted young girl would have been able to read all these signs for what they were, but nope.  I gained so much insight just into our daughter's behaviors and school day struggles to make this book worthwhile.

It also had a small section entitled "Does God Love Introverts?  An Evangelical's Dilemma."  It featured a meeting Cain had with introverted evangelical pastor Adam McHugh, author of Introverts in the Church:  Finding Our Place in an Extroverted Culture.  Common Household Mom praised this book in the past on her blog, and it was one of those that I wrote down (somewhere, on some scrap of paper that I could have sworn I left right there), fully intending to read, but it got lost in the mire that is my To Read list.

After reading just that small section in Quiet, McHugh's book has shot straight to the top of that same list (especially after reading this article).  Our family goes to a large, boisterous, loud, wonderful and overwhelming church, and I leave every Sunday exhausted and depleted.  Now, I love a lot of things about our church:  their vision, their mission, their teachings, their children's program, their transparency.  But the format of the service and the culture within the church provides constant stimulation from a hundred different sources for close to two hours, turning me into a quiet, seemingly reticent and somewhat wild-eyed woman who can barely form a coherent sentence because she's being asked to attend to too many things at once.  My one goal every Sunday morning, from the time I enter the massive parking lot and take a deep, bolstering breath, whispering an encouraging, "Here we go," to myself, is to make it to the sermon, because then I can deeply concentrate on one thing, which is where my strength lies.  I'm hoping this other book provides as much wisdom and advice as Quiet did.

There was so much neurological research and so many stories and so many different psychological outlooks contained within this book that I know I'm going to need to read it again at some point; just paging through it right now I'm going, "Oh, yeah, and that part," "And THIS part," and "HOW DID I NOT KNOW THIS?"  I highly, highly recommend this book for both introverts and extroverts who are struggling to understand their introverted counterparts (such as Newly Married To Me Derek, who could not understand why our early marriage arguments took the format of- Derek:  Makes a point/ Kristy:  Stands silently for 90 seconds before making her point/ Derek:  Volleys his counter-argument back immediately/ Kristy:  Stands silently for 90 seconds before making her point/ Derek:  Quickly states another point/ Kristy:  Yet again stands silently for 90 seconds before speaking, while Derek seethes in frustration because he does not understand that Kristy has to think and think and think about every possible angle before she will utter a single word.  This is difficult for quick-thinking, rapid-fire response, extremely extroverted Derek).



via Hyperbole and a Half


via Cyanide and Happiness

I meant to just include one Introversion cartoon, but I found so many funny ones.  Just like I meant to post a short, glowing review of the book.  How did you even make it this far?  This was the longest post ever.  Take the rest of the day off.  You're done.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Four Books

It's rainy and cool out today, which means it's the perfect weather to talk about books.

[Note:  Other perfect types of weather for book discussions:  Snowy, windy, drizzly, sunny, cloudy, and stormy weather.  It is always The Right Time to talk about books.  Unless you want to stop talking and read instead.  In that case, you're excused with my blessing.]

Here are my most recent favorites:

Five Quarters of the Orange by Joanne Harris

Joanne Harris must be some kind of magician, because she somehow took a story about a distant, cold, possibly mentally ill mother and Nazis and haunting secrets set in WWII occupied France and made it loving and poignant and very, very readable.  It doesn't pretend to be the frolicsome Rainbow Brite of novels, yet it never feels unnecessarily dark.  I need to go back and read her previous book Chocolat because in my estimation, there are less than ten movies that I'm willing to watch over and over again; the film version of Chocolat is one of them.

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

Don Tillman is an Australian professor with a flourishing career, research he enjoys, and a few select friends, but he still feels something is missing:  a companion, specifically, a wife.  Because traditional spouse-finding means have been unsuccessful, he decided to do what comes naturally to him, and embarks on The Wife Project, where he takes a scientific approach to finding a mate.  Mr. Simsion is yet another authorial magician, as he somehow manages to take a protagonist whose disparate traits should make him utterly unlikable, but instead you feel compassion and sympathy and such strong affection for this man who surely, surely is on the autism spectrum (friends who have already read this book:  Don does have Asperger's, right?  I mean, Simsion never comes right out and says it, but all signs point to Asperger's, are we agreed?  Or is this another one of those instances where I'm like "Pretty crazy about Aberforth and his inappropriate affections for goats, huh?" and everyone looks at me like I have finally once and for all lost my mind.  And if you don't know what I'm referring to, then you need to read the Harry Potter series again so we can discuss this ad nauseam).

The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa

I've recommended this book to two friends so far: one who is one of those (lovely) freaks who likes numbers and reading; and another who says she loves to read, but just doesn't have the time.  She requested a recommendation for a book that was:  short, relatively clean, not too depressing, but not too brainless, either.  This was the book I suggested for her, a story set in Japan of a housekeeper who goes to work for a mathematics professor/savant whose memory can only retain the most recent 80 minutes, and the relationship this housekeeper and her young son develop with the mathematician despite the fact that every morning, it's like he's meeting them for the first time.  Charming and thought-provoking.

An Otis Christmas written and illustrated by Loren Long

Yes, this is a children's picture book, but I couldn't leave out the book that I wept through while trying to read it to a bemused Caedmon yesterday morning.
We love the Otis the Tractor books, but this one was new to me, and I obviously wasn't ready for the drama and wonder of a pregnant mare in danger of losing her foal on Christmas Eve and Otis learning that the most important thing about Christmas isn't gifts at all.  (Oh boy.  Here we go again.)
The illustrations are beautiful and endearing, the story itself is a delightful punch to the ventricles.  I just love this book.  

Monday, September 22, 2014

Crazy Packed Social Fun Exhausting Weekend

It's Monday, which means we survived the birthday weekend.

We are not, by any means, extravagant birthday-celebrators.  I mean, we like birthdays, we don't have any kind of moral objection to the celebration of dates of birth.  It's just that Derek is very, very practical and I am very, very prone to freaking out when forced to spend too much time around my fellow homo sapiens.  Or any time at all around large quantities of the same.

The following is why I almost didn't even answer the door for our kindly mailman this afternoon because I just could not do one more interaction with one more person:


  • Went for a ten-mile run.  Didn't die.  In fact, I believe this close to two-hour period of solitude to be the reason no one died by my hands over the weekend.

  • Came home.  Derek went to gym.  Cleaned self.  Cleaned house.  Cleaned children.  Went the tiniest bit ballistic five minutes before our family left the house to begin super-social-time at the thought of prolonged period of super-social-expectations.  Derek remained calm while I was losing my mind.  This is why crazy people should always trick sane people into marrying them.  
This was me, except for the tiny part about me being one million times less likable than Chris Farley.

  • Met Derek's parents, his sister, and her two girls at the birthday restaurant of Caedmon's choosing.

The above photo shows Caedmon hiding in his Grandma's lap while the restaurant staff sing "Happy Birthday" to him.  Unfortunately society frowns upon this kind of practice when you're an adult, or I can think of two very specific occasions when I, too, would have ducked under the table.  Soak it up while it's still considered cute, my son.  And lest you think we were forcing this upon him, he was okay with the whole thing until it actually started happening.  Like surprise parties and Pomeranians, the idea is much better than the reality.

  • Went to church carnival.  It is possible that I whimpered when I saw the parking lot was full as we were pulling in.  

Adelaide and I both enjoy snakes, and this one was a beaut.  She had no problem petting the snake, but the thought of hugging the ISU mascot Cy was too much for her:

Caedmon hugging Cy.

Atticus hugging Cy.

Derek's dad, the ISU alumnus, going right past a hug and straight for the lap.  Caedmon could not get over the sight of his Papa sitting on someone's lap.

  • Attended an Iowa State volleyball game.

After lunch out and two hours at the carnival, the birthday boy was plum tuckered.  He still naps every afternoon, so it was less than astonishing when he slept through most of the volleyball game.

Four years old is still young enough to sleep on my lap.  Phew.

Others in our party were more enthusiastic.

Then we all parted ways, our fivesome returning home to more or less collapse.  


That's right.  It's not over.

I managed to keep it together most of this day, in no small part because I've been reading the parenting book Fit to Burst, where the author says things like, "You don't get to lose it because you're the adult.  Now act like it," except more lovingly.  I would, however, like to posit that because the author has six young children she is more than likely completely loony tunes, so why I'm following her advice is beyond me.  Except that it has been helpful.  I'm really liking the book, Adelaide loves it and is almost done.  Because of course she is.

  • Church.  There were a million people there.  Or close to that.  Yet I still didn't lose it.  Someone get me a medal.  And a package of Oreos.  STAT.

  • Small, tasteful family celebration on Caedmon's actual fourth birthday.
Come into my loving arms, cake.  

Derek nonchalantly placed Caedmon's birthday gift next to his own plate to see if Caedmon would notice.  Batman was on the box.  Caedmon noticed.

A glow-in-the-dark Batman watch- just the thing for our budding superhero.  We bought it months ago, and Derek really was supremely sneaky about purchasing it as we were all together at the store, but Cade is frighteningly observant and never forgets anything, which spells trouble for me as a mother.  Derek commented in half-exasperation that our youngest should be a detective when Caedmon was like, "Oh, yeah, the Batman watch you got me a long time ago and I've known about this whole time."  Coupled with his extreme interest in bad guys and jails, I think he could go far in this field.  I doubt most police forces would let him wear a cape, though.  Bummer.

  • Honored my mental promise with myself and registered for the Des Moines half marathon.  I'm proud to say I did not vomit immediately after clicking "Confirm," but it was dicey there for a few minutes.  Stretching myself is a good, positive thing.  Right, friends?  Right?

  • Derek's parents came over and watched the kiddos so that we could attend a church thing.  Well, so that I could attend; Derek was going to be there no matter what, bossing people around.  To be fair, he does this in such a way that they believe they enjoy it and like it when he's the one doing the bossing.  It's like his magic power or something.

Finally we came home and thanked his parents profusely again for doing almost all of the above plus driving an hour each way twice in one weekend.  Then we collapsed.  Again.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Five Things Friday

  • Caedmon is turning four on Sunday.  I'm sure I'll be doing a squishy post all about him next week, but until then, I'll just share this:  His superhero obsession continues unabated, but he has decided that he is not, in fact, Batman.  He is now a superhero of his own design who operates under the alias "The Helper."  According to Caedmon, "The Helper" helps people who are in trouble by fighting bad guys and eating any food they can't finish by themselves.  

  • This book:

Oy.  It was fantastic.  More than fantastic; it was magical and clever and endearing and the ending made me gasp.  I mean that quite literally, my jaw dropped open and I took a swift and deep involuntary breath.  I loved it.  Reading about September in September was exactly what this September needed.  

  • Truth:

  • Running has been going suspiciously well this week.  My long run tomorrow is ten miles, and I've made a little deal with myself:  If I can get through that run without my ankle turning into a moody teenage girl on me, I'll sign up for the race.  The humidity is supposed to be right around 95% tomorrow morning.  Double-oy.

  • Mr. Bean and I both heartily wish you a Happy Weekend.
This is what I look like when I wave.  Waving is hard.

Monday, September 15, 2014

It's the 15th of Disconsolate!

Friends, today is the 15th, which means we are halfway through this cursed month.  We have survived two weeks of the horror that is September- surely we can get through two more.

I've never really understood why I loathe September so much.  It sounds nice; summer giving way to fall, cooler temperatures to refresh the heat-addled body, even the word Sep-tem-ber rolls off the tongue rather nicely.  But there is something about this month that leaves me dragging and cranky and in a dark mood.

I believed this to be a personal peculiarity along with things like preferring words made up of a quantity of letters that are divisible by three (12 is nice, 6 is okay, 9 is superb, so "resplendence" is fine, as is "comely," but "fantastic" is, well, fantastic)  and dill but never never never bread and butter pickles.  In the past couple years, however, I found on more and more websites and blogs written by those suffering from some form of mental illness or other that SEPTEMBER IS THE DEVIL.  It would seem that September rolls around and people are like, "Hello, thirty days-worth of upping my meds.  Welcome.  Please let me survive this one."

This is wonderful (9 letters!  Welcome into my head; I promise not to do the number thing in any more posts, even though I do it in my own brain more or less constantly "constantly" has twelve letters and is therefore somewhat worthy of notice I will stop now) because it's easy, if you spend any more than around one hour per week online to believe that the internet is no more or less than a writhing morass of spite.  Like anything else, this online world can be a force for good, if only to let you know that you are not alone in your distaste for the month of September.  Let's all start a campaign to change the name from "September" to something that will at least give us all fair warning, like, "Oh, look, it's almost Melancholy," or "Let's see, we're coming up on the last week of August, before you know it it'll be Doldrums."

And what about August?  I see nothing august about August; it's all sweaty and lethargic.  Let's change that one, too.

Anyway.  Thankfully, the brand-spankin'-new fancy library opened up in the nearby Big Town, so all the books I'd been reserving online were finally available.  So rather than What I've Been and/or Am Currently Reading, here's What I'm About To Read and Am Super Duper Excited About Despite The Fact That It's September.

First of all, "Circumnavigated," 15 letters, I am dying.  In a good way.  This book was recommended by one of my favorite authors, and although the title alone cries out that this, THIS is a book worth reading, the subtitle of Chapter 1 reads: "Exeunt on a Leopard: In Which a Girl Named September Is Spirited Off by Means of a Leopard, Learns the Rules of Fairyland, and Solves a Puzzle."  

First of all, I wrote the above September diatribe before I cracked the spine of this book and learned that THE PROTAGONIST'S NAME IS SEPTEMBER.  Maybe this will help me learn to love this month; after all, some of my favorite people were born in September: my dear friend Amanda, Derek's mom, the sweet, sweet boy who shows up a couple photos down.  I'm excited about this book.

This book has been recommended by so many superior introverts, I'm not sure why it's taken me so long to pick it up.  They've all spoken of its insight and importance, but I'm still not entirely sure what to expect of a 266-page nonfiction book on introversion.  I mean, I'm obviously an introvert, myself, so... what is she going to tell me?  Hopefully all kinds of thought-provoking and helpful wisdom.  We'll see.  

I read Ms. Jankovic's first book, Loving the Little Years, a couple years ago, and so enjoyed her wit and practical thoughts about parenting in a compassionate, grace-filled way, I determined I'd read this one just as soon as I finished all the other books I wanted to read.  (Hardy.  Har.  Har.)  Then I forgot about it and it only just flashed back across my mind a week ago, which may or may not have been God's doing; after the night-terror-laden, sleepless night we had last night, I could really do with a little, 120-page reminder that mothering is something I get to do, not a chore or obstacle to the rest of my life.  Kind of a heavy burden to put on such a tiny book, but we'll see how she does.

On the right, Love Walked In by Marisa de los Santos, on the left, my own piece of September-born joy.

This book was recommended by Jen Hatmaker, which means I have to read it.  Okay, so not really, but when she recently posted lists of her favorite books, I looked at the ones I hadn't yet read, and the blurb on this one jumped out at me as something lovely and helpful at smoothing me through this month.  

On the right, An Altar in the World by Barbara Brown Taylor, on the left, the boy who finally discovered I was taking pictures.

I have had two friends in the past month say to me, "HOW HAVE YOU NOT READ BARBARA BROWN TAYLOR?" and I've been like, "I've been reading, you know, other stuff," and then they said variations on WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU and YOU CALL YOURSELF A READER and then I got all huffy and almost decided not to ever read anything by Ms. Taylor because I am, at times, just the teensiest (9 letters!) bit obstinate (9 letters!), but then I got over myself and reserved it at the library.  I'm very curious about this one, as I didn't allow myself to read a single thing about the book or the author.  No preconceived notions or expectations whatsoever, except that I am apparently a terrible, half-imbecilic person for not having read her work already.  Whatever, friends.

How is September treating you?

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Me, Me, Me, Me, Caedmon

The words, I cannot put them together.  Here are some fun little gifs to get you through your Thursday instead.


Right after I put the kids to bed at night:

Hearing those same children begin to stir at the end of naptime:

Watching the mutilated film adaption of a beloved book:

In anticipation of tonight's run (the first in a WEEK):

And Caedmon...

In anticipation of going golfing with Derek tonight:

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Adelaide Problems

Adelaide, our resident third grade cranky old lady, speaks in Caps a lot.  Brace yourselves.  

  • "School was pretty good but Music was HORRIBLE today because I had to dance with that SAME BOY, and he kept, like, WIPING the excess SALIVA from his MOUTH, then using that SAME HAND to hold MY hand for the dance.  IT WAS ABSOLUTELY DISGUSTING.

  • "I do not understand WHY they can't keep an UNABRIDGED VERSION of Little Women in the kids' section of the library.  NOT ALL OF US ARE SATISFIED WITH SUMMARIES."  


  • "Science is SO MUCH BETTER THIS YEAR.  I mean, I always liked it, but they'd just teach us things like, 'The material coming out of an erupting volcano is called lava,' and I'm like I ALREADY KNOW THAT, but THIS YEAR we get to dissect an owl pellet and try to put the bones of the mouse in it back together into a complete skeleton.  THAT IS SO COOL."  

  • "Guess what, Mom?  GUESS WHAT?  This year, we get to bring BOOKS out to recess!  I GET TO READ AT RECESS!"  *Does a happy dance*

  • "Mom, do you want to hear about my invention?  It's called a PuroPaxThyr [Pure Peace Shield in Latin, according to her- be gentle, my doves, she's 8 and new to the foundation for all romance languages], and it's this shield that can be inserted into your brain, and when you're thinking GOOD thoughts, these RAYS send them out to the person next to you, but when you're sitting next to a bully, the shield blocks ANY ATTEMPTS AT BULLYING from penetrating your brain."  (U.S. Patent Pending, OBVIOUSLY.)

Saturday, September 6, 2014


I love words and stories and ideas as much as the next person who reads too much, but sometimes the physical, something tangible you can hold in your hands, is good too.

Proof that my mother loves me:

Not that I ever doubted, or anything, but really, nothing says love like a Harry Potter rice pack, right?  Soothes a sore back, headaches, and a hurting stomach, plus it's MAGIC (you can tell by those little white star things printed all over the fabric- that's like, HP 101, tenderfoot).  Don't worry, she didn't leave any houses out:

Slytherin's on the back- or front, depending on how you feel about Slytherin

 Proof that fall is coming:

My favorite bulb catalog!  I've already got my eye on a bunch of crocuses, but am having a really tough time deciding on colors for next year's tulips.  It's been plaguing me for days now.  My life is so hard.

Proof that there are major benefits to children growing older:

Adelaide made these loaves of zucchini bread this morning.  You know what I did?  Grated the zucchini.  The end.  She did the rest.  Hallelujah.

Proof that Atticus leads a rough existence right now:

A week and a half after the initial incident, and the bridge of his nose is still swollen, but the bruising is better, and although it's hard to see in this photo, his lips are a mess.  Poor kid.

Proof that good can come of bad:

When I got back from our Labor Day travels, I walked into the backyard and found the giant sunflower tree-like thing had been felled by the previous night's storm.  A bit of a shame, but it's been keeping us in lovely cut flowers for our table ever since:

Proof that even gorgeous seed packets can't always be trusted:

Remember this?

This is what resulted:

Every single flower from those seeds has been this lovely shade of red and had exactly 50% of the petals it should have.  Pretty and unusual, to be sure, but not what was advertised.

Proof that our children are about 72% sweeter when they're asleep (let's not ponder too long about what this might mean, hmm?):

Cade and Adelaide slept on a bed of quilts on the floor at my grandparents' house.  I tried to disentangle Caedmon's fingers from his sister's hair, but even in sleep he was firm:  One set of fingers belonged in his mouth, the other in Adelaide's hair.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Things I Don't Understand

  • Why Litographs doesn't have a poster for To Kill a Mockingbird.  I know exactly where I'd put it:  right *there,* on the blank stretch of wall I'm looking at.  You're just going to have to trust me on this one, that non-existent poster would look perfect on this wall you can't see.  I keep trying to talk myself out of buying the prints for Leaves of Grass or Walden or Wuthering Heights, because I want to hold out for my very, very favorite.  How am I supposed to resist having the entire text of a book printed on a beautiful graphic that could hang on our wall, though?  How?

  • The incredible, inspiring, humbling attitude of the woman writing this post on cancer and bravery and Jesus.  I have an injured ankle that may or may not take me out of a race, not my life, and I'm not so much, "I'm praying I would meet bald again and forever with joy.  I'm praying I would not stop looking for grace.  I'm praying I live well and with kindness when it's painful," as "WHY DO BAD THINGS HAPPEN TO GOOD PEOPLE?"  Honestly, you're all lucky I've more or less shackled myself to this house.  My head is currently an insufferable place to reside, and it's starting to leak into my voice and even this post.  Looks like I need to read that post again and quit feeling sorry for myself, for the love.

  • The Krebs Cycle.  I missed it when it was introduced in high school science, somehow didn't study for it for the test, and therefore got all its related questions wrong, which still rankles.  When they brought it up in whatever college course that was, some horrible and particularly pigheaded part of my brain decided that we just weren't ever going to learn this.  Even now, I could google it, but the Krebs Cycle has become this ridiculous thing that I'm aware I should know about but have actively decided to eschew.  Please don't ask me to make any sense of this, because there is none to be made.  

  • Why this face has to live so far from mine:

Not to mention this one:
Vada the Boss

And this one:
Happy Elliot

And that one on the left.
Charlotte and Adelaide

On the other hand, the one on the right is mine, all mine.  I'll take that any day of the week and twice on Sundays.