Monday, December 31, 2007

The Pita Experiment

Feeling homesick for some authentic Middle East Cuisine, Andrew and I made some pita bread and falafel for dinner yesterday. It wasn't as difficult as I first thought it would be but I must say that it's a whole lot easier to just walk to a little street stand and ask for falafel and pita than it is to make it yourself. Perhaps it's because I lack the appropriate equipment, like a falafel ball scoop, a big vat of boiling oil, and a stone oven that's fired up to 500 degrees all day long.

We improvised though and used our meager counter space, our hands, our sauce pan, and our conventional electric oven and a pizza stone. It worked out well. And as a matter of fact, we're so good at making falafel now that we didn't even have the pot of oil foam out all over the place this time. We felt like experts!

The pita bread was a little tricky since we hadn't made it before. We used a combination of two different recipes: the ingredients from this one and the technique from this one. It was exciting to see the pita actually puff up in our oven. We weren't sure it would work, but it did! We really liked the recipe we used because the dough only had to rise for about 40 minutes, instead of the 2 hours as some recipes instruct.

The Pita Puffing
video

Andrew shows off our feast
Since most of our cooking experiments don't work out so well we were shocked that the pita actually turned out alright! It was way easier than we expected and it tasted wonderfully authentic.

It's hollow!
Rachel was a little disappointed that she didn't get to join in our exciting dinner. All she got was mushy carrots which, after she got over her original disappointment, she enjoyed thoroughly. She tends to lunge toward the spoon as it comes toward her mouth so you have to be careful not to jab it all the way down her throat. Instead of a "straight in" approach we use more of an "advance-retreat" action. It takes practice.



She's pretty clean in these pictures, but that's only because these are her first few bites. She gets more excited and animated as her feeding continues and starts talking with her mouth full (which involves spraying food out of her mouth and all over you, the floor, and anything else within range). She grabs at the spoon or bowl and puts her hands in her mouth and then will grab her toes, smearing food from her eyebrows to her toenails...and beyond. She also takes great joy in wiping her face with her bib periodically throughout the meal--this only helps get her cleaner the first time she does it.

I think we all enjoyed our meals last night. Andrew and I were left craving the Middle East and Rachel was left covered in carrots--definitely a success.

Heiss Zeitgeist 2007

Yep. It's true. We're both nerds. I'm probably more of one than Nancy though, as evidenced by this post.

We've been keeping stats on our blog for the past year through Google Analytics and Feedburner, just to keep a thumb on the pulse of our blog visitors. After long data collection efforts, here's where Heissatopia stands at the end of 2007:

Total posts: 362
(currently...three more before midnight tomorrow and we'll get 1 per day)

Top posters:
1. Nancy: 346 posts - 95.58%
2. Andrew: 16 posts - 4.42% (a piddly amount, I know)

Overall site visitors over time:
Absolute Unique Visitors: 2,642
Pageviews: 19,055
Average Time on Site: 02:06

RSS feed subscribers:
Current number of subscribers: 21
(not a lot...use the beauty of RSS, people!)

Visitor geography:
(Where are our Antarctican, Chinese, Russian, and Greenlandic readers?)

Top cities:
1. Salt Lake City, UT (not Orem, surprisingly...that means other people look at our blog more than we do.... We were afraid of skewing the stats too much)
2. Orem, UT
3. Provo, UT
4. Draper, UT
5. Champaign, IL (Hello, Slades!)
6. Lindon, UT
7. Calgary, AB
8. Midvale, UT
9. Fairfax, VA

Top browsers:
1. Firefox: 56.45%
2. Internet Explorer: 38.92% (54.28% IE7, 45.61% IE6)
3. Mozilla: 1.97%
4. Safari: 1.89%
5. Opera: 0.69%
6. Netscape: 0.07% (Umm...update your browser!)

Top operating systems:
1. Windows: 93.3% (92.77% XP, 6.20% Vista, 0.8% 2000, 0.15% 98 (Who still uses that!?))
2. Mac OSX: 6.20%
3. Linux: 0.45%
4. iPhone: .01% (1 person! Who has an iPhone?)

Top networks of visitors:
1. Comcast
2. mStar
3. Brigham Young University
4. Qwest
5. Fairfax County Public Schools (Hello, Amanda!)
6. Road Runner
7. Harman Music Group (Hi, dad!)

Top referring search engines:
1. Google: 92.8%
2. Yahoo: 3.2%
3. AOL: 2.6%
4. Microsoft Live: 1.4%

Technorati Authority: 14
This number is pretty much completely arbitrary and dumb, but I look at it consistently anyway.

Technorati Ranking: 629,416
Out of the millions of blogs out there, we are in the top 700,000!

Top search terms that lead people to our blog:
1. bwankey
2. jessica sienfeld (spelled wrong...it should be seinfeld)
3. www.heissfamily.blogspot.com
4. "the pickle incident"
5. matt & bonnie parks blog
6. cool heisses
7. heissfamily
8. site:heissfamily.blogspot.com wassail
9. the cool heisses
10. nancy heiss

Most popular posts:
This is harder to ascertain since almost 16,000 pageviews were just heissfamily.blogspot.com. This means that the overwhelming majority of visitors just go straight to the blog and scroll down to see if there's anything new rather than clicking on the post directly or subscribing to the RSS feed through Outlook, Thunderbird, or Google Reader. Here's what we have for the 5 most popular posts, though, which won't be that accurate at all:
1. Heiss Holiday Humbug
2. Hairy Ordeal
3. They're Deceptively...Delicious!
4. Free Vacation Complete with Airfare, Hotel, and Interrogration
5. Rolie Polie Olie

Labels as of today:

Most commented posts:
1. Saran Wrap, Zippers, and Knowing Everything - 23 comments
2. My beautiful hair... - 16 comments
3. How many bad haircuts can I give? - 13 comments
4. We're both insane - 13 comments
5. Corn is not a vegetable - 12 comments
6. They're Deceptively...Delicious! - 11 comments
7. NaNo WriMo - 11 comments
8. The Play Date - 11 comments
9. Wiggle Worm - 11 comments

And that's it for number crunching! Thanks to all our readers for padding our stats and making us feel good about how popular we think we are!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Crawling already?

Watching Rachel hone this skill will never cease to amaze me. Just between yesterday and today she mastered the art of going forwards. I use the term "mastered" lightly, it's true, because she's still crashing her face into the floor. I'm glad I filmed her crawl on the 27 though because I like how she used to stick her bum up in the air. She doesn't do that any more. At least, I haven't seen her do it all day.

It's been replaced with a much more proficient (and forward-moving) crawl.

In this clip I'm using a box to lure her across the floor--it's kind of replaced the lanolin tube as her favorite toy. Right before I broke out the camera she saw the box on her own and pushed it the whole length of the blanket and onto the wood floor without stopping--it took her about 10 seconds to go that far. I was in shock so I couldn't get the camera...and of course when I did have the camera she didn't really want to perform.

Here she is in all her crawling glory!

video

Seriously, who is this baby? She is just bound and determined to be the grown-up-est baby around. I can't believe how quickly she's doing it and I'm so glad that I get to stay home with her so that I can watch every minute of it! I'm so lucky to have a husband who supports me both financially and in my role as a mother--he's definitely a good catch!

Fine Motor Skills

Even in her sleep Rachel is a very busy baby. Here she is during this afternoon's nap:


Look closely at her hands and you will see that she has put each of her fingers in the holes of the blanket.


If we wrap her in a tie-quilt she gets her hands out and twirls the yarn ties in her fingers while she sleeps. It's rather cute, really.

She's always seeing what she can get her little fingers into--we are already wary of electrical sockets, she likes to roll over to the DVD player and push buttons, and she can find the smallest bits of anything on the floor. Every time we pick her up off the floor she has a handful of something: hair (probably mine), a little pebble (probably from the bottom of a shoe), or something else dangerously small. She could be a human vacuum.

We'll have to start her on Cheerios soon, she's that good at grabbing things. I've had my glasses snatched right off my face several times and she's recently started to put the soother in her own mouth (only to put that classic disgusted look on her face and yank it back out again...and then put it back in...it's a vicious cycle...oooh, yuck, oooh, yuck, oooh, yuck...). She loves to grab at eyes, ears, mouths, and noses and then pull and twist, so you might want to watch out for that next time she's on your lap.

We're still working on the whole "respect others" thing. For some reason she just does whatever she wants even though we tell her "no" or "be gentle." I guess we just keep telling her until she gets it. Andrew says that "no" is too big of a word for a baby. He's probably right--some people never understand the meaning of "no." Hopefully our baby will.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

We're Cacophonously Studying

Andrew's studying for the GRE which means that I kind of am, too. I was reviewing some of the vocabulary they suggested one learns before attempting the GRE--they challenged me, as the reader of the prep book, to use the words in my daily conversations and activities.

So I remembered the word axiom. Actually, I only remembered what it meant--I couldn't remember the word itself, just that it started with ax-. I got out the GRE prep book and looked up the word I wanted to use. Andrew said that I shouldn't use it if I didn't know what it meant. But I told him I did know what it meant. It meant universal rule...another word for maxim.

He then proceeded to tell me that I can't just put "axiom" down and have it mean what I want. I have to fit it in the context of the sentence and use the proper form and so on.

Thanks, Prof. Andrew, since I was a linguistics major I might not have figured that out any other way. Thanks for the heads up.

(He felt silly about telling me that the minute he told me that--so don't tease him because he already feels bad).

Speaking of people who feel bad...I would like to mention that cacophony is still mentioned as a good word to know for the GRE. When I read that word I smiled because it reminded me of a story of a certain someone (*cough* Reid *cough*) who was having their wife help them prepare to take the GRE. They were going over vocabulary when they came to the word "cacophony."

Karen thought it would be kind of funny if she told Reid it was pronounced "CA-ca-phony" instead of "ca-CO-phony." So she did. And since the word was somewhat new to him, at least audibly, he began pronouncing it as "CA-ca-phony."

Apparently they gave the same advice way back in the day to use the vocabulary in your daily life so that you really learn the words. Multiple exposure to a word is one of the best ways to learn it. For example, I've used the word axiom six times today so it's pretty solid in my mind right now. The other words I read today that I didn't previously know really aren't.

Anyway, Reid went to work at dear old General Reference, where Andrew works now. Trying to show off his vocabularic finesse, Reid was sure to use the word "CA-ca-phony" in a sentence loud enough for several of his co-workers to overhear.

Needless to say he was quite embarrassed when his co-workers started harassing him about his pronunciation. He did well enough on the GRE, though--at leas, he made it into grad school so we can assume he did well (only because they didn't make him say the words out loud on the test).

Unfortunately for me, Andrew's knowledge of Latin roots far outweighs my own. Stupid Italian. He's so much harder for me to trip up...

A Free Date

Last year Andrew got some movie tickets for Carmike Cinemas for being a good employee. We decided to go out to the movies last night since the tickets expire on the 31st, Andrew's parents were available to babysit, and Andrew wanted to make up for giving me a lousy Christmas Eve.

As an axiom we only go to the dollar theater because we can't rationalize paying $8 or more for a movie ticket when we could just wait a couple of months and either see the movie for a buck each or borrow the DVD from our parents. But, because we had the movie tickets that were only valid at a Carmike place we decided to swallow the three dollars it would take to supplement the amount stated on the tickets.

The tickets were valued at $5.50 each and we had two of them. Admission is $8.50 so clearly we still owed $6.

Andrew told the ticket lady that we wanted 2 adult tickets for the 7:00 showing of National Treasure: Book of Secrets. He handed her the two coupons and his credit card to "pay for the rest."

She handed back his credit card and charged us just $11.00. I guess they are just free tickets, which is awesome because he got another two from work this year!

We haven't been to a movie since before Rachel was born and I was a little blown away at how incredibly loud the volume was when the sound came on. It took me quite a while to get used to it. We sat through all the "pre-feature content" and then there was this little Disney short.

That's when our trouble began.

The lady behind us started laughing at the splash screen of the flick. Not just a little snicker, either...it was a really annoying, high pitched snorting laugh.

We thought perhaps she just really liked Disney but then the movie actually started and in the very first scene she whisper-screamed,

"Ohhhh! Riley!" and continued with her annoying laugh.

It was then that we thought perhaps she'd seen the film before. And I'm pretty sure she had. She laughed about everything funny before it happened. Screamed about everything scary before it happened. Gasped at everything that needed gasping at before they happened.

It took every ounce of self control not to turn around and talk to her. We would have, had we been brave, but deep down inside we felt that she was trying to be obnoxious because all of her friends and other people sitting around us kept shushing her and it did no good.

At least we didn't have to pay to sit in front of her. And the movie was pretty good. They set it up for a third movie in a very obvious way. I don't like it when movies do that--like the second Pirates movie...dreadful. Movies should be self-contained and still lend themselves to have a sequel. That's where cleverness comes in. If we leave the theater knowing there has to be a sequel then there's no surprise.

The movie was only two hours long, but we were gone for 2 and half or 3 hours, which was plenty long for Rachel. She was screaming her little heart out when we got back to Andrew's parents house. Poor little girl wanted her mommy. I like it when she wants her mommy, although I'm sure it was dreadful for Andrew's family while Rachel was busy expressing her desires. When that girl gets an idea in her head there is no shaking it--I'll have to be careful as she gets older...

The Amazing Rachel

I'm not going to lie. I often think our baby is the most amazing baby in the whole world. I find everything she does absolutely wondrous. She entertains me (and herself) all day long. Here are some candids from the month of December. It's kind of scary how fast Rachel is growing up, but she's doing it anyway.

We've recently had to move her from her bouncy chair to a real high chair. Not only does she squirm to get out of it, she's almost tipped it over a few times by pulling on the legs or reaching over to touch the floor. She also rarely will sit back in it anymore but prefers to balance all on her own and won't let her back touch the back of the chair.

She's become quite the pro at sitting up on her own. She can't get into a sitting position by herself yet, but if we sit her up she can balance for as long as 20 minutes (as long as her attention isn't grabbed by something else). She usually does better if we put something right in front of her for her to play with.

Christmas day at Grandma and Grandpa's (Heiss)
December 17
Rachel has also decided that crawling is a lot of fun. She can get up on all fours but she can't really get anywhere yet. She will often push her legs really hard and face plant, making her move about an inch forward. She can push off of things to move forward. She will move forward to get a toy, but only if it's an inch or so away. Other than that she moves either backwards or sideways which she finds very frustrating because she just gets farther and farther away from anything she wants to grab.

On mom and dad's bed (December 27)
video


video

Potty training is going well. Rachel likes to sit on her potty (usually). She especially likes it when daddy's around because he's more fun than mommy. Rachel can sit up on the potty all by herself now and if I try to make her stand up before she's done going, she'll sit back down until she's finished.

Look at me!
Rachel has begun experimenting with new sounds and copying faces that we make at her. This can be very humorous. Here she is copying Andrew. He was "ooh-ing" at her and she made an "ooh" face back at him--she didn't get the sound out until a few more tries, but she got the face down pretty quick! Spitting has also become one of her favorite pastimes.

Making an "ooh" face at daddy
Rachel likes to help out around the house. Whenever mommy tries to do anything, Rachel wants to be right in the way. I usually move the bouncy seat around the house so that she can watch me do things--but now that she's starting to tip it over that will have to stop. I'll have to find a new way to have her watch me work without getting in the way. I used to carry her around but she's too heavy for me to do that all day long anymore.

(This picture isn't a candid--it was definitely posed)
Rachel's new favorite toy is the container of lanolin. She got a cracked lip about a week ago and I've been putting lanolin on it and then she'd grab the tube out of my hands when I was done. She absolutely loves it. Now we don't go anywhere without it because it keeps her occupied and quiet for minutes at a time. If we offer her two toys (one of them being the lanolin tube), she will choose the lanolin without fail. Why do we even bother buying toys?


Another one of Rachel's favorite things is going upside down. She laughs and smiles and shoves both of her hands in her mouth. She's even started to hang her head off my lap or over my arm upside down--and then put both her hands in her mouth, probably to keep her food in. That's kind of dangerous because that's how I dropped Josie on her head when she was a baby...but Rachel loves it.


Computers have also become a passion of Rachel's. She loves to look at our screen saver (pictures of Rachel) or videos and pictures of herself in Picasa or on the blog. She loves to bang on the computer and chew on the key board and mess me up as I type. She once turned on the narrator for blind people somehow. We don't know how she did it, but she thought it was pretty cool.

Here's what she has to say about her life:

,h mv x b puo00000lp//lp/k i om,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,i ugngb k k ,,,,,,,,,,, i8nbl.

; ,bj,

Her favorite key is either the comma or the space bar--I can't tell which, precisely. We seriously thought about giving her a junk keyboard for Christmas. She loves computers.

Besides typing and working on the computer, another thing she's made more difficult is diaper changes. She does this thing where she presses up on her feet into the mat and balances her weight between her shoulders and her feet, kind of like she's doing the crab walk (but without the arms). She'll scream if we try to make her put her bum back down and as soon as we let go she'll get right back into the same position making diapering nearly impossible.

She also pulls on the tabs and has successfully undone her diaper quite a few times. Oh, and she likes to put her hands down the front of her diaper. I thought kids didn't do this kind of thing until they were like 2 or something!

She's a whole lot of fun though and she just gets funner every day! She's working on reaching at people and loves to play with faces. It seems like she adds some to skill to her repertoire everyday. I think we get just as excited at each thing she accomplishes as she does!

Sleep Walking

I always knew Andrew was a sleep talker. Well, not always...but I figured it out pretty quickly. He often talks in his sleep and it used to really creep me out but I've kind of gotten used to it. If he wakes me up asking/telling me something that sounds somewhat rational I always ask him a few questions about the topic to see if he's lucid. Generally he's not. At least he's coherent so that I can understand him enough to make fun of him in the morning.

It's not as bad as the one time my brother Patrick was sleep talking utter nonsense and kept yelling random names of people out between the gibberish spilling out of his mouth. That was scary. He usually makes sense, too, though.

Anyway, Christmas Eve Andrew went to bed feeling ill. I stayed up and grudgingly filled my own stocking and puttered around the house for a bit. When I went to bed Andrew was sprawled all over it and was using my pillow. His fever was busy breaking so he was sweating like a madman. My pillow was drenched and since I was already upset about my boring, boring, Christmas Eve I took great liberty in pushing him over to his side of the bed and stealing back my pillow.

I flipped my pillow over to the dry side and fluffed it up a bit and then settled down to sleep. Just as I was drifting off, Andrew started talking,

"The key, the key..." he said.

"I already locked the door," I said.

"But the key. I must find the key,"

"Go to sleep,"

"I forgot the key...the key...the key," he said and drifted off into a fitful slumber.

I moved way over to my side of the bed to try and ignore his shifting and attempted sleep again--only to be interrupted by Andrew again.

This time he sat up and tried to get out of bed mumbling something about that key still.

I pulled him back down and told him to forget about the key and go to sleep.

He got up again and started to walk around the bed toward the door.

I led him back to bed with him incessantly mumbling about the key. He talked about the key all night long. It was a long night. I asked him about it in the morning and he recalled nothing--not even dreaming about a key.

I never knew he was a sleep walker. Apparently he is.

Friday, December 28, 2007

My beautiful hair...

Last night Andrew redeemed the "One Free Haircut" coupon that Santa left in his stocking. I told him, as I always do, that I wasn't going to make it too short because he really does look nice when he isn't completely bald. He looks nice when he's bald--he just looks "seven." When he has hair he looks nice and old enough to be my husband.

Usually I tell him this and after I'm finished his hair he ends up looking "seven" anyway, with little to no hair left at all. He likes that.

This time though I made good on my statement and his hair is not too short. It looks well trimmed and is still long enough that if I were to nag him, he could comb and part his hair. I like that. It is also short enough that he doesn't have to do it before he leaves for the day. He likes that.

I used four settings on the clippers, which apparently isn't legal. He said that I'm only supposed to use three different lengths. Oh, well. It still looks good.

When we were finished cutting his hair, he said that we should cut my hair because I've been complaining about split ends lately. I consented. I haven't cut my hair since...well, it's been a while. I don't even remember the last time I cut my hair. Perhaps February last year? It was time.

I went to the bathroom and hacked it off with scissors. Then I had Andrew straighten if up with the clippers. It needed a whole lot of straightening!


It's amazing how difficult it is to cut your own hair while looking in the mirror. Everything's all reversed. Needless to say, it took Andrew quite some time to get that mess straightened out, but when he was done, he brought a hand mirror into the kitchen to show me the good job that he'd done.

He walked right up behind me and held the mirror facing the back of my head.

"How's that?" he asked.

"I can't tell," I said.

"Look in the mirror," he instructed and then realized he was showing my back the mirror, "Oh, never mind...let's go into the bathroom."

He'd done a pretty good job but it was still substantially longer on one side than the other. I evened out the front and then he trimmed it in the back so it was no longer crooked. Then I got really brave and did some layering in the front. It actually looks pretty decent.

I'll feel a lot more comfortable next year when it's time to cut my hair again. I just like it long...right now it's about shoulder-length, which is much too short for me. But at least I didn't cry. There was a big chunk of my life where I cried after every haircut I got (once a year or so) because my long hair was so much a part of my identity. In fact David has told me several times that I've had the same hairstyle way too long (since grade four) and that I should change it.

Well, I changed it. Now it's short. I suppose technically it's the exact same hair style that I had 10 years ago, just a little shorter, but at least it's different enough that people will notice that I chopped it. Usually no one notices because I only take an inch or three off. This time it was probably over 6 inches--that is a big step for me.

It's a good thing that hair grows because I kind of want my long and beautiful hair back. I guess I'll just enjoy the new "do" while it lasts.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Holiday Ham

My sister Kelli gave us a ham for Christmas. We were a little apprehensive about receiving it because neither of us is very experienced at meat cooking, but we scoured the internet and found a recipe that looked easy and we already had all the ingredients for. Andrew made cinnamon-clove-pineapple ham all by himself. It was very good. It's still very good. We will be having ham for the next little while. Last night I made ham stir-fry with couscous. We're due to have pasta today so perhaps we can find a creative way to use more ham.

We won't get too creative though. Hopefully enough time has passed that Kelli won't find this story embarrassing. It happened a few years ago--either when I was still in high school or soon after graduation. I can't remember quite...it was definitely before the twins were born and I think it was before I went to Russia...

She invited our family and my grandparents to her house for a Christmas dinner. She had made pineapple ham and the meal was delicious. We visited for a while and then she brought out dessert.

It was a lovely looking cake with vanilla frosting. Upon further investigation I discovered that it was pineapple upside down cake. Yum! I took a big forkful, put it in my mouth, and started chewing. I looked up at my mom. We gave exchanged a quizzical look.

The cake tasted different somehow.

I hesitated before taking another bite. When I put that second mouthful in, I chewed it very slowly and carefully, trying to figure out what was different. I just couldn't put my finger on it.

I politely finished my piece. Kelli asked,

"How'd you like it?"

"It was...good," I lied.

"Do you want another piece?" she asked.

"Ummm...no," I said honestly and then quickly added, "I'm stuffed."

I sat there with a strange aftertaste in my mouth wondering what she had done to the cake. No one took seconds but Kelli didn't seem to mind.

As the evening unfolded and the grandkids started opening presents, Kelli explained her ingenious idea to make an inexpensive pineapple upside down cake.

She had reused the pineapple she had cooked the ham with to make the cake!

Don't worry. Andrew and I just ate the pineapple with the ham. No cake was involved this year.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas with the other Heisses

We headed over to Andrew's parents on Christmas afternoon to have some traditional potato pancakes and beef stew. It was actually my first time having them, but it's Oma's recipe--Andrew's great-grandmother. It sure was delicious. I'll have to learn how to make them because I'm sure Andrew will ask for them eventually. He's so funny.

He was explaining to me that potato pancakes are probably the only reason he still likes beef. He hates pretty much all other meat: chicken, turkey, fish of any kind, etc. He'll do beef though because he loves pancakes, so with potato pancakes the beef stew is like syrup and since he loved pancakes he had to love syrup and thus he loved the beef stew and never started to dislike beef.

Personally I enjoy the fact that Andrew isn't fond of meat. I'm not too fond of it either and I really hate cooking meat--he doesn't expect me to make meat at every meal because he doesn't really care for it. I certainly lucked out with my man!

Anyway, we had a wonderful time visiting with family: Aunt Nicki, Emma, Grandma Pat and Dave, and Richard and Diana...and the people who live in Andrew's house, of course.

Rachel had a fun time snuggling with Grandpa. And she absolutely loved everything about Emma--her cell phone, her velvety shirt, her popcorn sock. Everything.

Rachel snuggles with Grandpa
Still snuggling but transfixed by Emma
Hanging out with Grandma
Diana, Richard, Aunt Nicki, Emma, and Grandma Pat (and Jacob's head)
Emily was here, too...but I think at this exact moment she was in the kitchen trying to convince everyone to come and have some mint brownies. No one wanted any though because we were all stuffed on potato pancakes.

Steve, Andrew's BFF, was here visiting his parents with his wife and baby. They live just a few doors down from Andrew's parents so we headed over there to catch a glimpse of Adam. He sure is a cutie but we didn't get to see him very much. First he was sleeping...and then when Jodi finally brought him up, Rachel decided she wanted to eat. When I was just about finished feeding Rachel, Adam decided that he should probably had a snack. The visit just went downhill from there.

Andrew, Steve, and Richard decided that they should play Allies and Axis...or something...a strategy game based on WWII. I opted not to play. Games like this make me crazy. I cannot stand how slow they go and how long they last.

I stayed at the Gillespie's for an hour while they set up the game. It took a full hour to set up the game! I then decided that I should probably take Rachel back to visit with her real family. Adam was still eating anyway...


So I went back to the Heisses and had a wonderful time playing Backwards--a very, very challenging game. My head hurt when we were finished. You have a word read to you, either forwards or backwards, and you have to figure out how to say it either backwards or forwards. For example, stressed is desserts...but that one's easy because it's a saying. Sdrawkcab is backwards. Challenging would be gnignellahc--but someone would read "Gnig-nel-lahc" and you'd have to figure out that the word intended was actually "challenging" without writing anything down, while everyone in the room is laughing at you, while the timer is going. It's intense...

After we finished that game and everyone was gone, I phoned over to the Gillespies to tell Andrew that he, also, should come hang out with his real family. He's been over there for three hours...on the phone he said,

"Phew, yeah, I'll come home. This is so boring! I've only had one turn."

And that, folks, is why I didn't play that game. Three hours and only one turn? Ugh.

We finished off the night visiting with Andrew's family and then borrowing Ratatouille from them. We haven't seen any movies that were released this summer and need to catch up. We hear a lot of them were pretty good--Ratatouille definitely was!

Rachel's First Christmas

Lucky for us, Rachel wasn't excited about Christmas this year so she didn't come running into our room at 5 in the morning begging to open up presents. I have a feeling that will occur sometime in the future but this year we got up sometime between 9 and 10 PM.

Rachel didn't really know what was going on. All she knew was that when we got up in the morning, Mom and Dad started throwing paper all over the living room and there were mountains of toys everywhere--baby heaven.

Andrew throws a wad of paper at Nancy, who was in charge of garbage at the time
She wanted to open every gift herself but she was too slow, so Andrew and I took turns opening up her presents. And then I opened up my presents. And then Andrew opened up his presents. We were kind of sad because Rachel had so many presents and we had only about 5 each, which took no time at all to open. Then we remembered that there was another pile of presents behind me that were addressed to both of us! We took turns opening those, too.

Rachel got quite a few stuffed animals, a cooking set, some toy food, some books, and a new outfit. She liked reading the stories and chewing on all of her toys (and the paper, boxes and bows involved).

Andrew and Rachel got a communal present from Aunt Sarah. We were confused about this until Andrew opened it and found a big Barney doll. It was a gag gift--Andrew hates Barney and always have but, being the nice older brother that he is, he would watch Barney to placate his younger sisters...at least, that's the story as he tells it. I've seen him transfixed by Teletubbies and all manner of children's shows, so it wouldn't surprise me that, if deep down inside somewhere, he really is Barney's #1 fan.

I guessed all of my gifts this year well before Christmas. I didn't even try...it just kind of happened. Like, the gift below. That could have been either a blanket all rolled up, or a giant thing of cookie cutters. I guessed cookie cutters. That's what it was.


I disguised most of Andrew's gifts this year so he had no idea what he was getting. I even took the pieces out of his Mancala set before I wrapped it so that it wouldn't shake. I'm so tricky. He didn't guess one of his gifts right.

So...with the commercialism of Christmas aside, I will say that Christmas really was a lot of fun this year. We've gained a lot of perspective entering the Christmas season as parents. I think that we understand a little better how Mary and Joseph were feeling. It's a lot of pressure to be given a regular, ordinary (and absolutely wonderful) baby...but to be told you're going to be the parents of the Messiah would be completely overwhelming.

We also better understand the love that Heavenly Father has for us as His children. We love Rachel so much it's hard for even us to understand how much we love her. The minute we met her, and even before we met her, we were deeply in love with her. We love her more every day we know her, regardless of how many times she pinches us and scratches us and screams and screams and screams and makes messes and screams and screams and throws things and screams and spits up and screams. We just love her. And we always will. Heavenly Father loves us even more than that.

We're grateful that the Savior came and atoned for our sins. I've made plenty of mistakes in my life, much more grievous to Heavenly Father than the things Rachel's done to me as a parent, I'm sure. Without the atonement, it would be impossible for me to return to my Heavenly Father. I've done things wrong that I haven't noticed I've done wrong. I've made more mistakes than I could possibly repent for on my own. The Savior made up for that--and that's the most wonderful gift of all!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Attempted Family Pictures

When we came home from my mom's house we each chose a gift to unwrap. Rachel did a great job unwrapping the book we got her. I'm pretty sure she didn't mean to unwrap the present--she just wanted to eat the paper. She had a ball!


We then read the Christmas story again and acted it out. We didn't get costumes out this year because Andrew wanted to get it over with so that he could go to bed. I made him take some pictures first though. We all kind of dressed Christmasy today: Andrew in red, me in green, and Rachel in a cute little outfit that Sister Elder gave us.

You'll notice Rachel is leaning in a lot of the pictures. That's her new thing. I think she thinks she looks cuter when she's leaning.

And lastly, here's our meager attempt at a Christmas family picture. We look like we stepped into a photo booth. Oh, well.


I'm now just up waiting for Santa to get here. Andrew isn't feeling well again so he went to bed and Rachel was in bed by 11:00 again tonight--looks like we're on a roll. I just finished embroidering her stocking so now Santa can do his job.

Spoiler warning: If you believe in Santa, skip the next paragraph.

Andrew went to bed before even filling my stocking. I filled my own stocking this year. How incredibly lame is that? I mean, I already knew what was going in my stocking but somehow I think I would be able to pretend it was magical if I didn't have to stuff it myself. Where's the magic anymore?

Spoiler warning off.

Christmas Eve

We spent a wonderful afternoon with my side of the family. My family opened their gifts on the twenty third this year--they didn't want to do gifts with my sister Kelli there, not because they would mind "doing" Christmas with her, it's just that Kelli already "did" Christmas with her children so there would be no gifts for Kelli or her twins to open and that would just be awkward. Josie got the game of Life so we played that. I had a hard time. First I couldn't go to school because there wasn't enough money for the bank to loan out. Instead I became a police officer, which wasn't bad, but then I lost my job. I became a mechanic. Then I had a baby and apparently my dead-beat husband didn't contribute any income. I then had another baby and put myself through school. I became a doctor and retired rich. So the game didn't end all that badly, even though I didn't win. David won. He always wins.

Andrew and I tied, exactly. The came Patrick, the poor school teacher. And Josie, who quit mid-game, probably would have beat out David had she continued playing because she had the second-highest paying job.

We also played Clue (David won) and Set (I won once, David won the next time).

Kelli and her kids arrived and I rounded them all up for a picture. I was lucky I even caught them because their dad came to get them the minute they showed up. The boys hardly had time to pull out the lego before it was time to go.

Once the twins were comfortable enough in their environment that they didn't need to sit on Kelli's lap anymore, they started mauling Rachel. She's big enough now that I don't worry too much though. Rachel could take 'em both on, she's a pretty tough little thing. She kept playing with the dinosaurs and dragons and leaving the girly toys in the dust--made her old man proud.


Hugs for Olivia
Naming all of Rachel's body parts: eyes, ears, nose, toes and everything in between
We sang Christmas songs and read the Christmas story after being entertained by the twins wearing mine and Josie's boots. It was Olivia who started it. She saw my boots and put them on. Sabrina saw her, and of course had to join in the fun. The only boots left in the entry way though were Auntie Josie's, which were a little too big!

We had tacos, pie, Grandma's famous fruit salad (famous within our family, anyway), and a whole lot of fun. Rachel skipped her naps and even stayed in a relatively good mood the whole evening!