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!

Saturday, December 22, 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."

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.

Wednesday, December 12, 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.


Saturday, December 08, 2012

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).

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!


Wednesday, December 05, 2012

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...