Sunday, February 28, 2016

Dessert and Derek and a Quiz

    • Today I made a chocolate mousse for the first and most likely last time.  I enjoy mousse when other people make it for me, but when I'm the cook, I'm somehow constantly irritated by the whole process.  I really can't explain this, as I enjoy making cookies and pies and the occasional cake.  I think I'm just so lacking in polish and refinement that only the most basic of desserts can be made by my hands, at least with any pleasure.  Case in point: I think of chocolate mousse as fancy people food.  If any of you sophisticates care to make me a cheesecake topped by a thin layer of lemon curd like the one I had last week, I could probably rise above my station enough to enjoy it.  

    • Derek was interviewed for a show on video production last week, and let me tell you, it was so fun to watch.  I couldn't explain, even to myself, why this was at first, but then I decided it's because proficiency is so attractive.  It's just nice to see something done well, or in this case, listen to my husband talk about something about which he's so obviously knowledgeable.  Now, to my non-video-professional ears, it sounded something like, "Derek, it looks like Brian has a question about snordlepicks.  Could you tell us about how you go about picking the best snordlepicks for the job, and why you make that choice?"  "Well, Mike, I'm glad Brian asked this, because snordlepicks can be a tricky business, especially when your wallbiters aren't calibrated to the correct galackchinerncy."  *good-natured chuckling by the hosts at my husband's ever-present but baffling-to-me-when-it-comes-to-video-production wit*

    • Multiple choice:
    The proper response when someone says, "Well, that's the weather in [insert location] for you:  If you don't like it, just wait five minutes!" is
    (a)  "Hahahaha!  You, sir, are a riot!"
    (b)  "Indeed?  I did not know this about Iowa/Kansas/Connecticut/South Carolina/Maine/Florida/Texas/Minnesota/Nevada.  Thank you for educating me!"
    (c)  "Yeah, that's not the weather in this particular place, that's just weather.  PLEASE STOP SAYING THAT.  There is nothing special about the weather in this specific place, or how quickly and often it changes, okay?  It does that everywhere, in the majority of the places on earth.  You sound ridiculous."    

    Now, if you've said something along these lines before, don't feel self-conscious.  I won't judge you, particularly if you feel the random yet insatiable urge to send me a homemade cheesecake topped with lemon curd.

    Saturday, February 27, 2016


    Atticus is currently in a phase where all of the following are true:

    Every time he says my name and I turn around, I jump a bit because his face is not where I'm expecting it to be;

    The hems of his pants and his knees look as if they've been crooning, "Draw me closer to thee," to each other;

    He finishes his meal and then looks around expectantly, like there's no way ten pancakes, a banana, and a big bowl of applesauce are the only things on the menu.

    Yes.  Elder son is the in the middle of a growth spurt.  I continue to be astonished by this phenomenon, as if the past decade has taught me nothing about being the mother of tall children.  Adelaide complains of growing pains in her legs and a month later she's an inch closer to my own height.  I notice that Atticus is looking even skinnier and more stretched out than usual, then watch as, as was the case two nights ago, he ate a grilled cheese sandwich, the remaining cup, maybe cup and a half of raisins, half a block of cheese, a peach right down to the pit which he gnawed on so hungrily I worried he was going to chomp it to bits and swallow that, too, and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, after which he sat back, patted his bulging stomach contentedly, and declared, "Ah, I can finally go to bed fat."  "Fat" is a regular goal for our son, as to him it means his insatiable hunger has finally- if temporarily- been satisfied.  Thirty minutes later he was shaking the remains of a bag of tortilla chips into his mouth.  He is seven years old.

    Caedmon, on the other hand, is very much our slow and steady grower.  This is how I achieved my towering height of four full inches over the five foot mark, and it is something I understand.  Caedmon's increasing height makes sense on growth charts.  I can more or less predict when his clothes will no longer fit, and plan for it.  There is no "What do you mean those jeans no longer fit?  What did you do to all your clothes?" or "But you've barely worn those shoes!  Can't you just, like, cram your toes in there or something?"  Derek still worries that this more reasonably paced growing means Caedmon will be much shorter than his siblings, but I'm not worried- "He'll be plenty tall!" I reassure everyone.  Never mind that "plenty tall" is anything above 5'8" to me.

    What's nice is that so far, no matter how much or quickly Atticus grows, I can still depend on a few things from him.  He still likes to sit rightnext to me whenever possible, and still wants plenty of physical contact.
    He also, after realizing I'm taking a picture, rarely fails to beg, "Take my picture!" then strike a pose.  I hope this lasts for, oh, I don't know, ever.

    I laughed while taking this picture.  Still laughing.
    He's more sensitive to the emotions of those around him than either of his siblings, as is evidenced many nights at supper when Caedmon will tell everyone his Best Thing for the day is Daddy, and Atticus responds by coming to give me a hug and make sure my feelings aren't hurt.  He claps his hands over his ears when I'm reading a book to him and a character is bullied by another character or is embarrassed in any way.  When Caedmon says something borderline insensitive in public- like that time a nice man who just happened to only have one eye passed the time of day to us in the grocery store, and Caedmon stared in fascination at the empty socket, followed by the loud but expected query of, "WHAT HAPPENED TO YOUR EYE?"  Well, Adelaide and I were rather embarrassed, but Atticus looked like he wanted to die:  Red face, agonized expression, those hands clapped over his ears again, followed by a vehemently hissed lecture directed at his younger brother as soon as we'd turned the corner.  The man, by the way, was very nice about the whole thing:  "I don't know, look at around the store for me, will ya, let me know if you find it!"  Atticus tends to be so mortified by incidents like these that it saves me a lecture and lets me be the good guy.

    I think we'll keep him for, oh, I don't know, ever.

    Wednesday, February 24, 2016

    If You're Happy And You Know It

    The past several days have been very exciting, although keep in mind, "very exciting" for me includes scoring 2 gallons of vinegar for $3.48 (Sam's Club.  Get you some.) and gathering 90% of the ingredients for a new recipe for homemade laundry soap I'm making next week.  Also, this:
    Anderson Erickson half-gallon of chocolate milk is on sale for 99 CENTS at Fareway this week, local friends!

    But really?  The most exciting part of the past week?
    That is dirt from my flower beds under my fingernails, and I couldn't be happier about it.  Last weekend our highs were in the fifties, and I was so happy yanking hunks of Creeping Charlie out of my warm beds that I didn't even think to look for those things I make you look at every spring until yesterday- but after clearing away several inches of winter debris, there they were:
    Tulip shoots!  In February!  Yes, these are actually tiny, as I had to almost bury my phone in wet and frozen leaves to take this picture, and yes, there are only a few dozen so far because the rest are still resting under solid blocks of ice (as my poor fingernails discovered yesterday after getting a little over-excited trying to uncover all the tulip shoots), but still!  I squealed and did a little dance and said a prayer over them to ward off demon rabbits- you know, normal pre-spring rites.  Please also note I've decided to think of this time of year as pre-spring instead of late winter as it's exactly 78% less depressing.

    Other fun things include the illness wending its way through our community, including our family.  Why "fun"?  Because this is strep throat/coughing/low-grade fever-type illness, which includes zero, I repeat, ZERO puking.  Remember the insane amounts of vomit I had to clean up only a month ago?  Yeah, I'm still not over that.  So when all our kids need to limp through this sickness is some extra rest and sugar-free hard candy to suck on to soothe their throats?  I'll take it.  Adelaide is old enough where all I had to do was make her a couple cups of tea and remain within touching distance for much of yesterday.
    The above is a pretty normal sight when Daughter is under the weather, as she slowly inches her way around the room, body prone except for a single questing foot looking for some physical contact.  Sure, I could have helped her out and met her halfway, but I couldn't.  I was laughing too hard.
    Instead I stayed right where I was and made her come all the way to me, although once she made it, I made sure to rub her head because I'm not completely heartless, plus she almost never lets me play with her hair anymore when she's well.  It reminded me rather strongly of the penultimate scene in To Kill a Mockingbird when Scout tells Boo, "You can pet him, Mr. Arthur, he's asleep.  You couldn't if he was awake, though, he wouldn't let you," in which case Adelaide is Jem and I am Boo.  Which brings me to something I found that I can't stop laughing at:

    Derek laughed, too, when I showed it to him, albeit in a resigned way with which I am very familiar, because he is not on the winning side of this piece of relationship advice.

    Friday, February 19, 2016

    To Each His Own

    This week, Adelaide's "own" was new glasses,
    which she seriously loves, as do the rest of us.  They arrived just in time, as her cheaper, stand-in pair were literally falling apart every time she tried to do extravagant things like wear them on her face.

    Derek's own, I think, was re-adjusting to Iowa temperatures after being in Florida for most of a week.  It's very strange to see him uncomfortable with the cold as he's usually the hardiest of us all, but something about going from shorts in 70-some degree weather to a snowstorm in 14-degree weather was a bit of a shock to his system.  Those of us who had remained in Iowa were very sympathetic to his plight:  "Uh-huh.  Here's your coat."  Not to worry, the hero worship commenced as soon as the kids were awake enough to realize he was back.
    Caedmon's own was being a bit under the weather for a day, just long enough to stay home from preschool on a morning where Derek just so happened to also be home.  After a morning spent with Daddy, he used the "I'm siiiiick" excuse to stay in his jammies all day and spend naptime snuggled up next to me.  He claimed the poo pillow made him feel better.  
    My own was falling for the first time on a run this winter.  Given how clumsy I am, I have no idea how I made it this long.  It was a minor fall, just slipping on some ice, then on down onto my hands and knees, after which I flopped onto my back to catch my breath and assess any injuries, which aside from a sore foot, were none!  I somehow managed to get mud on my face, and my fall was in front of a couple store fronts and in plain sight of a bunch of houses, so I can only hope my little stunt provided some kind of entertainment for those stuck indoors, endlessly waiting for spring.
    War paint

    Atticus's own, more than anything, was the death of my mom and Mark's cat, Ed.  We got Ed when I was in high school, so he lived a long life full of victorious crusades against the local vole and rabbit population, which he very thoughtfully left on Mom's front step on a frequent basis, and in his later years, he enjoyed a quiet life monopolizing Mark's lap and being king of all he surveyed, except when the grandkids came to visit and he paid for his otherwise peaceful life by suffering from an abundance of overly physical love.
    I broke the news to the kids last night, and while Adelaide and Caedmon were sad at the news of Ed's passing, Atticus was the most upset, which I had expected.  He cried and wanted to spend plenty of time close to me, asking questions about how he died and why he died and whether or not cats go to heaven.  We told stories about Ed, mostly gentle ones from the kids, with a saltier one thrown in here and there by me, such as the time Ed lulled us all into complacency by sweetly sleeping next to the tank where Steph's teddy bear hamster lived, then shocking us all- particularly Steph, who was the first to stumble upon the scene- by one day removing the head of dear Harry Potter Price from his fluffy little body.  (Now, as a mother, I'm wondering how my mom got all that blood out of the blue carpet, because I remember there being a lot of it- both blood and carpet.)
    This charming anecdote cheered Atticus more than anything, and he then put in a formal request for Grandma and Mark to get another cat immediately.  He is generously giving them two names from which to choose:  Either Ed, or Pooch.

    And now, a gallery of Ed Photographs, because that's what you do when someone dies.

    Ed being stalked by one of many enthusiastically affectionate grandchildren.

    A typical scene when the grandkids came a-callin':  Children: "ED!"  Ed: "Kill meeeeee."

    Thursday, February 18, 2016

    Things, Three of Them

    • Caedmon has discovered the fun to be had in a word search.  He is very intense about them, as evidenced by The Dimple.

    • Unfortunately for Target, I don't actually buy anything from their book section, but I do take pictures of newer titles to request from the library, because I love the way Target merchandises their books.  Don't take it personally, Target; I don't buy new books from anyone, really.  I'm more of a used books kind of girl.

    Anyone read this one?  Is it good?  I hear Target has it for 20% off.

    • Caedmon pulled a book off one of our shelves yesterday, opened it up, and asked me what it was.  "Oh- that's your baby book," I told him.  "What's a baby book?"  "It's a book you fill out about your baby:  Stories about them, pictures of them, how much they've grown, things like that."  "When are you supposed to fill it out?"  "Well... I guess when you have a baby."  *momentary silence*  "Then why is mine blank?"

    "Because Mommy sucks, that's why."  "Because you're a third child."  "Because my priority that year was keeping you alive."  I didn't say any of those things, although they all applied.  I gave him a mixed-up, watered-down version of those excuses, and he seemed fine with it, especially when he found the sandwich bag of his hair stuffed in between a couple pages from his first haircut.  I have no memory of that haircut, of putting hair clippings in a bag, or of getting my act together long enough to put it in his baby book for safe keeping.  However!  As we went through the (mostly blank) book, I realized that I could answer most of the prompts within because I'd written about them here, on the blog!  I wrote about how dang happy he was.  I wrong about how dang cranky he was.  It's all on here, buried somewhere in 700 posts, one of which included this picture:
    I'm a sucker for angry baby photos.  I feel like I need to print this and put it in a locket, just to watch people flinch when I snap it open after asking, "Do you want to see a picture of my beautiful baby boy?"  That sounds like a better idea than hiding it away in a baby book, anyway.  I'm just sure he would agree, especially now that he's reached the age where he knows enough to be embarrassed by me.  I have the best ideas sometimes.

    Friday, February 12, 2016

    Snips and Snails and Endless Supplies of Destructive Energy

    Right this second, Caedmon and I are both completely spent.  We have thirty minutes until we have to leave to pick the bigguns up from the bus stop.  I am typing.  He is curled up in the fetal position next to me.  This is what helping out at school parties does to us.

    When I got an email from Atticus's teacher begging for more parent helpers for the Valentine's Day party, I was like, "Sure, yeah!  I can do that!  No problem!  Oh, what's that?  It's an hour and a half of Valentine fun with 25 of my favorite first graders?  Brilliant!"

    That is how Cade and I found ourselves hauling a snack into a classroom, then obediently accepting a handful of chopsticks, marshmallows, and paper plates for our superfuntime Valentine game station.  There were stations all around the room, each manned by parents who were wearing their best forced smiles (except for that dad who had the grimmest, sourest expression that has possibly ever graced that classroom.  I admired his facial honesty and wondered what kind of bet he had lost with his wife.), and the teacher grouped the children into packs of five, rotating them through the stations.

    Our first two groups both consisted entirely of boys who took the "pick the marshmallows on the center plate up with chopsticks and deposit them on your own plate, most mallows at the end wins" game to a place I didn't really know it could go.  There was stabbing of food and hands.  Marshmallows flew.  Chairs toppled.  I have two boys of my own so I knew what to do:  Disqualify every last boy and eat the prize strawberry Starburst in front of them.

    Round two went more smoothly.

    Honestly, though, at one point I found myself thinking, You know, IT'S FUNNY, I checked the school lunch menu last night and I'm quite sure I didn't see amphetamines on there, yet there is no other possible explanation for this.  It was madness.  I couldn't understand why there wasn't thick plexiglass between me and the animals and why I hadn't been charged admission to watch this display.

    Then came one group of girls after another.  Beautiful, beautiful girls.

    They were so calm.  So civilized.  Yes, many of them were competitive, but I didn't have to snatch Caedmon back from the table repeatedly due to fear of chopstick puncture wounds like I did with The Others.  They followed directions.  One of them told me I was pretty, another said, "You are SO NICE."  It all I could do not to pet them and maybe cry a little over the fact that they had to share a classroom with such beasts.  The shy "You're pretty" one had curly red hair and freckles and all that remains to be done is get her parents' contact information so I can arrange a marriage between her and our son.  Ginger grandbabies suit me just fine.

    Atticus was one of three boys whose necks I did not find myself mentally measuring for estimated circumference- for shock collars, understand- and while I like to think our son would have been a good role model for the Testosterone Gang, more likely it was because he was the only boy in my final group that was otherwise populated by girls, and because hello, Mom's right there.

    I've read before about the wisdom of classes divided by gender, and while I won't weigh in much on the topic, given that, you know, I'm not an educator, I do think that if I were ever sent to the fourth circle of hell and had to teach a classroom full of boys, I would demand Satan outfit my classroom with a fleet of treadmills, no desks necessary, thanks.  The treadmills- or stationary bikes, I'm not picky- would be arranged in a semicircle facing in, where I would teach as the boys remained in constant motion.  Kid with the most miles and completed math facts at the end of the day wins, as do their parents, who no longer have a kid bouncing off the walls the second they walk in the door after school.  You're welcome, society.

    "Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, for when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love Him," says James 1:12.  It would seem that feral boy-related trials get a mustache rather than a crown, perhaps because it's not from God but rather one of his little angels whose mother I prayed for immediately after he left my station .  Also pictured:  Exhausted Caedmon who is SO DONE immediately following the party.


    This week I've been driving our kids to the school bus stop in the mornings, because although I know we can survive twenty minutes outside in single digit temps, I choose not to.  I'm generally a "Why drive when you can walk?" kind of person, so I've had our children out in some extremely questionable weather in the past (number of times kind citizens of our community have stopped their cars or stepped out of buildings to ask if we need a ride:  Countless.  In my defense, our little town stretches out for no more than a few miles at its widest point.  This is not exactly the Trail of Tears I'm forcing our kids down here.), so our children have welcomed this reprieve.

    The older two wait in our vehicle until they see the bus getting ready to round the block toward them, then they hop out and go to stand in line.  Every day this week, from the back of the van, Caedmon has given voice to the fierce war waging within him:  "Ohhhh.  I really want to go say good-bye just one more time.  But it's cold outside!  The bus is coming.  I-I- MOM, I NEED TO GET OUT."

    He then bolts out the van, and scurries up to Adelaide to hug her tightly one last time before she leaves him for seven long hours.  
    Caedmon's in the orange coat and blue hat, squeezing his sister.  Pardon the frost patterns and snow in the foreground; I don't get out of my vehicle even for a picture, so this was taken through the windshield.
    Today Atticus got a hug, too, although there's no picture of that embrace as it was quick and very perfunctory.  

    You would think that this would mean that Caedmon loves it when we go to his sister's school to eat lunch with her, but no.  Absolutely not.  He gets very quiet and increasingly downtrodden as more and more fourth grade girls squeal over him and say to Adelaide, "Oh mah gahsh.  Your little brother is SO CUTE.  He is adorable.  Oh em gee.  Look at his face.  Look at his Batman hat.  Do you think he'd give me a hug?"  

    It got bad enough last time that Adelaide took the worst offender, a very nice but rather loud girl aside and said, "Privately, I agree with you, Caedmon is cute, but you really shouldn't say that in front of him; he considers it very offensive to be called 'cute' or 'little' or anything like that."  

    By the time we left, he hadn't said a word in thirty minutes and his shoulders were hunched up around his ears.  All he'll say about the lunch experiences is that he does not like to be around so many bigger kids, and he does not like to be called cute.  Fair enough.  

    None of this is terribly surprising given how loud and crowded and busy Adelaide's lunch room is, and I'm able to watch as it begins to overwhelm our youngest within minutes of our arrival, but I was in Caedmon's preschool for two hours yesterday morning for his Valentine party, and you want to talk about overwhelming?  So loud.  So shrill.  And it's busy-ness borders on a swarm at times.  It is nuts in there.  It's always incredible to watch how Cade's preschool teachers can begin singing any of the songs they use to transition from one activity to another, because all those children who were I swear about to go Lord of the Flies on each other settle down and start cleaning up or washing their hands or sitting on the carpet.  I guess it really is the presence of bigger kids that overwhelms our son so much.

    Those same magical preschool teachers had also instructed that their students were only to write their own names on their Valentines; scratching out the recipients' names on nineteen pieces of paper is too cumbersome for little hands, and it's much easier just to go through a line and drop a Valentine in each sack, not worrying about which one goes to whom.

    Our Caedmon, however, threw a wrench in this whole plan Wednesday night when I stated how happy I was that all his Valentines had been finished for days, as he'd already written his name on every last one.  He grew upset, started honest-to-God weeping, and through a torrent of tears told me that "But Mom, the Valentines all say 'To:' and I can't just leave those blank!  It'll look stupid!  You're supposed to write who each one is to, Mom!"  Then I began sorting through them, and he had already phonetically spelled out half the names of the kids in his class: Noah was Nou, Drake was Drak, etc, etc.

    And that is how Caedmon got to stay up past his bedtime doing something his preschool teachers told him expressly not to do.

    Thursday, February 11, 2016

    Ice Skating! Worthy of Exclamation Points!

    Last Saturday, the Crislers went ice skating as part of an extended-family birthday celebration.

    Derek had been ice skating before, but the other four of us- including me- had never been.

    The kids were excited to try it, if a little nervous.  I was just plain excited, having long ago made my peace with making a fool of myself while doing any activity involving my person.  For years, our kids watched those VeggieTales cartoons, and you may remember how the vegetable hosts always ended each episode with the benediction, "God made you special," "And he loves you very much."  Well, one of the ways that God made me special was to gift me with extraordinarily poor hand-eye coordination and a propensity to fall/run into solid objects/accidentally hurt myself on a disturbingly frequent basis.  Strapping blades to my feet and letting me loose on some slick ice in a crowd of innocent bystanders?  I've really outdone myself this time, says God, as he pops some popcorn and settles in for a good show.

    That is why Saturday was such a pleasant surprise:  I can ice skate!  Like, actually ice skate!

    Listen, there are very few physical activities I've ever tried in my life that I caught on to quickly, so having a natural knack for something like ice skating made it so that I spent most of my time gliding (with, yes, frequent wobbles, IT WAS MY FIRST TIME, OKAY?) around with a gobsmacked smile and baffled laugh accompanying me.  This must be how Derek feels all the time, and let me tell you, it is glorious!

    Adelaide likewise took to it with relative ease, and like me, was just as pleasantly surprised and cheered as I was to find something she could do with such quick confidence.  "I am good at this!" she crowed after an hour.  "I know!" I replied, and we understood each other perfectly, as this is not normal for the two of us.  Not normal at all.

    Atticus was... well, he was interesting to watch, at least at first.  He's a pretty athletic kid, and so far has taken to most of the sports he's tried rather well.  So it was just bizarre to watch him struggle so much when he first got on the ice.  That boy's feet acted like they had a blood vendetta against him at first, like they were bound and determined to slip this way and that way and often two opposite directions at the same time.
    You know how, in the Harry Potter books, there is a curse that is cast by yelling, "Tarantallegra!" that causes your opponent's legs to dance under them in a quick and uncontrollable fashion?  You remember that?  Watching Atticus during the first half hour of ice skating was almost exactly the way I envisioned that curse playing out.  He fell over and over and over, then he'd take a break, then drag himself back on the ice, then fall again, over and over and over, but at some point, even though he kept falling, he forced himself away from the bar running along the wall of the rink, and by what I'm guessing was sheer stubbornness forced his feet under control, and began skating.  He was still falling quite a bit, but he was also skating, and getting faster and bolder and stronger on his skates, and I'm not gonna lie:  It was beautiful to watch.  He's the Crisler that started our outing rather dejected, but ended begging to go back.

    Caedmon's skating abilities fell somewhere between Adelaide and Atticus's:  He wasn't as quick a study as his sister, but it wasn't as difficult for him as it was for his brother.  He used the little ice-skating-aid-walker-looking thing every so often (or sagged against it as the adults took turns pushing him around the ice, which, by the way, is exhausting), but also pulled himself around via the bar and mustered enough courage the brave the ice away from the bar.  He won Saturday's award for Refused the Most Help which, despite being a medal that only exists in my mind, still equated to many, many cries of "Don't hold my hand!" "I don't need any help!" and "I can do it MYSELF!"  That was before being reminded that guess what, bucko, manners still matter on the ice, and why, yes, you can still get in trouble while ice skating!  After that it was polite but repeated, "No, thank you"s.  He, too, can't wait to go back.

    Derek skated around for a while with his usual disgusting natural ability for physical endeavors, but his ankles didn't hold up for long; whether that's actually his legs' fault or not, it's hard to say.  He had warned me before we went that the worst part about skating at a public rink were the rental skates.  I obviously have nothing to compare them to, but I will say I still have sore spots where the top of the skates met my shins- if I had to guess, and based on the skates I saw people wearing that were owned by them, my skates weren't tight enough, and I had them laced as tight as they could go.  Even whilst skating, I had a fair guess as to what the problem was, as it reminded me somewhat painfully of the perils of not properly tying and tightening the ribbons on my pointe shoes.  Ankle support matters, friends!
    Look at us!  We're a family of ice skaters!  Not in a triple-Salchow-kind of way, but in an able-to-propel-ourselves-about-on-ice way, which I will TAKE.

    Big thanks to Derek's sister and her family for the idea and invite, to his mom for helping drag the kids up and encourage them time after time, and his dad for providing two solid hours of rink-side assistance.  We can't wait to go back!

    Wednesday, February 10, 2016

    Things I Don't Understand

    • Texting while driving.  
    (See also:  Reading texts while driving.  I've received some important texts before- "Guess what?  I'M PREGNANT.  WITH TWINS," but it's never occurred to me to celebrate such important news with my own death.)
    For a while I really, truly believed this wasn't something that happened all that often.  I mean, I'd seen the cautionary ads and read some appalling news stories about victims of those who stare at their phone while operating a 4,000 pound piece of machinery, but really, people couldn't be that crazy, right?!
    Then I started to actively look for drivers looking at their screens rather than the road, and my gosh, they are EVERYWHERE.  We have to cross a relatively busy road to get to our kids' school bus stop, and every single day I see teenagers freshly unleashed from the nearby high school doing the stare-at-phone-stare-at-phone-QUICK-GLANCE-UP-AT-THE-ROAD-stare-at-phone-stare-at-phone bit, and every day, I point it out to our children:  "See that, kids?  Those people don't care about your safety.  Texting 'K' to their friends is more important to them than your very lives.  That is not acceptable behavior."  And lest you think it's just teenagers, or even mostly teenagers, NOPE.  The people I have observed texting while driving more than anyone are my contemporaries:  Adult women.  Grown-up, supposedly intelligent women.  I left church Sunday and a woman I know was behind me for several miles with her vehicle full of kids, texting away.  If I'd had to slam on my brakes for any reason, there is little doubt in my mind she would have rear-ended me, so engrossed was she in her phone.  

    For me, the only salve is knowing that we have three small children who not only know not to check your phone while driving, but also feel little compunction about pointing it out in others with unbridled disgust and little to no care for political correctness.  I'm careful to curb our children's comments about smokers outside of stores- yes, it's bad for them, but the smokers are outside, and as long as they're attempting to smoke away from the lungs of my little ones, I feel like it's not really my business- I have no problem with the accusatory pointing our kids reserve for the nefarious texting drivers. 

    • These suckers.
    I can only assume flavors like these were developed for children like our Atticus, who was gruesomely thrilled at the revelation of these creations.

    • Why it's still winter.
    Do you know how sick I am of seeing this nonsense on my phone?  Even on the warm days- like the one above- it's often too windy or blizzardy to enjoy it.  And while yes, running during today's relatively gentle snowfall is beautiful, it can be hard to remember this when you can't find the trail through the snow and keep stumbling into the ditch, or the rocks, or the creekbed, because it all looks the same when it's blanketed in a thick layer of snow.
    Somewhere under there is a trail.  Supposedly.
    Thank heaven I have a Caedmon who spends his rest times (I'm not allowed to call them "nap times" anymore, because naps are for little kids, and guess who's super sensitive about being called "little"?) making these paper flowers for me, because "Mom, I know you like to see lots of flowers, but there aren't any flowers right now, so I made you one.  And it fits in your pocket!"

    Friday, February 5, 2016

    Three Things and a Request

    • How did the peanut butter cookie dough fare in the crock pot, you ask?  Eh.  It was fine.  I was never that big of a peanut butter cookie fan until I began making them for myself as an adult, and last night's final product reminded me of any mediocre peanut butter cookie you can get from a deli or grocery store.  Cookie snob that I am, in the future I'll be channeling Lord Capulet and keeping these ill-matched parties separate.  

    • It's well-established that I'm just the tiniest bit frugal and that I'm on a lifelong quest to eliminate excess waste from our household, which makes this a beautiful, beautiful thing in my starry eyes:
    I've been cutting open our lotion bottles to get all the extra lotion out for many moons, but it didn't occur to me to do the same to my facial moisturizer until a few months ago, and behold!  I discovered an extra 3-4 weeks' worth of lotion in there, coating the inside of the bottle, hiding from the pump, hoping to remain undiscovered.  Of course, you have to keep the bottle you're slowing disemboweling in a container of some sort- I use tupperware- to keep the lotion from drying out, but I was inordinately excited by this whole thing.  For some reason, Derek didn't share my level of enthusiasm over this.  He's a strange man sometimes.

    • Something neat that is commented on every time I take this crock pot somewhere:
    That little rubber band-thingy came with this, the biggest of my crock pots, and it is so simple but so genius:  It does a marvelous job of keeping the lid on when I'm transporting food from the house to the car to another house, and never slips off.  I assume you could do much the same thing with a regular rubber band of some sort, although the handles on this one have notches on their undersides for the band to slip into.  Who on earth comes up with these things?  Not the likes of me.  

    For the curious, that's not the C-grade cookie dough in there but tonight's supper, which has the benefit of being easy, and delicious, and doesn't require the use of our angry oven.  Like all true chefs (lolololol), I began supper prep at 7:30 this morning when I threw a roast in the crock pot and then dumped the contents of this package on top.
    Lid on, switch on low, and that's it.  I'll shred the beef and discard the fat about twenty minutes before we eat tonight, but other than that, it's as far as I'll come to slaving over a hot stove today.  Served on warmed tortillas with some cheddar and salsa and sour cream?  Delicious.  I'll throw the leftovers on a bed of spinach for the lunch the next few days, show my anemia who's boss.

    I have exactly six more great crock pot recipes, and then I'm tapped out, which doesn't exactly work with our oven being out of commission for the foreseeable future.  As such, I'm asking for your help:  Do you have any tried and true crock pot recipes?  Would you share them, or are they state secrets?  Please?

    Wednesday, February 3, 2016

    Unexpected Snow Day Adventures

    7-8 inches of new snow + high winds + dropping temps = going on our second snow day in a row.  It's served as a nice little break from our regularly scheduled life, but sometimes our children need to be reminded that they are not allowed to go all flying squirrel in the house.  Outside?  Sure.  Whatever.

    They've spent large portions of both days outside, and while I sometimes feel a pang that I am not that mom that spends hours outside making snowlumps and snow forts with them, I get over it real quick and get back to my usual routine of setting the trash/ compost bowl/ whatever right outside the door and hollering, "Somebody come take care of this, please!" in their general direction.  Then I hurriedly shrink back in because it is warm in here and cold out there, and that's pretty much all my brain needs to know to make its decision.
    Sometimes I stay at the door long enough to take a picture through the glass.  That's just good parenting.
    I assuage any residual guilt with the knowledge that I spent an hour shoveling this morning, then I make hot chocolate for everyone and give myself a sanctimonious little pat on the back.

    Today I'm doing an experiment in cookie dough, because Adelaide was making peanut butter cookies yesterday afternoon, but within about a minute of turning on the oven, I smelled a very strong scent of gas, so I turned the oven off and called Derek.  He said to get the heck out of the house and call the energy company, who would send a tech out to inspect everything.  So I called the energy company, and they said to get the heck out of the house, they would send a tech out to inspect everything.  The guy on the phone also said exciting things like, "Do not turn any lights on or off.  Do not open any windows.  If you are on a landline, do not hang up the phone, leave it off its cradle.  We do not want to risk creating any sparks.  Get out now."

    I instructed Adelaide to get bundled up as best she could with the winter gear right by the front door, then I went upstairs to rouse both the boys from their naps (see flying squirrel reference above; they had worn themselves out by midafternoon) and hurried them down the stairs.

    A few delightful pieces of information:  If Atticus is in the house, he is wearing shorts.  We keep our house at 67 degrees in the winter during the day, and 60 starting at 8:30 every evening, but he still wears shorts.  Yesterday, while Adelaide was making the cookie dough, I was doing laundry, specifically boy laundry, which includes every pair of pants Atticus owns and his snow pants because I like his teacher and don't want her to faint from the scent coming off of them every day at school.  Because of all this, when we got out of the house, Atticus was wearing snow pants that hit about mid-shin over his shorts, along with snow boots and two jackets, because oh, yeah, I was washing all their coats, too.  Ditto the multiple, layered jacket look on Caedmon.  We looked homeless, but I figured it was no big deal, we were just going to go hang out at our small town library for a while 'til either the technician figured out the source of the problem or our house exploded in a giant fireball.

    We arrived at the library.  There was a hand-lettered sign informing us it had closed early, I'm guessing due to the weather.  Super.

    So we went to Wal-Mart, because at least there we'd fit in, right?  I've heard about that People of Wal-Mart website, and while I doubt it applies to everyone on there, keep in mind that some of those customers may look like that because they've been turned out of their house and had to dress in whatever was immediately by the front door.  It's possible.

    So we went to Wal-Mart, got the kids' valentines for school, got a call telling us to come back, there would be no slow suffocation tonight.  All the hallelujahs.

    The technician was really nice, but informed me that yes, something is up with our oven, and that we are not allowed to turn it on until we get it looked at.  As of today, we have an appliance repair guy coming out in a week to look at it, because that's the soonest he can get here.  Hence the cookie dough in a crock pot.  I mean, I couldn't let Adelaide's beautiful dough go to waste, could I?
    I'm not real sure how it's going to turn out; we could be treating ourselves to peanut butter mush tonight.  Or it could be our new favorite dessert!  Aren't adventures fun?

    Monday, February 1, 2016

    Books and Caucuses, But Not Books About Caucuses

    Big week, friends.  We're finally over the awful illness that trashed us last week (except for those odd moments where we have to sit down due to continued weakness and lingering nauseau.  OTHER THAN THAT.), today is the Iowa Caucus, and as of midnight tonight, we're in a winter storm/blizzard watch until Wednesday morning at 8 a.m.  Yay, Iowa!

    Derek's out caucusing right now while I stay home with the kids; four years ago, I got to go be a good little citizen and caucus while he stayed home.  Either way, after today hopefully we'll stop receiving enough political flyers in the mail to wallpaper the first floor of our house and the radio will stop with the non-stop political ads, at least until the fall.

    When we haven't been hearing about how this candidate is evil and a liar and possibly the anti-Christ and how that candidate is a criminal and eats babies and doesn't even know how to garden, we've been hearing about this giant storm that the Weather Powers That Be have somehow had their eye on since it was over Ethiopia.  You know, or somewhere.  It's Monday, and Monday is grocery day in this house, where I emerge with my Aldi bags and my Aldi quarter and my meal plan with my specific lists broken down by store, but today is not just Monday, it's the day before a possible blizzard, which means the stores were packed and people who are somewhat less capable and efficient grocery shoppers than I (read:  99% OF THE POPULATION) were just wandering around, stopping their carts in the middle of the aisles, thinking their no doubt incredibly deep thoughts right in front of the bag of brown rice I needed but couldn't reach without risking a molestation charge.

    You know what grocery stores need?  Grocery police.  I don't mean, like, who gets which items, I mean someone to aid the flow of traffic through the store, perhaps help certain shoppers lessen their risk of imminent death by other shoppers.  I would be terrific at this, because I understand that moving through a store should be just like driving:  You travel on the right, if you have to make a stop you pull over, and in general just try to be aware of your surroundings, because as it turns out, you are not the only person in the store attempting to restock your larder!  I could somehow reward conscientious shoppers with discounts or high fives or something, and write citations for those who are pissing off everyone around them, but I'd probably need a whole separate pad for those guilty of just being all-around jerks.

    I may already be drunk with power.

    Even without grocery police, I made it through all the stores and got everything I need to make bierocks and shredded beef tacos and other deliciousness this week, plus we made our trip to the necessary libraries just a couple days ago, so we are ready.
    Look, if the State Library of Iowa says I need three books to weather this storm, then who am I to argue?

    I think I'll start with this one, because it won't be starting so much as continuing, as I'm already halfway through and it is fantastic.
    Nonfiction history book about medieval England:  Sounds eeeeuuuuurrrgh, right?  But you guys, it is so good.  I can't put it down.  

    Now, off to put the kids to bed, aka "I don't care if you're praying your tiny little heart out for a snow day tomorrow:  Chances are, you'll have school, so bed!  Now!  But keep praying, because I don't want to get up, either!"