Monday, December 31, 2012

Durham–Fayetteville–Charleston

We decided to take a little trip down south and stopped in Fayetteville at the Airborne and Special Operations Museum to get some of our wiggles out. It was a good museum (but not as good as the Marine's Museum in Quantico).

So this was Christmas

I'm a little behind in my blogging apparently since it's not Christmas at all but New Year's Eve. A week's hiatus is a little unusual for me but rest assured that the dearth of writing is only because we've had an influx of revelry. We have more things planned for today but for now I'll take a few minutes to tell you about Christmas.

A couple of weeks before Christmas Rachel's school had a book fair. She came home with the flyers, which conveniently got lost and forgotten about on my desk. I thought I'd won the battle of the book flyer but then Rachel came home from school with a "wish list" that they made in school. I was so mad—I think sending a flyer home is decent but sitting down with my child and writing out a wish list for them was a little ridiculous.

Her list was noble enough. She wanted a Star Wars book for herself and a ballet book for Miriam. Those were the only two things on her list.

Unfortunately the books cost more than we were willing to spend (even though I know a portion of the proceeds goes to the school) and I told Rachel we weren't going to participate in the book fair. She was crushed...but we went to the library and got out a bunch of Angelina Ballerina books and Star Wars books and read those together.

Reading the Star Wars books was torture. They are so poorly written—super, super lame.

I told Rachel that she'd have to learn to read on her own before we could get another Star Wars book out of the library. I don't care if she wants to read super lame, poorly written stories. I just can't do it.

"It's alright if you don't want to get a Star Wars book for me," she said when she came home from school one day. "I made a list for Santa at school and I put a Star Wars book on my list. That's the only thing I put on my list so he has to get it for me because there's nothing else I want."

Thanks a lot, school! First you help my child make a wish list for the book fair and then you teach her that she can make a wish list for Santa Claus. Sheesh! What's next—a birthday wish list?

Deep down inside I was hoping our children would never learn to wish for stuff...

Anyway, Rachel came home from school on Friday, December 21 with all of her school work for that week and within her papers were not one but two wish lists. Both of them listed one thing: a Star Wars book.


Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Fruitball fight!

Christmas is a difficult day for little ones to be stuck at home all day long. Getting so many presents all at once is difficult (#firstworldproblems, I know) and the aftermath is terrible. Our solution this year was to go to the park. After all, it was 62 degrees and sunny!

Grandma opted to stay at home and nap but the rest of us made our way to the park and had a blast.


Christmas Eve

On Christmas Eve morning we were all lazing around—most of us were in pyjamas and the girls were watching The Santa Clause—when our home teacher stopped by with his wife, bearing Christmas gifts for the girls. We knew he was coming and we knew he had a gift for the girls; we just didn't know the gift would be so perfect. We opened the door and the girls' jaws dropped, for there stood our home teacher, laden down with two hot pink trunks full of dress ups!

Each trunk had three different dresses, two pairs of shoes, a wand, a crown, and some costume jewelry. Miriam immediately stripped down to her underthings, threw on one of the dresses and pranced around the house like the happiest child on earth.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Letter 2012

This year's Christmas letter is here at last! It took me a while to get in a poetic groove and I was stuck for the longest time with only a couple of stanzas but as you can see I overcame my writer's block and found plenty to say. I'm not even sure why I struggled so much—this year wasn't exactly uneventful.

I'm putting it up on the blog a little late and the last couple verses have become outdated—Andrew's parents arrived last week; we've lost our 70 degree weather and have donned sweaters. We're still just enjoying the holidays and hope you're enjoying yours, too!

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

A trip to Raleigh

Today we went on a little adventure to Raleigh—our state capitol. I sat in the way-backseat between the girls. The girls wanted to play all sorts of things that I couldn't imagine myself playing for an hour—like I Spy with My Little Eye? That game is fine in general but we've banned it from being a car game because it's almost impossible to play in a moving vehicle and people end up getting frustrated.

The girls were upset that I reminded them that I Spy is a "waiting in the doctor's office" game and not a "going on a road trip" game so we decided that we'd count cars like they do in Up! only some of us aren't very good at counting yet so we all counted red cars together. By the time we got to Raleigh we'd counted 100 red cars. Then Rachel decided that 100 red cars was plenty and that we'd move onto counting green cars.

Where are all the green cars these days? We were hard-pressed to count fifteen before we got to the museum, though we passed several more red cars on our way. I suppose red has always been a more popular colour for a car.

Our first stop in Raleigh was the capitol building. We wandered around outside for a while because we weren't sure that the building would be open. But then Grandpa (and Benjamin!) went missing so we had to go find them. They were inside...we had a lovely self-guided tour.

Here's Miriam standing in front of a statue of past-presidents from North Carolina: James Polk, Andrew Jackson, and Andrew Johnson. Andrew Jackson is my Andrew's namesake and, as Andrew pointed out, "He's on a horse."

Saturday, December 22, 2012

A Christmas Surprise

Once upon a time Andrew's parents decided to visit us for Christmas. I suppose that having grandchildren under their roof for two full years (+2 months) and then having those grandchildren relocate to the other side of the country was a little hard on them. I was a little hard on us, too.

We decided it would be fun to surprise the girls, which was harder to do than we thought.

Have you ever tried to make plans for visitors to come without ever mentioning aloud that visitors are coming? It's difficult. But we pulled it off.

After school on Tuesday I had the girls busy doing chores all night. They cleaned their bedroom, their bathroom, helped tidy the kitchen and the living room, helped fold and put away the laundry, and did a million other things. I worked them hard, all under the guise that Daddy, who had been "at school," was going to pick up pizza on his way home if we could have the house clean for him.

In reality Andrew wasn't "at school" but was at the airport picking up his parents. He really did stop for pizza, though, and came to the door with pizza in hand, leaving his parents sitting in the van.

"Pizza!" the girls screamed giddily when he walked in.

"Let's set the table," I instructed.

They ran to the cupboard to choose their favourite plates and were just getting into the silverware drawer when the doorbell rang. Naturally, they raced to the door to see who could get there first and flung it open and there stood...

"GRANDMA!"

Open Before Christmas

We started opening Christmas presents at the beginning of December, thanks to some book-loving grandparents who know Andrew all too well.

On the day we came home from Washington DC there was a package sitting on the front steps from my  parents—the kids' tag said to go ahead and open it right away. They were more than happy to fulfill that request:

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Benjamin at 6 months

Benjamin had his six month check up last week. He's doing great!

He's 24 inches, which is a little on the short side (still in the 0th percentile) but is finally "on the chart" for weight. He tipped the scale at 14 lbs 13 oz, which is exactly 10 lbs heavier than he was at birth (and is in the 6th percentile for his age). I'm not sure how accurate his weight is, though, since they weighed him with his diaper on...and it was cloth diaper (a BumGenius—which weighs about 5 oz itself) and it was wet (so it was probably more than 5 oz).

I tried to tell the nurse that a) he's always been weighed naked and b) that he was wearing a slightly soggy cloth diaper (and that cloth diapers could get a little heavy when wet) but she waved my concerns off as non-issues. Apparently all she wanted was a ballpark estimate, which was weird for me because we've been so concerned about every little gram for the past six months or so...

Even if he'd been weighed with his diaper off he'd still have made the chart (since he'd have to be less than 13 lbs to not make it and I'm sure his wet diaper did not weigh two lbs; I feel like I should also note (for my mother, who I'm sure is wondering) that at 6 months I was only 13 lbs. so Benjamin is larger at 6 months than I was). We're just happy he's gaining!

Overall he's happy and healthy.

As far as milestones go:

  • He can sit with minimal support.
  • His feet have yet to make it into his mouth.
  • He's been able to roll over for months now.
  • He can smash his face into the floor and lift his bum into the air (which isn't exactly "creeping" but it's close enough).
  • He enjoys standing (with help, of course).
  • He holds things, grabs things, and occasionally passes things (but definitely has butter fingers).
  • He has no teeth.
  • He recognizes that someone is a stranger (which is a fancy way of saying he knows his mommy).
  • He smiles and laughs.
  • He doesn't really make consonant sounds yet but he squeals and blows bubbles often.

So he's more or less on target for his actual age and is a joy to have around. We moved the mattress in his pack'n'play from the bassinet part into the actual pack'n'play frame and he seems to be sleeping better because of it. The bassinet frame doesn't support the mattress as well so it bows in the middle and I guess Benjamin didn't like that because he slept in the co-sleeper bassinet fine, our bed fine, in his crib fine, and now that his pack'n'play mattress is flat he's sleeping just fine there, too. I love when he sleeps just fine!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Happy Hanukah

One of Andrew's family traditions is to have potato pancakes sometime during the Christmas holidays—Christmas latkes, if you will. It's kind of a Jewish thing (because Andrew's family is kind of Jewish). I asked Grandma Pat about this recently and this is what she told me:
My father was Ted Weiner, born 21 Jan 1906 in Pottsville, PA. His hebrew name was Israel Teyve Roosevelt Weiner (he was named for Ted Roosevelt who was president at the time). He was the only son of an Orthorox Jewish family, so was greatly revered. He died 25 Dec 1996 in San Francisco.
His father was Joseph Weiner born 15 Feb 1875 (we think in Lithuania). We don't know his real name as it was changed when he came through Ellis Island. We think his real name was Joseph Prepitovksi, but have no way to prove this. Because he came through Vienna he became a Weiner which means someone from Vienna. He served in the Spanish-American War where he contracted malaria. I remember that his skin was sort of yellow. He died in a Veteran's home in Yountville, near Napa, California.
His mother was Miriam Bershconsky. She was known as Minnie Bernstein (again the name change at Ellis Island). She was born 3 Jun 1880 in Vilna, Lithuania. Supposedly she had to be smuggled out of the country because a Cosack Soldier tried to rape her and she either killed him, or injured him. She came to America when she was 18. She divorced my grandfather Joseph, who was quite a bounder, and married Lousi Brodovsky in 1938.
They were orthodox Jews and I spent many weekends visiting them. They lived in Oakland. Once I went to the Friday night services in the Jewish Temple. The men sat on the first floor and the women and children were on the 2nd floor. It was a very impressive ceremony for a young child.
We hadn't even realized that Miriam was a family name! How shameful! Miriam was thrilled when I told her the (slightly edited version of the) story of Minnie Bernstein.

So, anyway, Andrew has some Jewish blood coursing through his veins, which means the girls do, too, and that's why latkes are a family tradition. We didn't make latkes tonight (though ironically Andrew's family did—they had their Christmas celebration today with all of Andrew's siblings (except for Emily) and they skyped to say hi to us (and to show off their potato pancakes)) but we did have a bit of a party.

And by we I mean "the kids and I" because Andrew had a final scheduled for today—a Sunday (lame) and our anniversary (lame again).

"Don't worry, Mom," Rachel told me when Andrew dropped us off at home after church before rushing off to school. "You don't have to be alone on your special day. Miriam and I will celebrate your anniversary with you!"

Lucky me!

We didn't make pancakes for dinner but we did have a Hanukah party (a little late but whatevs). According to Andrew's friend Yulya, Hanukah's not as big of a deal as it's made out to be. It isn't the Jewish counterpart to Christmas. But that isn't what the Hanukah aisle in Wal-Mart would have us believe...


Saturday, December 15, 2012

Christmas and things

I can't believe I haven't emptied my camera in a week! We've been busy with the general hubbub that surrounds Christmas: parties, finals, things like that. The girls have been getting really excited about Christmas and—remarkably enough—don't think we have enough Christmas ornaments and keep demanding to make more, so we've been spending a lot of time making crafts (which I'm sure I'll post about in the near future). They certainly are getting excited about Christmas though.

Miriam spends all her spare time admiring the Christmas tree.


Neighbourhood Luminaria

Supposedly once a tradition in our neighbourhood, the annual Christmas Luminaria hasn't been held in a full decade. This year they revived the tradition and I'm so glad they did!

Christmas is a little bit different here—more different than I expected it to be. For one thing, seeing a house decked out in Christmas lights is quite rare. Instead people do relatively modest displays—a single candle in each window (my favourite alleged meaning of this tradition is that the candle in the window signifies that there is room in the inn tonight) or a string of lights—usually white—around the doorway. I haven't seen many extravagantly lit houses around (though we have heard rumours—from more than one source (when I told Andrew that two friends told me about it on the same night (last Monday, actually) he said, "Two sources? We have triangulation—we should definitely go!") of a pretty good house a few miles away which we'll have to check out).

We put up our lights today; plain white all along the front of our house. I climbed the ladder and clipped the lights to the gutters. Andrew bounced the baby and helped move and balance the ladder. The girls went over to the neighbour's backyard (and had a blast) which was so helpful! Our house looks simple (and beautiful), just like everyone else's in our neighbourhood...except this house:

Displays like this are very uncommon...but the girls love them

Friday, December 14, 2012

Hand towels in the sink

To say I woke up grumpy this morning would be inaccurate. I was grumpy, sure, but I'm not sure that my waking up qualified as such considering the amount of sleep I'd gotten through the night. Benjamin's been fussy—tossing and turning and whining all night—for the past several nights and it's been torture.

Last night I got him to go to bed at around 9:00 and then went off to book club. I grabbed my purse (and nothing else), hopped into the van, and drove down the street. It was my first time leaving the house without my baby in tow since July. I had a lovely time talking to some of the sisters in my ward about Henry Van Dyke's The Mansion. We talked about service and miracles and faith and gratitude. It was perfect and just what I needed.

We finally called it a night and I slowly, slowly made my way home (in the dark...with fogging windows). I was greeted at the door by my fairly desperate husband and inconsolable little boy.

"Why didn't you text me?! I had my phone on my lap the whole night!" I said over the noise that poor baby was making.

"I assumed you were having a good time and didn't want to interrupt you!" he said loudly back.

I quickly took Benjamin from Andrew and quieted him down. It took a while. He was so upset with life that he was flailing and jerking his little body around; he could hardly settle down to nurse and then once he did he continued to grunt angrily to communicate his displeasure.

I had him asleep and back in his bed by 2 AM when Andrew and I slipped outside to watch for meteors. I saw three. Andrew saw the third one with me and then said, "I saw one—let's go back inside now!"

It suddenly got cold here. Like it frosted last night and everything.

It got up to about 70 degrees by this afternoon but this morning it was frosty outside.

Benjamin had gotten up at 3 AM...and 5 and 6 and 7:30. I was wasted.

After I'd changed his diaper and set him down to play with his toys I went into the girls' bathroom to wash my hands and grab some hair stuff so I could do Rachel's hair for school. And I lost my cool completely.

Here's the thing:

When our girls are finished doing whatever it is they're doing at the sink they put all their tools into the sink instead of where they go.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Still so glad

Real quick...because I'm still not finished that Christmas poem...

Yesterday I found Andrew standing in front of my to-do list.

"I'm going to sweep the floor," he announced.

And then he swept the floor, which was kind of unusual. He's definitely a big help around the house. He'll do laundry and scrub toilets and cook dinner and wash dishes. I just happen to do the majority of those things because he's simply busier with other things so the housekeeping and baby bouncing is left on my shoulders for the most part. Not that there's anything wrong with that since I'm the "homemaker" around here. I don't think I've seen him sweep the floor the whole time we've been here (other than extreme cases where something major has gotten spilled).

Once he was finished with the floor he went to my to-do list and crossed that off. He then went outside to get the rest of our pumpkins from the porch stairs and prepared them to be cooked and pureed which is something I've been meaning to do for a while (since it's almost Christmas and the pumpkins were from Halloween). He crossed that off the list (and left me to do the actual cooking and pureeing but all's fair in love and war).

He allowed me plenty of time to work on the Christmas poem, which was another thing on my list.

He praised the banana bread Miriam and I made together (we had six overripe bananas in the freezer and six more on the counter; something had to be done).

And that finished off my to-do list (besides laundry which is a task that should probably be excluded from to-do lists because it's so on-going).

I was feeling so lucky to be married to such a great guy who in his few spare minutes during finals week chose to spend him time making my life blissful but then he updated his facebook status to say, "Ah. Constructive avoidance behavior," so perhaps his sole motivation was making my life easier. Perhaps he was just avoiding everything he should have been doing. I don't really mind because it makes me happy that when he's avoiding his own responsibilities he does so by fulfilling mine.

And when I woke up this morning...after he let me sleep in...the laundry was folded.

I'm officially spoiled.

And I love finals week, but not as much as I love Andrew.

After seven years of marriage (almost...Sunday's our anniversary) I'm still so glad he chose me.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

A Pit Stop in Richmond—Treadgear

We only spent an hour in Richmond so I really shouldn't have very much to say about it. At any rate it should take me less than an hour to finish this post, right? It would be ridiculous to take longer to record our time in Richmond than the time we actually spent there, right? This post shouldn't be too long. I hope.

We stopped at Treadgear Iron Works, which is now a national monument it once was the main producer of weaponry and ammunition for the Confederate States. The inside of the museum was kind of lame (in all fairness we'd gone to the Museum of the Marine Corps just hours earlier so our expectations were high) so we eventually abandoned the museum in favour of the great outdoors.


Fort Ward and Quantico

We decided to break up our ride home into palatable chunks, stopping for adventures all along the way in order to keep the kids from losing it in the backseat. Andrew had originally wanted to go back into DC to see a few more things but Blake and Amanda helped me convince overly-optimistic Andrew that doing so would be insane. Weekend traffic in DC is pretty light. Weekday traffic, on the other hand, is not. Instead we drove just down the street to see the Fort Ward park, our very first Civil War site.

It was such a nice day—we were so hot we were peeling off sweaters. This made me very happy. I prefer sunshine to snow any day of the year (including Christmas).

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Artwork palooza

In the past I've made a list of everything we managed to remember to be thankful for on our Thankful Tree as I've disassembled it. The girls haven't been too keen on the idea of taking it down, so it's still up. Perhaps later I'll get around to making that list, assuming I can decode everything the girls wrote!

Here are the kids sitting in front of the tree:


Thursday, December 06, 2012

Snippets from our time with Amanda

Another reason we chose this past weekend to visit the DC area was to attend our friend Amanda's wedding (p)reception. She brought a boy home to Utah this past summer and we were lucky enough to meet him. I saw her sister a little while later and asked if this trip was the trip—the "meet the family" trip. Emily told me that it most certainly was a trip like that and hinted that a special panda-shaped box had been covertly delivered into Blake's hands so that he could put something sparkly inside to give to Amanda, who has a thing for pandas.

So I wasn't too surprised to hear a little while later that Amanda and Blake were officially engaged.

We stayed at their apartment, where Amanda is living solo until their wedding later this month, while we were in Virginia. Their (p)reception was on Friday, which is why we had to rush to hit the road after Rachel's pow-wow. We arrived just in time for it to start and were pleasantly surprised with how many little friends there for the girls to play with. It was at Amand's bishop's house; he's a former congressman (and Andrew was rather excited about that).

Amanda and Blake's reception was really fun. I was impressed that they planned and put on the whole thing by themselves and it turned out great. I'm sure they're happy to have family helping out with their other receptions—in Utah and Arizona—later this month!

They had a little barbeque upstairs and had games to play downstairs, which is where most of the little kids were hanging out.

Rachel had insisted on wearing her pow-wow garb to the party which I almost felt a little embarrassed about since the reception was in such a fancy home. Downstairs she found a little firefighter to play air hockey with, though, so I stopped feeling embarrassed and felt awesome instead. She was rocking her end of the air hockey table in her fringed pillowcase dress and beaded necklace (we left the headdress in the van); he was trying to best her in his rubber boots and plastic firefighter coat. Andrew saw them and said, "What is this—The Village People?"

I'm not sure the Village People ever had a firefighter costume but it was still a funny joke that our kids aren't cool enough to appreciate yet.

When Amanda came to stay with us in Egypt she told us about a Tauntaun sleeping bag she'd won online. When we came to stay with her in DC she pulled it out for Rachel to sleep in. Originally she suggested the girls could take turns sleeping in it but when Miriam saw it she didn't want to sleep in it, or share a bed with it, or even be in the same room as it. We convinced her to stay in the room, though she made a "princess bed" on the floor even though the futon was plenty big enough for the girls to share. That Tauntaun was too scary for her.

That made Rachel happy because it meant she got to sleep in it every night!


A day in the district

Getting five people ready for the day is difficult; it's a wonder we ever make it out the door with our whole troupe looking decent. By the time we made it into The District it was past eleven o'clock! I was shocked when I asked Andrew the time—Miriam had woken me up at seven o'clock that morning and we'd been bustling about feeding babies, feeding children, dressing babies, dressing children, packing diaper bags, finding shoes for ten feet, folding up a hide-a-bed, making sure everyone was well pottied ever since. It hardly seemed possible that all we'd managed to do was get out the door and take a short ride on the metro by eleven in the morning!

In our defense, we were rather tired from listening to a wild party until the wee hours of the morning. One particular attendee at the party was rather sad and rather drunk and/or high and I suppose a friend was trying to console him when he wailed into the night, "Why me, man? Why me?!" There was much sobbing and incomprehensible mumble-wailing (and loud obnoxious music).

Andrew and I giggled and dubbed him Sad Drunk Man. We couldn't stop laughing; I'm sure the man was hurting but it was such a cliche thing to call out (and we were up past any reasonable hour and probably would have laughed at anything).

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Rachel's Pow-wow

In the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, the kindergarten classes in Rachel's school learned about "Indians." Shortly after Thanksgiving (last Friday, actually) they celebrated by putting on a performance for the parents.

They made totem poles and shakers in art class, learned about and decorated their shirt and headbands with pictograms, studied patterns and made noodle necklaces, memorized poems, learned a friendship dance. It was quite the unit.



Getting ready

Here are a few pictures of us getting ready to go to on our trip...

On Thursday Andrew was taking an important call in the office/bedroom/nursery but Benjamin was ready to go down for a nap...so he slept on the bottom bunk (where Miriam usually sleeps). Miriam thought it was hilarious.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Meeting Bridget

We had a very busy and exciting weekend—we went all the way to Washington, DC and back again—we saw many, many things but first I'll share the main reason for our trip up north...


Friday, November 30, 2012

I did it! *phew*

This post officially marks the end of NaBloPoMo. In a way I am relieved not to "have to" write every single day. I feel like I'm generally a pretty good blogger—I write frequently enough throughout the year and used to (in the days before Benjamin) write nearly every single day—but not being able to not write when I'm either "too tired" or "have nothing to say" was a bit of a challenge. I'm happy to have it off my plate so that I can take some time off blogging and focus on a few other things on my to-do list, such as:

1) Writing the Christmas poem
2) Finishing edits to my mom's dissertation
3) Getting Andrew through finals week (which includes a fair amount of editing)
4) Attacking some problem areas in the house
5) Preparing Christmas gifts

I only have so many hours in the day that aren't entirely eaten up by the demands of little ones that I can only get so many things done that require me to not be filling their needs. This month blogging took precedence  Next month I expect that blogging will occasionally take a back seat while I do other things with my precious "my" time.

It's not that blogging is a burden, really, it's just that some nights I really should have just done the dishes and gone to bed instead of writing and then doing the dishes and going to bed. December is an especially busy month, though, which automatically increases the blogging burden.

I'm glad I do it, though.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

A Pathetic Wednesday

We had a super lazy day today, which is probably why I'm doing all these massive picture dumps. Miriam woke up with a kink in her neck and refused to get off the couch all day long (she got up twice to use the potty—that is all). The poor little thing was miserable and I totally empathized with her because I remember getting a few killer kinks in my neck back when I was around her age. They were debilitating, tear-worthy, and horrible. I remember borrowing my dad's neck brace a few times, which I'm sure looked ridiculous (I also do not recall why he had a neck brace), to help hold my head up because the pain was awful.


Smiley guy

Benjamin has a lot of different smiles, here are but a few of them. And, yes, he's usually about that wet—he's really, really drooly.


I've been trying to capture this last one for a while—it's his toothy grin...but without the teeth. It cracks me up!


The Park, in pictures

On Monday I took the kids to the park while Rachel was at school (which is a long way to say that on Monday I took Miriam and Benjamin to the park).

If you shove a blanket and a front carrier in the swing with Benjamin he's big enough to swing by himself!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Never were there such devoted sisters

It's a rare thing for our girls to play nicely together, so today you get some pictures of them playing nicely apart.

First up is Rachel with her Littlest Pet Shop train:

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Working is more expensive than not working

Shortly before Benjamin was born I interviewed for a job that I didn't get. It turns out that was a huge blessing in disguise because I couldn't have worked this summer. I just couldn't have. End of story.

I was just offered that very same job today—asking me to let them know my decision as soon as possible so that I could be cleared to start work on Monday. It was tempting—to work from home a couple of hours every day—but in the end we declined and here's why:

  • It requires early morning hours; we're traditionally night owls... And though Benjamin slept through the night (a full eleven hours!) for the first time ever last night I'm pretty sure it was a fluke.
  • It pays less than what I've ever been paid since graduating from college (and only 75 cents more than my last job in college).
  • It would require Andrew keeping the kids out of my hair, which he's totally capable of but...
  • Andrew gets paid twice as much (as what I would be earning if I took this job) at his side job so it would not be cost effective to have him be the parent while I work because do you know what we could do instead? He could work and I could parent and magically we'd earn twice as much money. Ta-da!
In the end it was a no-brainer. My contribution to the family's income will remain being a stay-at-home mother. And I think I'm okay with that, though it's still mystifying that it's possible for me to work and lose money...

Monday, November 26, 2012

Today I learned about cigarettes

This was Rachel's journal entry for Saturday, November 24:

"To day I lrnd a baot sigrres."

She proudly displayed it to me while I was in the kitchen. I slowly sounded it out while she attempted to hold her journal steady in mid-air (something she always fails at because she's a fidgety five-year-old). "Today I learned about...cigarettes. Awesome. Ummmm... Do you want to write a little bit more," I prompted. "Maybe say where you learned about cigarettes or what you learned about cigarettes."

Her amendment reads:

"I went to the Duke Hom Sed. Sigrres r bad."

That just about sums up our Saturday. We made it to the Duke Homestead and Tobacco Museum. I'm not sure what I was expecting but it certainly wasn't what I got. The whole museum seemed confused about whether it should laud or lambast the tobacco industry. It was almost awkward.

We got there just in time to watch the introductory film which went on and on about the farming, harvesting, curing, and auction of tobacco and how those things have changed through time. It talked about how cigarettes were "invented" and how they got better and better and better but then...we discovered tobacco causes cancer. So the city quickly changed its name from The City of Tobacco to The City of Medicine. The end.

I suppose it's justice that a large chunk of the Duke Endowment goes toward medicine since many people paid the Duke family money in order to poison their bodies. We, also, can thank the tobacco industry for our education, if nothing else, since Duke University was funded by the Duke family with tobacco money.



The Waltz of the Snowflakes

Andrew is very strict about the window of opportunity for Christmas celebrations. Under his regime we can ring in the Christmas season as soon as Thanksgiving dinner is in our bellies. He's a veritable scrooge about any holiday revelry before the pumpkin pie has been sliced. No Christmas music—no humming, whistling, or singing any song with even the remotest ties to Christmas. No Christmas stories. No Christmas shows. No asking questions about the names of Santa's reindeer. No drawing pictures of elves. Nothing of the sort.

For years he's been chiding me for whistling Jingle Bells a few weeks too early. And for years I have been bringing every bit of pre-Christmas Christmas to his attention just to get his dander up. I even have a song I sing when I spot Christmas lights that are turned on "too early." Do you want to hear it? It goes like this (sung to the tune of Jingle Bells, naturally, in order to add insult to injury):

"Christmas lights! Christmas lights! Christmas, Christmas lights!"

That's about as far as I've written because Andrew inevitably interrupts me screaming, "Stop! Stop! Stop!"

I'm not sure how much the pre-Christmas season actually bothers Andrew, but he's certainly been pigeon-holed into the role of Christmas Season Enforcer and the children and I sure do enjoy flaunting the rules to get him to throw a "fit."

This year he was the first one to break the Christmas rules when he "accidentally" allowed the girls to check out a Christmas story before that was "permissible."

Next, our friend Crystal and her kids sent us a package with Andrew when he came home from Indiana (he stayed at Crystal and Jason's house). The goodies were in a huge stocking that the girls simply couldn't resist climbing into.



Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Thanksgiving Slide

Last week a friend sent an email announcing she had a little slide that she wanted to get rid of. I happened to be nursing Benjamin in my rocking chair (which doubles as my "office" chair) and heard my email ding. It took maybe a nano second for me to write back to her, claiming the slide.

I thought it would make a great Christmas surprise and my plan was to get it from my friend on the sly and hide it in the shed until the big day.

But on Monday night while the girls and I were eating dinner there was a knock on the door.

"Just keep eating your dinner," I told the girls. "I'll get it."

In child-ese that translates roughly as, "C'mon, guys! Follow me to the door and then push your way outside to see who/what it is!"

I peeked through the peephole and saw a cute pregnant lady standing next to a slide (instead of the masked madman the paranoid side of me sometimes expects) so I opened the door a crack to tell her that I was going to keep the slide a surprise. Somehow my two little girls managed to wedge themselves  outside and started jumping up and down with excitement.

I thanked my friend and then ushered the girls back inside wondering how on earth I was going to salvage the surprise I'd been planning for Christmas.

"Maybe they'll just forget about it..." I wrote in a hopeful IM to Andrew (who currently only has one late night Monday class left this semester (we're not talking about next semester)), but I forgot about object permanence.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Benjamin bubbles

Reflux is only one of the reasons Benjamin can usually be found soaking wet from the waist up. This is another reason:



Benjamin has recently discovered the very wet, fun syllable "bllllgggggggrrrrrb."

His dry shirts don't stand a chance against his gurgling baby talk.

Friday, November 23, 2012

'Tis the season for little Cuties

And boy do my little cuties ever love them! We bought a 5 lbs bag just a couple of days ago and we're halfway through it already. The girls aren't usually orange lovers, but they scarf down Cuties like they're going out of style.

Today we tried (and failed) to go on an adventure to the Duke Homestead and I brought some of the little clementines with us for a snack (that we didn't end up needing because our adventure failed). Benjamin held them for us in the car—he's just that helpful.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Dumb ways to light your kitchen on fire...

I'm not sure where I saw this brilliant idea first.

I haven't been on Pintrest in ages—it's like browsing through the internet instead of pointedly researching and I just don't have the time for that so instead I let my friends curate for me and they will occasionally share ideas on their Facebook feeds or whatever. I've seen the idea resurface time and again in multiple places. Suffice it to say that this is an idea that has been floating around in my brain for a while. I was the Sunbeams (3–4 year olds) teacher in our last ward for half a year (and then I taught the ten year olds for a year (and then I taught Sunbeams again for half a year (and then I had Benjamin))) and the children were always frustrated by the ridiculously pitiful scraps of crayons we'd offer them to scribble with. I thought it would be a fulfilling activity for the Young Women to get together, sort the crayons into colours, peel off their papers, and melt them down into new and improved "fun" crayons instead of the decade-old, partially-chewed, snapped-into-fifths Crayola crud they'd been using.

I suggested it to the Young Women presidency but so far as I know my suggestion was politely cast aside and now I know why....

Melting crayons is a terribly dangerous, fear-inducing, fire-filled activity!

I figured this would be an excellent way to get rid of all our broken crayons, which is mostly what our crayon box is filled with. I thought the girls would enjoy them, both to have and to give away as gifts. It's like recycling, big time. Besides, it looked like fun!

So I went ahead and ordered a mould from Amazon. It arrived this morning and we went ahead and made up our first batch of crayons.



Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving Eve at the Life and Science Museum

Wednesday afternoon, no school—where do you think we headed? To "free day" at the Life and Science Museum, of course. Or, as Rachel says, the Life and Science Muserium! This was Rachel's second time going and she was thrilled.

Unbeknownst to me, Andrew had made a deal with the girls that if they were kind to Mommy and went to bed nicely every night while he was in Indiana that when he came home they'd watch Star Wars together. He made good on that promise this morning. Rachel was excited to get to go to the space exhibit so soon after watching Star Wars.


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Ramblings of an overtired housewife

I just wrote an entire blog post and then deleted it. It was too melancholy. I think I'm just worn out today. Probably because my children rarely let me sleep—I was up every two hours last night, switching off between Benjamin (who is usually up every four hours) and Miriam (who was apparently also having a rough night). It didn't help matters that the kids were barely going to bed at 10:00 last night. They just would not stay put!

Rachel and Miriam were fighting about everything so eventually I took Miriam out and told her she could colour at the kitchen table while Rachel fell asleep. This was clearly an injustice to Rachel and so she pouted in her room, forcing herself to stay awake until Andrew came home so that she could complain about it to him. He explained the same thing that I had explained: Miriam took a long nap and wasn't tired enough to fall asleep so we were giving Rachel the opportunity to fall asleep alone before putting Miriam to bed. That way they wouldn't bug each other and everyone would live happily ever after.

I'm not sure Rachel was ever entirely convinced this was true, but fifteen minutes later she was out like a light. I spent those fifteen minutes colouring with Miriam in the Rudolph colouring book (we've been sneaking Christmas in where we can, right from under Andrew's nose).

Monday, November 19, 2012

Corner the market

When I moved to Alberta, my cousins introduced me to the game Pit! I remember playing it in my grandparents' basement, all crowded around the ping-pong table and yelling our guts out. My grandpa, who was a sugar beet farmer back in the day, and my uncle, who has grown wheat and canola and other things throughout his farming career, played with us. My grandpa didn't play many games by the time I came along—but he still had enough umph left in him to swing a trade with the shrewdest trader in a game of Pit!

My grandma would come downstairs to flutter around him every so often, putting blanket on his lap, wiping the Grandpa Glue off his chin, and telling us all to be quiet.

She preferred quiet, thoughtful games like Boggle and Scrabble—I like those games, too, but my grandpa didn't often play them with us because he was too shaky to manage a pen and paper or tiny alphabet tiles. Pit! is thoughtful in its own right, I suppose, because it's strategic, but that exclamation mark at the end of its name is no mistake—it's also rather frenetic.

When you've won the game by collecting enough of any good to "corner the market" you have to yell above the melee, "CORNER ON WHEAT!" or "CORNER ON FLAX!" or whatever.

It's best to corner on wheat because wheat was worth the most points (100, I believe). That said, it was probably wiser to corner on flax quickly and end the round before anyone else collected enough wheat (or anything else) to beat you (I think flax was worth the least; I don't remember). Andrew would probably say that's like the prisoner's dilemma...kinda...or some sort of game theory. I dunno. I'm editing an important paper for him right now; obviously.

Anyway...

Sunday, November 18, 2012

She's a dancing star! She loves to twirl all day!

Yesterday morning the girls got all decked out to play Angelina Ballerina; it was Rachel's idea and I was thrilled about that because this one time I praised Miriam as being "a natural" dancer and Rachel overheard me. She assumed that I meant that Miriam was a good dancer and Rachel was not. For the past few months whenever anyone's mentioned dancing Rachel has answered with something like, "Oh, I'm not a very good dancer, but Miriam is!"

It hasn't seemed to matter how many times I've told her since then that she's a fine dancer, she's refused to dance. So you can imagine my relief when it was she who suggested that they play Angelina Ballerina.


Saturday, November 17, 2012

Jacob and Shayla

We were a little bummed when Jacob asked Shayla to marry him—in August after Andrew and the girls left for North Carolina but before Benjamin and I had headed out—but only because we knew we wouldn't be able to go to the wedding. Not three months after moving all the way out here. Still, we were thrilled for them because we were on Team Jacob/Shayla from the very beginning.

So, this weekend, while Andrew went to a conference in Indiana (and stayed with our friends the Slades—thanks, guys!) the rest of our family gathered in Utah for Jacob and Shayla's wedding and I...sat at home with three whiny children all by myself.

I jest. We actually had a pretty fun day and we even got to pop in (with a little help from Grandma and her iPhone) at the family lunch and later at the wedding reception.

The first evidence we saw of the happy couple was a picture that Shayla's mom posted on facebook:

Friday, November 16, 2012

An Afternoon Off

Today Rachel's school had an award ceremony to celebrate their first nine-weeks of school so after lunch, Benjamin, Miriam, and I drove over to the school to watch Rachel get her awards. She said she was pretty sure we should come because she was pretty sure she was going to get an award because she always does her best work.

"Do you know what Ms. Reeves said to me the other day when I showed her my work?" she asked me.

"What did she say?" I asked.

"She said, 'Are you going to college next week?' So, you'd really better come to my award ceremony because I'm not even sure I'm going to be in kindergarten anymore after this."

Don't worry; I (gently) set her straight. "Ms. Reeves just meant that you did well," I told her, "Not that she'd be sending you to college; you're not quite ready for college yet."

"When will I be ready for college?"

"Oh, sometime after you get your b's and d's straight," I remarked casually.

The Hostess with the mostest

Dear Americans,

Relax—junk food will prevail. Hostess may have gone out of business—you might Wonder where you'll find your next loaf of bread (that was a real Zinger, wasn't it?) or if you'll ever eat another Twinkie but I assure you the world has not ended. How do I know this? Because Hostess has gone out of business before...and the world didn't end then. Why should it end now?

I'm about to tell you some lame facts that I read on Wikipedia so sit right back, grab some munchies and your favourite doll (which is, perhaps, also a munchy) and relax.

'Cuz when you've got the munchies, nothing else will do!

Bath time for Benjamin

Look at how chubby my baby is! Who'd have thunk he'd ever get all roly-poly on us—because remember when his arm was as skinny as Andrew's finger? But here he is, in the flesh, in more pictures than you ever hoped to see of him sitting in a sink.


He's taken baths in the sink before but I'm not sure we've ever had the tap running while he was in there. You can see he's a little unsure about that.


Some things

Look at me, blogging all first(ish) thing in the morning! The truth is that my visiting teachers are coming and I should be tidying the living room (which desperately needs to be tidied) but why do that when I can sit here and avoid it, right? Besides, I have an obligation to the grandparents—they must see pictures!

Here are the kids ready for bed on Wednesday night, which happens to be the same night Miriam munched on Benjamin's hand, which is still so surprising because she adores Benjamin. She told me later that he was pulling her hair (so I told her, once again, that if she was in hair-pulling range (and she usually is because she snuggles this boy al the time) that she's just as much to blame for the hair-pulling as Benjamin is).


More often than not I have to tell her to give that boy some room to breathe.

Here's Rachel writing in her journal. Her writing is really blossoming; I couldn't be more proud. I love journals!


Seriously folks, Miriam can most often be found loving on her brother.


For the most part he seems to enjoy it.


Thing One:



Thing Two:


Thing Three:


Three Things together:


Three Things together again:


What a sweet Thing:

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Our Pilgrim Ancestry

Since we habitually neglect to do FHE on Monday night (Andrew has a late class that night) we did it tonight (as we habitually do on Thursday evenings). Rachel came home from school gushing about Thanksgiving and Indians/Native American/First Nations/Aboriginal Canadians/Indigenous Americans and turkeys and pilgrims and such so I built up a lesson around her passion.

We talked about pilgrims and "Indians" during dinner and I told Rachel that she has several ancestors who came to America on the Mayflower. She was stunned. She asked if we could meet them. I said we could not since they are her ancestors—which means they're related to her but long-since dead. She then asked if we could meet an Indian. I told her that she was staring at one right now because we also have Native American ancestry. She just about died of happiness right on the spot.

"We're not really Indians though," she said, "Not anymore. Look at us. We're not Indian."

That's true. Our blood's a little diluted.

"You know Sister K. at church? She's an Indian."

"Really?!"

"Yes, ma'am."

"Does she live in a teepee?"

"No..."

"Does she live in a wigwam?"

"No..."

"Well, what does she live in?"

"A house..."

"Hmmm... Well, I kind of wanted to meet an Indian that lived in a teepee."

They have a teepee set up outside their classroom and are planning on having a pow-wow at the end of the month. Rachel is all over this, thanks to orientalism in the classroom and Little House on the Prairie.

Do you hear what I hear?

My friend Amy wrote a post about the sounds of silence in her house. I thought it was intriguing so I'm going to do it, too.

Right now the house is about as quiet as it gets. The girls are in bed and (miraculously) aren't fighting; perhaps they're already asleep. All I hear is their bedtime music (Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat currently) drifting softly down the hall.

The furnace just clicked off. Our thermostat is set to 69 degrees which is fine during the day when the sun is streaming through the windows and at night when I'm snug in my bed but right now my toes are cold.

My sweet baby boy is guzzling down his milk, gulping greedily and gasping for air. Soon all I will hear from him is the deep, rhythmic breathing of sleep...I hope.

I hear the clicking of a keyboard, the whirring a computer (and monitor and modem and whatnot), two ticking clocks, and the occasional car passing by. The humming fridge creaks, rattles and moans every so often and the timer on our stove is absolutely possessed and sporadically buzzes like an angry hornet (though it hasn't blared its full alarm recently (it has in the past)). And if I walk too close to the window I can hear crickets softly chirping in the chilly night air.

Other than that all is calm; it's a silent night.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Writing

Looking back at Rachel's journal I can already see vast improvement in her handwriting and her confidence in expressing herself. It's fun to watch. She didn't know what to write today but I told her there is always something to write; she managed to come up with four sentences. Right now I seem to be having the same dilemma myself—not knowing what to write—but look, I have managed to eke out four sentences already.

We had a fairly enjoyable evening together. I folded laundry and made dinner. The girls played with play dough together. Benjamin played on the floor (and screamed quite a bit, too). Everyone got along so well until just before they were sent to bed. 

We'd already finished story time and scriptures and for some reason I had decided to change Benjamin's diaper before having family prayer. Probably because the girls were finishing up with their bedtime preparations after we had scriptures. I changed his diaper, put some nice warm jammies on him, and then went to put his dirty diaper in the diaper pail. No sooner had I left the room than he was screaming bloody murder. 

I ran back into the living room and he was lying on the floor right where I left him. Rachel was sitting innocently on the couch. Miriam was lurking guiltily behind the rocking chair. I picked up Benjamin and quieted him down. I don't remember how I discovered it exactly, but I found two sets of bite marks on his hand—one set right in the middle of his hand and the other on his poor little pinkie finger. No wonder he was so sad!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Check ups

We took the girls to the doctor for well-child visits last week, even though we did well-child visits before Benjamin was born so that we could get Rachel's kindergarten shots done because we didn't know how long it would get us to get insurance sorted out when we got here (apparently it took us until November). I suppose Miriam was due for her three-year-old well-child visit, anyway, so it was actually good timing to take her in but they gave Rachel an appointment as well so that she could be an "established" patient in the clinic, which makes getting a sick-child appointment easier, I guess.

Our clinic is amazing. We walked into the lobby and just stood there, staring at the walls. The whole clinic was covered in a mural of animals—camels at the pyramids, penguins in Antarctica, monkeys swinging from trees, butterflies chasing each other through the sky. It was beautiful.

We felt pretty lucky to end up with such a great clinic since I basically chose blindly. The clinic some of my friends recommended wasn't receiving new patients so this was the other close one so I chose it. When the receptionist asked if I had a doctor I'd prefer to make an appointment with I just said, "A nice one?"

We got one!

Monday, November 12, 2012

The poppies...

It's Remembrance Day! Or Veteran's Day! Or Armistice Day! Or Poppy Day!

Or...at least...yesterday was!

Whatever you happen to call it, Rachel had the day off school today because of it, but we began celebrating it yesterday. I don't know why it's not a huge deal here like it is in Canada—where we learn about it in school, have bulletin boards decorated with poppies and white crosses, have assemblies devoted to remembering fallen soldiers and promoting peace, have a moment of silence, have city-wide devotionals...

I suppose Americans spend too much time fighting about whether November should be filled with butterball turkeys or jolly old elves to devote much time to remembering war (and hoping for peace).

I happen to rather like Remembrance Day! Yesterday the girls and I wore poppies to church.


Sunday, November 11, 2012

Only a precisionist would understand

The bus pulled up at our corner on Monday afternoon and instead of bounding down the stairs of the bus with a smile on her face and her hair flapping wildly behind her, Rachel shuffled slowly out of her seat, down the aisle, and out the door. Her lips were trembling and tears were welling up in her eyes but she was trying very hard to remain poised.

"Are you alright, sweetie?" I asked the inevitable ice-breaking question.

"No!" she wailed. "I have to show you something. Something terrible!"

She dropped her backpack on the ground and sank to her knees. Fumbling with the zipper for a few seconds she eventually managed to calm her nerves and open her backpack. She pulled out her daily folder and thrust it at me.

"I lost an eagle!" she sobbed.

I looked at "today's" date. "A little too chatty," it read. "Lost 1 eagle."

"Oh, baby. It's okay..." I started.

"No, Mom! It's not!" she interrupted.

"It really is though. Look, do we have to do this on the side of the road or can we move this conversation inside—maybe calm down, get a snack, talk it over?"

Saturday, November 10, 2012

The Cameron Craze

"You'll never get in," Reid told us when we first declared our intention to attend Duke. He wasn't talking about academics, though. He was talking about sports, specifically basketball.

Andrew had boasted that we were going to go to a Duke basketball game, but going to a Duke basketball game is nearly impossible. People camp out for tickets to the formidably famous yet ridiculously tiny (let's call it...cozy) Cameron Indoor Stadium. Tickets are like gold and the fans are so intense that they have their own Wikipedia page.

This week Andrew got an email announcing that the first game of the season would be a "family night" and that their graduate student association had purchased a number of tickets and all we had to do was get in line early enough to beat the crowd and we'd get in the game for free, so we picked Rachel up from school instead of letting her bus home and headed off to campus.

We had to be in line by 4:30, as per the emails instructions, and we got there around 4:15. The line was virtually nonexistent but it did get long as we were waiting. I think everyone who was in line got into the game, though.

Once we got our wrist bands and knew we'd be getting into the game, the first thing Andrew did was call his father to gloat.

Teething

When we went to the girls' doctor appointments on Thursday Benjamin tagged along.

"And how old is this little guy?" the doctor cooed in Benjamin's direction.

"Five months," we answered.

"And teething," she observed.

I wonder how she came to that conclusion.



Perhaps it was because Benjamin's entire fist was wedged into his mouth. It often is.

We've got *mmmm* ants in our pants!

Few people reading this blog will recognize that theme song. Sometimes being a not-too-foreign foreigner makes life awkward. For example, there are times when I will hum a tune of a television show (that was on the air for eleven years, mind you) and no one around me will have the foggiest idea what I'm referencing (because I'm surrounded by Americans who grew up watching American television). I imagine it's similar to how growing old feels, only I made it to that special place before my prime.

Anyway, we fortunately do not have ants in our pants, but we do have ants in our pantry! We have been battling them for many moons now and I'm really not sure whose side is winning.