Saturday, September 28, 2013

Pictures from this week

Benjamin started wearing underwear on Sunday. That's the big news around here. Unfortunately I can only find one pair of the tiny kind—the others are in a box in the attic, I'm sure. The question is...which box?


Procrastination is hereditary

I'm in charge of the family newsletter for my great-grandparents' progeny (which is nearly innumerable by this time). One of their twelve children had nine children and betwixt those nine children were born approximately one hundred children. One of the nine grandchildren contributed thirteen of those great-grandchildren and she now boasts 52 grandchildren of her own (with four more on the way—and not even all her children are married (or even graduated from high school) yet).

That's just the offspring of one of the nine grandchildren from one of the twelve children of my great-grandparents. So you see, it really is a large undertaking.

Unfortunately we seem to all have inherited the trait of waiting until the last minute to submit things and so I find myself nervously checking my email several times a day and, when nothing exciting is in my inbox, sending out nagging reminder emails. I worry that the newsletter will be short and disappointing. But then, at about this time in the month—you know, three or four days before the "deadline"—I start getting flooded with submissions. I have received six submissions already and I'll write one, of course, but hopefully I'll get a few more because seven out of how ever many hundred relatives isn't a very good "turn out," if you ask me. So...all aunts, uncles, cousins, siblings, parents, etc. who read this blog: consider this your formal shout out.

I actually had one relative send me a three word message: nothing to report.

Nothing to report?! It's been six months since the last newsletter. How could there be nothing to report?

In the past six months, Benjamin has learned to walk, Miriam's been plowing through her reading lessons in a valiant effort to catch up with Rachel, who has been devouring literature with an insatiable appetite. Rachel also learned to swim, learned to pump a swing, and started grade one. Andrew started his last year of classes. We've been to the beach multiple times, took a trip to Florida with Andrew's, and went camping. That's just a nutshell of the past six months. I could go on (and probably will go on, in more detail, for the newsletter).

With that said, I should probably start getting the newsletter ready because I'm expecting a huge influx of news to come in soon...

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Service, Love, Faith, and Miracles

For family home evening yesterday we played the game we sort of played in primary on Sunday. We only sort of played the game because we were running short on time and wanted to be sure we got to the more important part of the lesson. The game helped the children think about ways they could serve others and Sister B. kind of rushed us through it so that when we finished we could do an act of service.

Sister A., our sweet primary president, had a baby at the beginning of the month. He was born overdue and at 8 lbs. 10 oz. was the picture of health. They came home for about a week and basked in that new-baby glow. But then things went downhill.

The baby stopped eating. The baby stopped waking up.

At first they thought he was just a sleepy baby and considered it a blessing—after all, they had two other children to worry about and newborns can be quite exhausting—but soon it became quite worrisome so in the early morning hours on Thursday, they left the older children in Grandma's care and headed to the hospital where, to their surprise, they were immediately admitted.

Soon the baby was diagnosed with HSV. His liver was threatening to shut down. He was dying.

Plz I can haz sum?

On Sunday morning Andrew caught me spritzing Benjamin's hair with hair detangler.

"What are you doing that for?" he asked. "Now he's going to smell all fruity!"

Andrew believes that detangler is for girl's hair, not boy's. He believes boys should just have their hair buzzed completely off (which is the way he prefers his hair).

"I couldn't help it!" I said.

Benjamin found the detangler and carried it all the way out to the living room where he held it up to me, cocked his head, and said, "Mama?" When I took it from him he reached his hands up and tousled his hair, all the while staring at me with his big, round eyes pleading for me to spray his hair.

So I did. And a big smile spread across his face as he swaggered off to show off his new hairdo.

He's impossible to say no to. 

Monday, September 23, 2013

Kure Beach and Fort Fisher Aquarium

The children woke up at the crack of dawn, of course, so I took them out of the tent and we trooped off to the bathrooms together. Then we had breakfast. And then because there was little else to do we went for a walk, which Rachel said was her favourite part of camping.

She must have had rather low expectations because we only walked around the loop of our campsite a couple of times. I could have taken them hiking I suppose, but it had rained all night, Miriam forgot to pack shoes, and I didn't want to take all three kids out in the woods by myself. Not only that but my sense of direction is, as I mentioned in yesterday's post, not all that great, which is why I only felt safe sticking to the road. The kids enjoyed it, however, and were impressed each time I led them back to the campsite.

We woke Daddy up at 8:00. He got up and ready for the day and then we started striking camp, rolling up our soggy tent (and soggy everything) in haphazard fashion, knowing we'd have to just set it all up again when we got home so it could dry out.

Miriam drew her name (and some other "words") in the dirt and wanted me to take a picture like the one I took of Rachel at the beach the day before:

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Fort Fisher

While I'm not going to argue that this is the perfect time in the school year to take a break—it's not too hot and not too cold and we were just starting to resist waking up in time to catch the bus—I will complain that it's kind of a lame time for Andrew to not be on break. So though he has classes, which means we're stuck in town all week long, we decided to cram as much as possible into the weekends. After all, this is like the "rest" of our summer break.

On Friday we were supposed to get up and go to a friend's birthday party before leaving for Wilmington. However, it was also raining when we woke up, so the party was postponed. We made a split-second decision to get everything ready and loaded up before Andrew left for campus so that we could just go with him. It would save us about an hour of down time. So we scrambled to get all five of us ready to go and packed into the van.

Our neighbour saw us packing and asked where we were headed.

"We're going camping!" the girls excitedly explained.

"For a week?" she asked, noting the amount of stuff we'd already crammed into our van.

"No. Just for one night," we told her.

She giggled at us, a lovely, lilting laugh.

"You sure are taking a lot of stuff!"

And that was true. But we were packing for five people! We had the tent, our bedding (including a pack'n'play and an air mattress), a box of non-perishables, a cooler of fridge-worthy food, a cooler of water, multiple flashlights, a ukulele, a hiking backpack, firewood, camping chairs, and other camping necessities. Further, because we were planning on going to the beach we had all of our beach hud, too: swim suits, towels, boogie boards, and so forth.

I think that if we had been going camping for a week we would have brought about the same stuff, adding only a few extra changes of clothes and some more food.

We hung out on Duke campus while Daddy went to class. He left us in the parking lot while he ran to class (we were running a little late) and I sat and fed Benjamin while the girls read. After Benjamin finished nursing we made our way to the Sanford building, trying to follow the directions Daddy had given us. Unfortunately, my sense of direction slash my ability to remember verbal directions is a little weak. I didn't watch enough Dora as a child.

"We have to go through the soccer field," I recalled. "And then..."

If only Dora had been around when I was younger I would have remembered what to do next. What happened instead was this:

"And then we go this way...I guess."

I figured that we'd eventually either get to the Sanford building or we'd get so incredibly lost that Andrew would call us when he got out of class, ask us where we were, and bring the van around to collect us. I finally admitted to the girls, who were complaining about having to walk so far, that I was a little bit lost.

"I have no idea where we are," I said.

"Don't worry, Mom," Rachel reassured me. "Duke's a loop...I think."

The good news is that we eventually did make it to the Sanford building. Andrew laughed when I told him the way we'd come, but I told him just to be impressed that I'd made it there at all. We seriously had time to go to the bathroom and walk along a wall before he came out of class (that's how long we'd been walking), and then we were on our way.

We made it to Wilmington—and beyond to Fort Fisher—in record time. No stops.

Even more miraculous was that all the kids—even (and perhaps especially) Benjamin—stayed dry! I suppose we pretty much expect the girls to not wet their pants on road trips anymore, but we do expect them to beg to pull over so we can find a restroom. Benjamin, however, surprised us with his ability to "hold it." After his yeast infection fiasco, I started potty training in full force and he's seemed to pick it up fairly well. We were all so excited for him (he stayed dry the entire day)!


Thursday, September 19, 2013

Twenty-nine!

It's Andrew's birthday and what does he do? He gets up with the girls in the morning and warns them not to wake me unless the house is on fire, that's what he does. That's the mark of a good man, right there!

He left for school and the girls were completely self-reliant.

Benjamin and I didn't wake up until 10:30! And then I was a bit in a panic because we had so much to do to get ready for Daddy to come home. We had to bake a cake! We had to clean the house! We had to wrap his present! Yes, singular—present. I'm terrible at gifts so this year Andrew got one, which he bought for himself a while ago and which I confiscated and said, "Ha! We're giving this to you for your birthday!" It's not that I'm not a thoughtful person it's just that I'm, in general, a lousy gift-thinker-upper.

But I'm not a lousy cake-maker, so that was our main project for the day.

Rachel was so excited to make this cake. She was dreaming it up all day yesterday. It would be a Duke cake! And it would be circle! And it would have two layers! And twenty-nine candles!

Twenty-nine?! How did he/we ever get this old?

We met when we were fifteen—me just barely fifteen and he nearly sixteen—which means that we've now known each other for nearly half our lives. That's crazy to think about! Not to mention that twenty-nine is a scary number in general—it's just one away from thirty!

Rachel showed Andrew her draft of the cake. She drew twenty-nine candles on it, just for him.

"Whoa!" he gasped. "How many candles are on that cake?! How old do you think I am?!"

"There are twenty-nine candles," Rachel proudly proclaimed. "You're twenty-nine years old!"

"There aren't twenty-nine candles on that cake!" Andrew said. "There can't be! It looks like there's at least sixty!"

She counted them for him. You're welcome to count them as well. There are, in fact, twenty-nine of them and those twenty-nine candles certainly make the cake look mighty crowded!


Little Artist

Miriam loves to draw. It's her go-to activity throughout the day; she draws whenever she's unsure of what to do (which some might call boredom but fortunately my kids haven't (yet) begun using the phrase "I'm bored," and with any luck we'll keep it that way).

She draws before breakfast while she's waiting for someone to help her. She draws before getting dressed. She draws while I'm nursing Benjamin. She draws while I'm reading chapter books aloud. She draws anywhere and everywhere.

Lately she's been drawing a lot of birds. Her birds have legs and wings, like ordinary birds do, but they also have a set of arms, just for fun. "Bird legs are straight," she'll explain, "But their arms are squiggly."

By Miriam (September 18, 2013)
I was hoping this stage would never end, but Rachel lectured Miriam about proper bird anatomy yesterday. Today Miriam drew a picture for Andrew. She put a bird on it, a bird with no arms.

It broke my heart a little bit.

Before bed

Before the kids went to bed last night they wanted a horsey ride from Daddy. Technically, I suppose just the girls wanted a horsey ride. Benjamin just wanted one of their water bottles. He lives for bedtime simply because that's the time the water bottles are distributed.


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Museum mania

This morning the girls and I were having breakfast together just as Daddy was getting ready to head out the door.

"Hooray! No school!" I cheered. "What should we do today?"

"We can go to the pool if it gets hot," Rachel suggested.

"I'm not sure it's going to get hot today," I said. Fall weather is here already—today's high was forecast to be 73°F, which seems comparatively chilly. But all you have to do is look at the weather in Canada for 73° to look nice and balmy—it snowed in Pincher Creek today.

"There's the ML and S," Andrew said.

"The Museum of Life and Science?" Rachel said almost immediately. "Let's do that!"

"How'd you figure that out?" Andrew asked her.

"Because BYU means Brigham Young University," she said, rolling her eyes as if it should be obvious.

We can no longer spell to keep things secret. Now we can't use acronyms. What's left?!

My friend Emily pointed out that we could use pig latin. That will hold the kids off from decoding our secret conversations for a while. Perhaps it will even give use enough time to master a shared second language (our language skills don't have a lot of overlap, unfortunately).

So, Andrew left for school and the kids and I started to get ready for a day at the museum.

Rachel felt like it's been a long time since she'd last been there (and it has been), so she got to pick where to go first. She chose the dinosaur walk.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Fall break is here!

Today was the last day of school before Rachel's fall intercession. At home we spent the day reading books, playing with blocks and cars and princesses, and doing laundry.

Benjamin is obsessed with animals lately. I think that's fairly normal at this age. Sometimes I get a little anxious about his language development because it seems like the girls had a bunch of words under their belt by this age and Benjamin simply doesn't. He'll say mama and dada. He'll occasionally specifically ask for a nuh-nuh (a nursing session). And that's about all. He isn't interested in signing things—except, apparently, "fish," which he picked up on at a friend's house, but that fits with his love of animals.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Eating

Feeding a family is exhausting.

You have to go grocery shopping. Alternatively you can grow your own food. Both are a lot of work.

You have to think of what to make.

You have to actually make the meal.

And then you have to clean up.

And by the time you clean up it's nearly time to start the process all over again (minus the grocery shopping and planning, but cooking and cleaning are monumental tasks alone).

I'm so lucky to have Andrew, who cooks as often as he can and who does most of the grocery shopping, because I find feeding people really overwhelming. Especially little people.

Why do they want to eat all the time? And why are they so messy?

Benjamin is an especially messy eater right now, which means that clean up can be especially grueling. Andrew threw him in the tub after dinner tonight while the girls and I skyped with my parents because Benjamin was that messy. Black bean burritos will do that to you.



He finished with his bath in plenty of time to wave (and wave and wave) at my parents, who obediently waved back. The wave of a baby is a powerful thing.

Bikes

Yesterday after the pig pickin' we spent a long and frustrating afternoon trying to figure out how to ride our bikes. Rachel was the most frustrated of all and I was in close second. She would yell at me every time she fell off her bike as if it were my fault that gravity is a thing. Eventually I told her that bike riding time was over and then I went inside and told Daddy that we'll be looking into training wheels.

He swears that it's possible to learn how to ride a bike without them. I think he's failing to calculate the possibility that [she inherited my complete lack of coordination] into that equation.



She wants to ride and she just can't. In fact, she's never successfully pedaled a bicycle in her life. That little pink tricycle between Rachel and Benjamin? That was a gift from her Auntie Kelli (slash a hand-me-down from her twin cousins) for her third birthday.

Rachel never pedaled it. Even though her feet reached the pedals she'd always just sit on it and walk it along with her feet.

This bike that Benjamin's trying out?



We picked it up from craigslist super cheap. Rachel can pedal it now that she's six but she looks a little ridiculous on it. She rode it for a bit at three and four and five but never well. Not at all. But the fact that she can ride it now is encouraging. It makes me think that if we just popped some training wheels on her bike she'd at least have mobility—and when the neighbourhood kids are out riding their bikes and scooters on the street she could actually join in the fun.



Miriam's not great at biking either, but this fact is made less embarrassing by the simple trait of being three. She can pedal backward (fortunately this bike doesn't have brakes so pedaling backward makes the bike move backward instead of stopping it) but really struggles going forward. She doesn't even care yet because the four-year-old across the street is still stuck on a tricycle, too.

I don't think I should be the one to teach my kids how to ride a bike. I'm sure one day they'll get it but I don't think it will be under my tutelage. Rachel wants to learn so bad but she's just plain awful at. She doesn't even have to be on the bike to fall off of it. She just has to look at it wrong and it will knock her over and jump on top of her. She falls over all the time. This makes her grumpy and it makes me grumpy and grumpy people simply don't learn well (I'm pretty sure that's been scientifically proven).

To her credit, Rachel keeps on trying. With her tenacity, I'm sure one day things will click. But until that day comes she might be rocking a new set of training wheels.

Reverence is more than just quietly sitting

Last week the bishop got up at the end of sacrament meeting and talked about reverence. Upon hearing the words "we have a greater need for reverence in our meetings," Benjamin, who had been perfectly fine (ie. hadn't been terrible) up until that point, had a complete kicking-and-screaming meltdown over something and had to be carried out of the chapel still kicking and screaming. Naturally.

I had been the one to carry Benjamin out, which meant that I missed a lot of what was said about reverence, which is probably fine. Andrew, meanwhile was feeling embarrassed because he was sure the bishop was going to mention something about how fathers should be the ones to take kicking and screaming children out into the halls, allowing the mothers to sit and enjoy the rest of the meeting (or wrangle the children left behind, one or the other) because that was something the bishop of our previous ward liked to say.

Our current bishop said something about how when he and his wife were a young married couple they noticed that one family in particular had a passel of very well behaved children so they invited them over for dinner to ask them for the tricks of their trade. Apparently this family didn't allow children's feet to touch the carpet of the chapel until they were able to conduct themselves reverently, so basically the advice was just that the children had to sit there. And those kids were fine doing that, so good for that family.

I noticed that the bishop's son was nearly sleeping with his head in his mother's lap at this point, so I didn't feel too bad for taking the reverence advice with a grain of salt.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Terrific Six

I was relating to a friend today how Rachel is such a joy to have around...now...but how for the first few years of her life I wasn't sure if we would ever get along. Her infancy and toddler and preschool years were brutal but she's really mellowed out the past couple of years and is actually quite enjoyable to be with. Sometimes I'm still shocked when she comes home from school happy instead of throwing a three hour fit even though it's been about a year since that happened last.

Reading, I think, is her great escape. She often turns to books when she's upset or bored (so is never really bored anymore and never really gets upset). When she was younger she'd build towers or colour to deal with her boiling emotions, but even that wasn't foolproof because you can mess up a tower or drawing. You can't really mess up reading (at least not when you're reading to yourself in your head (reading aloud is a horse of different colour)).

Whatever the cause of her newfound control over her emotions, I'm so grateful for it. And I'm a little bit nervous for the teenage years.

Last night after we finished family scripture study, Rachel piped up and said, "I have a question. When I'm older, like fifteen...or thirteen...or seven...can I read The Book of Mormon by myself?"

"You don't have to wait until you're older!" I said. "You can start reading today if you'd like to!"

This was after she'd read an entire chapter aloud to us, at a very fluent pace and stumbling over very few words. She actually stopped after reading verse fifteen and said, "Okay, Dad, now you take a turn. My mouth is tired!"

School Carnival

Last week was Rachel's school carnival. Her class was in charge of the duck pond and since I'm one of the grade parents for her class that meant that I was in charge of the duck pond, a responsibility that was rather easy, truthfully. I had to coordinate volunteers to help set up and take down as well as solicit donations of prizes from other parents in the class. I used SignUp Genius and within 24 hours every slot had been filled. I was amazed.

Other than that we had to make a poster, and Miriam decorated a shoe box to collect tickets.



Thursday, September 12, 2013

"That Family"

After dinner last night we went to the park to get some wiggles out before bedtime. On the way there, the girls were showing me how they could walk backwards, an innocent enough game even if there are no sidewalks in our neighbourhood. Our girls know they're supposed to stay in the gutter.

"Can you run backwards?" Rachel asked, increasing her speed.

"I can," I said, jutting out into the street to avoid a truck that was parked along the curb before breaking into a backward run.

Rachel started laughing and picked up her pace. So there we were, jogging backwards alongside each other when *BANG!* Rachel crashed into the truck. It wasn't like she just bumped into it, either. She rammed into it at top speed. It was a pretty tall truck, too, so she hit her head on its hood. Fortunately, she didn't leave a dent, so she just walked away rubbing the back of her head.

We were all laughing so hard—Rachel almost threw up. I don't know why we didn't see this coming! I had moved out of the way of the truck before I started running, yet I didn't tell Rachel to move. Andrew was watching us run while he pushed Benjamin in the stroller, yet he didn't warn Rachel either. Clearly we need to review the laws of physics.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Monday, Monday...so good to me?

Last night our family home evening lesson was a little chaotic. I woke up with good intentions for the day...kind of. Benjamin had been up screaming for most of the night. He's gotten very vocal lately so when he's upset he screams and when he's not upset he yells (this evening, for example, he happily yelled "Ah-la-la-la-la-la!" at the top of his lungs over and over until he suddenly fell fast asleep).

We've been battling diaper rash so at one point in the night I switched him from cloth to disposable so that I could slather his bum in cream. It helped a little, but he still spent most of the night tossing and turning in terrible discomfort. Still, I figured I could get up, take the kids for a walk in the cool morning air, do some laundry, make a plan for dinner, and so on.

Instead, I woke up, took Benjamin to the bathroom and panicked because it appeared he was peeing blood. I spent over an hour on hold, waiting to speak to a nurse, receptionist, anybody! When I finally did make an appointment it was only fifteen minutes from the time it was currently. I frantically threw a diaper bag together and dashed out of the house with the kids.

Miriam may or may not have been wearing a pink dress with blue flowers, a red skirt with white polka dots, and a pink belly dancing scarf. Whatever.

Saturday, September 07, 2013

Science-y Stuff

Last night Andrew and I were cleaning the kitchen when he remembered that he had to teach the Elder's Quorum lesson this Sunday. He excused himself, saying he was going to go read through the lesson. The kitchen was almost clean (enough) so I didn't mind him leaving and was rather surprised when he ran back into the kitchen moments later.

"We're going to want to go outside in a few minutes," he said.

I was also rather surprised to hear him say this because we had just been joking about being too chicken to brave the spiders/bats/creatures in the dark to take the garbage out. Now all of a sudden he's pulling on a sweater (to ward off mosquitoes, not cold) and urging me to find my shoes.

"They're launching a rocket from Virginia to the moon right now and we are within the view zone!" he excitedly explained.

With his iPod (acting as a compass) and his iPad (acting as a television), we went out on the back deck, positioned ourselves to the NE and counted down with NASA. Once the Minataur V had liftoff we had 120 seconds before we'd be able to see it, so we waited for a while, scanning the sky, before decided that either our chimney or trees would be in the way and that we'd probably have better luck out in the street.

With 40 seconds on the countdown, we ran through the house and braved the walk under the trees where orb spiders are prone to string their gigantic webs (I made Andrew go first).

We stood in the street together, blocking the streetlight with our hands, staring up at the sky.

We weren't really sure of what we'd see, or if we'd even see anything, and were just about ready to give up when we heard a zoom and saw the rocket streak across the sky. We only saw it for a split second, but it was rather amazing, even phenomenal.

Andrew used the word phenomenon at the dinner table the other night and the girls had no idea what it meant.

"What's a phenomenon?" Rachel asked.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Clever kids

Scary-bug season is still going strong here so we haven't been spending as much time outside as I'd like, but soon Rachel will be on fall break and I'm sure we'll venture outside much more often since she's determined to ride her bike.

Miriam loves staying indoors since she dislikes bugs so much. Today she went on a nighttime ride with Benjamin in his bedroom; she closed the blinds and turned off the light so it would be "dark" in his room. We're reading The Horse and His Boy right now so she's been spending a lot of time sneaking into Benjamin's room to ride through Calormen on his rocking horse. She's very nice about giving it back to him when he wants it since she has her own teeter-totter (though she finds its lack of  equine anatomy slightly disappointing).

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Keeping busy

It seems like all of Miriam's little friends are in preschool, but Miriam's not in preschool and I'm not sure she'll ever go. I'm entirely okay with that because she's quite pleasant company at home, seems to play well with others, listens to her teachers at church, etc. I don't think starting kindergarten will be a huge leap for her when she gets there...in two years.

She does, however, insist on "homeschooling," though I have no set curriculum or schedule or routine or anything. We're pretty relaxed about the whole thing, doing "lessons" whenever we both agree it's a good time. Today she wanted to do some math, so we pulled out the dominoes and she counted up all the dots and sorted them from 1 to 12. We practiced saying equations like 5 + 1 = 6.


Sunday, September 01, 2013

Long Distance Relationships

One of the earliest interactive games you can play with a baby is making faces. Babies love to mimic adults, so you stick your tongue out and the baby sticks their tongue out, then you stick your tongue out and the baby sticks its tongue out, repeat ad infinitum. I love that game and babies usually start it pretty early—sometimes by a month old.

Benjamin, however, was tongue-tied as an infant. I stuck my tongue out at that boy until I was blue in the face but he never once returned the favour. It was obvious why he wouldn't when my mom pointed out he was completely tongue-tied. We had his frenulum clipped shortly before we moved out here (the day we loaded up the moving van, actually), but up until this week I had never seen him stick out his tongue, so tongue-sticking-out is a new, exciting, and rather hilarious game at our house right now!

It's not unusual to hear Benjamin humming, "Mmmmmm!" while he's slapping my legs. When I look down, he'll be looking up at me with his little tongue poking out and he'll keep on mmmmm-ing at me until I stick my tongue out, too.

Last night we were playing this game before bed.