Sunday, November 27, 2016

Niece Hoarder

I'm on High Alert:  Operation Impending Babies right now.  Every text I receive could be from one of my sisters telling me they're in labor.  As I told Kelli a few days ago, I am in a sweet, sweet spot in all this baby business, as I get all the excitement but none of the pain.  Glory hallelujah.


Yes, indeedy-do, each of my two sisters are due to have their third baby girl any time now.  You remember my sisters, right?  Kelli, the middle child, who I once convinced to play chicken on the old highway down the road from our house, where we'd run out in front of passing cars, seeing who could get closest without actually getting hit?  That sister.  (Incidentally, that is the last time I remember getting a spanking from my mother.  Sometimes, when I've been sitting for too long, I believe I can still feel the effects of that particular disciplinary action.  It turns out fear gives mothers divine strength.  Thanks a lot, neighbor who snitched on us- no, but really, thank you, you likely saved our lives.)

Or Stephanie, the youngest, who Kelli and I used to stuff in a sleeping bag and shove down the stairs?  Or shove in a laundry basket and pull around the kitchen, bouncing off the sharp cabinet corners?  Or shove in the dryer, because how else were we supposed to answer the age-old question, "Will our baby sister fit in the dryer?"

Those sisters.


I was worried they were both going to be selfish and deprive me of any more nieces, but thankfully they both managed to get knocked up a third time and now my family and I will have even more little girls to smother with our well-meaning, overly-affectionate love.  We got to see them a month ago, where we did our best to get enough niece/cousin time to last us a while.





Adelaide also made sure to demonstrate to all the little girls that you're never too big to sit in Grandma's lap.


Incidentally, our children still love to sit in our laps.  I love this, too, even if it feels like this most of the time:




Come on, nieces.  You have an aunt ready to smoosh and smooch you, plus I have it on good authority your mothers are perhaps just the teensiest bit uncomfortable right now.  I don't want to point any fingers, but some of you aren't being very careful with your pointy knees and elbows.


Saturday, November 26, 2016

Five Books

I'm still recovering from this bronchitis, but am certainly no longer the wretch of a human being I was a mere week ago.  One thing I was able to do a lot of while I was sick, though?  Read!  Here's what preoccupied me from my own miserable self last week.


The Crops Look Good by Sara DeLuca

In the introduction, author/editor Sara DeLuca writes that this is a project that's been in the back of her mind to do for years and years, but didn't believe she could do it justice until now.  I think the prospect of going through stacks and stacks of your family's letters spanning decades of time and editing them for clarity, story flow, and to prevent repetition and boredom seems absolutely daunting.  She did it handily, however, as I compulsively read this book full of letters from a mother and siblings to and from the daughter who moved away from the Wisconsin family dairy farm in 1923.  DeLuca makes you care about the family whose voices form these letters, hoping that this next letter includes a note from Helen, that Margaret will be able to come home for a visit soon, and that mother Olava will get a break today before she works herself to death.










What She Knew by Gilly Macmillan

When I read the synopsis of this book, I really didn't know if I was going to be able to get through it.  A mother (hey, I'm a mother!) goes on a walk with the woods with her eight-year-old son (wait, I have an eight-year-old son), he asks if he can walk ahead to an oft-visited spot (our kids do this all the time), and she goes through the mental struggle every parent is familiar with:  Do I let them go?  It's not far, but I won't see them for close to a minute.  I need to keep them safe.  But not coddle them.  They need their independence.  But still be safe!

So she lets him go.  (I've let ours go!)

When she arrives at the destination, when he's been out of sight for mere moments, her son is not there.  She can't find him.  He is missing.

What follows is the investigation into the disappearance of this boy and into the lives of everyone around him.  I was haunted by this book until I finished it.  I couldn't stop thinking about it, wondering who the heck took this boy?  Complete stranger?  Someone he knew- this character or that one?  When recommending it at the library I've compared it to The Girl on the Train and Gone Girl, but when I say that I mean in terms of tension and story grip, for I find every last character in both of those books completely loathsome, and if I have no one to root for, I can't like a book.  While terribly flawed and imperfect, you still understand and feel compassion for the characters in this, Ms. Macmillan's debut novel.






Faithful by Alice Hoffman

This book came across my goodreads feed (the only social media that's felt safe to be on since the election), recommended by Cassi.  Alice Hoffman is one of those authors whose work I've always felt slightly ashamed about never having read; Practical Magic has been on my To Read list for a long, long time. The next day I was processing new books at the library, and this came across the desk.  I swiped it with zero remorse before any patrons could get their paws on it, then zoomed through it, both because I did feel a little guilty at my book hoarding ways but also because it was a terrific story.  I'm not going to try to describe the protagonist because I don't think I can in just a few words without making her sound thoroughly unlikable, but she gets her hooks in you early on in the book, and won't relinquish her hold on you until the very (satisfying) end- but fair warning, you'll do your fair share of frustrated yelling at her in the pages in between.








The Scent of Rain and Lightning by Nancy Pickard

This book was recommended to me by two separate women at the library, so when I finally picked it up, I knew to expect a can't-put-it-down read/ perplexing mystery, as that's how they described it.  What I wasn't expecting was the deep, heavy nostalgia that suffused me every time I read Ms. Pickard's descriptions of the setting and my home state of Kansas.  She gets everything spot on:  the smells, the sound, the wind, the storms.  It was beautiful in such an unexpected way.  Outside of all that, it was an excellent mystery, as all my guesses as to the outcome of the plot and the eventual villain were dead wrong, and I was delighted by it.












Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper

This is another book I had recommended to me at the library, but when I brought it home, Adelaide was rather disgruntled to find me reading it; she had told me how good it was several months prior and I had not acted on her recommendation.  But look:  Adelaide reads so much, and she tells me about more books that I Should Read than I could ever hope to actually get through.
She was right about this one, though.  It's a really beautiful book, about a bright, funny girl with a facile mind and the body that imprisons it due to cerebral palsy.  You will want her teacher to see her for who she really is, to hug her neighbor, to physically harm that mean girl, and to cheer for how brave she has to be every day.  If Adelaide hadn't already insisted I read it, I would be doing the same to her, as any book that changes how you look at disabilities is one worth forcing on your loved ones.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

This Pie is Delicious with Zithromax

I've been knocked flat for the past week by bronchitis.  Of course, I didn't know it was bronchitis until Derek ever-so-gently nudged me out the door to see the doc Saturday morning (thank you doctors who have Saturday morning office hours- THANK YOU) after a week of listening to me cough-choke-splutter-hack all over the house, and that's in addition to picking up all my slack because I have been USELESS.

It was one of those things where not only did I feel like I could lie down wherever I stood and fall right asleep, but my brain just wasn't working right.  It felt like a big barrier had been erected in the middle of my brain, and if my thoughts originate at the back (we're playing it fast and loose with brain physiology tonight, okay?), they had to get over this barrier to reach the front, where they were accessible and communicable.  But it was one of those army obstacle course-type barriers that you have to jump and climb and wriggle your way over, so all my thoughts had to do that.

So during one of my few hours at work when a patron would ask a perfectly reasonable question like, "What's the newest James Patterson?" I would stare blankly for a no doubt alarming length of time while the biggest part of my brain asked itself, Who's James Patterson? and the answer struggled over the barrier toward the front part of my brain pan, all while that jerk spectating part of the brain sat there watching the whole spectacle with popcorn, chortling, "'Who's James Patterson?' LOL."

Oh, and I looked terrific all through this.  Reeeaaally smashing.
Like this, except about a million times less adorable.


I know I was in good company, as there were a whole mess of people not feeling so great over the past week and a half.
But!  I am now on an antibiotic and already feeling so much better.  My cough is still present-it just chased Derek away from an NFL game and right up the stairs, as a matter of fact, so now I'm struggling not to let the power go to my head.

And cheer up, my fellow Americans, both coughers and non-coughers alike, for we have pie to look forward to this week!



Or, you know, don't cheer up, if you're not ready yet.  I support you and your feelings. *says this while petting your head in a distinctly non-creepy way*

Friday, November 11, 2016

The Best Kind of Tough Choice

Last weekend in Kansas, Adelaide, my mom, and my sister Kelli made pies for the crowd mom had invited over.

Mom always invites a crowd.  It's, like, a thing.

I was so glad Adelaide was having a chance to freshen up her pie skills, as we haven't made any in a while, and you know I'm not eating any subpar pie at Thanksgiving.  I just won't have it.
Adelaide was doubly pleased because when she asked to put a lattice crust on the top they said, "Sure."  Adelaide's mother never says, "Sure," when Daughter asks to do a lattice crust because Adelaide's mother is cruel but also because generally when we're making pies we're trying to complete four in a shortened space of time and who the heck has time to make a lattice crust?

Aside from my mom and sister, of course.

Also we don't have one of those zippy-wheely zig-zaggy pie crust lattice cutter thingies (if you have no idea what I'm talking about, well, I'd say that's fair), so that's always been another handy excuse not to make a lattice crust.  Now that Adelaide's made one, however, I might just have to let her try at Thanksgiving.  And speaking of Thanksgiving!
I love this book, because how could you not love a cookbook that, if you were to make a pie chart depicting its contents, would look like this:

Yes, I made a pie chart about a pie cookbook.  There was no way it was not happening.  I don't have that kind of superhuman self control.


In addition to being a professional pie maker (pie artist?  pie-ologist?  baker?), Ms. Howard is a writer, so the essays in between sections are well-written and interesting.  I sat down last night and read the thing like a novel, front to back.  Now I get to go back and decide which ones will make it onto our table; Adelaide's voting for Chess Pie, which I have neither baked nor eaten before, but which the author makes a strong case for.  My front-runners are her Toffee Pecan, Chai-Spiced Pumpkin, Shaker Lemon, Strawberry Margarita, or Banana Cream.  I have no idea how we will ever choose just two of three.

Also in the running is her Apple Pie.  It is classic.  It is simple.  It is delicious.

It has a lattice crust.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Purposefully Trivial

Since things are all serious and stressful right now and I'm afraid to turn on the tv for fear of what election news awaits me, I'm going to discuss only the most trivial of things tonight.  I get to do this because I voted and then was called a socialist by a patron at the library who did not vote as I did.  Ah, patrons.  So fun.  (And I get double-bonus points for not saying what was in my head at the time, which was, "Actually, we prefer the term 'Marxist,' or, in a pinch, 'Commie.'"  Even if I'm neither a socialist nor a Marxist nor a communist.  Either way, she wouldn't have gotten it, trust me.)


We were in Kansas and Oklahoma last weekend, and while at my mom's house, I stumbled upon a photo.

First of all, do you remember those terrible school lunches that- at least at my schools- were called Hot Open-Faced Turkey Sandwiches?  They consisted of a slice of white bread, topped with a thin round of gray mystery meat (honestly, if turkeys got together and hired an ambulance chaser I think they'd have a real case in suing for defamation of character- I'm sure they'd get oodles of cash from all those notoriously wealthy school food providers), then on top of the "turkey" was an ice cream scoop of fake mashed potatoes, topped by meat water, or "gravy," if you wanted to drown your elementary school sorrows.

Anyway, I would decline the gravy and eat as much of the fake potatoes as I could without actually ingesting any that had touched the meat.  (I was a real peach to live and eat with, let me tell you.)  But I remember my friend Megan would slide the bread out from underneath the whole mess, then take the middle of that white bread and roll it up into a ball of somewhat-cooked dough and eat it.

All that to say, when I saw this photo of my sister as an infant and me as a three-year-old, I could only think, "Look how adorable Kelli was!  And... look how I look like a floating ball of Hot Open-Faced Turkey Sandwich bread dough with a bad wig.  Huh."

The 80's were a special time.



In other news, I have found that Adelaide corrects her friends notes they have written to her.
This made me inordinately happy.




In election-ish news, I saw this sign and thought the person running had an unfair advantage.  Who's not going to vote for Bacon?!





And now, if you're at the point where you just want to bypass all the hoopla and need something to send you into a meditative trance (or coma, whatever), this did it for me.  So neat.



Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Halloween Recovery Mode

Today I decided our children had indulged in entirely too much Halloween candy (read: me, I had indulged in entirely too much Halloween candy), so after school I carted them all off to the forest preserve.  Besides, you can't live in Iowa, realize it's close to seventy degrees out IN NOVEMBER and not spend every available second outside.

There was cavorting, and there was frolicking, and after an hour there was complaining about being tooooo tiiiiired to hike anymooooore (by the same child who was asleep AT 7:10 thanks to the forced march his cruel mother led him on- go ahead, you can say it:  I AM A GENIUS.)

See?  Cavorting.


Frolicking.
That blue speck on the right-hand path is the frolicker.


And yes, tooooo tiiiired.
The sucker on the right has no idea he'll be asleep by 7:10 MUAHAHAHA!


Then I tried to get a picture of the four of us (if we had photoshop I would try to insert Derek's face into this picture, but alas, we do not.  I'm getting a kick out of the mental picture, though).  That is the face I apparently make when I realize Adelaide is giving me bunny ears as I push the button-that-is-not-really-a-button-but-rather-a-white-circle.
Et tu, Brute?


Then the children climbed trees and I played with Boomerang, which I'm now thinking doesn't transfer to Blogger.  Boo.


We'll give it a whirl, anyway.



Happy All Saint's Day!  Why isn't that a day we celebrate, anyway?