Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Happiest Baby on the Block

Caedmon is a happy baby. 

He smiles a lot.  He giggles when you tickle him and play certain games like peek-a-boo.  He's quite easy to please. 

This week, however, he has taken his happy baby-ness to a new level.  He smiles all the time.  He laughs easily.  He smothers Derek and I with nine-month-old-baby-boy affection. 

You see, last Friday Atticus and Adelaide left to spend a week with Derek's parents.  So while A & A are having the time of their lives at Grandma and Papa's house, Caedmon is here with us, experiencing the joy of single childhood.

No one has stepped on him in a week.

No one has bitten his face.

No one has sat on him.

No one has grabbed his foot to keep him from crawling away and escaping whatever torment he's currently enduring.

 And so as much as I'm looking forward to reuniting our little family this weekend, I do feel kind of bad for our Spud. 

As always, I'll do my best to shield him from the random violence and over-affection his older siblings bestow upon him, and when I fail, just tell myself that he'll be the toughest kid in preschool.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Sunflower State

When I first moved to Connecticut, the people I met had all kinds of questions about my home state.  None had ever been to Kansas- surprise, surprise- so I became their primary reference guide.  Over time, I discovered that their questions could be grouped into four main categories:  Geographical, Agricultural, Tornadic, and Other.  While I certainly didn't mind- in fact, often welcomed- queries about my upbringing in the midwest, after a while I did get tired of being asked whether or not I had ever milked a cow.  Here's a little taste of what I was often asked.

  • Kansas- that's one of those states in the middle, right?
  • Hmmm, Kansas- that's one of those square states, right?
  • Did you grow up on a farm?
  • Have you ever milked a cow?
  • Have you ever touched a cow?
  • Have you ever touched a pig?
  • Have you ever touched a chicken?  I mean a live one?
  • Have you ever ridden a horse?
  • Do you know any cowboys?
  • Wait, what did you say?  What's 4-H?
  • Have you ever ridden on a tractor?
  • Have you ever seen a tornado?
  • What's it look like?
  • What's it sound like?
  • I heard that the sky can be completely clear and blue and a tornado can just come right down without warning.  Is that true?
  • How can you live in a place that has things like tornadoes?
  • Do you like "The Wizard of Oz?"
  • Isn't Kansas, like... kind of claustrophic?
I only received that last question once, and was completely bewildered by it, until my co-worker explained that he would feel claustrophic if he ever lived in a place so far from any open ocean.  I told him that Connecticut, with all it's trees and high population density felt far more claustrophic to me than my wide-open-spaces home. 

I have to say that I probably received more tornado questions than any other, closely followed by those in the Agricultural category.  One of my favorites is one that was actually posed to Derek.  A man asked Derek where he was from, and when he responded, "Iowa," the man followed up by asking, "So, you get a lot of hurricanes out there?"

Derek paused, then clarified, "Hurricanes?" 

The man missed his chance to correct his gaffe when he said, "Yeah, hurricanes."

"Nope, we don't really get any hurricanes in Iowa."  I think it showed great restraint on Derek's part for not giving any number of smart-aleck remarks that had to have come to mind.

Friday, June 24, 2011

We Love Michael Buble

And I don't care who knows it.

I also don't care that this probably puts us firmly in the category labeled "squares." 

I further don't care that the very fact that I use the term "squares" means I'm a double-square. (Ooohhh, man, I'm a square squared.  Get it?  Square to the power of two?  Anyone?  Anyone?)

Just about seven years ago, shortly after moving to Connecticut, I discovered the music of Michael Buble.  I shared this discovery with Derek, and he liked it, too.  This was a good thing because we don't always have the same musical taste.  Aside from his talent, I like the music of Buble because it exposes a new audience to a variety of artists.  In the space of a few albums he has covered everyone from Van Morrison to the Carpenters to Elvis Presley to Ray Charles.  This, to my mind, is a good thing.  Plus it makes me want to go and listen to the originals, which is also a good thing.  Lots of goodness here, people. 

Our first MB concert was in Connecticut, and while I had enjoyed his albums, I wasn't really looking forward to the live experience.  I just assumed it was going to be a kind of lounge act where some Canadian dude crooned a bunch of standards.  I was wrong.  He is a marvelous entertainer, one both Derek and I enjoyed, and seriously funny.  No polite smiles or awkward fake laughter needed.

Since then, we've wanted to see him live again, and we got the chance last night.  Along with some dear friends (and thanks to Derek's mom who watched the little darlin's for us), we went to see Buble perform in Des Moines, and he was just as good as we remembered.  His set, lights, etc, were all a bit bigger than they had been the first time we saw him, but then, he's moved up in the world.  We had floor seats toward the back (which means short little me watched him on the giant screens for much of the time), until he made his way back to a smaller stage right by us and performed a few songs there.  It was fun to watch him sing up close.  He was impressive.  And sweaty.  I guess that's what you get for wearing a full suit under blazing-hot lights with lots and lots of hopeful women pressing in to get as close to you as possible.  Like they had a chance- his wife was in a little crow's nest right there next to us.  She was blonde and pretty, and did a pretty good job of acting not-bored despite the fact that I'm guessing that's the bazillionth time she's seen that particular show. 

Our friends who went with us- Buble neophytes- also enjoyed the show.  I think I speak for everyone when I say we can't wait to go see him again.

Even if it does mean we're squares.

Note:  Yet again I can't figure out how to add an accent over letters, and it is driving me CRAZY.  Buble is supposed to have an accent over the 'e'.  (Say: Boob- Lay)  If you are more tech-savvy than I am (and it doesn't take much), please help me.  Today. 

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Crisler Life

When I talk to someone on the phone that I haven't seen in a while, at some point the following questions are always asked:

"How are the kids?  How is Adelaide?  How is Atticus?  How's Caedmon?"

Our children are young enough that they do change a lot from week to week; however, I still don't often know how to answer this.  Our lives just aren't that exciting. 

"Well," I often begin, "let's see.  Adelaide has started reading.  So that's, um, good.  Atticus is... Atticus.  He likes music.  And being rough with Caedmon.  And playing outside.  Caedmon babbles a lot, and crawls, and... stuff." 

Riveting, I know.  At this point I'm usually tempted to exaggerate a teensy bit, but I'm afraid it would be a little obvious.  "Adelaide is reading and has started speaking Mandarin and Atticus likes to destroy everything and volunteers ten hours a week at the nursing home and Caedmon is pulling up and is learning baby sign language."  I don't do this because, well, it's just not true.

This is the ugly truth.

Adelaide likes to put on her play make-up most days.

She feels no need to look in the mirror while doing so.

When we're at home, Atticus is generally fun and happy.

When we go out in public, he appears sullen and stares at everyone distrustfully, especially if Derek isn't there.

Caedmon is at that stage where I can haul him out and make him do fun tricks, like crawling, babbling, and pulling up to various items of furniture.

He also likes to pull himself up to the trash can, grab ahold of the sack, and pull the whole can onto it's side, so that he can take the lid off, rifle through the contents, and scavenge for scraps of food.  Thankfully the only thing I've found him with so far is an almost-empty jar of peanut butter.

The Crisler life is so glamorous.

Saturday, June 18, 2011


The other day, I picked up a book to read.  This is not unusual behavior on my part. 

Adelaide settled in next to me and stared at the pages of my book.  This is not unusual behavior on her part.

I read for about a minute.  Then Adelaide pointed at the book and asked, "Does that say 'so'?" 


"Does that say 'the'?"


"Does that say 'look'?"


"Does that say 'over'?"

And on and on it went.  "Does that say 'bad, even, do, for, of, met, you, to, if, go, from, she, love'?"

I silently kept count in my head, and when we hit word number 35, I started laughing.  Adelaide paused, joined in for a few seconds, then asked, "Why are we laughing?" 

I took a moment to gather my thoughts.  Just to say, "Because I'm happy," would have been accurate, but not really the whole truth.  Sometimes when something new and amazing comes along, I just can't help but laugh.  When I was pregnant with Adelaide and felt her move for the first time, I stopped what I was doing and laughed and laughed, full of the wonder of it all.  When Atticus first said, "Mama," the joy seemed to bubble up out of me in the form of a laugh.  And that's what happens when I see Adelaide reading.  It seems to come so easily to her, and to see her enjoying and catching on so fast to something that I love, it's wonderful.  And, apparently, laughable. 

I tried to explain all this to Adelaide, then apologized in advance for being the mother that, instead of crying at her wedding and graduations, will likely be laughing like a loon, making a complete spectacle of myself.  She accepted my apology with the caveat that I not be too loud so as not to embarass her.  "Fat chance," I thought, but instead meekly said, "I'll try, honey." 

And now, for the non sequitur of the week, here is Caedmon.

We spend our mornings playing at home, walking around town, visiting the library and the playground.  By lunchtime most days, the poor little guy is plum tuckered.

He usually falls asleep over his sweet potatoes and Crispy Oats (that's Aldi-speak for Cheerios).
He takes a nap, wakes up, and we do it all over again. 

I love summer.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Pride Goeth Before A Fall

Do you struggle with pride? 

Let me lend Adelaide to you for a day.  She'll clear that right up.

A few days ago, I decided to change before Derek got home.  I had been wearing ratty old clothes for most of the day, but decided my husband didn't need to be greeted by that depressing sight when coming home from work.  I came down the stairs in my fresh clothing, only to be greeted by Adelaide, who cocked her head and looked at me critically.

"Did you change your clothes for Daddy?"


Her expression changed to one of confusion.  "Do you want him to think you look handsome?"

"No, handsome wasn't exactly what I was going for..."

"Then why are you wearing brown?  It doesn't look very nice."

I tried to keep in mind that her current idea of "looking nice" includes lots of rhinestones, hooker heels, and pink. 

Then just yesterday, she was asking how everyone around the world came to speak different languages.  We got into a discussion about the Biblical tower of Babel and God changing a common language into many to confuse the people.  One of the nice things about Adelaide is that she listens intently, then shows that she has been paying attention by asking (about a million) questions.  I braced myself for the usual onslaught, of which the first was, "What did the tower of Babel look like?" 

I replied,  "Well, I don't really know, let's look in the Bible and see what it says-"
"No, no," she interrupted.  "I mean did you see it?  Were you alive when that Bible story happened?"

It's a good thing I've never been particularly senstive about my age and getting older.  It's also a good thing I have Atticus to say things like, "Dat's purdy, Mommy," no matter what I'm wearing.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Music To My Ears

A couple months ago, I was listening to Atticus run through his nightly musical repertoire.  First the ABC's, followed by Jesus Loves Me, concluded by the Itsby Bitsy Spider.  As I listened to his little two-year-old-boy voice, I thought to myself, I should record this.  It's just so sweet, and one of those things I'll probably have forgotten about in a year.

Well, I didn't record it.  Now I'm kicking myself, because he sings those preschool songs in a much different way, just two months later. 

He's transformed the ABC's into a stylized, syncopated version of itself.  I'm sure if he could snap, he'd be busy keeping time with his fingers. 

"A-B/ C-D/E-F-G/pause/ H-I/ J-K/ L-M-N-O-P..."

You get the idea. 

If it weren't for the lyrics, I wouldn't recognize Jesus Loves Me.  It resembles nothing else so much as Alien Ant Farm's cover of Smooth Criminal by Michael Jackson.  Where before there was sweet melody, a slick white suit, and awesome choreography, (or maybe just the melody part) there is now only aggressive chanting.  It sounds like Atticus is just waiting for someone to try and suggest that No, Jesus does not love him.

The Itsby Bitsy Spider is the song that is the most unchanged.  He's so busy trying to get all the hand movements down and laughing hysterically when he knocks himself over with the force of his movement at "wash the spider out," that he doesn't concentrate too much on altering the tune.  He contents himself with singing it in his best and deepest love-child-of-James-Earl-Jones-and-Lauren-Bacall voice.  He can get pretty low.  If you've ever heard Derek speak, you know why.  And I haven't been a soprano since the 6th grade, when Mrs. Martin instructed me to go to the opposite end of the room in Walnut Valley Youth Choir.

Adelaide usually joins in when Atticus veers off the musical beaten path.  Unless he tries to mess with Switchfoot or a Disney song- some things are just sacred.

Monday, June 13, 2011


This is my vegetable garden.

It's not particularly big.  It's not particularly grand. But it is the equivalent of a backyard Leavenworth Maximum Security Prison.

Two- at certain places three- layers of fencing that is buried several inches underground.  Four feet high.  All I need is some razor wire along the top. 

The reason for all these vegetable-protecting security measures are those evil little vermin that scurry around our backyard, eating my flowers and vegetables, pooping all over the pristine snow in the winter. 

Since moving to Iowa, the Eastern Cottontail Rabbit has become my top adversary.  My first summer here, they ate my sunflowers, my pumpkins, and my beloved black-seeded lettuce.  I began staring out the back windows, muttering about those pagan rabbits and twitching every time I saw movement in the grass.  I solicited advice from family and friends- they recommended getting a dog, getting a gun, and setting out cat food with crushed ibuprofin mixed in to poison them. 

I started to think I may not have the most compassionate family and friends.  I am okay with that.

As I wasn't exactly subtle about my dislike of these backyard invaders, it didn't take long for Adelaide to catch on to my distaste.  I thought nothing of it until we saw a crushed rabbit on the street in front of our house, and rather than saying "Awww," or "Poor little rabbit," as I might expect a little girl her age to do, she did a fist pump and yelled, "Yesssss!" at the sight of the flattened gore. 

I tried to explain to her that I don't hate rabbits, and although I don't like having them in their yard, I don't mind rabbits in general.  She didn't seem to believe me, and now I'm starting to worry I've warped her little five-year-old brain.  As a result I've been spending an inordinate amount of time catching toads, earthworms, and other small animals, letting her and Atticus touch them and hold them, and talking about how God loves all his creatures. 

As a result, she now likes toads, frogs, earthworms, roly polies, and caterpillars- but still encourages neighborhood cats to slip through our back fence and "eat all the baby rabbits you want!" 

I would feel bad, but... I really don't like those rabbits.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011


If it were up to Atticus, we would spend every waking moment of every day walking. 

Correction:  I would spend every moment of every day walking while pulling him behind me in the wagon.

As it is, we usually take two walks a day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon.  I try to make each one last at least thirty minutes.  Atticus usually spends that time looking around and being unusually quiet.  Caedmon is generally good, unless the walks stretch too long or we're in the sun a lot.  Adelaide likes the first ten minutes, then starts whining because I've made her walk and it's just not fair that her brothers get to ride in the fun wagon and she has to waaaaaalk. 

She usually stretches that last waaalk into at least four whiney syllables.  I could take our Sit'n Stand stroller and she could stand, but I like for her to get the exercise.  Plus that stroller gets really heavy when all three kids are in it. 

It's been pretty warm here lately, so it's nice to get out of our non-air-conditioned-heat-sauna house and enjoy the breeze.  Yesterday when I checked the weather online, I saw that it was 90 degrees outside here, but stopped feeling sorry for myself when I saw that it was 103 back in my hometown. 

I'm not sure how long it will take for Atticus to turn his love of going for walks into something to fear. 

Last week, I heard Atticus crying about an hour after Derek and I had put the kids to bed.  I marched up the stairs, opened the kids' bedroom door, and asked, "Atticus, why are you crying?"  He tearfully replied, "There's a m-m-m-m-" 

Here we go, I thought.  Another monster in the closet.

 "-m-m-m-marching band in the closet!"

"There's a marching band in the closet?"

"Yeah.  A scary marching band.  It scared me."

"A scary marching band scared you?"


"Which closet is it in?"

He stretched out a shaky finger and pointed.  "That one."

During the last few weeks of the school year, in April and May, many mornings the kiddos and I would hear distant drumming.  It would get louder and louder, and Atticus and Adelaide would race down the stairs and onto the back deck to watch our local high school marching band as they walked past.  Adelaide would jump up and down, laughing, and Atticus would stare at them owlishly.  Marching bands began to crop up in their imaginary games throughout the day, and Atticus's new favorite book became My Crayons Talk, which features a "Grand, marching band!" 

So now, Atticus likes marching bands in the daytime and fears them at night.  I open doors to show him there are none hiding in his closets, nor are there any nefarious jazz bands or sinister string quartets. 

When I try to ask him about it during the day, he says robustly, "Marching bands don't scare me.  I not scared of marching bands."  And I say, "Good for you, bud.  You're such a brave boy."

Then I wonder what will lurk in their closet next.  An evil wagon, perhaps?

Monday, June 6, 2011

'Member That Time?

'Member that time (um, two weeks ago) when Adelaide and I were out weeding the flowers beds in the front yard and marveling at the size of one of our trees?  I don't know what kind of tree it is or exactly how big it is, but suffice it to say it's some kind of conifer and it is gigantic.  Adelaide started fretting that the tree might fall and smash our flowers, and I absentmindedly replied, "Honey, if you're going to worry about that tree falling, you should be worried about it crushing our house, not the flowers."  Now we get to hear her say things like, "I hope the tree doesn't fall and smash our house while we're at church," and "I hope the tree doesn't fall, smash our house, and kill us tonight while we sleep."

Don't you just love projecting your own fears onto innocent children?

Check out 'Member That Time Monday at the Van Voorst's.

Friday, June 3, 2011


A few weeks ago, I planted three little hills of Baby Boo pumpkins in the vegetable garden.  I put five seeds in each hill, and hoped all five would sprout so that I could keep the two strongest plants and thin the rest out.  Pretty standard, right?

So here we are, a few weeks later, and my seedlings are a couple inches tall.  I've been checking them every day, waiting until they look strong enough and I have some obvious front-runners.  Yesterday, I decided it was time to start thinning.  I straddled the fence surrounding the garden and finally made it in (the fence is a bit too tall for me), then crouched down and cast a critical eye on the first hill.  Just as I stretched my hand down to pluck the runtiest of the group, I thought I heard screams.

Little pumpkin screams.

Let me be clear.  I am neither a vegetarian nor a vegan.  I am not in any way opposed to hunting, as long you're not killing some endangered species.  Even then, I'm not going to be crying any rivers unless it's something really cute like dolphins or baby elephants.  I have no problem with killin' stuff.

Except, as it turns out, baby boo pumpkins.

Each time I reached toward those little pumpkin plants, I swear I heard wailing and screaming, and imagined their teeny tiny pumpkin roots clinching in fear, perhaps reaching for each other in a show of pumpkin solidarity. 

Eventually I worked up the nerve to pull one up- and immediately thought I heard more tiny screams and even a small voice yelling,   "Oh, the horror!  The horror!"

Then I told myself to snap out of it and pulled the rest up without incident, tossing each carcass over the fence with nary a compunction.

As I vaulted back over the fence and out of the garden, I shook my head at my own silliness, until... until...

... Until I came across the pile of victims.  And noticed that someone had gone and drawn a chalk outline around them.

Adelaide saw me staring in wonder, and piped up, "Doesn't that make an interesting shape, Mommy?" 

I stammered out a reply in the affirmative and admitted I'm going to have a heck of a time thinning out my zucchini next week.