Friday, December 02, 2016

First time in nursery

Last night was our Relief Society Christmas Dinner. Andrew made sure to be home from campus in time for me to go, so that he could feed the kids dinner and get them to bed.

"Do you want to keep Zoë?" I asked.

"Well," he hemmed. "I was kind of hoping to get some writing done..."

"Well," I hemmed. "I guess I could take her..."

We love that girl—don't get me wrong—but she can be a little high maintenance. Therefore we've left her with a babysitter, like, never. She's a screamer and she doesn't sleep so basically she's loud and switched on all the time. I haven't felt like we could or should leave her with anyone until she settled down a bit on the neediness home-front. It wouldn't be fair to her and it wouldn't be fair to the sitter.

While I was rehearsing for Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Andrew would often watch her so I could dance baby-free. But it was torture for them both. She'd scream the whole time and he'd be a big ball of stressed-out Daddy by the time I relieved him. It was even worse when I'd try to send her to the nursery. So mostly I just kept her with me.

I've had her with me her whole life.

Someone to care for, to be there for

Every now and then I see others experience things that help me put my trials into perspective. For example, a friend from high school passed away last night—after a long struggle with various brain tumours and cancers—leaving behind an expectant wife and six (soon to be seven) children!

Though I'm sure she is distraught, she is handling things beautifully and admirably (you can read about their experiences here).

My heart just breaks for their sweet family (though, truthfully, I haven't kept up with him/them much since high school, so I don't know they're a sweet family...but, still...I'm fairly certain that they are) and I find myself feeling so grateful for the trials that I've been dealt.

Life is full of such hard things, but such worthwhile things.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

The Miracle of the Trash Bags

Our church put out an activity advent for Christmas this year, to help focus on ways that we can share Christ's light by doing things that He would do. Today's activity was to participate in a service project. 

We decided to pick up trash around our neighbourhood. The kids were rather excited to do this and even brought a friend along. Because what's more fun than picking up trash? Picking up trash with a friend! 

We grabbed a handful of old grocery bags and headed for the main road (because there's always a lot of trash along the main road). I woefully underestimated how filthy human beings can be, however, and we filled our pitiful supply of grocery bags incredibly fast. We still had a long way to go on our predetermined route, and we could see the path ahead of us was still, quite literally, littered with trash. Just when I began to wonder what we should do—because walking past all that trash without picking it up seemed awkward now that we were so far into the game—I saw in the grass yet another piece of trash: a thin, black tube of sorts. It took me a few seconds to process what, exactly, it was after I picked it up. A full-sized garbage bag?! What a find!

A few feet later I found another pristine, unused, tightly rolled garbage bag!

We filled them both—one on the way to the park and one on the way back home—as well as a few of our smaller grocery bags. We also picked up some campaign signs. 

Here are the kids at our halfway point (we did stop to play at the park for a bit before heading home):

Benjamin, Meadow, Miriam, and Rachel

An open letter to November

Dear November,

We definitely got off on the wrong foot. You were chaotic and stressful and scary and expensive and busy and lonely and angry and...not cool, November. Not cool. 

But we stretched and we grew. We did hard things. We learned to depend more completely on each other and, more importantly, on the Lord. We prayed a lot. We laughed a lot. We hugged a lot. We became a better family. We appreciated each other more. 

We saw a lot of kindnesses. Even in the very beginning, November, we saw the kindness of strangers, of family, of friends. We were truly succoured, truly blessed, truly ministered to in so many ways. 

You're lucky—we're lucky—that November is a natural time to be thankful anyway. It's difficult, sometimes, but crucial to count your blessings when you're feeling less than blessed because the truth is that we're always blessed—blessed beyond measure—if only we look around.

Look around, look around at how
Lucky we are to be alive right now!

It was—no joke—over 70°F today so the little kids and I took a walk to the park. Along the way we collected all the bits of colour that we saw: a handful of wild onion; some dandelions, henbit, and clover; a pinecone; a sweetgum ball; leaves; berries; sticks; grass that had gone to seed; lichen clinging to some bark. We arranged our treasures in a circle and the result was stunning

The beauty was not only the wreath we made or the picture we took, but what happened in our hearts because, you see, once we'd begun hunting for colour and beauty we could not stop. We left our creation at the park to blow away in the wind, or—perhaps—to be appreciated by unknown passersby (but more likely to blow away in the wind) but we kept seeing things—beautiful things—we would have liked to add to it. That bit of fuzzy moss, that smooth, round rock ("A moon stone," Benjamin called it), a clipping from our butterfly bush.

We saw things we couldn't capture as well: the warmth of the sun, a perfectly fluffy cloud, the delicious fall breeze. We felt things, too: love and happiness and peace.

So, thanks, November. Thanks for being hard. Thanks for being beautiful.

Thanks for today. You really nailed it.

— The Heisses

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Finally a terrific Tuesday

Last Tuesday, I took the trash can out from under the sink and noticed that everything under there was drenched. Our garburator was leaking from the bottom, which is basically a death knell for the contraption. But it was a Tuesday in November, so what else should I have expected?

Let's review our Tuesdays in November, shall we?

November 1: Our van was totalled in an accident
November 8: The election happened (and then Andrew flew out to Georgia the very next day)
November 15: Andrew left for ARNOVA (the day after we purchased a new van)
November 22: The garbage disposal broke

November really had it out for us—and that's just the Tuesdays!

On Monday night Andrew and I were chatting as we got ready ready for bed when he suddenly gasped.

"What?" I asked.

"Tomorrow is Tuesday again!" he gulped. "And it's still November!"

"Oh, dear!" I agreed.

But Tuesday the 29th came and went and I'm here to report that nothing terrible happened on Tuesday. (I concede that the 15th wasn't exactly catastrophic either but it felt hard because I was still feeling vulnerable and overwhelmed and didn't want to spend the week alone with the children and a brand-new-to-us van.) In fact, Rachel came home from school absolutely beaming and announced that she won the class spelling bee!

Her class had done a written spelling bee, which I think is a more humane way to conduct a spelling bee. The first round they were given 15 words and the top spellers moved into the next round, which allowed the children a few mistakes (Rachel only scored 12/15 on the first round). In the second round Rachel scored 15/15. In the third round she scored 9/10, in the fourth round she scored 4/5, and in the final round she was the only student to score 100% (5/5), making her the class representative for the school-wide spelling bee, an ominous appointment because now she'll have to study (something she neglected to do for the class spelling bee).

Photoshoot tease

On Friday afternoon we headed to downtown Durham to do an urban photoshoot, hoping to commemorate our time here in Bull City. But, uh, did you know that people hang out downtown? We literally parked the car, got all the children out of the car, and then promptly put the children back in. We decided we'd be much more successful at pictures on Duke campus, where we had a chance of seclusion. 

It might have been different if we had brought along, you know, a photographer. But we didn't. It was just us and the camera versus the children. We were unprepared to do that while innocent bystanders were trying to enjoy their dinners on the restaurant patio, or whatever it is one does downtown. We felt way too conspicuous to even set up our tripod—let alone push the timer button, run back into the frame, and chant, "Look at the camera! See the flashing light? That's pretty! It's going faster now! Three, two, one, smile!!" Not to mention how the little ones take every opportunity to run amok if we dare shift our focus off them for a split second (in all honesty, Rachel and Miriam are (mostly) beyond that, thank goodness).

So, yes, Duke campus it was. We hung around by the chapel and took our photos there (much different from the year we took them at Duke Gardens, right?). 

Here are a few I snapped with the point'n'shoot while Andrew was wrangling our Rebel:

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

On Saturday afternoon Rachel went into campus with Andrew (one of her favourite things to do) while I stayed home and put up Christmas lights (and trimmed the hedges and cleaned out the gutters). Miriam thought about going into campus as well (only the children well-behaved enough to sit quietly and read on their own without bugging him are allowed to go, which means Benjamin and Zoë have never been invited to chill in Daddy's office...ever) but the idea of stringing up Christmas lights with me was also pretty appealing. 

In the end she picked me!

Mostly she played with the neighbours, if we're being honest, but she did make it up the ladder a time or two and was a big help fetching things for me ("Garden gloves!" "Another clip here!" "Oh! Oh! Baby on the road!") while I was stuck up the ladder.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

No panda at the manger's side.

Yesterday we were going through Christmas things and I found the little magnet nativity that my mom gave us a few years ago. Benjamin loves playing with magnets so I called him over so that he could be the one to put it on our magnet board.

He happily pulled out piece after piece and put together a lovely scene. When he was so near to completing his task and could tell he was running out of pieces he scoffed angrily and demanded, "Where's the panda?!"

Alas, there is no panda in any of our nativity scenes (though I'm sure there's one with a panda in it somewhere).

Speaking of pandas, one of the children's favourite jokes right now is this:

Q: What's black and white and black and white and black and white?
A: A panda rolling down a hill.

Haven't even put my bags down yet...

Last night in the car, Miriam had a little existential crisis.

"I just don't know what I want to be when I grow up!" she cried (literally; she was crying). "I kind of want to be a scientist, like an inventor or something, but I also might want to play music in a band."

"It's okay, Mimi!" Benjamin chirped happily, as if he just solved all the world's problems. "I know! You can just be a ghostwriter."

"Like, I really like music," she sobbed, ignoring Benjamin. "But I also want to invent things!"

"You can be a ghostwriter," Benjamin said again.

"I don't even know what I would invent or what instrument I would play," she sniffed. "But I think I would want to do that—be either an inventor or musician."

"Be. A. Ghostwriter."

"I guess I could invent a new instrument to play," she continued. "Or, I don't know. Maybe I'll just focus on inventing and forget about music. But I really like music. So maybe I'll just do that and not invent anything at all."

"Or you could be a ghostwriter," Benjamin suggested...again.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Tomatoes, Tricycles, and Bomber Jackets

When Andrew went up to Washington DC last week he accidentally left his coat at home. It's an easy enough mistake to make on a November afternoon in North Carolina. It was quite warm when he left. But by the time he reached DC it was nighttime and it was cold. He went into a store close to the bus stop and found a jacket that was 50% off and bought it. 

"Are you sure that's a men's jacket?" I asked when I saw it.

It just looked like a women's jacket to me, that's all. But he said he found it in the men's section and that when he went to pay for it the cashier asked him if he wanted it in a bag or—probably noticing his lack of other outerwear—if he wanted to wear it out of the store.

"I'll wear it out!" he told the cashier emphatically.

"And she didn't even say, 'Is this for your wife?' or anything," he told me, equally emphatically after recounting his purchasing experience.

"It just kind of looks like a women's jacket," I repeated.