My kids love to draw and color and cut and create.  And they are always, always, always asking me for paper.  When my 4 year old doodled all over my check book, I knew I had to come up with something better. 

One day I stared at our empty popcorn tin and an idea hit me.  For some reason the tin seemed perfect for storing crayons.  Wouldn’t it be great, I thought, if we could have a roll of paper on our table like at Macaroni Grill?  When I mentioned it to Scott, he was instantly on board. 

So, when my grandparents sent us money for Christmas, I knew at once what I wanted to buy the family.  (remember that hilarious Amazon description I posted back in December?)IMG_1104

This paper has worked out so so so wonderfully for the circus fam!

I love it.  We don’t use it every day… I think the novelty of it is what helps it work.  But, it is perfect to pull out on those days when we’ve just kinda reached that point where we’re all going a little crazy, we’ve done all that needs to be done and now I am just trying to survive till Dad gets home.  You know that time of day?

I love that all 4 of them can enjoy it.  With the paper covering the whole table, the little man can color without coloring the table.  I love that they can draw bigger than an 8x11 sheet of paper.  It’s thick enough that we can use it on both sides.  Sometimes they’ll do such beautiful pictures that they’ll cut them out to save.   IMG_1143

Sometimes after we’ve used both sides, they’ll just cut… Because it’s fun to cut. 

If your interested in getting your own, I ended up going with 36 inch wide craft paper b/c it pretty much covered the width of our table… Even after the fabulous review for butcher paper I read on amazon, I found I didn’t have room for a roll quite that large and so the craft roll better suited our needs. It was skinner than I expected, but we use both sides of the paper so that stretches it some.  I have aspirations of some day attaching it to the underside of the table, back by the wall and then we can just pull it out as needed.  But, for now it stores easily in the rectangular box it came in and sits on the back of our piano.  Craft/Butcher paper on the dining room table works for me!!

I’ve had a few shows over the past 10 years, that I’ve really loved.  You know the ones where you connect personally with the characters in a manner some might find unhealthy?   But, if I had to pick one, as my favorite (I’d probably kick and scream begging you to not make me limit it to just one)  But, if I had to pick one, than I’d probably say it was Alias.  I remember when Scott and I first started watching, the show was already a few seasons in (which is the best way to start watching a show b/c we watched the first 2 seasons on DVD).    I don’t even want to tell you how quickly we blew through those 21 episodes, staying up way later than we should for just one more

I loved it. 

Alias nights quickly became one of my favorite nights of the week, as we’d sit curled up on the catching watching Jennifer Gardner get the bad guys. 

And here’s where I offer you my secret confession.  In my head, when I watched her strut around in those crazy outfits with her blue hair and high heel shoes, in my head, I thought, “I could so be her.” 

I know… stop laughing… please…

But do you ever do that sometimes?  Have this version of you in your head that is so way cooler and so waaaay unrealistic?  It happens whenever I play volleyball too.  In my head, I am suddenly this awesome athlete that dives on the ground hitting the ball up setting it perfectly for my team mate to spike on the other team.  When in reality, I am just giddy if I actually make contact with the ball in an appropriate way (rather than say, getting hit in the face).  Reality is often a cruel intrusion. 

But, back to me in my high heel shoes karate chopping the bad guys as I sneak off with the secrets of some terrorist organization. 

I am a sucker for anything CIA, FBI, or any other acronym with I in it.  If it’s a redbox night and I’m picking and I see any of the above acronyms you can bet that’s my pick.  “What’s the movie about Crystal?”  “I don’t know some CIA thing.”   My heart is racing as they sneak into the building to steal the secrets… I can’t believe it when they go snooping through the stuff while the people are in the next room… How do they do that?

Lately, my movie obsession has crossed over into my book reading as well.  Last week I plowed through the first 4 books in the Gallagher Girl series.  OK, here is where my obsession perhaps starts to get a little embarrassing, as it leads me back into the world of Young Adult Fiction.  But, truthfully, I’ve found that I like young adult fiction. (Hunger Games anyone?)  It’s clean which I appreciate and an easy read.  Anyway, Gallagher Girls is a cute series about a top secret spy school for high school girls.  A tad adolescent, I know, but by book 3 and 4 I found myself up past midnight with my little book light on eager to read on.   This weekend, I read a more adult CIA fiction book, which I would describe as realistic fiction.  It gave a much less glamorized view of the spy life than that I’d seen on TV.  And while I did enjoy it, I found myself forlornly telling Scott, “I don’t think I have what it takes to be a spy.” 

Again, stop with the laughing. 

It’s always hard when reality comes intruding again.  I had this really cool image of myself with this awesome cover (minivan driving stay at home mom) who could totally kick but with a handgun, keep cool under pressure, and karate chop better than Daniel-son.  And truthfully, I find myself realizing, I could NEVER lie to my husband, spot a tail, or shoot a bad guy.   But, I’d love to file their paper work.  Now that would be a dream job! 

It's Monday and I'm being "Miss Elaine-ous" over at The Miss Elaine-ous Life!

For all those wondering if there is truly hope for the hopeless… those who’ve made their resolutions and long since broken them… for those that thought, perhaps your just destined for failure…. to those… I offer this little glimmer of hope….

Our last visit to the library—if that trip didn’t redeem us, I don’t know what will!

Those who have been long time readers here at the circus… might recall I have a bit of a bad history with the library…  first, we have the whole circus family wing of the library thanks to the $18 fine visit and the $42 fine visit.  Then we have the patronizing librarian who made me feel insecure in my mothering skills…

I’ll be honest, for awhile I just avoided the library at all costs. 

But, they keep luring in me in with the promise, the hope of free books.  (and really great story times for the younglings).  And now that my oldest is reading a chapter book a night, I had no choice but to buck down and get a system in check for the library.  Because 1.  I don’t want to discourage his love for reading and 2.  I can’t afford to keep paying $40 a pop for a library visit. 

So, my e-mail address is registered with the library and they e-mail 3 days ahead of my due date warning me that it is coming. 

But, here is the miraculous part… now I actually do something about it. 

Last Wed, we had a bunch of library books due.  It was a kinda rough day at the circus, b/c my oldest was home sick from the tutorial and I was scrambling to take care of him, help him with his school work and do my normal Wed chores…  not the ideal day for the library. Here is where old Crystal would say, “oh well… it’s not a good day, I’ll return them another day then.”  but the new Crystal actually hunted down the books and put them in a bag before heading out to pick up my daughter from tutorial.  However, we were running late (as usual) and I didn’t have time to gather them all.  Old Crystal would have just returned what she had and given herself an A for effort for the others.  But, instead, we picked my daughter up from tutorial, drove home, I left the kids in the van while I ran in and gathered ALL the books and we headed to the library.  I had 2 books which I was still reading so I left those on my passenger seat so I could see if I could renew them and if I couldn’t, I’d just drop them in the book drop before pulling out of the parking lot.


Well…. when it came time to check out, the most amazing thing happened.  We were checking out with our giganto bag of books and everyone, including the youngest, was begging to give their book to the librarian.. I was juggling the baby, the bag of books, the purse/wallet/library card… and in the midst of all this chaos, the librarian said, “Your kids are always so well behaved.” 


Because I had shhhhshed them at least 10 times in the back of the library reminding them to use their “library voices” and thought for sure we were ahem… noticeable to say the least.  I even said, “Really?  Us?”  to which she said, “Oh yes, you should be very proud, I see all kinds here at the library.” 

This totally made my day.  (funny how a few little words of praise can really brighten someone's day… hmmm… I am sure there is a lesson to be learned there)

Turns out those 2 books on my passenger seat where in fact unrenewable as someone had put them on hold and OH WAIT… there is another book we forgot to return which is also unrenewable.    So…. we head back to the car, I drive around to the book drop and have my oldest run the 2 books up to the book drop, then we drive home and I send my oldest up to his room to find that missing library book.  He comes down book in hand and we head back to the book drop to return the book.


I must have been walking on sunshine from that librarian’s praise, b/c the old Crystal would have said, “eh… I tried… I went to the library that’s good enough”  and $5 and 43 cents later I’d have found the book and returned it. 

Because, yes, I really was that pathetic.  

When Scott got home from work, I was literally beaming from ear to ear as I reported what a good job we did at the library.  We got complimented by the librarian  and wait Scott there’s more… NO LATE FEES!!  Strike up the band, order up some balloons, let’s have a party…it can be done folks! 

Truthfully, the circus family doesn’t spend much time on bikes.  We do a lot of fun things here, don’t get me wrong, but there are only so many hours in a day, and teaching our kids to ride bikes has not been where we’ve spent ours.

But, today the sun was shining, the weather was unseasonably warm here in MD again, and as the kids played in the backyard while Scott did yard work, our oldest daughter decided that today she wanted to ride her bike without training wheels. 

And I just had a feeling that she was going to do it.  You know, how sometimes you just know? 

They set off around 4:15pm.  At 4:20, Scott sent me this text.

“Great strategy.  Let’s not ride for 6 mths then go for it.”

I began to doubt that feeling I had earlier,  But…

at 4:39pm he texted me a picture of her riding off into the distance.


That’s right!!  She did it!!!  My girl’s on two wheels!!!



My Happy 2 Wheeler!


Nothing like a surprise package of clothes in the mail to bring smiles to the girls faces and provide an impromptu photo opp. 

(the boys appreciated it too, but not to the same extent)




Thanks cousins Ben and Eli!


I think 4 is a great age for a lot of reasons… one of which is the funny little things 4 year olds say…


Today we were walking to the van and she was carrying her coat, Kit, and her baby.  I said, “If you wear your coat you’ll have more hands.”  to which she said, “No, Mom, I’ll still only have 2 hands.” 

Last week before she went into her gymnastics class I told her to work hard and have fun.  “Oh Mom, that won’t be a problem at all… when I’m doing my back hip circle and I swing back from the bar and flip around, it’s just like I am flying through the air.”  The look of pure joy on her face as she described flying through the air is one I want to remember forever. 

A few weeks ago I served split pea soup for dinner.  While my husband and sons both enjoyed it, my girls did not.  AT ALL.   I suppose somewhere during the dinner I said something about how I worked hard to make that meal for them and I didn’t appreciate their disgusted faces and comments about the food.  And I suppose it sunk in a little even though they didn’t really eat it all that well.  Because a whole week later out of the blue she says to me, “Mom, remember when you made that soup last week that I didn’t like?”  “Well, it wasn’t that I didn’t like that you made it for me, it’s just that when it was in my mouth… pause… well…. when it was in my mouth it just made me feel like I had to cough.”  (essentially she said, “Mom it’s not that I didn’t appreciate your cooking me food, it’s just your food made me want to gag). 

Seriously, I love this girl and am not at all eager for her to grow up anytime soon.

This afternoon my smiley, mild mannered, easy going baby suddenly channeled his inner Dennis the Menace and went all toddler boy on me for 30 minutes. 

First I looked over and found him standing on his tool bench (oops look who forgot to put away the advent calendar with her Christmas decorations)


I got him down and shortly after realized things had been mighty quiet for awhile and went searching for him.  Found him in the master bathroom STANDING on the toilet. 


After shutting all the doors in the hallway we headed back out to the kitchen/living room.  He attempted to get water from the fridge dispenser but thankfully it was locked.   So, instead he opted for emptying my clean dishes from the dish washer into the dog bowl.  IMG_1137

I didn’t get them out right away b/c I figured the harm had already been done, and I would go ahead and finish emptying the dishwasher before he got into more mischief. 


But, that plan was thwarted when he then decided to DRINK FROM THE DOG BOWL!    While I moved the bowl onto the counter and the dirty cups into the sink, I turn around to find him standing in the dishwasher reaching for my leftover pizza from lunch.


At this point, I decide that this has TRULY BEEN THE CRAZIEST HALF HOUR OF HIS LIFE and strap him into his booster seat with my pizza in hopes of keeping him safe and me sane! 

Every now and then, when I peek in on my oldest daughter before going to sleep, I’ll see something which instantly takes me back to her infancy. almost 6

And even though she’ll be 6 in a few short weeks, I see her as this sweet little 8 month old in her crib, sleeping folded in half. 

8 mths

I’ll remember how she used to sleep like this every.single night… and suddenly all these pictures of her sleeping like this pass through my mind like a slide show. 

14 mths

17 mths

3 and a half

5 years

Pack-n-play, hospital hooked up to IVs, crib, toddler bed, bottom bunk, top bunk… she’s done it ever where.  It’s her classic sleeping position.  And it makes me smile every.single.time.  Sweet dreams my little girl!

We had some trees and branches cut down in our yard yesterday.  Thus far I think it was worth every penny as I love the new look of our yard, the feeling of safety knowing those dead branches aren’t going to come down in the next storm, AND the free babysitting it provided yesterday afternoon.


IMG_0970The tree in front of our living room window provided the most excitement.  Even my 18 mth old was so intrigued, he kept looking out the window and then he’d yell, “Hey Mama”  and a whole bunch of gibberish followed by “Hey Mama”…  I swear with that gibberish, he was telling me “there’s a man flying outside our window!”


I didn’t get quite as much done as I would have liked b/c the kids kept calling me into the room, “Mom… quick, you gotta see this, Mom look, take a picture for Dad.”

After cutting off all the branches, he then cut the trunk into four chunks and pushed them over.   The kids were concerned that Dad would be upset about the holes they left in the yard when they hit the ground, but they went back and filled them in with dirt. 


The kids wondered if perhaps Brett Keisel cut down trees when he wasn’t playing football.  Notice the resemblance?image



While watching them climb around in the trees using ropes and pulleys, my son remarked, “This is like the original Cut the Rope.”

IMG_0965He also told me, “You’d never let Dad up that high!”  Followed by, “Are you holding the phone dialing the 9 and the 1?”  (Ahem..This MIGHT be b/c whenever Scott goes on the roof to hang or take down Christmas lights, I am always out side holding the phone ready to dial 911 in case he falls).  When I explained that I wasn’t holding the phone b/c these guys know what they are doing he responded with, “Well Dad knows what he’s doing and you still do it for him.”    

We really did have a great time watching the men work in our yard.  There was a never ending amount of excitement to watch, between the bucket truck, men swinging from trees, branches the size of trees swinging out the kitchen window, fork lifts carrying trunks from the back to the front, stump grinders and wood chippers…. we most definitely did not get through all of our homeschool assignments and are pulling double duty today. 


We were delightfully surprised with some big puffy flakes of snow on Monday afternoon which accumulated to a whopping 1/2 inch of fun for the big 3. 


This was the first  “real snow” we’ve had here all winter.  The pure, unadulterated glee which this brought to my children caused me to pause and give thanks that we live in MD.


Because it doesn’t snow here all the time (a fact that I am truly, truly grateful for) when it does it is cause for excitement and celebration.  Snow fall is like an unplanned holiday.  In fact most schools and businesses will close in its honor. 


I love this.  Because who doesn’t need a break from the ordinary now and then?    I would hate to live up north where it snowed all the time and snowfall is no big deal.  (I’d also truthfully hate to live where it was cold enough to snow all the time… I prefer snow as a break from the ordinary… a rare treat to be enjoyed as I look out my window). 

I am sure up north they would never stop to make snow angels until the snow actually covered the ground. 


Here we decided to milk this “snow fall” for all we could, lest we not see any more this winter.  And so in addition to catching flakes on our tongues, and making snow angels, we also had a snow ball fightIMG_0909


and ate as much as we could scrape off the fence posts, deck railings, and any other surface we could find.


The “big 3” played happily outside for 2 hours in the snow.  They came in muddy and soaked and very much in need of some hot chocolate.  IMG_0916

It was wonderful!

Today had all the ingredients to be a very classic Monday… one of those days…  we got home at 1:30 AM after a 5 hr drive after losing in the first round of the playoffs after 1 play in overtime…seriously, who would want to wake up and start the week after a night like that? 

But, it was actually a WONDERFUL Monday… a truly great start to my first real week back in reality since Christmas break.  (last week we started back to home school but we didn’t meet at the tutorial… so we had no forced early wake ups… and we only had gymnastics one evening last week)  This week we’re back to the tutorial, back to gymnastics, cub scouts, business trips, dr appointments, MOPS meeting… and I was already dreading the realness of it last week. 

But it was actually a WONDERFUL MONDAY. 

Thanks to….

1.  Scott-  not only did Scott offer and willingly stay late at my parents last night so we could watch the game with them… he drove the whole way home AND THEN arranged things at work so he could take the oldest 2 to the tutorial for me this morning!  (Isn’t he the best EVER?)  Not only did I get to sleep in a little b/c I didn’t have to shower and get ready to be out the door, but I only had to get 2 kids out of bed and out the door instead of waking 4 kids up and hauling 4 grouchy kids to school this morning.  AND the 2 that were hauled out of bed weren’t all that grouchy b/c they got to ride with Daddy and that’s the best way ever to start the day!

2.  My momma-  she helped me wash all our clothes before we left her house last night which meant that I came home from the weekend with a  suitcase of CLEAN clothes… Scott dumped it on the bed for me this morning and combined with the basket of clothes I washed Friday before we left… all I had to do was fold and put away the clothes and we were set.  I was so set in fact that I went ahead and washed and put away the clothes we wore yesterday. 


4.  My tutorial-  I had 6 hrs at home with just my 2 youngest and was able to take care of laundry, clean the bathrooms, clean the trashcans, unpack, AND put together a 100 piece puzzle with my 4 year old.  (FYI 100 piece puzzles mark the extent of puzzle putting together skills… I can not fathom attempt a puzzle with more pieces than that)

5.  SNOW- we were surprised with big white puffy flakes of snow this afternoon which STUCK and accumulated a whole whopping 1/2 inch of snow in our grass.  This of course delighted my big 3 to no end and in between reminding them at least 100 times to shut the door and take their shoes off before coming in, I was able to hunt down gloves and boots ands put gloves on at least 25 times per kid AND make bread rolls, hot chocolate, and cookies.  It made for a super fun, argument free afternoon for all. 

6.  NAPS-  Love, LOVE the fact that my lil man still naps twice a day.  Thank you sweet boy. 

7.  MOPS- I hadn’t been to MOPS in over a year but went back tonight to speak on a panel.  Great evening out and wonderful to reconnect with friends I hadn’t seen in awhile. 

Not sure what the rest of the week will bring, but today I am thankful for a surprisingly great day.

When talking to my oldest daughter about things to look forward to in 2012, I mentioned to her that the Summer Olympics were going to happen in 2012.

“Oh,” she exclaimed, “I’ll be 6, can I be in the Olympics?”

I told her that when she was 6 she can try out for the gymnastics team at her gym, but she has to be 16 to try out for the Olympics.

“Well,” she said, “I’ll have the 6, I just need the teen!”

I opted to leave it at that and omitted details about the selection committee, the Károlyi’s and the slew of other things that would stand in the way of her and London this summer.  No need to dash a young girls dreams!

Even though she isn’t on the Olympic team… or any team for that matter, I am super proud of the skills she’s accomplished this past year.   A year ago she couldn’t yet do a pullover… now she can do a pullover, cast, back hip circle and is working on her dismount.   A year ago I couldn’t have told you what any of those things meant… I guess we’ve both learned a lot this past year!  Here’s a clip we snapped of her at practice a few weeks ago.

Visit here for more tiny talk.

IMG_0460Since we were blessed with yet another mild December day on the 31st, we decided to take advantage of the time off, unseasonably warm weather, and the last day of our pass for a family fun afternoon at the zoo. 


Make a mental note… for a really good visit to the zoo, try going on a mild day in the off season, shortly before closing time… hardly any people were there and the animals were quite active.  

Scott snapped some great shots of the animals up close and personal.


The lion came right up to the window and then almost seemed to look right past us as if we weren’t there.  It was incredible!




We also took advantage of the petting zoo.  Those goats were adorable!  I had so much fun watching my youngest pal around with them.  IMG_0432




Then he decided it was time for them to go back to their pen and he began herding them… pushing them into their pen one at a time… We were so lucky they didn’t decide to unload on him!!


IMG_0592We rung out 2011 with a date day in DC for Scott and I on the 30th and then a good ol’ family fun day on the 31st. (more pics and details on those to come in a later blog post). As we spent time reflecting on 2011, Scott and I both found ourselves commenting on how grateful we are for our life.   We don’t deserve this life of comfort and good fortune.  And we def aren’t doing everything right with what we have.  But, one thing I know for sure, we are so, very very thankful for this life we have… with each other and our children. 

And so as we enter a new year, brimming with possibilities, goals, hopes and plans… I must first pause… and give thanks for the memories and moments of 2011. 

In 2011, we….

lost our first tooth:

lost his first tooth!IMG_8378

       March 26th                                        Nov 23           

Celebrated our 10 year anniversary and on the same day we celebrated his first birthday


did gymnastics together (in the same class for the spring sessions)


Celebrated my Mema’s 80th birthday


attended a family reunion


Made it to the last space shuttle launch


enjoyed an hour to ourselves on a Florida beach (I think this might be Scott and I’s favorite hour of 2011)


My awesome SIL Karen treated me to a real hair cut at a salon… so this stay at home momma upgraded her “take a few inches off in the kitchen once every 3 yr haircut”  to an actual style! 


We got wood floors!!


Went to Steelers Training Camp


enjoyed a 10 year labor day tradition


started KindergartenIMG_6129

Began piano lessons


coached the girls soccer team

soccer dad

enjoyed 3 days away in Chicago- just the two of us!


We played lots and celebrated much this year.

We also said goodbye to a Grandpa/Great Grandpa whom we all love and miss very much. 


His passing gives us pause to remember that while activities and events may fill our days, life comes with a purpose that surpasses all those things. It is the way God is glorified in the mist of activities that shape the legacy we leave.  And with that in mind, we pray, as we venture into 2012, that God grant us the wisdom to pursue each day in a way that glorifies Him.

Happy New Year!!