Saturday, June 29, 2019

Unexpected Perks

When trying to sell Adelaide on the idea of moving across the country, we brought up a number of points:

We'll be close to New York!

Close to the ocean!

They have a lot more ice cream shops!

There's a massive used bookstore in CT with a number of live-in cats!

Free tickets to Disney World, which, okay, maybe doesn't excite you, but it greatly increases your chances of visiting the Wizarding World of Harry Potter!

Some of these she seemed to take in and ponder, and some she lobbed right back at us.  One pro I never even considered, however, was the cemeteries.
That's right:  Connecticut has loads more dead people than Iowa!  Yaaa...ay?

Daughter and I both appreciate a good graveyard.  It doesn't take much to make it "good" in our estimation, either; really just a few headstones that are legible.  There's something about getting only a few tantalizing details to a greater story that sets your feet to walking to read the next one, and the next one, and the next, forever and ever until both Atticus and Caedmon are slumped on the ground moaning and wondering aloud, "Whhhyyyy do you like dead things so much?" 

What's not to like?  I mean, just look at the winged cherub (or is it a death's head?) on this one!

AND look at the dates on this one!  We'd explored a number of Iowa cemeteries, and I apparently had that kind of timeline in my head; when we walked to our first cemetery here in town I thought maybe we'd get lucky and see a few Civil War-ear headstones.  Imagine my delight at so many pre-Revolutionary War inscriptions!  I am admittedly a down-to-the-bone Midwesterner who is impressed with this kind of antiquity.  Don't get me wrong; I still appreciate a good Iowa pioneer cemetery, and you'll find an entirely different kind of history in the cemeteries of the Midwest that's just as fascinating. 

But look at these names!
You just don't see a lot of "Hephzibah, Relict of Hosea Goodrich"-type markings in the middle of our massive country.  And yes, I have a lot more pictures like these clogging up the camera roll of my phone. 

And these were just the local cemeteries- we haven't even begun to search out some of the older or well-known within CT, of which there are so many!  Please take my word for this, unless you knowingly want to trip down that internet hole, in which case might I suggest you start here or here or maybe here.

I do have more than just pictures of tombstones on my phone, I'll have you know.  I can't get too up in arms, though, because it's mostly just screenshots of books I want to read,

ideas relating to house projects,


and pictures of our kids working.  Because nothing gives me greater joy.

I didn't choose the boring life, the boring life chose- oh, wait, yes I did!

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Good Plant, Evil Plant

I'd like to begin by giving thanks for the God-given, science-driven, ANTIBIOTIC.  I'd also like to thank Him for stretching out His mighty right hand and blessing us with steroids in their many forms.  Fear not, friends, this is not about to become a fire and brimstone post fueled by 'roid rage; I'm talking about the steroids that help those of us with immune systems that insist on acting like a stereotypical teenager (Daughter excluded, of course):  either too lazy to do much of anything or losing it in a fit of pique when something barely brushes its arm.

What I mean is this:  I went to the doctor.  I think we're going to be getting along just fine, given that she ordered up a couple kinds of steroids and an antibiotic because infection had set in a patch or two.  She also more or less said, "HEY, DUMMY- you are severely allergic to these plants.  Do not go near them.  Do not try to burn them off lest you inhale the smoke and do some real damage.  Get someone else to clear your yard of it."  The line, "I already know all that, Mom," did run through my head, but then reality snapped back into focus:  I was, in point of fact, sitting in her office covered in what my sister is calling "boils" because I was dumb enough to work up a good poison oak lather, this despite spending multiple childhood summers sidelined due to poison ivy.

So.  Yes.  My boils are improving.  I am still waking up throughout the night having already scratched myself half to death, but my days have significantly improved, where I'm able to move through the hours in relatively good humor, without falling asleep in public spaces because of Benadryl fog.

When not obsessing over "the devil's touch" (online poison oak sufferers are a hilarious but scary- and scaly- bunch), I've been working on making our house habitable!  For many this might mean unpacking or something equally practical, but unfortunately for my family, for me this means staining wood and planting flowers.

What I eventually want is a profusion of coneflowers all along the front of our white picket fence.  Coneflowers because:  they spread, they're pollinators, they come in a bunch of colors now, and they'll give me that cottage garden look I think a picket fence calls for.  For now, however, we'll just have to use our imaginations that the 10 clumps I've planted so far will be fruitful and multiply.  For you coneflower people, I've got Cheyenne Spirit Mix, PowWow Wild Berry, Virgin, and the original purple.  For you non-flower types, I've got, well, the usual purple, plus red, orange, yellow, pink, and white.  We'll see how many of them make it; I've had mixed luck getting anything but traditional purple to come back after a couple years.  I'll get a whole mess of bulbs in there this fall for spring color, and then I'll need to think of something for fall color. 
Cheyenne Spirit Mix

The wood staining has been done in our scary basement WHERE I BELONG (sorry, like I said, the poison oak is still able to seize control from time to time).  The layout of our kitchen is more than a little confounding, but my sister suggested tearing down the upper cabinets in the middle of the room so I asked Derek to do whatever she said (well, I omitted tearing out the back wall and putting in a sliding glass door because Budgets), and as soon as he got them down the room felt markedly improved.  The wood- ha, you'd forgotten the point of this story, hadn't you?  Me, too!- is for some open shelving we're putting up, because although the square footage of this house is similar to that of our previous, it's laid out quite differently with a notable lack of storage space, excepting the basement.  For this reason we've found ourselves at IKEA (because Budgets) three times in the last week looking at shelves!  And wardrobes!  And sideboards!  And other ways to hide our crap!

Tomorrow I can almost promise not to mention poison oak again, but there will be plenty of cemeteries!  Old cemeteries!

Sunday, June 23, 2019


This poison oak reaction of mine has accelerated to the point that I'm being forced into a seated position for an extended period of time.  This means I have time for blogging!  Oh, but I'm also all hopped up on Benadryl, so prepare yourself for a format that looks more like a maze than a story arc.

We're coming up on two whole weeks lived in Connecticut, which also means our family has been reunited for just over two weeks.  One of the things that we tried to keep a bit under the radar was the fact that Derek arrived here in CT in early April, while the kids and I remained behind in Iowa.  I'm trying to find the right word that would illustrate what it was like to be apart for so long; "excruciating" feels like overkill, but "hard" is too milquetoast.  Whatever word lives halfway between those two extremes is the right one, so your homework for today is to fill in the blank:  "It was                          for the Crislers to be separated by 1,000 miles for two months."  

Part of what made that time apart so difficult was the enormous amount of stress we were under.  There were huge amounts of things to be done, and while I tackled my share of those tasks in Iowa and he his in CT, after 15 years of marriage we're not really divide and conquer-type people anymore, but Unite and Conquer.  That is hard to do when there are 1200 miles between you.  The kids suffered, Derek suffered, I suffered.  Military families:  how do you do it?  We went two months and it felt like it was close to killing us off; I cannot fathom months on end.

June 6th became a much-anticipated date, as Derek flew into Des Moines that evening.  It was such a relief for us all to be back together, even though it was our last night in Iowa.  Our belongings had been packed and loaded by a moving company on the 5th and 6th, so the five of us spent a final night sleeping on the floor of our beloved Iowa house.  Emotionally speaking, each of our kids have gone through rough patches when it comes to this move, and that night it was Caedmon's turn.  He was bereft at the idea of leaving the only house he has ever known.

Thankfully none of our kids have been emotionally drowning at the same time; when one's face starts to slip beneath the surface, the other two are treading water.  So you go and you haul that kid up, assessing and reassuring and loving and praying over them.  That kid stabilizes, so you turn around and another kid starts to go under.  This is parenting, and it is exhausting, but it's also much easier to keep them all afloat when there are two of you life guarding.  

Amongst all that were the good-byes we had to say to so many friends.  At some point I will write about how taken care of I felt as we prepared to leave, but that's just not something I feel up to right now.  Blame the poison oak, not my penchant to avoid any and all negative feelings.  That's right... poison oak.  No feeling of any feelings allowed.  Quick, look at this weird but captivating gif instead!

We signed the last of our paperwork for the sale of our house Thursday night, got up bright and early Friday morning and chatted with the new owners who, you might remember, were also our neighbors.  We walked through the house, pointing a few things out to them we thought might be helpful.  We had a few stops to make around town, returning camping pads to friends (so we didn't have to sleep on the bare floors), honoring Adelaide's request for that last trip to Casey's, etc. 

And then we were on our way!  We had three days worth of road tripping ahead of us since we'd elected to turn the voyage east into a mini-vacation.  I'll expound upon that soon, but for now I'll just say:  I was so thankful for those three days.  They were a real gift, an in-between time where reality was suspended.  I wasn't killing myself trying to get everything done to wrap things up in Iowa, but we hadn't yet closed on our house in Connecticut.  All we had to do was drive, visit lighthouses, watch Mork and Mindy, and be together.  Well, plus a few other things.  But still together.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

All I Need Is a Bridge To Live Under

It's been quite a week.  We took the kids on their virgin trip to IKEA, which Adelaide loved and the boys tolerated.  Derek and I basically looked at ten different ways to put shelves in ten different places; this new house has very little in the way of storage space, so as we continue to try and unpack it consists of us unwrapping an item, looking around for a place to store it, finding nothing, and putting it on whatever horizontal surface is within arm's reach.  Repeat x1000.

We got a new couch, which is exciting, because the one that has faithfully served us for the last 11 years only fits three people, and last I counted there are five of us.  It's nice and plump, although I haven't really allowed myself to recline on it yet; I currently look like a cross between a burn victim and a leper due to the increasingly widespread poison oak rash covering my body, and I don't want to get blister ooze on the new cushions.  Each day also brings with it a heightened sense of self consciousness in terms of bringing this open flesh wound out into public, although the real problem there is that I don't like for any fabric to be touching the rash, which hurts on contact but really starts barking when I later try to peel the fabric off that has inevitably fused to my weeping skin.  Clearly the answer is to go around topless, but something tells me this would attract the wrong kind of friends.

I started taking Benadryl a couple days ago to try and combat the incessant itching and pain, but did so with reluctance:  I'm pretty sensitive to the stuff.  I know this due to past experience, which consisted of me taking some Benadryl at Derek's parents' house years ago and then waking up an hour later, face-down in the middle of the living room.  I don't know why I didn't choose one of the beds, couches, or really any kind of furniture and instead chose to stretch out where there was a regular pattern of foot traffic.

But itchy and oozy am I, so Benadryl it is.  I've been keeping the operation of heavy machinery to a minimum, but yesterday I felt like it was safe to walk a block up the hill to the small and sweet Berlin Free Library (not to be confused with the town's public library).  I remember sitting down in a chair to read while the kids made their book selections, and then I remember waking up to my phone buzzing in my lap.  I'm pretty sure I only fell asleep for a few minutes.  I really really hope no one stumbled upon me in my (legal) drug-induced coma.

I am going to the doctor Monday morning.  I am hoping for more powerful, but still legal drugs.  That or they can just skin me and I'll start anew.  Whatever it takes.

Monday, June 17, 2019

We Have Arrived

We're here!  We made it!

One week ago yesterday we arrived in CT, and one week ago today we closed on our house in the morning and spent the rest of the day moving into it.

There's so much to say, so much to document, that I don't even really know where to start.  I'm in another library, except it's 1200 miles from the one I was writing in last week.  It's a nice library, but I find I'm struggling to accept it as it is and not zero in on all the things I'd change if I could get my hands on it.  (What would I change, you ask?  More new middle readers.  Less staff just milling around, looking bored.  Library stuff.)  I feel gross as I sit here, not because I'm actually dirty- we have a functioning shower now, hurray!- but because my skin is covered in light pink patches of dried calamine lotion.  It turns out we have quite the crop of poison oak in our new yard, and although I have spent a large portion of the last week helping to clear it out, I don't really remember rolling around in it like a pig in mud.  Or a dog in mud.

Given that I did not make any crowns of poison oak to rest charmingly upon my brow, I'm wondering just how I ended up with a rash behind my ears, of all places.  And my back.  And my shoulders.  The rash on my hands and forearms, I understand.

Oh, wait, I know!  See, if you're allergic to urushiol oil, as I am, then you know that after exposure to poison ivy, poison oak, etc, you have to wash aaaallll the fabrics you even thought about touching.  Clothing, sheets, towels, etc, or you'll keep re-exposing yourself.  But our washer is still broken.  Something in my possession has that oil on it, so it just keeps spreading.  Awesome.

The possibly-good news is that the repairman is scheduled to pay us a visit tomorrow; the washer needed a new pump.  But we really really need that pump to arrive today, or he'd just be coming over to have tea and cookies.  Except that I'm not a big tea drinker, so I guess we'd just be having cookies.  Cookies and calamine lotion.  Sounds like the name of a scented candle.

Many other things have happened, too, both good and bad.  Derek and his dad hooked up the dryer, which included cutting through the side of the house to vent it, as we chose a new location for the washer and dryer.  Well, I'll put "new" in quotation marks, because it was likely the original location, before the Flippers From Hell got their hands on this house and did nearly everything wrong, including moving the washer and dryer to the second floor and kitting out a laundry room around it the size of a bedroom.  We wanted that fourth bedroom, so back down the washer and dryer needed to go.  I'll finish this riveting paragraph by saying that they had to cut 8.5" through that exterior wall for the dryer vent, and 7.5 of those inches were solid wood.  So... maybe the house is well-insulated?

When we haven't been working on the house (which is almost never), we've been exploring this new-to-us area.  There are plenty of things here to recommend our location, but one of my favorites is the abundance of trails- at least compared to where we were- in this section of New England.  I picked one of the closest ones and packed the kids up two days ago while Derek was at work in the evening.  Now, hiking isn't one of their favorite things, but I can usually get them to go along at least half-cheerfully for a solid mile or two, so when we studied the map at the trail head I chose the blue trail.  1.5 miles is very doable for our kids!  No problem!  Piece of cake!

Except, whoopsy daisy, we instead set out on the blue/red trail, and while my suspicions were mounting about my mistake almost from the beginning, I didn't say anything until we were over 1 1/2 miles in.  Then I looked it up on my AllTrails app, and sure enough, we were on the 5.5 mile loop.  To their credit, the kids took the news with relative aplomb (or maybe it was just exhaustion?), and we turned around to hike back.  It was very hilly, especially for newly-arrived flatlanders, and extremely rocky.  

Of course, we knew that was coming, given that one of the trail runners we saw at the trail head held up a shredded shoe and told her companion, "This is what Ragged Mountain does to shoes."  But it was beautiful, and I was so pleased with how the kids handled the challenge.  

Tomorrow (or whenever I get to it):  Reunions!  Flowers!  A weeping house!

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

And Tomorrow They Load the Truck

I am sitting at my local library, writing what I assume will be my last post from Iowa.  There are strangers in our house, packing up our things, which makes me simultaneously say, "Waaaaaah!" and "Oh, thank God."  I mean, I'm sad that we're moving, but I'm also thankful it's not me in there packing it all up.  I about killed myself trying to get it all ready last night, loading up cleaning supplies, making sure everything was unplugged, etc.  Do you know how many aerosol cans we have?  Multitudes.  So so many.  Why do we need four giant cans of wasp killer?  Have we been living in a bad '60s horror film and I never realized it?  Here I was thinking I was living a normal life of an Iowan when apparently I was a bumbling extra, oblivious to the fact that there's a giant wasp on the loose in the town of Brave New World.

My head's in kind of a weird space today.  You understand.

Speaking of Brave New World, the moniker I long ago gave the little town we've been living in, I think it's now safe to tell you that its actual name is Huxley.  Just me having my own, private, long-running, literary joke there. 

Other items I evidently hoard?  Soy sauce.  Field guides.  Aldi-brand Rotel.  Because I guess you never know when you're going to need to identify a species of North American tree while eating Mexican and Asian food both?  I'm really not ashamed of what these choices say about my priorities. 

I've also been spending my time trying to see as many Iowa loved ones as possible in between working and grabbing our children by their cheeks, peering into their faces while asking, "You okay in there?  Any irreversible trauma going on?"  They love this about as much as you think they would.  Also I'm running around like a crazy person because moving involves paperwork.  Lots and lots of paperwork.  Post office.  Doctor's office.  Schools.  Etc.

Then, two days ago, as I manically attempted to wash every scrap of fabric in our house (everything I do now is manic, except when I slip into deep lethargy and depression- is there such as thing as situational bipolar disorder?) so it would be clean for the move, where it can get dirty again in the moving truck, our washer abruptly went on strike.  It stopped about a quarter of the way into a cycle, so I manually drained it, ran a spin cycle, did all the things the manual told me to do when the washer's cry for help is "5E," the error code that appeared on the display.  I thought I had it fixed, evidenced by my triumphant text to Derek.  Then the same thing happened, so I drained it again- which, if you're curious, consists of me gracefully sprawling on our laundry room floor surrounded by all the shallow vessels I could find; the drain tube is only a couple inches off the floor, and each time I drained around three gallons of water- and ran the spin cycle again, and then pronounced it... maybe not dead, but grievously injured.

We knew it would be nigh on impossible to get a technician out to fix the washer within the 36 hours we had until the movers arrived, but I still tried.  No luck.  But then Tami made herself my new best friend by announcing that YES, they could get a technician out to Connecticut to look at it after the move!  God bless nation-wide warranty companies!  God bless warranties themselves!  God bless Tami, the kind lady on Assurant's online chat for whom I left a stellar review in the post-conversation survey!

Gratitudinals- that's right, I remembered that in everything I'm supposed to give thanks and all that junk.  Here's what I'm thankful for today:

1.  Marco Polo, the video chat app my friend Mindy introduced me to several weeks ago.  It allows you to record a video that can only be seen by whomever you decide to put into a group- I have a group that consists of Mindy, Anne, and me, one with just Derek and me, and so on.  It's eased the thought of moving far away from my people, because now I'll be able to go back and watch their videos whenever I want, still seeing their faces and hearing their voices.  It's a nice alternative to Facetime because you can record your videos and watch your friends' responses at your leisure.

2.  The fact that I have several thank yous to write once this post is done, because it's evidence of people helping us and doing any number of things to ease our transition and show their affection for us.
A good start.

3.  Derek's mom Becky, who is even now at the movie theater with our kids.  It's helped make a difficult day easier.

4.  Our kids' teachers, who made time in the death march that is the month of May to lavish extra affection onto our children.  Atticus's teacher made up a story to get him out of the classroom so that his classmates could each write what they like about him or what they'll remember about him on pieces of paper.  One of Adelaide's teachers sent her a thoughtful email after the last day of school encouraging her and giving Daughter her personal address so they can be pen pals.  Caedmon's teacher pulled him aside and gave him an extra hug ("she squeezed me so tight, Mom") and words that express all the goodness she sees in him. 
And now I'm crying in the library.

5.  Chili lime cashews from Aldi, especially on top of a salad.  So crunchy and spicy and flavorful.  My mouth is watering just thinking about them.  Leakage in my eyes and my mouth.  What a day.