Thursday, January 28, 2016

Teaching Our Children Initiative So They Don't Die

I got sick.  So did Derek.  At this point we're both recovering, as we fell like dominoes, one sick right after the other, but man, it's been a rough few days.

The result of our periods of overlapping illness was that, yesterday morning, when I emerged from my stupor better-ish, but still shaky on my pins, the house was a rat hole.  You know all that stuff I just posted about how much I love to watch our children do chores?  Well, it turns out they only do those things if I'm there to play Chore Maestro.

To be fair, Adelaide mostly took care of her own stuff, such as cleaning up her own dishes, hanging up her wet snow gear, etc, and Atticus wasn't completely disgusting, but Caedmon?  He had the nerve to act like a five-year-old boy with little adult supervision *clears throat* which, I suppose is exactly what he was, but still.

As a result, starting yesterday afternoon we began discussing initiative.  Initiative, as I lectured told my precious sacks of filth darlings is seeing that something needs to be done and then doing that thing.  It's going to throw a container of yogurt away, seeing that the trash can is nearly overflowing with refuse, and not carefully perching the container on top of the pile, nay! but rather, pulling on the magic strings of draw that are so handily built into the top seam of the trash bag, hoisting it out, and taking it out to the dumpster.  It's getting one leftover enchilada out of the container for your supper, then putting the remaining enchiladas back into that big white thing with cold insides that keeps food delightfully fresh for so long, rather than leaving the dish of meat and cheese out on the counter to rot.

We're starting small, as I soon realized that our boys don't even seem to see when some things need to be done.  So I'm pretending they're troglodytes- not much of a stretch today, friends- and leading them gently around the house, adding extra sarcasm-infused syrup to my voice as I ask, "And what is this, sweet boys?  That's right, it is a bowl!  Very good, boys!  And what is in this bowl, sons of mine?  Why, I don't know what it is, either!  Sometimes it's hard to identify food when it's been sitting out for two days, so don't feel bad.  Now, here is the important part, future men of the world (GOD HELP US ALL):  [Insert highly detailed instructions of a simple procedure including water and a sink that I will not put you through].  Now, who can repeat what I just said?"

Just eating my lunch with a wooden spoon because every other piece of silverware was dirty and our children didn't ever see that as a problem.
We have done the same thing with the toilet, with hats and mittens, with snow boots, with the trash can, and on, and on, and on.  Today I'm noodling over what kind of system to put in place (chore chart?  But I don't really like those or think they work that well.  Jar that we fill with stuff or take away from that I'm pretty sure I saw on Pinterest?  I just don't know yet.), that, most importantly, I can follow through on, because in general, the more complicated and labor-intensive a system is for me, the more likely I am to abandon it/throw it against a wall until it shatters in a highly satisfying way.

I don't really have short-term specific goals for this, either, but if I did they'd probably fall between "takes out the trash without being asked" and me no longer having to scrub around the base of the toilet while quietly singing Janet Jackson's Nasty to myself with increasing hysteria.  Somewhere in there.

Monday, January 25, 2016

These Ears Are Made for Piercing

For the past couple years, Adelaide has steadfastly refused to get her ears pierced.

I don't mean we were, like, pressuring her or anything.  I wasn't advancing on her in a threatening manner with fat needles in my hands.  (Much.)  But when she was six or seven years old, and more and more girls around her were showing up at school with ornamented ears, we had a conversation about when she could get holes punched in her own lobes (when she turned eight) and why (because that's when I got mine done).

She turned eight.  I asked if she wanted to get her ears pierced.  She answered rather strongly in the negative.  The word "barbaric" was used.  This might sound extreme, but if you know Adelaide, you know it was probably just a Tuesday or something.

Every so often we'd have another conversation about it, usually when I was putting my own earrings in.  Her opinion remained the same.

But then, a few months ago, she abruptly changed her mind.  She did want to get her ears pierced.  She was ready to embrace her inner barbarian (my words, this time.)

We waited a while to make sure she wasn't going to change her mind again.  Then we waited some more.  And then some more.  Derek basically left the execution of the whole thing up to me, which suited me down to the ground, as I have strong opinions on where you should go to get your piercings done and by whom.

I've got a total of five holes in my ears- well, other than the God-given ones- which in this day and age is a pretty conservative number, plus all my piercings are confined to my ears, which basically makes me a nun.  Those piercings were done in three different settings, and of those three, the absolute, hands-down best was in a tattoo parlor.

When I had the cartilage of one of my ears pierced, up at the top, it was by a heavily tattooed and pierced gentleman who talked me through the process as he was doing it.  He hauled out some antibacterial goop and one of the biggest needles I've ever seen, then proceeded to lecture me like some kind of Professor of Piercing, which I guess he was:  "I know this seems barbaric [that word again!], but the best way to pierce any part of your body except your earlobes is with a needle.  If you ever go to get your cartilage pierced again and they plan on using one of those piercing guns, you need to run the other way.  It will compress the cartilage, and [insert graphic and upsetting description of horrors that I don't remember word for word as it was fifteen years ago]- that is why a needle is best."
Me, meekly:  "Yes, Professor Piercing."  (I didn't really call him that.  I was way too intimidated, and he was about to stick a giant needle through me.)

Because of all that, I wasn't about to take our daughter to some dirty jewelry store to get her ears pierced by a bored teenager with minimal experience.  I was adamant she get it all done at a clean, well-run tattoo parlor by someone with plenty of experience (i.e. holes all over their body).  Derek suggested a place in Ames he said looked clean and nice every time he's walked past, so we looked it up online, and it seemed very reputable.

Derek and the boys dropped Daughter and I off Saturday morning, and sure enough!  Clean premises!  Friendly, heavily pierced staff!  Perfection!

Adelaide filled out her own paperwork, I signed off on it and footed the bill, then we went back to a private room with photos of freshly pierced folks young and old on the walls.  She settled into a chair somewhat like what you'd see in a dentist's office, except much wider and a million times less frightening (that may or may not be my dentist phobia speaking).  The gal marked on her ears with ink where the piercings would be, Adelaide checked it in the mirror and okayed the placement, then I got out of the way so the woman could do Daughter's right ear while a guy did her left at the same time.  They each used a needle to do the piercing, pushed through to what looked like a cork held behind her ear, then put her earrings of choice in.

She was so brave: She winced while they did it, but there were no tears, not so much as a word, really.  Both piercers were incredibly kind and encouraging to her, too.  They gave us detailed instructions- verbal and written- on how to care for the piercings, and we were out the door.
Heroic Ink in Ames, Iowa:  Highly Recommend
Adelaide was pleased.  I was pleased.  Derek was pleased when he picked us up.  Atticus and Caedmon were a combination of confused/grossed out/uninterested.  Ear piercing success.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

The Sights

Sights that fill my heart with joy:

Our children doing chores.  [Insert evil but sincere laugh here.]
Because each of our children are unique, individual human beings, they're each good at different things- including chores.  Caedmon is my go-to mopper, as he's thorough and careful to scrub when needed, something that his two older siblings can't (WON'T) seem to grasp.
Plus his dimple comes out when he's putting some muscle into the job.  If that isn't added incentive to give him this particular task, I don't know what is.

Atticus, on the other hand, is the kid I call upon when I have a mountain of towels to fold.  It's not his favorite chore, but I tell him that not everyone can be a master of the tri-fold.  He is very comforted by this.
He's also my head snow shoveler.
I took this picture on Christmas Eve, after we'd been to church and he'd had to sit still and listen to adults for close to an hour.  As soon as we got home, he begged to go out and shovel, as he had energy to burn.  This had the added benefit of making me look like a monster to our neighbors, sending our seven-year-old boy out into the cold to do manual labor on the night before Christmas, all while I watched in my fancy holiday clothes from within the comfortable warmth of our house.  I thought about making a big sign to hold up to the window: "HE ASKED FOR IT," but I decided there was a faint possibility that could be misconstrued.

::Right here you'll have to fill in your own image of Adelaide taking out the trash or unloading the dishwasher, as she seems to find it insulting when I take pictures of her doing chores while I sip my iced tea and nibble delicately on lemon cookies as I recline in my easy chair.::

Only kidding.  I don't much care for iced tea.

Other sights I always enjoy:
Is this or is this not the most perfect coffee receptacle you've ever seen?  It's from The Awkward Yeti, and let me tell you, if you've ever felt like the only thing missing in your life is a hilarious comic featuring cartoon internal organs, then get ready to achieve nirvana.  I follow him on Instagram, because I am not a fool and I never underestimate the effect of a well-executed gall bladder joke.

And finally, despite all my attempts at visualizing a vomit-free weekend, last night was... well, let's just say it was decidedly malodorous.  As of now, this illness has felled 60% of the residents of this household, and although I'm hoping Derek and I will emerge unscathed, given the amount of times my person has waded through a quagmire of germ juice over the past few days, it's not looking good.  So far, though, it only seems to be a 24-hour bug, where it hits its victims with uncalled-for violence, but then more or less leaves them alone to sleep it off and emerge more or less back to normal.  
This morning Adelaide and Caedmon were making up for hours of action last night.
These still count as joyful sights to behold, as the visage of our sleeping children makes my twisted little heart glow on any day, but when they've been sick?  Those sleeping babes make me whisper-yell, "HALLELUJER!" (so as not to wake them, see), because that means it's finally break time, and by "break time" I mean time to wash every piece of bedding or clothing  you can sneak out of their rooms without waking them, lighting candles in every room, and opening any and all bedroom windows, because the outside temp may be below freezing, but at this point, fresh is fresh air, man.
Please note that she surrounded herself with all the things that comfort her:  A bag full of library books, a coloring book and pens, and there under her head you can just make out the little pink pillow I made for her to take to kindergarten.

So!  What sights fill your heart with joy these days?  Do, do share, as I could use a few extra merry sights during this bleak, colorless time of year.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Sledding and Slow-Cooked Bananas and Wishful Thinking

Temperatures soared into the teens this week, which means Caedmon and I dragged our sleds to the bus stop to pick the kids up after school most days this week.  We then enjoyed going down the little hill there over and over and over and over and climbing up the little hill over and over and over and over, fulfilling my real motive of wearing the kids out a bit and burning off any post-school day crankiness before they even walked in the door of our house.  Raise your hand if you've ever asked God to enrich the evil genius residing within you in order to aid in your parenting.

Adelaide affirmed my belief that youngest siblings generally have it made, at least if your eldest sibling is an indulgent sister whose name rhymes with Shadelaide.
His Indian name is Cute But Heavy.  Hers is Dotes Upon Caedmon, which sounds more like the name of an English village, so never mind.

Then we all went home and did the only thing you can do after sledding, which is drink hot cocoa.
Yes, I'm still using my Christmas mug.  I'm also still listening to Christmas music, although only in our vehicle.  I took all those exhortations to "Never change!" inscribed in my yearbook seriously.

Last night I made banana ice cream for the kids after supper, which is always curious, as whipping frozen bananas in my food processor tap dances on just this side of triggering an allergic response in me, despite the fact that I'm not actually ingesting any of the allergen.  I noted this with interest, then got to further my mental notes when cleaning regurgitated banana off nearly every surface of the bathroom later that night.  Apparently seven years old is not the age when you're able to hit the toilet when sick- well, not the inside of it, anyway, or even within a few feet of its easily flushable inside.  Seriously, it was like an episode of NCIS: Vomit in there.  I'm sure if I had the training I'd be able to identify all kinds of things in the splatter patterns.  Good news, though!  Apparently stomach acid "cooks" the banana enough- thereby denaturing its proteins- that even skin contact doesn't elicit a response in this allergy sufferer.  Motherhood is teaching me so much!

After a night like that, I kept Atticus home from school, and although we enjoyed a lethargic morning, he now seems to be back to normal.
Please excuse the mess.  We actually live here.
Balloons have saved our bacon more than once during a long Iowa winter:  They're cheap, after a couple days they do a Roberta Flack and kill themselves softly, and the children lose their minds over them.  I don't know why tag/keep-away/ every single other game is so much more fun when played with balloons, but according to our progeny, this is a truth universally acknowledged.  

I'm going to copy a friend of mine now and attempt to visualize my preferred future:  A vomit-free weekend, laden with running, good food (I'm making a cheese ball!  And crockpot Maid-Rites!  And yes, this is exciting enough to warrant an exclamation point!  It's possible that my life is somewhat sad!  I don't even care because CHEESE BALL!), with a liberal dose of Jane Eyre and maybe some Mancala.  Amen.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Calling a Vegetable a Vegetable

Last weekend I made a new recipe.  I'd come across it weeks ago via that Tasty thingamajig- you know, the high-speed videos of dishes being prepared that your mean, mean friends purposely share on social media at the times when you're absolutely starving?  That.

This was a relatively healthy meal, and it looked so good, and simple, and I was just sure that our whole family would find it ever so delicious, and also?  I am a schmuck.

That in itself isn't exactly news, so I'll be more specific:  I am a schmuck who is repeatedly taken in by claims like, "This healthy thing tastes exactly like that other not-so-healthy-but-oh-so-tasty thing!  Pinky swear!"  Then I have the gall to be astonished when cauliflower doesn't taste like fried rice.  Of course it doesn't taste like fried rice; it's cauliflower!  

I knew things were going awry when I was cooking the not-rice in the pan and it smelled like cauliflower.  I thought that perhaps the cauliflower would stop smelling so much like cauliflower as it neared the end of the cooking process, or maybe once I added the eggs and the soy sauce.  I mean, yes, the post was titled "Cauliflower Fried Rice," but the guy says, "Oh-ho, yes!" after scooping up a forkful of the False Rice.  I made the mistake of believing "Oh-ho, yes!" meant "My taste buds are enjoying this!" or even just "This doesn't taste like a bowlful of cauliflower!" because, as we've established, I am a chump.

I'm fine with healthy foods as long as they're marketed as the honest, healthy food they are.  I love spaghetti squash, but I'm not going to tell you it tastes like spaghetti, because it doesn't, because it's not.  It's not pasta.  It's a vegetable, and that is okay.

Thankfully, after everyone had eaten all the steak out of their cauliflower bowls- which Derek manfully polished off, because he will eat pretty much anything if I have cooked it and has since the day we married, because he has the wisdom of Solomon- husband then made the most divine grilled cheese sandwiches I have ever tasted in my entire life.  Now, the man is a superior grilled-cheese-maker (a specific brand of Italian bread + thinly sliced deli Provolone + butter + garlic salt + a dash of Derek), but I think it was the contrast between cauliflower and cheesy, salty, buttery goodness that did it.

The remainder of the Cauliflower Fried Rice was unceremoniously dumped in the trash that evening, but I'm thinking I should've stashed some in the fridge to taste before each meal.  Imagine how good Ranch-Style Chicken would be after a little cauliflower, oh, or chocolate chip cookies!  Our kids are going to love this new family mandate!  I know exactly how they'll react to the news.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Coughs and Promises

Last week our family got hit with one of those colds- nothing terrible, just the kind where you feel a little rundown and it often seems you're sporting as many bodily fluids on your outside as you have on your inside.  In other words, we were all very, very pretty.

At this point, we're mostly over it, except for a few lingering sniffles and sore throats, plus I'm noticing less mouth breathing and glazed expressions both in our children and in the mirror.

Except, that is, for Caedmon.  

Poor Cade.  I don't know if it's that his lungs are smaller, or that he's just more prone to these things, but he cannot seem to shake this cough.  This means he had to miss preschool again today, and if someone could please make him see reason that would be great, as my explanation of "You can't go to preschool when you're coughing 'til you dry heave" seemed to carry no weight with him.

There are short periods where The Cough leaves him in peace, lulling me into false hopes of "We're finally over this!  Time to wash all the bedding!  I can replace everyone's toothbrushes!  Let's have a knob- and handle-disinfectant party!"  Then he starts coughing until he's staggering around the house clutching his sore transverse abdominals.  That's how we wound up here:
I call this one "Picnic in the Bathroom."  Because it was a picnic.  In the bathroom.
What, you don't eat your lunch within feet of the toilet?  I'm sorry your life is so provincial.  We Crislers have our toast while enjoying a nice steam from the hot shower I will only run for two minutes because not even a sick kid can impel me waste water and cents.  It was still enough to generate a semi-tropical environment, especially with the space heater helping things out and bumping up the temp.  We enjoyed an almost cough-free thirty minutes.  Worth it.

As of now, I haven't heard Caedmon cough in nearly an hour, causing him to repeatedly walk in here, lean against me beseechingly, and attempt to wrangle a promise from me that I will let him attend preschool tomorrow.  He seemed to think his announcement that, "And if you let me go, I'll wash my hands every time I walk by the bathroom at preschool!  With soap!" was going to clinch the deal.  I'm thinking of adding a rider to this contract along the lines of "And I'll shower every day, even if I think I don't need it, especially if I think I don't need it, and I'll hug my mother every day, too, and I'll start paying attention when I pee and for the love of God AIM," but that last one makes me realize I've floated off into fantasy land, and I would do well to agree to hand-washing with soap- it's changed the world before, hasn't it?


Sunday, January 17, 2016


About a week ago, I decided that as long as I have an opposable thumb on my right hand, I might as well be able to use it.  I'm greedy like that.

I therefore got myself to the doctor- a good month after my wrist/hand/useless flipper started to trouble me- and good news!  It turns out I do not, in fact, have a stress fracture!  Instead I have a condition that makes me sound like I'm making things up when I try and explain what's wrong with me.
Yeah, that.
She put me on a week's worth of some anti-inflammatory magic pills that made me realize just how bad things had gotten, along with instructions on a series of physical therapy-type exercises to do with my hand and wrist.  At the beginning of the week, I could hardly do any of them because of the pain and tightness.  Now, not only can I do them (mostly-ish), I do them all with the same type and amount of pride most commonly seen among preschoolers after painting their newest Pollock-esque masterpiece.

Really, this whole episode seems to have caused regression to about the age of four.  Extreme concentration required to do the smallest of tasks because it's all with my left hand?  Check.  Mind-bending slowness needed for tasks like chopping vegetables, getting dressed, and doing the dishes, because again, all done with my non-dominant left hand?  Check.  Yelling things like, "Watch me stretch this rubber band!" as I do PT to re-condition my now-puny right hand?  Check.  It's very humbling, and very frustrating.

Last night I took the last of my magic pills, so I'm a little nervous about the next couple days, because if the pain comes back with the ferocity I'm fearing (it was never wiped out completely, just subdued), I'll have to go see a specialist who will need to inject something into my wrist (yaaaaay!) or sharpen his knives and start hacking away at the tendons in my wrist (yaaaaaay!).  That's not exactly how the doctor put it, but I'm able to read between the lines and I have a healthy imagination, although she specifically asked me not to use it in cases like this.  (For real.  She did.  I really love my doctor.)

For now, though, I'm going to keep doing exciting things like using my fancy rehab tool (a can of Ro-Tel) with my right hand in various ways, doing ice massage, and trying to figure out how the heck this happened in the first place.  (Doc to me:  "Do you play the organ?"  "No."  "You're not a hairdresser, right?  Do you spend lots of time fixing your hair every day?"  "Definitely not.")  The activities that are the most painful and exacerbate my symptoms the most are writing by hand (sorry, Christmas thank-you's, I have a legitimate excuse for your tardiness this year), and the chopping and dicing of food.

The problem with the food thing is that although I make 90% of our meals at home, I'm not exactly a sous chef, responsible for dicing mountains of ingredients every day.  This makes me wonder if perhaps my chopping form is off?  Is anyone an expert on this?  And could I use it as an excuse to get fancier, sharper knives?  Thoughts?
My left hand almost started crying sad hand-tears when it realized that all these needed to be diced for my favorite soup.  It only took me thirty minutes!
Grating cheese also hurts like crazy.  My left hand officially SUCKS at it.  But favorite soup is favorite soup!

Friday, January 15, 2016

Yesterday Once More

Yesterday, it was warm here. Seriously warm.
Unfortunately, it doesn't matter how warm it is outside when you have a sick kid and a husband working fourteen-hour days this week; you still don't get to go outside.  It felt like I had traveled back in time a few short years to the days when I had three tiny kids in this house with me and on me all the time and I would loiter over small, outside winter chores like dumping the compost bowl or getting the mail, sucking in deep breaths of frozen air and freedom.  

Do I miss their tiny hands and fat, snuggly bodies?  Yes.  Do I miss not leaving the house for eons at a time and feeling like showers and thirty seconds outside were luxuries only to be indulged every fourth day?  Not really.

So yesterday, when I was briefly brought back to that time and the feeling that I was capable of very real, violent homicide every time someone told me to "cherish these years," (there are SO MANY better things to say to mothers of little children, like "Your children are so cute," or "You're doing a good job," or even just "Hang in there," but do not add the pressure of feeling like they have to enjoy each precious, smelly second, especially when you're viewing it through the rose-colored glasses of time, and they're just trying to survive today)... well, I was reminded how much easier things have gotten in such a short amount of time.  Our children now take out that compost bowl and get that mail, along with unloading the dishwasher and keeping their own growing bodies more or less clean.  I get to shower every day and leave the house for mile upon glorious mile of running.  

All of this made it easier to have a sickly, hacking Caedmon cling like a burr to my side, draping himself over me every time I sat down, and doing the same to Adelaide, his sometimes irritated older sister/ sometimes second mother, once she got home from school.  She was happy to stroke his forehead while reading her book and decompressing from the day, while Atticus and I raced each other from one side of the backyard to the other.
I know it's blurry, but both the photographer and the subject were running.  And look at that knee drive!
When he tired of sprinting and decided the snow needed to be attacked with a stick, I blew off the remainder of my steam with lap after lap of the yard with a book for company.
I was out there for a good hour, because I didn't have to worry about a baby rolling into a blanket and suffocating, or a toddler making snow angels in flour dumped on the kitchen floor.  So even though I sometimes miss


and this

and this

all you'll hear me say is a heartfelt "Hallelujah," for the phase we're in now, and a kindly, sympathetic smile for the mom with two whimpering little ones in the grocery store.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Three Days, In Photos and Gifs

Friday morning Caedmon and I headed out earlyish to take advantage of the early bird special at the oil change place.  It probably has a better, more exact term, but to me, it's the oil change place, as it is the place where we go to get our oil changed.  As you can see, I am modeling excellent language skills for our children.

The problem is, this was my first time at this specific oil change place, and as I was unfamiliar with the customs and mores of this strange land, I drove up the wrong way to the garage.  As I was trying to turn the vehicle around in a somewhat tight spot (ah, so that's why this way is exit only!) there was a somewhat befuddled mechanic looking out the windows at me.


Me, as I executed a nine-point turn:

After finishing there, we still had a good 45 minutes to kill before the library opened, and as I have a Target gift card, our destination was clear.  I don't go to Target often, as I like for our bank account to remain at reasonable levels, and Target is a den of spending sin.  Everything is just too tempting and too cute, so I just don't go.  Well, except for Friday, of course.
You should know that I love stripes, and I love black and white together, and this pitcher just kind of jumped into my hands.  Besides, it was $3 and now I have the perfect container for my pink peonies come June.  Until then, it's holding all my wooden spoons for me.

After Target and the library, Caedmon and I headed across town to the Blood Shop, as it is lovingly called by our youngest.  We brought plenty of books for him to look at while I was donating, but every time we go there the nurses are all, "Would he like to watch cartoons?  Let's change the channel and get this boy some cartoons!"  I was also reminded no less than three times to be sure and get a snack for Caedmon, too, when I was finished.  "Make sure your son gets a snack when you do!" "Don't forget to get your boy a snack!"  "Don't leave without getting your son some cookies and juice!"  Honestly, he doesn't look malnourished, so I guess Blood Shop Nurses are just extra nice to small boys.
He is pretty cute.

Saturday it was a good thirty degrees below freezing so I couldn't go for a run, and my hand still hurts like the dickens so I felt like I couldn't do much of anything else, plus my coffee maker gave up the ghost, and the children were exhibiting their cabin fever by pretending to be human pinballs, our house being the pinball machine.  So I did the only sensible thing, and made all three of them do a Jenna Wolfe pyramid workout with me.  They were a lot less pinballey after that.

Sunday morning I woke up and thought, Maybe today I'll get to go for a run!  My weather app informed me otherwise.

We did find one door to the van that wasn't frozen shut, so we made it to Wal-Mart to get a new coffee maker and to church.  Then we returned home to watch a game that I won't mention, except to show you a photo of Atticus decked out in his Vikings gear.

Due to the outcome of the game-that-shall-not-be-mentioned, our house is in full-blown mourning.  I'm trying to figure out how to help Derek process his grief:  So far I'm thinking black cloth over the mirrors and stopping the pendulum in our clock, although this requires removing the batteries which feels a lot less, I don't know, mournful.

The above isn't really an accurate representation of Derek right now, because the man doesn't cry (like, ever), but I'm sure it's how he feels on the inside.  Actually, it's probably more like this:

Friday, January 8, 2016

It's Possible You Could Use a Laugh Today

Here's what works for me.

Big ol thanks to the incomparable Paige for sharing that last one with me.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Gifts Beyond Price

We don't make a huge deal out of presents at Christmas- or ever, really- but we do exchange a few things here and there.  This year, some of our favorite gifts were... well, they were interesting.

You know how, every so often, you receive an item that you didn't even know you needed?  I remember my mom giving me my now-treasured Better Homes and Gardens cookbook shortly before I got married, and I had no idea at the time what a great gift it was, how it would turn out to be the cookbook that contained some of our family's very favorite recipes, from Oven Roasted Potatoes to Peanut Butter Cookies to French Silk Pie.  It is simple, and it is the best, amen.

I'm assuming this gift from my sister and brother-in-law will turn out to be very similar.
No doubt in ten or so years Derek and I will be saying to each other, "What did we ever do without our beloved poo pillow?"  Our older two children lose their minds in hysterics every time they see it, while Caedmon still valiantly maintains that it is a chocolate chip with a face.  I should probably mention that we received this gift because when I joined the 21st century a few months ago and finally got a smart phone, I may or may not have insisted on sending a stream of poo emojis (must... resist... the puns coming to mind... do not sink to toilet humor... resist the urge...) to my sister's husband Aaron.  I will say it is very soft and squishy (OH HERE WE GO AGAIN), and perfectly supports my neck while I am typing this.

Speaking of hysterics:
Please note Derek's Christmas gift from one of the boys:  A neon green plastic foot on a strand of twine, which he wore all day with pride.
Yes, they do still make Rock Em Sock Em Robots, and yes, they do still delight boys of all ages.  I'm assuming there are girls our there who also enjoy them; however, our own Adelaide seemed to find little point to a toy whose only goal is to make a plastic head pop up.  She was much happier with her own gift:
This was what she wanted more than anything this year.  Included were verbal instructions from Derek and me to resist any urges to yell "This is a stick-up!" or "Put the money in the bag, and nobody gets hurt!" while wearing it.  Side note:  Do crooks still say, "This is a stick-up?"  Did they ever?  Or is that a phrase that only ever existed in old movies?

We also got the gift of time with various members of our extended family.  At Crisler Christmas, a few of the older girls were helpless against the lure of twin baby girls.
Adelaide and I had similar responses when asked if we wanted to hold one.  Well, kind of.  My response was something along the lines of, "Yes, please!"  Adelaide's was more like, "Is it my turn yet?  How about now?  Now?  Are you done?  When are you going to be done?  When is it going to be my turn?  I want to hold her, too!  How about now?  Gah, Mom, you are such a baby-hog!"  

For the record, she did get a turn.

Since tomorrow begins Epiphany, the tree will finally come down, and all the Christmas things will finally be put away.  Then I'll have the rest of winter to enjoy my paperwhites that are about to bloom, not to mention beautiful snowy runs that look like this at first glance:
Ah, so pretty.
Serene, too.  Don't forget serene.

But actually look like this.
Note the eyelids almost closed to protect against blowing snow.  Not pictured is almost falling every few minutes.  Yay, winter!

Monday, January 4, 2016

You Should Only Read This Book if Anyone You Know Might Die Someday

Sometimes, when you feel too strongly about something- say, a book- you lose all power to speak coherently about it.  If I like something just okay, I'll be able to tell you all about its story arc and author and what I believe is its inherent message with a certain degree of fluency.  But if I love it and really believe in it?  Oh.  That poor book.  Instead I'll show up at book club and announce, "HERE IS THE NEXT BOOK YOU'RE GOING TO READ," or I'll text you random quotes from it, or, if you have the misfortune to be married to me, I'll bring it up over and over and over again, telling you about what's wrong with nursing homes and how choice and a degree of autonomy should often still be allowed to trump safety as we age, and how little doctors are trained to deal with a tiny thing like death, and why conversations about our choices concerning the end of our lives are hard but so important, and the virtues of palliative care, and on, and on, and on.  (And on.  Just ask Derek.)

But you see, when you first hear about a book, and you dutifully enter the library queue(ueueue) for it, but the virtual line appears to be unmoving, as if it will never be your turn, and you begin having flashbacks of elementary school and standing in line for the water fountain after enjoying another boiling 90-degree Fahrenheit recess, and that one kid that always took his sweet time gulping down mouthful after mouthful of cold water, and only being able to curb impatience for so long before finally hollering, "SAVE SOME FOR THE FISH, MICHAEL!" which, naturally, only made him remain bent over that dang fountain for an additional desperate ten seconds, during which you almost die of thirst...

Well, it was taking me a really long time to get my hands on this book, is what I'm trying to say.

But then, as if sensing my desperation (or perhaps gleaning it from a Facebook comment), a certain hospice nurse not just sent me a copy, she sent me her own copy, pausing in her own reading to lend it to me across state lines, like some kind of Florence Nightingale/Andrew Carnegie hybrid.

So what we have here is:  A nonfiction book about death and dying and medicine's relationship with the same by a surgeon who is no longer satisfied by what he sees both in his field of work and in our culture, written with compassion and wisdom and urgency and a desire to fix things that are broken, endorsed by a hospice nurse, and recommended by little, book-reading old me, who has been kept up a number of nights now, unable to put this book down, reading and re-reading sections and trying to figure out how I'm going to use some of this knowledge to change my dialogue going forward.

Read it so we can tug at our hair and clench our teeth and raise our eyebrows and babble things at each other like, "Being Mortal, it's just- it's so- and that part about the elderly- and hospice- and paternalistic vs informative vs interpretive- and everything- and GAH, I KNOW!"

Being Mortal.  Atul Gawande.  Write it down.