Wednesday, June 26, 2013

What June Has Looked Like

Somehow it's the end of June.  I have no idea how this happened.

  • We went to pick blackberries that grow on a trail near our house, only to discover that due to a cool, wet spring, they're a couple weeks behind schedule, along with every other plant around here.  The kiddos were disappointed until we found a teeny frog.  Because that's all it takes when you're two.  And four.  And apparently seven.

Or maybe it's a toad?  I've never claimed to be an expert on amphibians.  Or on anything else, for that matter.

  • The day after Derek's folks brought the kids back home (oh yeah- they're back!  Obviously!  Hallelujah!), the four men-folk went golfing while the ladies went to the Des Moines Farmer's Market and did a little garage sale-ing. 

Isn't it interesting/sad/true to form that while I saw all kinds of fresh, local, delicious produce at the market, the only thing I ate was a truly scrumptious apple cider doughnut and homemade strawberry rhubarb ice cream?

I regret nothing.

  • I completely lost all semblance of sanity and bought our children three water guns yesterday.  Just to be clear, outside of food, plus clothing (and the occasional book) purchased at garage sales, I never buy our children anything.  We don't have the space, "toys" are most certainly not a line item in our budget, and if you never buy anything to begin with, you fend off those humiliating displays you see some children making when they don't get what they want at Wal-Mart.  
Yesterday, however, I loitered around the minuscule toy section at Aldi just long enough for our children to lovingly stroke the water guns and imagine a world where moms occasionally buy such treasures for their beloved offspring.  

So I told them each to pick a color, because all three were about to get their very own gun!  (Don't even bother preaching to me about the folly of letting children play with gun- and weapon-related toys.  Not only do I not care, but even if I did believe in banning such items in our household, I would be forced to confront the fact that our boys have been picking up sticks and pretending they're guns pretty much since they could say, "Pew! Pew!"  And that's with a hunting-, gun-, and practically television-free childhood.)  Yes, the whole water-gun decision will probably end in me confiscating the toys and making our kids cry, but that's okay.  I'll just blame Anna, who gave me the idea in the first place when she suggested arming our children in order to keep rabbits away from my plants.  (Arming them with water guns, people.  Although with Anna, you never really know.)

  • Caedmon has officially moved up to a toddler bed.  The crib has been dismantled.  You know, the one that held not just all three of our sweet little babies but also my two sisters and me when we were wee bairns?  But don't worry.  I'm not upset.
We'll be hauling it away soon, along with a few other large items we've been meaning to trash.  

Again- don't worry!  I'm sure I won't cry at all knowing thirty years of memories are about to be INCINERATED.

I'd love to give it away, but it's literally illegal to do so.  Something about it being a drop-sided death trap.  Whatever.

Friday, June 21, 2013

How to Name Your Chicken

It's been a busy week around here.  I've generally either been outside, gardening, or I've been running around doing things that are difficult to do with three small children in tow: getting my hair cut, going to the architectural salvage place, trying to give blood (I say "trying" because I was rejected again.  It was particularly pathetic this time; when I walked in, the lady up front recognized me and brightly asked, "Trying again?"  After checking me in, she said, "I'm pulling for you!"  The two ladies who were in the waiting area had overheard our conversation and politely inquired, so I explained that my iron levels tend to be too low and they won't let me donate- but I keep trying!  It turned out my levels were too low this time around, too- the nurse tried to let me down easy, but it was still sad to return to the waiting area and have all three women let out a disappointed collective "Awww!" when they saw me.  The young volunteer tried to cheer me up- "You can still have some cookies if you want!"  But really all I want is to give some blood.  SOMEDAY.  Someday it will happen!  Or I guess someday I'll finally go to the doc and get some bloodwork done to get this iron thing checked out, which my mom has not-so-subtly been encouraging me to do for the past couple years.  Okay, end of ridiculously long parenthetical story.), and going to one of my very favorite places:

The antique mall.

I love that place.  It's humongous, the prices are fair, and it's chock-full of just about every rusty, cute, weird, awesome old thing you could think of.  Creepy marionettes?  Check.  Antique goat bell?  Check.  Butter churn?  Check.  Old postcards that I could spend hours flipping through and reading?  Check.

I don't get to go through there very often-  it's not too far away, but some places really just aren't meant for little kids- but when I do, I could wander for hours.  And yesterday, that's just what I did.

I pored through a stack of disturbingly fascinating Victorian-era funeral photographs.  I'm not sure why they insisted on having professional photos of their loved ones in caskets taken, but they did.  Thrillingly creepy.

I contemplated purchasing the aforementioned goat bell.  I think it would be a quirky addition to one of those photo galleries you see so often on Pinterest.  A collection of framed photographs of family members hanging on a wall, all grouped charmingly together, plus a goat bell hanging somewhere in there to add interest and dimension.  People would ask, "Oh, what's this bell?  Is it a family heirloom or something?"  And I'd say, "Nope.  It's just a goat bell.  Because goat bell."

But really, I knew I'd found exactly what I needed about ten minutes after walking in.  I walked by it, and I just knew.

I walked away, trying to mentally talk myself out of the purchase.  I walked all around the building, trying to ignore it.  After I'd gone down every aisle and poked through nearly every vendor's stall, I went back to it and walked back and forth, circled it, then finally hunkered down and looked it straight in the eye.

That, my friends, is a cast iron chicken that weighs as much as one of our children.  As you can see, she's already found a home on our front porch.

I had a heck of a time naming her.  After wrestling her up to the counter to pay for her (where all the older people who work there admired her, as was her due- that's another thing I love about that place: the people who both work and those who apparently just kind of hang out at the antique mall are just about the nicest people on earth), then staggering out to the van with her in tow, I drove home happily, contemplating just what kind of name fits a chicken of her obviously distinguished pedigree.  

I had pretty much settled on Winston when I remembered she's not a rooster.  Sometimes I'm not the sharpest tool in the shed.

After that I decided that she was most definitely a Wilhelmina, named after one of my Grandpa's sisters.  But of course she'd only be Wilhelmina when she was in trouble.  The rest of the time she'd just be Billie.

Wilhelmina- Billie- just wasn't really working for me, though.  And that's when it hit me.

Hermione.  The perfect name for my cast iron chicken.  She's clever.  She's magical.  And sure, Derek pronounced her "Hideous" when he came home and saw what I'd done, but she's smart enough not to listen to that kind of criticism.  

Hermione the Hen.  Perfect.

 Between Hermione and those pillows- another project I managed to complete whilst the children were away- I feel like our porch is nearly complete.  All that's missing is a Boston fern.  And whatever other cast iron monstrosity just begging for a home I come across in the future.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Exploration Place!

Wichita has this science center-type-thingy called Exploration Place.  They probably call it that because it's Place where kids can Explore different stuff.

What would you guys do if I wasn't here to explain everything?

One of our first stops was this teeter-totter.  It contains little balls that roll back and forth hitting metal posts and producing different musical notes, all overlooking the Arkansas River (say it with me now:  ArKANsas.  Because that's how we do it in Kansas).

By the bye, how do you refer to that little contraption:  a teeter-totter or a see-saw?  Just curious.  We always said teeter-totter.  Because see-saw is wrong.

One of the many rites of passage for a third child involves being left out of everything.  Which is why Cade had to ride the teeter-totter with me.

I was wearing a skirt and tried to be a lady and ride the thing side-saddle, but it turns out it's crazy-hard to ride a teeter-totter side-saddle while taking a picture of your two year old and trying to maintain a steady up-and-down so that he doesn't slip off.  So I threw propriety to the wind and straddled the dang thing.  I heard a decided lack of outraged gasps.

I'm pretty sure our kids' favorite part of the whole place was the castle area.  Caedmon was a blur most of the time.  No, really:

Click to embiggen The Blur.  (Hey, look who just got his superhero name!)

This photo makes me laugh.  Caedmon was so serious about mimicking the knight's stance exactly.  

He reminds of those preschooler-ballerinas who are so busy watching their own feet they forget to look out at the audience.  Except I'm pretty sure Derek's happy our son's trying to be a knight and not a ballerina.  I know because I've asked if our boys could take dance lessons.  The answer was pretty definite.

Atticus and Adelaide flying the Vikings plane.  Don't tell me that purple and gold was an accident.

Charlotte was decidedly underwhelmed by the plane.  I'm pretty sure her dad's a Chiefs fan.

Another favorite was the Tornado Simulator:

Kelli and Charlotte inside:

If you embiggen this one you can see Steph and Vada on the left and me taking the picture in the reflection on the door.  

Kelli was having fun.  Char was not so sure.  Looks like sisters do have similar parenting styles.

Adelaide holding Cade, who was clearly terrified.

I had to drag her away from that thing.

Charlotte and Vada loved the river-silt interactive display.  I know this because they kept trying to dive in.

Atticus and Adelaide loved excavating a fake ancient turtle fossil.  I had to drag Adelaide away from this, too.

I didn't take any pictures of it, but this area also contained a small cave you could tour that had displays of nocturnal animals native to Kansas.  They were all neat, but the only one that really stuck with me was the tarantula, in the form of the nightmares I've had since returning home to tarantula-free Iowa.  All I really remember from last night's is the tarantula hiding in the VCR and Adelaide and me screaming. 

 We don't have a VCR.  Or, please God, a tarantula.

Good times.  At Exploration Place, I mean.  Not the nightmares.

Photo: Having a fun time at exploration place in Wichita.
We made the mistake of taking this photo right before we left rather than as soon as we arrived, which is why all of the children are CRAZY.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Farms and Ranches, Ranches and Farms

While at my mom's house last week, we were graciously invited to a friend's ranch to pick strawberries and see the horses and get really dirty.

This was what Adelaide looked like pretty much the whole time we were there:

You should really click to embiggen, otherwise you won't get the full feel of just how happy and how hot she was.  It was around 60 degrees when we left Iowa that morning, and 98 by the time we rolled into my hometown.  Holy hotness.

At one point soon after we had arrived at the ranch, Caedmon was startled by a dog.  The doggie quickly went on his way, but Cade wouldn't let go of me.  He kept pointing and saying, "There's another doggie over there!"

Oh, my poor, sheltered city boy.  That "doggie" was a cow.  Well, a calf.  But still.

Adelaide loved the Lola the calf/dog.

The incomparable Liza let Atticus and Adelaide bottle feed sweet Lola.  She also helped all three kids on and off of tractors, drove us out to the horses, and answered what felt like millions of questions from the kiddos. 

Oh, and the strawberries.  So, so good.  They have a very large strawberry patch, and we certainly enjoyed picking and eating our way through it.

[Click to embiggen and see Atticus stuffing his face.]

A few days after that, the kids and I made the trek out to where my brother-in-law and his dad were farming.  They very kindly took time out of their busy day to take all four of us for numerous tractor rides.  We "helped" drill beans and something else that I don't remember.

Caedmon being carried out to one of the tractors by Mark, my two sisters' father-in-law.  Mark carries small children with an ease no doubt borne from having eight kids of his own.

Adelaide in the super fancy new tractor with Clinton.  She was a little upset with me when I wouldn't let her back on for a third go-round.

Atticus and I in the new tractor.  Atticus was impressed by all the buttons and pedals.  I was impressed by the whole thing.  I don't even want to know how much that thing cost.  

I just included this one because I think Atticus looks so much like photos of Derek when he was little.  I carried him for nine months and he doesn't have the good grace to look even a little bit like me.  The nerve of children.

It was all so fun.  And hot.  And fun.

Sunday, June 16, 2013


So.  Our kids are currently at their grandparents' house.  This means I got up yesterday, worked outside until 4, stumbled indoors, fell asleep for two hours, then woke up irrationally cranky.  (I am not a good napper.  Terrible, in fact.)  Fortunately, I didn't have to interact with another human being for a couple hours after that.

Evidently my children aren't the only ones who need structure in their lives.

Because our children are going to be gone for the next five days, I have all kinds of things planned- mostly involving working outdoors- but also including trying to blog every day.  To be honest, this will probably just involve slapping a few photos on here from my trip south.  Consider yourself warned.

This is a small piece of my grandparents' yard:

This is my idea of what heaven looks like.  My pictures don't do it justice.  

Although if it were really heaven, it would have one of those old-fashioned libraries attached- you know, the ones that are at least two stories and have a twisty staircase and little balcony running around the perimeter of the room- and when you stepped outside the library you'd find you were at Hogwarts.  It also wouldn't be heaven if Derek weren't there (and Jesus- can't forget that guy!), so there'd probably have to be a golf course around somewhere.

I bet you didn't know Hogwarts had a golf course on its grounds.  It's right behind the Quidditch field. 

Let's take a little tour of this little slice of heaven, shall we?

Beautiful peach roses.  I've developed a thing for peach flowers.  They look so old-fashioned.

Wine-colored hollyhocks.

Bright pink hollyhocks.

Light pink hollyhocks.  I was suffering from some serious hollyhock envy.  Not to worry, though- Grandma and Grandpa sent me home with two sandwich bags full of hollyhock seeds.  They are, of course, already in the ground.

Bachelor buttons.  What a fun name.


I didn't get a picture of Grandma, probably because she was busy running around digging up flowers for me to take home, bless her.

And here's what they sent home with me!  Let's see... lots of different colors of iris, rain lily, airplane plant, graveyard moss, hollyhock seeds, narcissus, and a bit of cactus that Grandma swears you just lay in the dirt and leave it alone.  Which I have done, although I felt a little silly doing so.  I keep wanting to fuss with it.

What's your idea of heaven?  Surrounded by dogs?  Gerbils? Elmer's Glue?

Saturday, June 15, 2013

But It's a Classic!

Just about a week ago, Derek and I were downstairs watching season 3 of Downton Abbey.  It was around 9:30 pm, the kids were in bed and had quieted down quite a bit earlier.

About halfway through the season, we heard footsteps coming down the stairs.

We could tell by the tread that it was our daughter, and when she was close to the bottom, Derek said something like, "Hello, darling daughter Adelaide."

Her response was a muffled sob.

She came rushing into the living room, threw herself next to me on the couch, and buried her face in my shirt. She wasn't just crying; these were ugly, body-racking sobs.  When she pulled away, we could see that her face was a mess of tears, snot, and thin lines of spittle dripping from her mouth.

Adelaide is not particularly nightmare-prone, and this kind of nighttime behavior is not at all normal for her, so we were pretty puzzled.

Then I looked down and saw she was holding a book.

Old Yeller.

Needless to say, I felt terrible, especially after she told me that it wasn't just the dog that freaked her out, it was the scene where the uncle contracts rabies, ties himself to a tree because he knows what's coming, then tries to eat his wife and kids after the onset of the disease.

Somehow I hadn't remembered that part.

In related news, Derek has decreed that all children's book titles must be first screened by him.

I'm not sure why; it only took thirty minutes to calm Adelaide down.  And sure, she'll be haunted for the next couple years or so, but I'm sure the memory of the book will start to soften and she'll look at it with nostalgic fondness.

Or maybe not.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Father's Day Questionnaire 2013

Hey, remember last year when I actually did something cool and helped our older two children complete a sweet Father's Day Questionnaire?  Well, a minor miracle occurred and 1) I remembered to do it again this year, and 2) I didn't lose last year's binder containing the questionnaires.  Sweet.

Here are this year's questionnaires, as completed by all three of our children.  (A big thanks to our local library- our printer ran out of ink, but when I ran to the library to use theirs, they were all being used by other patrons, so they let me use their office computer, because they are amazingly awesome.  Also awesomely amazing.  And nice.)  You may notice that Adelaide's has a few extra questions.  As she gets older and more articulate, I find it's fun to ask more thought-provoking questions.  I'll probably nix the basic stats on hers altogether next year.

Oh yeah, and don't freak out: today is not actually Father's Day.  Because our children will be with their grandparents over Father's Day, we're celebrating today.  You didn't miss it!  Yet!

Note:  Adelaide's answers are in pink, Atticus's are in green, and Caedmon's are in blue.

All About My Daddy

By Adelaide Crisler, Age 7

My Daddy’s name is Derek.

He is 6 feet 5 inches tall.

He weighs 100 pounds.

His hair color is blonde.

His favorite tv show is NFL football.

He likes to go to The Bubble.

His favorite food is crackers with ham and cheese.

His favorite drink is iced tea.

For fun my Daddy likes to play golf and football.

I love it when Daddy goes on Daddy-Daughter dates with me.

My favorite thing about my Daddy is that he takes me on Daddy-Daughter dates.

One funny thing about my Daddy is he’s stubborn.

If I could give my Daddy anything in the world, it would be a real live Garfield.


All About My Daddy

By Atticus Crisler, Age 4

My Daddy’s name is Derek.

He is 40 miles tall.

He weighs 50 pounds.

His hair color is brown.

His favorite tv show is football.

He likes to go on dates with Mommy.

His favorite food is chocolate cake.

His favorite drink is pop.

For fun my Daddy eats numbers.

I love it when Daddy plays with the train set with me.

My favorite thing about my Daddy is playing every sport with him, including basketball.


All About My Daddy

By Caedmon Crisler, Age 2

My Daddy’s name is Crisler.

He is as tall as me.

He weighs 3 pounds.

His hair color is black.

His favorite tv show is golf and baseball and football and golf.

He likes to go to church and tractor riding with just me.

His favorite food is Daddy Wraps.

His favorite drink is water and milk.

For fun my Daddy likes to play soccer ball and golf.

I love it when Daddy putts with me.  And I have two putters.

My favorite thing about my Daddy is kisses and hugses!