Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Savoring the Cheese

Our calendar for the next couple months is very full.  There are few days that don't have multiple somethings penciled in, to the extent that I've found myself thinking, Just have to get to June.  The month of June, I can breathe again.  I'm treating all this fullness, this busyness, like it's a grind, when in fact what I should be doing is appreciating it, what I should be doing is stopping to enjoy the cheese.  "Enjoy the cheese" because while I love roses and will stop to sniff at them every so often, it's more to check just how poorly my sniffer is sniffing on that particular day, whereas with cheese, my lovely, lovely cheese, I will lavish time upon it, taking for-ev-er to eat even a small amount.

This is saying something as I am a slow eater to begin with, due to several reasons I am aware of because my college roommate and I spent way more time than necessary dissecting the reasons for my sssllloooow rate of food consumption, because that's just what you do in college, I guess, but not to worry:  I'm not going to take you through the whole thing.  Bad enough I've forced Derek to listen to our detailed findings.

But with cheese?  It's even worse.  If I'm eating it plain, a hefty block in one hand and some fruit in the other (Ooooh, heaven.  Hello, saliva pooling in my mouth, even now), I will take as long as I please, thank you very much, because I am not a savage.  This is cheese, friends.  I was devoted to Madonna's Like A Prayer album as a kid, and continued to love that freak right up until she declared that she doesn't eat cheese.  Even as a child I recognized that some things are sacred, and certain delicious dairy products are one of them.  If there is a cheese gene, I have it and have passed it to Adelaide, who loved cheese so much as a baby that she would lose her ever-loving mind if the word was said within her range of hearing and we did not have an offering of cheese to throw at her from a safe distance (I am only barely exaggerating), to the extent that I started to call it queso in her presence, which worked for right around six days.  I recently made the mistake of letting her try some of the havarti cheese I was nibbling on whilst the children were eating the more homely colby jack (don't get me wrong, I love even peasant cheese), and she was so smitten that she now asks for it on a daily basis.  The asiago is currently hidden in the back of the cheese drawer (because of course we have a cheese drawer) in the fridge, away from her voracious eyes.

So for the next couple months I will stop and take time to enjoy the spring vocal concert and the havarti and the soccer games and the aged white cheddar.  And I will do so as slowly as I want.


Sunday, April 26, 2015

A Vernal View

So far it's been a mostly wet and chilly spring.  I can handle the wet- it's good for the flowers, drowns the larval Japanese beetles incubating in the soil, etc, but the cold?  I just want to be warm.

It's no doubt apparent that I feel the tiniest bit inclined to complain about this, especially when stuck indoors on these damp, windy, cold days, so I've been trying to focus on how encouraging the view out the windows is now compared to a few months back, when it was actually cold, not this 40- and 50- degrees I'm now referring to as "cold."

For example:  Here's the view out our kitchen window as of February 2nd of this year.

At first glance, this is a pretty scene to look upon whilst washing dishes or tearing ends of the aloe vera plant off for the kids' various scrapes and cuts (Band-aids are only allowed if I witness actual human blood seeping from our children; all other enquiries are directed toward the kitchen aloe vera plant, as they are allowed to smear as much aloe vera innards on any perceived hurts as they want), but there have been winters when the snow starts really accumulating in December and doesn't fully go away until April, and all that month-after-month unrelieved white makes me tear at my hair and grind my teeth.  Except not really, because the sound of teeth grinding against each other makes me feel ill.


And as much as I enjoy watching other people work when I don't have to...

...that winter view out our front storm door really can't beat this spring one:

Or this one, also taken through the front door:
Hello, Mr. Finch.  Our son is named for another Mr. Finch.  Different species, though.

The kitchen window view is also loads better:

Taken on a rare sunny day.  Click to embiggen to see Caedmon's joyful face.  It's worth it.

Click to embiggen to see Adelaide going all Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon.
Note that our children are outside while I am in, because I am the biggest baby in the family about the cold.  Also note the tulips in the foreground.

All the wind and rain have been a little rough on some of my tulips, so I've rescued a few here and there from the indignity of lying helpless in the mud.  

I did brave the spring cold and wind and cold wind to watch this guy play soccer:

Atticus is the happy guy in the middle of the frame running and looking all-around joyful to be out in the cold and the wind.  Did I mention it was cold?  And that he refused to wear his jacket while on the field?

And here's Gulliver in Lilliput.  Or it could be soccer coach extraordinaire Derek amongst his players.  

If it looks like Derek/Gulliver is a little out of focus, it's because I was shivering.  Maybe this week's game will be warmer.  

Ah, sometimes my hopeless optimism amuses even me- I mean, this is still spring in Iowa.  Of course it will be cold.  Thankfully no one seems to mind but me.

Monday, April 20, 2015

List + Poll

  • It was warm here last week, which gave me an excuse to make orange cream popsicles.  Yet again I turned to the woman with whom I have a love/hate relationship: The Proverbs 31 Woman.  I'm kidding, of course; the Bible doesn't have popsicle recipes.  No, once again I'm talking about Martha Stewart.  I love this recipe because it's easy and quick and only has four ingredients.  This time I made it with fat-free plain Greek yogurt rather than the full-fat plain yogurt Martha demands, and there was no noticeable difference.  The kids and I love these, which, naturally, means it's time to mess with the recipe and screw that up for everyone; I bought frozen pineapple juice today, so we'll see how pineapple cream pops go over.  It sounds right around eight times more disgusting now that I'm typing it than it did when I was starving in the grocery store this morning.  Snack time, kiddies!

  • Our yard is tulip heaven right now:

  • Derek and I are in the midst of a dispute on how to pronounce a specific word, because one of us says it correctly and the other is wrong.  (This is what healthy marriages are built on, fyi.)  I have polled a panel of experts and results have been inconclusive; this is also known as me calling my sisters and spelling out the word for them to pronounce, then demanding their husbands do the same.  Three out of four pronounced it correctly (My Way), and one was sadly wrong (Derek's Way).  I felt no compunctions about calling either sister with this request, as it is nowhere near the strangest thing I have ever said to either one of them, and because I remember once going to Kelli's house and being told that I needed to be the deciding vote on the proper pronunciation of the word "pendulum," as Kelli said it one way and Aaron said it another.  (My sister and I both say "pen-djew-lum," Aaron says "pen-dew-lum."  I tell you this because I know you care.)  
Now here is your chance to cast your vote:  The word in question is "LAWYER."  I want a fair fight- ahem, discussion- so I'm not going to disclose which of us pronounces it which way.  I'm attempting to put a survey on the upper right, there, that will be up for one week, but if that doesn't work, leave your answer in the comments.  And may the best pronunciation win!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

The Bounty of Spring

This has been an odd week.  Not because of odd happenings, but because I've caught some kind of bug that has made my head an odd place in which to reside.

Normally when I'm sick, all of my emotions are flat.  I can't summon the motivation to care about much of anything, and all my senses are dulled.  We've all been there, right?

This week has been different.  I've had some kind of bug that several people in the area seem to be likewise suffering from- nothing major, just mild, persistent nausea, nagging headache along with aches and pains, and a general feeling of malaise and run-down-ness.

What makes this bug special is that, at least for me, it has included heightened emotions.  And no, I am not pregnant.  Just so we're clear.

Case in point:  Last night, while gathering ingredients for the supper I had in mind, I couldn't find the ground ginger.  I tore my spice cabinet apart and found THREE containers of thyme, but no ginger.  I even found a small pot of sage, which is completely useless to me, as I can't stand the smell or taste of sage.  But ginger?  None.

Is this worth crying over?  It almost was last night.  I really wanted beef noodle bowls.

Once I got over the devastating ginger-related loss (my life is so hard), I decided to make quiche.  I was refreshing my memory on how to make PW's pie crust, and her instructions included not the usual phrase involved in the making of pastries, "combine until it resembles coarse meal," but "gradually work... until it resembles a coarse meal. (Emphasis mine)"  Just the inclusion of that little article "a" filled my brain with images of a plate containing asparagus and maybe chicken telling me dirty jokes and inappropriate stories.

Naturally this filled me with such mirth I laughed until I was almost too weak to wield the pastry cutter.  I didn't think much of it- everyone laughs at the jokes their brain tells them, right?- until Caedmon came over, laid his little hand on my arm, and asked, "Are you okay, Mommy?"

It's possible I've come across as a trifle unbalanced this week.  Is it possible for a germ to generate symptoms of mild manic depression?

Episodes of feverish hilarity aside, there were plenty of high points this week.  My peach hyacinths bloomed:

The tulips are also beginning to open up:

I also finally got my lettuce in, the only cool season veggie I plant.  I turned the compost heap and it produced a prodigious amount of beautiful, black, hearty compost to nourish the garden with this year.  I went to my first garage sales of the season and came back with nice garments for Adelaide and Atticus both, including tennis shoes for Atticus for just a few bucks that should work for school in the fall.  I had no idea how such nice shoes could possibly have so little wear, as any shoes our six-year-old tromps around in look like they've been through a wood chipper after a mere three or four months of use.  The very nice lady who lived in the McMansion where the sale was located swooped in to explain, however, that she had bought them for her son, who refused to wear them because they weren't the exact right shade of blue.  I said a prayer of thanks for her kid's brattiness and its indirect benefit to our kid, who was pleased as punch with the shoes.

Germs, flowers, and garage sale finds:  It's finally starting to feel like spring!

Monday, April 13, 2015

Sportsing, Soccer Edition

Atticus went to his first soccer practice tonight.  This is our family's virgin foray into organized sports, something that has prompted a few people I know to say things like, "Good for you," and "Ugh, people start their kids WAY too young in sports, aren't you SO GLAD you waited?" to which I smile and nod graciously, not mentioning anything about how the reality is I am a hermit crab who has done everything in her power to keep our children from playing sports that required my involvement up 'til now just because I didn't want to leave my shell.  Thankfully I married a giant enabler who signed up as assistant coach for our son's team, so I don't even have to leave the shell for practices!  I'm sure the fact that Derek is a talented soccer player (/football player/baseball player/basketball player/almost whatever other sport you can think of) and a gifted leader has nothing to do with it- no, as usual, it's all about me.  This will be news to Derek when he reads this.

Immediately upon finishing his after-school chores, Atticus donned his soccer garb, never mind that he had two hours before practice started.  Then he yet again attempted to grill me about what he could expect at a soccer practice, because he simply cannot wrap his brain around the thought of someone never playing any sports throughout the entirety of their childhood, which was me, except for a few ugly incidents in P.E.  (Dear School Physical Education Classes:  The inferno of my hatred for you has not diminished in the slightest over the years.  Thanks for the lasting emotional scars; the physical ones did eventually heal.  And remind me why boys and girls had to play dodge ball against each other in middle school?  Also:  Would it have killed you to have culled the girls with anger issues and put them in a separate class and/or The Hunger Games?  Hatefully Yours, The Girl with No Hand-Eye Coordination and Poor Depth Perception But a Reasonable Line of Questioning that Was Never Answered to her Satisfaction as to What She Was Supposed to be Learning From Softball Aside From Empathy for Every Other Person Also Picked Last Every Time, aka Me.)

I explained to him that I could talk his ears off about proper ballet technique and jazz choreography and all other manner of fun dance topics, but soccer?  No comprendo.  I hear tell there's balls involved.  I took care of his soccer, um, costume (Probably not the correct lingo.  Guess how much I care.)- thank you, last summer's garage sales!- and here ended my involvement, except for showing up at the games, which start next week.  I also had to explain yet again that I will have to physically attend the games to watch him, as they will not be televised.  This was a heavy blow about a month ago when he first discovered there would be no television crews, no cheerleaders, and no stadium seating- just a semi-muddy field.  It is entirely possible I have kept him in the shell over-long.

Matching sports-ers

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Three Books

The Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss

I did not expect to like this book.

Yes, I loved the first two books in his Kingkiller Chronicles, but the author freely admits- both on his blog and in the foreword of the book itself- that this book is not for everyone.
Now, I'm hoping that if you're any kind of fan of the fantasy genre, you've already read his first two books, and if you haven't, I'm actually a little jealous, because you now get to experience them for the first time.  They're also a kind of prerequisite to any understanding of this book, because although not really a full volume within the series, it still exists within the world of Kvothe and Denna and the Four Corners, except this one is... different.  It's strange and dreamy and Other.

But if you like beautiful language, and words being used in an unexpected, playful, evocative way, and are able to unclinch enough to try a story that doesn't flow within the normal banks of storytelling, then I'd highly, highly recommend this one.  I finished it, then flipped right back to the beginning, just to wallow in the wordplay and mystery.  It's not for everyone, but perfect for a few.

Small Victories:  Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace by Anne Lamott

What will I ever do if Anne Lamott stops writing her essays on tiny things like faith and prejudice and hypocrisy and surviving life?  Just... quit, I guess.  Go on strike?  A life strike?  I like plenty of other current Christian nonfiction authors just fine, I guess, but when you're trying to not only identify but also extract eye-planks, tweezers just aren't going to cut it; no, you need Lamott-shaped pliers.  A curious thing happens when I read her stuff:  I simultaneously feel as though I've got a long way to go, like I've got my work cut out for me when it comes to this Jesus stuff, but also like I maybe shouldn't be so hard on myself.  I checked this one out from the library, but have already decided I need to go and buy a copy of my very own so I can underline a word or thirty here and there.

The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat: And Other Clinical Tales by Oliver Sacks

When I started reading this book, I imagined it was going to be an intriguing if relatively detached romp through the annals of some doctor's case histories.  Loopy but fun, right?  Well.  Dr. Sacks shamed me with the depth of his compassion and empathy for his patients, relating their, yes, highly unusual symptoms and behaviors, but never without giving the reader context, a brief look into the life of the patient.  He is unabashedly fascinated by his own work, but the part that struck me was the overall teaching tone, that of a striving to educate the reader, give them a glimpse into what it must be like for those suffering from these unique but not always rare diseases.  I enjoyed every piece, and it actually helped me a bit; at the time I read it I was at the height of my own (slightly insane) belief I was going to lose function of my right hand at some point (I had absolutely no reason to believe this aside from my own completely unfounded but deceptively charming paranoia), and I was doing as many things as possible with my left, all of which did expand my ambidexterity, with the notable exception of putting my contacts in my eyes, which turned out to be frankly dangerous with my left hand.  Aaaaaanyhoo, I felt much less crazy after reading this.  Whatever it takes, man.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

A Wax Museum and a Driving Range

Adelaide pretended to be two things last week.

She was Tutankhamun for the third grade wax museum:

She was responsible for engineering all of that costume except the makeup, for which I am to be held accountable:  plenty of my eyeliner and bronzer, the last of which did make her skin look a little darker, but it was less "ancient Egyptian king" darker and more "too much fake tan on a white girl" darker.  It was somewhat orange and reminded me of those two girls who sat in front of me in an A&P class I took in college.  I only remember them because of their blinding orange hue, streakey blonde hair, and conversation that made me want to kill myself rather than have my IQ drop any lower just from accidentally overhearing the things they talked about.


Adelaide did a nice job, had the informational speech she'd written about King Tut fully memorized and ready to recite over and over and over to any who walked by and pushed her "button" (that red dot near her shoulder).  Step 1:  Have kid research historical figure in order to create a costume.  Step 2:  Write a 1-2 page report on chosen person in history.  Step 3:  Get the kids amped up about their families coming to see them dressed up in fun costumes, have them repeat that report so many times that they have that information memorized for the rest of their lives.  You certainly know what you're doing, Ballard third grade teachers.  

We also went to the driving range one warm evening, where Adelaide pretended to be a golfer.  The three kids and Derek swung metal poles at little balls.  I took pictures.

If you spend any time at our house, you quickly begin to notice that our boys have this somewhat strange practice where they watch Derek and then rearrange their limbs and voices and way they move to reflect whatever he's currently doing.  It's not one of those obnoxious games of mimicry, but more a form of intense hero worship that I by turns find adorable and disturbing.

It seems to help, however, when Derek is teaching them to golf.  They've already tuned their movements into his, so copying whatever he does comes naturally to them.

Adelaide was dispatched to get a bucket of balls shortly after we arrived.  See that bundle of fabric she has stashed in the crook of her right arm?

It turned out to contain an array of nail polish she'd smuggled onto the range.  "Moooom, can't I please paint my nails while the boys are all playing?  I'd like to get something useful done while we're here."

After being denied her "useful" occupation, she decided she might as well hit a few balls herself.

See her ball, flying in the air, a bit in front of her there?  She couldn't get that from painting her nails!

Never mind the temptation I felt upon seeing those pretty bottles of polish.  This was for her own good.  Or something.

Monday, April 6, 2015

A List

I had decided not to write a post today because I was in such a determined state of grouchiness, but now it's thundering out and there's a light rain to water my hard-working spring flowers.  Few things cheer me up like a healthy thunderstorm, so I'm feeling much better now, thank you.

  • The first hyacinths have bloomed:

I planted these a couple years ago, but for whatever reason they didn't bloom last spring.  When it started to look like they might actually flower this year, I got excited about the peach-colored hyacinths I was just sure I had planted in this spot.  Well.  These aren't peach.

They are, however, a beautiful purple-blue color, and I'm pleased as punch with them.  The first flowers of the season are always so exciting.

  • We celebrated a lovely, low-key Easter with church and golf and gardening.  I have all of three photos of the kids in their Easter finery ("Easter finery" in this household equating to whatever nice-ish clothes I could cobble together three hours before the church service, as I stopped spending money on holiday clothing years ago), or maybe it was four, and right around 100 photos of the kids and Derek golfing.  I will not be forcing you to look at all 100+, but fair warning:  There are going to be a large amount of pics on here this week.  Some will be sweet:
Derek and Cade golfing.  Caedmon looks a bit waif-like in all the golf photos, as he's wearing one of Derek's hats and one of Atticus's shirts.  I did not notice this until we were on the course.  Oh, well.

Some will baffle:
I took this photo of Adelaide during the Easter egg hunt, and I'm still not sure what's happening here.

But in precisely zero photos will everyone be smiling.

Caedmon's "Lollipop Guild" face

  • I was going to have a third thing here, but I can't remember what it was.  This is a problem because I cannot let myself have a list with just two items.  So... fill in your own third item.  And make it clever, would you?  Or perhaps heart-warming, or funny, or something?  Thanks.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

On Wednesdays We Talk About Sea Lions

Sometimes I wonder how often I try to fit my square or trapezoidal experiences into a round or dodecahedral construct that already exists within my mind and memory, a framework that I can understand.

For instance, the first winter we lived in Iowa I frequently heard cows lowing in the distance, particularly at night.  I subconsciously, or maybe half-consciously, looked for cattle operations when driving outside of our little town, but I only ever found a hog farm.

One night, when the cows sounded particularly frantic, I wondered aloud about this deep mystery to Derek.  He looked at me, perhaps to see if I was kidding, then informed me that those were snow mobiles we were hearing night after night, not cows.  Not cows at all.  Then he probably laughed at me, I don't really remember.  I know I laughed at myself, because that is what you do when you mistake snow mobiles for cows, although it's not surprising my brain made this mistake- my growing-up place is marked by an excess of cows and a surfeit of snow-based recreational vehicles of any kind, because there is very little annual snowfall.

I'm not sure what pre-conceived notion my mind is grasping at when I hear a local daycare through the copse of trees that separates the daycare from our school bus stop, as I have never heard with my own ears a band of sea lions on the beach, just recordings of them on documentaries and on the internet.  But the fact remains that those children sound eerily like a recording of sea lions playing on a loop.

Hmm.  Maybe it's my hearing.

Although if it's school children that look like sea lions you're looking for, I'd advise you to drive by our local middle school around lunchtime, when mass quantities of adolescents are congregated outside on a batch of concrete and grass, and there is indeed barking and slapping and awkwardness-on-land galore.  It's really a little sad to think of; at least the sea lions can slip back into the ocean to shed the awkwardness.  Those middle schoolers are just kind of stuck, weird and cringe-inducing no matter what they do.  They have to grow out of theirs one excruciating day at a time.

This kind of grace not available to those in junior high.

I'd better stop talking about middle schoolers lest I trigger my own flashbacks and induce nightmares tonight.