Friday, July 7, 2017

Fireworks and Naps and Libraries

Growing up, my dad used to make his own fireworks.  Except they weren't so much fireworks as small bombs.  There wasn't any sparkle or dazzle or "Oooooo"s and "Aaaaaaah"s.  There was watching him run like the dickens after lighting one as he yelled, "CLOSE YOUR EYES, CLOSE YOUR EYES, CLOSE YOUR EYES!"  There was also feeling a wave of pressure move through your body as it exploded/detonated and, one year, the sound of a motion sensor light shattering on our friend's garage.  

Our children listen to such stories with fascination; prior to this year we'd never bought so much as a snake to celebrate the Fourth, and they treat my Independence Day anecdotes like they do all my stories from my childhood:  like missives from another planet.

Even with that upbringing, somehow my own family has never purchased a single firework.  We have also never set our money on fire and watched in awe as it burns.  At least, not until this year.  That's right, we went crazy and spent two whole American dollars on sparklers.  It turns out that waiting to introduce your kids to fireworks- other than attending big fireworks shows- until they're a bit older makes them a little leery of holding something that sizzles and sends out tiny burning sparks that land on your skin.  I can't imagine why.
The lighter is obscured by Derek's giant paw, but the anxiety on Atticus's face is clear enough.  

Not to worry- he got over it.

It seemed kind of sad that Adelaide had had zero exposure to home fireworks until she was eleven (although, I don't know- do sparklers even count as fireworks?), but then I read on the packaging that they were to be used only by those twelve years of age and older and felt better.  I chose to continue feeling better as I ignored Derek's comment about that warning only being there to keep themselves from being held liable.  

When we haven't been holding burning sticks in our hands as a natural outlet to celebrate our freedom from British rule(?), we've been at Big Creek, where the children bob about in the water and I refuse to leave the shade of the shelter because since moving northward I have become a whiny, cranky baby about the heat.  
 Then we stop and get some of very favorite ice cream, because again:  whiny, cranky baby.

The added benefit to all this is it leaves our children utterly wiped out.  I am not ashamed to tell you that this has long been a major factor in my parenting. 

When we haven't been doing any of the above, we've been at the library.  For the most part (but honestly, not all the parts), the kids have handled coming to work with me most days rather well this summer.  It helps that we have programs geared toward them (Tween Book Club, Lego Club, etc) many of the times they're there, but still- it's a lot of library time.
This of course only reinforces my urge to wear them out any time we're outside of the library.  Oh, how fun it must be to be a child of mine.


Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Your Word Is "Syni-Kyni-Doty-Chody"

Last week, Adelaide finally received her spelling bee packet.

You may remember that last year, Daughter competed in- and won- her division in the spelling bee at the Iowa State Fair.  It was a wonderful experience.  She wanted to participate again this year.

As it turns out, that is easier said than done.  We heard about the whole thing last year because a kindly former teacher of Adelaide's saw the paperwork at school and thought that would be right up her alley.  This year, Adelaide started bugging me in, oh, probably December, to sign her up for the bee.  

I looked on the (really pretty good) State Fair website.  I made calls.  I left messages.  I sent emails.  And nothing.  

Derek's dad joined the search, calling around, trying to figure out just how the heck do you sign someone up for this thing?  Is there even going to be a bee this year?  What is happening?

Finally, finally, I managed to reach a helpful intern.  You should have heard me on the phone with this poor girl:  "Oh- OH!  A REAL PERSON!  Oh, thank God!  I'd like to sign our daughter up for the spelling bee please don't hang up please please help me I'm so happy to be talking to you right now."

She clearly read the despair in my voice, as she spoke in very soothing tones and said things like, "Okay, I'm emailing you the form right now.  No, I won't hang up until you see you have it.  Now just fill out it out and email it right back to me, and I'll print it out and get her entered right away.  Well, you are welcome."  

That was back in May, though, and Adelaide (and, okay, me too) was getting a bit nervous that her packet hadn't come, confirming she'd made it into the bee, as they do cap the numbers at 70 (although there were closer to 80 kids competing last year, so it would seem they're not as strict about the ONLY 70 CONTESTANTS thing as the application would have you believe).  

A few days ago, though, it came:  the letter of congratulations, exhaustive list of rules, packet of sample words, and ticket to the fair.

This picture has nothing to do with spelling bees.  I just wanted a cute picture of Daughter somewhere in here.  At the above moment, she was thrilled about having finally gotten the timing down for saying "Lumos" as her sparkler sputtered to life, then "Nox" as it died.  She is thrilled about the bee, too.

As we've been going through her packet of possible words, though, we've run into a familiar problem:  she and I both enjoy above-average vocabularies in terms of definitions, spelling, and using the words correctly, but our pronunciation is, ah... not so great.  I've gotten better as I've gotten older and been forced to interact more with actual human beings than books, but Daughter is just not there yet.  She was recently talking to Derek about something or other, and mentioned "waiting in a quay-way."  Astonishingly, he did not know what she was saying.  Eventually he did figure out she was trying to communicate the word queue, but only because he is fluent in Adelaide-ese.  (Adelaide-ese:  A dialect that uses rather advanced words, but pronounced phonetically, with the emphasis nearly always on the wrong syllable, and most mangled when the word is of french origin.  She hates franco-based words.)

Thankfully, we live in the internet age, and it's the work of seconds to pull up canny little videos instructing us on the correct pronunciation of coxswain and wokas and, my new favorite, synecdoche.

Oxford Dictionaries is a great resource for these videos, as is Emma Saying.



Sometimes, however, we need a little levity in the midst of such quizzing.  Pronunciation Manual is there for us.







Do you have any favorite words?  How about words you mispronounced for far too long?

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Four Things


  • No one coddles our youngest like his big sister.  Derek and I tell him to settle down, or shake it off, or any of the other things you say when your child is crying more for attention's sake than anything else, then along comes Adelaide, who picks him up and gives him the sympathy his cruel parents insist on depriving him of.  Never mind that it's blatantly clear he is getting too big for such things.






From what many native Iowans have insisted upon telling me every year since we moved here, corn should be "knee-high by the fourth of July."  (Note:  Never have I met a people group who enjoy talking about corn as much Iowans.  After writing the following, I must accept that I am now one of them.)  As you can see above- where I pulled the car over on the way to the library to get this picture as photo evidence for CHM- it is significantly above knee-high.  As of about a week ago, the conversations I overheard from area farmers were positive; they were pleased with their corn and soybean crops this year, although they did mention how dry it had been.  It's rained several inches in the past week, so hopefully that has helped.  We've also had a pretty cool summer thus far- Atticus has his arms wrapped around him in the photo above, as sixty degrees was a little chilly for his t-shirt-and-shorts attire.  From a cranky gardener's standpoint (that would be mine, always), my vegetable garden is not producing this year.  My tomato plants are tiny, my pumpkin plants are tiny, my pepper plants are tiny.  The lettuce has done really really well, no doubt due to the cool weather, and I got more strawberries than ever in early June, but that's about it.  





  • This is our library's Overdue Fines chair.  
Kidding.  A representative from a local science center gave a presentation at our library, and at the end anyone who had always dreamed of sitting on a chair whose seat is made up of sharp nails- pointy side up, of course- could give it a go.  The point of the whole thing (pun INTENDED) was... um... something about pressure per cubic whatever... or something- and look, I was busy helping other people during the presentation and couldn't really listen, so lay off, okay?  Anyway, it was not the most comfortable chair I've ever rested upon, but it was still better than those restaurant booths that have a weird piece of trim that protrudes from the back and hits you right at the neck (or mid-back for Derek).  






  • And now, a gratuitous photo of one of my nieces.