Friday, December 30, 2011

DanceCamp Studio

When Adelaide was two years old, she began asking to take ballet lessons.

I, of course, was thrilled.  I spent ages three through eighteen camped out in a dance studio in my spare hours, and now Adelaide, too, could know the thrill of having ugly ballet feet but killer legs.  Joy!

I did a little homework, and found that she could take classes at a studio fifteen miles north, one fifteen miles to the south, or one located two blocks away.  Because I always prefer walking to driving, the Huxley studio became our first choice.  I checked out their website, asked around, and set up an appointment to tour the studio and meet the dance instructor.

And that's where I went a little crazy.

I loved- loved- my former dance teacher, Mrs. Camp.  Naturally, I wanted Adelaide to have what I had growing up, so I started to compile a mental list of all the attributes her new teacher must possess.  After I got to around the thirty-seventh bullet point, even I realized I was starting to sound a leetle bit crazy, so I instead switched to a yes- or no- question format that I could pose to this poor woman when I met her.  The list of questions went something like this:

What kind of exercises would I see in your average class?

How many shows does your studio perform per year?  Would Adelaide be expected to participate in all these?

Around what age do you put girls en pointe?

Is this there some sort of funk or hip hop team she might audition for when she's older, or any sort of elite or advanced team of any type?

Are your recital costumes overly revealing or provocative?

-See?  I started off relatively normal.  But soon, things started to get... not quite so normal.-

What sort of moral code do you possess?  Do you think it's your responsibility to integrate those ethics and morals into your daily life to the extent that it's very obvious to everyone around you, including but not limited to the dancers you are training?

Are you, yourself, an excellent dancer?  Do you demonstrate and go through the exercises and routines with your students?

Do you know how to be silly?

Do you have the extreme tolerance and self control needed to work with groups of hormonal and extremely emotional teenage girls?

Can you yell things like, "Keep your legs together, girls!" when my daughter is leaving the studio when she gets older?

Will you love my daughter unreservedly?

Is there any way you could dye your hair red?

Fortunately, I stopped myself there, and didn't ask a single one of the latter, possibly more inappropriate questions when I finally met Adelaide's new teacher.  Our daughter did end up taking classes there for a year, but elected not to continue at the end of the term.  I was a little relieved;  the studio was nice enough, and I liked her teacher, but it just didn't seem to measure up to my (impossibly high) expectations.

I got to visit my old studio and see Mrs. Camp when we were down South last week.

Would it be a little extrme to move almost seven hours South just so our daughter can take dance classes at a certain studio?

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Random Thoughts

The Crislers have spent the past week and a half celebrating Christmas by spending approximately 26 combined hours traveling in the car.  I had fully intended on sitting down in front of our computer and tapping out a post today to try and make up for the blog silence over the past two weeks, but I'm not gonna lie:  I got nothin'.

There's just too much stuff going on in my head right now; I can't seem to separate individual thoughts long enough to try and express any single one in the short story fashion appropriate for this blog.  So instead, I'm going to use this post as a kind of exercise in the hopes that when I'm done, my mind will be a little clearer, and I'll be able to go about my day and be a little more productive.

1.  Today is Derek's birthday.  I really need to hurry up and get his cake frosted/ get the pork loin in the crockpot for the pulled pork sandwiches/ have the kids make something crafty as a cute gift.

2.  Mmmm, pulled pork.    MMMMM, Head Country Barbeque Sauce.

3.  Atticus makes the best camera faces.

"Thank you Jeeeeesus for sugar cookies!"

4.  I got to see so many beloved friends and family over the past couple weeks, including my sister Kelli, who is pregnant and due with her and her husband's first baby at the end of February.  I am super duper excited about this baby, not least of all because I think she's going to be ridiculously cute, and also because I finally get to be the one loving on and squeezing a sweet little baby, then giving it back and going home to get some sleep.

5.  My baby sister Steph is also pregnant and due with her first baby in May.  I'm also excited about this baby, but my feelings are a little different about Steph having a baby.  This is probably due to the fact that Steph is my baby sister.  I remember changing her diapers.  I remember using a warm wet washcloth to clean the gunk off of her over-active-tear-duct-eyes so that she could open them in the morning.  I still call her things like Shteffer Beffer.  She can't have a baby; she's still a baby herself.  Except that she's married and out on her own and actually a legal adult.  A baby adult.

6.  The kiddos got Lincoln Logs for Christmas.

Derek's been having a great time building old-timey forts.  

7.  I wonder what manna tastes like?  
Head Country Barbeque Sauce?  Perhaps.

8.  I had my first vision-darkling, roaring-in-my-ears brush with claustrophia while stuck in an elevator with a friend in downtown Wichita.  I think I'll be taking the stairs from now on.

9.  I love Table Rock Lake.

10.  Mitt Romney and I are on a first-name basis.  He calls me Kristy.  I call him Mitt.  

No, really.  There were several messages on the answering machine when we got home, and in them he referred to me as, "Kristy."  As a result, when I answered the phone last night, instead of my standard, "Hello?" I said, "Hi, Mitt!"  It wasn't actually Mitt calling that time, but his Des Moines campaign manager.  I'm sure all this attention has nothing to do with the fact that I live in Iowa and there's a little thing called the Iowa caucus coming up.  I will say, however, that one of the messages actually sounded like Mitt talking, not just a recording.  He sounded tired.  It kind of made me like him more.

11.  Caedmon's new favorites are the Itsy Bitsy Spider and the Beaver Song. 

He's learning all kinds of new words.  He is so amazingly sweet.  He also eats a ton.  Non-stop eating is what our Spud is all about.

12.  I really enjoy having Adelaide home all day.  Maybe I just won't send her back to school next week.

That's better.  Time to go forth and be productive.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

My Precious

For some reason I have been thinking a lot about hoarders lately.

Maybe it's because there's quite a bit of gift-giving and receiving going on right now, which often results in the accumulation of stuff.  I myself am not a hoarder.  On some level, however, I can sympathize with those people who find it emotionally impossible to ever throw anything away.  While I often have to restrain myself from throwing away every last toy in the house, I do have specific types of items that I find myself compulsively storing away, year after year. 

I recently mentioned that I like practical gifts.  On the occasions that I receive a particularly lovely or fine practical present, I find that I can't make myself use it.  Instead, I find myself carefully storing them, only pulling them out of their little hiding places a few times a year to gaze upon them fondly. 

It's kind of starting to bother me that I do this.

The last time I pulled out the storage box from under my bed and caught sight of the beautiful letter-sealing kit Derek gave me years ago, I swear that I went into some kind of fugue state, gently caressing the sticks of wax and metal stamp.  When my children finally found me, it was all I could do not to throw the items under the bed before they could see them and demand that I share.

I find this behavior in myself disturbing and borderline unhealthy.  I'm afraid that if I'm not careful, next time I won't just hurriedly hide my beloved objects, I will instead starting stroking them and whispering, "My precious,"  then hissing things like, "What has it got in it's pocketses?" when I see my children. 

At least it was a gold ring that Gollum loved.  I would instead be holding things like the reams of Lisa Frank paper I refused to write on as a child because they were just too pretty.

Because I do try to correct odd behavior in myself (when the mood strikes me, anyway), I tried to use the letter-sealing kit.  I love to write letters to my far-flung friends, and decided a wax-sealed envelope would communicate some extra care and affection. 

I burned two fingers and caught three envelopes on fire, and decided there are worse creatures out there to be compared to than Gollum.

Like Stalin.  Or maybe Satan.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

No, I Do Not Take Recreational Drugs

Yesterday was weird.

I just couldn't seem to keep up.  My thoughts lagged, my response time lagged, everything about me was slow. I wasn't sick.  I wasn't in a bad mood.  I was just... I don't know, stupid?  Does anyone else ever have stupid days?

It started shortly after breakfast, when I decided to give Caedmon a bath.  It wasn't until after I had washed his hair that I realized he still had his socks on.

It continued mid-morning when I could not figure out why Atticus was crying.  It took me way longer than it would any other rational adult to realize that his very favorite song was playing on the radio ("Oh, Holy Night" as sung by Josh Groban) and he couldn't hear it because I was running the vacuum, had a load of laundry going, and Caedmon was playing with a really loud musical toy.  After pantomiming for a full minute, Atticus finally yelled over the vacuum, "If you would turn the vacuum off you could hear me, Mommy!"  Oh.  Right.

Then before naptime, I told Atticus to pick out a book to read, and reminded him that it was not to be a long one.  I automatically accepted the book he brought over and read it twice before I realized that not only had he chosen The Little Engine That Could (and not any of those incredibly-abridged versions they've been publishing for the past twenty years, but an early, full-length edition that came from an old school library), but he had dragged a step stool out of the bathroom to reach up and pluck it off one of the shelves where I keep our older, more fragile books.

During naptime, I went upstairs into the bathroom.  I had mistakenly left Caedmon alone for two minutes, and he had used that time to unroll all the toilet paper, fill the bathtub with toys and bars of soap still in their boxes, and throw a plastic medicine spoon in the toilet.

And finally, after Adelaide got home from school, I was in the bathroom, plucking my eyebrows.  She was sitting on the step stool, watching me, when she declared, "I think I should pluck my eyebrows."

I retorted with the brilliant reply of, "No, you shouldn't."

"Why not?"

"Because this is really only something adult women do- and besides, it kind of hurts," I appealed to the pansy in her.

She was not going to be so easily dissuaded.  "But I think I would look prettier if I plucked my eyebrows!"

"Adelaide, you look pretty now!  I like your eyebrows just the way they are!"

She thought for a moment, then asked, "Do you think you look prettier when you do it?"

Boggy ground.  "No, not neccessarily..."

"Then why do you do it?"

How was I losing an argument with a five-year-old?  What was wrong with me today?

I fell back on the standard, "Well, I'm an adult, and sometimes adults can do things that perhaps kids shouldn't do while they're young."

She paused again before saying, "Mommy, I think that's a double-standard."

That made me stop completely and gape at her in astonishment.  What pathologically foolish person had taught her the term "double-standard"?  Why would you ever teach it to a kid?  Childhood is nothing but double-standards!  "Here, kiddo, you can have one cookie, and don't pay any attention to me eating half a dozen,"  "Yes, you're still going to bed at seven tonight.  And yes, I'm still going to bed whenever I want,"  "I know you want to sit up front, but you have to sit in the back.  I'm sitting up front."

I managed to conceal my building fury and nonchalantly asked, "So who taught you the words, 'double-standard,' Adelaide?"  Oh, someone was about to feel my wrath.

"You did, Mom.  Don't you remember?  You told me all about it a few days ago."

Oh, yeah.  A dim memory came floating back.

Apparently yesterday wasn't my only stupid day.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Let's Make a Deal

I have an idea.

Let's go to someone's house and rifle through their cast-off belongings.  You know, the things they're trying to get rid of and out of their own house.  Oh, and let's pay them for these items that they don't even want anymore.


It sounds kind of crazy, right?  Maybe even a little bit gross.

But you know what?  I don't care.  Because I love garage sales.

Garages sales, yard sales, tag sales, whatever you call them in your neck of the woods.  I love them.

It's gotten to the point where someone can't even compliment my children's clothing without my feeling the compulsive urge to tell them exactly where I got it and how much I paid for it.  Sometimes I even include the brand name if I feel like I got a really good deal and am feeling extra- annoying that day.

"Adelaide has on a cute jacket today."

"Thanks!  I got it at a garage sale FOR A DOLLAR.  It's a Gap jacket, and it was $1.  Did I mention I only paid a dollar for it?"

For someone who can't remember half of what I need to get done today, let alone this week, I have a near-encyclopedic knowledge of how much I paid for garage sale finds.  I can go through each of our children's wardrobes and my kitchen cabinets and tell you exactly how much each item cost, and usually where I found it.  White milk glass cakestand, $2, from that nice old lady down the street who was downsizing.  Pink Children's Place cardigan, $2, upscale neighborhood in Ankeny.  Vintage beaded handbag (Christmas present for Adelaide in a couple weeks), $2.50, older couple escaping the Iowa winters and moving to Florida.

As fun as it would be for me to continue this list, I'll spare you.

It's gotten to the point where I have trouble shopping for new products.  "Three dollars?  Three dollars!  They expect me to pay three dollars for a t-shirt!  And it's not even a nice brand!  Gosh, Wal-Mart has gotten expensive!"

It's one of my complaints about winter.  To you un-initiated, winter is garage sale off-season.  Sure, you might be able to find one here or there, but they're often in people's homes, and I'm way too paranoid for that business.

But I have found a solution.  Something to get me through the paucity of garage sales that make up the winters here in the North.

It's a swap shop, and it's on Facebook.

I'm not a real big FB person.  There's way too much personal information and way too few filters, to my mind.  One big positive it now has in it's favor, however, are the swap shop pages.  My area has one, and it allows people to post photos and descriptions of things they want to sell.  I peruse our local shop several times a week, and have thus far netted six name-brand sweaters for $15 for Atticus, and a free 7' artificial Christmas tree in a nice Rubbermaid storage bin (and when I went to pick it up from the sweet older couple who had posted it, they threw in a Christmas wreath with door hanger, and two sleeves of ornaments-for free!).

Again, I could go on and on, but I won't.

True, it's not the same as a good garage or estate sale, but it's enough to get me through.  I liken it to a nicotine patch for people who are trying to quit smoking for winter, but plan on starting back up in the spring.  Or something.

And hey, it's only five short months until the Huxley City-Wide Garage Sale- which is like Christmas for people like me!

Thursday, December 8, 2011


I felt kind of bad yesterday posting those three photos on here.

Sometimes I get really sick of looking at people's photos online, especially the ones where everyone is perfectly perfect all the time, and the parents say things like, "Look at our darling little darlings.  Aren't they just darling?  And aren't we just the perfect little family who has our act together all the time?"

This may just be my own insecurities talking here.

So in the spirit of transparency, I decided to post some of the photos that don't usually make it on the blog.

You know those pictures I posted yesterday, where all three children are more or less smiling?

This also happened.

As did this.

Atticus having a meltdown...

...then running to me for comfort, despite the fact that I'm probably the one who told him to stop doing whatever he was doing.

Caedmon eating a stick.  Fiber!

Caedmon on the right.  Me on the left.  Caedmon's puke also on the left, on my face, in my hair, and on my shirt.  Can you tell I'm trying really hard not to get it in my mouth?

Me, hugely pregnant with Caedmon, cruelly trying to force-feed a s'more to Atticus.

Wha...?  How'd that get in here?  Sorry, Aaron!

Caedmon, apparently a little peeved about something.

Atticus in time-out at the playground.

And finally, what may be the least-cute picture of Caedmon.  Ever.

I feel better now.  Cleansed.  I have dispelled any notions anyone may have had that we are a perfect family.

Stop laughing.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Time Is On My Side

I love punctuality.  I would rather be thirty minutes early than five minutes late.  If it ever starts to look like I'm going to be late for something, I start to panic.  My voice becomes shrill, my breathing pattern shortens and becomes somewhat erratic, and I overall just kind of freak out.

Blame it on the fact that the thought of making others wait horrifies me, blame it on the fact that my father used to call the US Naval Observatory in Colorado to get the exact time down to the second when it was time to change the clocks.  Blame it on God for making me a big old freak.  I don't know.

What I do know is that since having kids, I've had to relax my whole "If I'm going to be late, I just won't go at all" stance.  Small children love to make you late for things.  They work against you at every level to ensure that you are going to be that obnoxious person strolling in fifteen minutes after you were supposed to.

Adelaide had a winter vocal concert at her school last night.  The instructions sent home from her teacher were that she was to be in her classroom between 6:15 and 6:20.  We were not to arrive any earlier (foiled at every turn!), because there was another concert at 5:30, and the school was doing their best to synchronize the movements of families leaving one concert and arriving for the later one.

Guess what?  We were on time.  I had Adelaide deposited in her class and ready to go at 6:15.  Oh, and Derek had to work yesterday evening.  Go me.

The secret is having a plan, and lots of time.  I knew Derek had to work, so I started mentally reviewing our schedule days beforehand, then made a physical list that morning.  When you have a five-year-old, three-year-old, and one-year-old, you have to be super-anal.  It's that, or slowly lose your mind.

We started getting ready at 4:30.  Three baths, four wardrobe changes, one hair styling, several diaper and bathroom breaks, four meals, and pounds and pounds of coats, mittens, and hats later, we were ready to go.  I firmly believe it's all because I made them start getting ready an hour and 45 minutes early.

Of course, in between clothing and eating I made them all sit in front of the Christmas tree for an impromptu photo shoot.  It's a rare occasion indeed when all three of them look presentable at the same time, and I knew I wasn't going to be able to take pictures during the concert itself because I'd be too busy chasing Caedmon around (and I was right).

And to think that it only took an hour and a half to get them to look like this!

Oh, and the concert itself?  Lovely, and all of fifteen minutes long.  Nearly two hours of preparation for fifteen minutes of an actual event.

Welcome to parenthood.

(And Happy Birthday to me!)

(I just couldn't resist.)

Monday, December 5, 2011

Silence is Golden

Our daughter has the most exquisite timing.

Over the weekend, Adelaide and I drove down to Kansas City to attend a performance of The Nutcracker with my mom and two sisters.  After a hearty lunch, the five of us headed to the Kauffman Center to find our seats and await the performance.  Luckily for me, Adelaide insisted on sitting in between her grandma and two aunts, which put me down at the end of the row, three seats away from her.  This means I got to spend the whole first half focusing on the ballet itself, although I did frequently steal glances down the row to see how she was doing.  Every time I checked, she was sitting up straight on the edge of her seat, eyes glued to the stage.  So far, so good.

Intermission arrived.  After a bathroom break, where I forced Adelaide to use the facilities (because I'm a mean, mean Mommy, and also didn't want to have to get up during the performance), we found our seats again, but Adelaide wanted to sit by me now, and started asking Whhhyyyy is this ballet sooo looooong?  I ever so patiently explained that the second half was more exciting; more styles of dancing, costume changes, characters, etc.

The house lights came down, the curtain once again was raised, and the second half began.  Adelaide was very quiet and attentive while the little angels were dancing and during the dance of Mother Ginger and her Polichinelles.

While all the other kinds of food representatives (chocolate, coffee, tea, ribbon candy, and marzipan) were dancing, and during the Waltz of the Flowers, she asked all kind of questions in a distracting stage whisper.  So basically DURING MY FAVORITE PARTS she wouldn't stop talking.

Chocolate (Spanish):  "How do they get the curtain to go up and down like that?  Why is it purple?"

Coffee (Arabian):  "Doesn't it hurt her to do that?  Why isn't he wearing a shirt?  Is he cold?  Doesn't he know it's winter?"

Tea (Chinese):  "How do those girls push that box around when the man is in it?  Isn't it really heavy?"

Ribbon Candy (Russian):  "I'm hungry.  Can we go back to the hotel?"

Marzipan-the Dance of the Reed Pipes:  "They look like candy canes!  When can I eat the candy canes I got from Santa the other day?"

The Waltz of the Flowers:  "Why doesn't she have a big tutu?  How do they not run into each other?  Why is this so long?"

I did my best to maintain my composure and answer her questions quietly (if a bit curtly), reminding her that she could ask all the questions she wanted when it was over.

Then, during the Grand Pas de Deux by the Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier, she whispered, "I have the use the bathroom again!"

I reminded myself that Derek doesn't smother her when she won't stop talking during his Vikings games, although I have seen him gripping those throw pillows pretty tightly.  I tried not to think about the fact that the Vikings play about a million weekends out of the year (or it just feels like it), whereas I get to go to the ballet once every few years.

After having this little talk with myself-during which time she twice repeated to me that she really had to go- I hissed, "This is almost over, and we are almost done.  I will take you to the bathroom the minute it is over, but until then, we are going to sit quietly, listen to the lovely music, watch the beautiful dancing, and STOP TALKING TO EACH OTHER."

Then we sat quietly, listened to the lovely music, watched the beautiful dancing, and stopped talking to each other.

It was the best ten minutes of the entire ballet.

Friday, December 2, 2011

I Love My Job

Every occupation has it's positives and negatives, the parts you love, and the parts that you don't love so much.

At this point, I consider my job to be that of raising our three children.  I stay at home with them rather than leaving the house to work.  For the most part, I love my job.

Obviously, there are parts that I don't like quite so much.  Earlier this week, I was lying on the floor, building a giant block tower with Atticus.  Caedmon was toddling around, idly swinging a plastic golf club.  I became a little too immersed in the construction of the tower, and just caught a glimpse of Caedmon swinging the club back and forth a little too close to me before he whacked me in the head, square on the temple.  I saw stars, immediately experienced some severe nausea, and obviously, a killer headache.

All I really wanted to do was take some ibuprofen and lie down.  Atticus and Caedmon did not care.

Yesterday, Atticus took a mighty swing with that same freaking plastic club, and although he was aiming for a practice ball, he hit me on the elbow, and magically managed to hit my funny bone.

The plastic golf clubs have since been banned.

That didn't stop my boys, though.  They seem to have a hardwired need to swing stick-like tools at balls, and they don't care if I have laid down a no-golf-in-the-house rule, or how many injuries I have sustained.  I may have confiscated all the toys that I think could possibly be used to hurt me, but they make do with what they can find.

I found Caedmon hitting a baseball around the house with the toilet brush this morning.  Honestly, I'm just lucky he didn't find his other favorite forbidden toy:  the plunger.

Disgusting childhood habits aside, I know I'm very fortunate.  This morning at 8 am, after readying Adelaide for school,  Atticus, Caedmon, and I were still in our pajamas, reading books together on the couch.  I get to spend all day with our children, and even get a nice break every afternoon during naptime.

Speaking of naptime, now that it's here, I need to go disinfect our house.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

My Favorite Things

You know what I'm not crazy about?  Those "Favorite Things" lists that celebrities make that consist of a bunch of ridiculously expensive goods like "simple" white t-shirts that cost $50 apiece, or when they list things like "making sugar cookies with my daughter," because you know what?  You probably weigh about 90 pounds, and the closest you'll get to baked goods is a food-scented Yankee candle.  Oh, and don't try to pretend you spend time with your daughter.  If you did, we wouldn't see her all coked-out on the cover of some rag here in about ten years.

I'm not much of a celebrity person.  I feel no need to know what some actor eats for breakfast on Saturday mornings or their parenting "advice."

And this is so not what I meant to write about today.  Let's see if I can get back on track.

Where was I?  Right.  Favorite things.

Well, in addition to not being able to identify with some no-talent hack's favorite things (there I go again), I have a little trouble with the items listed in the song.  You know, from The Sound of Music?  One verse talks about "Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens."  While I certainly don't see anything wrong with those things, I couldn't call them my "favorites."  Raindrops on roses are pretty, but I'm allergic to cats, don't believe I've ever actually seen a copper kettle, and wool gives me hives.

I'm just a little ray of sunshine today, aren't I?

Still, I've been hearing that song a lot lately on the Christmas music stations, and it's gotten me to thinking about my favorite things at this time of year.  Here are five of my personal favorites.

5.  Decorating for Christmas.  I love, love, love decorating our house for Christmas.  My mom always went all-out decorating our house right after Thanksgiving, and it always felt so warm and inviting.  I now do the same thing, and being surrounded by the garlands and bells makes our home feel cozy.

4.  Christmas Music.  Fortunately, Derek's pretty tolerant of my need for 24/7 Christmas music, but he does look pretty pained when I put on Amy Grant, and absolutely puts his foot down at the mere mention of The Carpenters.
      4a.  Christmas caroling.  Is there anything better than standing in front of people's homes, singing Christmas carols?  Unless it's looking out your front window and seeing people standing on your front lawn, serenading your family.

     4b.  All the live Christmas music.    There are always a plethora of choir, band, and orchestra concerts to choose from, and when we lived in Pittsburg, there was a man who stood outside the entrance to Wal-Mart every morning and played his trumpet while manning the red Salvation Army bucket.

3.  Going to the Nutcracker.  This was a tradition my family had growing up; we would drive the hour north to Wichita to see the ballet performed, and while this is not something we do every year, Derek did take me to see it in New York City one year, and this weekend Adelaide and I will be driving down to Kansas City to see it there (Yaaaaaay!).

2.  Candlelight services.  I don't really think there's anything better than standing in a darkened church lit only by candles, singing Christmas hymns.  I really wish our church did this.

1. This one isn't really Christmas-related, but right now it's my very favorite:  The lurching, halting, unsteady gait of a baby learning to walk.  Caedmon has been walking for several weeks now, but it's only in the past week or two that he's really started using it as his primary means of locomotion.  When I catch sight of that high-stepping stride unique to toddlers that he uses, I find myself stopping whatever I'm doing just to watch him waddle around.  It is so ridiculously cute.  I love to watch him stop at the threshold to a room, where the flooring changes, and ready himself to pass the imaginary precipice.  I love to watch the sheer joy on his face  from something as simple as walking.  He loves it, I love it.  My favorite thing.

This also means he no longer stands still long enough for me to get a good picture.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Farewell, Fall

Cooler temperatures have recently blown into central Iowa.  This morning when Adelaide left for school it was 29 degrees out, which I know will feel downright tropical come January, but for now feels pretty chilly.

These more winter-like conditions, plus the fact that we only have two more days in November make me feel like Autumn is over.  How about a photo recap?

We continued to go for lots of walks throughout most of the Fall.

Atticus likes to pull the wagon, which makes me look like a really lazy mom straggling behind the wagon, forcing her children to do all the work.  I'm okay with that.

We continued to water our mums, hardy pansies, and tulip and hyacinth bulbs.

Caedmon was really helpful.

We went to the apple orchard/ pumpkin patch.  We got zero apples and zero pumpkins.

But we did play in the corn pool!  After all, this is Iowa.

What's that?  You've never been in a corn pool?  It's basically a giant pool... of corn.

Aren't you glad I'm here to explain these things to you?

Atticus showed Mark how to make it rain corn...

Then Mark showed Atticus how to make it pour.

Mark and Atticus also sped down the giant slide.

It really is huge, and somehow the burlap sacks you slide down on make it very, very fast.

No, really.


...bottom.  Big.

We also jumped around on the big bouncing pad, saw a bunch of farm animals, and went on a hay rack ride that busy day at the orchard.  In the following weeks we kept finding corn in our clothing and coats.  When I washed the clothes the boys had worn that day, I opened the dryer and a cataract of corn came spilling out onto my feet.  I still find kernels at odd places around the house.

A few days after that trip we celebrated Halloween.

I feel like my kids are at a perfect age to go trick-or-treating:  They aren't old enough to start whining about going without Mom and Dad, and I can still basically make them wear whatever I want, like cute and fluffy chicken costumes that make our youngest boy look like a girl.

The beginning of October was unseasonably warm, and we took advantage of it by spending lots of time outside.

A month later it was no longer quite so warm, and while the kiddos still wanted to play outside, I retreated indoors.

Of course, fall brought with it football season.  It will continue through part of winter.  I will not exactly be devastated when it is over, although Derek has mellowed quite a bit, on the outside, at least.

I have this wild and crazy notion that our sweet, sweet Spudley might have something to do with that.

Here's hoping everyone had a magnificent Fall, a terrific Thanksgiving, and a better football season than we have.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Books vs Movies

Derek and I watched the final Harry Potter movie last night.  I appreciated how close certain scenes were to those in the book, and I loved the emotional energy the music added.  Overall, I was less disappointed than I expected to be.

You do not want to watch a movie based on a book with me.  I am annoying in the extreme.

To me, watching the film-version of a novel is like listening to a young piano student stumble their way through Beethoven.  You may be able to recognize the familiar strains and hear the potential for beautiful music, but it's nothing compared to listening to a piano virtuoso finesse and lead you through the wonder of a sonata.  There is a richness and depth to a book that is conspicuously absent from their film adaptations.  I watch a movie after reading the book and wonder, Where is the subtlety?  Where is the nuance?  Must everything be so patently obvious?

I realize that not all movies are like this.  The well-known problem is, when adapting a book into it's movie-version, you have to cut a ton of details, large and small, from the story, lest you create a 72-hour film (which I would prefer, but might not make a lot of money- not that movie studios are in it for the money or anything; I'm well aware those Hollywood types would prefer to be non-profit).  And every once in a while, you'll find that rare gem:  a movie as good as it's book.  Like To Kill A Mockingbird, for example.  Maybe The Princess Bride.  And... um... I can't think of any others.

Part of (fine, maybe most) of the fault is my own.  I nearly always read the book before the movie comes out.  It is way easier to listen to the seven-year-old stumble their way through Moonlight Sonata (Charming, you think, this really has the potential to be beautiful.  'A' for effort.) and then listen to the virtuoso play the same piece (Wow!  So that's how it's done), than the other way around.  You can't listen to the professional musician first and then the novice hacking away at the keyboard; it's likewise very difficult to read the book, then watch the movie.  It will never measure up.

One of my favorite authors is Dean Koontz.  I absolutely love his Odd Thomas series of books.  I recently found out they are being made into a movie.

I am terrified.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Dictionary Entry


i·ro·ny, noun:  watching The Biggest Loser and shaking my head in disbelief at the lack of willpower of the contestants.

While stuffing my face with Oreos.

Right after recovering from an exercise-induced asthma attack.

(See also: hypocritical)

Sunday, November 20, 2011

My Husband Has An Awesome Wife

(And if that title seems disgustingly self-congratulatory, it's only because it is.)

I am a practical gift-giver.  I like to give gifts that are practical.

I don't know whether I can blame it on Nature or Nurture, but I'm pretty sure it somehow all stems from my mom.  I can't remember how many times I watched my mother wrap a first-aid kit or a fire extinguisher as a wedding gift.  And really, who wouldn't want to receive those things as gifts?  I'm sure many a happy couple thought fondly of my mom when they were bleeding or their kitchen caught on fire (both events that probably happen quite a bit in those first turbulent years of marriage).

I've never really thought of this as a negative attribute, until I started reflecting upon the gifts I've received from Derek over the life of our relationship.  They make my practical gifts seem kind of... lame.

Like the time, one wedding anniversary, Derek got me an early edition hardcover of To Kill A Mockingbird, one of my very favorite books.

Or one year on my birthday when he arranged for his sister and her husband to drive down from Maine to watch Adelaide so that we could drive from our then-home in Connecticut into Manhattan to eat supper and attend a performance of George Balanchine's The Nutcracker by the New York City Ballet.

Or a few years before that when he flew in from Connecticut on my birthday, surprising me on my doorstep in Kansas... and proposing.

Do you know what one of the first gifts was that I gave to him in college?  A water pitcher with an attached filter.  See, the water in our college town is universally known as being kind of disgusting, so in my mind, I was giving him the gift of clean, delicious, refreshing water, right in his dorm.

I realize that even with that justification, a water pitcher doesn't hold a candle to a beloved book, the New York City Ballet, or a marriage proposal.

This year, I set out to break my streak of sub-par gifts.

See, Derek turned 30 last year, and I really didn't do anything special.  In my defense, I was still pretty overwhelmed from having Caedmon and the whole I-have-three-children-under-the-age-of-five thing.

I knew that I had to make up for it this year.  Although Derek's birthday isn't until next month, I surprised Derek this past weekend.

One of Derek's favorite bands is Jars of Clay.  He's been listening to them since they formed 17 years ago, and has seen them in concert a couple times before- but he's never actually met them.

That's Derek, me, and the four members of Jars of Clay.  And if you don't think this picture isn't going on our Christmas card, you don't know the Crislers.

Yup, we were fortunate enough to be part of a small audience (think around 30 people) that got to stand about two feet away from the band, requesting and listening to them play several of their songs, asking questions, talking to them, getting autographed CD's, and taking pictures with them.  They were very funny, very approachable, and very talented.  It was so great.

I still can't promise I won't be giving towels and measuring spoons as gifts.

Note:  I alone am not responsible for this weekend- that would be impossible.  I would like to thank Derek's parents (over and over and over again), who drove several hours to Kansas City to stay in a hotel with our children while we attended the concert.  Ben, the Visual Arts Leader at our church, also helped by switching things around to ensure that Derek did not have video ministry responsibilities Sunday morning.

Jars of Clay also played a smallish part, for which we are thankful.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

What I've Learned From Our Satellite Provider's Traditional Christmas Music Channel

1.  There's a reason Perry Como, Bing Crosby, Lena Horne, and Ella Fitzgerald are classic favorites:  They're the best.

2.  Listening to Julie Andrews is like having both Mary Poppins and Fräulein Maria singing Christmas music to me.  It's awesome.

3.  Hearing Handel's Messiah sung by Neil Diamond makes me want to take an ice pick to my ears.  (Where does Neil Diamond fit into "Traditional Christmas" music anyway?)

4.  Jo Stafford's "By The Fireside" is my new favorite song and new favorite singer.  I am obsessed.

7.  Margaret Whiting is another new-found favorite.

8.  While listening to "Baby It's Cold Outside" as sung by Dean Martin and Doris Day is enjoyable (as long as you don't pay too much attention to the lyrics), hearing it sung by Tom Jones and Cerys Matthews makes me feel indecent and want to pick the bloody ice pick back up to have another go at my eardrums.

9.  Nat King Cole always has been and will forever be my favorite.

Note:   I know, I know, it's not even Thanksgiving and I'm already listening to Christmas music.  I made it all the way to November 10th before turning it on this year, and even that is a minor miracle.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Jacque and Gus

I had vague thoughts about writing a post for today about the end of fall.

Then I opened my pantry and discovered mouse droppings.  This chased any change-of-season thoughts right out of my head.  Now that we've joined the hordes of people with mouse problems (and by hordes I mean my sister and a friend of mine), I feel compelled to write about these little unwanted guests (lucky you).

So far, I have yet to encounter a live mouse this year.  I've only seen evidence of their presence (the droppings, the corner of a hot cocoa packet gnawed through- and I swear that wasn't me).  I consider myself fortunate in this way, because two years ago the situation was very different.

Derek and I had begun to notice a foul odor about our house, especially downstairs.  We couldn't pinpoint the source of the smell, but it seemed to come from the area right around the fridge and pantry.  I scrubbed out the fridge, then decided that must have been the culprit; the smell seemed to be gone.  Two days later, the stench was worse than ever, but I had already cleaned out the fridge and emptied most of the pantry.  Finally, I moved a sack of potatoes on the bottom shelf in the pantry, and there it was:  A dead mouse.  But not just any dead mouse, oh no.  By some amazing and unfortunate coincidence, the corn syrup had tipped onto it's side, leaked out, and onto the deceased mouse.  So I couldn't just take 50 or so grocery sacks, pick it up, and throw it away that way; I instead had to scrape and chisel that thing off the laminate floor.  Normally I just save the disgusting chores for Derek, but I couldn't live with the thought of that thing decomposing all day while he was at work. It took forever, and the whole experience was exacerbated by the fact that I was pregnant with Caedmon, so my gag reflex was extra-sensitive.

Three-year-old Adelaide had to weigh in with her opinion on the matter.  As I was scraping and retching in the pantry, she voiced concerns over the poor dead mouse; after all, the mice on Cinderella were nice.  I informed my daughter that animated creatures that hand-make (paw-make?) clothing for you = good, while sticky, disease-infested rodents= bad, and I had yet to find any new dresses in my wardrobe.

We had one other mouse that winter, caught in a trap, and since then haven't had any problems- until yesterday.  Still, as long as I don't find anything dead coated in sugar, I'm not going to worry.

Now who wants to eat at our house for Thanksgiving?

Sunday, November 13, 2011


"I don't think that's right, Mommy."

"Trust me, it's right."

"No, you're actually wrong."

"I'm actually right, Adelaide."

"I'm afraid you're mistaken.  I KNOW that you are wrong."

"Adelaide.  You have been on this earth for all of five years.  I've been here for nearly three decades.  I think I know what I'm talking about."

(sing-songy) "No, you don't."

At this point in our daily conversation/argument I start grinding my teeth and remind myself that I am the adult here.  I do not need to allow myself to get sucked into these pointless debates over where Laura Ingalls Wilder was born, the best way to sew a simple skirt, or if the carton contains butter or margarine.

This works for close to five seconds, then I get frustrated because I have yet again allowed myself to become distracted from our original plan of reading a book together or cooking supper.  I then remind Adelaide that it does not do well to focus on the minutiae of our lives; we should be concentrating on a much bigger goal.  Oh, and by the way, I'm still right.

At some point after these interactions, my words turn inward and I mentally wince for scolding Adelaide because she sometimes does what I do all the time:  Get hung up on the little things, to the point that I miss the big picture.  In my case, the catalyst is grammar.

First, let me say that I'm not bad about this in everyday conversation with other people.  If they misuse/mispronounce/make up a nonsensical word, my brain might stutter momentarily, but I am able to move on almost immediately.

The problem is more when I am listening to a teacher.  This was a problem at times in school (depending on the teacher), but as I am no longer a student, I now generally find it happening at church.

So here's where I get hung up.: The pastor (and we are blessed with three terrific ones at our church) is talking, teaching, things are going swimmingly, but then something happens.  Yesterday, he said the word, "Fictitional."  My mind didn't so much stumble as come to an abrupt and screeching halt.  It's no wonder, what with all the screaming going on in my head:  Fictitional?  FICTITIONAL?  That's not a word!  He must have meant 'fictitious.'  Right?  He did mean 'fictitious,' didn't he?  I mean, that's the only word that could appropriately fit the context here.  He must have meant 'fictitious.'

Now, while my head is reverberating with all these thoughts, the sermon has gone on.  I surface some ten seconds later, concentration broken, lost.

I can't tell you how many times this has happened to me.

Did he just say "crisises"? The plural of 'crisis' is 'crises'!      

 Um, no.  Did he just pronounce that name "DOO-muss"?  Is he seriously talking about Alexandre Dumas, author of one of my very favorite books ever, and he pronounces it "DOO-muss"?  Say it with me people:  'Doo-MAH'!   It's freaking French!

Then I have the audacity to lecture Adelaide on the same transgression of which I am guilty:  hyper-focusing on things that honestly, don't really matter.  Who cares if the pastor can't pronounce the name of some long-dead French author (except for me, obviously).  Who cares if he can't convert singular nouns to plural?  Who cares if he completely makes up new words?  If anything, he should be getting points for creativity!

This is what I've started telling myself when my mind starts sprinting off on those unproductive grammar-Nazi tangents.

I almost believe it.

Friday, November 11, 2011

It's Veterans Day

To honor Veterans Day, I'm going to offer a link and encourage you to check it out.

Every so often The Pioneer Woman does assignments on the Photography section of her website.  One of my favorites was called "Coming Home," and featured photos sent in from various photographers whose subjects were soldiers.

"Coming Home"

If you're anything like me, you're going to want to go ahead and grab a Kleenex before viewing these.  Or ten.

You know what?  Just go ahead and grab the whole box, and drag the trashcan over by you so you don't end up with a pile of snotty tissue next to you when you're done.

Kitchen Tip

We here at The Crislers love to save money.  I appreciate a good money-saving tip, and I came across one we have consistently used for about the past six months.

See those tall green spears in the Ball jar?  (Not the red pot- that contains aloe vera, which we chop off to slather on burns- another money saver!)

Those are green onions.  It turns out, after you buy a bunch at the grocery store and have chopped off all the green part of the onion, all you have to do is fill a jar with water, stick what's left in, and they re-grow like crazy.  I had these all cut down to the white part about six days ago, and nearly a week later, they've nearly grown back up to their original height.

I would recommend you change out the water every few days, and you'll need to trim the roots every couple weeks, lest they get all slimy and gross.

Unless you're a super-enthusiastic green onion lover, this may not save you a fortune, but every little bit helps, right?


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Toy Story

It snowed last night.  After Atticus finished romping in the scant two inches we received, he came inside, and I decided it was time to sort through our toy boxes.

In each of the two bedrooms belonging to our children, there is a toy box.  They are both filled to the brim with toys.  Every so often, I like to dig through them, throwing away Barbie legs and Q-tips, trying to find all the pieces to stuff back into Mrs. Potato Head, and generally sorting and organizing.

Usually, after about a half hour of this, I realize we have eight rubber duckies, two bajillion Barbie shoes, and my kids don't even play with half the crap in there.  I get frustrated and start making illogical proclamations at the top of my lungs like, "I will NEVER allow another new toy in this house!" and "THAT'S IT!  Say good-bye to your toys, children, they're all going to Goodwill tomorrow!"

Then my kids start crying and I feel bad for ten whole seconds, but remember that honestly, I make them cry almost every day by making them do outrageous things like bathe and wash their hands and help unload the dishwasher.

So what do we do?  I can count on one hand the number of toys we ourselves have bought for our children.  They don't even seem to be aware there's a toy aisle at Wal-mart.  Do we ask those pesky, loving relatives of ours to stop being so generous toward our offspring?  Haul away all their toys and make them hate us forever?

Well, in the past year, I have instituted a new system.  It's appears to be a popular one, especially amongst my fellow parents who don't have unlimited space in their house for toys or have entire wings of their homes devoted to playrooms.  About every six months or so, I pack up half the kids' toys, put them in a giant plastic container, and shove it in the closet.  When six months have gone by, I haul out the bin, switch the toys in the toy boxes for those in the container, and put it away again.

Our kids love toy-switching day.  It's like Christmas for them; there's lots of gasping and pleased exclamations over toys they had completely forgotten we own.  This seems to make up for me taking away the other half; they're so excited to get the hidden half out that they don't mind when I snatch beloved playthings out of their hot little hands.

This seems to be a solution that works for our family, and I've been enormously pleased with it.

But I still refuse to lift the stuffed animal ban.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Dictionary Entry


i·ro·ny, noun:  refusing to put any of the drinking glasses we received as wedding gifts in the dishwasher, claiming they're too fragile; instead, coming to realize seven and a half years later that, due to extreme clumsiness and poor depth-perception, I have broken all but two of the large set we registered for while hand-washing them.

(See also:  shattered glass cake stand cover, glass pitcher, wine glasses, glass drink dispenser, etc, etc...)

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Extreme Makeover: Home Edition

My mom and her two sisters are crafty.

By "crafty," I don't mean rubbing their hands together and cackling while plotting someone's demise (actually, I can totally see them doing that).  What I really mean is they enjoy making crafts.  They quilt, knit, crochet, sew, cross-stitch, and have no remaining fingerprints from years and years of wielding a hot glue gun (which is a plus when it comes to the other kind of craftiness).

They recently started a blog together, Confessions of Three Former 4-Hers.  They write about the various projects they're undertaking.  Between the three of them, I don't think they'll ever run out of material.

My two aunts live near Joplin, Missouri, which you may remember was hit by a devastating EF-5 tornado last spring.  A whole lot of people lost everything, including, of course, their homes... which is where the show Extreme Makeover: Home Edition comes into the picture.

This television show (you know, the one who's host is Ty Pennington, who could be a  posterchild for ADHD?) recently came into Joplin and completed 7 Homes in 7 Days for an episode that will air sometime in January.  I've watched the show before, and seen all the volunteers hammering and sawing and moving furniture... but I never really gave much thought to all the sewing that would need to be done for a brand-new home with brand-new furnishings.  I guess I just assumed they bought all their pillows, curtains, etc, ready-made.

Apparently, I was wrong.

These two aunts of mine have recently donated a considerable amount of time and labor to this show and the homes they were creating.  They were part of a team of sewers who made everything from quilts and curtains to pillows and duvets.

Oh, and they've been blogging about it the whole time.

It's been really interesting to read about the other side of the show, more of a behind-the-scenes look at all that goes into the creation of these houses.

You can check it out, too, either by clicking on the link I provided above, or by going down to the bottom left corner of this page and clicking on Confessions of Three Former 4-Hers under Blogs We Read. If you scroll down on their blog, you can read the posts in order, starting with the post "Kay and Sherry's Incredible Adventure."

Happy Reading!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Have You Ever Played This Game?

You know, the one where you see a super-close-up shot of an object, and you have to guess what it is?

Yes?  No?  Well, either way, that's what we're going to be playing today.  Get your game faces on!

Last week, I entered a little online contest.  I'm one of those people who never wins anything, unless it's one of those contests where everybody wins.  Because I've never really won anything, I keep entering, thinking that statistically speaking, it's going to happen one of these days:  I'm going to win.

Well, last week, I finally won something.

So yesterday morning, the boys and I came home from a friend's house, and this was waiting on our front porch.  My prize!  I squealed in delight, then heaved it inside.

Go ahead and make an early-stage guess.

How about now?

Any guesses?

I'll give you a hint:  It's red, and it's shiny, and it's beautiful.

I'm sure by now you've guessed what it is...

That's right:  A Kitchenaid Mixer!

One of the blogs I read on a regular basis is Confections of a Foodie Bride.  It's a blog that features delicious recipes and lovely food photography, and they also have giveaways every so often.  I entered the most recent one.  There were nearly 1300 entries.

And we WON!  

Thank you, thank you, thank you to Shawnda, the Foodie Bride!

Oh, and by the way, you should check out her...

Homemade Pumpkin Spice Latte

Pepperoni Pizza Monkey Bread

Chocolate-Covered Cherry Cupcakes

...just to name a few of the delicious creations that have come of her kitchen.

You can also always find her link down on the bottom left of this page under Blogs We Read.


Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Positives and Negatives

I love a good Positive and Negative list.  Here's one applied to our kids' Halloween costumes.


Costume:  Clown


  • It didn't take long to prepare: We used the make-up from last year's tiger costume, and spent about fifteen minutes applying it to her face.  
  • Inexpensive:  We already had the makeup, and she was able to wear regular, cold weather clothing trick-or-treating.
  • She loved all the colors.
  • The strength of her costume relied solely on her makeup, since she didn't wear actual clown clothing.  I'm going to go ahead and spin this into a positive, by pointing out that I don't think it's a negative thing to teach her to direct all attention to her face, especially when I see more and more young ladies treating Halloween as Dress-Up-As-A-Tramp Day (and by Tramp I do not mean the lovable Disney pooch from the wrong side of the tracks).
  • She couldn't wear it to school, because they weren't allowed to wear their costumes all day, they had to instead bring it with them to change into in the afternoon for their parade down Main Street.  Instead, she wore a little apron, matching chef's hat, carried her kids' cookbook and a small whisk, all of which we already owned.  To turn another negative into a positive (an annoying habit of mine), she actually got two costumes this Halloween, and two is better than one, right?
  • I tried to get her to let me paint her up as an Emmett Kelly-style hobo clown, but she wasn't having it.


Costume:  Chicken

  • He was so freaking cute.
  • It kept him really warm.
  • It slid right on over a onesie, and I got to hear Derek say things like, "Your mother did this to you, not me," as he put it on Spud.
  • We got to hear all kinds of other people coo and "Awww!" over him.
  • I got it for $3 at a garage sale.
  • We were told over and over that "She is just so cute in that chicken costume!"


Costume:  Fireman

  • It was easy: a raincoat and firefighter's hat.
  • It was inexpensive: the raincoat was mine in Kindergarten and Adelaide got the hat a couple weeks ago on a field trip to the Slater Fire Department.
  • It was warm.
  • It's the same costume he wore last year.  He was going to be something else, but I couldn't find this jacket of his that I needed to make it.  I'll probably find it tomorrow and be mad.
  • The hat was too small for his gigantic head and kept falling off.

Overall, the night was one great big Positive:  we had a great time, and the kids were really tired by the time we got home and went straight to bed.

I hope everyone else had a safe and happy Halloween.