Friday, October 31, 2014

Three Costumes, One Halloween

It's that time again, friends: That magical holiday that, more than any other, brings out my desire to be proclaimed the Cheapest of Them All.

Yes.  It's Halloween.

For whatever reason, last night was our little town's night to Trick or Treat (also known as "Beggar's Night" 'round these parts- I do not remember this label from my childhood.  Is this an Iowa thing?  An upper midwest thing?  A thing they don't do only in southern Kansas?  What say you?), which actually worked out rather well, as tonight- Halloween night- is supposed to be cold and windy and really rather miserable for walking around with small whiney-ish children.

That means it's time for- duh, duh-duh DAAAAH!- our Annual Cheap Halloween Costume Round-Up!

Adelaide's costume took me zero time to execute, as we already owned all its incipient components.

Child:  Adelaide
Costume:  Vikings Fan
Materials:  One of Derek's old Vikings jerseys, one of Derek's old Vikings stocking caps, and stickers meant to look like those black marks football players put under their eyes.  I obviously don't know what they're actually called, but we already owned those, too; they were the souvenirs we picked up for the kids on our recent trip to Minnesota.
Pros:  Easy.  Fast.  Made from materials we already had in the house.  Warm.
Cons:  None that I could see.
Total cost:  $0

Caedmon decided to be Batman (exactly zero people keeled over in shock when they learned this).  For the record, I offered to finagle some sort of Batman- costume out of clothing he already had, but he was adamant:  He wanted to wear the hole-y, worn, nearly too small Batman jammies he got a year ago for his birthday.  We compromised (read:  I cruelly imposed my will upon our poor, abused son) and he wore regular pants with the pajama top, as I didn't believe his four-year-old bum needed to be exposed to the October evening air via the aforementioned holes.  After I had broken his spirit, however, it was relatively easy to force him to wear another shirt under the Batman top for warmth.


Child:  Caedmon
Costume:  Batman
Materials:  Batman Pajama top, t-shirt cape I made last summer, Batman mask-glasses-thing borrowed from a friend (thanks, Shayla!), Batarang that I think was a kid's meal toy or something, toy sword we already owned which he insisted on carrying despite Atticus's stance that a sword is not, in fact, part of Batman's arsenal, random belt he pulled from my drawer for holding that sword.
Pros:  Easy, fast, warm, Caedmon was pleased with it, we already owned all the pieces except the one that was kindly loaned to us, plus Cade can make just about anything cute.
Cons:  It looked like a costume that had been thrown together from disparate elements, probably because that's exactly what it was.
Total cost:  $0.

I mentioned a couple weeks ago that I was afraid Atticus's costume was going to turn into Robin Hood in Drag, and never was this fear so real than yesterday when dressing him in all the random items of clothing I'd dug out of my scrap fabric bin, hoping enough green and brown layers would magically turn him into a robs-from-the-rich, gives-to-the-poor woodsman.  Mercifully, by the time I'd added all the little accessories, it ended up working rather well, although there was a bad moment when Atticus was freaking out a little about wearing his sister's leggings; he had no pants that I deemed worthy of the rest of the costume, but it turns out six-year-old boys care very little about whether or not their pants "go" with the effect their mother is trying to achieve.  I did some very fast talking about how Robin Hood lived in the woods and needed lots of layers of clothing to keep warm and all these (um, women's) clothes were exactly the type of thing Robin Hood surely wore.  He, thankfully, believed this claptrap.

Child:  Atticus
Costume:  Robin Hood
Materials:  Green Goodwill sweater I bought years ago for some long-abandoned craft, black leggings of Adelaide's, brown cardigan that was once mine, but which the, uh, washer shrank (yes, that's why it's too small now... the washer did it), but I couldn't bear to get rid of because I still loved the fabric; for the costume I cut the sleeves off to make a vest, then took the sleeves and pulled them on over Atticus's feet to partially cover his tennis shoes and further the scrappy-woodsy look, tan cord randomly wrapped around sleeve-leg warmer-things, left over from another long ago craft project, braided belt of mine I bought at a garage sale for $0.50 a couple summers ago, paper towel tube for quiver to hold (broken) arrows, leftover felt rubber banded on the bottom, twine threaded through to wrap around Robin, hat sewn by me via this helpful tutorial, although I had to use more felt than it called for, as our children have large adult-sized heads, feather in hat hurriedly cut by me out of paper ten minutes before we left and pinned to hat, bow and arrows a past birthday present, broken sword also a past gift.  Whew.
Pros:  Cute as a button.  Already owned everything but two of the three pieces of felt needed for hat.  Warm.
Cons:  Took me around 30 minutes to make the hat, then another ten whole minutes to put the outfit together, five minutes more than the other two children's costumes.
Total cost:  $0.54 for the two pieces of felt.

Candy was gathered.  Cute children were observed.  Trick or treating done in one hour, both boys asleep within another thirty minutes, Adelaide off to bed after stern warnings to both parents not to eat her M&M's.

I'm going to declare this a successful Halloween Most Frugal, so I can get on with the important business of stealing our children's candy.  

Home again, home again

Thursday, October 30, 2014

And Then I Accidentally Set Myself On Fire

Last night I was doing my usual supper prep tango, the back and forth from the stove to the sink to the counter to the stove, stepping over children and crayons and homework, just me making a giant tray of loaded nachos, when I smelled something burning.

I shuffled back over to the stove to see if some kind of food had fallen too close to the flame, but that wasn't it.  What the heck was creating that smokey smell?

Oh!  It was me!  My clothes were on fire!  What was my first clue, you ask?  Only the flames dancing in my face, licking their way up my scarf.

I shrieked, told Atticus to GET BACK GET AWAY I'M ON FIRE HERE, slopped some of the boiling water from the pot I was holding onto the floor, finally got myself together, man, heaved the pot in the sink, yanked the scarf from my neck, and threw it, flaming, to the floor.

I did a quick check to make sure nothing else was en fuego- sweater, hair, flesh- but I was mercifully fire- and burn-free.  It was then pretty quick work to put out the pretty little fire eating away at my scarf on the kitchen floor, suppressing the errant cinders hopping onto the rug in front of our sink.

An hour later I couldn't figure out why I still smelled smoke everywhere I went in the house, 'til I took a sniff and a close look at the collar of my sweater; the fabric was melted and scorched on either side of my face.

Let this be a message to all you hippies out there:  SYNTHETIC FIBERS SAVE MAYBE NOT LIVES BUT DEFINITELY FACES.  And the bonus is that my unflinchingly shapeless and unflattering but oh, so warm sweater now gives me that cozy campfire smell whenever I don it, Mr. Rogers-style, moments after walking in the door.  I should have set myself on fire months ago.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

A Coffee Timeline

September 30th:  Drink coffee.  So good.

October 1st:  Drink coffee.  Mmm.

October 2nd:  Drink coffee.  Southern butter pecan creamer, you complete me.

October 3rd:  Drink coffee.  Feel a tiny niggle of... something... deep in the recesses of my brain.

October 4th:  Drink coffee.  Ah, yes.  I know what that is:  Paranoia.  Hello, old chum.

October 5th:  Drink coffee.  Dismiss paranoia and its associated nonsense regarding my coffee.

October 6th:  Drink coffee.  Attempt to dismiss paranoia.  Stare distrustfully into my coffee cup.

October 7th:  Drink half a cup of coffee.  Upgrade paranoia to suspicion.

October 8th:  Do a google search.  Find this article, begin to roll my eyes, believing it to be yet another "All your food is evil and also chemicals" post (newsflash, internet:  EVERYTHING is chemicals), but its source is an NPR interview.  Confirm I have been drinking essence of cockroach.

October 9th:  Discover this handy/terrifying chart illustrating how much ground insect the FDA allows in ground coffee.  Retch.

October 10th:  Buy bag of whole coffee beans.  Use canny little mini-blender thing I got for Christmas last year but have never used.  It has a grinding blade!  It's a (10 month overdue) Christmas miracle!

October 11th:  Drink coffee.  Yes to the creamer but hold the cockroaches, please.

Oh, that?  That's just a teensy piece of roach carapace, daughter mine.  Drinky, drinky.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Do You See What I See?

Today we're going to do that thing they do in movies where they show a shot of one invariably sad/brooding/pensive character staring at some celestial body or other, cut to a shot of the moon/stars/whatever, then cut to a shot of another character staring at the same sky, suggesting they're connected in some way, even when apart.  It'll be like you're right here with me in central Iowa just by forcibly looking at the same things I'm looking at.  Or something.

The view out our front door:

Leaves that I should probably rake up or mow over, but why the heck should I?  They're just too pretty.

The view when I wake Cade up from naptime:

I found these next to our sleeping four-year-old, and when I asked him what exactly happened to his sister's purloined Lip Smackers, he yawned and nonchalantly told me, "Oh, I ate them."  Right.

The view of our kitchen today:

Both the boys are now sick with whatever gunk Adelaide had, and they'll play with their usual vigor and energy until they collapse.  Then they'll play again, hunting for bad guys or fighting dust motes, then collapse.  Then draw and color in treasure maps to roll up and tuck into their belts, then collapse, because evidently even coloring will drain it right out of you when you're sick.  I keep finding them lying in odd places around the house and yard.  It's somewhat disconcerting.  

The view of me most mornings at home:

The morning after the half marathon, I was tidying up around the house, mostly trying to keep moving so my entire body didn't stiffen up and go all Petrificus Totalus on me when Caedmon asked me to kneel down to his level.  With great solemnity, he placed my finisher's medal from the race around my neck, then went back to playing.  I wore it for the next couple hours over my jammies while getting household stuff done- I mean, I already had it on, okay, and I wouldn't dare risk offending our youngest child, and it did lend a certain air of accomplishment to my highly important dusting of the blinds and reading of the picture books.  Cade, for his part, was tickled I'd left it on, and we've gone through a makeshift awards ceremony almost every morning since.  

The view of my garden's last offerings of the season:

Gourds.  Gourds coming out of my ears.  I had already foisted at least half of them upon unsuspecting friends, and this is what I'm left with, plus a few more I just found hiding among the weeds a couple days ago.  I ended up dumping most of them on the front porch, because Lord knows I needed some kind of color on there, what with the demon squirrels constantly uprooting all the ornamental kale I tried growing in my containers.  THERE ARE NO NUTS IN MY FLOWER POTS, SQUIRRELS.  TAKE YOUR DIRTY PAWS ELSEWHERE.  YOU'RE RATS WITH FANCY TAILS.  GOD REGRETS YOUR CREATION.

The view of our piano-top:

More late-season garden produce:  Ornamental eggplant!  Gracious.  Remember when the lovelies in the above two photos were just tiny little egg carton sprouts?

They just grow so fast!  *sob*

Monday, October 27, 2014

Today We're Going to Talk About Gross Medical Stuff

After three weeks of on-again-off-again high fevers, achey-ness, headaches, and other fun, Adelaide is finally feeling better.

The fact that it took me three weeks to take her the doctor's office should probably cause me more mother-guilt, but the fact is, it takes a whole heck of a lot more to induce said mother-guilt than it did just two short years ago.  Whether this is because I've realized the best mothers I know also screw up constantly or because I've just become astonishingly good at shrugging my shoulders, I don't know.  What I do know is that when I realized Adelaide had been sick for three full weeks, I decided that, sure, I guess, I can take our only daughter in to the see a medical professional.  You know, for a lark.

The diagnosis was one bacterial infection that piggy-backed on top of the initial virus.  Antibiotic prescribed, prescription filled and picked up (say it with me, now:  $4 Rx's are the BEST), and 48 hours later, our daughter stopped her near constant litany of tears and moaning and I don't FEEL well's (what's that, you say?  Sounds like I should have taken her in earlier?  Please see the above paragraph and go ahead and imagine me shrugging my shoulders.  Also building character in our offspring and stuff), is back to constant chatter and charming interrogations.

One of the (many) reasons I didn't take her to the doc sooner is that, see, we were just there a couple weeks ago.  No, it wasn't for Adelaide, and no, it wasn't because someone was sick, but really, I had just been there.  No need to go back for quite some time.  (Please don't try to make sense of this.  There is none to be made.)  That initial trip was because Caedmon had gotten another giant splinter in the sole of his foot, and because this time he was gracious enough to do it on a weekday during our doctor's office's normal operating hours, I was able to take him in to have a medical professional perform the extraction, rather than me rooting around in his skin for an hour and a half while Derek held him down.  This way was much better, as it only took ten sweaty minutes of flesh-digging by the PA while the nurse held his leg and I held the rest of him (don't kid yourself, 4-year-olds are strong).  (Also, sorry to Derek's mom for the words "flesh-digging," I can just see her blanching now, as opposed to my mother, who is probably reading this going, "Mmm, flesh-digging, my favorite."  And now I've managed to further gross Becky out by typing "flesh-digging" four times and made my very nice, excellent nurse-mother sound like Nurse Ratched does Night of the Living Dead.  That one's my bad.)

(Oh, but a quick aside to Becky and anyone else squeamish who might ever be tempted to randomly scroll through the photos on my mom's phone or camera, hoping for cute grandchild photos:  Just Say No.  Well, unless you have a jonesing for pus and boils and inflamed skin and other head-scratchers more suited for a Victorian Oddities Museum.  Or if you're one of those people who continues to harbor the notion that school nurses sit in their offices reading books until some poor poppet stops by with an owie.  Then BY ALL MEANS, look at her phone.  Also ask her for the story about that time a kid sliced their finger off in a locker.  It's a doozy.)

Aaaanyway.  We're all more or less healthy now, although both the boys are now overdue for their yearly check-ups.  Whatever, shrugging my shoulders, I'll get to it when I get to it.  Probably.


Friday, October 24, 2014

5 Recipes (DON'T WORRY; They're Not Mine)

I'm not sure what statement strikes the most terror in our children's hearts, but I know this one has got to be in the top ten, easily:


Now, first of all, come on, children.  JUST COME ON.  I cannot stress how not-scary the food I make for this family is.  Do you know how many times I've tried to sneak things like mushrooms or escargot or backyard rabbit into their meals?  Zero.  Zero times.  I get being a bit picky; I have a serious aversion to cream-of-anything blobs from a can, and if my mom tries to tell me that sugar-free jelly tastes just like the real thing one more time, I'm having her committed.  (Tastes like I licked the inside of a beaker in Chem 120, Mom.  A strawberry-flavored beaker.)  But I cannot eat Lazy Beef Lasagna and Sour Cream Noodle Bake (which are basically the same recipe but with different spices) every night of the week like certain ungrateful underage heathens currently residing in this house.  Sometimes you just have to try a new recipe.  Or five.  In the space of a week.

So, it's entirely possible I brought this whole thing on myself.

I liked almost all of the new recipes.  Derek only once droned, "I love everything you cook," which is his nice way of saying This food is the worst.  Where's the sour cream noodle bake?  

Here's what I've been subjecting our family to, so you, too, can torture your own ungrateful loved ones:

  • PW's Chicken Pot Pie.  I had forgotten all about chicken pot pie until my sister made a rather bitter comment recently about how she loved this dish growing up but never got to eat it just because her picky older sister hated it.  I decided I'd try making it for myself, because sometimes food you didn't like as a kid is less scary once you can see for yourself what all the ingredients are, in addition to controlling what exactly goes into it.  Well.  It was delicious.  Derek and I both loved it, and it was possibly even better heated up for lunch the next day.  I'm also not sure why I've been so intimidated by PW's homemade crust; that thing was easy as pie (THAT'S RIGHT.  I WENT THERE).  There's also a delicious kind of irony to loving something now that my sister couldn't have because I wouldn't eat it as a child.  (Really, for the most part I've given up my life of younger-sister torture, but sometimes... well, sometimes you just can't help yourself.  Love you, Kelli!)

  • PW's Hamburger Soup.  I liked this.  Derek liked it.  One of the kids liked it, but I really can't be expected to remember which kid likes which thing anymore (don't you judge me).  None of us just really, really loved it.  I liked that it had a lot of veggies in it, and is really pretty easy to throw together, although it took longer than her supposed prep time, probably because there was a lot of chopping and I'm rather attached to all eight of my fingers and both my thumbs.  I'm selfish that way.  I'd halve the recipe next time; if it were something all three kids loved I'd need the whole recipe, but as it was I had a ton of leftovers.  Good for the impending cold weather.

  • PW's Cajun Chicken Pasta.  Now, this, THIS I loved.  I was pretty much the only one, though.  Derek ate it and said it was fine, none of the kids cared much for it, although Adelaide really liked the chicken in it.  I do think next time I'll cook the chicken the same way but omit the pasta and double the veggies to make my very own perfect meal that will keep me in lunch leftovers all week.  Even this first way, though, I had it for supper Saturday night, lunch and supper Sunday, then lunch again on Monday and still wasn't sick of it.  I only stopped because I ran out of the chicken and veggies and was left with a big container of noodles.  I can't wait to make this again with my adjustments.

  • Foodie Bride's Slow Cooker Honey Chipotle Chicken Enchiladas.  This was super easy and super flavorful.  My family all did this adorable thing where they acted like their mouths were on fire after one tiny chipotle pepper in adobo sauce-bite, and everyone scrambled for milk and yogurt.  I thought the heat was fine, but then, I love spicy food.  I almost never cook it for the fam because this is how they react, and as a result, their heat threshold is depressingly low.  Derek admitted it had good flavor, was just a bit spicy for him, the kids all acted like I was trying to kill them through their mouth-holes.  I thought it was very tasty both for supper and left over for lunch.

  • Foodie Bride's Mojo-Brined Chicken.  Now, listen, my people.  If you're going to make one recipe on this list, make this one.  And just in case you've lost interest in this post and are only skimming the remainder, I'll put it in caps to catch your attention:  THIS IS THE ONE YOU MAKE.  It's an easy and quick brine that will render your grilled chicken so juicy and full of divine flavor that you'll give thanks to God for delivering you from the bland, dry chicken wilderness you've been slogging through into the promised land of tasty, tasty poultry.  The end and amen.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

For My Next Half Marathon

Not that I'm definitely doing another one, you understand.

Things I would do differently:

  • Carry my inhaler while running.  Do I have allergies?  Yes.  Do I have asthma?  Yes.  Have I had asthma attacks before on runs?  Yes.  And yet, stupid, idiotic, imbecilic, insert-your-own-favorite-adjective-that-describes-a-complete-ignoramus ME didn't carry any of my two dozen inhalers.  I know why:  I haven't had a running-related attack for a couple months now, have never had an attack during one of my long runs, and took an allergy pill before I left the house, thinking that would be enough.  Oh, Lawdy, WAS I WRONG.  Right around mile two I could feel my lungs tightening up, and for the next four miles couldn't draw anything deeper than a very, very shallow breath.  This sucked.  I almost gave up and walked close to the beginning of the attack, but saw a lovely, lovely friend of mine standing on the sidelines who cheered wildly when I yelled her name and she saw me, and this helped carried me through.  I kept running, I did not walk.  I saw her again just as my demon lungs were opening up and begrudgingly letting some oxygen back into my system, and I felt so much better after my Lori/oxygen hit.  

  • Bring an allergy pill with me to the race, take it thirty minutes prior to start time.  I left the house so far in advance of the race, and was so nervous and, well, running so much, I believe I burned right through it, so it couldn't cover me through the whole two and a half hours I needed it to.

  • Try to enjoy the course and the running itself a bit more.  This is one I can keep in mind for next time, but I really don't think I could have done it this first time.  I was so overwhelmed with the thousands of runners around me, the crazy, intense (but positive) atmosphere surrounding the whole event, and my own jangling nerves I really don't remember a lot of the details of the race itself.  Somehow over two hours of running went by incredibly quickly.  

Things I would absolutely do the same:

  • Rely on my running guru the Magnificent Mindy for advice and my training plan.  I whined, she listened.  I freaked, she stayed calm.  I said, "I'm thinking about signing up for a half marathon," she said, "LET'S DO THIS.  Here's what you're gonna need."  I freaked out again, she bought me coffee.  I was one and a half miles into the actual race wondering what malevolent dissociative personality apparently lurking in some forgotten corner of my brain had signed me up for this, and there she was on the sideline, hugging me fiercely when I trotted over.  Running gurus for the win.

[I would just like for everyone to know that I wrote all of the above last night, and am now forcing myself to finish this post before I have a single cup of afternoon coffee, freshly ground and brewed and staring me right in the face over there on that kitchen counter.  I am a cruel, cruel task master.]

  • The half marathon training plan detailed in the book Train Like a Mother.  This is the book and the plan within its pages Mindy prescribed for me, and while I may not have stuck to the letter of its law every single day, I definitely stuck to its spirit, using it as a general guide.  The morning of the race I woke up, my brain decided that it was Crazy Time, and I convinced the part of me that was still waking up that I was not ready.  I had trained all wrong, all wrong.  This was going to be the worst morning of my life, and I had brought it all on myself.  Having ample past experience, I managed to beat back most of the Crazies by the time I was starting the actual race, but there were still some trace doubts floating around in there- until my asthma attack.  The fact that I was able to keep running through four miles of not even really being able to breathe- then run seven more good, faster miles after?  I chalk it all up to a great training plan that had me physically and mentally ready.  Well, that and God.

  • Ride down to the race with the Amazing Anne.  (If you haven't given all your friends alliterative mental nicknames, I don't know what's wrong with you.)  She's done all this racing stuff many times before, so she knew right where to park, had a loose pre-race routine in place, plus she's kind and funny and knowledgeable and fast.  Hoo.  We lined up together, knowing we weren't going to be running together, because, well, she is fast and I am slow and we are both okay with that, but man.  Seeing her take off was so fun; it's always enjoyable to see someone do something really well and with great proficiency, except for maybe this guy:

The six-fingered man:  Really good at torturing people.

  • Focus on the cheering crowds and their homemade encouraging signs.  Among my favorites:  "Run fast, you will:  May the 'course' be with you."  "You're doing all this for a free banana?"  1st person:  "Go, Becky!"  2nd person:  "Go, Karen!"  3rd person:  "Go, random stranger!"  "Worst. Parade. Ever."  [Terribly unflattering candid head shot of a shaved head Britney Spears] "If Britney can survive 2008, you can survive 13.1." "I bet this seemed like a much better idea three months ago."  Yes, many of the people were there to cheer on their loved ones, but they also didn't hesitate to cheer for every other runner who passed them.  The nicest people ever may be found on the sidelines of a marathon, I'm now convinced.  

I'll probably think of a bunch more over the coming weeks, but for now:  Coffee Time!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Big Fat Race Recap Tomorrow

I survived the race.  It was fun. It was challenging.  I don't know if I'll ever do another half-marathon, but I'm happy to have completed one at least once.

The end.

Oh.  Oh, ho ho.  You didn't think I was going to leave it at that, did you?  I am physically and mentally incapable (read:  just don't want to) of writing ten words when I could write a thousand.  The other day part of my Bible study homework read, "Read Whatever 7:77.  Write one word to describe this verse," and I was like, "I had no idea you hated me, Beth Moore.  GOOD TO KNOW."

I do have a long, overly wordy and detailed recap swirling around my brain, but I also have two sick kids in my house, one of whom has been sick for nigh on three weeks now, so my time for things like blogging has been more limited than usual. (My mental mantra for the past few sickly weeks during naptime, when I usually get me-stuff done but now have a high-maintenance sick daughter constantly at my side:  "I GUESS I JUST DON'T GET TO DO ANYTHING I LIKE ANYMORE.")  I'm going to try, try, and try some more to brain-vomit it all out onto the laptop tonight and tomorrow, hoping it just, I don't know, organizes itself into sentences with real live punctuation, preferably in English.

See you tomorrow.  Good luck making sense of whatever makes its way on here.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Halloblaaarghween *Updated*

Halloween is two weeks away.  Uuuuuggh.

I feel like I should be more excited about this, but when you live in a time and place where people think nothing of spending waaaay too much money on their kids' costumes (note: anything more than $10 TOTAL constitutes "too much" in my book, which practically guarantees our children are going to have those sad "my mom tried to get creative with a black trash bag and now I want to kill myself" looks), Halloween fills you more with dread than excitement.  

Adelaide is still undecided, costume-wise.  I keep killing her buzz with questions like, "So how exactly are you going to execute this coffee mug costume?" and "You do realize I'm not going to allow you to draw on your face with Sharpie, right?"

Atticus wants to be Robin Hood, but the only Robin Hood-ish costumes I've been able to come up with are made from my own brown and green clothing, so it'll be a battle to make sure he has a "robs from the rich to give to the poor" look and not a "I like to prance around the woods in women's clothing" Robin Hood in Drag look.  

As for Caedmon, I'm pretty sure he's going as a Communist, as all he likes to talk about anymore is working.  "Welp, I'm going to work," "No, mom, I'm working," "Mom, working is more important than anything."  I just won't feed him for the next two weeks and dress him in burlap for trick-or-treating.  On the plus side, he won't be able to complain when I divide his candy equally between each member of our family.

And real quick:  Nobody panic.  I'm not going to force our six-year-old into tights or starve our four-year-old.  I just need to get these negative Halloween feelings out so I can work on actual obviously-homemade costumes that our kids can proudly complain about for years to come.

I don't know how I'm going to top last year's four-dollar roasting pan and spray paint turtle costume, but I'm working on it.  I'm working on it.  (Heh.  I just looked, and Atticus is wearing my clothes in this photo, too.  Hrrmmmm...)

UPDATE:  I'VE GOT IT.  I'll just throw paint on the lot of them, and when people ask, "What are they?" I'll muster up as much disdain and superiority as I can and scathingly tell these obviously uncultured peasants that "It's ART," and if they look skeptical I'll string a bunch of nonsense phrases together relying heavily on words like "visceral" and "symbolism," plus I'll heave a bunch of huge sighs because true artists are never appreciated in their own time.  

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Mystery in the Cathedral

(Despite the sound of that title, I saw zero Nancy Drews in the Cathedral of St. Paul.)

Let me begin by saying this:  I am not Catholic.  I was not raised Catholic.  Yes, the pope and I are best one-sided friends, but there are many things I don't understand about Catholicism.

Like this:

Now.  Have there been times when, all other disciplinary measures having failed, I have sprayed water our on children, chanting, "THE POWER OF CHRIST COMPELS YOU!"?  But of course!  Sometimes the only thing that will do is a good old-fashioned exorcism.  I'm pretty sure I read that in The Happiest Baby on the Block.  

Seriously, though, sisters of mine, what on earth is this for?  Is this one of those things I didn't even knew I needed until I had it, like my bendable cutting mats or good, warm socks?  Is this for cooking the best, most pasta-y pasta this side of heaven?  Am I going to hell for joking about this?  

Fortunately I wasn't quite so befuddled by all the wonders contained within the Cathedral.  I may not go to the kind of church that houses massive statues of the doctor, but I still understand this one.  I think.

Not The Doctor, of course- Dr. Luke.  OH, OH, OH, UNLESS... no.  I have tip-toed uncomfortably close to blasphemy already in this post.  I will restrain myself from suggesting that the gospel writer Luke and Doctor Who are one and the same person.

It's true- we don't have any of this fun statuary in my church.  Or, hang on, whaddayoucall'em- shrines, I think.  Is that right, my Catholic brethren?  Shrines, correct?

Whatever they are, I enjoyed the heck out of them.  Partially because they were so beautiful, so impressive, but also because most contained elements I wouldn't have expected.  

Take the above photo- is that a pegasus there on the bottom right, next to Luke?  I don't really remember reading about a pegasus in the book of Luke, or in any of the gospels, to be perfectly honest, which is really a shame.  Was this a strange whim of the sculptor ("You know what this disciple needs?  More pegasi.")?  Or is this yet another mystifying Catholic thing?  Do you unlock the mystery of the pegasus when you're going through Catholic confirmation classes?  Because in the Lutheran ones the most mysterious thing ever discussed was the Office of the Keys, which, after nine years of Lutheran school and two years of Lutheran catechism classes, I still can't tell you exactly what that dang thing is.  It just sounds cool. 

My questions about this one were answered by the tour guide:

I took these photos before the guided tour, and I may or may not have discovered the unfortunately impressive acoustics in the Cathedral when I snorted aloud at this picture of Catholic story time:

"Goodnight light, and the red balloon."
I was taught during the tour that these are Saints Cyril and Methodias (don't ask me which one's which, they're like those identical twins you went to school with, where you could never quite remember if Mandy or Mindy was the one with long hair, except with beards here, I guess), as in the Cyrillic alphabet.  I've decided that until they name an entire alphabet and its associated language after me, I should probably forfeit the right to make fun of them.  This notion was followed by some pretty intense guilt, which they apparently pump right into the air in these places.

Unlike the rest of the shrines, however, I knew this guy the moment we made crazy-eyed contact:

Oh, John the Baptist, with your hair toga-thing and your steady diet of locusts.  


It's a little frustrating to look at these photos now, because they really don't give you any sense of the scale of this place.  It's massive, that dome up there soaring some 186 feet above the ground.  

It's the same with the stained glass.  The Cathedral's just dripping with it, but you're not experiencing the incredible play of light and color through them unless you're there.  

And while I may not be Catholic, I'm Lutheran enough to know that you don't just sashay up to the altar to walk your dirty little sinner's fingers all over everything, something a lady in our small tour group started to do, prompting two other women and I to audibly gasp and the kind elderly gentleman who was our tour guide to do a kind of, "UBUGUHGGG-D-D-DON'T GO UP THERE!  *Ahem* Excuse me, you are permitted to walk behind the screens to view the shrines, but please don't approach the altar."  It was a moment.

I just loved the whole thing- the beauty, the incredibly knowledgeable tour guide, the insane amount of detail, the shrines, all of it.  Makes me want to put stained glass in one of our windows, and maybe one of those bathtub shrines you bury in the dirt in our backyard.  Probably exactly what the architects of the Cathedral had in mind.  

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Six Years' Worth of Atticus

We interrupt the regularly scheduled St. Paul recap for this important announcement:

Atticus is six today.

See that little scrunchy-faced thing in my arms, still covered in vernix caseosa?  That would be our very own Atticus.

It's hard to believe that on this day, six years ago, Derek was taking me in to the hospital to be induced.  I was four days overdue, and the doctor was getting anxious to get the little guy out, worrying he was getting too big in utero.

They started the pitocin drip, we were assured we'd have a bouncing baby boy within a few hours, and everything was going swimmingly.

A few hours in, however, my contractions began to slow down.  They started saying alarming things about our baby's heartrate.  The words "emergency c-section" were mentioned.  

Our (wonderful, wonderful) OB (seriously, I've had three babies in three different states with three different obstetricians, and while I liked all three, Dr. H is the clear winner) had just finished updating us on what was going on and what might be happening soon, etc, etc, patted my arm, and was getting ready to walk away when he looked down and said, "Why is there a puddle right here?"

Well.  It turns out the nurse had accidentally detached my drip, so all that pitocin had been dripping out onto the floor instead of into my system, explaining the slowed contractions, along with everything else.

I was about 1% irritated and 99% super sympathetic for that poor nurse, who was clearly mortified and red-faced and quailing under the strong, disapproving and "WE'LL TALK ABOUT THIS LATER" gaze of Dr. H.  

They hooked me back up, everything sped back up, and within the hour we had ourselves an Atticus.  He weighed 9 pounds, which to me meant the doc was right, we did need to get him out before he went all Monstro on us and I had to deliver a giant (bad enough that just when I thought I was done the doctor said, "Okay, looks like you've got one of those whose shoulders are as big as their head, keep pushing,"), but to Derek he was still teeny (my husband was 11 lbs, 11 oz when he born, and I think was secretly hoping to have babies as big as he was, never mind that such a thing would surely have split me right in half).

Now we have this guy:

Also this guy:

And this one:

That thing on his forehead is a temporary tattoo that's begun to fade.  Because I'm the kind of mother who says, "Whatever," when he asks if he can put the tattoo on his face.

He loves golfing and riding his bike and building with legos.  He's the only kindergartener I know who was seemingly born with the gene for delayed gratification:  If he's offered a piece of candy, his first question will be if he can wait and eat it later.  If I say, "You can either have dessert now, or after supper," he will always choose after supper.  I thought I knew what all his favorite clothes were until recently, when he told me, "Mom, do you know why I always pick the clothes I don't like as much?  It's so I can wear my favorite shirts later, and they'll be clean if I need them on a different day."  He has a backpack full of suckers and other small rewards they hand out at school, and nothing seems to make him happier than quietly adding to his little stash.

He's incredibly physically affectionate.  He loves to be hugged and held and never wants to sit next to you so much as half-on you, a leg and an arm draped across your body.  He's friendly and laughs easily and makes friends quickly.  He's tall and skinny and so, so dear.

Five short years ago.  Gracious sakes.

You should really click to embiggen this one, because Atticus still stares adoringly at Derek in this exact same way.

Bless my stars.  You guys are lucky I can't access his baby pictures on this computer, or today would be a total wash.  It's not my fault I have a ridiculously cute son, okay?  A six year old son who woke up this morning and joyfully exclaimed, "I'm six!" at least a dozen times before he left for school.  

Oof.  Six.  Happy Birthday, Atticus!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Wednesday, Wednesday in St. Paul

Wednesday was rainy and cold, so I spent a comfortable morning scribbling blog posts in a notebook, working through a bible study (tell me friends:  Am I the only one who can't stand David?  I know it probably says something terrible about me, but I have a feeling if David and I were to enter an episode of Doctor Who and somehow co-exist within the same earthly timeline, we would loathe each other.  I'm suspicious of overly charming people- I feel like I'm being manipulated- and David does a number of seriously heinous things, realizes he's been a naughty, naughty David, and whines about it for the rest of eternity.  I decided to do this study because I was hoping it would change my long-held opinion about David.  So far, nope.), and reading bits and pieces of The City, An Altar in the World, and The Yiddish Policemen's Union.

Around 12:15 I finally got sick of myself and decided I need a little stimulation, so I went for a 45-minute walk through the St. Paul Skyway, where by minute 20 I had gotten all the stimulation I needed, but was by this point, of course, lost.  (HEY.  Those skyways are positively labyrinthine, not nearly as straightforward as the maps would have you believe.)

I did finally make it back to our hotel room, and vowed never to leave again.  Have I mentioned how much we loved our hotel?  WE LOVED OUR HOTEL.  It occupies three floors of a downtown St. Paul building constructed in 1917, and so much of the original ornate detail still exists in the lobby and select pockets of the building:

Just a slice of the view from the second floor balcony down into the lobby.  You can't even see the grand piano or the front desk.

As for our room, the parts you want to be tasteful and charming were, well, tasteful and charming, and the parts that you want to be just a teensy bit more modern (read:  shower, kitchenette, mattress, Keurig) were perfectly updated.

Hello, room.  I miss your big, original windows that actually open.  I miss your soft lighting from four separate lamps.  I miss your high ceilings and your two capacious built-in wardrobes and your complementary K-cups (replenished daily!) and your little tubs of flavored coffee creamer and the helpful nonjudgmental people working at the front desk who gave me all the extra creamer I could want.  Oh, and?  Every single room is different, which means we have no choice but to go back.  Our hands are tied.

Hello, big ol' bed with built-in drawers there at the bottom that you unfortunately can't see in this photo.

Yes, this bathroom was on the small side, but whomever it was that set up this little boutique hotel put all kinds of space-saving bits of genius all over.  

Plus, there's a little step-up to get into the (scrupulously clean) bathroom.

I don't know why I geek out over little steps and old doors.  I just do.

Two steps to get into the shower.  I didn't know what to do with myself.

Wardrobes are my love language.  Especially when they have waffle-weave hotel robes hanging inside.  Especially especially when the hangers holding onto those robes contain a (nicely) sarcastic little note informing you that if that robe somehow finds its way into your luggage when you leave, you can go ahead and have it for the bargain price of $75 a pop, or you can contact the front desk and they'll get one for you for a much more reasonable price.

You can see why we didn't want to leave.  Ever.  I'm sure we could have found a place to stuff the children.  I mean, there are two wardrobes.  Not mention free breakfast for hours and hours every morning.  I do believe all three of our kids would agree to a wardrobe for a bedroom in exchange for waffles every single day.  

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Tuesday, Tuesday in St. Paul

Tuesday was more productive.  I began the day with a bracing run, "bracing" being code for cold with a light sprinkle designed to chill that soon morphs into a driving rain.  I decided to treat this as a high adventure spectated by fellow rueful runners and the errant homeless who surely wondered at the fact that society views them as crazy.

Later that morning I embarked on a 3 1/2-hour walk that began with the Cathedral of St. Paul.

Magnificent.  Breath-taking.  A welcome sanctuary when you could do with a break from the hubbub of the city.

This is just one little piece of one wall.  It's not even one of the focal points of the cathedral; I just like beautiful stained glass.

I noted that there were free tours every afternoon, and determined I would return on a different day.  This means you will be subjected to far more photos and adjectives of the cathedral in a couple days.

After I wrestled my way out of the giant church (huge, heavy wooden doors vs me), I finally finally found my first bookstore.  It was charming and twisty and in the basement of a building that houses a cafe that sent down a steady stream of bewitching scents that has to be torturous for those working in the bookstore.  If I were running the place, I'd offer free books to anyone willing to bring me a treat from above any time they wandered down the stairs.  I'd also have to change the name of the shop from "Subtext" to "Lair of the 700-lb Broke Woman."  I'd get a AAA Diamond Rating in no time.

Next I hoofed it, and hoofed it, and hoofed some more, trying to reach Garrison Keillor's bookstore Common Goods.  On the way I stumbled upon an absolutely delightful bookstore by the name of Sixth Chamber Used Books.  It was stuffed to the ceiling with- spoiler alert- books, plus book-scented candles and t-shirts for an upcoming event titled Potterfest.  On a related note, I am moving to St. Paul for the sole purpose of attending this extravaganza.  Our children will understand.

After buying one lonely book (my restraint will go down through the ages) from the friendly and extremely knowledgeable staff (I may or may not enjoy subtly quizzing bookstore employees to see if they are worthy of their calling), I looked at the map and decided Keillor's bookstore just wasn't going to happen.  Woe!  My life is so hard!

That evening Derek and I dined at Cosetta's (thanks for the rec, Cheryl!), but whilst we were venturing back to our hotel, Derek noticed a steady stream of people heading toward a large performance hall- and not just any people; old people.  He insisted on investigating, because Derek knows that where there are large amounts of older people, there is often music or theater that young people are too stupid to appreciate.  My spousal bloodhound was rewarded when we discovered that the operatic baritone Nathan Gunn would be performing, accompanied by his likewise impressively accomplished wife, pianist Julie Jordan Gunn.  It was a lovely cap to a lovely day.  (Except for that lady two rows in front of us who spent the first 15 minutes of the second half flipping through photos on her iPhone.  It was incredibly distracting, and believe me, she was old enough to know better.  I promise, lady, 9 out of 10 doctors state that it is possible to go an hour and a half without looking at your phone with little to no side effects, aside from engaging in the world around you and not making your companions hate you.  YOU CAN DO IT.  I BELIEVE IN YOU.)

Don't worry, I didn't forget about the sassy sign- I mean, really, what's not to like about a city whose No Parking signs look like this:

Tomorrow:  Books and Getting Lost Again and a Hotel Room Tour, Oh My!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Monday, Monday in St. Paul

If you have some deep-seated latent objection to the state of Minnesota, the city of St. Paul, or aimless rambling about nothing, you are in the wrong place this week.  Consider yourself warned.

Monday was spent in this charming practice of mine where I have a destination but quickly become hopelessly lost, briskly walking along city streets not because I know were I am going, but merely because I am a fast walker.  All this ever does is get me lost in a hurry.  You'd think I would learn.  You might further surmise that I would stop and eat when I felt hungry, especially in a situation like this, where a brief respite with a sandwich and a map could possible solve the entire dilemma.  You would be wrong.  Why be smart and sated when I can be starving and irrational?  

For some completely addled reason I would instead plunge blindly ahead, blood sugar plummeting, sure that the bookstore is right around this corner- no?  Well, how about this one?  And so one for two hours where I accidentally got to know the streets of downtown St. Paul rather well, all without actually finding a bookstore or stopping for food.  I don't know what is wrong with me.  

Before my tumble down the rabbit hole I did enjoy a run along the Mississippi, where above the water I beheld the beginnings of the yearly chlorophyll exodus, turning the leaves such pretty warm colors, while my mind's eye constructed a rather more gruesome scene for what surely lurks beneath the surface of the water.  This is why I'm wary of large, naturally-occurring bodies of water.  I mean, I'll still swim in them, occasionally, but it's with the understanding that I'm cavorting in a brine of waste and death.  

Okay, so I seriously did enjoy our trip.  I'm not sure what just happened to this post.  I swear, Tuesday of St. Paul is cheerier:  Cathedrals!  Bookstores!  Sassy signs!  A decided lack of the decomposing stew that the yeomen refer to as "lakes"!

I miss you and your disturbing secrets, Mississippi river.

Note:  Two things about this post are driving me crazy; I'm going to share them with you for absolutely no good reason.  1)  It's not really a chlorophyll exodus, is it?  I mean, it's not like the existing chlorophyll in the leaves is departing, much less for a photosynthetic Promised Land.  And 2)  I referred to the fact that I've swam in lakes and rivers that I think of as a brine of waste and death, when, in fact, most of these were fresh water entities, and a brine is a salt water solution.  I considered going back and changing both of those erroneous terms, but I really just didn't feel like it.  Writing this completely extraneous paragraph is obviously a much better use of my time.  

Friday, October 3, 2014

"A Cry For Help Unless You're Busy In Which Case I'm Good"

A few months ago, Derek signed up for a work conference up in Minnesota.  Between then and last week, he would occasionally mention aloud about how it would be great if I were able to go with him, and I would agree, but we were already taking our big ten-year anniversary extravaganza trip to Charleston over the summer, so it just wasn't feasible.

Then about a week and a half ago, Derek decided that he would go ahead and ask his parents if they would maybe perhaps possibly be willing to come stay at our house for four days to watch the kids and all around hold down the fort, but hey, don't be afraid to say no, just thought I'd ask, not a big deal if you can't/don't want to/whatever.

Derek can do this because he is not afraid of asking for things.  His philosophy seems to be "you don't know if you don't ask," whereas I hate asking people for anything so much I could literally be on fire and would still shuffle timidly up to my closest friends and family to say, "Hey, I don't want to bother you, but the flesh seems to be melting off my bones, so if you were already going to get some water for yourself, maybe you could get a tiny bit for me, but I mean if you weren't then don't even worry about it, it's not that bad.  Actually, you know what, never mind, I'm completely fine!  No really, I'm good!"  My personal version of hell is asking people for references over and over for all eternity.  I feel nauseated just thinking about it.

Anyway, they said Yes!  Don't remember what I was talking about?  Neither do I!

Derek's parents, who just watched our three favorite vortices of pure energy for a week in July, said that they would absolutely come to our house and feed the children and dress the children and get them on and off the bus and help with the Kindergarten homework and quell the squabbling and go to the storytimes and do all the exhausting things so that I could go to St. Paul with Derek for four blissful days.

I wrote down a blog post everyday in my little notebook while I was there, so I have a lot to catch you all up on.  Next week:  Derek and Kristy Take St. Paul!  (Subtitle:  Derek goes to conference sessions and does legitimate work while Kristy spends half the trip hiding in their awesome hotel room just because she can.)

Those are photos of two people who simultaneously can't believe their good fortune and are trying to get a good shot of themselves and their gorgeous hotel lobby.  Hotel 340, we miss you already.