Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Three Things: A Food List (With Parentheticals!)

  • We already got our boxes, but they just won't go away.  They're everywhere.

Funny Pictures Of The Day – 37 Pics
Every grocery store, walking through the neighborhood, everywhere.  You know how you just want to grab whatever it is you forgot for supper and go, but first you have to shuffle past the rickety tables surrounded by pig-tailed entrepreneurs?  It's so bad Derek has dubbed it "the Girl Scout Gauntlet."  We bought our four boxes- so why do I still find I can't make eye contact with them?!

  • We've had a snowstorm just about every Saturday this month, and it is MARCH.  We've had snowstorms other days, too, but there's something galling about being snowed in on a Saturday.  I still love snow and generally prefer it over rain, but did I mention?  IT'S MARCH.  
The one good thing about all this winter-masquerading-as-spring nonsense (or would it be spring masquerading as winter?  Whatever, something's not right) is that it is still totally, completely, unarguably soup season.  When it's cold out I will have soup at every dang meal (yes, including breakfast, as the older I get, the more I seem to enjoy eating leftovers for breakfast.  I neither know nor care to know what this means.), and since I'm still the principal chef in this house, this means my family finds themselves spooning soup down their chilled little gullets at least once a week throughout the winterish-fall, winter, and winterish-spring.  Why only once a week?  Well, as it turns out there are four other people in this family, none of whom quite match me in my fervor for soup (soupish fervor?  Ew, never mind.), unless maybe it's our favorite recipe for potato soup (although keep in mind that the recipe I linked to barely feeds our family of five admittedly big eaters).  Even when I'm making vegetable-heavy soups, though, complaining is kept to a minimum by a thousand-yard death stare and a peace offering of homemade bread.  I like this recipe, because it's no-knead, takes five whole minutes to put together the night before, and is crusty on the outside, soft on the inside (which is also the way I like my- ew, never mind).  I added some leftover olive oil and rosemary asiago cheese to this one, and HOLY SAINT HONORÉ (the patron saint of bread bakers, and thank you very much, Catholics, for not leaving out the glutenous among us), DOES IT SMELL AMAZING.
If you're saying to yourself, "Gosh, that looks scrumptious," then you need to get your eyes checked. My food photography skills are three solid steps down from lackluster, but please just trust me when I say that it smells yeasty (in a good way) and cheesy (in a good way) and will help me coerce our children into eating a bowlful of onions, peppers, and corn (PW's corn and cheese chowder recipe, but I omit the bacon and sub milk for half and half 'cause dang, Ree, it can't be good for you to eat bacon every day).

  • Whoever is in charge of our district's school lunch menu seems to have given up.  Lunch option #1 for today was "taco in a bag," which our children assure me is school lunch-speak for "walking taco."  I just don't know if I've ever heard a cry for help quite as clear as calling a delicious walking taco "taco in a bag."  I'm worried about the poor soul who dreamt up that name.  Hey, I know!  I'll say a prayer for that person, then completely ignore the book of James and not follow it up with any action.  Take it away, John!

Sunday, March 18, 2018


We're on the cusp of soccer season, which means my meal planning is about to go down the drain and I'll be even worse about responding to texts and other messages than usual.  I don't understand those parents whose children are involved in every activity under the sun.  How do they cope?  Or, possibly the more accurate question, what are they on?  Because the soccer season is pretty darn short, I know, and it almost does me in every time.  Plus I show up at half the games eating a bowl of chili or bierocks or whatever because Caedmon's games are always at suppertime and very little can successfully come between me and my food.

Now that we have practices and games and such on the schedule it's time for me to break out the giant, color-coded family calendar again so that we all have half a prayer of showing up to the right place on the right day- but when I went to to put it in its appointed place on the desk, I remembered the latest thing Derek and I have signed ourselves up for that will no doubt be great long-term, but short-term?  It simultaneously fills me with excitement and makes me want to cry tears of self-pity.

That's right. Those are boxes of tile.  Eight of them, because either a) our current shower is old and gross, b) as a couple Derek and I enjoy punishing ourselves, or c) all of the above.  

If you were a student of dubious ambition whose test-taking strategy was "when in doubt, 'c' out," then congratulations, it's worked for you again.  Our current shower is both significantly past its prime and in need of replacing, and we hate ourselves.  You may remember the last time we tiled a surface in our house, our still-loved kitchen backsplash, the memories of which have developed a gentle patina in my mind to the extent that I'm willing to shrug and take on a "once more unto the breach" attitude.  At least I was before searching out that old tiling blog post.  That was a lot of bloodshed on Derek's part and sleep-deprived, half-maniacal laughter on mine.  But those boxes are heavy, and I really hate returning things, so...  

Saturday, March 17, 2018


"Hey- just what have you been doing that makes you too busy to blog?"

Oh, you know, same old, same old.  Giving our nine-year-old Pop Rocks candy for the first time and watching him freak out.  Then laughing hysterically rather than comfort him.  

We're also finishing up our spring break, which we celebrated by discovering that the auger won't turn on our snow thrower, making the ten inches of unexpected snow we received early this morning somewhat problematic. Thankfully, there are five of us capable of scooping and shoveling, and a very nice neighbor with a fully-functioning thrower who descended upon us in our hour of need. Never fear, mint chocolate chunk cookies have been baked as payment.

Pretty.  Also wet and heavy, as temperatures were right around freezing.  But pretty.

When we weren't at the library this week, I was trying to expose our children to a little culture via the sculpture park in Des Moines.  They ignored the artwork and repeatedly rolled down the embankment.  It would seem that we just can't help but raise savages. 

Then we went home and they did science experiments, so I guess we're doing something right, however accidental.

I enjoyed the sculpture park, anyway, and will now regale you with tiny tales of my most and least favorite sculptures:  my least was the one of the naked woman, not because there was anything wrong with it, but more because our boys kept veering close to it, giggling madly while Adelaide harrumphed in eleven-year-old girl superiority.  My favorite was this one:

It reminded me of the book The Invisible Man, which in turn gave me the heebee-jeebees because man, what a weird book.

Atticus's favorite was the newest sculpture of a polka-dotted squash, which I found to be both whimsical and depressing, as we are at that time of year when I start to believe I will never see anything growing and alive outside again.  In short, I am a delight to be around.  As usual.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Three Things, with Gifs

  • It's mid-January, so I finally feel safe in saying congratulations, friends:  we have survived another season of unnecessary apostrophes!  We can at last turn our gazes to the contents of our mailboxes without fear.  I love Christmas cards and newsletters so much, so I've more or less made peace with the trauma I'm dealt each holiday season as my eyes are repeatedly assaulted with good-intentioned missives from "The Smith's" or "The Jones'."  (IT PAINED ME SO MUCH TO TYPE THAT LAST PHRASE.)  Now we're back to the standard fare of bills, ads, and scams every day!  ...yay? 
Is this helpful?

  • We've reached the time of year of Late Starts.  Schools around here will do just about anything to keep from outright canceling (and the parents are guh-RATEFUL) because we don't want to send our kids to school through July.  Enter:  the two-hour delay!  -30 degree wind chill?  Two hour delay!  Slick roads?  Two hour delay!  Blowing snow causing low visibility?  Two hour delay!  We have one today, which is why I am writing this rather than packing endless lunches for our kids (someone remind me to write a post regarding how much I loathe packing school lunches).  I'm not really sure why there is a two hour delay on this particular day; we had a full day last Friday and I'm pretty sure the temp was almost exactly the same as it is this morning- like, to the degree.  Expected temperature of -4 at 8 a.m.?  Check.  Wind chill of -22?  Check.  Lightly snowing?  Check.  This also means I have to sign off social media for extended periods of time as I get unreasonably bitter toward people who live in warmer climates but still complain about the cold.  "Brrr! It's thirty degrees out today!  I searched everywhere and finally found my gloves lololol.  #cold #winter #socold."   Me:  

  • A while back I went on a field trip with Caedmon's class to the Science Center of Des Moines.  I'm pretty sure that, in addition to keeping all the children in your group alive, chaperones are supposed to help keep the kids engaged and point out interesting things they might learn.  I would have done that (the latter, I mean, not the former; all my kids made it back alive, thank you very much), but I got distracted by how much these conceptions of dinosaurs on display there

resemble these.

And does that mean this

was actually this?

Something to ponder.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Falling and Getting Back Up and Falling and...

Our family recently went ice skating.  It was the kids' third time ever, my second, and Derek's hundredth.  Or something.  The point is, he's been a lot, the children and I have not.

As such, Derek is very steady on his skates.  Adelaide and I actually skate quite well, for novices, whereas Caedmon takes a while to master his fear and let go of the wall.

Atticus, meanwhile, continually hurls himself across the rink at high speeds, inevitably falling in a flailing and sprawling of limbs. He is never seriously hurt, usually smiling as he gets back up.

Taking a break between skating/falling/skating/falling.

I, on the other hand, fell twice in the two hours we were there, and now have a bump at the base of one of my fingers, where digit meets palm, which hurts when pressed on, and which one of my friends has given a layman's diagnosis of a bone chip caused by these falls.  This is apparently the difference that 25 years makes in falling.

Just a few years ago I was pretty good at falling; I had frequent practice, tripping every few months while walking or running throughout my life, and had learned a way to not fall quite so hard.  With increased yoga practice, though, my balance has improved dramatically, to the extent that I can no longer recall the last time I fell.  Barring the time I strapped blades to my feet and went coasting along on a sheet of ice, of course.

I've been reading a lot about falling lately, in large part due to this book that we got at the library several months ago.
I don't think I'm within the intended audience age bracket for this book, but I can't help it:  I still found it helpful, and it's caused me to re-evaluate the way I do a number of things in my life.  I think my favorite part is that the author recruited a group of women, who call themselves "goldeners" and who are all over 70, all of whom went through Bowman's program and benefited greatly from it.  There are sections throughout the book written by these women, where they talk about what led them specifically to the program, or about things they found they could no longer do, and how the exercises or shifts in movement helped them, along with any number of other things that I can't think of without the book in front of me.  In short:  it is so good.

In the book Bowman states that fear of falling is just as crippling as actual falling and outlines a series of exercises addressing this, which I apparently need to incorporate into my daily routine.   Also, I want to take one of the classes featured in this New York Times article.  Do you think they'd let me in?  And who wants to pay for my flight to the Netherlands so I can fall with the elderly?  That's not a euphemism.  

For now I'll just treat every run as an opportunity to potentially practice my falling; we've been covered in snow and ice for a while now, with only a couple days above freezing to allow any melting.  I've tried running on the treadmill at our local gym, but anything more than ten minutes on those things makes me want to go full Office Space- Printer on them.

Yes, that is an imperfect analogy, as the treadmills don't enrage me by malfunctioning; I just can't abide spending copious amounts of time on them without being overcome with feelings of worthlessness and resultant, irrational anger, usually going something like this: "I'm not going anywhere.  I'm not getting any of the benefits of being outdoors.  This entire enterprise is utterly meaningless.  Life is meaningless." 

So, I run outside, even though yes, it is very cold out.

At that point I find I have exorcised what may be some underlying anger issues for yet another day.   Life once again has meaning!  Huzzah!  

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Free Animals Looking at Contained Animals

In other words, we went to the zoo.

Yesterday we were headed over to western Iowa to celebrate the 90th birthday of Derek's grandmother.  We decided that since we were already making the drive, we'd introduce the family to the Omaha zoo.  None of us had ever been there, and everyone raves about it, so it was time.

When we left home, the outside temp was still below zero, but Omaha's forecast promised to reach TWENTY WHOLE DEGREES above zero.  It was glorious.

Knowing that this was the expected weather for the day, I'd asked around as to whether or not a winter trip to this zoo was worthwhile; although we are hardy Iowans, both Derek and I start to chafe at dragging frozen younglings around for more than an hour.  I was assured that there are plenty of indoor areas for exploration.  There were.  More glory.

That place is vast.  I'm sometimes bothered when visiting zoos, as I hate to see big animals cooped up and pacing back in forth in small pens.  We did see a bit of this- I mean, it is a zoo- but each holding area for the animals was quite large, and the employees we spoke with repeatedly mentioned "enrichment;"  that ball is for enrichment, that fabric is for enrichment, the scents they spray on those poles are for enrichment.  So the animals aren't just shuffling around listlessly in tight circles.

Those same employees also encouraged questions be asked of them, which our kids never ever ever have a problem with.  They were grilling the young lady in the "elephant family quarters" when one of our children asked where the elephants came from.  She pointed to two and said they were from Africa.  The third one there at the time was from the wilds of  Toledo.  Someone asked how they got the elephants from Africa, and she replied, "Well, we made a deal with them:  there was a drought there, so we sent water and food, and in return we got two elephants."

Caedmon waited a beat and then asked in a bewildered voice, "How do you make a deal with elephants?"

We all learned a lot, is what I am saying.

Because it was cold out, many buildings were nearly deserted, like the cat house.  I watched the big cats slink around and marveled at how awkward and weird humans are.  Then I was overcome with gratitude at these brains of ours, because we are not exactly stunning physical specimens, are we?  I had no idea the zoo would cause so much introspection.

The gorillas were definitely one of my favorites.  Their area was sizable, but several of the gorillas hung out right next to the glass.  (Plastic?  Plexiglass?  I don't know what it is.  Something blessedly strong.)  Adelaide and I lingered a while to watch this mama and her baby sleep, which is super creepy now that I write it down.  Well, it seemed sweet at the time. 

We did other things there, too, like visit the aquarium and the jungle and the desert dome, but please don't worry, there is no tedious play-by-play imminent here.  I'll just say that Derek had fun scaring everyone in the desert dome, Adelaide is afraid of bats, Atticus is afraid of the American alligator's mating call, and  those gators are huge, especially when you're viewing them in a man-made swamp meant to echo the bayou and those gators are in open water on the other side of a net.  I'm sure it was all very safe, but the effect was eerie.  Well done, Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium (OHDZA, for short, as I'm sure exactly no one calls it).

Also I now do my best to always stand uphill from Adelaide in photos with the kids.  Why do these children insist on getting taller?

The desert dome, where we all felt properly warm for the first time in months.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Productive Procrastination

We've started the welcome process of taking down all our Christmas stuff.  I can say "we" because I recruited Daughter to help gather all the holiday stuff and place it in a designated location, so I'm not finding things my eyes apparently slide right past throughout the spring and summer.

She promptly broke the "flame" off of one of the battery-operated candles we place in each window, rendering it non-functioning.  She has been relieved of her duties.

This was one of the first things to go:
It's a bundle of pine boughs I cut from our giant pine and looped with a buffalo-check scarf, hung on the front door.  From the outside, it's festive and charming; from the inside, I startled every time my peripheral vision caught sight of what was surely a large, hulking man peering in at our family goings-on.

We are also evidently building shelves for our pantry today.  We went and bought the lumber for it yesterday, and Derek keeps talking about measurements and notching and other things my brain glosses right over.  What this brain does understand is that while Derek does mystical things with the wood in the freezing basement, I will be painting the pantry a nice, bright white, all the better to see the truly alarming number of cans of Ro-Tel we apparently possess. Why do we have so much Ro-Tel??

Although, if we're being honest, it's not Ro-Tel, it's Casa Mamita Diced Tomatoes and Chiles, which is the Aldi version of Ro-Tel.  Also we have so many cans of the stuff because I buy it.  Mystery solved. 

We hauled the crappy wire shelves that came with the house and that we've lived with for 8 1/2 years out of the pantry last night, and the floor underneath got a proper scrubbing for the first time since I was pregnant with Caedmon and had to chisel a dead mouse embalmed in Karo Syrup that had tipped over at some point during the night and embalmed the mousy corpse in sugary goodness.

It's a laugh a minute around here, is what I'm saying. 

So now the pantry is scrubbed and awaiting paint, which I suppose I have put off for long enough in writing this post.  Blogging is good for so very many things.