Friday, March 6, 2020

The Home Improver

Last night, Caedmon and I began listing aloud all the improvements Derek has made to this house since we moved in last June, because list-making is a fun pastime.  Our youngest was born with this truism etched on his heart.  That, or he's seen me making one bajillion lists over the course of his lifetime and it rubbed off.  The former sounds nicer.

I don't feel bad writing out the list here the way I would if I forced you to listen to my recitation; you're free to skim the list at will and it will likely take you seconds.  If I did this verbally, I would no doubt pause periodically to wander down myriad rabbit trails with side stories and side-side stories.  I am not brief when writing and even less brief when I story-tell aloud.  At least in this format, you have a choice and don't have to find a polite way out of the conversation.

  • Tore down kitchen cabinets
  • Installed open kitchen shelves
  • Hung bucket-things
  • Replaced knob and lock on back door
  • Installed storm door
  • Installed new kitchen lighting
  • Installed new basement lighting
  • Installing new outdoor shutters (in progress!)
  • Installed new front outdoor light
  • Installed new living room sconce
  • Created built-in bookcases
  • Installed new bedroom lighting
  • Installed new bedroom closet shelving
  • Tore down cabinets in kid's bedroom
  • Caulked and insulated around five outdoor windows
  • Built storage shelving under stairs
  • Built shelving for storage in basement
  • Built and installed sliding barn door for kid's room
  • Shaved down bathroom door so it would close
  • Did scary plumbing stuff
  • Installed new coat closet door 

This isn't even going into building a few Ikea storage pieces and aaaallllll the electrical work he's done throughout the house.  This place was a deathtrap, I swear, with its knob and tube wiring and non-grounded outlets and who knows what else.  (Derek does.)  We've also had a few things professionally installed because Husband knows his limits.  As do I.  Our limits for home improvement projects are just very different.  Joanna Gaines, I am not- but if you need book recommendations, I'm your gal!  (Laughs weakly.)

I've been combing through our various before, during, and after photos for some of these projects Derek has accomplished and plan on writing a few posts describing them.  I'll try to avoid excruciating detail, but that's really not something I can realistically promise.  Actually, wait- yes, I can!  Since I was at work while 90% of the labor involved in these things was done, I don't even really know what all went into most of it, just that I would arrive home and a new light fixture would be up, or I could see progress on the bookcases, or whatever.  I will also be sure to tell you the one minor service I provided with each one, often involving paint, in the same way a child will wave their hand in the air and cry, "I halped!"

Also:  we've been in the house just a few days shy of nine months.  It's like all this drilling and sawing and hammering and measuring and on and on is Derek's version of gestation.  He's been gestating DeWalt tools.  Or hang on, I feel like I'm using this metaphor imperfectly- is it the projects that he's been gestating?  Is the book case I'm currently looking at his project baby?  Since he worked alone, was it immaculate conception?  (Did things just get weird?  I think things just got weird.)

Look here:  in the time since I wrote all the previous words early this morning and right now, Derek began and finished another dang project.  He says he loves switching out light fixtures because it's "quick and easy and such a drastic change."  I would call him a liar but he does make it look easy, even with the decrepit wiring in this house that he's slowly bringing into the 21st century.  And so:  behold!  One fewer boob light in this house!
Full disclosure:  this isn't the actual light he took down.  He began this project before I could take a "before" picture, so I walked ten feet to the side and took a picture of another light that will someday be replaced.

Tadaaaaa!  Look how happy he looks.

I wanted to get a picture of the new light fixture without the light bulbs on, but as it turns out when you turn the light off it gets darker in the room and I was too impatient to wait until morning when we had some natural light, so the coloring on this is wonky because I edited the daylights (haha) out of it on my phone.  But... behold!  Our new fixture, wavy glass, Edison bulbs, and all, and Derek's newest product of gestation!

I promise I'll come back with a better term.

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Things That Are Confusing about Connecticut, Round Two

  • The roads.  THE ROADS.  I've been much much better about expanding my bubble living in CT this time- going new places, venturing out alone, not sticking to the same old places time and again.  This is in part due to the fact that I'm just plain older; every time I begin to think harsh thoughts toward my past self that lived here, I remind myself that I was 21 when I moved last time and say "YOUR PREFRONTAL CORTEX WASN'T EVEN FULLY DEVELOPED, cut the girl some slack!"  But even more than having a fully developed brain to thank for this expanded bubble is the wonder that is modern day GPS.  Google and Apple Maps are my very, very best friends.  We spent hours together daily last summer and fall when we first moved here.  I still touch base with them multiple times a week.  Nothing makes sense about the roads here:  if you're on the highway and miss your exit, you can't just get off on the following exit and backtrack, midwestern-style.  The next exit takes you to an entirely different place with no obvious connectors to the road you originally wanted.

  • Sneezing- or rather, people's reaction to it.  If you sneeze here, people will stop what they are doing, turn to you, and audibly say, "Bless you!"  Hang on, I feel like I'm not explaining this well.  Yes, I grew up with utterances of "Bless you" and "Gesundheit" in response to sneezes, but I need you to picture people not just saying it off-hand, but rather halting whatever their current task is, then turning toward the person and declaring, "Bless you!" as if they really are trying to ward off a sneeze demon, or whatever the past belief that prompted the original of that phrase is.  Last Sunday we were all listening to the sermon like good little Christians when someone one row up sneezed.  No less than four people turned toward that person and didn't bother to lower their voices as they blessed them.  And business carried on as usual, with the exception of Derek and I looking at each other like, "Helloooo, Crazy Town."

  • Suckers vs Lollipops.  To me and my midwestern brethren, this
is a sucker, while this
is a lollipop.

Here, they are both lollipops.  This comes up a surprising amount at my job, possibly because there are so many children in libraries, possibly because on any given day we have too much candy in the workroom.

  • Street Names.  Roads here often have charming and amusing names.  I often run on Camels Back Road, which is a short road with one steep hill, a quick up-down.  One of my favorites on our drives down to the coast is Roast Meat Hill Road.  So many were clearly named before city planners could get their hands on plat maps and say, "Look, the roads going North-South will all be the names of presidents, East-West will be tree names- none of this Mystic Meadow Lane or Velvet Place nonsense."  (Ahem, Midwest.)  Crowing these unusual names to our captive passengers has become one of my favorite things to do whilst driving around the state.  Also confusing, in a not so whimsical way, are places with names like this state park

For those that don't feel like zooming in and test their vision, that sign reads, "Satan's Kingdom State Recreation Area."  One has to wonder what kind of "recreation" is happening at this place.  We whizzed by pretty quickly in our vehicle, so I couldn't make out the bloody altars and eternal fires between the trees, but I'll be sure to report back if I ever pluck up the gumption to visit Satan's Kingdom.

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Shortbread and Embroidery and Neuroses

Between Adelaide asking why I don't write on here anymore and my half-hearted claims that I still occasionally update this thing in our last Christmas newsletter, I've been feeling a push to get on here and write something, anything, even though I know that the first few times I write after not having written in so long the results are a charming cross between drivel and plain trash.  So now my intention is to get a couple garbage posts up that grease the metaphorical wheels, and see if maybe this is something I can sustain.  I will admit that my expectations are low.

Part of the problem is me.  My writing style is Full Diva; I need a big chunk of silent, uninterrupted time, and that is not something that happens to me anymore.  Someone always needs something from me.  This is not complaint; I know there are lots of lonely humans out there who would love to discuss the inner workings and motivations of professional soccer players or long-dead (or almost dead) British rockers.  When I'm on here, tappity-tap-tapping away and I'm interrupted by a kid or a text or a whatever, I feel instant rage, and that's not fair to whomever is a-knocking.

Okay, so to be perfectly honest, I do get chunks of silent, uninterrupted time.  I make this happen by getting up between 5:00 and 5:20 a.m. most days.  I could spend that hour writing rather than running.  I could.  But I will not.

When last we met, I was in paperwork/red tape/bureaucratic hell trying to get all the various forms for the various school and governmental agencies sorted.  That is more or less done, although the trash company in Iowa only just stopped sending us monthly bills a few weeks ago after we made yet another phone call asking why they were so obsessed with us (gratuitous Mean Girls quote:  five points).

The kids are all doing well in school.  My prayers that the kids would be granted kind, compassionate teachers were answered.  That, or we're living in one of the few states that is known for paying its teachers reasonably well and it turns out that actually does benefit students.  Or it's a mix of the two.  The Lord works in mysterious ways, after all.

I have a full-time job.  I started said job a few days after that last blog post back in August, and looking back I'm wondering why I only mentioned the part-time library job and not the full-time library job I was about to begin at an entirely different library.  Knowing me the way I do, I was probably worried I'd accidentally stitch all my flaws onto my work attire in my sleep (in beautiful, flowing script, because these are still my dreams), my new boss would read them the minute I walked in the door, and I'd be fired straight away.  My fears don't often make sense.  But, here I am, those same fears driving me to curse the motion sensor light mounted on our back shed/barn/thingy as I peer over the bottom of the windowsill and tell myself for the thousandth time that it's probably just one of the neighborhood cats strolling by, not the person who I'm sometimes* quite sure lives in our shed, unbeknownst to the hapless family living only a few hundred feet away.

Let's see, what else?  Kids?  Check.  My newish job?  Check.  Shed dweller?  Check.

Derek!  Derek is really enjoying his new job.  It's sports and oftentimes high pressure, two things at which he excels.  No, I don't understand those parts of his personality.

I'm sure there are many more vitally important things to report, but all I can think to say for tonight is that I made the recipe for Salted Butter Chocolate Chunk Shortbread on Smitten Kitchen's website yesterday.  The three males in the family thought it was decent.  Adelaide and I loved it.  Were I to do it again, I would lessen the amount of flour by 1/4- 1/2 cup; the dough ended up overly crumbly.  It is shortbread, so if you plan on making it, brace yourself for an indecent amount of butter used.

Also, I have taken up hand embroidery.  I've only completed one project, but I'm still allowing myself to say that it is something I now do.  It is delightful and strangely addictive, and doesn't require large chunks of silent time.  I am even now on the prowl for my next pattern so this one on my wall doesn't have to look so lonely.  This newest hobby plus the fact that I am freaking out about how it's almost 10:00 and I won't get enough sleep is enough, I think, to earn my solid placement in the Early Old Lady Club.  I've always been precocious.
This is smaller than it appears, maybe 4x4".

*anytime it's dark out and/or I actually have to go in there alone

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Papers, Please

There are many things I am thankful for right now:  beautiful weather.  The hills to be found right outside our front door that are still very much a novelty to me.  These children of ours who have amusing conversations such as this:

"I love dictionaries."

"I don't like dictionaries; dictionaries are mean.  They're always telling you how you're wrong."

I won't tell you which child uttered which sentence to protect the identities of the innocent, but if you know our offspring at all, you can probably make a not-so-wild guess.  The orator of that second statement was also offended when Derek and I laughed wildly at how injured they evidently feel by dictionaries in general.

You know what I don't care for?  Official documents.  I'm getting pretty dang sick of being told that a Kansas birth certificate/ Oklahoma marriage license/Iowa immunization record/WHATEVER isn't the right kind or isn't official enough (wish I was making that up) to get us little things like driver's licenses or school enrollment.  I've learned this much about myself, though:  There are many professions I've looked at and thought, "Sure, I could do that," but those that involve cutting through bureaucracy and red tape and paperwork for paperwork's sake?  No.  Not in this lifetime, nor in a million that follow.  I was ready to scream after being bounced from one DMV supervisor to another so they could inspect the aforementioned OK marriage license to see if it really really truly proved I was married.  I didn't, obviously, because hi, I wouldn't last five seconds in jail, but I did go so far as to arrange my facial expression into one of long-suffering forbearance laced with mild irritation.  TAKE THAT, STATE OF CONNECTICUT.

I don't really understand why most of these things are a problem in the first place.  All of these documents are from the same country, aren't they?  And aren't they just pieces of paper, anyway?  Maybe that's my problem- I don't put a lot of value in a piece of paper.  It reminds me second grade Adelaide who nearly fell to pieces trying to figure out why everyone put so much stock in American currency when it was all just special paper, and shouldn't money have actual worth?  I spent a good month warning people not to get sucked into any conversation with her that started with the question, "Do you know what pennies are actually made of?"  Emails with her teachers have always been fun.
Adelaide explaining the social construct that is modern currency.

The only time this ever touches me professionally is when someone wants a new library card and I have to ask them for ID.  Most of the time they have it ready and on their person, but when they don't, or it's not a library-sanctioned form of identification or personal mail, it's so hard for me not to shrug my shoulders and say, "Whatever, it's fine."  And yes, I know ID is required to protect the library from theft and blah blah blah.  Please don't bother engaging me in a conversation about this, because I know the arguments for and against- I just don't care.  It's the wonderful and terrible thing about those of us whose attitude toward official documentation is "I'm sure it's fine" and "Good faith efforts are good enough for me."  Please also note that this is yet another way that I am Derek's polar opposite.  Whee!

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Things, They Have Happened!

Many things have happened!  Our children are registered for school!  I have a job!  We took a trip to the DMV and it wasn't as heinous as I had feared!

First:  school.  It took an inordinate amount of paperwork to get these chitlins registered.  I learned the difference between a state-issued and hospital-issued birth certificate and that not every state gives you both, much to the confusion of this school district. When I got to talk to real live human beings, they were very gracious, but there were multiple times I found myself growling at this very Chromebook, "Look, I didn't intentionally birth three children in three different states, it just happened that way, okay?"  But finally, here we are, with a transportation schedule and everything.  Although that little thing provoked more questions than it answered; the middle school apparently releases before 3 p.m. while the boys' elementary school begins after 8 a.m., both of which are departures from what our kids have experienced in their previous schools.  I have quested through the bowels of the district's website and learned nothing about the schools' apparent staggered schedule, which leads me to believe I am supposed to gain this information in another way- swimming in the creek by town hall, maybe, or putting on a red coat and flapping around the yard.  Whoops, I left out a pertinent detail that will allow you to get that previous joke:  our high school's mascot?  The Redcoats.  No, we don't understand how this came to be, because one would think that an area of the country that was the site of so much of the Revolutionary War would swing the other way.  Why not the Minutemen?  Or the Patriots?  Or the Colonists? 

Second:  I have a job!  In a library!  The job is part-time, the library is huge.  I'm two whole days in, but all the other staff have been incredibly nice so far, so it's shaping up to be a good thing.  I'm hesitant to say more at this point, so I'll leave it at this for now:  working at a large library is different than working at a small library, but also the same.  I hope you feel enlightened.

Third:  the DMV.  The last time we lived here, our visits to the DMV were like every horrible movie scene set in a DMV you've ever witnessed.  The long waits, the public languishing in uncomfortable chairs as they mentally willed employees who had lost the will to live to call their number.

Our recent visit was very different.  Yes, it was busy, but there were still far fewer people than in my memory, due, I believe, to a magical invention called the internet.  Why go to the second circle of hell when you can now get half that stuff done online?  I also have to wonder if perhaps I'm just more patient, though; the last time we were there I was newly married and childless.  This time I was happy to wait as long as it took:  just me, Derek, a book, and no children needing anything from me.  It was like a vacation!  With all that and air conditioning, they're lucky I left when our task was complete.

All that being said, we still haven't gotten our CT driver's licenses, and I know that will be the lengthier visit.  I admit I'm a little concerned, because I understand you are no longer allowed to smile in the charming photo shown on licenses.  I feel nervous laughter bubbling up my throat just thinking about it.  There is no way I'll have anything other than a bizarre grin-suppressing, squinched look about my face simply because I know I'm not allowed to smile. 

P.S.  I went and looked on the school's website one more time because I was uncomfortable claiming I'd been in the bowels of the site when I'd likely only been in the stomach or duodenum at the lowest.  I found the staggered start and release times for the kids' schools.  Thanks, conscience!

Sunday, July 21, 2019


Our children have little to no memory of living in a house without central air conditioning.  Anymore, central air seems to be an asset Midwesterners take for granted, as sure a thing as tornadoes in spring and the fair in late summer.  Of course we all remember sweltering summers spent at the grandparents' house where you trailed ice cubes over your face as you sat inches in front of the fan, and who could forget that May where my third grade classroom's window unit quit working (PURE, SWEATY MISERY), but at least in my experience, central air is anything but uncommon in the Midwest.

Here, it is a different story.

Few houses appear to have central air, excepting new construction, of course, of which there isn't that much.  Window units abound, and we can usually pick out a few ductless units here and there on our walks.

Why all this riveting HVAC talk?  Well.  Yesterday at 3:30 p.m. the temp was in the low 90s, with a "real feel" of 105 degrees.  We're living in a house without central air, which has been, shall we say, a learning experience for our precious children.  Learning that no, Adelaide, we're not going to bake a pie when it's already 85° in the kitchen, and no, I'm not buying that chocolate-covered whatever; it'll melt in our cabinets and I've already over-stuffed our fridge trying to keep everything fresh.

We did go out and purchase window units for the kids' rooms, because if the kids aren't sleeping well, we aren't sleeping well.  Derek's rigged a series of fans to try and pull some of that cool air from one of their rooms into ours, and it's provided some relief.  I'm sleeping just fine, but I feel like I tolerate the heat better than Derek, possibly because at any given time I seem to operating around ten degrees cooler than he does.  Hover your hand over his arm at any given time and you'll feel that he simply radiates heat, whereas most of the year my hands can double as ice packs for your sore muscles.

Fortunately the temperature's supposed to take a dive Tuesday, so we've only got a couple more days of stillness.  That's how we've been coping:  by being very, very still.

Activities that don't require much movement are current favorites in this house, which means we've been playing a lot of games like Quirkle and Roll For It, with Contraptions being an ongoing favorite of the boys.  Atticus suggested Twister the other day and I'm still desperately sad I wasn't quick enough with my phone to capture the look of disgust on Caedmon's face at the idea of allowing our sticky selves to touch each other.  We've spent considerable amounts of time at the two local libraries, at the pool, and have been eating outside in the evenings.  Ice cream is also a balm.

While I don't remember Connecticut winters to be as brutal as Iowa's, I still know that there's going to be a time come February when I'll curse my summer self, wailing that I didn't appreciate the ability to go outside, that I wasted precious time moaning about the heat that my winter self longs for.  So yay for summer, sticky heat and all.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

In-Between Time

Throughout this process and even now, people we speak to ask how the kids are doing with the move. 

I appreciate this thoughtfulness.  Each of our kids have struggled with the whole process in different ways and to differing degrees.  Right now the boys seem to be doing okay, but that might be simply because it's summer break, where their mornings are spent trying to accomplish all their daily tasks that must be completed in order to earn time on the Nintendo Switch.  Oh, you're not the kind of parent who regularly employs bribery to assert some measure of behavioral control over your children, and your panties are becoming increasingly bunched over my last statement?  My guess is that your progeny are either babies, or imaginary.  Please move along.  There is nothing for you here, in the land where I'm afraid we do have to say things like, "You must complete X amount of creative time, and X amount of reading time, and X amount of outside time before we will allow you to rot your brains with X minutes of Zelda.  Why, yes, we are the cruelest possible parents in existence; thank you so much for noticing!"

This isn't even getting into chores.  In the space of time our 10 year old spends poring over the day's chore list to make sure it is fair and just in every possible way, with no unequal distribution of tasks, he could have finished half of those chores.  I tolerate the cries of "Why do I have 2 hard chores and one medium chore when she has 3 easy chores?" because this is also the kid who prefers to see the chore list first thing in the morning so he can do his right away; no unfinished work is allowed to dangle over his head all day.  What makes a chore "medium" or "easy" in his estimation?  No one knows.
I get an almost indecent amount of joy out of taking pictures of our kids doing chores.  Hey, you have your weird hobbies, I have mine.

With all that, I don't know that our boys have the additional emotional bandwidth for existential angst over the move.  It also helps that we've been to the pool almost every day for the past week and there we met a nice family with two boys of matching ages to our own.  Sometimes God answers prayers through affordable family pool passes.  Not what I would have expected, but then, that's God for you.

Adelaide is paradoxically eager for school to start, in order to "get it over with."  The two of us ventured out last week to The Book Barn, which consists of three locations of a book store within a mile or two of each other, each more charming than the last (providing you start with the least charming location, of course).  We've both had a hard time putting into words what we loved so much about this used book store; Adelaide loved the goats, the whimsy, and the books, while I loved the gardens, the whimsy, and the books.  And the clever shelf markers.  And the rambling-ness of the place.  And all the rest.
Please enjoy this example of their cleverness taken through my dirty windshield.

It definitely feels as if Real Life has been put on hold.  Currently I am banned from the kitchen as the boys prepare a "surprise" for Derek.  I have been told it's not something to eat, despite their needing a pan and food coloring, and just now I overheard Caedmon say to his brother, "If you use cooking ingredients, even if you're not, like, cooking, it often turns out well."  Forgive me for my apparent deep-seated cynicism as I say there is no way this is turning out well.

I'm thankful for this slow time before school starts and I find another job.  (Will I ever find another job?  Who knows?  But rest assured I am handling the unsettled quality that currently characterizes this aspect of my life super duper well.)  It's allowing the kids and me a gradual easing-in to this new life of ours, one where there's time to drag them on hikes, and on walks around town, and where we get to try pizza place after pizza place until we find Our Favorite.  I don't think anyone can complain too much about their life if they're getting pizza once a week, and I am not exempt from that.