Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Here a Reader, There a Reader

Since she was very young, Adelaide has been an avid and enthusiastic reader.  It was something that came very easily to her; I didn't have to work with her or really teach her much after she grasped the sounds each letter made.  I remember how thrilled I was when I realized she was reading, but was it something we had to work at or slave over?  Never.

Not so with Atticus.

He's never been a particularly poor reader, he just hasn't shown much interest.  Did this bruise my sensitive reader's heart?  A little.  Not as much as I would have predicted even just a few years ago, though.  Thankfully in the intervening time I've come across a plethora of adults who admitted that, while they love to read now, they weren't big readers as youngsters.  This was a little shocking for me, who possibly spent more time in the pages of books than out, but was also encouraging when Atticus (gasp!) rarely picked up a book of his own volition.  He always loved to have me read to him- and still does, in fact- but he was no Adelaide, plowing through most of my old favorites before she'd finished kindergarten.

I've done what I can to try and pique his interest, and the book snob in me has been majorly tamed/beaten down/exsanguinated in the process.  Remember when Adelaide was seven and only allowed to read books I had first gone carefully over and approved?  LOLOLOLOL.  Yeah, no.  First of all, I would currently have to have an extra six hours per day to plow through all the books she consumes, and second, Atticus has zero interest in the classical path I managed to force Daughter down for a time.  Me from two years ago would likely choke on her only-Jack-London-this-week rhetoric if she could see the volume of Ninja Turtle trash fiction piling up in our boys' room.  But they're reading, okay?  Get off my back, former Kristy!

And it's working.
He wouldn't even come in the house yesterday afternoon, but insisted on plopping down there on the front porch because he couldn't wait to find out what happens next in Dragon of the Red Dawn.  I tried not to act overly excited for fear of making Magic Tree House somehow less cool in his eyes, but I may have blown this when I squeaked, "Oh!  OKAY!  Well, do you want a snack?  How about a freezer sandwich?  Everyone else is having a freezer sandwich!  Tell you what, I'll bring you one out here, just don't move, okay?  Just KEEP READING."  This compared to my usual after-school speech that goes something like, "Welcome home, my own darling darlings!  You may have this or this or this, but if you choose the snack that drops enough crumbs on my floor to serve as a makeshift burglar alarm, you will be eating outside, I don't care how many degrees below zero it is out there." 

At this point, in terms of reading, Caedmon falls somewhere between his two older siblings.  He doesn't love it as much as Adelaide (but really, who does?), but he's more interested than his brother.  Every week I bring home a coffee table book that rests on the desk in our front room when it's not being used for homework, in the hopes that just walking past some John Singer-Sargent will somehow make our children more cultured (probably I should go through the books with these kids of ours, but at this point, getting it in the door and leaving it lying open next to a main thoroughfare in our home is as much as I'm capable of).  This has enjoyed varying degrees of success, with the book on Monet being the most popular and the New York Times front pages book the least.  

This week the glossy book is on the Civil War, and Caedmon can't put it down.  He passes right by the photos of Lincoln.  He loves the photos of the cannon and soldiers.  He is gruesomely fascinated by the battlefield photos chock-full of corpses.  Again, past Me would be horrified.  Current Me can only sigh in defeat and microwave her coffee for the fifth time that morning. 

All this has led to a spate of Civil War interrogations from our resident five year old.  "Wait, who fought in the Civil War, again?  Well, which side were we on?  Does Grandma remember this?  Does anyone remember this?  If everyone is dead, then how do we know about the Civil War?  Do we have any books about the Civil War?  Can I read them?  Will you read them to me?"  All of which lead to this happening before breakfast this morning.

I'm leaving it to Derek to inform him that, when given the choice, you never pick Carl Sandburg over Shelby Foote.  It just isn't done.

After four minutes of light reading, he decided against the Sandburg and went back to the shelves, but this time found Maus, which I absolutely recommend to adults, but not so much for kids.  Besides, that's World War II fiction, son.  One war at a time.  Or none!  Can I interest you in some Ninja Turtles?
I had a hard time explaining that yes, Maus is illustrated, but no, it's not for you, Caedmon.  He finally relinquished his grip on my graphic novels after I promised him a visit to the library where we would check out no fewer than five Civil War books from the juvenile section.  Here's hoping my favorite librarians bring their A game to work tomorrow.  

As for me, I've recently run through a string of "it was okay," books and am ready for something to love with every nook and cranny and tiny, disused pocket of my heart.  I'm hoping this book, strongly recommended by my mother, fits the bill.  
No pressure, Ms. Bradley

Friday, April 22, 2016

Bouncing Back Bounteously

Sound the trumpets, light the bonfires, break out the good chocolate:  All five of us are healthy again.

Adelaide was a little puny still this morning, but she was determined to return to school, as the final drum audition is today.  I wish I could better explain the latter part of the previous sentence, but our elementary schools have a wackadoodle process to introduce the young'uns to band, and all I know is she had to pass some sort of preliminary test, and has been "recommended" for the drums or the clarinet.  She is excited to play either instrument.  No one asked my opinion.  I'm praying for drums, which says a lot about just how painful it is to hear someone learn to play the clarinet.  And don't even get me started on those disgusting reeds they're constantly having to moisten.  *whispers desperately* Please, God, not the clarinet.

Speaking of band:
Nothing sends Caedmon rushing out to our front yard at 7:45 AM in his footie pajamas and wrapped in his blanket like a middle school marching band.  It used to march past our house on a regular basis and all the kids absolutely loved it, but since there was a district building change-up a couple years ago, we don't get to enjoy the sound of middle schoolers playing the Jackson 5 past our house very often.  Believe it or not, that makes me very sad.  We love marching bands- even Atticus, who used to harbor a fear that one was hiding in his closet at night.  Gah, I love that kid.

It's been raining more often than not this week, which means this was my view much of the time:
Our children think standing under a black-on-top, blue-sky-underneath umbrella is somehow the best joke ever.  

I looked out the window yesterday morning and pranced right outside in the rain to stare at this gorgeous, vivid rainbow- then got to see it over and over later in the day, as my local friends were apparently equally entranced and got some beautiful photos to share on social media.

This morning was our second garage sale-ing expedition of the season, and Caedmon and I emerged victorious, with beaucoup clothes for little money.  Our youngest son is a patient shopper when it comes to garage sales, probably aided by the fact that he gets multiple compliments from various hosts.  ("What a good little shopper you have!"  "That is so nice of you to hold all those clothes for your mom!"  "I hope some of these things are for you, you're being so good!")  I don't know if this is due to Caedmon's personality or just that he's a youngest child and has thus spent most of his life being dragged around to places he doesn't particularly want to go.  

A friend brought me flowers, neither of which couldn't be any more perfect.

And just to round out a post full of lovely, lovely things:

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Sick Kids Watching Baking Kids

Two out of three Crisler children are home from school today, because Derek and I love them until they are literally sick.  Or something.
Lots of prone bodies and glassy stares in this house.
I am the consummate homebody, but even hermits have to escape their shell from time to time lest they start to say things like, "Wow, that relentless moaning you're doing obviously serves a terrific purpose.  It must be making you feel so much better because you've been doing it for forty straight minutes.  I also don't want to smother you at all."  Then Daughter begins to cry in self-pity, and I lock myself in my room to write a blog post.
I told Adelaide she was an over-achiever when this was her temp.  Unfortunately her sense of humor evaporates when she's sick.
It's not all whiney daughters and sarcastic mothers around here, though; I've been trying to make the best out of being stuck in this house for so many days running.  (Had the temerity to run to Wal-Mart this morning for some essentials.  School nurse called before I could even get out of my vehicle to walk into the store.)  I'm trying to remember that Derek and I don't have to make the tough choice as to which one of us has to miss work, or worry about losing my job because our family has been sick so much.  I'm allowed a small pity party, but only streamers are allowed; absolutely no piñatas.

I've been doing all the things I've put off doing, like making and trying out some new laundry soap-

Okay, so quick side note:  I've used the Duggars' recipe for the past couple years, and although I always added a ton of lemon essential oil, it was never strongly-scented enough for Derek.  I found this new recipe for a powdered soap, and it contains two whole bottles of those scent-boosting crystals, and after using it on ten loads of laundry in the past two days, I've been really pleased.  It's smelly enough for Derek, but not so smelly to give me a headache, which I'm prone to, because my olfactory sense is crap right up until it smells something too floral or perfumey, at which point it morphs into a diva and the head-pounding begins.

-switching out all our flannel bedding for something not quite so sweaty, hemming Caedmon's too-short pants into shorts for summer, then transplanting some of my seedlings that were getting too leggy for their tiny egg carton containers.
"Nice stems."

And then, because we all know what happens when you're all work and no play, the kids and I sat down to watch
and you guys, it is so good.  First of all, you get to see all these frighteningly competent children throw around terms like pâte à choux and watch them make things you've never even attempted, but they're still kids, so they're dropping things and helping each other and happily saying things like, "The ice cream's a little over-churned, but I'm just like, 'I'm eleven years old, I just made ice cream!'" 
The two hosts/judges- Duff Goldman and Valerie Bertinelli- are also quite well-cast, (yes, even Valerie), because they're so, so good with the kids:  Kind and encouraging but also honest when the food isn't what it should be.  There's only one season available on Netflix, and that's only four episodes, which is my sole complaint.  Yes, we tried the show because I thought the kids would enjoy it, but I'd absolutely watch it on my own.  Here's hoping they'll get over this crud in a jiffy and feel inspired to bake me something amazing.  (The only other downside to watching these kinds of shows:  You get real hungry and wonder why you don't have any lemon tartlets or an abundance of gruyère cheese in your house rightthissecond.)

Monday, April 18, 2016

Going Wrong, Going Right

It's been a rough couple weeks around our house, as Derek and I have been sick.  While I won't subject you to the pitiful details of our recent collective existence, I will say it was a never-have-I-identified-with-roadkill-so-strongly-type illness.  We were flattened, and it was ugly.

Naturally, this all coincided with any number of activities in which our family was expected to be present, and while we did all we could to stay in our hole and keep from breathing on innocent bystanders, sometimes it just couldn't be helped.  This led to fun interactions such as the one where my pregnant friend approached me for a hug and I was like, "DON'T!  Don't touch me!  Don't even come close- you do not want this!"

Still, life goes on, even when one is staring at the ceiling and asking oneself, "Which do I feel more like:  A human carcass or a flesh sock?"  I found evidence of this ongoing life when I stumbled outside only to find my tulips were blooming!

Adelaide also had a couple music things, including her piano recital.  She performed beautifully.

Atticus had his first soccer practice of the spring.  Other, better, healthier parents stood outside and watched their progeny; I grabbed mine before he could jump out of the vehicle and said, "Listen, I am not leaving this van.  If you need me for some reason- like if you get hurt or anything- you will just have to crawl over here and get in, because I am not getting out.  I will push the button to open the door if I happen to see you approaching, but that's as good as it's going to get tonight."
In my defense, it was in the forties and very windy, and hello, I was sick.  Side note:  I don't want to sound judgmental or anything, but if you're not using a photo of your grandma as a bookmark, you may or may not be doing life wrong.  And if the previous anecdote makes you think that I probably shouldn't be judging anyone, well, you're right, but I stand by the bookmark thing.

I also felt well enough one day to pay my yearly blood debt to the rabbit fence surrounding my vegetable patch.
Two pertinent pieces of information related to this photo:  My tiny, feeble strawberry plants have now been weeded, and I will never be a hurdler.

To sum up the past sickly, illness-ridden few months we've had:
At least something's going right for us; I mean, you did see those tulips up there, right?  Oh, and the daughter.  Yes, the daughter is what's going right.  She's suddenly not allowed to read this post.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Munchausen the Gardener

I am terrible- TERRIBLE- at knowing when to keep our kids home from school.

On the mornings when they're lethargic and kind of puny, I send them anyway, because we all have mornings like that, right?  It doesn't mean we're sick... except for all the times I get a call from the school nurse telling me a kid has a temp of 102.1/ is pale and droopy and complaining of an excruciating headache/ has vomited all over the library (all calls I've received just this school year).

When I do keep them home, though, because they weren't doing well the evening before?  They run around like a prisoner who has received a last-minute pardon (which is kind of what they are, I guess), no fever, no lethargy, no pain.  It's like some kind of miracle!  [Heavy, somewhat bitter sarcasm.]

Such was the case Wednesday morning.  Atticus has been fighting a cold, and that coupled with night after sleepless night made me decide to keep him home so that he could sleep in, because that makes sense, right?  He'd get the extra sleep he needed, and a little extra rest to help his ailing body fight this cold.

Except he didn't sleep in.  He got up ten minutes after the time I usually have to drag him out of bed, and was up to joyously wave his sister out the door to the bus.  Forget "Man plans, God laughs;" around here it's "Mom plans, children cackle viciously."

Still, because Atticus loves to help and he obviously wasn't as sick as I'd been led to believe, he got to spend a glamorous morning learning how to properly scrub toilets, clean his own mattress, and plant egg carton seeds.  Believe it or not, he appeared to enjoy all activities equally, although he was a little concerned when he found out that I put one of my favorite cleaning agents in his food regularly (baking soda, so just calm down, DHS).  I tried to explain how I use it in different ways and keep it in different containers depending on where I use it in the house, but he remains unconvinced that I'm not perpetrating a terrible crime against our family.  I think the next time he questions me on it, I'll just shrug and tell him, "Have it your way, bud, but that means no more cookies- I use baking soda in 99% of my cookie recipes."  There's no chance this could backfire like all my other plans.  [Heavy, somewhat bitter sarcasm.]

Somehow I didn't get a picture of the scrubbing or the cleaning, but I did get one of the planting.

What's in our cartons this spring?
Long Island Cheese squash, apparently named (according to the back of the packet) because they look like a wheel of cheese.  I love Seed Savers Exchange, as they're dedicated to preserving heirloom varieties of plant species.  In a perfect world, I would only buy my seeds from SSE, but as I am a deeply flawed human being, that never happens.  I also tell my children, "NoOooOoo, there aren't any sweets hidden in special, precious pockets of this house!"

The sinful, mass-produced seeds that we planted were
because how the heck am I supposed to resist a squash bearing the name "Turks Turban"?  (Although I keep questioning whether or not there should be an apostrophe somewhere in that name, and where.)  Also some sunflower seeds from last year, because I always have a couple different varieties of sunflower seeds tucked away, and then some pumpkin seeds that allowed me to feel extremely superior, having harvested and dried them myself.  

And now, because I'm too lazy to find a way to tie the end of this post up with a bow, here is a picture of Caedmon I took mere minutes ago.
Pretty sure we were talking about superheroes, as that is his superhero stance.  This hero's genesis story would no doubt talk about the tragic loss of first his parents, and then his neck.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

It's Not All Terror

Lest you think it's all terrified screaming in our family, here's what else we've been up to:

Saturday, Derek's mom took the kids to do all the fun things their lame-o mom won't do with them, like go to the park.  (It's been cold, okay?  And yes, "cold" to me this time of year is 45 degrees.)  She also took them to see Zootopia, which they all loved, while Derek and I went to a super fancy new movie theater we've been wanting to try out.
Why, yes, those are over-sized, leather, reclining-with-footrests theater seats!
Derek's feet hung off the end, but really, that's just what his feet do.  It's the same way with our bed, and that's a king-size.  (Does anyone else find it odd that the biggest beds are called "king-sized"?  I assume they're referring to the size of the king's bed, not the king himself.  Weren't most of history's kings on the shorter side?)  Most people would not have this problem in these seats; I felt like I was swimming in it.  They were so dang comfortable, but all I could think was, Where the heck were these seats when I was pregnant?  We didn't go to see a lot of movies during the four years that I was constantly cranking out babies, but that was in part because I couldn't get comfortable in the theater seats:  There was poor lower back support, my feet swelled after sitting for so long, and I felt like I had very little room to shift my bulk around.

Incidentally, these seats are called "luxury loungers," a name that caused an almost reflexive eye-roll in me.  I still don't know why people don't check with me before naming things.  Rest assured the next time we go I will be unable to keep myself from referring almost constantly to those seats as "lllllluxury lllllloungers" with great ostentation and relentless giggling at my own joke.  My husband is a lucky man.

The screen in that theater was also GIGANTIC (I made the word big to reflect its meaning and how big the screen was, see?  I'm nothing if not subtle), and while I tried to take a picture, I couldn't fit the big movie screen on my tiny phone screen.  You'll just have to use your imagination.  The sound was also somehow perfect, and that is saying something, as I started carrying ear plugs with me for movies, church, etc, years ago.  Young people like things so loud these days.

Oh, look!  It's me at church!  "Yaaaay, I'm at church, I'm happy to be here, but ow, ow, ow, ow... "
Quite possibly the best gif I have ever come across.  I can't stop laughing.  Oh, internet, you are a strange and wonderful place.

Derek's been busy churning out video after video, including this one, where he was up in one of those... I think he called it a bucket truck?  I always called them cherry-pickers.  Anyway, he was up in that with an expensive camera.  I would have had to grow a third and fourth hand to do this job:  Two to hang on to the camera and work against all my natural abilities to drop any and everything, and two to grip the sides of the bucket in a heady mix of fascination and terror.  

He's also won some more awards for his work, because as far as I can tell, that's just what he does.

I think I'll leave you with this.
Show kindness and grace to them?  Yes.  Friends?  

Monday, April 4, 2016

Who Needs Sleep, Anyway?

Atticus is currently in one of his severe cycles of night terrors.  You may recall that they were nothing but severe for a few years, but at this point, we have days or even weeks where he only has a couple episodes a night, and sometimes not at all.  We love those nights.  Those nights are paradise.

The past couple weeks have not been paradise.

At the beginning of a more terror-strewn time, you think, Well, maybe it was just a bad night.  A few days later it's, Week, then.  Maybe it's a bad week.  Around the two week point, Derek and I begin throwing around words like "despair" and "horrific," and not in a joking manner.  It's pretty bleak.

This time around, I've been thinking about how this ever-present fatigue affects my running.  My level of perceived exertion does not reflect my actual pace in any way.  I finish my run feeling like I worked hard, then discover I was moving relatively slowly.  Running is harder when you're tired, but then, so is everything else.

At this point, thankfully, we've been dealing with our son's night terrors for so long that I know what kind of adjustments I need to make to my day in response to many consecutive nights of little sleep.  I'm getting up a dozen or more times a night, then spending a long time with a screaming-yet-asleep seven-year-old.  It is no longer strange to me to wake up on the floor of the hallway between bedrooms, or at the foot of Atticus's bed, etc, etc.  My day just can't look the same after a night like that.

Really, it reminds me of spoon theory, which you may or may not be familiar with.  It's an excellent illustration a young lady with lupus used to describe to her friend what it's like to live with chronic illness.  It's a powerful metaphor, but a little different for us, as having a child with night terrors is quite obviously different.  Atticus will most likely grow out of these.  (Pleeeeaaaase God.)  You don't outgrow lupus, or any number of other "invisible" illnesses.

I liken it more to a battery, or the symbol of a battery I can see on the bottom right hand corner of my laptop screen  right now.  Each night, my battery is mostly depleted, so I go to sleep.  In the morning, hopefully my battery is completely charged, and I'm running at 100% power.

After a bad night of night terrors, the best I can hope for is to wake up at 90% power.  But hey, 90% is fine!  I can operate at 90%!

Oh, except the effects of sleep deprivation are cumulative.  So after another night, I wake up- or I stay up because I've spent more time awake than asleep- and I'm at 80%.

Then 70% on the third morning.  And on.  And on.

Now, obviously and gloriously the human body doesn't work the same as a laptop battery.  After ten bad nights, I'm not at 0%.  I really can't tell you what my bottom threshold is, just that I function differently when I've been exhausted for a long time.  My response time is slower.  I have trouble writing.  I used the word "adjustment" up there, and it took me a solid thirty seconds for my brain to wend its way around to that very common noun.  My patience is short, and I have a tendency to snap at people, especially if they push me on anything, even if it's well-intended.  ("Hey, you should try such-and-such."  "Yeah, I can't right now, but thanks."  "No, you really should, because-" "I wasn't kidding.  I CAN'T.")  I have about one pleasant response in me for each person, and after that, I'm afraid you get to see my frustration straining at its leash to bite your face.  It's marvelous.

So what do I do?  I still run, which seems paradoxical, but although difficult, it's important to my mental health, and it helps what little sleep I do get.  When I don't exercise, I don't sleep well.  Running seems to help me fall asleep faster and improves the quality of my sleep, even after getting up multiple times a night.

I'm also more careful about what I eat.  Now, ideally, I would do this all the time, but, well, I just don't.  Me and Cheetos are like

I can't afford to do that when I'm not getting enough sleep.  If I'm not recharging my battery at night, I have to do what I can to add small amounts of energy during the day, and nutrient-dense foods are one source of fuel.

I also say "no" a lot more.  My top priorities are Derek, kids, bible study, running, and probably a couple other things I can't think of right now because so tired, so if it doesn't fall under one of those categories, it's gone for a while.  This has led to some super fun conversations after I've said I can't be involved in certain things for the time being.  The good thing is, when you're tired, you care a whole lot less.

I'm very careful with the kids.  I try to pay a lot of attention to my voice, because if I focus on my volume and tone, I find I'm less likely to get irritated or angry or impatient with them.

Now I'm going to go fuel (Noosa yogurt, you complete me), and compose an email to Atticus's teacher; when he's been running low on sleep for quite some time, he seems to hold it together for school, then falls apart when he gets home, but I need to alert his teacher, just in case.  I am happy he works so hard to behave at school, even if it makes some of our time at home a bit rough.  

Ask me if I feel the same way today at 4 PM.  I definitely won't bite your head off.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Baryshnikov II and III

Here's a little tidbit I bet you weren't aware of:
Our boys are gifted modern dancers.

No, really!
I know, right?  Amazing, you're thinking.  I wish I could move so expressively and with such abandon, such vulnerability.

Sometimes Caedmon obeys the whims of his nonexistent Irish lineage and breaks out in a jig.

Or, OR, I've reached such a subterranean level of despair that none of my children will ever be dancers that I'm concocting choreographed fantasies where only basketball exists.

Oh, well.  That last photo still got me like