Thursday, September 29, 2011

I'm Worried About My Anxiety

I am a worrier. 

I worry about little things and big things.  Trivialities and larger issues.  I'm usually able to keep it from progressing to bona fide anxiety- but only just. 

I generally try to get a handle on it by reading things like Matthew 6:25-34, listening to Monty Python's I'm So Worried, and laughing at my own egotistical silliness: like my worrying could ever actually change anything.

One of the more minor issues I've been worrying over lately is that of Adelaide and Kindergarten.  Our daughter's birthday is in May, making her among the younger children in her class.  She has never shown the slightest signs of lagging behind, but I just can't seem to help it:  I worry. 

Is she really ready to be in school all day long?  I wonder. 

Maybe she's just not mature enough to start school yet, I fret.

Then I take a look at so many of the other parents whose children are Adelaide's age.  The trend- evidently a nationwide one, at that- is currently to hold your children back a year if you have any reason at all to suspect they might not be ready for Kindergarten.  There are several children in the area, older than our girl, who will now be a year behind her in school.  I've talked to these parents, and they all just seem so self-assured, as if there is absolutely no question that their children should wait another year for Kindergarten.  How could anyone think otherwise?

Then, a few weeks before school started, Adelaide began to say that she did not want to go to Kindergarten.  She wanted to stay home, with me, and go to preschool for another year. 

In my favor, I only had one minor freak-out session after she started saying this.  Derek listened, then calmly reminded me why we were sending her to the big bad elementary school. 

And although she didn't want to get on the bus that first day, every day since Adelaide has enthused about how much she loves Kindergarten.  When Derek asks her about her favorite part of the day, she says, "Everything- I like everything about school."  When he asks her to tell us about her least favorite, her reply is, "Nothing."

All this has helped to quell my fears, but today in particular, I came across two pieces of evidence that made me feel we have done the right thing by Adelaide (at least, at this point in time and on this particular subject- who knows where else we're screwing up): 

First, I read an article in the New York Times called Delay Kindergarten At Your Child's Peril.  It was written by two neuroscientists who, citing several large studies, state that the American trend of delaying Kindergarten for our children actually disadvantages them intellectually and academically clear through high school.  I realize that just because a scientist says something doesn't make it so, but I found the information in the article to be helpful, and for me, the parent of a younger Kindergartener, comforting.

Second, Adelaide brought home a drawing she had completed at school. 

-Before I go through and tell you why I was so impressed by this drawing, just let me say that I realize this is no artistic masterpiece.  I am not trying to insinuate that Adelaide is a burgeoning Picasso (actually, this kind of does have a cubist-Picasso feel to it), or a future Van Gogh or whatever.-

This drawing started as a black zig-zag line printed on the paper, and according to Adelaide, the teacher instructed them to create a picture around it.  She decided to draw a glass of water standing on her bookcase.  What I like about this picture is that it's three-dimensional.  When I look back at the unfortunate art projects from my Kindergarten days, they feature flat tabletops and separated skies- and- grass landscapes.  Flat and two-dimensional. 

I also like the ice cubes and bendy straw.

In short (or rather long), I feel much better about the whole Kindergarten issue.  Not nearly so worried.

Only 99,374 issues to go.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Any Day Now

We enjoy so many beautiful flowers here in the spring and summer. 

June brings pink peonies...

...Drifts of yellow and purple irises...

...Pink, red, and white roses.

July and August supply lilies of many colors.

Not to mention all the flowers I didn't bother taking pictures of.  We don't have a whole lot of color left in our yard at this point, aside from some particularly stubborn hibiscus and black-eyed susans.  What we do have, however, have been drawing in all kinds of visitors.  Our front and back yards are covered in hostas, and the giant varieties in the backyard have attracted several hummingbirds.  Adelaide also makes it a point to check out the live-forevers, because in addition to being covered in bees, they can usually be relied upon to draw in droves of monarch butterflies. 

The flower that I look forward to all summer, however, isn't blooming yet.  Actually, everyone else's seem to be flowering, but ours appears to be, well, a late bloomer.  They're getting really close, though, see?

Yup. Simple, humble mums.  I'm not sure why they're my favorite; maybe it's because I have to wait and watch them slowly grow over the summer and into fall before they finally produce their flowers- delayed gratification.  Or maybe it's because I bought these in one of those small plastic containers for two dollars at Wal-Mart, and they've grown to at least ten times the size they were when I first planted them two years ago.  Or maybe I just think they're pretty.

Whatever the reason, I've been going out onto the front porch every day for two weeks, looking down over the rail and hoping to be greeted by a mass of purple flowers.  I've been disappointed for fifteen days straight.

But who knows what tomorrow may bring?

Friday, September 23, 2011

Think Again

It's been a busy birthday week here at the Crislers.

Oh, did you think that those two measly pictures I posted on Wednesday were going to be it?  I know what you were thinking:  What, only two pictures for Caedmon's birthday?  When Adelaide turned five I was subjected to no less than one entire week's worth of photos of her!  Thank heaven for busy moms and their poor, neglected third children!

Well, you were wrong, suckers.  I've been shoving that camera in Spudley's face all week, and you're about to reap the... benefits.  We'll go with benefits.

Although he just turned one two days ago, about a week ago, Derek cut his hair for the first time.  To me, it was like he went from baby to little kid in ten short minutes.

Baby being super-helpful to his Daddy...

... coy, bashful little man.

Last weekend, he had one set of grandparents come up to help him celebrate.  We had chocolate cupcakes with a peanut butter-pudding-cool whip frosting that received mixed reviews.

Caedmon liked them.

He concentrated really hard on opening his presents.

He's really enjoyed pushing his new trike/big wheel around the house...

... and Atticus has been only too happy to help break it in by riding it to and from the school bus stop twice a day.

Tuesday some of his great-grandparents drove up, and we all went to Hickory Park to celebrate.  Atticus led the way.

He couldn't wait to see Caedmon perform his amazing fire-eating routine.

It's been an exciting, busy week.

We're looking forward to doing it again in a couple weeks for Atticus's birthday.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Getting It All Wrong

Every once in a while, I start to think I'm getting this whole parenting thing down.  Several days will go by, I'll keep a careful hold on my patience, I'll answer all my kids' questions in thoughtful, good-Mommy ways, and I won't respond to their requests with, "Just a minute, honey, and I'll read you that..." (then forget all about the book), or "I'll make that for you tomorrow, Bud..." (then a week goes by and I still haven't made him that zucchini bread).  I'll be attentive and loving and involved.

Then we have one crazy day, and it all starts to unravel.

One day last week, I'd been having a good run of super-mommyness (or as super as this lady gets).  Atticus has been dealing with some fear issues lately, but we've been handling them, and he's sloooowly been mastering some of those fears.  One of the things he's scared of is Somebody.  As in, "I fink dere's Somebody downstairs," or "Is Somebody under the bed?" 

That morning, before walking up the stairs to get a toy, he checked in with me. 

"Is dere Somebody upstairs, Mom?"

"No, Bud, there's nobody upstairs."

There was a pause, then a gentle correction:  "Mom, God is everywhere."

When my day starts by being schooled by my two-year-old on theology, I know it's going to be one of those days. 

It wasn't really a bad day, per se.  I just kept forgetting things, couldn't seem to be anywhere on time, and was useless in providing direction to my children. 

That last point became glaringly obvious when Adelaide got off the school bus.  As we were walking home, she announced, "Today on the bus, a boy told me there's no such thing as the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, OR Santa Claus!  I told him that he was wrong, and he said those things are just regular people dressed up in costumes, and I told him that he was wrong again, and he said that it was all a lie!"

My reply was succinct and well-thought-out.  "Gosh."

Adelaide continued to rant for awhile about the nerve of some people, trying to tell her that jolly man that visited her preschool and already knew her name wasn't Santa.  Eventually she wound around to the part of the conversation I'd been dreading. 

"...and he obviously just doesn't know!  What do you think, Mom?"

"Well, um, you know, there was a man named Saint Nicholas who lived a really long time ago, and he gave gifts to people-"

I was floundering, and it was obvious to my daughter, who wasn't having it.  "No, Mom, I said what do you think?"

"I-I think..."  At this point I was trying desperately to remember how that old newspaper article titled, Yes, Virginia, There Is A Santa Claus went.  Something about how he absolutely exists, as surely as hope and love... or something?  It was really poignant and beautiful, and way better than my lame stammering. 

Unfortunately, my brain just doesn't work fast enough, and before long she had forced me to admit that No, neither the Tooth Fairy nor the Easter Bunny exist.  At that point, however, I was saved by Caedmon who was tired of this conversation and had been patiently waiting in the stroller to be lifted out.  Amid his hollers, I yelled, "You know, Grandma Becky says 'If you don't believe, you don't receive!'" and cowardly ran indoors.

Later I regaled Derek with the entire incident.  When I had finished, he asked me, "Do you know what I would have said?"


"I would have asked her if she believed in Santa.  Then when she said, 'Yes,' I would have told her that that's all that matters."

Ugh.  I'm going to go bake some zucchini bread so I can stop feeling like I suck at my job.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Note To Self

Dear Kristy,

I know how much you love to save money.

No, really.  I do.

Sometimes, however, there have to be limits.  One of those limits exists within the realm of buying shoes for your children.  I know you hate overpaying for clothing, and you often feel that children's shoes are overpriced.  I know that you will search many different stores trying to find a pair that will be reasonably priced, yet do not look like something you would find in Quasimodo's wardrobe. 

I know that when you find that pair, you will be delighted to have found something cute and somewhat inexpensive.  What you should do then, is go ahead and purchase that pair of shoes, but here's the kicker (pun intended):  Buy it in the correct size

Don't stare thoughtfully at the shoes and think to yourself, You know, I could save even more money if I bought these suckers a size bigger.  And let's be honest here, your children are heavy on the Crisler genes, which means they're growing and jumping sizes faster than you can keep up.  That next size is only slightly too big right now, and she'll have grown into them in a couple months. 

I know that the bigger size won't bother your daughter, for whom you are buying these shoes.  She'll just be delighted with the abundance of silver sequins and pink canvas.  She won't care that they're just a tad too big, just enough to have some extra room out past her toes. 

She won't think about the fact that along with her fast-growing Crisler genes, she has also inherited a healthy dose of your extreme- klutziness genes. 

I'm trying to give you a fair warning, here, self:  If you do buy those roomier shoes, expect a call the very next morning from the school nurse, reporting that your daughter was found by a teacher, huddled against a locker in the hallway, crying, face covered in blood.  A mere thirty minutes after donning those sparkly bargains for the first time, the she'll-grow-into-them toes of her shoes will cause her to trip on the industrial carpet lining the hallway to her classroom, she'll fall flat onto her face, and split her lip.  A kindly teacher will escort her to the nurse's office, who will clean her up and calm her down. 

Then, when the nurse is walking her back to classroom, Adelaide will trip again.  The nurse will discover it's because her shoes are too big.  She'll have your daughter change into her PE shoes (which fit perfectly).  Then she'll call you to let you know about her little incident, and to let you know that it was really all your fault for being such a cheapskate.  (The nurse will never actually say that.  Your conscience is more than capable of throwing that little barb.)

So please, buy footwear in the right size.  Don't make your daughter pay for your mistake with her blood.

Feeling a Little Dramatic Today,


P.S.  Oh, and for crying out loud, teach your daughter to tie her shoes already.  You'd have a lot more shoe options if you weren't limited to velcro and straps. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Happy ____ Day!

Anymore, it seems like every day is some sort of holiday.  "National Rose Day," "Great-Aunt's Day," "Give Your Favorite Conductor a Hug Day."  It's a little bit out of control.

Today, however... today is important.  The 13th of September. 

Any guesses?


Allow me to enlighten you.

Today is...  

Roald Dahl Day!

No, I did not just make that up.  Look it up.

It does not bother me if you didn't know that today is Roald Dahl Day.  I will, however, be greatly bothered if you don't know who Roald Dahl is. 

If you don't know (like that's possible, ha ha ha ha!), and for some reason it ever comes up in conversation between us, just lie to me and say that of course you know who that is.  I hereby give you permission to lie right to my face.  It will be less painful for everyone that way.

To celebrate this momentous day, here's a lovely little poem composed by the very person we are honoring.


The most important thing we've learned,
So far as children are concerned,
Is never, NEVER, NEVER let
Them near your television set —
Or better still, just don't install
The idiotic thing at all.
In almost every house we've been,
We've watched them gaping at the screen.
They loll and slop and lounge about,
And stare until their eyes pop out.
(Last week in someone's place we saw
A dozen eyeballs on the floor.)
They sit and stare and stare and sit
Until they're hypnotised by it,
Until they're absolutely drunk
With all that shocking ghastly junk.
Oh yes, we know it keeps them still,
They don't climb out the window sill,
They never fight or kick or punch,
They leave you free to cook the lunch
And wash the dishes in the sink —
But did you ever stop to think,
To wonder just exactly what
This does to your beloved tot?
'All right!' you'll cry. 'All right!' you'll say,
'But if we take the set away,
What shall we do to entertain
Our darling children? Please explain!'
We'll answer this by asking you,
'What used the darling ones to do?
'How used they keep themselves contented
Before this monster was invented?'
Have you forgotten? Don't you know?
We'll say it very loud and slow:
AND READ and READ, and then proceed
To READ some more. Great Scott! Gadzooks!
One half their lives was reading books!
The nursery shelves held books galore!
Books cluttered up the nursery floor!
And in the bedroom, by the bed,
More books were waiting to be read!
Such wondrous, fine, fantastic tales
Of dragons, gypsies, queens, and whales
And treasure isles, and distant shores
Where smugglers rowed with muffled oars,
And pirates wearing purple pants,
And sailing ships and elephants,
And cannibals crouching 'round the pot,
Stirring away at something hot.
(It smells so good, what can it be?
Good gracious, it's Penelope.)
The younger ones had Beatrix Potter
With Mr. Tod, the dirty rotter,
And Squirrel Nutkin, Pigling Bland,
And Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle and-
Just How The Camel Got His Hump,
And How the Monkey Lost His Rump,
And Mr. Toad, and bless my soul,
There's Mr. Rat and Mr. Mole-
Oh, books, what books they used to know,
Those children living long ago!
So please, oh please, we beg, we pray,
Go throw your TV set away,
And in its place you can install
A lovely bookshelf on the wall.
Then fill the shelves with lots of books,
Ignoring all the dirty looks,
The screams and yells, the bites and kicks,
And children hitting you with sticks-
Fear not, because we promise you
That, in about a week or two
Of having nothing else to do,
They'll now begin to feel the need
Of having something to read.
And once they start — oh boy, oh boy!
You watch the slowly growing joy
That fills their hearts. They'll grow so keen
They'll wonder what they'd ever seen
In that ridiculous machine,
That nauseating, foul, unclean,
Repulsive television screen!
And later, each and every kid
Will love you more for what you did.

He also wrote a few children's books.  Perhaps you've heard of them:  Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (and all the other Willy Wonka books); James and the Giant Peach; Boy; Matilda; The Fantastic Mr. Fox- to name just a few. 
Happy Roald Dahl Day!

Disclaimer:  I do not think television is inherently evil.  I just think children watch way too much of it.  And I like the poem.  Please do not contact me to debate the potential merits or pitfalls of tv today.  Thank you.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Dear Diary...

Most days, after we have reunited with Adelaide at the school bus stop, the kiddos and I go to a small park near our house.  They run around, expending excess energy for awhile, then I herd them back home. 

At this point, Adelaide usually settles down at the desk in our kitchen and writes intently in a small notebook.  It is not unusual to see her coloring and writing short notes to various family members.

A few days ago, however, while cleaning house, I stumbled upon this notebook.  So far, she has managed to fill two pages with cramped, nospacesinbetweeneachword five year old handwriting. 

It appears to be a journal of sorts.  I feel no compunction about sharing it with you; it's content is not personal in nature (and I checked with Adelaide first). 

Here is a sample of what it says:



It kind of reminds me of some of the stuff my classmates would write in our college lit classes:  a random smattering of inarticulate syllables dashed on the page that they had the audacity to call "poetry."  Poets are weird. 

Anyway, like a lot of poetry, maybe you didn't understand what all Adelaide has been "dooing" at Kindergarten.  Allow me to translate.

What I Am Doing

This year at Kindergarten
We practiced our Y's:  YYY
1234 And we practiced
Our 1's:  1111.  I can count
to 100, and we learned how to sing
Until we got to drao (?).
And we learned
How to write the
Number 22, and
We learned how
To write the number
3, and we learned how to count
a lot.

It seems to be a record of what she learned that day at school; I didn't notice until yesterday that she was pulling all the papers out of her backpack, bringing them to the desk, and shuffling through them, reviewing the day's content to record in her little journal.  She never asks me for help in spelling anything anymore.  She seems to be content to phonetically spell her entries for now. 

I'm not sure what compels her to review and record the school day's lessons.  Maybe she's writing it down for posterity; she is, after all, in Kindergarten now, and may be beginning to feel how brief and fleeting our mortal lives are. 

Or perhaps she just likes writing in a notebook with Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty on the cover, along with the title "Sparkle Party!"

Really, it could be either one.


Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Bigger Every Day

Three or four months ago, Caedmon started crawling.  He celebrated his new-found independence by, well, crawling.  He crawled here, there, and everywhere, investigating our house, the Crisler domain. 

This, of course, made it so that I had to keep a closer eye on him than when he was more stationary, but overall,  he used his powers of mobility for good rather than evil. 

All that has changed in recent weeks.  If there is anything two and a half feet or lower that should not be pulled on, bashed with a blunt object, or eaten, he will find it.  He's not being wilfully disobedient.  He's just hit that curious-almost-one-year-old phase.  If he's anything like Atticus, this phase will last until he hits the downright-destructive-toddler phase.  We're still waiting for Atticus to leave that one behind (although he's getting much, much better; I haven't found anything coated in baby powder, Vaseline, or lotion in months). 

Thankfully, neither of my older two children were climbers.  I've seen those other kids; a few of my friends were lucky enough to have some.  Those are the kids that I have literally seen climb up drapes and swing from light fixtures.  And thank you Heavenly Father, for all his untidy curiosity, Caedmon is, thus far, not a climber.  In fact, he appears to be the opposite. 

Several months ago, before he could even crawl, I heard Caedmon crying.  I searched all over downstairs, trying to follow his sounds of distress, but could not figure out where the boy was.  Finally, I got down on my hands and knees, and then found him under the couch in the front room.  He had scooted himself backwards underneath it and couldn't get back out. 

Just about a month ago, I found myself in a similar situation.  Crying baby, unable to pinpoint his location.  I first checked under that couch (because he actually did that several times), but he wasn't there.  Eventually I Marco Polo'd my way over to the couch in the living room, and discovered him squeezed into the small space in between the bottom of the couch and the wall.  Stuck again. 

Last week he found a new hiding spot: the kitchen cabinets.  To be fair, I'm pretty sure that he crawls in there, and his brother shuts the door behind him.  It is now not uncommon for me to open a cabinet door, looking for a pan to start supper, and find this instead:

What is the opposite of a climber, anyway?  A burrower?  A tunneler?  Whatever he is, it seems to go hand in hand with his other new favorite activities:  pulling every item out of the lower kitchen cabinets, pulling every book off the lower shelves, pulling every piece of clothing out of the lower drawers... you get the idea. 

I don't really mind any of that.  It's just healthy exploration, after all, and anything is better than his other new favorite game:  reach into the bowl and splash in the toilet water so violently that it drenches Mommy's sputtering face while she's trying to drag you away. 

Children are just such a blessing, aren't they?

Monday, September 5, 2011

Mind Your Manners

You know, I've always thought of myself as a polite person.  I say "please" and "thank you" (and am constantly telling my kids that it isn't "yeah," it's Yes, please; and it isn't "no," it's No, thank you; oh, and the biggie: it is NOT "I want milk!" it's May I have some milk, please?  I swear to you I chant that phrase in my sleep).  I hold the door open for other people in public places (and tried not to snarkily mutter "You're welcome" under my breath when the masses back East couldn't be bothered to say "Thank you"). 

I do my level best not to commit any major social gaffes, and I think that good manners make society as a whole easier to tolerate. 

To reiterate:  I am a polite person.

Or I thought I was. 

Over the weekend, I went to the Brass Armadillo, a local antique mall (which I love and really deserves a post all it's own where I can gush unbecomingly about the maze of awesome stuff that makes up that store), and purchased a book.  It was from a series of books first published in the 1920's called the What Every Child Should Know Library.  This one is a reprint from 1939, entitled Etiquette:  What Every Child Should Know

This is the front cover:

This photo is displayed again on one of the first pages of the book, and it's caption reads

Gracious Hospitality Is An Art Youth Should Grow Up With
When Betty brings out mother's best china and invites Bob in for a cup of tea, she is not only setting tea to swing time in the modern American manner, she is also taking the first step towards her future poise and popularity as a hostess.

First of all, what does "swing time" mean?  Is "swing" a verb, as in Betty is swinging time, or is "swing time" an actual time of day, or what? 

The first text of the book, and I'm already out of my depth. 

I was taken by surprise again and again as I opened the book at random to peruse it's contents. 

Never blow on spoonfuls of food. (Apparently you are supposed to test the food or drink ONCE and ONCE ONLY to see if it's too hot- after that you just have to be patient or scald your tongue.)

Cut spaghetti with your fork and eat it as if it were a vegetable.

A boy is taken over to a girl, to be introduced; the girl is never brought to the boy.

Even in very small towns, the "drug store gang" is not in good repute.  (This makes me think of the ladies I worked with at my hometown drug store, and I laugh.  Hard.)

Don't talk "baby-talk," even to babies.  Murder is almost justified in the case of the "baby-talker."  (I did not make that up.  It seriously says that.)

No girl with good manners combs her bobbed hair at table over the plates or arranges her hair in any way.  As hats are always worn by girls at restaurants, one wonders why this statement is made.  Ask the waiter.  He sees strange sights. 

And on and on and on.

Evidently these were things that children were all supposed to be aware of in 1930's America.  I'd like to see most American adults try to follow a quarter of the guidelines proposed in this book. 

I did feel slightly vindicated upon finding, on page 182, the following.passage:

"Please" and "Thank you" are small civilities indeed, but they are the hall mark of the well bred and the naturally courteous.

Ha!  You see, our little family is, um, "well bred" (oh, that one really makes me snigger, picturing certain relatives glimpsed at childhood family reunions whom I swear were more in- than well-bred), and "naturally courteous" (those "pleases" and "thank you's" uttered by my children are genetic manifestations, it's not due to hours and weeks and years of harping by their mother).  I feel better.

I do enjoy reading this book; it gives me fodder for conversations with my children about etiquette and manners.  I don't, however, think I will be instructing them not to use first names in public and on the street, nor will I shriek at Adelaide, "Blots are inexcusable!  This book says so!" when reviewing her work from school. 

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to go ponder the statement, Don't leave rubbers outside the door, a la the Mohammedan, or umbrellas.  What's a Mohammedan, and what precisely do they mean by rubbers...?

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Can You Guess?

Guess what this is.

Hint:  It's not a huge wad of bubble gum. 

It's also not a brain, liver, or any other organ.  (Including a Wurlitzer.)

Actually, it's...

...Homemade Play-Dough!

Adelaide came home from school about a week ago with a note- including the recipe- asking each family to whip up a batch for the kids to use throughout the year at school.  I finally made it this evening, and I'm now wondering why anyone spends any money on the stuff at the store.  It took me ten minutes tops to make, the recipe calls for ingredients most people usually keep in their pantry, and one batch made about twice the amount that usually comes in one container of the brand-name product. 

I gotta say, though:  Although Adelaide specifically requested pink play-dough, I think the batch I'm going to make for home use tomorrow will have to be a different color.  Something not quite so... fleshy.


1 cup flour
1 Tablespoon cooking oil
1 cup water
1/2 cup salt
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
food coloring (optional)

Combine all of the ingredients in a saucepan.  Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until the mixture forms a ball.  Knead until smooth.  Let the dough cool completely before placing in a sealed container.