Thursday, December 31, 2015

Derek's Birthday Experience

Monday evening, my mom and Mark offered to feed our kids pizza and let them watch a movie and ensure they didn't engage in the cannibalistic behavior peculiar to siblings so that Derek and I could go on a date to celebrate his birthday.

We started by going to Star Wars, which we had heard was amazing and fantastic and must-see!  We both thought it was fine.  Honestly, I know better than to let my expectations for just about anything get inflated, because no good, no good I tell you can come of it.  For those of you who have seen it:  Is it just Common Household Mom and me, or is Rey SURELY related to Keira Knightley?  Looks, certain mannerisms, everything.  Google was no help in backing my theory (when it comes to my theories, I am absolutely anti-scientific method, in that I will form my theory that I KNOW IS RIGHT and then look for evidence to support it.  Which means it's time for me to go on Oprah, write a sensational book, and form a cult-like following of people who believe anything if you say it loudly enough.  Right, so now I'm just making myself angry.), but I certainly think it's time for Ms. Knightley to start asking her parents some tough questions.

When we left the theater and trudged through the snow, Derek and I both naturally headed for his car.  I had opened the passenger door and was halfway inside when Derek said with a certain amount of feeling, "Please don't get into that car."  Because it turns out it wasn't his car.  It did look silvery-blue in the moonlight, however, so... close enough?

Evidently Derek had seen that I was headed for the wrong car, but assumed the door would be locked, then panicked a bit when it opened right up for me and I began to climb in.  We both wonder how long it would have taken me to realize I was in a stranger's vehicle.  Probably best we didn't find out.  You know that scene in The Bourne Identity when Jason Bourne is telling Marie all the things he automatically observed upon entering the diner:  The vehicles in the parking lot, the various people inside, something about running at that altitude until his hands start shaking?  I'm like the anti-that.  I do a marvelous impression of someone wandering confused around parking lots, though, except it's not so much an impression as my actual life.

After we were ensconced in the correct car, we went out and ate matching salads at a favorite restaurant because we are just adorable that way, except it's not so sweet when Derek eats his whole meal in a quarter of the time it takes me to eat half a plateful.  He is a speedy eater, and I am a slothful eater, which means Husband has a lot of downtime when we go out to eat.  They need special Fast-Eating Husband activities at restaurants, like those coloring packets they make for squirmy kids.  I don't know what it would include, though.  Maybe Slow-Eating Wife Bingo?  With spaces to cover for things like "Wife chewed piece of lettuce twenty times before swallowing," and "Wife wouldn't touch chicken until barbecue sauce arrived."  Happy Birthday to Derek, indeed.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Coffee Dates of Varying Kinds

Derek's parents asked to have the boys for a few days, and while we didn't quite throw our two male offspring at them, we did respond in the affirmative with definite alacrity.

It's now been four hours since they left.  The house is quiet, to the extent that Adelaide commented, "It is so quiet that I feel like I should scream or something, just because my brain is apparently used to almost constant noise from the boys."  She has not screamed, but she does seem to have a smile fixed almost permanently on her face.
When your two noisy, rambunctious, lovable but high-energy sons/brothers leave, here is what a mother and a daughter do with themselves:
  • Read a book because it is quiet enough to do so. (Daughter)
  • Go for a run in the snow.  (Mother)
  • Go to the library and take as much time as you want to leisurely peruse its offerings.  (Mother and Daughter)
  • Go to the coffee shop (seen above).  Order a chocolate malt and a hazelnut latte.  Sit by the fire, discuss how quiet it is, smile like a maniac, play chinese checkers, observe and discuss all the interesting people sitting around you.  (Mother and Daughter, with pleasure)
  • Return home, read some more books, write a blog post, occasionally comment to each other how quiet it is, think your thoughts.  (Mother and Daughter)
So, yes.  Of course I miss our boys already, but can I just tell you how beautiful silence can be?  No word from Adelaide about missing her brothers already, and I know better than to ask.

Speaking of Adelaide and coffee and happiness, have I mentioned how much we love her teacher this year?  Because man, do we.  For a variety of reasons, Daughter is sometimes a little withdrawn at school, and as a teacher with 20+ kids in a classroom, all with varying personalities and needs, I feel like it could be so easy to overlook the shy girl who requires little help with her work, especially when she's surrounded by louder, more demonstrative kids with more obvious needs.  

Her teacher this year, however (who I kind of doubted was actually old enough to be a teacher when I first met her), has gone out of her way to reach out to Adelaide, a task that takes perseverance when you have a kid that doesn't immediately respond to your efforts.  Her latest venture happened the week before Christmas break, when Adelaide came home and happily reported that her teacher let her stay in from recess and share a coffee with her.  I'm sure this isn't something they endorse in the district rule book (if such a thing exists), but it's a pretty clear sign that her teacher understands how this particular student operates.  Quality, one-on-one time?  Check.   A break from the loud, busy environment at school?  Check.  Coffee?  Check.  Not every school year has gone this well, so I fold my little hands and say a hearty "Thank you JEEEsus," every so often for the teachers we're enjoying during this one.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Quiet Catching Up

It's been over a week since I last posted, and as such, I have so many things to tell you about I'm completely overwhelmed.  I'm hoping to dedicate a bit of time each day in the coming weeks to sharing all the things you've missed (snow storms!  amazing books!  poop pillows!), but for today, it's just going to be both whatever floats to the top of my consciousness and I manage to get typed before all these children of ours stop doing whatever it is that's keeping them quiet at the moment.  I'm afraid to check on them for fear of what I'll find.

I do know what the youngest is up to:
Ten minutes ago I found him in our bed, asleep.  I'm not sure why he felt it necessary to unmake a bed that isn't even his, but then, the mind of five-year-old boys can be difficult to understand.  Knowing Caedmon, he has a detailed rationale he'll explain to me later, hopefully after a nice, long nap.  

We're all a little tired today, after the assorted merry-making that accompanies Christmas and Derek's birthday yesterday (Happy Birthday, Husband!), and a visit from my mom and Mark.  Among other things, Mom addressed the items on my list mentally titled Things I Need Mom's Help With.  She looked at the zipper on Atticus's coat that stopped working two weeks after we bought it a couple months ago, and voila!  Presto, needle-nosed-pliers-oh, it is fixed!
Aside from a now-working zipper, please note my solution to the problem:  Hand-sewing thick velcro patches on the coat (the velcro's other side is on the inner lining of the coat on the opposite zipper-side, if that makes any sense) so that our son could close his coat throughout the winter if the zipper proved to be unfixable.  Now it's just a fabulous fashion statement, like those tiny pockets you sometimes see on the upper arms of women's shirts, which I can only think must hearken back to when men rolled packets of cigarettes in their shirt sleeves?

Mom also took a look at my right hand and wrist, which has been bothering me for a couple weeks now, generally when I put any weight on it or use it to lift anything even slightly heavy.  She messed with it a bit, spoke some of her nurse-hoodoo over it, listened when I showed her that, "See, it isn't swollen at all," before showing me that it actually was swollen, just in a different spot, and suggested the possibility of a small stress fracture.  Being somewhat, um, accident-prone herself (hey, sisters, remember when Mom cut herself with a chainsaw?  Or maybe it was the tree limb that hurt her so badly.  Either way, a chainsaw was definitely involved), she understood when I couldn't recall any particular incident that might have caused this.  She did suggest compression immobility...or something... and to avoid yoga for a while, so I called her a mean, mean lady.  (Kidding.  I wasn't going to anger the woman who had within minutes just fixed a zipper that had been galling me for weeks.)
I have been following nurse's orders, avoiding yoga and wrapping my hand before I spend hours outside shoveling snow, because she said nothing about not shoveling with this hand.  It's possible she expected me to be smart enough to work this out for myself, in which case the joke's on her!  I am most certainly not that smart!  Hahahaha...ha.  My hand hurts.

In other fun news, our dishwasher has been gracing us with offerings of screws in the bottom of its basin, which I now find with disturbing frequency upon opening the door after running a load.  I can only think it has something wonderful planned for us.

Now I have not one but three children awake and clamoring for a mother who apparently does things, like fixing an already worthless pencil sharpener and reading endless Berenstain Bears books.  I hope you're all enjoying a lovely recovery time after Christmas, or at the very least you have a good book to read.  

Monday, December 21, 2015

Melchior, Gaspar, and Caedmon

Caedmon had his first ever Christmas program last Friday night.  Before we left the house, we had a stern talk with the other two offspring:  "Listen, your little brother has sat through your concerts and programs and junk for years, and it is finally his turn, so you are going to sit there and you are going to listen and you are going to LIKE IT."

Not that Atticus and Adelaide needed much prodding; it was obvious that Caedmon was attaching a large amount of importance to this little preschool program when he began rehearsing his line two weeks beforehand.  "And myrrh,"  "AND myrrh," "And MYRRH."  This from the boy who has entire monologues memorized from the audio versions of Hank the Cowdog and The Jesus Storybook Bible, both in the narrators' Texas and English accents, respectively.  I don't think he was really worried about forgetting the words he was responsible for, exactly, he just wanted to nail them.

Ours is the wise man in the middle.
And my gosh, nail them he did.  He projected "AND MYRRH!" clear to the back of that church, after helping the first two wise men remember their own lines, of course.  Well, I don't think he was helping them remember, exactly, as much as making sure they delivered them in a fashion acceptable to our son's high performance standards.  There was whispering and prodding and I've decided that if Caedmon were a dog he would be one of those breeds that herd and nudge other animals into place.  Maybe a sheepdog.
He was this happy the entire time he was up there.  
Although you can't see them, underneath the wise man getup are his fancy duds (oxford shirt + sweater vest bought at a garage sale last summer for this exact occasion, $1.50 for both thankyouverymuch), which he was so smugly pleased with he wore them to bed post-program.  Then, after I woke him early the next morning because we had a bit of a drive to get to Crisler Christmas (which, yes, is a thing), he stumbled out of his room, all warm and rumpled and still in his Christmas program outfit, and asked if he could wear it to Crisler Christmas, all while rubbing his eyes sleepily.  Because Derek and I both have a functioning hearts, we told him he could, but to brush his teeth and wash his hands, or something.
See?  Cute as a dang button.
I did make him take them off that night, because I am a cruel mother with an unnatural penchant for washing dirty clothes, or so goes the tale of woe Caedmon is currently telling.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Sad Faces and Newsletters

It's the week before Christmas, which means I've stopped in between each word of this sentence to add something else to my grocery list.  A forgotten ingredient for the chili we're bringing to Crisler Christmas this Saturday, a can of frosting for Atticus's Polar Express party next week, ground ginger because Adelaide reminded me we haven't made any kind of gingerbread concoctions so far this year and that is a hanging offense in her book.  She tends to moderate her requests so much that when she asks for something, I jump to accommodate her.  Hang on, was I just outsmarted by Daughter?  Again?

This week has also brought things like cookie decorating day at Caedmon's preschool.
Parents were invited to stay and help decorate the creations, and it was fascinating to get a glimpse of Caedmon's time away from me.  It turns out Cade is an interesting mix of Derek and myself, which has somehow turned him into an early reader who isn't afraid to shout out the answers to every question the teacher asks, not giving anyone else a chance to answer anything.  This is why I sound like a Catholic nun anytime I'm around his teachers, constantly saying, "Bless you," and patting them in solidarity.

This week- this morning, actually- I've also been sure to brush off Caedmon's fears to go downstairs by himself, especially when he cites "the sad face in the kitchen" as the basis of his worry.  When I finally sigh in resignation and hold his hand as we go down the stairs and into the kitchen together, this is what greets me:
That is indeed a sad face in the kitchen.  It's also the back of the toaster oven, which I'd forgotten I'd moved in order to make room for our demon printer that refused to print the Christmas newsletter I finally finished last night.  Something about needing both ink and paper to work.  I'm sure once I've replenished our supply of both, it will still refuse to work simply because my IT guy won't be here.  (Note:  My IT guy is Derek.  He's also the Information Technology guy for various family members and at work, despite the fact that he is not an actual IT guy.)

At this point I'm just thankful the dang newsletter is written, because it is tortuous to write.  Scratch that; it's fun to write, but tortuous to read.  Derek asked me to read it aloud to him last night, and I got three sentences in before I thrust the laptop at him and told him to please, please, please read it to himself, silently.  I knew that if I read one more word aloud I would no longer be able to fight the compulsion to delete the whole thing because it's all TRASH, UTTER GARBAGE.  

I love reading the holiday newsletters that come in our mail from our loved ones.  It's one of my very favorite things!  I don't put any of those newsletters through the interrogation that our own has to go through:  Is this thing too braggy?  Boring?  Overly long?  Cutesy?  Too detailed?  Am I making our imperfect lives seem too perfect?  The structure seems off.  My syntax is a travesty.  When did my vocabulary disintegrate?  WHY DO I EVEN BOTHER WITH ANY OF THIS?

Then I remind myself for the millionth time that reading these same things from our friends and family is ONE OF MY FAVORITE THINGS, and trust all the recipients to be gentle and forgiving of any flaws, because that is what relationships are about, and why we do silly things like Christmas cards:  To build and continue relationships.

Except for that one family whose photos and letter and very lives seem like one flawless package, delivered specially to our mailbox every December.  They suck.

Monday, December 14, 2015

A List for Monday

  • I miss a bunch of things about the traditional Lutheran church I grew up attending, but this time of year, it's probably the advent wreath that I miss the most.  Unless, of course, it's the hymns; at the church we're a part of now, it's apparently against, well, their religion to sing christmas carols the way they've been sung for hundreds of years, oh no, they have to be tweaked and revamped and messed with until everyone is struggling to sing along even though we all know all the words.  Not that this bothers me.  Everyone knows I am very flexible and easy to work with.

Somehow it never occurred to me that I could have an advent wreath of my very own right in our house, heck, smack dab in the middle of our kitchen table, if I wanted.  Which I did.
Our children evidently wanted to give you a good idea of how things normally look around these parts.  But also note the advent wreath!
I found the box of advent candles at a garage sale a few years ago, which is the moment that made me pause and say to myself, "I'm pretty sure the Lutheran police aren't going to come to our house and smite me if I use these outside of a church," and fifty cents later they were all mine.  There's no doubt they languished in that box for years before I adopted them; the pink candle is maybe 1% pink now and 99% white.  The wreath is one that I found at Goodwill years ago for $1 and then stashed in a cabinet, sure that I'd use it someday.  Its day finally arrived, after I'd made it a little more naked, of course, as is befitting an advent wreath.  Or something.
The carnage

  • The mother of one of Caedmon's preschool classmates spent some time talking to the class about their family's celebration of Hanukkah, which made a big impression on our son.  We hadn't yet reached home afterward when he began brandishing a small object at me, informing me that "This is a Hanukker!" to which my response was, "Do you mean 'dreidel'?"  He acknowledged that yes, it was a dreidel, then asked why we didn't celebrate Hanukkah.  A series of questions and answers followed, ending in Caedmon gasping and saying, "Does that mean Max is one of God's chosen people?!"  I confirmed that he was, and our Cade was in awe.  Easily one of the best parts of my week.

  • Those caramelized stars from the previous post are made by pouring the molten sugar into metal cookie cutters placed on a cookie sheet covered in aluminum foil.  I greased both the foil and the inside of the cookie cutters with cooking spray.  You let the sugar cool and harden for a couple hours on the sheet, then gently tap the shapes out of the cookie cutters.  

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Seasonal Beauty

It's no wonder I love this time of year; everything is just prettier.  Isn't everything prettier?

Yes, my caramelized stars turned out a little darker than planned, because sugar is like teenage girls and cats:  All are mostly sweet but will turn on you in seconds.  I subsequently had to explain to our confused children that the stars made entirely out of food were not to be eaten unless they enjoyed a certain burnt taste that lingers on the tongue.

Or how about this pretty sight:

I feel like at nine years old Adelaide has a taste in clothing that's a little more timeless than mine was at the same age:

That's me on the right, easily identifiable by the gold lamé and air traffic controller ears.  Thankfully the photo is of a low enough quality that you can't get a good look at those glasses.  (Rhinestones.  Butterfly.  Pink.  Adelaide was hysterical/mortified when I described them to her.)  I haven't shaken my love of metallics, either:
Upside down white tapers drying in glasses, due to having just been spray painted by yours truly.  Oleander and Palm has the best and simplest teacher gift ideas.  I just can't decide which I prefer, the classic gold or rose gold.  
Naturally, it didn't take Caedmon long to turn them into weapons.  At least he waited until the paint had dried.

And some might call our recent weather dreary (Derek), but I love fog on fallow fields.  
I also love that I can finally see a landscape that's been next to my running trail year-round, but which I'm unable to see except when all the foliage dies away.

What pretty things have caught your eye lately?  Had any good-intentioned projects turn on you like my sugar stars?

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Birthday Stuff

Yesterday was my birthday, which basically means I got to add the word "birthday" in front of every activity, making it suddenly festive and magical.

For instance, yesterday morning I didn't go for a run, I went for a birthday run.
It was foggy and cold and windy and I did not, did not, DID NOT want to go.  Usually I get over this feeling about a mile into the run, but this one, despite its brevity, was a struggle the whole way through, even if it was a birthday run.

The slog of a run meant I could eat sour cream doughnut holes- excuse me, birthday sour cream doughnut holes- relatively guilt-free.

Caedmon made me a birthday bracelet made of baker's twine.
He even wrapped it, which meant I had to squeeze him and kiss him and smoosh his face, all of which he suffered through very manfully.  Then we took a birthday picture together, because he actually likes doing that.

I also went to birthday book club, which was delightful, and went birthday grocery shopping, which was okay, better than regular grocery shopping, anyway.  I opened a few gifts, among them this packet of cleome seeds:
They're from my aunt Kay.  She not only gathered them from her own plant, she also penned that little illustration on the seed packet, because she is both talented and generous.

Caedmon and I made a birthday visit to the closest used bookstore, because if someone were to ask me what light through yonder window breaks, my reply would be that it is the east, and used bookstores are the sun. (Man alive I am classing things up around here today.  Mangled Shakespearean quotes must be what floats to the top of your consciousness when you turn 33.  I'll take it.)
Our Cade feels a trifle differently about the bookstore, as it is generally a confusing and borderline distressing place for him to go, as our conversation proved while we were there:

Me:  "Caedmon, what are you doing with all those books you've piled here?  Are you going to sit in one of those beanbag chairs and read them while I look around?"

Son:  "No, I'm going to check them out."

Me:  "Ah.  Caedmon, this is a bookstore, not a library.  We can't check books out.  You can look at them while we're here, but if we wanted to bring them home, we would have to buy them."

Son:  "I think I'll just check them out."

The discussion devolved from there, ending with him still incredulous he couldn't bring a massive amount of whichever books he wanted home, even if he promised to bring them back.  I, however, did find one treasure, pictured above in the background.  I've been wanting to read I Capture the Castle for quite some time now, but I actually bought that copy as a gift, except I may have read the first twenty or so pages before giving it to my friend, because apparently I have some kind of illness.  I plan on picking up my own copy at the library tomorrow, because my instructions to the poor thing were, "See, now you can read this copy, and then I'll read the library's copy, and then we can discuss it together!"  Because apparently I can't even give a gift without telling someone what to do.


Derek's mom was also kind enough to drive down for the evening to watch the kids while he and I went out on a date, where I discovered the flags were being flown at half-mast in honor of my special day:
This happens every year, and it's always so embarrassing to have such a fuss made over me!  [See also:  What it's like to share a birthday with a national tragedy.]

It was a full and lovely and wonderful day.  I think I'll do it again some time.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

The Season of Our Discontent

I love- LOVE- this holiday season we're in.  You may have gleaned this before due to the fact I have casually mentioned it a time or two thousand.  I'm aware that there are people who harbor more Scroogely feelings than my own, but by and large those people are to be pitied and/or fed gingerbread cookies until they crack and admit that Yes, this IS the most wonderful time of the year.  (Singing optional.  Well, singing encouraged.  Preferably in a stagey, karoake-type voice.)

But then, last month, I began to have the strangest feelings.  Feelings entirely foreign to me this time of year.  (Nobody panic- I'm not about to go all Judy Blume on you.)  Instead of joyful and shivery and just this side of manic, December 1st found me unsettled and discontent and out of sorts.

I wallowed for the space of a morning, then took action.  My weapon:  An imaginary red pen.  My victim:  The calendar.

Most of the year, I have little problem saying No Thank You Very Much to requests and snares of my time.  I am very protective of our family time and my own mental health and know that for me, that means not overbooking, and our children are still at an age where I wield most of the control of our family's schedule.

But at Christmas time?  Everything is fun and festive and worthy so why not do everything? Cookie-Exchange-Christmas-Cards-Tour-Of-Homes-Clothing-Pantry-Advent-Bible-Study-Caroling-Favorite-Things-Party-This-Kid-Needs-A-Donation-To-The-Animal-Shelter-This-One-Needs-A-Girl-Gift-This-One-Needs-My-Spare-Liver-ARE WE FEELING JOYFUL YET?

So I decided a bunch of it needed to go.  I could either do all of it in a way that made me an absolute jewel to be around and made everyone around me speed-dial Kevorkian for a good old-fashioned mercy killing, or I could hop off the crazy train, because the only one keeping me on there is me.  So I said NO THANK YOU VERY MUCH to myself a bunch of other people, and it felt incredible.

Then I found the Christmas lights I lost and couldn't find for THREE DAYS (because I'd put them where I always put them, SO CONFUSING), which is probably what really started the whole holiday identity crisis in the first place- a sad, unlit Christmas tree- and everything got a lot better, because Christmas lights are LIFE-GIVING.  I'm pretty sure Kierkegaard said that.
But I'm not putting down my mental red pen.  Slashing through wide swaths of our schedule while cackling (in a festive, Christmas-y way, of course) is pretty much the best thing since the holiday sugar cookies that I will not be making this year, because this December I'm channeling Nancy Reagan and Just Saying No.  I'll use the resulting salt from my children's tears to flavor the Christmas ham, because my gosh, something has to sacred.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Pie and Daughters, Daughters and Pie

The pie is finally gone, which means it's time to talk about pie some more.

We had four pies in attendance on thanksgiving.

If you're scratching your head, counting pies, and saying to yourself, "Hang on, she said..." it's because Derek's sister brought the fourth pie.  I took this picture Wednesday night, after Adelaide and I had made our three offerings, and smack dab in the middle of an epic wrestling match with my flighty self control.  I so badly wanted to somehow sneak a piece, but this is difficult when the pies are still whole and your guests still have functional eyes.  If I can remember to do so, next year I might take some of the leftover pie dough and make myself a tiny, mini-pie in one of my ramekins along with the big kid pies.  I think that qualifies as having your pie and eating it, too, right?

It's entirely possible Adelaide loves making pie more than she loves eating it.  Well, it's close, anyway.  She was giddy all afternoon, waxing poetic about the crimping and the stirring and the rolling.  If you ever get a hankering for homemade pie and don't mind your kitchen being destroyed (we're still working on the whole clean-as-you-go concept), have her over.  She's a riot.  
She ended up making the Berry pie herself, along with completing about half of the recipe for the Caramel-Pecan Pumpkin pie (which was so, so good).  She has already said she wouldn't make the berry again, and that I need to come up with a more challenging pie for her.  I'm thinking strawberry rhubarb, maybe?

When we weren't making pie, we were making mashed potatoes, which I did not get a photo of, but I did get this:
Roasted garlic:  Looks disgusting, tastes delicious when mashed into the potatoes.  Also makes your house smell amazing, provided you think garlic smells amazing, which of course I do.  Do you think there are people out there who possibly don't?  Probably the same ones who say things like, "I don't actually like ice cream," and "I always drive in the left lane on four-lane highways.  I just prefer it on that side, even if it is supposed to be just for passing."

Amidst all the state-sanctioned gluttony and Christmas decorating, I've become increasingly aware of a role reversal between Adelaide and I.  When I get too busy, I don't always use the wisest parts of my brain, and Daughter seems to feel the need to mother me at those times.  Wednesday I got so preoccupied with food prep that I forgot to actually eat anything, until it was 3 p.m. and I was getting a little light-headed.  I made up a pitcher of smoothies for some quick nutrition, but then I got distracted with kitchen clean-up and forgot to actually eat the prepared food, until Adelaide got in my face and commanded me to "SIT DOWN AND EAT BEFORE YOU COLLAPSE."  

Then, I went to haul the Christmas tree out of the basement (we have a fake tree, not a pine forest in our basement.  Just in case you were wondering.), and although Adelaide wanted to help, I insisted on bringing the (rather heavy and large) box up myself.  After much tripping and histrionics on my part, I finally managed to wrestle it up the stairs, and paused for a brief moment to sprawl flat on the kitchen floor, which allowed Adelaide time to tap the box meaningfully and glare at me.

Apparently this is what happens when a bossy eldest child has a bossy eldest child.  I am okay with it, except when I'm not.  I'm pretty sure Daughter feels the same.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Road Rage

Dear people, I need your help:  I am surrounded by misnomers.

I mean that very, very literally.  We live in a little town that has been little for quite some time, but has also seen a boom in new construction in recent years, and whomever is responsible for naming the streets of these new developments?  Well, I'm not saying they're horrible human beings, exactly, but I am saying that if I happened to have a noose in my hands I would lovingly slip it around their necks.  Just to check for fit.  Before I flung the other end around a wooden beam.  

Twelve feet off the ground.

I am not bothered by slow drivers, the sound of someone chewing doesn't offend my sensibilities, and crying children in public places barely registers.  But if, say, there is a street named "Ridgetop" that is not only NOT on top of a ridge, but is, in fact, MILES AND MILES from anything like a ridge, well.  Tiny pieces of my mind break off from the mainland and float away, small islands of rage.  It is not pretty.

They are everywhere around here, both in my small town and in the larger communities nearby.  There's a newer development about fifteen miles south of here whose very name is such a rare combination of absurdity and tackiness that I have to avert my eyes when I know I'm about to drive past it.  What does "Talons of Tuscany" even mean?  The developer had a thing for Italian birds of prey?  SOMEONE EXPLAIN THIS TO ME.

Surely it was the same villain who is responsible for a similar development in the same town, brand spanking new construction lining a street named "Vintage Lane."  VINTAGE LANE.  ALL NEW HOUSES.  THIS CRAP MAKES ME CRAZY.

What's wrong with streets named after trees, or presidents, or authors?  Or, if you really want something outside of the box, have a fantasy author throw a few names your way; they're great at world-building and the naming of things.  I'm not asking for the moon, here.  I just can't figure out why the street that runs along the south side of the biggest park in my town is called "Northpark Boulevard."  You do not have to be a cartographer to realize that THIS MAKES NO SENSE.

Really, though:  Who is responsible for the naming of streets?  Because I need a word with them.  Pay no attention to the rope behind my back.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Because Sharing is Caring?

Yesterday I was attempting to go through my phone and figure out what was important and worth saving (very little) and what was extraneous crap that needed to be deleted (the vast majority).  Amongst all that, I found a number of things that I meant to share with you, but never did.  Stills and images from our family life of great importance, such as this one:
Remember Flat Adelaide, that school project our daughter did last school year, where she sent a flat version of herself down to my family in Kansas?  I never ended up telling you how that turned out, because I am a horrible blogger sometimes, but the above is one of my favorite images, sent from my aunt Sherry, who clearly appreciated the humor to be found in an overly amorous cow welcoming Flat Adelaide to their farm.

How about this picture that I remember taking on a run in a park twenty miles north of here?  I saw a bright swath of green through the trees alongside the trail, and I had to stare at it for several seconds before I realized it wasn't grass.
That is a body of water.  One I would never want to swim in, although it is possible you could walk across that thick layer of scum and make your friends call you Jesus.

This was from our last trip south, where my sister and her husband got our boys Nerf guns for their birthdays, and the adult men proceeded to play with them more than the children.  Here they are preparing for a good, old-fashioned duel, minus the holsters and Colts.  Real men use Nerf Zombie Strikes.

This one's from that same trip, where Adelaide and I discovered our new favorite piece of playground equipment:  A saucer that tilts and spins and whips you around if you can get someone strong and fast enough to get some momentum going.  Atticus was up to the challenge, spinning us until Adelaide began to experience dizziness and nausea, which I think is the object of any good spinning toy.  I do so love to spin.  

Another one from that trip:
Derek loves Ed, and Ed loves Derek, and I love reminding anyone who will listen that Ed is a cat so hardy that he survived being run over by my mom.  In a car.  The back of her property line butts up against he back of a vet's property line, so I remember her hollering for Kelli and I to fill a laundry basket with old towels from the linen closet (because even after running him over, she wasn't going to let us use the regular towels for him, a fact I now find hilarious), then we had to run poor, squished Ed across the long backyard to the vet's office.  When I think about how boisterous we were with our baby sister Steph in that same laundry basket while whipping her around the house, I feel bad for Ed, because that had to have been one heck of a rough ride.  My childhood was a series of one dead cat after another, with only two, Ed and his predecessor Pete, being sturdy enough to survive our household and the lure of the suicide highway that ran, temptingly, right in front of the vet's office.

I just took this one yesterday.
I'm a little worried about our neighbors; the two snowmen I found constructed near our house over the weekend were this semi-creepy one lurking right around the corner, and a full-on creepy one with apples for eyes and a gaping hole for a mouth two streets over.  I'm telling you, winter does strange things to people.

And I'll leave you with this one.
If Caedmon is home and Derek is home, this is a likely scene to stumble upon when coming around any corner, as I did here a couple Sundays ago.  Caedmon will tolerate a hug from most people, but from Derek, the man whose dirty laundry our youngest used to make nests out of to curl up in when his father had the temerity to be gone at work all day, well, Caedmon will cling to him as long as possible.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Living History Farms Race

A week ago a couple friends of mine convinced me that running seven miles through cornfields and creeks and the woods in November in Iowa was a good idea, especially when it's with a few thousand of your closest friends.  After a little encouragement from Derek- he's great at convincing me I can do hard things when I'm waffling- I signed up for the Living History Farms race.

Then the weather forecast went to crap.

I spent much of the four days before the race harassing my friends about what to wear and obsessively checking the weather.  The only thing the forecasters could agree on was that yes, snow was coming, possibly a lot, and yes, the temperature would drop and the wind would begin to gust Saturday morning.  You know, perfect conditions for a cross-country race.

Then came the emails.

Poor Race Director Steve.  I feel like this would be a stressful race to oversee, being where it is and when it is every year.  Yes, you hope people are going to be smart about running in cold weather, but, you know, these are people we're talking about, so instead you have to send out all these increasingly panicky-sounding emails that say things like, "You need to make a decision based on your own personal safety," and "We have 30 medical and emergency personnel and they are prepared," and "PLAY SAFE.  IT'S NOT WORTH IT."

Now, because I have never run this race before, and I can be a bit of a pansy about the cold, all of this made me just the tiniest bit nervous.  Especially when this started happening Friday afternoon:

And then this is what I walked through Friday night:

And because this was the first snowfall of the season all the news outlets wet themselves in excitement and engaged in what seemed to be a strange game of one-upsmanship, where one person would predict 3-5 inches, prompting the next to say, "Oh, yeah?  I say 4 to 6 INCHES!" and ended with a top prediction of somewhere around ten inches.  

Still, I consoled myself with the fact that the snowfall was supposed to end Friday night sometime, and yes, the temperature was supposed to bottom out somewhere around 14 degrees right as the race was beginning at 9 am on Saturday, and yes, there was a frigid wind expected to be blowing right around then, too, and YES, Poor Steve was sending out even more frightful emails that said, "Don't where [sic] cotton!! Old fashioned sweat pants & shirts are cotton.  You will freeze!" and "There is nowhere warm for all of you.  Stay close to your vehicles until 8:45."  But despite all that, I was being led to the slaughter through the experience by my two loving and experienced running friends who have run this race several times before and were able to say, "Wear this instead of that, here's how to keep your toes from falling off, and tell you what, I'll just bring all kinds of extra gear for you to use."  

In the end, Poor Steve cut almost two miles off the course and eliminated most of the creek crossings for safety's sake, but it was twenty whole degrees above zero when we started, there were only around four inches of snow on the ground, and the only thing that got really wet was my feet.  

I'm the second fool from the left.

I also collected a number of brand-new experiences, such as sitting on frozen port-a-potty seats (the word of the day was "BRACING!") watching a few runners who thought it would be a kick to run in either a variety of costumes (turkeys, pilgrims, Elvis, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, scarecrows, elderly people toting walkers, oxygen tanks, and cigarettes) or almost naked, and, best of all, starting the winter running season by normalizing running in the cold and on ice and snow. 

The post-race beef stew was hot, the doughnuts were not frozen (as they apparently have been in years past), and my thirty-degree run today felt positively balmy.  Worth it. 

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Atticus, Art Director

I saw an article the other day whose title went something like "A Thanksgiving Centerpiece Constructed in Only Thirty Minutes?  Yes, You Can!"  I didn't click on it, because, well, I did read that title, but do you think that was for real?  Do people- other than florists and Martha Stewart- make centerpieces?

I really am curious, because the closest thing we get to a centerpiece is a bunch of miniature gourds my grandparents grew and sent home with me months ago, which are now covered in globs of paint courtesy of four out of five Crislers.  (Yes, I painted gourds, too.  I have to keep my inner 4-Her satisfied somehow.)  And they don't scream "centerpiece" so much as "way station before their eventual destination:  the garbage."

An added benefit to this style of "centerpiece" is that now I have a kitchen that is 25% more colorful than it was this time yesterday, because there is almost as much paint on the floor as there is on the gourds.  Not to worry; it scrubs off easily, which is why all art projects are undertaken on the kitchen floor rather than at a table like fancy folk.  

The best part is that none of this would have happened if we didn't have an Atticus who requests special art projects on a near- weekly basis, and who also insisted the finished product be put in "I don't know, like a bowl, or one of those jars that we keep the Band-aids in?  And can you put them on the table so we can look at them every night at supper?"  

Do you think Martha has an internship?  One specifically for seven-year-old boys?  Because I can only come up with so many craft ideas, and I'm running out of gourds...

Monday, November 16, 2015

Not a Gift-Giving Guide

Because I sometimes like to pretend I have my act together, I have begun Christmas shopping.

Really it has more to do with the fact that gifts are not really my thing, so if I want to enjoy the month of December and my very favorite holiday, I need to get as much of the shopping done as I can now.  Then all I have to do is the gift wrapping- which I LOVE- and somehow tuck it all away without forgetting just where I stashed it.  I am not so good at this.

If you're any store other than the three where I do my regular grocery shopping every week, you only see me a few times a year.  I don't dislike shopping, exactly, but unless I have a specific need, I don't really see the point of even walking through those doors, unless it's to waste time and money, both of which I tend to spend very carefully.  This means I am overly impressed by the things I see most places I go this time of year; displays and items that don't even register with other shoppers have me going "Wow!" and "Neato!" all over them while shaking my head in wonder at all the amazing things that exist these days.  I'm like the Beverly Hillbillies for the first twenty minutes, excited by all the novelty- before becoming overwhelmed by the same and suddenly morphing into Gollum, just wanting to get me and my precious back to my cave.  It's exactly as endearing as you might imagine.

Here's what I got excited over last week while shopping before I scurried back to my hole:
Isn't this neat?  The back is flat, so you can attach it to your wall or ceiling, and plus you'd forever be able to claim that you had quasi-literally given your loved one the moon.  Perhaps also get your recipient a small fish tank that you could gently slosh around so you can pretend your moon exerts gravitational pull.  Just make sure whatever animal you put in the water is hardy enough to take a bit of a beating.

The only problem with this one is that I get that Whitney Houston song stuck in my head every time I look at it- you know, the "I believe that children are our future, teach them well and blah blah blah," one?  Well, that and the problem where any of our kids would most likely cry if this was their Christmas present.  But what a great way to teach kids about carbon footprints and living in a way that's ecologically conscious.

This one's just on here because I need someone to explain it to me.  Why would anyone buy this?  It's handing your kids both the tools and a permission slip to terrorize you.  Completely baffling.

As soon as we walked into Barnes and Noble last Friday, Adelaide and I saw a table stocked with adult coloring books.  (And by "adult" I don't mean they had, um, questionable content or anything, they were just more detailed than children's coloring books.  Just so we're clear.)  We rushed toward it and immediately began coveting our neighbor's coloring books.  It was like preschool all over again.  Only way prettier.


I carried The Time Garden around with me for a good fifteen minutes before reluctantly putting it back.  This is normal bookstore behavior for me.

There were other treasures at B&N, of course:
The New Elephant and Piggie!  Long live Mo Willems!

I've had my eye on on that illustrated Harry Potter since it first came out a month or so ago, but forty bucks for a story I technically already own (albeit without supercoolawesomeamazing illustrations) just isn't happening.  For now.

These things get me all jumped up in anticipation for my birthday in a couple weeks, because I have, naturally, requested to go look around the Brass Armadillo for my birthday date with Derek.  There I anticipate coming across a different manner of treasures than the ones above, but treasures nonetheless:  Goat bells!  Creepy old photographs!  Cast iron squirrel nutcrackers!  Ach, the anticipation is excruciating!