Thursday, December 18, 2014

Just Trying to Save Lives, Here

Earlier this week I got a bad paper cut and discovered that if I'm ever in any real trouble and Caedmon and I are the only ones home, we're both pretty much screwed.

I got the cut while reading a book with unusually heavyweight pages, and while it didn't hurt much, by the time Cade and I left to get the kids from school I'd been bleeding for close to an hour; I just couldn't get it to stop.  Upon disembarking from the bus, Adelaide and Atticus took immediate notice of the blood-soaked kleenex wrapped around my hand, and on the short walk home, Adelaide took what I think was rather perverse enjoyment from musing about whether I had lost enough blood to lose consciousness (I hadn't.  Not even close.).  That, of course, reminded me that we hadn't done any Mom's-Unconscious-What-Now? Drills lately- incredibly irresponsible of me; I fall and accidentally start small fires in our home too often for me to shirk these kinds of duties.

Adelaide and Atticus only needed a brief refresher course on how to use my phone and how to dial 911 and how to call anyone else on my phone, plus what to do if my phone is missing (I can't find my phone half my waking hours.  I used to keep it in my pocket but it kept falling out and into water and under the wheels of my van.  Really, it's safer this way.), which is basically just going from neighbor to neighbor until someone answers the door.  

Caedmon, however, decided to obsess about which house he was going to first, what technique he was going to use to bang on their door, and whether or not there might be any cookies in each house that could possibly be shared with him.  When receiving a tutorial on how to call 911 on my cell phone, he wouldn't stop gazing fondly at the photo of himself that is my phone's wallpaper to listen to his sister's impatient instructions.  I'd like to think she would have eventually gotten through to him, but Atticus started crying, apparently getting freaked out because I'd been lying unresponsive on the floor a bit too long for his comfort, especially when blood started to pool under my outstretched, limp hand.  (Hey- when you're doing Mom's-Unconscious-What-Now? Drills you go big or home.  And by "go big" I mean collapse as realistically as possible and answer zero questions from your useless offspring, because how else will they learn?)

I did eventually stop bleeding, but haven't made much headway in the days since while trying to educate our youngest in the ways of Saving Mommy's Life.  He does well with the practice EpiPen (aside from that one little incident of pretending to stab it in my temple- but we agreed not to bring that one up), and I know I can count on him to at least save himself by running to a neighbor's before getting distracted by toys or dust motes, but he's never going to be on one of those recorded 911 calls where the plucky preschooler calls in, saving their guardian's life.

And just a little side note:  If you're having trouble teaching your kids to care enough about you to dial 911, do yourself a favor and DO NOT google "dog calls 911" because apparently ALL DOGS love their owners more than Caedmon loves me.


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Boy, Oh Boy

I keep seeing these memes that say things along the lines of, "I was a much better parent before I had children."  They inevitably have a bunch of comments from people who apparently had all kinds of plans for their yet-to-exist children like teaching them exclusively from the Laura Ingalls Wilder canon and feeding them only pre-masticated food.

This is an interesting concept to me.  I never planned on having children, and in a way, I feel I really lucked out.  I had no grand visions as to what kind of mother I would be, no crazy idealistic expectations for myself.  This made finding out I was pregnant with Adelaide somewhat stunning, but also extremely helpful, as I only had about 7 months to form hazy ideas as to just what to do with a tiny human being, and I think I was in denial for about half of those.  The only two pre-determinations I made were:  that I would definitely go back to work after a short maternity leave, and that I would not breastfeed, because hello, WEIRD.

Then Adelaide came out all long and skinny and precious and I realized that I could never trust her with anyone but myself (I have since relaxed on this stance a bit, it's only taken me 8 1/2 years!), and all these doctors and books told me how beneficial breastfeeding was and I was like a kid faced with vegetables saying, "Well, okay, I guess I'll try it BUT I'M NOT GONNA LIKE IT."

Five years later we'd had three children, I never went back to work, and three of those years were spent nursing hungry, hungry babies.  It turns out I know nothing, but then, I always knew that.  (That's right:  I always knew that I know nothing.  Good luck wrapping your brain around that statement.  I can't even make sense of it; all I know is that it's true.)

You would think that, after having one little girl-child, proving that I can be a parent and that thwarted plans can, in fact, be quite wonderful, I would take finding out I'm pregnant with a boy right in stride.  You would be underestimating just how neurotic I am.

What on earth was I supposed to do with a boy?  I envisioned tentatively placing offerings of G.I. Joe's and, I don't know, sticks or something, in front of him, because that's what boys play with, right?

Well.  It turns out boy babies are pretty much like girl babies in that they like to be snuggled and smiled at and fed constantly (that last one may just be our babies).

A few years and two boys later, I wish I could go back and tell 2008 Kristy to just relax, already; a couple cases of Legos, maybe a sword or two, and some heavy duty grocery bags for mountains of food to be consumed each week are your only real necessities.  (Wait.  Also lots of laundry detergent.  And stock up on nice jeans at any and all garage sales because boys wear holes in the knees of pants just by looking at them sideways.  And you'd just as soon burn your dollar bills in a merry bonfire as buy nice furniture; get that padded ottoman at Big Lots because your boys will destroy anything they touch and you'll feel a lot less angst over stuff that was cheap to begin with.  And don't throw that craft stuff away!  Boys like crafts just as much as girls!  So... maybe there are lot of things I'd tell Past Me.)

Other Boy Things I was not expecting:

They will pretend to fly all the time.  All. The. Time.

Did I mention the Legos?  Because it's best if you just make your peace with Legos now.  

The most inexplicable things will make them sad, like their older sister carelessly delivering the crushing news that No, they will never be older than her, even when they're all adults.  This will cause intense devastation for tens of minutes.

Daddy.  Daddy is not just a person, he the culmination of all that is good and holy in this world.  He is the answer to every question.  What do you want to be when you grow up?  "Batman.  And Daddy."  What do you want for Christmas?  "Real tools.  And Daddy."  What was your best thing about today?  "DADDY!"  

I also wasn't expecting to really have much in common with this strange species living in my house.  I know next to nothing about sportsing and all that strange running around after balls they're wont to do.  I still can't comprehend how they're seemingly born with the curious ability to make sound effects with they're mouths, from gunfire to explosions to brakes squealing.  They're an entire race of small, dirty beat boxers, whereas my best expression of a car is to go, "putt-putt-putt-putt."


Atticus loves jigsaw puzzles.  This sounds trivial and maybe a little boring, depending on how wrong you are about puzzles (i.e., you either love jigsaw puzzles or you're wrong), but I also love jigsaw puzzles.  When you're talking about a boy who loves golf and cars and building things and a mother who may or may not find most of those things stupefyingly dull, jigsaw puzzles become something that makes me say, "YOU LIKE JIGSAW PUZZLES, I LIKE JIGSAW PUZZLES: WE ARE PRACTICALLY THE SAME PERSON!"  Atticus and I also agree that Mornings Are The Devil, grudges are absolutely allowed even after the game of Sorry! is over and a winner has been declared, and you should always wait to eat the best bite of food on your plate last.  Caedmon and I both really like Caedmon.  WE ARE PRACTICALLY THE SAME PERSON!

As my boys would say:  Easy peasy, lemon squeezy.  (You must say this like they do, in a serious, even nonchalant tone of voice; they sound like they're channeling Samuel L. Jackson when uttering this playground declaration.) 

Friday, December 12, 2014

The Whole Christmas Truth and Nothing But

I have a proposition for all those people posting holiday recipes and winter wreath tutorials and lists like "Top 10 Christmas Traditions To Make All Your Acquaintances Feel Completely Inferior," (in other words, half the internet right now):  

You go ahead and post all those crazily photo-shopped pictures.  Tell us what your ornery elf on the shelf got up to last night, show us your gorgeous Christmas carol-themed chalkboard art, and don't forget the close-up of your seasonal designer coffee drink.  People like me eat that crap up.  I love it all.  The only thing missing, for me, is the complete picture.  From now on, my humble request is that you show all the pretty little parts of your holiday season, but then go ahead and tell me the cost.  What's the trade-off?  When you spent three hours weaving that burlap and pine needle swag, what did you give up?  

For instance:  All this charming Christmas book tree cost me is three baths.  Sorry, children, I know it's bath night, but I was too busy stacking books juuust so and trying to get these danged lights to do as they're told.  Sometimes the price you pay for Mommy having perfect Christmas decorations is a reputation for being the smelly kid at school.  You understand.  


How about this tin pail of pine boughs and sparkly berries?  

It's just lovely, makes me happy every time I see this simple little display in our downstairs bathroom.  Any time our boys go into that same bathroom, however, I find myself straining my ears, listening for the sounds of liquid hitting metal, as this is a bucket in a bathroom with plants in it and our boys are like boys everywhere in that a strange, almost magnetic force seems to exist between their crotches and things ripe for peeing on.  Right after I got all the branches and berries arranged with perfect greenery-to-berry ratio I had to take each boy, one at a time, make them face my newest Christmas pretty, and sternly say, "DON'T PEE ON THIS," which made me scrub my hands up and down my face and ask What is my life? 

How about this beautiful Hallmark moment?

For as long as I can remember, my mom bought my sisters and I each a Hallmark ornament at Christmas time.  Now that we all have children of our own, she buys each grandchild an ornament, which means our children all have sweet, growing collections courtesy of their generous grandma.

The ornaments arrived in the mail yesterday.  After finishing their chores, they were allowed to open and hang their newest Christmas decorations.

Of course I would love it if the moment ended here, with each child enjoying their gifts, perhaps hanging them all on the tree in perfect sibling harmony.  That didn't happen, of course, because children ruin everything.  Maybe not everything, but certainly Hallmark moments.

"I want this branch!"  "I put mine on that branch first!"  "I said I was using that branch!"  IF ONLY THERE WERE MORE THAN ONE BRANCH ON WHICH TO HANG THEIR NEW ORNAMENTS.  "But this is the best branch!"  "Mine's already on there, you pick another branch!"  "Why should I have to pick another branch, I told you this one's mine!"  IF ONLY THIS WERE A MASS-PRODUCED FAKE TREE WITH ROW UPON ROW OF IDENTICAL BRANCHES OH WAIT IT IS.

Salt dough ornaments for their teachers:

Not pictured:  The one with a bite taken out of it.  Caedmon walked right past the container bursting with actual cookies, favoring the hard, dried disk of salt, flour, and water, with some ink for added flavor.  Also not pictured:  The bite of ornament our son spit out on the laundry room floor, three feet from the trash can.

It really is the most wonderful time of the year, isn't it?

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Comedy vs Tragedy vs Fierce

Last week, both Atticus and Adelaide had their schools' winter concerts.

Obviously thrilled to look out and see a packed house.

This is the fourth year we've had the pleasure of watching our daughter perform in these little vocal exhibitions, and it's always been enjoyable.  Getting up and singing in front of a large audience isn't really Adelaide's cup of tea, but she dutifully learns the songs and performs them with reliability if not gusto.

The expression on her face for 98% of her time on stage.

She had a small speaking part this year, which she recited perfectly.  Bravo, Adelaide.

Since Atticus is in kindergarten, this was his first year to stand up in front of all those people and sing.  He's watched Adelaide alongside the rest of us for the past several years, and I thought that perhaps he would follow his elder sister's lead and give us a perfunctory performance.




Ours is the one acting like he's lost his mind, right next to the sweet girl who's probably wondering if she should stage some sort of intervention.

All his wild gestures and barely restrained enthusiasm were so entertaining to watch, although it was a little disconcerting to be the parent of the stage ham; we've certainly never played that role before.

I feel like Atticus and Adelaide belong on those drama faces- you know, the comedy and tragedy things.

Yes, those!

But then which will Caedmon be?

It's hard to say.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Of Mind Games and Manipulation

I need all of you today.  Every last one.  (Every last one except you, creeper, who keeps finding our blog by searching for "kids sleeping feet."  Your services are not required.  Begone.)

The rest of you, gather round.  I want you all to pretend you were good at group projects in school even though those were the days you knew you should have held the thermometer against the bathroom light bulb to fake a fever.  (All together, now:  Group projects were the worst.  Who knew that working together would lower the collective IQ of all these people your grade suddenly depends upon?  And by the way, I was an absolute jewel to work with in those settings.  I definitely didn't close my eyes and massage my forehead in lieu of screaming "GET THERE FASTER!" a la Chandler Bing at my classmates, nor did I silently cross out every other word in thick black Sharpie on the piece of shared butcher paper we were supposed to be using for a brainstorming session because misspellings are against my religion.  The only class in which group work should be allowed is upper level Spanish, because it takes every single brain available to figure out when to use subjunctive verbs and to make sure you're not calling the Pope a potato.  But I digress.)

Here's the problem I need every last one of your minds to noodle over:

I think Adelaide is messing with me.  But she might not be.  Except she probably is.  Or not.

A little back story might be helpful.

A few years ago, Adelaide got off the bus all upset because several kids had been tossing a dirty, dirty lie around about Santa Claus.  Namely that he doesn't exist.

She asked me why they would say such a thing.  I hemmed and hawed and tried to distract her with shiny things and cookies but she kept pressing me.  I tried "If you don't believe you don't receive," but because she is inconveniently bright this was an unacceptable response.  She hounded me so much I tried filing harassment paperwork with management, but it turns out I'm management and have no filing system.  All this ended with me admitting that All right, FINE, there is no, no, NO SANTA CLAUS,  ARE YOU HAPPY DAUGHTER?

She wasn't happy.  She cried.  I was exasperated but relieved that she finally knew.  I gave her a stern lecture on not ruining it for her brothers.  The earth once again spun on its axis.

But now?  Now... she's acting like she believes in Santa again.  At first I thought she was just putting up an altruistic front for the benefit of the two younger believers in our house.  The other day, however, I said something about a gift she had received from Derek and I one Christmas, and her response was, "What?  I got that from Santa, remember, Mom?"  And I just kind of looked real hard at her, trying to divine her thoughts from her facial expressions, but MY GOSH her face is all innocence and earnestness.

She's in third grade, which is definitely in Santa-Disbelief Territory, right?  Except that she's more immature than her classmates in certain ways, one of which is continuing to play make believe games, and isn't Santa the ultimate Make Believe Game?

But... we talked about this.  She knows he's not real.  Doesn't she?

So now we're at the point where I'm asking her all kinds of testing questions like, "Isn't it funny how Santa always uses the same wrapping paper I do for all the rest of the gifts under the tree?" and "I find it extremely curious that Santa's handwriting and mine are so similar you might even call them IDENTICAL."  But then she comes back at me with, "Mom, Santa's been doing this for centuries, don't you think he's intentionally using the same wrapping paper parents do, and by now he's got to be some kind of hand writing expert to mimic each parent's handwriting, all just to throw the older kids and adults off."  She continues on in this vein in such a calm, reasonable tone of voice that I find myself looking at gifts I'm 99% sure I purchased for the kids last summer, but hang on, my memory of buying this lip gloss set is actually pretty darn fuzzy and I don't really recall getting this toy for Atticus at all ohmygosh SANTA?

So, tell me, friends and comrades minus sleeping-kids-feet guy:  Is my daughter even now laughing at me on the school playground while she devises her newest strategy to undermine my hold on mental wellness?  Should I be searching her room for notes titled something like "The power of suggestion and my mother's psyche:  A case study."  And most importantly- SANTA:  REAL OR NOT REAL?

Look at her, lulling you into a false sense of affection, like all she's doing is reading To Kill a Mockingbird and eating oatmeal like our own little eight-year-old old lady.  DIABOLICAL.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Our Favorite Christmas Picture Books

Each December, we have a giant pile of Christmas books sitting in our window seat, some we own, some from the library.  Anymore there are so many books to choose from at Christmas time, and while most of them are fun, very few are anything I'd consider spending money on, with the exception of the following four:

The Little Match Girl by Hans Christian Andersen, Illustrated by Rachel Isadora

We're going to start with a book that isn't even really a Christmas book, because that is how Crislers do.  It's set in 19th century London on New Year's Eve, and if bittersweet is your thing, then this is the book for you.  This was a childhood favorite of mine and my sisters, which for a long time caused me to assume we were all three kind of messed up, but now every time I pull this one out of the Christmas book basket all our kids whisper, "Oh, I love this one," but really, what's not to love?  Neglected, battered children?  Check.  Starvation to the point of hallucination?  Check.  Orphans freezing to death?  Check-check.  Yet somehow, despite all that, this story is gorgeously hopeful, and this edition in particular is very poignantly illustrated.  Just don't even open the front cover without a Kleenex in your hand.

Mr. Willowby's Christmas Tree by Robert Barry

Tied with The Little Match Girl for First Place Favorite in our house is this rhyming, happy little book, because sometimes you need a little 1963 frivolity after confronting the harsh realities of 1845.  It starts with Mr. Willowby's too-large Christmas tree, whose top is cut off, with each subsequent lopped-off-top being handed down to increasingly smaller creatures to decorate their own little homes, ending with Mistletoe Mouse and including Miss Adelaide, the upstairs maid.  (Our own Adelaide and Atticus always enjoy this little coincidence, while Caedmon is happily baffled each time I read out the name of his sister in a book.)  If you like your Christmas books charming and lively that will draw in kids both big and little, this one's for you.

Who Was Born This Special Day? by Eve Bunting, Illustrated by Leonid Gore

A sweet, poetic story about the Nativity that our children loved as small children for its text, but we all continue to treasure for its dreamy illustrations.  Really, the photo to the left doesn't do it justice; if you ever see this book in a library or bookstore, pick it up and thumb through it.  Perfect for communicating the wonder and splendor of the Christmas story.

The Christmas Candle by Richard Paul Evans, Paintings by Jacob Collins

This time of year, despite our best efforts to communicate the season's inherent message, we often find our children to be more preoccupied with presents and sweets and pretty much anything that revolves around their own little selves.  This story- a parable, more than anything- helps illuminate our own selfish desires and the importance of treating every stranger as our own mother, each person in need as our own sister.  The illustrations opposite the text of each page are the perfect counterpart, haunting yet also feeling like something you might like to tear out and hang on your wall.  This one's more suited to older children and any adults in your life (hint: all of us) who could use a reminder of what we're called to focus on.

Any strong feelings of your own about which holiday picture book you love and I thoughtlessly left off of my list?  Tell me your favorites, I'm always looking for recommendations!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Excuses, Excuses

I know I said I'd do a festive, snappy post yesterday on Christmas books but as it turned out yesterday I got out of bed to bathe one of our puke-sodden children, crawled down the stairs to throw another puke-doused comforter in the washer, then slept the rest of the day while our children somehow completely destroyed our house while sick.  They're just gifted that way.

Today I had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch and considered it a triumph.  I also did the dishes- twice- and am currently recovering from that latest bout of domesticity.  I should be ready to do something else in about an hour, provided it's not as physically arduous as those dishes were.

Hopefully that Christmas book blog will just sort of, I don't know, write itself, and will also magically self-publish tomorrow, because this whole typing thing is exhausting, and is interrupting conversations between Adelaide and I about whether we feel a tighter mother-daughter bond after puking side by side.