Friday, August 31, 2012

Driving

I got my first learner's permit when I was fourteen (and a half) but I wasn't wild about the idea of driving. I didn't rush out to take the written test on my birthday like my friends did and I didn't beg my parents to let me drive. Ever.

When I moved to Utah my lack of excitement about driving hardened into downright hatred. I was determined to never drive. Ever. Moving from a small town with a piddly handful of traffic lights to a full-blown city with hundreds of traffic lights, huge roads, and heavy traffic was intimidating.

My determination faltered when I realized I'd be leaving the family nest and striking out on my own. No longer could I hitch a ride with my mother or ask my mother-in-law to chauffeur me places. Gone was our home within walking distance of good public schools. And—darn it all!—f there isn't an astounding lack of dirt-cheap taxis and minibuses and metros in America (this isn't Cairo). To top it all off, I would be responsible for chauffeuring my own children around to places they'd want to go and they are getting old enough that they have expectations (like gymnastics classes, for example) that require a commute.

So, I reluctantly began driving lessons a couple of weeks before moving out to North Carolina and, thanks to the incredible patience of my father-in-law, gained primitive (yet adequate) driving skills in a relatively short amount of time.

I'm a bit of a nervous driver. I rival Barney Stinson (watch this). For real.

Now that I'm here I don't know how I ever found Utah roads to be intimidating.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Attention starved? He's a glutton!

For those of you wondering if Benjamin gets enough attention, here's your answer:

Now bring us some twiggy pudding

Figs have always seemed foreign to me, perhaps because my first encounter with a fig tree was in Jordan when I was pelted with a rogue fig while hiking through the Siq in Petra. Figs, like dates, are at home in the Middle East and the Mediterranean and other places like that (ie. not my backyard), except now my backyard is a place "like that." Deliciously warm, delightfully humid, and...alright, alright... I have no idea what I'm talking about when I say "deliciously warm" and "delightfully humid" since I missed most of the dog days of summer.

Still, we've had a few warm and humid days since my arrival. We also have figs.


Sunday, August 26, 2012

Benjamin's Blessing (July 29)

In true whirlwind fashion, we blessed Benjamin before moving out to North Carolina on July 29th. Uncle Jacob was giving his homecoming talk that day as well so it was kind of a double-whammy for our family. We blessed Benjamin in the backyard before church and then we hung out at home with my siblings and grandma while everyone else headed to church for sacrament meeting. I would have loved to hear Jacob speak but Benjamin was still under house arrest (it was only later that we realized I could have left him in the care of my mom while I went to church for an hour; we did that the next week but totally didn't think of it this week).

Andrew gave Benjamin a beautiful blessing—I think I even heard him choke up a time or two but he categorically denies this. As unmanly as Andrew may feel to have gotten teary-eyed around Benjamin I can't say I blame him. He really ran us through the emotional ringer the first few weeks of his life. 

Here are my two cute boys together:

At first Benjamin was like, "Whoa! My hands are in my face and all over the place!"

Getting acquainted with North Carolina's medical system

My cousin Heather is known to make up fabulous stories for otherwise boring injuries. For example, if she fell off her bike and scraped her legs up she'd probably tell you she got in a fight with a mountain goat. Because talking about some injuries is just plain boring because there is no back story.

This is one of those times.

At lunch on Thursday Miriam was goofing off at the table when *boom!* she slipped off the bench and landed smack on her face. By the time I'd picked her up two seconds later there was blood running down her face, covering her hands, dripping onto the floor, splattering on her dress... Head wounds bleed a lot.

I ran her to the kitchen and held her over the sink while I got a paper towel to stop the bleeding. It soaked up two whole paper towels worth of blood but was able to stop the bleeding. We put a bandaid on it and then I worried. And worried some more. And then, for good measure, I worried some more.

I looked information up online. Everything I read told me she needed stitches.

The Secret Garden: In Our Attic

Our new house is beautiful (and once we get moved in a little bit more I'll be glad to share some pictures with everyone who has been asking to see pictures) but it had one little drawback—there is no storage in this house! The closets are all tiny. It's not even advisable to walk in our "walk-in" closet in groups of more than one. Needless to say, we were at a loss about where to store our suitcases and our Christmas tree, among other things.

And then one day we ventured into the attic (rather, Andrew ventured into the attic at my prompting (and pleading and nagging and begging—the wall of un-unpackable boxes was driving me nuts!)) and found what Andrew has coined "The Secret Garden."

"It's beautiful!" he said, climbing down from the attic. "There's a huge platform up there where we can fit tons of stuff!"

Karen and I took turns peeking into the attic.

It was a beautiful solution to our too-much-stuff dilemma. The first thing I noticed, however, were the mice droppings. Eek. Still, space is space, even if there are mice. Plus, there are exterminators, right?

So Andrew and I spent this afternoon hauling stuff into the attic. Because I'm small and weak and unable to heft huge boxes over my head I was given the task of going into the attic and hauling the boxes onto the platform while Andrew pushed from the bottom.


Saturday, August 25, 2012

Spiders and Butterflies

On Tuesday night Andrew put our trash out on the curb. Lucky for us that's the same day we had to put out our trash in Utah so we aren't (as) likely to forget about garbage day! We had a lot of garbage this week—so much that Andrew had to make a few trips to the curb after dark to sneak in some last minute items as we were unpacking because somehow garbage kept accumulating around us.

As he was walking out to the trash can he thought he'd take a shortcut across the lawn but decided against it when he noticed something glimmering on the grass. He stopped to stare at it and realized it was a spider's web, which made him rather glad he didn't go that way. Upon further inspection he noticed that the web wasn't on the grass at all. It was stretching from the tree above all the way down to the grass below. It was huge! Had he walked across the grass he would've walked right into that web.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Welcome to North Carolina

After a long and tiring flight, Benjamin and I made it safely to our new home. We've been working non-stop (except for nap time) ever since (at least until yesterday when we took a little time out to play).  The girls were more excited to see me than I thought they would be since they didn't seem too distraught over me not moving out there with them. They were waiting for me at the airport with Grandma and ran up to give hugs and kisses to both me and Benjamin before checking the diaper bag for snacks. I was more important to them than snacks. That's a huge deal. 



They've loved having Benjamin around and he's loved being around them. They talk and sing to him and sometimes they even manage to play together nicely, too, so that they're all kept entertained while the grown ups are working. 

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Farewell to Utah

Today is my last day in Utah. Andrew and the girls left last Saturday and, after a tantrum-free road trip across the United States (And, no, I am not being sarcastic--no tantrums were thrown. And, yes, that's some kind of miracle), arrived in North Carolina on Tuesday. They started moving into our new house on Thursday.

Somehow, despite all the discussions we had about our moving plans, the girls forgot that our stuff was coming with us and were very excited when their favourite things started getting unpacked. I had a hunch this would happen because while we were packing they both (but mostly Miriam) would snatch things away and beg for it not to get packed. Then I would explain again that in order for this most-beloved thing to make it to North Carolina it would need to be packed up and put into the moving truck.

Not only were they confused about whether their stuff would make it to North Carolina or not they both seem to be a little confused about whether Benjamin and I are going to make it to North Carolina or not.

On Monday night I got a phone call from the girls before bed.

Rachel asked how Benjamin was doing. He was rather grumpy the first half of this week, probably due to the five shots he got last Thursday, in addition to having alingual frenectomy, and the stress of having everyone from his family disappear except for me. Whatever the cause of it, Benjamin was terribly grumpy, so I told Rachel this and then conjectured that it was because he missed her and Miriam.

"Well, Mom," Rachel ventured after taking a deep breath, as if she were suggesting something wild and crazy, "Maybe after we get to North Carolina you could come and visit for a while. And bring baby Benjamin, too...so that we can see him."

"I think I will do that," I told her, "only I'll probably just live with you guys instead of visit, okay?"

"Really?!" she gasped, completely surprised.

How did that girl miss out on that important detail?

Anyway, one of the first things the girls did when they arrived in North Carolina was explore the woods in the backyard of the house they were staying at (before they moved into our house). Andrew took pictures of them to send to me, so I took a picture of Benjamin in our front yard here to send to them there, and you know what? North Carolina is green!


Goodbye, desert! Goodbye, Deseret!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Smiles

When I took Benjamin to his 2 month appointment last week, the nurse quizzed me on hs milestones.

"Does he smile responsively?" she asked.

 "He's smiled a couple of times," I told her.

 "Does he coo?" she asked. 

"He's said 'ooo' a couple of times but he doesn't just sit there and coo, no." 

"Tough crowd!" she remarked.

 And then we weighed him--he was 8 lbs. 15 oz. I was pretty proud of those numbers but the nurse clicked her tongue and said, "Was he small when he was born because he's pretty tiny..."

"He was seven weeks early," I reminded her. "So, yes, he was small."

She checked her chart. "Ah," she said, nodding her head. "He shouldn't be doing any of that smiling or cooing stuff yet, anyway, then. He's good."

This week, though, Benjamin has been a lot more responsive. This morning he smiled and cooed at the same time while maintaining eye contact. He's just growing up so fast!

I tried catching his big, open-mouthed grin but by the time I took the picture this is all that was left:


Just a hint of a smile, but still just lovely.

Bath time for Benjamin

If there's one thing I love it's Benjamin's fuzz-head right after he has a bath. He spends most of his free time spitting up so his hair gets gelled down pretty quick. After his hair has been washed and dried, though, it's out of control wild. And I love it. Did I mention that?

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Duggar Reunion (aug 4)

After the baby shower we rushed home to get ready to leave for the annual Duggar family reunion. Fortunately, Reid and Karen had brought home a bunch of sandwiches from their BYU party the night before and we had brought home a bunch of pre-cut fruit from the baby shower that morning. Throwing together a picnic lunch was a cinch! We were still hopelessly late to the reunion but it was only just getting started when we arrived.

We mostly just chatted and ate and gave family updates before we started a karaoke party.

Baby Shower (August 4)

On August 4th, my mom and mother-in-law threw a baby shower for me. My mom decided that because everything was so weird when Benjamin was born he deserved a celebration now that he was home and healthy. It was a bit of a last-minute party so I was surprised at how many friends were able to make it.

A couple of nights before the baby shower, Karen came home from shopping with blue jelly beans, blue gummy bears, and pretzels dipped in blueberry yogurt.

"They're for the party!" she announced cheerfully.

"What party?" I asked.

I knew Reid and Karen were going to a BYU party the next day and she had just sent me an invitation for the open house they'll be having at our new home this Friday (that I'll miss) and I figured that since BYU's colours are blue & white and Duke's colours are blue & white that the candy could have been for either party, though I couldn't figure why she'd buy party food here for a party in North Carolina.

"The baby shower...tomorrow," she said, as if it should have been obvious. And perhaps it should have been. We did have a boy, after all.

The shower was a lot of fun. We were a little nervous at first that no one would show up because it was just me, my kids, my mom, Josie, Rosie, Karen, Katharine, and Sarah. Not that that would have been a terrible party, but come on!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Circle of Joy Party (July 28)

A couple of weeks ago Rachel was playing at Emily's house while Benjamin was busy doing this:


So Andrew and I got down to business. I believe Andrew finished laying out a book for work while I packed and packed and packed with silly Miriam to keep me company.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Jody Visits (July 23)

Andrew's cousin Jody stopped by to visit with us while she was on her R&R. She's in the army but right now she's stationed in the Netherlands, working for NATO.



She has two children, Emma and James, who are about the same age as Rachel and Miriam. In fact, the first time I met Jody was about five years ago (February 2007) at her sister Michelle's mission farewell. We were both pregnant at the time with our firsts. And I even remember that Jody was wearing a grey knit sweater (is that creepy?).


Anyway... We let the kids play together for a while before heading out to lunch (we went to Costa Vida--and it was so good! I'd never been there before). I wish we could have let the kids play longer because they got along so well but they had some errands to run so had to skedattle. That's kind of how R&Rs are--jam packed with activities and errands. Not that I've ever been on an R&R...but I have partied with people who have (hello, expat friends (one day we will join you in your expatriation)).

Here are some shots of this cute group of second cousins:




Tit for Tat

As gracious as Andrew is (allowing me to post stories about him rolling around in...well, you know) he often feels that this blog is a little one-sided, that I only ever tell embarrassing stories about him, making me seem like some omniscient, pansophical, all-knowing author possessing infinite wisdom. And, yes, I just said three things that all mean the same thing.* So to even the playing field I'm going to admit that I know very little about cars.

Three-fifths of my immediate family is road-tripping across the country right now. Reid and Karen went along to help drive and take care of the girls. But don't worry; I'm not staying here alone with the baby--I've got my brother David and Andrew's brother Jacob keeping me company. Anyway, before they left on their trip Karen went to get the tires rotated.

Now, I have often heard of this being done...but I've always thought it was a bit of a ridiculous idea.

"Oh, I need to get my tires rotated," someone would say. And I'd smile at them like, "You idiot! Tires rotate on own all the time. That is the nature of tires," but of course I would never actually say that because that would be incredibly rude, right?

In my imagination, cars were being lifted up and having their wheels spun, a pointless procedure, really, because as I pointed out earlier that is exactly what tires are designed to do all the time. An abnormally large percentage of the general population was being duped into having their tires pointlessly rotated, which was a little unsettling since I try have great faith in human nature and so I began to think it unlikely that so many of us should be so stupid. So I got to thinking about it and figured that it was possible (though rather improbable) that instead of the whole world being stupid, it was just me. I was the stupid one.

I decided I'd ask my husband about it because he's gracious (I told you that already) so he's a safe person to ask stupid questions to because he won't make fun of you (turns out: he will) because there are no stupid questions (turns out: there are).

We were driving home from running some errand or another and I turned to him and said, "So, why do people get their tires rotated, exactly...and what do they do when they rotate your tires?"

He explained all about rotating tires--how you take the back tire, for example, and move it to the front, and then a tire from the right side of the car and move it to the left side of the car. You know--to ensure even tire wear, kind of like mattress flipping but for your car.

You should have heard the boy laugh when I told him what was going on in my imagination. He laughed me to scorn (and I laughed right along with him).

The upside is that my faith in human nature has been restored. Turns out the world is full of pretty smart people!

* Ironically, this line is from West Wing's episode titled "A Proportional Response." Ironic because this post is a proportional response.

Rolling around in dog poop outside of a mansion (aug 6)

About once a month for the past year we've had FHE (Family Home Evening) with the students in Reid and Karen's BYU ward and this past Monday we went to our very last one. Reid just got a new councilor whose name is Stephen Covey and if that name sounds familiar it's because his grandfather is the Stephen Covey (of 7 Habits). Stephen Covey's father's name is also Stephen Covey. Stephen Covey also has a two-year-old son named...Stephen Covey. That just sounds confusing to me but I suppose that's how the Coveys roll.

It's not how our family rolls. But I'll explain that later.

Anyway, Stephen Covey lives on his parents' estate and he offered to host this week's FHE since their estate was designed "for entertaining," as his mother explained it. And it really is.

They have a football field with goalposts. Alternatively you can set up the soccer nets. They also have a basketball court, a two-storey tree house (with a big screen TV inside), a putting green, and various other play structures for children and grown-ups alike. Their house is so big that we could likely park our entire house (the one in North Carolina) in their living room. We had a fun time, obviously, because how could we not with all those toys at our disposal.

Near the end of the evening Miriam was playing on the trampoline (it's springless--have you ever seen one of those?) and Andrew started a little game of hide-and-seek with her. He was on the outside of the trampoline enclosure and he would hide on the ground and she'd bounce around trying to find where he was. Sometimes she'd find him and tell him so. Other times he'd jump up and surprise her. They were having a grand old time so the game continued on and on.

Andrew ran around the trampoline and knelt down in the grass to get out of Miriam's sight. She started running in his direction so he quickly sat down so that he'd disappear below the horizon of the trampoline. When he did this he realized that his leg felt a little wet, so (instead of looking) he groped around with his hand. Much to his dismay, his explorations revealed that he had knelt in, sat in, and was now holding the biggest pile of dog poop that I have ever seen.

It was huge! And he was rolling all over in it!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

The final hours

I know I have a million other posts to write but right now I am choosing to write about what is most relevant in my life, and that is that this morning I loaded up my baby girls into the van and sent them off on a cross-country journey with my husband and in-laws. I've mentioned that it's difficult for me to be away from my children before but it's certainly gotten easier this summer with our NICU experience. I've been away from Rachel for a grand total of four nights. I've been away from Miriam for three nights. And Benjamin? Well, five entire weeks but that's beside the point since he's here with me now and my sweet girls are not.

Fortunately, I've had to leave them in the care of others a lot this summer so I don't think our separation would have been as difficult as it would have been otherwise.

Yesterday we did family pictures with Andrew's family in the morning and then we spent the afternoon with my mom and my sister. I don't have copies of Andrew's family pictures so this will be a little heavy on my side of the family as I document our final hours in Utah. Rather, as I document their final hours in Utah since I'm still here.

My mom had taken the girls to Pioneer Park in Provo a while ago (one of those days I was in the hospital with Benjamin and pawned my children off on someone else) and they've wanted to go back ever since. They love pioneers. They love reading the Little House series. They have been talking about Pioneer Pastimes since our trip to Nauvoo last summer (and in fact are making a pit stop in Nauvoo on their way out to North Carolina so that they can play at Pioneer Pastimes again...among other reasons). Anyway, is it any wonder that they love Pioneer Park? They've wanted to go back since my mom took them and since my Uncle Wally volunteers there on Friday afternoon we figured it was a good time to go.

Uncle Wally pointing something out to my mom

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Getting ready

Yesterday while I was packing (and after I forbade the girls to be in the same room as each other (because they were fighting all morning)) Rachel decided to be a good helper and held baby Benjamin for me. She wrapped him in her favourite blanket and bounced him when he fussed and kept him quiet for a good half hour.


Meanwhile in the basement Miriam was free to build her duplo towers with any piece she wanted to use instead of having that dictated for her.

It was a beautiful half hour.

The packing truck arrived today and we'll be loading it up tomorrow. Today we have to finish packing things, including my computer. But don't worry...I have several drafts all set up on blogger and I should soon have a lot of free time to write on the laptop. Andrew and the girls leave on Saturday morning and I don't leave until the 19th. 

Thinking about them driving across the country without me makes me feel a little nervous and a little lonely. Thinking about only having to take care of Benjamin and only do laundry for the two of us makes me feel like I'm entering a grand vacation. So...I should have plenty of time to write. Plenty.

Until then, I have to go finish packing...

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Wonder of wonders, miracle of miracles

It's hard to believe that Benjamin is two months old—he was born the first Sunday in June and tomorrow is the first Sunday in August. The first Sunday of the month is a relatively important day in our religion because it's Fast Sunday, a day when members of the church all over the world join together in fasting and prayer.

I can't even begin to say how blessed I feel that Benjamin was born, of all Sundays, on a fast Sunday, and that his problematic birth story began early enough in the day that by the time he was born we had literally hundreds of people fasting and praying for a miracle—not only our own ward family, but also my parents' ward, Reid and Karen's BYU ward, various friends and family members, and the entire Mormon Tabernacle Choir (my mom's coworker Janet sings with the choir and asked that they keep me and Benjamin in their prayers that day—and when they had their group prayer, before beginning the Music and the Spoken Word program, they prayed for us then).

Benjamin's birth, though still shocking and traumatic for our family, was completely uncomplicated. He was born about as big and healthy as he could have been, given the circumstances. We had a wonderful team of doctors and nurses (and every other medical professional title in between) making sure everything ran smoothly—they were prepared for every imaginable situation and did a great job intubating Benjamin and shipping him off to the NICU.

I really didn't want Benjamin to be taken away in that ambulance. (Note to self: Next time I'm in pre-term labour, be sure to go to a hospital with a NICU. Duh.) I really wanted him to magically start breathing on his own and be stable enough to stay in the regular nursery at American Fork Hospital. I wanted him to be healthy enough to come home in just a couple of weeks, like the doctor projected he would. But that's not the miracle I got.

Friday, August 03, 2012

Off Oxygen

Last Monday Benjamin had a doctor appointment (where we found he was an ounce away from 8 lbs!) and we got the order to do a 12-hour room air test that Wednesday. It was both scary and exciting to take the oxygen away. I was glad to still have the apnea monitor!

Benjamin's had no problems since coming home but on the 4th of July when we were doing his 12-hour request he had a couple of feeding-related bradys. My mom had spent the day with me and he had done alright but not great and he had a rather dramatic brady right before Andrew came to spell her off. I was crying and was sure we were going to fail the 12-hour test (again) and she was scared from having witnessed poor Benjamin turn blue and go limp while I feverishly stimulated his CNS. It was horrible. But it was also the last one he had.

Somehow everyone figured he was ready for his 24-hour request (even though I was super nervous for it considering how rough the 12-hour request had been—but he did fine that day and the next day and the next until here we are with what looks like a normal newborn baby!) and we got sent home with the apnea monitor and oxygen equipment that would become at once the bane and boon of our existence for the next couple of weeks.

So, because we'd had him on oxygen pretty much all day, every day for two weeks I was nervous to take away that crutch. But, boy, was I ever ready to! Having your baby all hooked up to things is not a whole lot of fun. Oh, and flying with oxygen is a lot more complicated than you'd think it would be so since we're planning on moving to North Carolina this month we were extra anxious to get him on room air.

Last Wednesday was the big day...