Wednesday, February 29, 2012


Yesterday, it rained on and off most of the day, and last night, we had strong winds in our area.  This resulted in the leak in the ceiling of our laundry room to drip-drip-drip throughout the day (that's right- the majority of our 112 year old house is sturdy and leak-free, but we've had all kinds of problems with the much newer addition otherwise known as our laundry room), and the crashing of the rocking chairs being blown around and knocked over on our front porch throughout the night.  I was able to hear this crashing because Derek and I were up all night with a screaming Atticus.

Just as I was getting ready to sing a really special rendition of "Poor, Poor, Pitiful Me," I got a call from my mom.  The roof had been blown off of the home of my youngest sister.  She was at home last night when the windows started shuddering in their frames, and as she ran into the living room toward her husband, the windows in the house blew out and the power went out.  They both hit the floor, and thankfully they were okay as the roof was subsequently peeled off the house.  It's also a good thing they didn't make it to the basement- the ceiling to the stairwell collapsed.  After all that, they couldn't get out of the house right away because of the live power lines down around the house.  They're not sure if all this was due to a tornado or the 80 mile-per-hour straight line winds.  Oh, and did I mention she's 29 weeks pregnant?

Shortly thereafter, my other sister and her husband headed over to help out- you know, the one that's due with their baby any day now and has been put on bed rest?  Yeah, them.

After hearing all this, my mom asked, "So how are you doing?"

I thought about our leaky ceiling, sleepless night, and all the other little bothers that build up in every day life.  Then I thought about our intact house, my intact sisters, and how thankful I am I'm not pregnant right now.

I gave her the only answer I could.

"We're fine."

Update:  It official: it was a tornado.  Twisted tree trunks don't lie.

Monday, February 27, 2012

You Sure Talk Funny

One of my favorite classes in college was a certain literature class taught by a certain eccentric professor.  One of the random things I remember him saying was that the most proper and correct American English is thought to be spoken in the central to northern region of Iowa; not so much in terms of grammar, but properly spoken words, the language unhampered by accent or regional dialect.

I remember taking him for his word at the time, but also believing that the English spoken around my home probably wasn't so different from this "proper and correct" version that is supposedly spoken in Iowa.  I had spent almost all my life in Southern Kansas, and couldn't hear a trace of an accent in most of my fellow residents.

Then I moved to Connecticut.  For the most part, I worked with people who were native to that state, with the exception of a girl from Arkansas.  Some of our co-workers determined that she sounded like a Southern belle and I sounded like a cowgirl- never mind that most of these people had probably never seen an actual cowgirl in their lives.  Besides, they were the ones with the accents- New England/ Yankee accents, with a few easily recognizable dialects like those from Boston or Maine.  I, of course, spoke proper English.

Since moving to Iowa, I haven't gotten nearly as many "Where are you from?  I can't place your accent," comments, cementing my belief that I am speaking properly and correctly.  After all, isn't this the place where perfect American English is spoken?

We traveled to southern Kansas a couple weeks ago, visiting family.  Not for the first time since moving away, I was able to detect a kind of rural twang in the speech of the people around me, whereas a few years ago, I was all but deaf to this accent.

So fine.  Maybe I was wrong in college.  But I'm not wrong now.

One of the people I saw was my dad.  I have been aware of his accented way of speaking since he had me practically in tears, going over my first grade spelling list, insisting that I was misspelling the word "hoe."

"Spell 'hoe.'"


"No, 'hoe.''


"Kristy, that's not right!  Now, try again."


Finally, my mother came along and said in her mercifully un-accented voice, "Kristy, spell 'hole.'"

"Oh.  H-O-L-E.  But Dad was saying 'hoe'!"

Given a lifetime of hearing these kinds of things from him, it wasn't surprising in the least to hear words like "coon huntin'" come out of his mouth.  I've learned to let conversations about things like how high in cholesterol squirrel is just wash over me, nodding along like I agree:  Tell me about it.  I hardly ever get squirrel or ranch dressing on my salads anymore; I mean, what's the point of eating salad if it's going to be bad for you?

It further wasn't too shocking to hear land descriptions like, "Well, I believe that house used to be pert'near to that ol' crick..."  from my grandparents.  So, yes.  Certain members of my family have an accent.

I, however, talk like my mother.  She does not have an accent.

I truly believed this, right up until we were at my sister's baby shower, and I overheard my mom in conversation and she exclaimed, "Well, bless her little pea-pickin' heart!"

I have heard her say this many times, but it wasn't until that day that I realized this is not the kind of thing I ever heard in Connecticut.  Nor have I ever heard it in Iowa.

A memory then floated to the surface of my mind of several of my friends in Connecticut laughing at me for saying, "She was as happy as a pig in mud!"  Another of my mom's little expressions.

Apparently my mother is in possession of several of these little colloquialisms.  Which means I may just be, too.

It wouldn't be the first time I've been wrong.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Put The Book Down And Nobody Gets Hurt

We're in a little bit of a quandary.  A pickle, if you will.

"Read to your kids," they tell you.  "Provide plenty of books for your kids."  "Encourage your children to read themselves."

Read.  Read.  READ.

All of this is good.  I, too, love to read.  I want my children to be lovers of books.  Bibliophiles, if you will.

So here's my question:  How do you say, "Stop reading!"  but keep from discouraging them from... well, reading?

It's the whole too much of a good thing- thing.

See, Adelaide loves to read.  And we are delighted by this.  I love to watch her drinking in the words that I read in my youth, and I love that she is helping me discover new and talented children's authors.  It's fun.

Her reading has also started to become a problem, however.

It's hard for me teach in her class at church on Sundays, and watch her head straight for the corner to read a book alone while all the other kids socialize and play together.  Do I encourage her to try and interact with the other kids, or let her do what comes naturally and just read her heart out?  I know she's shy, and I don't want her to use books as a cloak or a crutch.  I don't want her to hide in the world of books and miss out what's happening around her.

She also often reads while riding the bus on the way home from school.  This, I'm okay with.  I don't blame her for wanting to tune out that frantic after-school atmosphere, and I know of at least three other kids that she reads her books to on a regular basis while they're heading home.

So she reads while sitting on the bus seat, sometimes to herself, sometimes to those sitting around her.  When she reaches her stop, she stands up, still reading, walks down the aisle, still reading, and walks down the steps, off the bus.  Still reading.

Do you remember those bus steps?  Have you taken a look at them recently?  They're tall.  Probably twice as steep as normal steps.  And for a 5-year-old?  That's a big drop-off.

It's terrifying, watching her stumble down those steps, nose buried in a book.  I'd thought about getting a photo of her doing it, but I'm too busy yelling, "Adelaide!  ADELAIDE!  PUT THE BOOK DOWN!"

My hollers are echoed by the bus driver behind her, imploring her to JUST PUT IT DOWN.  We sound like we're on the kiddie version of Law and Order: Huxley or something.

On many of the days when she's not endangering her life, she's crying because she's already fallen at some point.

I can handle saying, "No books at the table," and "Adelaide, for the love of all that is good in this world, put the book down and brush your teeth already!" over and over and over.

I never really considered that books could end up scarring our daughter-both literally and figuratively.

Hopefully, I'm just overreacting.  Now if you'll excuse me, it's almost time to go get Adelaide from the bus stop.  I like to get there early, waiting at the steps when the bus rolls to a stop and the doors open, in case I have to catch her as she falls down the steps.


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Samson and Rapunzel

You know how much fun it is to be around a little kid on Christmas Eve?  They're all excited and anxious and a little bit crazy just waiting for the next day to arrive.  Just being near them is enough to get you hyped up (and possibly drive you a little bit insane).

That's kind of how I felt the previous weekend.  I was down visiting my sisters, both of whom are expecting their first babies.  I got to experience a vicarious thrill just being surrounded by so much eager anticipation.

At this point, my middle sister is probably edging the younger one out on eagerness, simply because she's due any day now, so she's got the whole can't-wait-to-meet-my-baby thing going on combined with a fair amount of I'm-so-done-being-pregnant.

I'm super excited to see this baby, too, for many reasons; the foremost of which is to find out just how hairy it is.

Let me explain.

My sister and her husband are both very hairy- not in a sideshow freak/ front page of the National Enquirer kind of way- more like a shampoo commercial/ no amount of product will ever make mere mortals' hair look like that.  As a result, I am fully expecting their baby girl to exit the womb with long, shiny, chestnut-colored hair.  She'll have to get her first haircut at one month, and her hairdresser will call it The Mane- the same title that has been bestowed upon my sister's hair.

Added to this is the fact that over the weekend, my brother-in-law mentioned their most recent ultrasound, and that the technician was amazed at the amount of hair they could see.  I said something like, "What, could you see her hair floating gently in the amniotic fluid?"  I was joking.

He said, "Yes, you could."  He was not joking.

I'm thinking about starting a pool amongst family members where you not only guess the weight and length of the baby, but where you also must give an estimate on the length of hair- in inches, not centimeters.

I'll go first:  8 lbs, 5 oz, 20 inches long, hair length... let's go with right around 4 inches.

Believe it or not, that's a conservative guess.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Valentine Sweat Shop

Sometimes, things don't go exactly as planned.

Last Sunday, with the boys down for their naps, I began laying out all the things Adelaide would need to assemble her Valentines for school.  Her teacher was organized enough to have sent home a printed list of her classmates' names, so thankfully all we had to do was cut them out and paste them to the Valentines.  I carefully laid out all the materials we would need, assembly line-style, so that Adelaide and I could whip through this task and move on with our day.

What I forgot to plan for was Adelaide.

We purchased one of those slim boxes of pre-made Valentines weeks ago; the kind with eight different designs on the cards to choose from, where all you have to do is tear them apart on the perforated line, fill in the "To" and "From," and seal closed with a sticker.  With 19 kids in her class, I knew it wouldn't be a five-minute chore, but also figured it wouldn't take anywhere near an hour.

And I was right.  It wasn't anywhere near an hour.  It was closer to two hours before we had finally finished.

I detached all the cards from each other, lined them up, cut out all her classmates' printed names, laid them out, and told Adelaide to choose which card would go to which person.  I would attach the names, and she could sign her own name.  Simple and efficient.

I knew I was in trouble when, eight minutes later, she was still hemming and hawing over which card was exactly right for which friend.

"I can't give that card to Tristan because it's too girly... so I guess he can have this one.  But wait!  That one says 'best friend,' and we're not really best friends... so maybe this one... but that won't work, either!  He hates pink, and the exclamation point on that one is pink!  Let's see here..."

I tried explaining to Adelaide that her classmates really weren't going to be upset if the punctuation on their Valentine was in an offending color, nor were they going to be looking for hidden meanings in what she was really trying to say if she gave them a card that read, "You sparkle, Valentine!"

She disagreed, and proceeded in a supremely slow and tedious fashion, picking just the right message for just the right person.  19 times.

At one point, I mused aloud about how thankful I was that our two other children were boys, who were sure not to put so much thought into something as simple as Kindergarten Valentines.  Adelaide disagreed, and two hours later, even after we had finished, continued to argue with me about it.  She just can't let things go, sometimes.  (I'm not sure where she gets this- it's certainly not from me.  I take a much healthier route, and lock things up tight in a dark corner of my mind.  I'm saving up for a whopper of a mid-life crisis.  You should start praying for Derek now.)

By yesterday afternoon, I thought she may have finally forgotten about it, when she yelled down the stairs.

"MOM!  Come up here!"

"How do you say that politely in a sentence?"  How many times do I say that in a single day?


"Certainly, my sweet, darling daughter."

What she had to show me was nothing new.  It was her two brothers, playing with one of their very favorite toys.  A few years ago, Adelaide received a microphone that you can sing into, or push one of two buttons, and it will play a song from the movie High School Musical 3.  Adelaide has played with it a few times, but really hasn't taken too much interest in it.

Our boys, on the other hand, love it.  They rarely press button #1, which would give them a fast, up-tempo song; instead, they nearly always press #2, the button that plays "Can I Have This Dance?", a ballad that sets them to slowly swaying.  They fight over this toy, and who will get to croon into the microphone along with the syrupy teenage music.

Adelaide pointed at Atticus, who was singing along, getting about one word in ten correct.

"See?  Boys do girl things, sometimes."

"Adelaide, we are not still talking about this."

"That's because I'm right."

I'm getting seriously frightened about what the future holds for Adelaide and me; oh, say, about ten years into the future.

Maybe you should pray for me, too.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

He Likes It! Hey, Mikey!

I mean, Caedmon.

You know what I love?  Those one-piece snowsuits that virtually incapacitate small children, à la Randy in A Christmas Story.

Caedmon loves them, too.

See?  It's fun.  He can see how much Mommy is laughing.  That must mean this is fun.

Then we go outside.  "Hey kids, how about a ride on the sled?"

Isn't this fun, Caedmon?

Well, don't worry; Adelaide will help you!

Caedmon is really enjoying himself.

The snowsuit proves to be too strong even for Adelaide, however, and she soon gives up, leaving Caedmon high and dry.  Or flat and stuck, in this case.

Meanwhile, Mommy is still laughing and having trouble holding the camera still.

"Good job, Caedmon!  It took you a good five minutes to roll over, but you did it!  What's that?  You need help standing up?  I'm afraid I can't help you, Spudley; this seems like a good opportunity for a character- and independence- building exercise.  Plus Mommy's laughing too hard to help you right now."  

"Gee, Caedmon, your laugh sounds an awful lot like a cry.  Aren't we having fun?"

Is it any wonder Daddy is his favorite?

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Like a Bridge Over Icy, Soul-Sucking Water

I will be the first to admit that I harbor some mildly irrational fears.  UPS trucks and the music of Alanis Morissette, for example.  Spiders are another fear of mine, although I certainly wouldn't file that under "irrational."

I have another one that I consider to be completely and totally sane:  My fear of bridges.

I hate bridges.

Maybe I shouldn't make such a broad statement as that.  I can handle, more or less, foot bridges.  I may be restraining myself from breaking into a sprint to make it across before it crumbles beneath my feet, but on the outside, at least, I manage to make myself appear as if I'm just one more completely rational pedestrian.

Driving over a bridge- especially one that spans a body of water- is another matter entirely.

Before I go on, I feel like I should clarify one small thing:  Like the passenger who says they fear flying but actually fears crashing, I don't technically fear the bridge itself so much as driving off the bridge, plunging into the water, and ultimately drowning in a vehicle.

Yesterday, our family spent the evening in the home of some friends.  We had a wonderful time.

When it was time to depart, we made our way from the door of their house to our vehicle as fast as we could; the low last night was 2 degrees Fahrenheit.  Fortunately, it wasn't slick out, so the drive home was uneventful.

Until we reached the Mile Long Bridge.

This bridge crosses part of Saylorville Lake, and is, astonishingly enough, one entire mile long.

If all bridges are Stormtroopers, this bridge is my Darth Vader.  If bridges in general are lesser demons, then this bridge is Satan.  Other bridges generate feelings of mild dislike and anxiety; this bridge is anathema to me.

I was tired and not paying close attention to the drive last night, so it took me a few seconds to realize exactly where we were.

"Are we on the Mile Long Bridge?" I asked Derek, trying to keep the panic out of my voice.


I tried looking straight forward, but that one showed an impossibly long bridge stretching out in front of us.  A glance to the side showed a dark abyss waiting under me, until the cloud that had been obscuring the moon was kind enough to move, and I could suddenly see moonlight reflecting off the ice coating the surface of the lake.

Perfect.  We would hit the ice first, then slowly sink into the freezing depths.

To make matters worse, it was a windy night, and although Derek was keeping control of the car, I could feel the wind buffeting the sides.  I couldn't help imagining what the -10 to -20 degree windchill would feel like when we were sinking.  I also had a clear vision of those menacing signs that read, "Bridge Freezes First."

We did make it over the bridge without incident, although I traveled the last quarter mile or so with my head between my knees.

Does anyone else have that old film of that rocking and twisting bridge playing through your mind right now?

And does anyone else feel kind of sick?

Thursday, February 9, 2012

This May Be a Little Unfair

In general, when someone we know says something to us, we believe them.

"I'm tired."  "I'm hungry."  "These pants are too small."  "I miss him."

All easily believable statements.

With the exception of that last one.

While I don't want to say I won't believe you when you tell me you're missing someone, from now on, I will be running through a specific checklist in my mind, just to see how much you really miss them.

  • Do you whimper when that person leaves the house, then stare forlornly out the window as they back their car down the driveway and away from you?
  • When you're going to bed at night and they're absent, do you whisper their name in the dark over and over again?
  • When you're upset for pretty much any reason, will a simple embrace from that person instantly stop your tears and quiet your anxiety?
  • When that person is gone, do you drag a bunch of their dirty clothes from the laundry basket, make a nest with them on the floor, then curl up inside said nest and suck your fingers?
If you do all things, then fair enough:  I believe you.  You really do miss that person.

If you don't, then I may or may not question just how much you actually miss him or her; although, to be fair, I don't know if anyone could possibly miss another human being as much as Caedmon misses his Daddy throughout the course of every single day.  

Poor Caedmon has set the "miss you" bar stratospherically high; I mean really, have you ever cuddled up to a pile of dirty clothes?

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Hungriest Baby on the Block

Talking to parents of toddlers can be strange.  I possess enough self-awareness to know this.

Caedmon is starting to talk.  I have no idea how many words he can currently say; I have found that things like constant knowledge of how many words your baby can pronounce vanishes after child #1.  Suffice to say it's probably more than ten but definitely less than 100.

I do realize that although Derek and I can correctly interpret most of Caedmon's current words, to any random passerby it will merely sound like baby jibberish.  That doesn't stop me from urging command performances from the littlest Crisler.

Sometimes when I'm holding Caedmon in a public setting, someone will approach, we'll chit chat, and at some point, they'll ask if he has started talking.  I respond in the affirmative, then turn to Caedmon.

"Caedmon, can you say, 'Hi'?"


"Can you say, 'Bye-bye'?"


As you can see, I'm careful to start with easily recognizable words- which is also where I should stop.

"Can you say, 'Love you'?"


"Can you say, 'Adelaide'?"


"Good job, Caedmon!" I coo.

Meanwhile, the person who began by asking a rather innocent question has been nodding along gamely, probably trying to figure out how to politely extract themselves from this conversation gone wrong.

Don't worry, I understand.

Fortunately, Caedmon and I don't have to rely solely on verbal communication.  He's always been good at giving me plenty of non-verbal cues, but has recently taken this to a new level.

Much of his communication, verbal and otherwise, concerns food, because holy cow, does that kid love to eat.  Around five o'clock, with supper approaching, I can usually be found in the kitchen, food preparation underway.  On the nights when I decide I just don't really feel like cooking, however, I'll be in some other part of the house, usually playing with the kiddos.

Caedmon is not okay with this.

One night last week, when I was absent from the kitchen, I heard Caedmon rummaging around in the kitchen cabinets.  Nothing new there.

What was new was Caedmon walking into the front room a few moments later, holding a big frying pan, and plaintively saying to me, "Bupper?"

Bupper is Caedmon-speak for 'supper.'

Yesterday, he must have been in the mood for something a little sweeter, because this time I found him walking around the house looking for me, dragging the waffle iron by it's cord and again begging for "Bupper?  Bupper?"

Poor, deprived Caedmon.  It had been at least thirty minutes since he had eaten last, and there I was, outside of my rightful place in the kitchen.

I'm beginning to think my days of 'I don't think I'll cook tonight' are drawing to a close.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Uphill Both Ways

I've been wondering:  At what age does it become socially acceptable to be a curmudgeon?

The answer that immediately comes to my mind is 70, maybe 80 years old.  If you thought something similar, I have a proposal:  Let's move that back a couple decades, say, to around age 30?  Perhaps even a little younger?

It seems that every year- sometimes every week- I become a little bit more set in my ways, sometimes a little crankier, and a bit more curmudgeonly.  I understand that things change, and progress is often a good thing, but lately I've had to mentally restrain myself from moaning to Adelaide about how wrong things are now, and how "Back in my day, we knew how to (fill in the blank)!"

These tendencies are particularly difficult to fight when she and I are looking over her school lunch menu.

Do you remember your elementary school lunches?  One day it was somewhat edible, even tasty, the next day it was slop being splatted onto your plate with an ice cream scoop.

I'm getting a little teary just thinking about it.  Nostalgia is a powerful thing.

Today, Adelaide came home from school, complaining about the lunch served at school today.  She said it looked like "old brains" (as opposed to new brains, which are always deliciously appetizing).  She asked to get online to check her school's website so that we could see what was being served for the rest of the week, and we could plan which days she would bring lunch from home.

That's when my inner grumpy old lady came out to play.

"You had chicken alfredo for lunch today, Adelaide?  Chicken alfredo looked like old brains?  Let me tell you something, honey, the closest I ever got to Italian food at school was the Italian Meat Platter, and it resembled something far more frightening than old brains.  And the 'alternative entree' today was a roast beef sandwich!  What's wrong with that?"

That's right.  In addition to their regular lunch, the munchkins have an "alternative entree" selection every day.  If Adelaide doesn't want pizza on Wednesday, she can have a chicken caesar salad.  If she doesn't want baked potato bar another day, she can have a turkey ranch wrap.

I should be happy that our children are fortunate enough to have plenty of healthy selections at school.  Instead, I find myself shuffling around in my robe, muttering, "Kids these days..."

Last weekend's little incident really didn't help matters, either.  I fixed the kiddos peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch.  Atticus and Caedmon happily dug into theirs, but Adelaide paused, inspected her food, and asked, "What's the alternative entree?"

"Peanut butter and jelly toast," I growled.

"That doesn't seem very different from this."

At that point, something in my expression must have warned Adelaide that continuing in that vein would be folly.  Perhaps a certain curmudgeonly look she has come to recognize.

She hasn't complained about any food I've served since.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Insomniacs Anonymous

I'm running on little sleep today, so you'll have to forgive me if today's post seems a little lackluster.  And actually, that's the topic of this post.

Not lackluster, although I do think it's a fun word.  Not enough sleep.  That is what I will be force-feeding you today.

Here's the thing:  Atticus is not a great sleeper.

Don't get me wrong, he's gotten better.  It used to be, in the not-so-distant past, two out of every three nights Derek and I were repeatedly shuffling into the bedroom to calm him down.  Now, it's more like once or twice a week.

We've yet to identify a single oustanding culprit.  We've found pieces of the puzzle that make up the problem, but have yet to assemble them into any recognizable whole that would give us a clear solution.

Part of the problem is Adelaide.  She yells in her sleep (not talks, but yells rather viciously: "STOP DOING THAT!"  and "NO, DOOOON'T!"), and she and Atticus share a room.  We usually hear her yelling, followed shortly by Atticus crying.  At least on those occasions, there's an obvious reason for his hysterics.

It's far more frustrating at times like last night, when Adelaide was sleeping peacefully, and Atticus woke up over, and over, and over, crying for no discernible reason.  The first time he was just crying in his sleep, but after that, he was wide awake, and seemingly crying just for the sake of crying.

Derek and I each take turns quieting him down, and every time I go in, I check his forehead for fever and make sure there's nothing wrong externally.  We've tried "crying it out."  We've tried gentle understanding.  We've tried threats.  We've tried what feels like every piece of plausible advice to be found in books and online.

Right now, what works more often than anything else is prayer.  I don't mean DEAR LORD PLEASE MAKE THAT KID STOP CRYING, although there's certainly a lot of that going on, too, but praying aloud with Atticus when he's upset.  Those prayers usually sound more like,

Dear Lord,
As you have undoubtedly noticed, Atticus is upset and crying.  Please comfort him and make him feel better.  Please give Mommy and Daddy lots of patience and wisdom and patience and compassion and patience.  Thank you for always being with him, and thank you for loving him so much.
In Jesus' Name We Pray,

This doesn't work every time, but it seems to have more of a consistent effect on Atticus than any amount of hugs or cajolery.

The real problem is the next day- that would be today- when my patience is tissue paper thin, and because I've just listened to Atticus cry half the night, I really don't want to hear any of it during daylight hours.

Thankfully, he's a pretty good kid and a lot of fun to be around.  It's also usually best if I don't venture outside the house on these days, because out in public, I nearly always run into some stranger who feels honor-bound to say something along the lines of, "Enjoy these years with your little ones!  They sure fly by!"

Normally, I appreciate these sentiments, because it comes from people who tolerate and even welcome the presence of small children in public settings.  Today, however, any number of nasty little thoughts careen through my head, as I can't help but feel like it's easy to give out this advice when you're getting a full night's sleep.  I'd like to see what those people have to say after a few nights in a row with Atticus.

So, who's up for a visit from the Crislers?