Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Not Actually an Anglophile

I don't know if you've heard, but there's an American holiday coming up tomorrow.

I've been feeling a little guilty about my level of patriotism lately, as Derek and I have been spending our evenings engaging in things that lean a bit more British:  We've been watching the BBC show Midsomer Murders, an English crime-drama (but still humorous) type show that Derek has identified as a kind of precursor to the wildly popular Sherlock (which we also love, but apparently Brits produce television episodes at a rate of around one per year, so we're patiently waiting for the next season with the rest of the world), which isn't bad in and of itself, but the other night I found myself alternately watching a British show while reading a book set in England (Maisie Dobbs, it was terrific), then the next night watching the same show while sewing a Gryffindor scarf for my cast iron chicken named Hermione (boy, if I had a nickel for every time I've said that, right?).  Plus I've spent the past week quashing a rather wild urge to bake scones.

Look how warm she looks, standing guard there over our snow shovels.

All this makes me feel like I need to meditate upon the image of a bald eagle, or maybe go throw some tea in the puddle in our backyard or something.

I think I'll settle for this:

I won't judge your pre-Thanksgiving madness mess if you won't judge mine, mmkay?

Homemade (by Adelaide, no less) pecan pie.  It's taking everything in me not to take a fork and demolish this baby right now, before any of my family or guests have a chance to partake.  But I'm an American, and sharing is totally American, right?

The Trail of Tears by Robert Lindneux

Oh, wait...

Monday, November 24, 2014

Lies I Tell My Children

  • "I don't know what happened to the rest of the cookies."  Truth:  I ate all those cookies, children- every last morsel.  They were delicious.

  • "Sorry, kiddo, I don't know Frank's mommy so I have no way for you to invite him over."  Truth:  I could sleuth out the contact info for Junior's parents inside five minutes, between social media and living in this small town- I just make it a policy not to invite budding sociopaths and the architect of a poor teacher's nervous breakdown over for milk and cookies.

  • "Of course Daddy still loves you when he's watching the Vikings!"  Truth:  Daddy's love for us can be directly correlated to the score of the game.  So right now?  No, he doesn't.

  • "Honey, I know it seems like Amy's good at everything, but you have just as many talents as she does- they're just different!"  Truth:  Darling, nobody's as good at pretty much everything as Amy is because Amy is a freak.  I feel insecure around that girl.

  • "Daddy and I like to go on dates because we love spending time together."  Truth:  Yes, we do like spending time together, but mostly it's to get away from you.

  • "Oh- yes, please, more hugs!"  Truth:  MUST WE TOUCH ALL THE TIME?

  • "Gosh, I don't know where the three hundred pictures you drew of a car just yesterday are."  Truth:  They're in the trash.

  • "Gosh, I don't know where all those papers from school are."  Truth:  They're in the trash.

  • "Gosh, I don't know where all those kid's meal toys are."  Truth:  They're in the trash.  Kid, if it's yours and it's not bolted down, it's in the trash or at Goodwill.

  • "Maybe next time."  Truth:  The only way you're getting anything in the checkout aisle, be it candy, toy, or chapstick, is if you're with someone who might actually fall for that faux-pathetic look on your face and doesn't have to drag you through this gauntlet of kiddie temptation the next hundred times we're here.  Translation:  NEVER.  You are NEVER getting any of the trinkets parent-hating marketing moguls place at child-eye level, because putting your groceries in the cart, locating your wallet, keeping the baby from crawling out of the cart, and paying aren't enough things to have to do at once; we should also have to pry crappy Made In China treasures from our toddlers' determined little fingers.  

Friday, November 21, 2014

A List

  • Have you guys seen this video?

Our kids are obsessed with this, and no wonder:  Michael BublĂ© (Caedmon's personal favorite), Idina Menzel (I can count on one hand the number of times our children have seen the movie Frozen, and yet they somehow know every word of the song Let It Go as performed by Menzel), and the whole video is lip-synced by kids?  With the added bonus of mildly altered lyrics to make Baby, It's Cold Outside 95% less Sexual Predator Anthem-ish?  I say YES.

  • On our recent trip south, I forgot our camera.  I suppose it's better to forget the camera than all your kids' pajamas (been there) or shoes for your preschooler (done that) or shampoo (almost every time), but it sure felt like a tragedy.  And I'm not even a particularly talented photographer.  I just like to take too many photos of my nieces; is that so wrong?  

Thankfully, my mom graciously allowed us to use her camera and her phone to take photos while we were there.  And by "us," I mostly mean Atticus.  I think he snapped around 3/4 of the pictures during our time there, so most of them are blurry, and many feature his fingers in the corner, but it's interesting to see things from his perspective.

  • I finally found a way to make Derek like homemade chicken noodle soup:  Add heavy cream and plenty of garlic.  This recipe for Creamy Chicken Noodle Soup was a winner with our family, which feels like a bit of a miracle; everyone but me in this house seems to be innately suspicious of soup, which makes no sense as we live in the kind of climate for which soup was surely created.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Winter Gardening

It's November.  A November that doesn't feel like November.  It feels like mid-winter, except without the incipient I-haven't-been-outside-for-more-than-five-minutes-in-three-months depression and I'm-beginning-to-think-the-view-out-my-window-was-never-anything-but-white-snow delusions.  This whole being inside all the time thing is still relatively novel, but I can already feel myself heading for the doldrums that come from no running and no gardening.

The remedy to all this, clearly, is flowers.

Now.  Succulents are supposed to be these low-maintenance, fool-proof plants even those with brown thumbs can grow, but I have never had much luck with them, excepting my aloe vera plant, and I've decided that's because it's some kind of sick, masochistic creature that enjoys having me sever its limbs on a weekly basis to smear its insides all over imaginary hurts on our children.  Aside from that disturbing windowsill dweller, I've discovered a real talent within myself for killing all manner of succulents.  I have a knack.  This does not stop me, of course, from buying a new succulent every year or so, not because I enjoy watching things die, but because I am apparently an optimist who sees no need to operate on the plane of reality.  Plus there's a nursery just down the highway with a huge stock of succulents, so many different kinds and sizes and shapes, which makes sense, I suppose; I don't know how else a nursery is supposed to stay in business through an Iowa winter.  

Anyway, I got that one a week and a half ago, and it's still alive, hopefully learning all kinds of interesting things from its perch above the toilet.  I'm trying not to get too attached.

These, however; these, I have high hopes for.

The wonderful things about paperwhites are as follows:

  • Pretty.  Soooo pretty.  
  • I'm told they smell good.  I can never smell them.
  • Inexpensive.  I bought a bag with nine bulbs for $4 at Wal-Mart.  
  • Easy.  Can you fill a bowl with rocks?  Can you nestle some bulbs on top of those rocks?  Can you then fill the bowl with water until it just covers the bottom of the bulbs?  Then you can force paperwhites indoors this winter.  
  • If you're one of those super-moms, you can, like, teach your kids (or yourself!) stuff about plants and the growth cycle of a bulb (google can supply you with all kinds of handy dandy flow charts and visuals) and God's creation.  Just channel Neville Longbottom for five minutes, then have an extra brownie for your crazy awesome parenting skills.

Don't have a wide, shallow bowl?  Use mason jars instead, keep all the other steps the same.  Put them in your laundry room for an extra dose of life and decadence when you really need it.  I can't help you with the cute kid; he's all mine.  The sucker's an extra he charmed out of the doctor yesterday.  

If growing paperwhites just isn't going to happen for you this winter, don't you worry:  I'll be keeping you overly informed on the progress and status of ours for the next several weeks.  Rest easy, dear friends.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014


Over the past year, our dryer has gone from sending us polite messages that perhaps it might be time to start training an eager up-and-coming dryer, to passive-aggressively demanding its honorary retirement timepiece, to hurling blatant death threats at us each time we enter the laundry room because how dare we keep it from its well-deserved move down to Florida where it can play golf and bocce ball and whatever other fun stuff retired dryers do.  I think I saw it in a Cialis commercial the other day, which is not weird at all because a dryer sitting in a tub full of water holding hands with another appliance in a separate bathtub while on the beach makes about as much sense as humans doing so.

Our stackable, hand-me-down washer and dryer

It started with screeching.  Polite, pardon me, oil can! through pursed lips kind of screeching.

The screeching got louder.  It became grating.  It vibrated our tympanic membranes in a most painful fashion.

Derek and I read blogs and watched youtube videos and surfed the waves of the internet searching for a DIY solution to our problem.  And by "DIY" I do not mean "Do It Yourself," of course; I mean "Do It Derek'sself," so I suppose Derek was looking for DIY, and I was looking for DID.  But I digress.

Maybe if he had been able to wrestle the stubborn metal outer shell off of it, Derek would have been able to fix whatever problem was ailing our aging dryer, but that sucker was not coming off for anything.  He wrestled and banged and made impressive loud sounds, all for naught.  The dryer continued to screech, and we continued to live with it, until the clanging began.

A few weeks ago the dryer decided that screeching was not getting through to us.  It read a Joel Osteen book, put on its big girl panties, and decided it needed to Live Its Best Life Now and Make Every Day a Friday or some equally incomprehensible piece of bafflement and started throwing rocks around its insides anytime we had the audacity to try and dry clothing in it.

I swear it knew when it was me specifically entering the laundry room, because if the dryer was already running (as it so often is around here), it would hurl some particularly sharp piece of metal against its side, right toward my face.  It wore its bitterness at its indentured servitude on its sleeve.  Door.  Whatever.

And that is why, one day last week, when so many stores were running sales in honor of our veterans (I could tell it wasn't to make money because they put an American flag on the sales flyer.  Got me again, Nebraska Furniture Mart!), Derek and Caedmon and I trotted our little selves all around Des Moines to find a washer and dryer that was 1) within our budget, 2) energy efficient, and 3) preferably not homicidal.

[Cue angelic music]

I know, right?

You'll have to forgive me a moment here while I gush; there is absolutely no way I can be cool about this.  I knew that ship had sailed when Caedmon stared open-mouthed at the washer when the installation guys were testing it before leaving (never mind that I may or may not have randomly exclaimed "FANCY!" half a dozen times while they were here- I hope they realized I was in awe at our new appliances, and do not in fact have Tourette's, nor am I obsessed with Reba McEntire).  It's not just me, though; last night I walked into the laundry room to find Derek, Adelaide, Atticus, and Caedmon all sitting there, just staring at the washer as it did its revolutionary (ooh, puns) work of washing our dirty clothing.  

You guys.  That washer?  It uses thirty fewer gallons of water PER LOAD than our last washer did.  Our family does an average of ten loads a week; for those of you who get hostile when math is mentioned I will go ahead and tell you that that's a savings of around 300 GALLONS OF WATER EACH WEEK.  I have washed and dried five loads of laundry so far today and have already decided I can live with whatever dark magic that dryer employs because I can dry more clothing in less time than our last dryer with zero rancorous overtures.

Caedmon watching Fancy this morning.

Big thanks to Derek for taking off work early and Derek's dad for driving down to help finish installing the dryer when the actual installation guys were unable to do so.  Something about the wrong kind of outlet in the wall or something, I basically nodded and said "Okay," "Right," and "FANCY!" when the guy was trying to tell me what was wrong and blah blah blah.  This was not frustrating at all for Derek when he tried to find out from me what the problem was.  I am such a catch.

I got Fancy all to myself this morning for the first time, loaded down with a small mountain range of nasty sheets and clothing and towels and yogurt-soaked place mats.

She didn't let me down.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Ooooh, Babies

A week and a half ago, we were in Kansas.

As I was going through the photos from our trip, I noticed a trend.

Nearly every photo of Atticus also includes a baby being smooshed and loved by our son.

Norah playing with a TOY pistol, my children looking enormous.  And old.

I have no idea where he gets it.

Monday, November 17, 2014

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Honesty

It's that time of year, where you lie to yourself and those you love most about the possibility of getting a decent family photo for the yearly Christmas card.  You go to all the trouble of corralling children whose very last intention is cooperating in crafting a mendacious image of a smiling, happy, everything-is-awesome-and-so-are-we picture to send out to all your friends and family who would more likely benefit from receiving an envelope full of candid pictures snapped on cranky mornings and that day you made your son wear the most masculine of his sister's clothing because all his were still dirty (I'll get to the laundry when I get to it, ALL RIGHT?), with perhaps a hastily scribbled note admitting that your life isn't anywhere near perfect, and you'd be willing to bet the recipient's isn't, either, but that you still love them and wish them the very merriest Christmas.

And these were the good ones, friends.