Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Extroverted, Excellent, Exceptional Atticus

Yesterday morning my three gremlins and I visited Ledges state park with Derek's sister and her two girls.

We were there for around two hours, playing in the water and hiking and picnicking and socializing.
Three or so hours after leaving, we were back home, where Adelaide, Caedmon, and I immediately retreated to our respective corners to read and recuperate from all that togetherness.  I mean, we liked the togetherness, but three hours of time with others will always end in a need for recovery time for both Adelaide and I and, I'm beginning to suspect, Caedmon.

Atticus, however, changed his clothes and grabbed a snack and proceeded to ricochet between his two siblings, begging someone to play with him.  Bless his heart, he was trying his best to pick activities and games the other two would enjoy, but they were done, with zero interest in further interaction with human beings.  

"Hey, Caedmon, wanna play superheroes?  You can be Batman.  Or Captain America.  Or any of the good guys."  
"No, thanks."

"Hey, Adelaide, wanna play ninjas?  I can go get your ninja clothes for you- you don't even have to go upstairs!"
"Not right now."

"Hey, Caedmon, wanna play soccer?  I'll get your water ready, and you can start two points ahead.  No, three points ahead!"
"Atticus, no."

I felt so bad for that poor kid, our extroverted, people-loving, utterly baffling middle child.  If it were up to me and the other two children, our summers would be nothing but day after day of staying at home, with occasional forays into the world to stock up on food and library books.  Basically, like this:

But that is not what Atticus needs.  He needs things to do and outside stimulation and people.  Atticus actually seems to believe that adage "The more the merrier"; it has always made me shudder.

So I've been dragging the kids and myself out of the house more this summer than any other.  And yes, Atticus has loved it, but it's also benefited Caedmon and Adelaide who, like me, need the company of other people and often thrive in varied situations, even if we have to force ourselves into it.
We've been going to Lego Club.  (Please excuse Atticus's new camera smile; I am aware that it is creepy in the extreme, but he does not.  We're working on it.)

We attended the water fight with the fire department.

We've visited a couple different historical societies, because it's free and the older two kids and I love that sort of thing.  This is a cross-section of a giant cottonwood that stood in a nearby town for over a hundred years.  Our boys are fascinated by this thing and never miss a chance to run their hands over it when we walk past.

Is all this activity exhausting?  Heck, yes.  But I've also seen the value of having an Atticus in our family, someone who forces the rest of us out into the world, making us have fun and experience things half against our collective introverted will.  He's like his dad in this, and thank God for it.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

To Watch and To Read

What's that?  You're looking to send June on its way in a lovely, nostalgic fashion- perhaps in song?  Might I recommend two ways to spend the remaining days of one of my favorite months:
And yes, it was in technicolor.
A few weeks ago my mother gave me strict instructions to watch this classic musical ("strict instructions" being "You should really watch Meet Me in St. Louis, it was so good!"), and because I am a good and dutiful daughter [cue laugh track], I picked it up at the library.

The music!  The costumes!  The gorgeous house!  I loved it, Caedmon loved it, Adelaide loved it so much that as soon as it ended she watched the "Making Of" special feature also available on the DVD.  Atticus declared that not only did he not like it, Daddy wouldn't, either, so there.  Whatever, three out of four isn't too bad, and even that cranky fourth absent-mindedly sang the title song for the rest of the day.  So there.

If it's book-learnin' you're after, look no further than this gem:
Why, yes, this is that Call the Midwife, the book upon which the popular television series is based.  I've only seen the pilot episode of the show, and decided it was, you know, fine.  I say I'm pretty picky about which shows I watch, Derek would most likely say I'm difficult to please; either way, I get bored with tv series easily, and it's rare for me to find one that I can watch beyond a few episodes.  I've had approximately one million people tell me how AMAZING this show is, and how I just HAVE to watch it.  Now it's my turn:  Just whatever on the show, okay, but the book?  The book is AMAZING, and you HAVE to read it.  They're the real, honest-to-God recollections of a young nurse working with midwifing nuns (I really don't know if "midwifing" is a verb or not, but it certainly should be, don't you think?) in 1950's, post-war, poverty-stricken east London.  My mom worked in OB at a hospital toward the beginning of her nursing career, and I remember her saying that it is both the happiest and saddest place to work (along with some really depressing anecdotes that I can share if you ever find yourself in need of a good cry).  This memoir agrees with her sentiment:  Oh, gosh, the joy and wonder to be found in some of her stories, but likewise the sadness and futility to be found in others.  Throughout Ms. Worth shares her emotions at the situations she finds herself in, running the gamut from admiration to disgust.  It helps, I think, that she is not a native of Poplar, and as an outsider, describes many things that a local would take for granted.  It all makes for a fascinating story, but a word of (rather obvious, I would hope) warning:  If you are at all squeamish or uncomfortable with the goings-on involved in childbirth, you are going to find yourself, well, squeamish and uncomfortable while reading many pieces of this account.  It's a book about giving birth.  Buck up, soldier.  

There you go:  Something to watch this week, and something to read.  And farewell to any male readers I might ever have had.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Please Don't Be Jealous of My Amazing Life

Listen, I don't mean to brag, but this is what my garden looks like.
And that's not just right now, like I'm having a bad gardening week, or something.  With the exception of the week or two immediately after planting, it always looks like that.  See the squash, and tomatoes, and pepper plants?  Sure you do- they're the ones entirely surrounded by weeds, near the onion that's gone to flower.

Another note-worthy part of my life is the presence of magic.
That's right:  I have magic pantry doors.  I mean, it must be magic, as each of my children swear it's not them leaving the doors open.  Every time I pass by, they're open.  I've checked, and they are capable of being closed.

But then I go upstairs to fetch something, come back down, and...

Something else that will probably make you hate me in all my perfection?
I know, right?  I'm the kind of person that dries her family's linens outside whenever possible.  It's windy here, though, so they almost inevitably end up in one of the flower beds, possibly negating any cleanliness achieved in the preceding wash cycle.  I do send everything through a quick 15 minutes in the dryer just to kill any bugs that might have nestled in there before re-making the beds, which likewise does away with any energy savings I might have achieved by outdoor drying.  I am killing it, here.

No false modesty, now.  In what ways are you amazing this week?

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Father's Day Questionnaire 2016

It's that time again:  Father's Day!  This is the fifth straight year I have magically remembered to pose these Father's Day Questionnaires to our children.  If time travel is your thing, here are those from 2015, 2014, 2013, and 2012.  As ever, Adelaide's answers are in pink, Atticus's in green, and Caedmon's in blue.

All About My Dad

By Adelaide Crisler, Age 10

My Dad’s name is Derek Crisler.

He is 6 feet 4 1/2 inches tall.

He weighs I don’t know, 237 pounds?

His hair color is dark brown-ish.

His favorite tv show is NFL Vikings games.

He likes to go on dates with you [Mom].

His favorite food is everything you [Mom] make.  And most of the stuff I make.

His favorite drink is iced tea, I guess.

For fun my Dad likes to golf, watch Vikings football games, and read Garfield comic books.

I love it when Dad tries to let me talk instead of problem-solving everything.

My favorite thing about my Dad is he usually tells you what he thinks without sugar-coating it.

My favorite thing to do with my Dad is I don’t know- I like doing things on my own with Dad.
One funny thing about my Dad is he shows a lot of emotion during Vikings games, and doesn’t show much emotion the rest of the time.

If I could give my Dad anything in the world, it would be front-row seat tickets to a Vikings game, and all expenses paid for the trip.


All About My Daddy

By Atticus Crisler, Age 7

My Daddy’s name is Derek.

He is bigger than me.

He weighs 2 feet.

His hair color is ...I would say brown.

His favorite tv show is golf and football.

He likes to go to Cheddar’s.

His favorite food is cake.

His favorite drink is Diet Mountain Dew.

For fun my Daddy plays soccer with us.

I love it when Daddy chases us with the guns.

My favorite thing about my Daddy is he’s my dad.

My favorite thing to do with Daddy is play soccer.

One funny thing about my Daddy is he jokes around.

If I could give my Daddy anything in the world it would be a Vikings medal.


All About My Daddy

By Caedmon Crisler, Age 5

My Daddy’s name is Derek.

He is 6 feet.

He weighs 200 pounds.

His hair color is brown.

His favorite tv show is golf and football.

He likes to go to Jethro’s.

His favorite food is the food that you [Mom] make.

His favorite drink is tea and Mountain Dew.

For fun my Daddy likes to play with me and Atticus.

I love it when Daddy does fun stuff with me.

My favorite thing about my Daddy is that he works for us.

My favorite thing to do with Daddy is go golfing and play with Daddy.

One funny thing about my Daddy is that he’s goofy sometimes.

If I could give my Daddy anything in the world it would be 6,000 trophies.

Friday, June 17, 2016


One of my goals for this summer was to have each kid help me with supper on a regular basis.

Okay, so my original goal went something like this:

Have one of the kids help make supper
every night
one time a week per kid
at some point during the summer, hopefully with some degree of frequency, but let's be realistic, here:  I'll be lucky to have each kid do it once a month.

While I want each of our children to leave this house more or less able to cook without poisoning themselves and any loved ones they may have (side note:  For each of our children, these future loved ones will, according to them, all look very different.  Atticus is very clear that he will be married one day; Caedmon seems to waffle between remaining at home forever over my dead body and living perhaps on his own, perhaps not, as long as gets to go out and do construction work every day, and Adelaide is already naming the many cats she plans on surrounding herself with.  Any which way, I am determined that our children will be capable of making a meal for these companions.), I'm also faced with the fact that any day that our children are "helping" me in the kitchen is a day that can contain little else in it.  The prep work that goes into having our children cook is, currently, enormous.  This is partly because I refuse to cook the recipes found in most "kids cookbooks" because I have a sensitive gag reflex, and partly because if it's mostly me cooking and them doing tiny jobs, I can't seem to hold their interest.  They want to do everything, and this is incredibly time-consuming, but I get it; I don't much care for being patronized, either.

Considering all this, I started our Summer of Cooking Together and Hopefully Not Hating Each Other by the Time It's All Over (SoCTaHNHEObtTIAO for... short?) yesterday with Adelaide.  We had little going on in terms of leaving the house, and as Adelaide is the oldest and most capable of our children, I knew it made it more likely that I would want to stick with this plan for any length of time.  I was afraid if I started with one of the boys the day would end with multiple people not speaking to each other and me with a new tattoo reading something like Chef Boyardee 4 Life or maybe a heart around some ramen noodles.

As it turns out, I am a genius.  Not this kind:

But this kind:

Adelaide did 99% of, well, everything.  She made the meatballs, and the breadcrumbs that go in the meatballs, even though massaging raw beef is not her favorite thing.

She baked shortcakes, and chopped strawberries, and made whipped cream.
Checking for soft peaks, because that is a thing she knows how to do!
What was my 1%?  Dicing an onion to go into the meatballs, because we both agreed that we wanted to eat that night, not two days from now.  Onions are Adelaide's nemesis:  I once saw her take one full hour to finely dice an onion.  We were both in fume- and emotionally-fueled tears by the time she was done. 

When I wasn't spending two minutes chopping, I was sewing new pillow cases for some ugly outdoor pillows I found at a garage sale a full year ago, something I've been meaning to do since last summer.  As it turns out, when I delegate this whole making-supper nonsense to others, I get to do all kinds of fun things!
Velvet with a seventies-shade of orange with fraying sides.  Worth all 25 pennies I paid, because I knew that stripes fix all manner of sins.
Especially when the fabric costs you under $2 a yard.  I've only been eyeing that fabric for a year, pretty much since I purchased the garage sale pillows.  Good things come to those who wait forever for the deep-discount sales.

Perhaps the best part, however, was how tired Adelaide was by the time she was dishing up food onto everyone's plates, not just because I am a cruel mother who delights in the fatigue of her children (although I am that, from time to time), but because she remarked to her father, 

"I am going to be very angry if I went to all this work and anyone here doesn't like it."

Bold, large print, because hallelujah, our children are capable of learning important life lessons.

Welcome to my skin suit, Adelaide.  I hope you find it to your liking.

Look at that- I'm able to ruin even the likes of Harper Lee.  

Sunday, June 12, 2016

E(xcellent) coli

A couple weeks ago, I dug out our biggest whiteboard and gathered the children round.  The purpose of this congress was to write down all the things we wanted to do this summer vacation:  Places we wanted to visit, activities and crafts to be done, etc.  Summer tends to whiz by so fast that I didn't want to hit August 1st and panic, realizing I've squandered our time together.

Now, just because I wrote it down doesn't mean it's guaranteed to happen, as I explained to the children.  Some things I refused to even waste the dry-erase pigment upon.  "Go to Disney World," "Make a for-real weapons arsenal," "Eat at Burger King," being three such examples.

One of the very first things they wanted me to write down was "Visit Big Creek."  This one was no problem-o.  It's close, it's free, the swimming area is shallow enough I don't have to constantly watch for possible child drowning.

So, last Friday, we went.  Check one off the whiteboard, make the kids happy, collect my Super Awesome Mom badge.



But then, Saturday morning, the internet greets me with this headline:

Apparently there are elevated levels of bacteria present at Big Creek, although the article did note that these go up after heavy rainfall, so it was worse Saturday morning, after Friday's nights showers; in other words, our trip Friday afternoon was safe.  Well, safeish.  Also according to the article, there were signs up at the entrances to the park warning good parents who do things like look for warning signs.  I saw no signs, and have made my peace with having my shiny Super Awesome Mom badge revoked.  

The silver lining?  I'm thinking of adding "Expose offspring to E. coli" to the whiteboard, just because I like checking things off of lists.  Is there an "'A' for Effort" parenting badge?  Maybe a "Whoops! My bad!"  Because I've earned a ton of those.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Who Could Have Seen This Coming?

The first week of summer vacation is always interesting, isn't it?

I feel like I've just gone through some re-training.  I mean, yes, I usually spend quite a bit of time with our children, but it's nothing to compared to summer vacation, where with the exception of my daily run, we're together constantly, world without end, amen.

One of the things I had somehow forgotten is just how physical kids are.  Do you know how many times our children have gotten hurt in the past seven days?  A million.  Kidding, it's the only in the low hundreds.  Per child.  Just tonight, at the playground, Atticus came to me crying because he'd scraped up his back.  I lifted up his shirt, and sure enough, there were abrasions up and down his spine.  He explained to me what had happened, and I scratched my head.  You did what, now?  So we went over and he recreated the scene for me, Unsolved Mysteries-style.  I still have no idea how it happened.  I can only think he did a weird spasm and somehow forced his trunk through a narrow space of wire mesh... or something.  Five minutes later Caedmon came to me crying, because it hurts when you drop from the frighteningly tall monkey bars and your ankle gives out because you've forced your exhausted body through that obstacle course eight times in a row.

The skin on Adelaide's stomach is a mess of scrapes and scratches, because that's what happens when you get stuck up a tree.  This is especially true when, once you realize you're stuck, you climb higher up into the branches.  Reads at a twelfth grade reading level; can't navigate herself out of a tree.  This kid is going places.  Like trees, I guess.
In the interest of full disclosure and run-of-the-mill honesty, when I told Derek this story and showed him this photo, his question was, "Wow- how did she get up there?"  I was forced to admit that, um, I had, you know, maybe given her a leg up, then proceeded to help tremendously by staring helplessly up at her and shrugging when she pronounced herself to be stuck.

If this week is a fair indicator of the coming months, I'm thinking "Who could have seen this coming?" might just be the mantra of our summer break.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

A-Golfing We Will Go

The other night Derek and the boys wanted to go golfing.  Adelaide and I wanted to go reading, but the boys have been asking for some time now if I could go along to watch them.  It was finally time to either acquiesce or embrace poor and selfish motherhood.  After a brief but vicious internal struggle, I chose the former.  Then duped Daughter into coming along.

Really, it was beautiful out there.

Anymore, it's a little strange to watch Atticus and Caedmon on the golf course; they're very comfortable there, and clearly know what they're doing.
According to Caedmon, the rake is to smooth out the footprints he made while shooting out of the bunker.  I do not think my suggestion of a zen garden was all that preposterous, as golfers seem to me to be rather easily riled.

This guy tends to be outwardly calm, but I think even he could do with a therapeutic session of rake, rake, raking his cares away.

Meanwhile, I get the stink eye from Derek for making new friends instead of paying careful attention to everyone's swing.

I did pay some attention, however- how else would I have gotten photos of everyone, even Adelaide!  I am not including that one, however, at her request.  Perhaps she doesn't want proof out on the internet that she can be coerced onto a golf course?  She's part of a secret anti-golf society?  Sadly, we'll never know, as she flounced out of the room when I (nicely, I was just curious!) dared ask her why I wasn't allowed to share the photo of her.  It would seem that being ten is rough, or maybe that's just when you're the sole intelligent being in a family of eejits.  
Not Adelaide, but the sentiment remains the same.

Even though the boys- particularly Atticus- desperately wanted to stay and play longer, Derek took pity on certain family members (um, not the boys and Derek) and we left after playing all of... I don't know, seven holes?  Derek can remember every hole and every shot and every whatever in a round of golf.  It all blurs together to me:  First, you select a club out of your bag.  I am assuming this selection is not random, but who the heck really knows?  Then, you swing the club at the ball.  The ball heads (hopefully) toward a tiny hole in a vast green space.  Repeat as necessary.

It sure is pretty, though.

Especially the players.
It looks like he's doing a good job, but again, who knows?  Not me, not ever.  So I just chirp, "Good job!" over and over.

Monday, June 6, 2016


It's front porch season.  Hallelujah.

While I love how this kind of weather beckons each member of our family outdoors, it also means that our children are finding new and inspired ways to wage war against one another.  

I got a call from Derek while on a run recently.  He wasted no time in saying an incident had occurred, please come home.  Thankfully I was less than a mile from our house, so I was able to dart right home, up the stairs, and into the bathroom, where Atticus was bent over the tub, face covered in blood.

I quickly looked him over, saw the giant goose egg on his head, found the source of the bleeding, and overall decided that the actual wounds were much less concerning than their cause:  Knitting needles, thrown at him by his sister in a fit of pique.  

By the time I got there, she was more upset than he was, yet still managed to inform me between sobs that yes, she had thrown her knitting needles at her brother, but that she never thought they would actually hit him; she had no idea her aim was that good!

Caedmon didn't have much to say about the whole thing, but still maintains that "Atticus deserved it," as he has informed a number of people.

At this point Atticus the Injured has mostly healed, although he had two relatively deep holes in his scalp for days.  No telling on any emotional injuries.  

Speaking of running (were we?), I've found the perfect design for asthmatic runners:
Ideal t-shirt design would also include a little pocket for our inhalers, of course.  

My peonies had a short season this year, and one bush didn't bloom at all.  I still managed to bring a few indoors.

The kaleidoscope container planting at Reiman Gardens has been changed again:
Kaleidoscopic succulents!  

And last but not least, I have finally found the most perfectly thoughtful gift for my sister who, when we were children, couldn't sleep for terror of her china doll, even after it had been removed from her room, her closet, anywhere within crawling-up-onto-her-bed distance.
Baby is angry.