Friday, September 22, 2017

Birthdays and Band

Yesterday was Caedmon's birthday.  He is seven, and when asked what he wanted for his birthday dinner, out of all the things in the wide world I could make for him, he requested mac and cheese.  I don't know if this is a subtle commentary on my cooking, or he just has strange tastes.

Speaking of strange tastes, Adelaide recently undertook her first foray into marching band.  She plays percussion, so this is a fun experience for her; this is in stark contrast to my experience of being a flautist in marching band, where you are the musical equivalent to a Puritan-era child:  there to be seen and not heard.  Yes, yes, you can play the piccolo, and while this is fun for the two whole songs that feature piccolos, you must have a high tolerance for extremely high pitched sounds right up against your ear.

Because we knew Adelaide and the rest of the middle school band was going to be playing at last week's high school football game, we carried ourselves off to the field, where Derek watched his high school alma mater absolutely crush our home team throughout the first half, and I chatted with friends and contemplated the merits of getting a shirt that reads, "I'm just here for the marching band."

Half time came, we listened to Adelaide and the sixth graders play, then the upper-grade middle schoolers, then the high school marching band entered the field and strutted their stuff, with the now tiny-looking sixth graders watching in awe.  As we were leaving, Adelaide talked about how excited she was for marching band, and how she couldn't wait to perform in high school, but the thing that she's most looking forward to are "those really cool hats!"

In case you're confused, no, our marching band has not departed from tradition to wear something new and different.  She really does mean those bucket-looking hats with an abnormally large feather protruding from the top.  Remember though that this is also the girl who wore a fuzzy cat ear headband more often than not all last summer and into the first month of school.  Maybe she just likes having unusual things on her head?  Either way I'll take it, as she also just showed me the "warm up" worksheet for this extra-curricular math club she wants to take part in, which she described as "hard but fun," and which I gazed at and had to suppress the urge to rip into tiny pieces.  Anyone else have dormant feelings of rage stir at the mere sight of middle school math?


I guess this is what all Daughter is talking about when she proudly identifies herself as a nerd.  Or is it a geek?  All I can ever remember is that she is profoundly offended when I mix her up and refer to her as the wrong one. 


"If the permutations of the letters in the word SURE are numbered 1 through 24 in alphabetical order, what number is RUSE?" 




The good part of all this nerdiness (or is it geekiness?  I'm sorry, Daughter, I know this is making you very angry) is I can email her band memes and she finds them funny.





Friday, September 15, 2017

Good, Bad, Good

Things have been good and then they have been bad and then good again.  So... normal life.


Good

We recently headed south for a quick Kansas fix.  Whilst there, we held babies.
We played with the other nieces, too, but they don't hold still long enough for me to take a picture, so here's more baby-holding.






Bad

Monday morning I woke up at 5:30.  It was one of those sleepy, coming-slowly-to-consciousness "Wait, what time is it?" before jolting upright and realizing you didn't hear your alarm or never set it or something, the result being you overslept by nearly an hour and left your friend standing alone in the dark at 5 a.m.  I felt terrible.  She insisted that it was fine, she needed a day off anyway, blah blah blah, lies lies lies to make me feel better.

It was too late to run, so I decided I'd go ahead and get a little work done before rousing the rest of the family.  I went downstairs to make my coffee.  Coffee maker goes on strike, won't dispense a single solitary drop of caffeine-nectar-goodness, and how do I keep breaking coffee makers?  I do not have fancy tastes, or the need of special gadgets or anything.  I use regular-people drip coffee makers (Dear internet people who spend a curious amount of time each day preparing a liquid that ends up tasting about the same as the stuff truckers buy at gas stations:  get a hobby.  Perhaps a high-maintenance tiny dog?), and regular-people coffee (cheapo coffee beans from Aldi that I do, admittedly, grind myself because cockroaches are gross), so why does my coffee maker keep breaking?

Anyway, after learning that I would not be getting any coffee, successfully suppressing the urge to rend my clothing and tearfully ask the universe why bad things happen to good people, I decided that I would move on, and get to working.  I booted up the computer, and there was no internet.  No internet means no work.  So at 5:50 a.m. I gave up on Monday.





Good

Our children are finally old enough that playing games with them doesn't make me want to die (I'm looking at you, Hi-Ho! Cherry-O and your ilk).  We love Qwirkle,

and Quiddler with the older two,

and Atticus will play chess with tiny Darth Vader when Derek isn't home, because Atticus and Derek love chess but I do not, because it is boring.





Bad

Yesterday afternoon Caedmon began screaming and running around even more than usual.  Bees again.  Atticus had those two bee stings last month, Caedmon got two yesterday, and Adelaide claims to have seen a line of bees going in and out of a hole in the ground.  Do bees nest in the ground?  I thought they built their hives up in, um, you know, places that are not holes in the ground.

It turns out neither of our boys are allergic to bees, so today Caedmon is just sporting an extra welt on his forearm and one ear is about 20% larger and weirder looking than the other, but who cares because ears are super weird-looking anyway.  I know this because I spent a solid ten minutes staring at one yesterday, trying to scrape a bee's stinger out of one of those folds of cartilage that make up the outer ear.  The pinna?  See above gif yet again.






Good

Atticus likes to pedal this knife-sharpening contraption that my grandparents have at their house.  You push one of the pedals- the other being currently non-functional- and the stone spins.  Atticus pushes one of the pedals, and Grandpa inevitably whips out a pocket knife to sharpen, and tells us about pedaling the tool as a boy, then as he got older using it to sharpen mower blades, and boy, wasn't that a pain!



Thursday, August 31, 2017

Three Things


  • First of all, brace yourself, because this is indeed what passes for excitement in our house:  Caedmon found a quarter lacking a mint mark.  I KNOW, RIGHT?  Our youngest is just a tad obsessive about looking for those marks as soon as a quarter finds its way into his hot little hands, always on the hunt for that elusive "P."  Around here we have way more "D" quarters- that is, quarters from the Denver mint- than P, I assume because we are closer to Denver than Philadelphia, although perhaps Denver also makes more quarters than Philadelphia?  I really don't know.  Anyway, Caedmon was given a quarter that was stamped with the year 1965, but with no mint mark.  A quick google search led Derek to educate us all on how from some year to another year (I don't remember) too many people were collecting coins and something about something else, the result being they stopped putting mint marks on coins for a short time to stop people being so crazy.  *Waves wand* May this be the least intelligible paragraph you read today.



  • Adelaide has been losing teeth.  A lot of teeth.  As in, all her molars on the bottom left side have fallen out within days of each other.  Naturally, this leads to me finding teeth in random places throughout the house.
I'm not that worried about the fact that she's lost seven teeth in six months-  none of our kids got their first teeth until well after their first birthday, so they tend to be late losers- but I'm still glad she's due for a visit to the dentist in a month, just so he can assure me that she doesn't have some obscure mouth disease, then turn right around and devastate me with impending orthodontia news.  Dentists are good at that, you know.



  • If you've been itching for a good memoir, pick this one up:

If you like to experience the entire gamut of human emotion in one sitting, this is the book for you.  It is so funny, and so entertaining, even while being about cancer and fear and doctors who really need to work on their bedside manner.  Maybe don't read it in a public place, unless crying in front of strangers is your thing, in which case I'll just say stick some extra Kleenex in your pocket.  It's a good one.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

They Survived

The children all survived their first wee of school, plus the resulting aftermath of their first week of school.  Post-school interactions these first few days require constant refereeing, and when you think you're done- say, when all your angels are tucked into bed- you'll be drawn back upstairs because one has offended the other by... I don't know, being alive within ten feet of the other?

It can be rough, is what I am saying.

Our church's youth group kicked off the evening of the first day of school, too, proving it is not run by parents.  Parent-run organizations don't begin until the second or third week of school; this one is run by young adults.  The flip side of that coin is that those leaders have all the energy needed to herd a group of middle schoolers through an hour and a half of Bible learnin' fun, and the adolescents adore them.  So we'll take it, even if Adelaide did stagger into the house at 8:30 that night and ask if every day of middle school was going to be this exhausting.

What I imagine middle school ministry is like.  And thanks, giphy, for never letting me down.

It's not all bad that summer break is over, though.  I can finally weed through all the photos on my phone, which include ones of random kids holding circuit boards and bird houses, taken at the library so parents can see what their kids are doing at our programs.  I can also try to figure out why I took certain pictures of our own kids and what on earth we were doing.  A disturbing percentage of them relate to animal death.  Not that our kids are torturing puppies or anything; they just seem to believe that any dead animal they find deserves a proper burial.  This includes bird eggs they find on the ground that fail to ever hatch under their poor if good-intentioned tender loving care.  
A bird egg grave marker.  These things are stinkers to mow around.




I can also delete all those hair-cutting photos.  Adelaide spent a few weeks over the summer begging me to chop more of her hair off than I felt comfortable doing, but she eventually wore me down.  I did first extract two promises, namely that after I had done so she was 1) not allowed to be upset with me, and 2) was not allowed to cry.  She refused to promise to withhold her tears, but I said I'd do it anyway.  Then, just as I was about to start snip-snip-snipping away, she informs me that she also wants bangs.  I mean, bangs!  What could go wrong?  


*Let's all take a moment to appreciate that this gif both conveys "Yikes," AND is from the Great British Baking Show.*

Anyway, it all somehow ended up fine.  Adelaide was pleased with her hair, and I was so relieved that I didn't let my fine hand tremors and lack of overall hair cutting-related knowledge totally botch our daughter's appearance before her first day of middle school.  (Yeah, this could have gone really wrong.)

On to the second week of school.  We are optimistic but tired. 



Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Crislers v. Bees

Bees.  I am so sick of talking about bees.  Now, I am normally a lover of bees, planting bee-attracting flowers in our beds, trying to increase the number of native plants we have, etc, but last week one of our children came into the house screaming.  Not my-sibling-has-pissed-me-off screaming, but rather I-am-dying-mother-come-tend-to-me-now screaming.  It took a couple minutes, but I got this kid calm enough to explain to me that they had been stung by a bee on the leg.  Sure enough, the affected area began to redden and swell, but said kid was down to sitting on the floor, snuffling and moaning, when suddenly they began to twitch.  Once, twice, then jumping up, saying, "There's... there's something in my pants!  There's- THERE'S A BEE IN MY PANTS!"  

Commence more screaming.

I yanked their pants and underwear down, and sure enough, there was a bee in their underwear, and a second, fresh sting on their backside.  

Long story short, this child stood in the middle of the kitchen for another five minutes screaming and crying and refusing to pull their pants up for fear of another stealthy insect hiding in their clothing, waiting to attack their precious bits and pieces.  This meant the other two kept trying to walk into the room, then making a sharp U-turn saying, "Oooookay," because although we're a relatively close little family unit, we're not "hang out half-naked while trembling and panic-breathing" close.  

Aaaaaanyhoo, after that intense little episode, we've been talking a lot about bees.  See, I thought I was being a good parent by showing this kid the tiny corkscrew-shaped stinger still attached to the (dead) bee, but apparently this only served to further traumatize the kid.  

Note to self:  Do not view My Girl during family movie night any time soon.




The other thing I'm sick of discussing is bees, again, of the spelling variety.  Adelaide once again participated in the Iowa State Fair spelling bee, but this time she got 11th place, an abysmal showing, to borrow her words.  Was she the 11th-best speller there?  No.  She was easily one of the top few spellers, but she was not one of the most focused this year, and you need both excellent spelling ability and intense focus to do well in a spelling bee.  She got out on a word she knew perfectly well, rushing the end and missing a letter.  Devastation ensued.  She is eligible to compete one more year; we'll see what she decides.  Congratulations must be showered upon both Derek and I for not saying some hearty I TOLD YOU SOs, as she performed in the bee the way she practiced, and we more or less saw this coming.  May I just say that this whole part of parenting, the part where you want to guide your children, yet also let them make their own mistakes, even when you see disappointment on the horizon as a result- that part?  It sucks.  I so badly wanted to nag Daughter throughout the summer to better prepare for this event, but did not.  And I still don't regret it.  Mostly.


Atticus provided some fun during the ill-fated bee (this ill-fated bee, I mean, not the previous one); sitting still and not talking is tough for our most social child, but he found a way:  he was sitting clear to the side of the stadium-type seating, and his perch overlooked the table where the contestants who had just been eliminated got to choose a free book as a consolation prize.  Atticus rarely wastes an opportunity to interact with other people, so he designated himself the official Book Table Greeter and whispered things down to them like, "What book are you choosing?" and "You're choosing that book?" and "Don't forget your book!"  He's the kid who actually enjoys those paralyzing moments in church when the pastor announces that he hates all introverts and instructs us to say hello to those around us.  Adelaide greets one person (the minimum we have cruelly inflicted upon her), Atticus shakes all the hands and announces to everyone around that his name is Atticus, and Caedmon is the third child and there is only one of me so I'm not exactly sure what he does.  I think he says hello to the overtly friendly people near him.  Sorry, Caedmon.  Maybe Dad has been paying attention.



Bees:  2,    Crislers:  0.

(Or is it Bees:  3, since our kid was stung twice?  Whatever, the point is WE LOST.)


Thursday, August 17, 2017

It's a Confusing Time of Year

It is the week before school starts, which means all the things I put off throughout the summer are now demanding to be done.  I mean this quite literally, as our middle son comes to me every day and asks, "Have you sewed the appliqués on my backpack yet?"

Appliqués on the backpack but no bed skirt on the bed, because who am I, Joanna Gaines?  Leave me alone.

First of all, yes, our son does know what the word "appliqué" is and how to use it in a sentence, of which I am duly proud, and second of all, yes, I did offer to sew appliqués onto our children's perfectly fine backpacks, because... I make poor life choices?  I don't know.

Oh, wait, yes I do.  We'd been back to school shopping, which consists of me standing in the middle of a store and sounding increasingly obsessive about school supplies.   "Okay, Atticus, you need 6 dry erase markers, and they must be EXPO brand, and they must be black, but Adelaide, you need 4 dry erase markers, EXPO brand, but they have to be different colors.  Caedmon, you need two, in black.  ...No, dry erase markers, Caedmon.  Dry erase markers.  I am not talking about highlighters right now, that is three further items down the page, so I will not talk about those right now, just dry erase markers.  Atticus, focus, we are only focusing on dry erase markers, not red pens.  I do not care if you need red pens and they're right next to the dry erase markers, that is not the item we are discussing, just dry erase markers.  PUT THE COLORED PENCILS DOWN, ADELAIDE.  DRY ERASE MARKERS ONLY."

Anyway, it had been a day of so many rigid lists and "no"s that I faltered and told them that sure, I'd sew some appliques on their backpacks, and okay, yes, I'd embroider a few words on there, too.  I know why I had no trouble making these insane promises; it was mid-July and the start of the school was still ages away!  I had all kinds of times to make these things happen!  And yes, we do our school supply shopping in the middle of July, because I am a human being capable of learning from the past; in this case, knowing that THOU SHALT NOT:

  • Shop for school supplies in August.
  • Buy those Ticonderoga pencils the list always specifies, that cost FOUR TIMES AS MUCH as regular #2 pencils.  Junior can make do with 48 pencils cobbled from random drawers and sporting jack'o'lanterns, past politicians running for office, and Spiderman, just like the rest of us peasants.
  • Shop for school supplies in the college town, unless you like bare shelves and almost hitting that one college kid who wanders back and forth across the parking lot in such a haphazard fashion you begin to wonder if he perhaps suffers from severe vertigo.  He doesn't, he's just oblivious.  You will see him again in February, when it is -3 degrees outside.  He will be wearing shorts.  

The new THOU SHALT NOT of school supply shopping that we learned last year was "Buy backpacks from Wal-Mart."  Two of our three children had almost completely dismembered their backpacks by the end of last school year; Atticus because he kept swinging his around and around over his head (as a lasso when he pretended to be a cowboy, as rotor blades when he pretended to be a helicopter), Adelaide because she insists on carrying no less than thirty pounds of books with her wherever she goes.  She is actually the one that has the most work to do at the end of each year, as it takes some time to return all the books she's borrowed from three different libraries and five separate teachers.

I'm sure I'll accumulate a whole new list of THOU SHALT NOTs this year, as we break new ground:  Middle school.  Adelaide is going to middle school.  We've already visited once, to get her locker assignment, wage war against the lock (*sing-song* guess who's crazy smart but doesn't know clockwise from counter-clockwise?  our daughter ), and find her new classes, where she insisted on snooping in each room and either glorying in or judging the books they had on their shelves.

We're going back tomorrow to put all her supplies in her locker and work some more with The Lock That Hates Her, where I will get additional practice not saying aloud what is in my head ("HOW DO YOU STILL NOT KNOW WHICH WAY IS CLOCKWISE?" and "It's very strange that you are starting middle school given that just yesterday it was your first birthday and you were shoving your first cupcake so forcefully into your own face that I kept having to wipe frosting off your nostrils so you could breathe.").




Friday, August 4, 2017

Of Bishop's Weed and Books

I was recently reading a memoir in which the author references the troubles of bishop's weed.  She spoke of how difficult it is to get rid of, its root structure, how very weed-like it is.  Being unfamiliar with this chlorophyllic pest, I googled it.  What stared back at me on the screen was my beloved snow-in-the-mountain.

How dare she?  I was flabbergasted and flummoxed and furious in a way that you only get over something that matters not even a little bit.  But then I saw a map.  For someone with such a tenuous grasp on geography, I seem to love maps in an unreasonable amount.


[Side note:  I am currently attempting to complete my bishop's week/ snow-in-the-mountain thoughts while one child butchers the lyrics to The Star Spangled Banner, the other asks me to play "the chainsaw video" for the umpteenth time, and the other hollers to me from the laundry room that I should maybe wash the sleeping bag today as she's pretty sure a close-knit family of insects took up residency while she had it at camp.  If another person asks me why I've been such an absentee blogger as of late, I'm going to station all three children around said person and have them interrogate at will, because that is a fairly accurate picture of summer break.]

Maps.  Bishop's weed.  Right.
This map illustrates which states find bishop's weed to be an invasive plant.  The author in question lives in upstate New York where, according to this map, snow-in-the-mountain is not invasive, but apparently in neighboring Vermont it is.  Since we all know how respectful plants and other wild things are of state lines, I think I'll give this lady a break.

Also, it just dawned on me that perhaps I enjoy maps so much because I have such a poor grasp on world geography.  They are truly useful to me and my reaction is often one of delighted wonder.  I know my North, Central, and South American geography quite well; the rest of the world, I mean, it's really far away.  (Why, yes, I have used this as an excuse in the past.)  This means I more or less shackle Derek to me when we are going to play any sort of trivia game, as his knowledge of all things geographical and really anything involving spatial relationships is excellent.  I excel in the Harry Potter categories, which come up more often than you think.

[And now Caedmon is upstairs yelling things out his bedroom window at his brother in the backyard.  Something about listening to the Eragon audiobook without Atticus, a grave sin indeed in the context of their relationship.  Adelaide is snuffling over the fact that her brothers already know who their teachers are but she doesn't and how could the United States Postal Service fail her and why is life so unfair?  It would appear that I am expected to answer these questions to her satisfaction.  Spoiler alert:  Even those newspaper advice columnists could not generate a reply that satisfied Daughter when she is in this state.]

Speaking of newspaper advice columnists (why, yes, forced and clumsy segues are kind of my thing), the book that provoked this plant-based inner turmoil?  It's fantastic.
Ms. Dickinson has been giving strangers advice for years through her column Ask Amy; I don't confess to being particularly acquainted with this column except on occasion.  I read an excerpt of this book a while back some place or other and knew it had to be mine, or at least the library's.  As soon as it had been processed, I snatched it off the library shelf before anyone else could (a disturbing practice of mine that I confess is becoming more and more habitual; the only problem with this is I have less time to read than ever, so half the time I return the books unread), and have plowed through it over the course of yesterday evening and in small snippets this morning.  It's short, and relatable, and you'll find yourself wanting to underline passage after passage- although if you are a person who engages in this type of behavior with library books, may I instead recommend the following:
A charming children's book about how to treat library books that would benefit more adults I see at the library than kids.  (Interaction with a very nice, responsible patron some months ago as she is checking out:  "I'd like to check this book out, but there seems to be something on it.  Is it just me, or is that blood?"  Me, appalled:  "Let me just clean that off for you."  *Uses an excessive amount of Clorox wipes, makes weak joke about finding blood on the cover of a murder mystery.*)




Also, because our children have altered my brain in such a way that it hops back and forth more than ever, here is "the chainsaw video" that was incomprehensibly introduced to our daughter at church camp and that all three of our offspring are more or less now obsessed with.



Adelaide spends half the time this video is playing staring at my face, as it wears an expression of apparently hilarious bewilderment.  Really, though, this is supposed to be farcical, right?  These people aren't doing this with any degree of seriousness... right?  (See also:  "Signs you are getting old.")  And now, to round out this meandering and increasingly digressive post, a multiple choice question:  How many of our children can currently be found doing "The Chainsaw," a dance move seemingly engineered to make Christian kids look as profoundly not-cool as possible?
Is it
a) 1
b) 2
c) 3
d) I don't know because they are in the backyard and under no circumstances am I upsetting a climate in which I get to think my own thoughts for five straight seconds.