Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Writing Stories

We usually put the girls to bed at 8:00 (or 8:30) every night and then let them stay up doing pretty much whatever they want until 9:00. Sometimes they read. Sometimes they practice math. Sometimes they play hair salon. Sometimes they write stories. I don't really care what they do, but they have to be in bed.

They're not very good at following that rule, though, and will often get out of bed to shoot the breeze or ask me questions (like, "Do you think Johnny Appleseed was a real person?" or "Do you know where my ballet book is?") and I attempt to be firm and answer their questions with, "I don't answer questions after bedtime," even though it kills me a little inside.

The other night Rachel, after asking me about Johnny Appleseed, walked in to where Andrew was and said, "So, Dad, what'cha reading?"

He started explaining to her and then caught himself.

"Aren't you supposed to be in bed?" he asked.

"That never works," Rachel sighed.

Rachel will do almost anything to be allowed to stay up longer. Miriam's usually pretty good about staying in bed unless she's working on a story. Then she either wants help or wants to show me her progress.

She was trying to write the story of The Three Little Pigs and the Big Bad Wolf a few nights ago, but I didn't know that. She came out of her room to ask me to help her find her ballet book. I told her that I couldn't help her with that because it was past bedtime—and that book was probably on the shelf in Benjamin's room so she couldn't even look for it herself.

"But I need that book!" she said.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Out of Work

All summer long we've been talking about how wonderful things will be after Andrew finishes his comprehensive exam. It was this little black rain cloud following him around. He could hardly enjoy doing anything but work on it because at the back of his mind he knew he should be working on it. And it's kind of a big deal—if you pass you get to stay with the program, if you fail you get kicked out, so...

Anytime I'd mention doing anything (swimming with the kids, plans for fall break, watching a movie) Andrew would say, "Once I'm finished with this exam we can..." relax, have fun, plan that trip, not be so stressed out, play games on Saturday night, and so forth.

Last night before going to bed Andrew asked me (jokingly) if this tie matched this shirt:

Technically, maybe it does. If you're Harrison Wright from Scandal it definitely does. But excluding Harrison (and these Moroccan hipsters) I think that this tie and this shirt just wouldn't work. So I laughed at Andrew and shook my head no.


**TRIGGER WARNING: This content deals with an account of bullying and may be triggering to some people.**

When I was eleven years old I was bullied constantly by a group of girls who, I'm sure, have all grown up to be perfectly reasonable adults but who made my life so absolutely miserable that I eventually refused to attend school. My mom enrolled me in St. Paul's (Virtual) Academy—an online Catholic school based in a neighbouring town.

These girls would shove things in my locker through the air vents. The most humiliating item was a boy's comb, which I'm assuming they stole. When he couldn't find his comb (he was constantly combing his hair, I swear) the girls told him that I had stolen his comb and he told the teacher. I denied everything but was told to open my locker—that its contents would reveal the truth. And what do you think we found inside? Oh, his comb. Of course.

The idea that the girls who "saw me put it in my locker" could have shoved it through the air vent was too far fetched of an idea to believe, I suppose. Even though I was the class goodie goodie. But whatever.

We had an assignment where we had to write an introductory essay about ourselves that were then posted in the hallway along with a photograph. My photograph was graffitied on. When I asked that it be taken down I was told that it would look funny to have a picture missing from the wall—everyone would wonder where my picture was. But no one would wonder why my picture had a mustache and devil horns and a rude name scrawled beside it.

Monday, September 15, 2014

September Antics

I'm starting to get more nervous about something that I've been nervous about since June. Andrew's been making fun of me about that long, too, because he doesn't think preparing an hour-long lecture is a big deal. I'm teaching a class at our stake women's day this coming Saturday and I'm petrified. So I've been spending a lot of my blogging time working on that instead of writing about my children. But I've hit a stopping point again so now I guess I'll blog about my children again for a little while.

Miriam is still happily obsessing about being Mary Poppins. This is a picture Rachel took of her when they did a little photo shoot in the yard (and by little I mean they took two pictures and then left the camera on the front porch while they ran off to play):

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Benjamin Pidgin

Last night my aunt in San Diego called me at around 7:00 PM.

"Is this a bad time?" she asked. "Are you three hours ahead of me? I hope you're not getting kids ready for bed."

"This is a great time," I said. "We're actually just folding laundry together so if I sneak away to talk to you then I get out of folding laundry!"

"This was a good time to call then," she agreed and I left Andrew and the kids folding laundry together.

She wanted to talk about the Hancock Hummer, a family newsletter I put together twice a year (and so far I've received zero submissions so if any family members are reading this—get on it!) and also just get caught up. She asked how the kids were doing and I said they were doing well (this was before Benjamin let us know he had croup) and that Benjamin had recently started talking up a storm, which I was so relieved about because he wasn't even babbling at 18 months. I was quite worried about it, but here we are nine months later and he's just fine.

Auntie Arlene could relate. My cousin Lance was a late talker as well, especially when compared to his older sister (who, like my girls was talking in complete (and complicated) sentences by 18 months).

My cousin's daughter (and Arlene's granddaughter) Kitty (not her real name, but the name she gave herself when she was first—and finally—starting to talk) suffers from childhood apraxia and it's been a long, hard road for her. She also wasn't babbling at 18 months and everyone (even doctors) kept telling them to wait but they shouldn't have waited as long as they did to seek help because Kitty had a real problem.

She's not the only little cousin in the family to suffer from apraxia, either (there's one more), so I feel like my worry was justified (even though in my case Benjamin really did start talking and all I really had to do was wait (but that's not always the case and that early intervention is crucial)).

That got me thinking about the Benjamin Pidgin we've all been learning to speak in our house and this morning when the girls were packing snacks to eat after church and Benjamin ran to get a granola bar, shouting, "Monkey bar! Monkey bar! Monkey bar!" I knew it had been far too long since I made a list of words that are special to him. Here's a short dictionary to help you learn Benjamin Pidgin:

Croup and Pie Holes

Benjamin and I are staying home from church today. He was none too happy about this decision. He threw himself on the floor hoarsely screaming, "Turch! Turch!" I told him that he and I would watch church movies together and that helped him feel happier, but he still scowled as he watched his sisters finish getting ready to go.

As Miriam was trying to put on her shoes he yelled at her, "Stop! Daddy's shoes! Stop it, Mimi! Daddy's shoes!"

"Ummm, I'm pretty sure these are my shoes," Miriam said. "See how small and girly they are? They are black like Daddy's but they are not Daddy's. They are mine."

"Daddy's shoes," Benjamin huffed.

"But why can't Benjamin go to church?" Rachel asked.

"He has croup," I said. "He can't go to nursery because he might get the other kids sick and he sounds like a donkey braying so he can't really go to sacrament meeting and he and I hardly slept at all last night so we simply can't miss nap time today."

"Why don't I get croup?" Rachel asked.

I explained that kids usually grow out of getting croup. When you get sick your throat swells and that hurts but usually it doesn't swell so much that it keeps you from breathing—because as you get older your throat gets bigger. Benjamin's throat is still so small that if it gets swollen it can make it hard for him to breathe. That's probably not the most medically sound explanation, but whatever. The kids bought it.

"So, basically," I concluded, "His breathing hole is all filled up."

Miriam blushed.

"They didn't fill up my breathing hole!" she said. "They filled up my pie hole!"

Saturday, September 13, 2014


I finished reading Rainbow Valley last night as the sun was setting and fireflies began blinking on and off and my children frolicked around the yard, telling not-so-scary tales, picking figs and eating them, and playing leap frog (and occasionally misjudging exactly how far they had to leap, ending up sitting on each other's heads (but I just ignored those cries and they managed to solve the problems on their own)).

This is the stuff childhood memories are made of. And I think it's part of the reason I'm still enjoying the Anne of Green Gables series so much. L. M. Montgomery seems to be such a romantic in her writing and I'm really enjoying that right now—Anne's attitude toward childhood and growing up and finding love and motherhood.

I particularly appreciated the love story of Mr. Meredith (a widower) and Rosemary West (an old maid by virtue of her fiancĂ© drowning at sea). In light of a secondary love story blossoming in real life (in short, our friends' dad is getting remarried), I enjoyed the sneak peek into the secondary love story of Mr. Meredith and Ms. West, how they still love their original love but somehow found room in their heart for more love, the quibbles they had accepting this, and how cute the children were bringing it all about.

Rainbow Valley was published in 1919, shortly after the end of World War I, and L. M. Montgomery weaves a lovely analogy of the Pied Piper into her story. Walter Blythe makes several mentions to the story. "Some day," he says, "the Pied Piper will come over the hill up there and down Rainbow Valley, piping merrily and sweetly. And I will follow him...away from you all. I don't think I'll want to go—Jem will want to go—it will be such an adventure—but I won't. Only I'll HAVE to—the music will call and call and call me until I MUST follow."

It's clear by the end of the book that this is a foreshadowing of the boys being called off to war in a few years' time—specifically the very last bit of the book when Jem "[springs] up with a gay laugh...tall and splendid, with his open brow and his fearless eyes. There were thousands like him all over the land of the maple." And he says, "Let the Piper come and welcome....I 'll follow him gladly round and round the world."

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Attempting Mary Poppins

My mom inspired us to give the "fancy" version of Mary Poppins a go. We used the white dress and hat from the dress up box and some ribbons we keep with the hair stuff. It definitely needs some work. I think we some white material in the attic that would help fancify things (and I think we have some red to make a better waist band as well). I'm not quite sure what to do for a parasol (put my feelers out for a broken umbrella, I suppose). I think we'll keep the green parrot head regardless of what we do because I don't really want to make another one!

This is Miriam's Mary Poppins face, in case you were wondering:


I caved and bought an umbrella on Amazon. It was $7. And it's "just an umbrella," which is something she's been asking for anyway. Another bonus is that perhaps she'll stop asking to play with my umbrella (which cost more than $7). Guess what Miriam will be getting for her birthday (hint: not a hand-sewn Mary Poppins coat)!

I'm not sure the parrot-head handle will fit, but perhaps we'll find some way to make it work...

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Mary Poppins Umbrella

This morning Miriam and I were practicing the ukulele together and Benjamin was pulling everything out of the "music cabinet." I didn't stop him until he pulled out the handbells. I love our handbells but they can only be used when I'm feeling patient. When Benjamin pulls them out he wants to have a free-for-all bell-ringing session and I just can't stand that, so when we use them I'm a little...controlling.

He settled for pouring over the book of Disney songs Auntie Emily sent us and I soon found myself playing songs for the kids while they danced and sang (the Disney song book is a little too advanced for Miriam to play along with). When we got to Supercalafragalisticexpialadoshus Miriam exclaimed, "I know what I want to be for Halloween!"

With that sort of a hint it's probably no surprise that she's decided on being Mary Poppins. We're currently reading Marry Poppins Comes Back (and so far I'm enjoying it more than the original story). Miriam found it at the library and requested that we read it instead of Princess Academy (which is "boring because there aren't any pictures! A book's got to have a few pictures!"). Rachel was okay with this because she'd already informed me that her "classroom has a copy of Princess Academy so [she] can just read it at school as fast as [she] want[s]. It's not that [she doesn't] like [me] reading to [her] but [she'd] kind of like to read it faster than, like, two chapters a night."

So we're reading more Mary Poppins and Miriam adores her.

Mormon Culture

My friend Bridget recently wrote a post for The Exponent about her experience as a Mormon expat, which I rather enjoyed. Susanne asked me for a follow up and I'm more than happy to do that!

In 2007 then-President Gordon B. Hinckley said, "the Church has become one large family scattered across the earth. There are now more than 13 million of us [more than 15 million now] in 176 nations and territories [184 in 2011]. A marvelous and wonderful thing is coming to pass. The Lord is fulfilling His promise that His gospel shall be as the stone cut out of the mountain without hands which would roll forth and fill the whole earth, as Daniel saw in vision (see Daniel 2:31–45; D&C 65:2)."

Truthfully, that scripture from Daniel popped into my head all on its own (thank goodness for scripture mastery) and I used it to find that quote by President Hinckley—but I just love the idea that we are one large family scattered across the earth. I think that sums up my experience as a member.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints considers itself a global church, "teaching principles and doctrines that have power to benefit and uplift people of every nation, race, and culture" (here). While I think that is a true statement—that the principles and doctrines of our church can benefit and uplift any person anywhere—we tend to mix up those principles and doctrines with what Bridget refers to as Intermountain West cultural baggage* or IWCB for short.