Conundrums for Today

Do you think random bike riders feel intimidated or sheepish when confronted with a horde of RAGBRAI riders?  RAGBRAI came through our town today and I noticed a lot more people riding bikes around town last night and this morning, obviously not participating in the big ride and I wondered what they were thinking.

I also noticed that a large number of RAGBRAI riders are grossly overweight and it made me sad because they are still in better shape than I am. There is no way I could have ridden 83 miles in 83 degree sunny weather today.

One more thought about RAGBRAI: what is the point of riding across the state if you don’t stop to enjoy each town you ride through. I witnessed so many people today just scooting right through town and heading to the final destination at 10 in the morning. What in the world do you do for the rest of the day? They were headed to Waterloo and honestly, who wants to be in Waterloo for that long?

New topic, unless you want to talk about the large variety of junk food and beer offered to the “healthy” RAGBRAI riders along the route…

If I want my house to be clean and picked up, do I have to do everything? My husband, as previously noted, is a wonderful man and I knew that he was a bit….sloppy…before we got married. While I understand that he is not home very often and is super-tired when he gets here, I’m struggling a little with the dropped clothes and pocket crap all over the house. Listen, I don’t blame him because I have been known to make a few piles in my time but I typically put all my things away within a couple of days. Blair does not have that internal clock nor does he care if it sits out forever. So, my conundrum is this: do I go against every instinct I have and clean up after him as I do the children (although they are already better at picking up after themselves than he is) or do I nag and sigh loudly until he picks it up? I suppose the third option is just to live with the mess but it truly makes me anxious to have stuff lying all over. Not to mention the fact that his clothes generally come with a large dropping of hay silage or cow poop….ugh.  I would buy How to Train your Husband.

One more conundrum for the day: should I take tired kids back to the RAGBRAI celebration because I don’t know when they will get the chance again or should I keep them all home and relax and know that they are all safe and I am mentally healthy? We walked around uptown for a couple of hours this morning, collected almost 30 states by asking riders where they hailed from, and ate a route lunch. I think that is enough for the day, we’re going swimming.

One conundrum solved, many more to go.

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BK Hurts Me

There are times that I regret certain parenting decisions and earlier this week I had one of those moments. We took the kids to Burger King, which wasn’t necessarily the decision I regretted, after some Blair-shopping at feed places and equipment rental facilities. Needless to say, I was already bored so nothing good was going to happen. We stopped at the BK that does not have a play place, which was perfect, but I regretted not teaching my kids to make fun of people because I honestly almost hurt myself trying to keep all of my mean comments in so…here goes.

While waiting at the counter for our food to be freshly fixed our way, a man came in with his 2 children and his father. Ordinary people, I thought, until the man started talking and I literally had to look away to keep from giggling. Ever been around someone who thinks they are playing to an audience at all times? This man was projecting to the back of the theater and looking to the audience for laughs after everything he said, things as common as “We already know what we want, what about you Dad?”

I finally got our food and went to see what table the boys had picked and found a lovely older woman in a BK uniform chatting everyone up. I know that she works 5 hours a day, 5 days a week because she knew virtually every other elderly person in the restaurant in some capacity and was telling one of the randy men what her hours were.  This particular man was sitting with his wife but that did not stop him from totally hitting on the Bk employee…more giggles.

Rose, our hot mama BK employee, may be the nicest woman on the planet, with the exception of my grandmother, of course.  She offered to get us a highchair, a bib, and some ketchup and probably would have sat with the kids had Blair and I mentioned we’d like some alone time. She did get a little offended that we declined all of her offers but still came back to the table and snuck some tootsie rolls into Blair’s hand for after the meal.  She was quite a flirt.

I noticed another man watching Rose intently, an older gentleman nursing his coffee and shouting out comments to her at various intervals. I don’t think he was there for lunch, just visiting Rose and making sure she was OK. I sort of got a “stripper’s boyfriend” vibe from him, hanging out over the busy lunch hour to make sure no one hit on her.  I would bet that he was an obnoxious paramour in his youth because he just wouldn’t stop interjecting comments into every conversation Rose had and laughing at his own humor. I was reminded of watching my oldest nephew interject himself into a conversation with a pretty girl at a recent fire station pancake breakfast. I had the same sense of not wanting to watch but not being able to look away.

I eventually had to go to the restroom to get myself together because not pointing these things out to Blair was honestly hurting me. Big mistake. Not only was the bathroom about as disgusting as you might expect but when I opened the door I had to physically put my hand over my mouth to hold in a cackle. An older woman was washing her hands next to what must have been her 2 preteen granddaughters. Each of these women had on a bulging fanny pack, full of what I can’t even guess but they were making good use of every inch of space. The fanny packs all matched, which just made it worse for me as I envisioned Grandma excitedly presenting the packs to the girls before a trip and announcing that she would be wearing a matching pack.  So funny in my head.

I made it back to the table and almost tripped over my chair when I noticed a gentleman sitting just behind Blair eating a lunch that he had packed at home. He had a couple of little Tupperware containers spread out around the table, his own silverware, and a small BK coffee. Who does that? Just get the coffee in the drive through and sit in the parking lot for heaven’s sake! But he was sitting there enjoying his meal with no shame, reading the newspaper that BK provides it’s customers and sipping on his little $.49 coffee.  And bless Rose, she was just as courteous to him as every other customer. Although he may just have been cute, who knows.

The final straw, as it were, happened as were preparing to leave. As any good fast-food customer does, I was gathering up our garbage and putting it on the tray so we could dump it on the way out the door. Rose came charging across the restaurant with her finger pointing at us and her little hat quivering on top of her head with indignation, “Hey, don’t do that, that’s my job!” And she wasn’t saying it in the same kindly voice she had used earlier, she was seriously affronted that we were going to clear our own table. I quickly put the tray back down, feeling simultaneously guilty for both trying to do her job and not clearing my own garbage, and sort of skulked out the door.

We got all the kids into the car and I had to stop Blair before we got in and giggle a bit or I might have exploded on the way home. I am not a nice person but at least I haven’t passed it on to my kids….yet….

Incestuous Earwigs

I have a confession to make; I don’t think marriage should work. When you look at it objectively as two people from different backgrounds sharing space and dealing with stresses, sicknesses, friends, financial decisions, and possibly kids it seems like a recipe for slapping, sledgehammers, and angry packing. However, against all my predictions to the contrary, my marriage works and I think I know why…I truly like Blair.

I do not think Blair is perfect, nor do I think our marriage is, but I do think we have a successful relationship. Our success stems from the fact that we do truly like each other but we also put in the time and work required to continue liking each other. Last night we got into a “discussion” about our house and our future housing plans. The major difference between Blair and I is that he looks at the big picture…the very big picture…and could care less about details. He has a roof over his head that he can afford so he is happy. He would like to build a green home someday but isn’t stressing about when or where because he is perfectly happy if that doesn’t happen.

I, however, will get fixated on the little details and leave the big picture to him. I’ve made a list of the things I want when we build a house and I swear he almost had a stroke when he looked at it. My list includes: pull-out drawers under the sink, a permanent home for the mixer and cookbooks, and enough bookcases for all future book purchases. His plans are more concerned with finances, building materials, and land….boooring. But I think this works for us because we get the whole picture painted eventually, he just has to keep working in while I keep working out.

I see so many marriages that I just don’t understand. I do realize that I can’t know exactly what goes on in someone else’s home, but I can get a pretty good idea. I listen to both husbands and wives complain about their spouses, some of them incessantly, about everything from dirty socks to being downright mean. I hear husbands complain about nagging and laziness and wives complaining about inattentiveness and napping and I just don’t understand, did you not know these things before you got married?

Again, I do not think Blair is perfect but virtually every small complaint I have I knew about before we got married. Nothing is a deal-breaker or even all that irritating…..most of the time. The only real complaint I have is that he is a responsible, hard-working farmer which very often doesn’t leave him very much family time. That’s really not much of a complaint, especially as I watch him work on bucking the farm system and living his priorities.

But the best example I can give of why my marriage works is that Blair makes everything fun, from a drive to the store to a night on the town. Today we were unloading what felt like 1000, 1000lb cement blocks for a mythical strawberry patch he is going to build, on the most humid, disgusting day of the summer. Even better, the sun chose the moment we started unloading blocks to come out of hiding. I may have been jumping around a little squeamishly about all the slimy bugs crawling over me as I lifted each cement block and Blair responded with, “It’s a good thing we’re bringing new earwigs in because we wouldn’t want incestuous earwigs.”  Honestly, who doesn’t love a guy who comes up with that?

Frat Boys and Strippers

I am so afraid for my kids’ futures…..I am totally raising two frat boys and the girl who will be dancing on the table at the party.

Sam has always been a fun kid, eager to meet new people even when feeling very shy. When he lets down his guard, look out, because he will be making up silly songs, performing very original and strangely thrust-y dances, and being generally hysterical. This will make him an excellent fraternity president because he will be friendly to everyone, be absolutely crazy at parties, and get good enough grades to pull the cumulative GPA up.  He can also down a cup of water in about 5 seconds, which may come in handy during some sort of contest.

Drew has been a drinking and belching machine since day one and I hear those are highly prized skills in the frat world. His deep belches sound like a man who has been downing beer all day and has always been a heavy drinker; he rarely sets a cup down with any liquid left in it.  He is also the first guy to pull his pants down at a party and do a crazy hip-swiveling dance. These are not skills that I have encouraged but have watched helplessly as he pulls his pants down at wedding receptions, parades, and virtually anywhere he pleases.

Bridget has just started her dancing days but I fear for her future. She has learned from her brothers that you should take your shirt off while dancing (“But we’re hot and sweaty!”) and does a funky little leg lift in the midst of her hip shaking. She has also been known to swing around the bottom of our fire pole…it is very distressing.

The frosting on the cake that I’m hoping she doesn’t jump out of someday happened this morning. The boys found a couple of little bouncy balls and Sam immediately asked if he could take a cup outside. I didn’t ask why, just nodded and waited to see what interesting little game he had thought of.

Drew came running out with a cup and yelled, “We’re gonna play bounce bong cuppa….” He sort of slurred the end together because I’m not sure he knew what he was saying but Sam clarified it with “We’re playing Cup Pong.” Yep, my kids basically set up a beer pong/quarters type game. Luckily they weren’t chugging their water or I would have had to step in.

Survival of the Hometown Festival

Another hometown festival survived, 12 short months until the next one….I will need the rest.

Hometown festivals are interesting phenomenons in small towns, a strange mix of visitors, returning alumni, recent adopters, and those who haven’t left. I participate virtually every year in my hometown festival as well as my adopted town festival, and sometimes a few others along the way and I love to chat with members of each group during the festivities to get a 360º perspective on the events. Here is what I have learned.

Visitors to a small town festival can generally give you the most unbiased description of the events and help you see it, obviously, through an outsiders’ perspective. I recently walked in a parade in a small town that I have never visited before and was struck by the general ugliness of both the town and its residents. I realize that is a very harsh thing to say but if you had been there you probably would have agreed with me. But I’m just as sure that the residents of that town think they have a wonderful festival and love their neighbors. I’m not judging, just observing.  I do, however, get defensive if someone says something like that about my hometown festival!

Returning alumni, or those that moved away after high school and only come back to visit, are the most interesting people to watch. Typically, they are very proud of themselves for having moved away, even if it is only to another small town 20 miles away, and act a bit superior. A lot of over-excitement at seeing old classmates or pretentious “awws” at the charming town they escaped from are common. I especially love listening to people who have moved to a big city explain their hometown to a new boyfriend or girlfriend.  Some are obviously embarrassed and try to make fun of everything, laugh about how “townie” everyone is. Others are proud and want to prove that they know everyone and everything in the entire town. And the last group, my personal favorite, is out to prove that they own the town.

And speaking of owning a town, no one is more protective or superior during a hometown festival than a resident who has never lived anywhere else. Give them ownership of a business in a town on top of it and look out, that cat is in charge. I find that people who choose to live in the small town they grew up in fall into 2 categories: embarrassed or content. Anyone who is embarrassed probably isn’t going to participate in many of the hometown festivities unless beer is involved and will then try to deflect any questions from old friends about what they are doing now. Those content lifelong residents, however, are happy with their choices and not afraid to tell anyone. Again, there are 2 categories of the “content” group because some get overly excited and want to be in charge while others just bring their kids and have a good time.

Adopters are also fun at a hometown festival, especially once they have lived in town for about 2 years. Before that, they don’t really know anyone and sort of stick to themselves. Around the 2 year mark, however, you know a few people and start to try and make connections. This is the point at which you need to find a lifelong resident to help you navigate the waters because there are definitely sharks out there. You could never figure out for yourself who is related to who or which woman hates that guy because of that other woman on your own. You need a guide and I am lucky to have a few, including my husband, in my adopted hometown. Now that I have been here for about 9 years, I try to help other adopters make the connections before inserting a foot into a mouth….something I have done too many times to count.

I love small town festivals for the people watching, the cheap entertainment for both kids and adults, and the chance to catch up with old friends…but mostly the people watching…my favorite form of cheap entertainment.

Front yard Grave yard

I hate mowing the lawn, or more specifically, I hate mowing our lawn.  Our well-manicured lawn broke a new lawn mower within 6 uses, bounced a piece right off while navigating the bumpy terrain. Proud times at the Hansen house. But the lawn itself is only part of the reason I hate mowing; following is a partial list of what I mowed over today.

  • Blooming and non-blooming clovers.
  • Creeping Charlie.
  • A few blades of grass that are mistakenly growing in our yard.
  • Pumpkin vines – thanks Aunt Nicole!
  • Rocks, sticks and tree roots.
  • Large clumps of dirt from the front yard grave yard, formerly the mohawk. See picture below.

  • A cat tail – do you know what happens when you mow a cat tail? It’s like the fictional slumber party pillow fight that all the boys thought we had; little feathers puffing everywhere.
  • A bright blue plastic phone – again with the little pieces flying everywhere.
  • Several Lincoln logs and a plastic hot dog that had fallen down from the fort.

I try to clean up the yard before I mow but apparently I don’t try very hard. On top of all the little things that I tend to just mow over, I also have to mow around a variety of larger objects including a trampoline, giant Fort Danger, a stolen grill, and 6 trees.

There is a bit of an obstacle course element to mowing my yard as well because of the many head-level things I must avoid. Tree branches, of course but also the various parts of Fort Danger including the chin-up bar and ladder. We also have several large, heavy ropes hanging from the trees to allow for Tarzan swinging. These ropes are very dangerous when pushed forward by a lawn mower, then released to swing back and hit you in the face.

The newest dangerous addition to our yard is pictured below:

Assuming it is a super cool swing? You would be wrong! Blair brought this contraption home last week and immediately went to hang it in the back yard, because these are the types of projects that actually get finished in our house. I asked him what it was and he replied that it is a target for football, baseball, etc. practice. I mentioned that if he hung it from a tree branch with good swinging clearance that the kids would want to swing on it. Blair doesn’t normally get testy but he got very irritated that I was questioning his placement so I dropped it and let him continue. When he was finished hanging it I asked if it would be sturdy enough for the kids to swing on.

“No, the kids can’t swing on it,” he replied. Seriously, if you saw that hanging from a branch, wouldn’t you want to swing on it? Imagine my back yard full of children and me telling someone every 10 seconds to get off the swing, it’s not for swinging. It’s super fun. God love him.

I avoided any serious mowing injuries today; I was only hit by one swinging rope and didn’t hit my head on the chin-up bar for the first time ever. It might be a good day!  I suppose I shouldn’t complain about mowing as much as I do, it is really the only time in my week that someone isn’t yelling “Mooom” at me. Well that’s not entirely true….they are all standing on the deck and I can see their little mouths moving but I pretend not to hear or see them. I’m busy writing a blog while I mow and can’t be disturbed.

Like a Trained Poodle

I got a weird response today when telling what I thought was a cute story about Bridget, who is 2, and it got me thinking about what exactly I should expect from my kids.

Here’s the story: I had a slumber party last night for 6 of my nieces and nephews, ranging in age from 2-9. Yes, I am a little crazy but they are all really good kids so it is mostly fun. Bridget hadn’t napped to I put her to bed in her crib while the rest of the kids were watching a movie. My niece Mollie, who will be 3 in September, was having some trouble lying still and going to sleep while the movie was playing so I asked if she wanted to sleep in Bridget’s room. Her emphatic and sobbing “No” didn’t persuade me from taking her in, rocking her on Bridget’s floor and laying her down to sleep.

She slept beautifully until 6:45 when Bridget awoke, spotted Mollie on her floor, and started yelling,” No…Mollie….out…..my woom…No…Mollie…..out….” over and over until I could get in there to shush her. My shushing didn’t work so I scooped her up and put her in my bed so that Mollie could go back to sleep (which didn’t work, but oh well).

I thought this story was cute and a little bit funny; especially considering that the girls had been playing well the day before and Bridget had been happily sharing her dolls and toys with Mollie. Apparently she just didn’t like being surprised by a child sleeping on her floor and who could blame her?!

I was telling the story this morning and got this response, “Can you say training?” with a mean, pointed look. I don’t even know what that means! I can come up with two possibilities: One- I should be training my child to not yell or wake up other children and that they should be polite and willing to share within minutes of waking up; Two – She thinks I have been training my child to be snotty and selfish and to yell at small children.

I don’t agree with either option because I’m trying to “train” my children to think for themselves and express their opinions.

Let me clarify, because I don’t want to give the impression that my kids get free rein to say and do whatever they want under the guise of “expressing themselves.” I might be a little hippy dippy but I don’t go that far! Manners are very important in our house, from please and thank-you to I’m sorry. I don’t tolerate back talk and kids get sent to their room for snotty retorts or whining. Sure, I need to be more consistent and could probably be a little harsher but honestly, my kids would never come out of their rooms if I didn’t choose my battles.

I think that children have a right to find their own personalities and interests and shouldn’t be chastised into automatons. I don’t want perfect little adults who always mind their manners, never get dirty, and only like what I tell them to like. I want silly, independent little people who experiment with hairstyles and mud, sometimes get a little snotty when proving to me that they are growing up, and struggle when deciding between Boy Scouts and soccer.  I correct grammar and incessant whining, I punish snottiness when it is mean, and never allow hitting or biting, but I don’t want to spend every minute of the day criticizing my kids for not using a big-boy-voice or trying to sound like the snotty grown-ups they spend a lot of time with.

And if they are surprised in the morning by a cousin sleeping on their floor and want her to get out? Who am I judge….and who is she?