Monday, August 31, 2015

Pie Charts and Apples and a Book

Saturday morning's race went well.

It was a lovely morning, cool for August and overcast, but not a lovely run.  I mean, the course was fine, but some days when you run you feel invigorated and your breathing is easy and natural and your step is bouncy, trouncy, flouncy, pouncy, fun-fun-fun-fun-fun... and then other days are more like Saturday was for me.  It wasn't awful, but it was ugly.  My breathing was all heavy and ragged, my feet were slapping the ground, and I just kind of threw myself forward for 10 kilometers.  Still good enough for third place in my division, which I will take any day of the week and twice on Sundays, as they only handed out medals to the top three in each division.  Medals are disturbingly important to me.  They don't even have to be actual awards or placement medals; finishers medals are enough for me.

Honestly, it's a good thing I'm not good enough at pretty much anything to qualify for the Olympics; I'd be that person that gets medal fever and loses all scope and perspective of what's universally important.  There would also no doubt be a lot more tears and snot in my life.

We also went to the local parade, where my kids gathered candy for me.  They may not have known it was for me, but it most certainly was.

"Now, run out in front of that firetruck and get me that strawberry Laffy Taffy.  I am not even kidding, son."

And yes, that is my race medal hanging from my neck.  I wore that thing all day, including the forever we spent at the cell phone store because Derek is dragging me into the 21st century:  I am getting a smart phone.  It should arrive in the mail tomorrow, but hopefully not too soon before the case I ordered for it, which I am 99% more excited about than the phone itself.  Just wait.  You will either love it or roll your eyes at it; I will love it and squeal in excitement and croon over it.

Before that, though, there were bananas.

I... I'm not real sure just what moment Derek managed to capture here.  Perhaps I'm questioning why I have three bananas in my hands at a parade and zero Laffy Taffy?  I just don't know.

Derek's parents not only joined us at the parade and the Place Where Time Ceases to Exist (cell phone store), they also brought us a bucket of apples.

I did the right thing and turned them all into cinnamon apple sauce.

This had the added benefit of creating extra chores for our children, which I always approve of.
FCA:  Future Composters of America

Then Caedmon and I went to book club, where we discussed this book:

If you enjoy historical fiction, or strong heroines, or Civil War-era books, or books about women who are midwives but want to be surgeons but can't because they have committed the crime of lacking a Y chromosome so instead answer the call for nurses for the war, then this is the book for you.  Every year my book club devotes one month to reading the All Iowa Reads book selection for the year, and to be perfectly frank, they usually suck, like, insanely suck, to the extent that when I discovered just today that My Name is Mary Sutter was an All Iowa Reads book I was a little shocked, because this book does not suck.  You'll want to wash your hands a lot and reach into the book to strangle a couple characters, but it was great, and sparked healthy discussion today.  I definitely recommend it.

Friday, August 28, 2015

AB Pattern

I made banana ice cream yesterday, and holy cow, was it a hit.  I'd read about it and had a couple friends who made and recommended it, but somehow couldn't manage the complicated process (slicing up a few bananas, freezing them for a couple hours, then sending the frozen chunks through the food processor.  It may have taken five entire minutes) until yesterday.  The kids and I tried it plain, and while it was good, with a surprising ice creamy consistency despite the fact that the sole ingredient is bananas, we all agreed that what it really needed was chocolate, which I sent down the processor's chute with gusto.  Because making completely healthy food unhealthy is evidently a real skill of mine.  I'm making another batch tonight, but this time I'm adding chocolate and peanut butter.

Since the weather's been cooler here, I've been forced to dig out my jeans, which led to the unpleasant reminder that last spring I decided to postpone jeans shopping til the fall, because I loathe shopping for jeans.  I love wearing them, but I hate how the level of despair rises with each discarded pair in the dressing room.  I can pick up a dozen pair out on the sales floor, thinking that they look relatively normal and as if there's at least a bare possibility they'll fit, but once I'm actually attempting to shimmy into them?  Puzzlement.  Anguish.  Gnashing of teeth.  Sackcloth begins to sound attractive. Why must it be a modern-day miracle to find a pair of jeans that a) has no machine-made holes, b) allows me to move around without exposing not-to-be-exposed parts of myself, and c) doesn't cost a fortune?

If you hear sobbing coming from an Iowa fitting room next week, don't worry:  It's just me, losing the will to live.

I think I may have finally cracked Caedmon's chore code.  Both Adelaide and Atticus are relatively good at completing their chores quickly and with minimal fuss, but Caedmon?  Man.  He'd spend more time dragging his feet and voicing how unfair it all was than the time it took to complete the chore itself.  The key?  A timer  (This week, anyway).  Caedmon loves to race a timer, so I'll set the microwave timer for, say, two minutes to put clean silverware away, three minutes to take out and dump the compost bowl, etc, and he'll go as fast as he can to finish before the timer beeps.  I'm not sure why I didn't think of this earlier; when I'm feeling especially lazy and tempted to let a small task go, I'll time myself to see how long it actually takes to unload the dishwasher, fold some clothes, etc, so that I can berate myself afterwards about how lazy I must be to even be tempted to put something off that only took four minutes to complete anyway.  (Hang on, that's not where that was supposed to go...)

Did you not see the first "Bad" point?  I HAVE TO GO JEANS SHOPPING NEXT WEEK.

A couple weeks ago we checked out the movie The Hobbit from the library.  Not the fancy, modern, quasi-realistic version, but the old 1977 animated version that I remember watching a time or two growing up.  That is, I thought I'd watched it a time or two, until I started it for the kids and began to walk away.

As soon as that music came on, I wheeled right around and sat myself down, caught up in a wave of nostalgia so powerful it was as close as I've ever come to actual time travel.  I knew almost every word of dialogue, every song, sound effect, all of it, to the extent that I have to think we must have had it on constantly for some period of my childhood.  This is strange to me; because I remember so much of my growing-up years so vividly and specifically, it's bewildering when I come across something forgotten.

You can see why it was a childhood favorite.

The only downside to my trip down a Hobbit-strewn memory lane was the nightmare it sparked that night, where a Teddy Ruxpin said one after another cruel thing to me, over and over.  Upon waking, I couldn't remember what he'd said, why I didn't merely walk away, or what was keeping me from dreaming up a baseball bat to take to his furry demon body, just that my brain had officially ruined one of my childhood toys.  Thanks, Brain.

UUUUMMM, I just googled "evil Teddy Ruxpin," you know, for fun, and came across this post:  Your Childhood Games and Toys as Horror Movie Posters.  Oh, Teddy.  I knew it.  Or my brain did, anyway.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Ends and Odds

  • I'm running my first 10k race this Saturday morning.  I've run both shorter and longer races than this, but I'm still a little nervous, for some reason.  10 kilometers is probably my favorite distance to run on any given day, but that's when I don't have to worry about my time or running with other people or all the other things race day brings.  I'm most concerned about my pacing, as my watch is dead and I have no plans on purchasing another any time soon; I love running off of feel alone, so I suppose we'll just have to see how that goes this weekend.  I do have a goal pace and time, which I will only share with Derek because in general I like to keep people's expectations nice and low- including mine- so that I don't disappoint.  If you think of it, maybe send some good vibrations my way Saturday around 7:30 am, and feel free to help me out by eating extra pasta tomorrow.  Because I'm pretty sure that's how carbo loading works.

  • Yesterday I went upstairs to rouse Caedmon so we could go grab the biggens from the bus stop.  I checked the boys' room, and didn't find him.  I checked Adelaide's room, and didn't find him.  I checked my room, and didn't find him.  Then I did it all over again, finally spying some little hands in the mass of pillows on our bed:

When asked why he insisted on sleeping under all those pillows, his reply was, "I just wanted to sleep right where Daddy sleeps."  Of course.

  • The last several  memoirs I've read have been very bleh, mostly due to a big steamy heap of self-indulgence in every last one of them.  It seems that autobiographies in particular are in desperate need of a deft editor, hopefully in the vein of the best antiques appraisers who are able to tell people that to you and your family, this item or story is rich in sentiment; to the rest of the world, it's merely boring, tacky trash.  
Mercifully, I seem to have broken the dull memoir streak:

I'm about a quarter of the way through, and so far her stories move at a nimble pace and feature details that make you love her family, such as how her uncle was just sure pizza wasn't going to catch on or that time her mom got stuck in the chicken house.  I'm reluctant to tell you about a book before I've finished it, but so far, this one is wonderfully entertaining, and I have yet to roll my eyes and holler, "NOBODY CARES!" like I did with the last memoir I slogged through.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Day One

Ah, the first day of school.

Real quick:  Do you see the expressions on those faces up there?  Our children cannot fake happiness- at least not well.  I am okay with that.  And they weren't unhappy about going back to school, but about me taking their picture.  Also:  See Adelaide's shirt, of the giraffe holding the giant pile of books clear up to her chin?  That is almost exactly how Adelaide looks each time she staggers out of the library with as many books as her arms will carry.  She wore this shirt today intentionally, saying, "I'm trying to help my new teacher understand what she's dealing with when it comes to me."

Today was a pretty stress-free back-to-school event, as it's the second year for both Adelaide and Atticus in their respective elementary schools.  Plus our district hosts a Back to School night a couple days before the actual start of school, where the students go and meet their new teachers and explore their new classrooms and stash all their supplies.  It takes a lot of the unknown away from a new school year, which in turn does away with a big chunk of any lingering fears.  Back to School night is just smart, and I love smart.  It's the best.

Because of all this, A & A seemed to be feeling more excitement than anything on our walk to the bus stop this morning, although Adelaide did only eat half her bowl of cereal this morning before pushing it toward Atticus to finish, claiming that she was too nervous to eat.  And yes, Atticus did polish off her breakfast plus his own.  Some people have dogs to eat up all those leftovers; we have boys.  Sidenote:  As you can see, both our four-year-old and our fourth grader are content to hold their Daddy's hand.  Please tell me this never ends.  Not pictured is Atticus, whose eagerness to reach the bus stop and just get to school already carried him ahead of the group.

The kids boarded the bus with hardly a backward glance, although they did condescend to wave to the rest of us through the windows.  We took it and were grateful.  Caedmon was almost embarrassingly gleeful on the walk back and after we got home, seeming to instantly remember just how great it is to be sole recipient of all that delicious parental attention.  I'll have to make the next couple weeks nice and boring, maybe give him a bigger load of chores so he'll feel more enthusiastic about preschool, which starts after Labor Day, because right now he seems to think home is where it's at.  Time to disabuse him of that notion.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Forced Fun

It's been a wonderfully cool August in these parts, which means instead of hiding indoors, shades drawn to block out the roasting sun, we've been outside, doing outside things.

All it took to get our children outdoors once the daily temperatures cooled was, "Look, you like playing outside, you just seem to have forgotten this fact after a month of playing Legos indoors while it was hot out.  Now, we are going to the Forest Preserve, where you are going to climb trees and run on the trails and HAVE FUN WHETHER YOU LIKE IT OR NOT."  I then may have gone on a bit about how they should appreciate these cool temperatures, because, children?  WE COULD LIVE IN TEXAS.  "We could live in Texas" being my own personal version of "There are starving children in China" anytime our children dare to complain about the Iowa heat.  They handle severe cold like champs, but heat?  Wilting, whiney flowers, the lot of them.

Never have you seen two more enthusiastic children at the sight of this perfect climbing tree (the youngest was golfing with Daddy).  Please keep in mind that this is the same daughter who, before we left the house, cried, "Mom, why do you always make us do these things?  Hiking and riding our bikes and, and WALKING AROUND.  Uuuuuugh!"

Obviously having a terrible time.

Maybe, with years of therapy, they will overcome the horrors I have wrought upon them.

This is generally what me making them walk around ends up looking like:

This daughter also told me I was "committing unpardonable violence against trees" this morning when I was out trimming the jungle of trees in our yard.  A mild summer plus oceans of rain this year have caused our yard to look like someone opened a Jumanji board in our house.  I tried to explain that I'm simply trying to make it look as if humans do, in fact, inhabit our house, but she was having none of it.  It's this kind of dramatic behavior that Derek surely had in mind when, last night at Back to School night, he said to me, "Do you want to go ahead, and, you know- warn her?" while gesturing at our daughter's new teacher, who was fresh-faced and hid her look of alarm quite well at these words of my husband's.  Adelaide is an excellent student, but, well, it probably would be helpful if she came with a warning label:  "Hyberbole Ahead," perhaps, or maybe "If You Allow Me To Walk All Over You I Will Lose All Respect For You So I Need a Firm Hand Also Brace Yourself For Frequent Impromptu Spelling Bees Because That Is My Idea Of Fun."

At one point Atticus asked if he could take my picture.  I said, "Sure, buddy!" and obligingly climbed the tree.

This is why I am in around 1% of our family's photos.  He did try.

He still loves pockets, and it still scares me when he does the whole I've-got-something-in-my-pocket-wait-til-you-see-what-it-is-please-don't-freak-out kind of look.  Thankfully the only thing in all of our pockets that day were heaps of acorns we found under the oak trees within the preserve.

Well, acorns and a 9 mm bullet casing.  And we're not even in Texas!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The Things, We Have Been Doing Them

As usual, our family has been doing all sorts of Very Important Things lately, such as:

Cutting our hair into mohawks:

It's actually "mohawk" singular, as the rest of us decided against a single strip of hair across the top of our scalps.  Not every Crisler is as fierce as the Atticus, and I mean "fierce" in a very Project Runway sense of the word.  (Dear Husband:  I promise not to mention PR again in this post.  You may read on without fear.)  And no, I have no shame over watching Project Runway (whoops- sorry, Derek):  It's like the 4-H Style Reviews I competed in every summer growing up, except with fewer sunflower dresses, crueler judges, but about the same amount of histrionics.  (People who know my mom:  You should absolutely ask her about that year a girl won Grand Champion with a dress my mom knew in her bones she didn't make herself.  My mother is the absolute opposite of a stereotypical stage mom, but even now that girl's name hisses through mom's teeth like she's talking about the antichrist.  Give how even-keel she usually is, it is completely hilarious.)

We went to the Iowa State Fair last weekend, which we attend almost exclusively for the food.  Family favorites this year:
Derek:  Jumbo Chili Cheese Dog; Cheese Curds
Kristy: Cheese Curds; Giant Soft Pretzel covered in Chocolate, Slivered Almonds, and Sea Salt; Caramel Apple
Adelaide:  Cheese curds; Caramel Apple Sundae; Honey Lemonade, 
Atticus:  "Every food."
Caedmon:  Cheese Curds, Honey Lemonade

Fried peanut butter and jelly on a stick.  It was... okay.  Just okay.

Iowa friends, feel free to skip the Fried Apple Pie on a Stick and the Mexican Grilled Sweet Corn, as both were dismally disappointing.

I've let entirely too many posts go by recently without a single flower pic.  Forgive us our trespasses:
Hello, hydrangeas.  You make August beautiful.

And lastly, this has had me laughing for days at random, often inconvenient times.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Let's Talk About Weird Pseudo-Medical Practices

If, at any time in the future, you find your allergies acting up and you want to do something delightfully strange, I'd like to suggest you squirt water through one nostril, let it swish around your sinuses a bit, then run it out the opposite nostril.  It's a great trick for making your kids squeal, and I can only assume would be a hit at parties.

Here's what mine looks like, complete with picture of happy Dr. Mehta.

My mom was at one of her gatherings of people who delight in the suffering of others (she calls it a "nurse conference"), and a nurse from an allergist's office was lauding the benefits of nasal irrigation systems.  Mom then tried it to help ward off her standard post-mowing headache, and it worked.  Then, because she doesn't believe in hiding her medical light under a bushel, she bought one for me.  I was a little worried when she first told me about it, because instead of the above little squeeze bottle, I had previously only seen the Neti Pot, which makes it look less like you're rinsing pollen and dander and junk out of your system and more like you have a disturbing teapot fetish, like you'll stick that spout into just about any body orifice if these blasted people would go away.

To be honest, the first time I used it, it didn't go that great.  I mean, I managed to get it into one side of my nose and the water did run out the other, and I had the side perk of completely freaking Caedmon out, but it gave me a thumping sinus headache for the rest of the day.  It was immediately obvious what I'd done wrong:  I hadn't heated the water enough.  It turns out what feels lukewarm to the skin on the inside of my wrist feels pretty frigid when it's sluicing through my sinuses, akin to the feeling of getting pool water up your nose.  Not pleasant.

The second time, the pollen count had been high for days, my nose itched incessantly, and I'd spent a good portion of the day sneezing.  This time I made sure the water was nice and warm before squirting it into my face (there's really no getting around the fact that this whole thing is pretty weird), and sure enough:  No post-rinse headache and the itching and sneezing abated for the remainder of the day.  I've also found that, after each time I use Squeezy, I'm able to breathe much more easily through my nose.  I have chronically swollen nasal passages (Dear lifelong allergies:  I hate you), but for about thirty minutes after irrigation, I can inhale and exhale and even inhale again if I'm feeling extravagant, all through my nose, all the way I assume normal people can all the time.  Such luxury!

While the packaging does say "Daily Nasal Hygiene," this isn't something I'd do every day.  I don't even wash my hair every day, let alone the inside of my nose; I use it as needed, instead, when my nose is about to itch itself off my face, or after I've been breathing in mass amounts of pet dander, or when the demon ragweed is swirling through the air and making people miserable.  

Have any of you tried a Neti Pot?  Any kind of nasal irrigation system?  On a scale of 1 to 10, just how ridiculous did you feel the first time you used it?

Monday, August 10, 2015

Dog Days

We're closing in on the final couple weeks of summer vacation, and I'm a little blue.  I always have trouble letting go of our kids in the fall- school just takes up so many hours of their day!  It's one of the few ways in which I am thankful to be a muggle:  At least they're still living at home!  They could be going away to school (um, somewhere- Rowling never addressed exactly where or what the North American school of magic was.  It would most likely need to be somewhere remote, right?  Wyoming, maybe?) until Christmas, so I suppose I'll console myself with the fact that I still get to see them everyday at 3:20 pm.

I've learned to accept that I panic a bit every August:  Where did the summer go?  Time to do aaaaallll the fun summer things I put off in June and July, packing the zoo and Reiman Gardens and pancakes for breakfast and one last trip to Big Creek and late nights watching meteor showers (this one's not my fault, as I have no control over the Perseids...yet) into three short weeks, the hopeful effect being our children will be good and sick of me come the first day of school, and eager to jump on that school bus and march into those classrooms where they will, naturally, be star pupils.  (You are welcome teachers- also, please be advised this little fantasy of mine does not apparently feature my own children.  I'm as sad about this as you are.)

In addition to the manic We Will Have Fun or Die Trying activities, we still have to do our back-to-school shopping.  This is a gauntlet that does not end, as you might believe, when every item on a myriad of lists has been checked off, oh no:  It's over when none of our children are speaking to me and I have made at least one cry tears of rage and/or self-pity.  Because, as it turns out, the lack of a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle-themed backpack in one's life is totally worth crying over.  Thankfully I have a titanium-plated heart (at least according to one of the more dramatic of our children, i.e., ALL OF THEM) and cannot be swayed by tears or begging.  At least I don't have any pillows to make this year.

I therefore have two specific sets of instructions for you all:  Internet companions, if it seems like I've become one of those irksome parents who does All The Things, filling each day with a precious something-or-other for our offspring; and Real Life companions, if you see me at the store- any store- with heart-broken children; to both of you, all of you, please realize that it is simply August, and this is how we do.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Lully: An Update

We're going on night 5 of using the Lully, and it's been... interesting.  An hour and a half after Atticus falls asleep, Derek's phone ding-a-lings, letting us know that it's time to go upstairs and stand creepily over our son, or as the app says it, "Time to turn on Lully!"

Hello, Lully.  I love your gray and purple color scheme.  Please work.

We (or often just Derek) then troop up the stairs and into the boys' room, Derek taps the purple "On" button on his phone, and the floor begins to shake.

It's actually Atticus's bed that vibrates, the Lully being located under his mattress, but it does it with such force that we can feel its effects under our feet where we stand next to the bed, too.  It's like one of those infant bouncy seats that features a vibrate switch, but on steroids.  Between the physical force of the vibrations and the loud humming sound it makes, it's amazing Atticus doesn't wake up- if he did, the instructions specify that you turn off the Lully, and that you're done for the night; in other words, you do not want the kid to awaken.  Small movements on the part of the sleeper when the Lully switches on are permitted, as long as they stay asleep.  So far Atticus has slept right through all that buzzing and vibrating, which hopefully means it's keeping him from entering that phase of sleep where night terrors occur (Lully employs the scheduled awakenings technique of combating sleep disturbances).  It would appear that it is... to an extent.

The Lully is designed to vibrate your kid once a night, for a period of three minutes, and this is supposed to keep the night terrors at bay for the entirety of the night.  It's been a pretty bad week of sleep for Atticus, which was somewhat expected, as last week he had some pretty good nights of sleep, and his good nights/bad nights tend to cycle, but we have noticed that the terrors are happening significantly later in the night than usual.  So, the Lully is working... kind of?  It's hard to tell.  I'm curious to see how many terrors he suffers from in the coming weeks, when we're in what should be a good part of the cycle.  As ever when experimenting with ways to combat our son's night terrors, hopes are high(ish), but expectations are low.  It's the only way to maintain sanity.

Friday, August 7, 2015

This Week: A List

This week we

  • Went to the local public garden, where the kids ran around,

and I took pictures of plants I've decided I can no longer live without,

Ornamental millet, you complete me.

and the kids ran around,

and I took more pictures of plants I can't live without.

They had all kinds of water plants in containers throughout the garden.  Why has this never occurred to me?  Fill something with water, then grow water lilies on top!  Brilliant!

And a direct result of all that running, not to mention half the reason we go:

  • Won a golf tournament.  Well, Derek won a golf tournament, but I'm counting it as a family victory.  I don't have a picture of that, but I do have a picture of him winning at Chinese checkers.

Derek is one of those people who somehow wins all manner of things.  This is infuriating to Adelaide.  If an impassioned rant is what your life is missing right now, you should ask her about it.

  • Played with legos.

Okay, so the boys played with legos, Derek won a golf tournament, and I'm reading this book right now:

It's, like, mondo good.

Adelaide is reading this:

She claims that hers, too, is mondo good.

Seriously, though, those are all container water gardens!

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

That'll Learn 'Em

A few weeks ago a friend of mine came a-calling, telling me all about this "apartment turnover" thing, how fun it was, how much she looked forward to that weekend every summer, how it was a nice way to make a few bucks each August, how I, too, should join in on the festivities and work with her this year.

Apartment turnover is where you clean and paint a slew of recently vacated apartments in preparation for their new tenants.  It involves scrubbing and brushing and rolling and going up and down thousands of stairs for a total of 42 hours over three days.

It turns out this friend has a somewhat different definition of "fun" than my own.

Listen to me, friends:  I am in pretty good physical condition.  I love running and exercise and throwing my body around in a variety of different ways, but after the previous weekend of "fun," it took eleven straight hours of sleep and one solid hour of yoga to work out the various nagging aches afflicting this body.  Because cleaning those apartments is nothing like cleaning your own house; it turns out university students have no problem whatsoever living in utter squalor, paying God only knows how much to live in a box of their own filth.

The depressing part is knowing that these new kids are going to come in to those nice, clean, newly painted (BY ME) apartments and junk them up again.  It's an endless cycle, a horrible, horrible loop without end.

My question is:  Why?  Why does it have to be this way?  Yes, there were a few apartments that had been decently maintained, but not many.  Couldn't the management of said apartments have some kind of orientation for all those fresh, new, dirt-mongering students the first week they move in?  Things as simple as:

  • Place a sheet of aluminum foil at the bottom of your oven to catch spilled food, so the apartment turnover people don't have to spend hours scrubbing in there and you have a prayer of getting your security deposit back.
  • If something spills on the floor, clean it up.  Immediately.  It will take you maybe three minutes if you do it right away, rather than half an hour for the apartment turnover people and you'll have a prayer of getting your security deposit back.
  • Wipe down the bathroom.  It doesn't even have to be that often!  Twenty minutes, once a week is enough to stave off certain entropy, and you'll have a prayer of getting your security deposit back.
I am not asking for a miracle, here.  And perhaps I'm naive to believe that the eighteen- to twenty-something crowd are capable of looking away from their phones a couple times a week to pick up a sponge, but I feel like some basic education could go a long way.  

Failing that, I'm also not opposed to the use of shock collars.  Not after the weekend I had.

BZZZT!  Wipe off the stove!  BZZZT!  Scrub out the tub!