Monday, January 26, 2015

A List

  • My sister Steph sent me a text yesterday that read "A movie for Atticus."

I can only assume this horror movie is being made by people who have been stalking Derek and me for the past few years, as I'm pretty sure the above is exactly what I look like after a night of our Atticus's night terrors.  I bet this whole movie is a dramatization of what would happen if the parents of night terror-stricken children acted on the irrational and murderous thoughts that run through our brains after years of sleep deprivation.  I'm expecting a new source of income from these film-makers and will use it to invest in a set of fancy ear plugs.  

  • It's warm outside today.  So warm that, when Caedmon and I dared to venture out back, he declared it to be "super hot out here!"  He then asked if he could play with play dough (not Play-Doh, because I make our own play dough for pennies as opposed to spending whole dollars on the store-bought stuff), because I am a mean, mean mother who will only let her children near play dough when they are safely outside the confines of her house.  We busted out the play dough I made a couple years ago, but it's starting to get a little overly sticky, so he asked that I make a new batch.  I did, and am now "the best mom ever!"  One of the best parts of having small children is the ability to impress with a little flour, salt, and cream of tartar.  
Amazing how you go from this:

To this just five minutes later:

My aunt Sherry has said that you can use a packet of Kool-Aid instead of food coloring if you also want scented play dough, but I never think to buy Kool-Aid when I'm at the store.  Do people still drink that stuff?  Do they still make that stuff?

A bonus to fresh-out-of-the-pot play dough is that you can use it to warm your hands outside, because what Caedmon and I thought was "super hot" outside turned out to be about 35 degrees.  Warmth is relative, friends.

Sure, I had to clean bits of ice off the table before he could play, and no, he didn't really have a chair to sit in because those go in our basement during the winter, but that still beats digging dough out of our rugs.  

  • Caedmon has a bit of a cold.  Nothing too bad (as long as I don't catch it), but enough for him to occasionally run to Adelaide for a bit of comfort.

This is pretty much the cutest thing ever, and yet another benefit to having a four-year-old.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Adelaide and the Old Testament

We go to one of those churches where the kids go into age-appropriate classes where they play and have a snack and learn a lesson while the adults go into the sanctuary for the regular service.  This has generally worked well for our family, but I've been looking forward to having our kids in the service with us as they get older, which Adelaide now does, being in third grade.

Adelaide can sit still and focus for long periods of time.  I've seen her lounge, unmoving on the couch for hours at a time, reading a book.  Because of this, I assumed she would have no trouble paying attention in church, where we're standing during the music at the beginning, sit for thirty minutes or so to listen to the sermon, then stand again for a couple songs at the end.

But Adelaide hasn't been sitting still.  She's been wiggly and wriggly and restless while the pastor teaches, and when I ask her afterward what she thought of the message, I get some variation or other of a shrug and a monosyllable.  "Fine."  "Good."  "Grunt."

Well, as of a couple weeks ago, I'd had about enough.  If she was going to sit in the service, then I wanted her to get something out of it, and besides, I know she's capable of listening and understanding most of what's taught in there.

I'd seen these printable papers on Pinterest where kids could take notes during the sermon.  "Brilliant," I thought, "maybe if her hands are busy it'll help her brain focus and her body be still."

The first one I found required a subscription and a fee paid to the website in order to print it off, so Adelaide and I consulted the almighty google to find another, free, version, because for the record, she was completely on board with this.  We ended up finding that one up there, which I know is fuzzy, but that's about as clear as I'm able to make it on here.  It's a free, printable PDF, and you can find it right here.

Honestly, of all the Sundays for me to be on the ball, this was not the one.  Because this little piece of paper worked, all right.  Adelaide was scribbling all kinds of fun vocabulary words in that "Words I don't know" section, words like "prostitute," and "explicit" and "seman [sic]".  In the general "Notes" section she wrote "I don't understand what this story is really about but it seems really weird," among other things.  Yes, indeed, Adelaide focused extra hard on the Sunday featuring the sweet, sparkling story of a girl who pretends to be a prostitute and sleeps with her father-in-law, only after she's slept with one of her brothers-in-law, all in an effort to merely survive in the patriarchal society that existed in early Old Testament times.

After the service, of course, Adelaide wanted to have an in-depth discussion about what all those words meant, but I had had enough.  I had once again dipped my toe in the pool of over-achievement, and look where it had landed me: in a boat with a dirty old man named Judah and phrases like "spilled his seed on the ground" that I now had to explain to my 8-year-old.  I told her we'd go over the whole thing tomorrow or pretty much anytime that wasn't today, because I was done for today.

I should note that the pastor warned everyone about the subject matter before he began teaching, and said that he realized there were kids in the service.  He also said he had no problem with them being taught this lesson, because don't kid yourself, children are hearing about sex elsewhere; shouldn't they be taught correctly within the context of the family and the church?

Our daughter handled it fine when we went over her notes a couple days later, and we talked about how all the people- save one- in the Bible were all just, well, people, human beings who were flawed and sinful and about the subsequent need for a perfect Messiah, so it all worked out fine in the end, as it generally does, but still.  I don't think I'll ever be able to hear the words "Please open to Genesis, chapters 38 and 39" again without flinching.

Monday, January 19, 2015

A List

  • First, something that's been bothering me:  In a recent post, I stated that tea is nasty.  And I do think some forms of tea are nasty:  unsweetened iced tea, regular black tea, just about any type of tea that tastes like actual tea leaves and hasn't been otherwise flavored.  However.  I drink tea most nights when it's cold outside, but it's this stuff:

Does herbal tea even count?  Are there bona fide tea leaves in herbal tea?  These are the questions that burn through my brain.  I mostly just drink it because it's warming and smells amazing (I spend more time with my face above the mug vigorously inhaling than I do actually drinking) and, with a tiny drizzle of honey, tastes like a treat- a caffeine-free, sugar-free (well, without the honey), everything-free treat.

I feel so much better.  My conscience is once again light as a feather.

  • A friend generously gave us a sack of hand-me-down costumes at church last week.

Caedmon has worn that muscle-bound suit for five straight days now.  On Wednesday he ran into the library, tore his coat off, then announced to everyone who was surely just waiting for him to arrive, "IT'S JUST A COSTUME.  These aren't my real muscles.  But I am really Batman."  We went to go have lunch with Adelaide at school Thursday, and he wore the suit "so I can show all the lunch people, if I have time."  This entire post is brought to you courtesy of my procrastination, because that kid needs a bath but I don't yet feel up to wrestling him out of that padded costume he's wearing even now.  Caedmon is very wriggly.

More scenes from his muscle-bound week:

Batman reading about himself with his Daddy, and below, playing Don't Lose Your Head!  

In truth the above photo was a happy accident of perspective; Caedmon was a good three feet away from that sword and this photo catches him mid-stride as he runs through the house and past the sword, gasping for breath.  Derek was... being an over-sized boy playing with a sword, I guess.  Or a fun dad.  Or both.

  • I got the best birthday present a couple weeks ago:

My dad got me an Amazon gift card for my birthday back in early December.  Now, I don't know if you know this, but there's a lot of stuff to choose from on Amazon.  It can be the tiniest bit overwhelming.  So I've spent the past month thinking and thinking and then thinking some more, before I finally found it.  A library embosser.

This is a fantastic gift idea for the bookworm in your life.  It can be surprisingly hard to buy an actual book for such people, as they go through them so fast and people's tastes vary so much, but a library embosser allows them to mark their own literary territory, so to speak, so they (hopefully) get all those books they tend to loan out to friends back someday.  Plus it looks pretty dang snazzy for only $20.

The end.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Your Next Book

It's winter; we're all stuck inside, and you're tired of reading books that aren't terrible, but they're not exactly keeping you up too late to read just one more chapter, right?  

I'm here to help you, friends.  Meet my current favorite:

I picked this up on a whim at the Big Library as we were on our way out the door.  I liked the cover (different from the one pictured above) and the title, it was on one of the book club shelves, and I vaguely recognized the author's name.  

Once I got home I moaned and groaned and complained to Derek, because UGH, this book has a chimp in it.  I am one of those people who, when they see a television show or commercial featuring a chimp (especially a chimp wearing clothing), wants to violently throw something at the tv like a... well, like a chimp.  I will (reluctantly) watch a nature program with apes or monkeys in the wild, but have zero tolerance for any kind of program where apes are being presented as anything other than apes.  I don't like the monkey house at the zoo.  I won't watch the Friends episodes with Marcel the capuchin and think those Night at the Museum movies were utterly ruined by the presence of its monkey.  I make an exception only for gorillas because they seem like the cats of the ape world; they do what they want to do, and screw you all if you don't like it. They please no one but themselves and fellow gorillas. 

So this book had my negative chimp stigma working against it, then I saw the recommendation on the back cover from Alice Sebold that read, "Deliciously jaunty in tone and disturbing in material."  Do you guys remember her book The Lovely Bones?  Do you remember how messed up it was?  And she thinks this is a disturbing read?  NO THANK YOU.

Well.  Despite all that, I started the book.  I started reading.  And I couldn't stop.  

You know how sometimes you meet people who've had it made most of their lives, no serious adversity, but they're big fat whiners and people you just generally can't stand to be around?  Then there are those who've faced some real tragedy, have in fact a rather bleak past or even present, but they choose to face life with humor and hope?  This book is like that second person.  The protagonist's story is... unusual.  Close to unique.  It's strange and sad, a lot of the time, but the book doesn't really read as sad (okay, not only sad); it's funny and loving and persevering.  I've finished it and several other books within the past couple weeks, but I'm not thinking about the other books; I'm still ruminating over this one.

The only problem with a book like this one is that I'm inevitably let down by the following three or four books I read immediately following.  I close them, feel dissatisfied, and say, "Don't worry, it's not you; it's me."  I'm hoping one of my next-to-read books will shake me out of this book-funk:  I've got Sea Glass waiting downstairs- it's my book club's pick for next month, and I've decided to be optimistic about it despite the fact that I'm not a big Anita Shreve fan; I'm pretty sure I'm next up in the library's queue for The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, recommended by Cassi Renee; I'm also waiting for Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant?, a memoir that is hopefully as hilarious as it looks.

What's your current favorite, or all-time favorite, or that one book you wish everyone would just hurry up and read already?

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Snow Day Box

One week ago, the older kids had a snow day.  Cold day.  Whatever.

What this meant was that as soon as breakfast was over our children started obsessing about the Snow Day Box.

The Snow Day Box was an item my mother brought on her last visit along with the admonition to her grandchildren that it was only to be opened on a snow day.  This gave an otherwise ordinary brown cardboard box instant mystique, a magical luster that was reflected in our children's eyes as they asked increasingly fevered questions like "When are we going to open the Snow Day Box?" and  "Where have you been hiding the Snow Day Box?" and "YOU DIDN'T LOSE IT, DID YOU?"

I hadn't lost it, but I also wasn't going to open this box until each child had completed their list of chores on that snow day, a proclamation which was met with astonished dismay, as though they didn't have chores every single other day of their lives.  I never worry about our progeny being mentally slow so much as when I hand them the full compost bowl or gesture to a dishwasher full of clean dishes and their reaction is one of hurt and surprise.  "Hang on, you want me to take out the trash?"  WHO COULD HAVE SEEN THIS COMING?

Thankfully, the Snow Day Box spurred them toward quick chore completion, with very little motherly harassment needed on my part.

Then the speculation began.

The boys guessed that the box contained train parts, because playing trains with Grandma is always such an education.

"Oh, no, the bridge collapsed!  KDOT says that'll be 3.2 million dollars."

"Unfortunately Sam Brownback will never pay to have that bridge fixed.  We'll have to find another way around."

"Now, Atticus, it's very nice that you want to send the hurt cow to the hospital, but what you should have done is send him to the butcher so we could all have a nice steak." *

*Actual statements I heard my mom say while playing with our sons.

Anyway, with a grandma who plays like that, nobody really knew what to expect from the Snow Day Box.

They still weren't sure once it was opened:  Empty band-aid and cocoa powder boxes, pens, play money?

I had to explain to them that they had the makings of their very own store.

Ten minutes later Atticus was charging fifty bucks for a box of cupcake mix and trying to up-sell pads of post-its.  Our middle child appears to have the heart of a capitalist.

All three played quietly, more or less by themselves, for 45 full minutes, before Adelaide tired of the boys asking for ten bucks for a box of oatmeal but giving 100 dollars in change.  The boys were less worried about pesky little things like dollar amounts and more interested in handing the green pieces of paper back and forth as often as possible.  

At the retailers' request, I took a few turns as The Customer.  I bought a box of latex-free band-aids for $20 and a box of BZK towelettes for $1.  (This sounds like a spin on one of those jokes: "If you send your grandchildren empty boxes of Benzalkonium Chloride Antiseptic towelettes and surgical masks- you might be a school nurse.")

I received excellent service on each of my visits, although I've never been to a store where the employees hid behind the counter stage-whispering, "Ring the bell!  RING IT!" then popping up like smiling jack-in-the-boxes at the sound of the merry ding!  I bet their secret shopper scores are awesome.

I packed the box and its contents away at the end of the day, to be pulled out the next time they have an unexpected day off from school.  I've never heard so many prayers for mass amounts of snow before.

Monday, January 12, 2015

A Love Story

If you know our family at all, you're aware that we spend vast quantities of time at our small town library, checking out giant stacks of books, begging for yet another interlibrary loan, and impressing the librarians with our crazy crime-fighting skills (Adelaide, me, and Caedmon, respectively).

In the nearby big town, however, they also have a library.  Our family is likewise recognized at this library, but not because of me or the children; we are known there because this Big Town Library houses the Derek Crisler Fan Club.

Let me first assure you that the feeling is mutual:  Derek loves the people of the Big Town Library just as much as they love him.  You see, because he runs the government access channel in this Big Town, Derek works with different departments and organizations all over the city, but as the library is inhabited by (wait for it...) librarians, who often exist on a plane just a step or five higher than the rest of humanity, when he does his hard-working video thing in their particular institution, they don't hold back with robust thanks and lavish appreciation.

Take last night:

They got him a delicious cake, a full meal, speeches in his honor, and applause all around with close to 100 of the library's closest friends at a special premiere they coordinated in honor of the documentary Derek wrote/directed/filmed/produced/edited/narrated/everything to commemorate the journey from the library's old facility to its new, current building.  

They also requested he tell a bit about his process, how he managed to take 3 years and 1 full terabyte and 84 hours; worth of footage and condense it into a 16-minute story about their beloved library.

Then we all watched it together on the big screen.  It turns out librarians and their loved ones make the best audience; they laughed at the right times, refrained from talking too loudly or obnoxiously throughout, and didn't hold back on their outward expressions of entertainment and joy.

Derek being Derek, he also made a point of acknowledging his four student interns, all the help and work they provided.  Look how short they all look!  Almost like regular-sized people.

Click to see the Big Town Library's gorgeous new building, how they moved themselves from one building to another and back again to the refurbished library, and see just what Derek does all day.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

First List of 2015 *Updated*

Our children have got to hate it any time I read this, because although I love it from beginning to end, immediately upon finishing they see a decided uptick in the number and difficulty of their chores (I say at least they're not scrubbing the head of a decapitated pig in preparation of the making of head cheese- and by the by, I double-dog dare you to do a google image search for "head cheese"; I suggest you keep a puke bucket within arm's reach) and anything I decided on a whim might be character-building.  Yesterday that took the form of walking home from the bus stop rather than going to get them in the van.  You'd have thought we lived miles away rather than 1.5 blocks.  I don't know what they were complaining about; it was four whole degrees above zero!  (I'm exaggerating, of course.  It was at least 6.)  No, the real test of their mettle will be tomorrow, when the high here is supposed to be -6° F.  I need to give them something to lecture their children about someday, don't I?  And "When I was a kid my mom drove us the 2 blocks to and from the bus stop" doesn't say anything but "I'M A GIANT PANSY."  You're welcome, children mine.

  • The boys recently got hair cuts.  Atticus is evidently now old enough to request something other than the standard buzz Derek usually gives them.  His specific request was for "a haircut that makes it so I can have spikey hair."
Haircuts are not Atticus's favorite thing, although he does his best to sit still.  I try to tell him that Pain is Beauty, but this is apparently meaningless to a six-year-old boy.
When it was done Derek declared that his elder son looked like a soccer player, Adelaide said he looks like "one of the cool kids," and Atticus was pleased as punch.  

Caedmon, naturally, wanted whatever his older brother had, and while Derek tried, it turns out our Cade has a head that is almost the exact shape of a billiard ball, and that kind of cut isn't so flattering on perfectly round heads.  He got the buzz, I thwarted the impending emotional crisis by telling him he looked like a football player, and all was well.

  • A joke I found perhaps too funny:  
Why couldn't Mozart find his teacher?

Because he was Haydn.

Oh, Laffy Taffy.  You get me.

UPDATE:  School is cancelled tomorrow due to "extreme cold."  It would appear that our school's administrators have yet to read Little Heathens.  Never fear, fellow anti-sissyfication-ists (why, yes, I did just make up a word); I have a host of snow day chores in my arsenal.  FUNNEST MOM EVER.