Thursday, May 28, 2015

A Mannequin, SOS, and Batwing List

  • I'm beginning to sympathize with the boy in The Boy Who Cried Wolf, except instead of freaking out villagers, I told Caedmon that mannequins come to life if you squeeze their hands just right.  And actually, it was Adelaide's idea in the first place, I just jumped in to elaborate, making the story more believable and giving it a bit of weight.  In our defense, we were at a sporting goods outlet, Derek was in the dressing room, and we were bored.  Plus Caedmon kept reaching up to shake the mannequins' hands, so the story kind of wove itself into being; Daughter and I just gave it a (slightly whimsical/menacing) voice.  Caedmon didn't even act that freaked out, and I figured he'd forgotten the whole thing until a few days ago when he made a sharp left turn in an otherwise normal conversation and suddenly asked, "Mom, were you just teasing me about squeezing those guys' hands?"  I clarified, asking him if he meant mannequins, which he did, then admitted that yes, I had been teasing.  Mannequins don't really come to life if you squeeze their hands.  (That we know of.)  Caedmon gave me a bit of a talking-to about teasing and how I basically shouldn't do it, then I didn't give it another thought, until I realized today that he's continuing to insist that Adelaide is still eight because he thinks I'm teasing him about her turning nine.  Nothing I say will persuade him otherwise.

This lady is my kind of people.

  • Adelaide has started her own blog.  She's been talking about it for awhile; everyone got the chance to create one in a class at school, but I didn't know if anything would actually come of it until the other day when I passed over the laptop and she began laboriously typing the address.  I'd been a little unsure about letting our daughter have a steady online presence, but once I realized that she wouldn't be posting anything at school, only at home, my fears were more or less assuaged, not to mention the fact that anyone who is funny enough to name their blog "Social Outcast's Spot" has a voice that needs to be heard.  She's posted once, and my only input was to look it over to make sure she wasn't saying things like, "Tender nine-year-old midwestern morsel, here.  Here's my address, here's my favorite kind of candy, and here's the time and place that I'm probably most vulnerable.  Toodles!"  Thankfully she seems to have more sense than to put anything like that out there, but just in case I said the previous sentence to her pretty much verbatim, to which she rolled her eyes and gave me a mini-lecture on how I constantly underrate her level of intelligence.  First Caedmon, then her; I've been getting a lot of dressings down from our children lately.  I can't imagine why.
She gives me this look a lot.

  • I received a text message after school today regarding an Amber Alert for Iowa.  I made the mistake of sharing this with our children, who proceeded to ask me ten thousand questions for which the only answers I had were "Dodge Neon.  Two-door.  Blue.  I don't know."  Caedmon refused to come inside for his snack but instead proceeded to sit on the front porch, hollering through the screen every time any car drove by that was not just blue but anywhere on the cool side of the color wheel.  He did the same thing on our walk to the library, alerting the other three of us by yelling, "A blue car!  THOSE COULD BE THE PEOPLE THAT STOLE THE KID!"  Every car to whom his ire and suspicion was directed did, of course, have their windows rolled down.  Not one was a Dodge Neon, or even blue, for that matter.  Still:  Although it was State of Iowa officials who found the missing persons, Batwing was on patrol.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Outside Stuff

We live in that big swath of the country that's been getting rain, rain, and more rain.

This isn't unusual for us around here, as our spring is generally marked by more rain than sun, and thankfully we've experienced minimal flooding this year.  All these rainy days bring back memories of splashing in puddles and slipping around on the trampoline in a downpour and mopping water off the bare wood subflooring in the house my parents were building because it wouldn't stop raining and there was no roof yet and my dad was afraid the wood would warp, all while Mom sat in the car and watched because she was too sick and weak from a brutal round of chemo to help.  Ah, childhood.

I empty it and the sky fills it back up.  Every day.  

I got a few plants in before the rains came down and the floods came up, but not many, as it's also been a chilly spring and I didn't think the soil temp was warm enough for the flowers I'm growing from seed.

Sunflowers and zinnias and sunflowers and delphinium and more sunflowers.

Thankfully it warmed up a bit for my mom and Mark's recent visit, and the rain even abated for brief amounts of time.  Not while we were visiting the local public garden, of course, but that's what butterfly houses are for.

Atticus spent the first ten minutes in the butterfly wing clinging to me and quietly panicking anytime a butterfly brushed by him.  Five minutes later, he was mad because none would land on him.  I don't know how to explain this other than that it's just so Atticus.  Caedmon was less interested in the butterflies and more interested in making friends with the volunteer that worked in there, getting her to show him the supply closet and telling her all about his super powers.  That is just so Caedmon.

Today we're enjoying a respite from all the rain, so Caedmon and I did important outdoor things, among them beribboning Hermione and planting flowers.

I added it up and our children's teachers spent approximately one million hours with them over the past school year.  This means they deserve a beach house in which to spend their summers forgetting the atrocities perpetrated against them over the course of the past year, but what we can afford are flowers.

Step One:  Go to your small local hardware store.  Wander around their greenhouse, and by 'wander,' I mean turn in a tight circle because that is how tiny it is.  Step Two:  Ignore the nice employee's suggestion to get each teacher a $4.50 potted flower, because what am I, made of money?  Step Three:  Buy the $1 3-pack annuals for each teacher.  Step Four:  Go to Target and hit the dollar bins for buckets.  Resist the urge to buy all the cute things.  You must be strong on this step.  Step Five:  Get home and remember you don't have potting soil.  Dig around in the compost heap until you find the least egg shell-y parts, and fill the buckets with those.  Step Six:  Plunk the flowers in there on top of the egg shells and compost and call it a day.

 Fortunately I know that if anyone can understand living on a budget, it's public school teachers, and at $2 a pop, these fit nicely into ours.  Thanks, teachers, for all the wisdom and compassion and patience and kindness!  Here's a plant that will die in 3-4 months!  Love from the Crislers! 

Monday, May 25, 2015


My mom and Mark came for a visit over the weekend.

Those are two grandboys and a bunch of quilts skulking around her.  This is not an unusual sight- particularly the quilts. 

In my family, if you get married or have a baby nobody tunes up a brass band or bakes you 1,000 casseroles or performs some ancient blessing.  My grandma, aunts, and mother will, however, attempt to smother you in warm, quilted love.

The three quilts on the left were made by Mom; the three on the right by Aunt Kay.

Those quilts up there are only the baby quilts our children received in thanks for being born.  After Derek and I got married, we received four quilts over the space of around two years, because quilts take time and between my cousins and sisters and I there are eight of us who need a quilt commemorating every major milestone.  And those wedding quilts are no joke:  Big enough to cover a queen-sized bed, in an assortment of color palettes and designs.  At one point Derek wondered aloud if all these quilts were an attempt to pad the walls.  This was not an unreasonable query.

And not to worry:  The men in the family aren't left out of the quilting venture; they're frequently drafted into service building quilt ladders.  I know this because there's one beside me right now, holding all my wedding quilts.  These men are also excellent at not touching the quilts at quilt fairs (touching of the quilts being strictly forbidden at such 'dos- but you knew that) and waiting outside the fabric shop not judging how long it's taking nor how many dollars are flying out of the women folks' hands.  They know that this is all in the name of art and heirlooms, or were perhaps ever so gently made to understand the first time they were foolish enough to challenge their resident quilter.

Never fear, Quilters!   I only opened those blinds all the way for the purposes of this photo; I don't want sunlight fading those colors any sooner than necessary.

I worry, at times, about my lack of quilting ambition.  I come from a robust line of quilters, and am perfectly proficient with needle and thread and sewing machine.  Shouldn't I be doing piecework in my sleep?  Feel the overwhelming urge to peruse quilting patterns when someone announces they're expecting?  Suffer guilt when buying a *gasp* STORE-BOUGHT BLANKET?  

The aforementioned robust line of quilters- at least, the two on the far left; that's a great-grandma and her sister.

Then I remember my fabric hoard (it's just so pretty); The Incident, aka that one time I found Adelaide attempting to use my rotary cutter for a craft project and I went the teeniest tiniest bit Mommy Dearest not because I was worried for her safety but because it was my rotary cutter; plus my mom didn't start quilting in earnest until my sisters and I were old enough to leave her in peace for thirty consecutive minutes.  My time may yet come.

Until then, I'm just going to enjoy the fruits of my mom, my aunts, and my grandma's labors, draped so lovingly around our house and its inhabitants- after all, this is Iowa.  It's cold up here.

Speaking of which, Mom?  I'm pretty sure I never got a quilt for moving to Iowa.  A small oversight, I'm assuming...?

Friday, May 22, 2015

A List for Friday

  • Signs your children are growing up in the age of technology:
Caedmon loves to draw pictures, but he will often ask if you want just a picture, or a picture and an audiobook.  If you go the audiobook route, it means you are possessed with infinite patience and/or have twenty minutes of your time to sacrifice to a meandering story about super heroes and lightning coming out of fingertips and hot lava.  There is always hot lava.

Recently when he posed this choice to me, I went the audiobook route.  I don't really remember why I did this to myself, but I'm fairly certain guilt was involved.  Caedmon drew his picture full of swords and lightning and stick figures with disturbingly large fists.  He wrote a bunch of random letters and a few short words on the reverse of the piece of paper; this was the audiobook portion.  Then he brought the paper over to me, allowed me to view his masterpiece, then flipped it over and prepared to recite a tale of lava and derring-do.

Before he began, however, he said, "Oh, wait, there's an Ad before the audiobook can start.  But you can Skip it if you want to."

Methinks we've been watching too many YouTube videos.

Caedmon loves audiobooks, but will still deign to listen to a paper version.

  • Signs your children have fantastic teachers:
In Atticus's kindergarten class they have this thing called "magic words."  There is a list of a few magic words every week, and every time the kids hear or use one of these words, they are to tug on their ear.

Atticus thinks this is pretty much the greatest thing ever.  I think this is pretty much the greatest thing ever, because it has him using words he didn't previously, all while wiggling his earlobe with his fingers and looking meaningfully at me with a smile:  "He is such a RASCAL," *smile wiggle wiggle*, or "I was FRIGHTENED the frisbee was lost," *smile wiggle wiggle*.  

I love the way he says these words in an announcer's voice, enunciating each consonant, but there was the week I learned I overuse the word "finally"; I worried our son's ear was going to fall clean off from all the tugging he had to do.

Atticus also has a fantastic coach, although it isn't his ear that sees plenty of action during soccer- it's his tongue, which evidently must bask in the light of day for him to successfully kick the ball.

Click to embiggen all these to see his Soccer Tongue.

Two Soccer Tongues!

And here's Atticus and Derek, looking very... coachly.  I say if "kingly" is a word, "coachly" can be, too.

  • Signs your family has faces more suited to those strange mugs with faces than to a glossy magazine cover:
You know, this kind:

Looks like a Crisler

These are the faces our family makes whilst playing mini-golf together:

Neither Adelaide nor I are able to remain composed when we make a bad putt.  And when you ask Caedmon to make a "pirate face," because we were playing at Pirate's Cove?

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

I Should Frame These Anyway

All I wanted was a nice photo of Adelaide smiling with Table Rock lake and a slice of the Ozarks in the background.

Instead she found a big bug on her arm.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

A Thursday List

Newly unearthed bricks basking in the warmth of the long-hidden sun.  

Adelaide recently came home with a stick that her school optimistically called a White Oak tree.  While I was out back digging a hole for the white oak stick, about ten inches down I began to unearth bricks.  I fished three out of the small hole required for the stick, but hit more around the perimeter of the hole.  I thought about widening my search to see how many I could find, but figured Derek would frown upon arriving home to find half the backyard being excavated for the sake of old bricks.

Why, Suspicious Previous Owners?  Why all the buried nails and bricks and faux dead bodies?  Someone please explain this to me.

  • Derek and I made a whirlwind trip to Milwaukee a couple weeks ago so he could accept a few awards he won for his work.  

This is my favorite of the pictures I took while Derek was giving his "Thanks for reinforcing the fact that I'm amazing" speech.  I like the way the Master of Ceremonies behind him there is gazing adoringly at my husband.  It's like he's been taking lessons from Atticus and Caedmon.

  • There have been more soccer games:

Derek showing Atticus how to... throw the ball back into the game... probably?

Atticus with the ball, there, doing something fancy.  Pretty sure it involved kicking of some sort.  (Three games in and I am a veritable soccer savant, friends.)

Atticus is on the left, there, turning on a dime to run toward the ball.  Do anyone else's knees kill just looking at this?

It's very strange to watch one of my offspring play a sport with such enthusiasm.  And- hey, sisters of mine, get this:  When there's a gaggle of children fighting and kicking at the ball, Atticus enters the fray with gusto.  And when a ball comes flying at him at indecent and possibly harmful speeds, he runs toward it.  There is no screeching, no ducking, no closing of the eyes.   How are we even related to this kid?

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Monday, May 11, 2015

No Blood Sacrifices Performed in the Making of This Post

I don't know about you, but I enjoyed a successful weekend, in large part because I continued my Mother's Day tradition of buying myself a plant (or three), something I was practically forced to do because a local public garden had their annual sale (not to be confused with an Annuals Sale, haaaar har har) and when they have tomato and strawberry plants that are already big and healthy with blooms for $4.50, it feels criminal not to buy a couple.  As for the aster plant, well, it was $2 and lonely.

I think this is my happy/sheepish face:  "Gracious, who bought all these plants?"
Plus there were some Iowa State students giving out free seedlings to attract pollinators, and the brown paper bag there contained marigold seedlings from Atticus (aka Atticus's lovely kindergarten teacher) for Mother's Day.  I may have also accidentally planted a dahlia tuber or eight; please do not think this means I will have a vista of gorgeous dahlias this summer, as thus far our yard has proved to be a bloody dahlia killing field.  Planting them was less, "Doo-dee-doo, watch as I grow and nurture and garden," and more "ANOTHER SACRIFICE TO THE DIRT GOD."  It felt like I was playing Aztecs and Huitzilopochtli, and before you go thinking that's weird and maybe a little sick, consider that it makes about as much as sense as generations of children playing Cowboys and Indians, mmkay?  Besides, whose mind doesn't go to ritual killing when Mother's Day is mentioned, amIright?!

I also got to have delicious, delicious Mexican food for lunch on Sunday... which brings me right back around to the Aztecs.  I tried to get to a more motherly topic, friends.  I tried.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Drinking From the Well of Wisdom; or, How I Pronounce 'Lawyer'

The people have spoken and they- you- said the word "lawyer" is pronounced "loyer."  I wish I could give you a compelling reason to say it my way (LAW-YER.  LAW-YER LAW-YER LAAAAWWW-YEEERRRR.), but I wasn't able find one during the initial debate with Derek.  At one point I thought I had a credible example backing me up, as I pointed out that there was a movie where the lawyer in it pronounced the word "law-yer," and wouldn't a lawyer know how to pronounce the name of his own profession?  But then I realized the movie was A Time to Kill and the actor in question was Matthew McConaughey, and anytime you're looking to Matthew McConaughey for wisdom or to back up your argument it's probably time to review your life choices.

Our culture is so misguided we hear this guy string random phrases together and call it profound. Here's the first MM quote a simple google search netted:

"There's a man I met 20 years ago. He escaped Russia. He was not even a carpenter, built a 17-foot boat and sailed across the Atlantic for decades he held the world record for smallest vessel single-man sailed across the Atlantic. He told me this, he said, 'A genius can be anybody he wants to, but a genius is always one person at a time.' So to that I say, that's what we get to do, isn't it? One man, one woman, one human. At a time. When we do it well. Just keep doing that. Just keep living."-  Matthew McConaughey

What?  Is that supposed to mean something?  Anything?  I thought Marilyn Monroe quotes haunting Pinterest were bad, but at least she's dead.  This guy could have decades yet to infect us with this brand of communicating.  Watch, I can do it, too.

"It's just, it's just about being amazing. If you walk, you will be amazing.  If you just keep walking.  You'll get somewhere.  Utah.  Enlightenment.  Applebee's.  Those all start with vowels.  So that's meaningful.  Start when you're a baby.  And never stop.  Just keep walking."  -Me, turning off my brain 

Or how about this gem?

"A man should always have his diary on him. That way he's guaranteed to always have something incredible to read." -Matthew McConaughey

That's right, friends!



Aw, yiss.

And that is why I forgive you if you pronounce the word 'lawyer' differently than I do.

Now- I want to hear you comment like McConaughey.  All you do.  Is break up what should be a normal sentence.  Into pieces.  Use periods.  With abandon.

Oh!  Or tell me what celebrity is quoted hither and yon and propped up as some kind of shaman that drives you craaaaazy.   Because I can't be the only one who puts on sackcloth and ashes every time she sees an actor used as True North on people's life compass, right?

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

State of Our Yard Address

Yesterday after school, the kids and I arrived home to find our front porch was the scene of a terrible crime.

At first glance, it appeared that the Command hook I'd attached to the siding for the purposes of hanging a Christmas decoration had finally given up the ghost.  I was really pretty impressed; that thing had endured major temperature fluctuations, including winter temps well below zero, along with wind, snow, and rain, when I really hadn't known if it would stick at all, as the pictures on the product package showed a pampered indoor life of holding up umbrellas and cleaning supplies.

All this to say, I was not surprised to find that six months later, the thing had finally given out.

Upon closer inspection, however, all was not well here.

I actually gasped when I saw this.  Let's just say my life is not abounding in drama and variety.

But look!

We have four survivors!

We'd all noticed increased avian activity on our front porch this spring, especially in the vicinity of the wreath hung by the front door, but I had assumed the birds were using the faux yellow berries to liven up their nests.  I'd never thought to look on top for a nest!  (Nor would I have been tall enough to see it up there- but I could have asked Derek to check.)

So here's my question:  Do we leave the nest where it is, perched atop the fallen wreath?  Do we try to position it in the tree a mere twenty feet away, in front of the porch?

These branches are the usual home of nests.

Or is it too late, all folly, folly, folly at this point- that mother bird is gone forever and her eggs are doomed?  (I am only passing on the language of our daughter, here; she became instantly invested in the fates of those probably dead baby birds.)

In other outdoor news, the last of my tulips are still going strong.

These are new this year, and when they first bloomed I couldn't figure out why the heck I'd planted them; they were a creamy yellowish color at first with the tiniest bit of purple, and not all that pretty, but the longer they bloom the more lovely their colors become.  I took these pics at least a week ago; now they're more purple with white streaks, and they're one of the longest lasting tulips I've had this year, right after my Royal Jubilee tulips:

Yes, I've shown you photos of these already this year, but they're still going strong weeks after first blooming, with the more orangey tulips becoming more pink every day.  

All the tulips were more successful than my crocus bulbs I planted last fall:

Do you see what I see?  Because what I see is ZERO BLOOMS.  The nice variegated leaves came up, but no flowers.  I'm wondering if this is related to my daffodil problem; I have right around a dozen narcissus plantings around our yard, and got one single sad daffodil this year.  I think our soil is too high in nitrogen, and need to figure out what to do about that, but I'm also going to move these crocuses to a sunnier location, because the level of angst I felt at ZERO CROCUS BLOOMS was just the tiniest bit outrageous.  

Thankfully my variegated Solomon's Seal didn't let me down this year:

I planted it two years ago as a Mother's Day gift to myself, and it began as a single, arching branch, and stayed that way all last year, too.  This year it's finally begun to naturalize and spread, even displaying these little white bell blooms.

Along with the columbine, it's providing some welcome height and variation to the bed of snow-on-the-mountain that surrounds our giant pine.  

And finally, lest I give you the idea that all is green and flourishing in an Iowa spring, here are the rain lily and Boston fern I carted out of the basement yesterday:

They're looking a little worse for wear, because Iowa winters are harsh, indoors or out.  I'm hoping the spring air will perform some kind of magical rejuvenating powers on them.  A 10-day forecast featuring rain every bloody day probably won't hurt, either.