Saturday, November 30, 2013

Last post of NaBloPoMo

Well, it's been another successful NaBloPoMo, I suppose. I'm fairly positive I wrote a post everyday but I probably won't go back to check that I did. This time of year is crazy busy! Why can't NaBloPoMo (or, more importantly, NaNoWriMo) be in a boring month like...like March? Or August?

Those months are typically pretty quiet (unless Easter is abnormally early...and unless...who am I kidding? What ever happens in August?).

But November is out of the way and I am slowly hacking away at my to-do list. Yesterday I finished crocheting that blanket. Today I finished the IVS newsletter (though it could still come back to me with some edits, I suppose). Just a million things left to do before the New Year!

I suppose it doesn't help that primary/church is inordinately busy this time of year as well. This week we have both the Relief Society Christmas Dinner and the Ward Christmas Party. The girls and I are playing our ukuleles for the ward party. In a couple of weeks I'll be singing in sacrament meeting with a friend (in Russian for the Relief Society President's son who is getting off his mission (he's in Novosibirsk, Russia) in just a couple of weeks). I'm pretty excited about that, but it's just another thing to coordinate.

In primary we're trying to get all the classes arranged for next year—with teachers and manuals and so forth. I feel like a lot of that is my responsibility...because I'm the secretary...so it is my responsibility. And that's fine. It's just a lot of work.

To top it off, we ordered Christmas decorations to give to the children and were under the impression that they'd come assembled but instead received a box of kits that we have to put together. They're not incredibly complicated but they're fiddly, and it's just another thing to do.

It seems like to-do lists are the theme of my blog lately, doesn't it?

I'm sure that things will settle down soon (or not) and we'll be able to hop in and enjoy the Christmas spirit.

In happy news, Benjamin's been hives-free since Tuesday or Wednesday and he slept through the night the night before last and only woke up once last night so I'm feeling more human again.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Multi-generational blanket

After Grandma Sharon died, the family found a baby blanket she'd been working on for Auntie Em's baby boy (who is expected to arrive in January). Since no one else in the family knows how to crochet, Andrew brought the unfinished blanket back to me when he came home from the funeral and after a few false starts I finally figured out the pattern and got to work.


I finished putting the border on it this evening while we watched Elf as a family.

Pictures

This afternoon we sneaked out to take some family pictures. I asked the girls to pick out a favourite outfit so that they'd be comfortable in whatever they were wearing and then I tweaked them a bit to make sure everything matched-ish. We're talking individual outfits matching, not entire families matching. I don't know how people even pull off those matchy-matchy photos. I mean, seriously! How do you get your kids to wear what you want them to wear and then to look happy about it?

We can't pull that pulled together look off so we just dressed as ourselves. This year we decided we'd do pictures at Stagville. They have a bunch of fun old buildings to pose by; I was actually thinking the rock wall by the family cemetery would be picturesque.

Unfortunately, Stagville was closed today...for Thanksgiving. Now, I have no problem with places closing for holidays or even for holiday weekends. I just wish they'd be a little more transparent about it on their websites so that we don't have to find out by coming up to a locked gate. I mean, how difficult would it be to say on their website that they're open from 10 AM to 4 PM Tuesday through Saturday, though they close on whatever holidays as well.

Apparently really hard. Because this isn't the first time we've run into this issue with historic sites in Durham.

Anyway, we decided we'd just do pictures at the Eno, even though golden hour was upon us and we were, literally, burning daylight. Stagville and West Point on the Eno are at least fifteen minutes away from each other. We were in a bit of a rush to set up once we'd arrived at the Eno.

Andrew and I still have to go through and decide which ones are our favourites and then doctor them up a bit, but in the meantime, here are some quickies we took on our point-and-shoot camera. A lot of them are bloopers but a few of them turned out alright.


Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanksgiving Festivities

After a rough night with Benjamin (again) I was trying to go back to sleep this morning when I remembered that I'd said we'd attend a Turkey Trot that the mother of a child in Rachel's class hosts every year. It's just an informal fun run for the kids as well as a diaper drive (and although we're mostly a cloth diaper family, I support babies everywhere having clean nappies to wear (unless you're into EC because that's awesome, too)). We brought a little package of diapers as our entrance fee.

The kids got to make racing numbers as well as signs for their parents to hold for them while they raced around the park. Here we are before the race, enjoying a little snack, and trying to keep warm (the girls didn't have their good coats because they were still in the wash from yesterday when they played in the mud).


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thanksgiving Eve

This morning the girls went out to play in the rain. They got soaking wet and impeccably dirty.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Thanksgiving Preparation

This year we didn't carve a jack-o-lantern. The girls painted pumpkins at school instead and then those pumpkins sat on our front porch with paint flaking off them for the last month. They weren't carved so there was no rush to cook them up. At least, there wasn't a rush until suddenly (and not so suddenly) it was the week of Thanksgiving!

Yesterday one of the only things I accomplished was pureeing our pumpkins. We washed the paint off, chopped them in half, scooped the seeds out, cooked them, and blended them, all in one afternoon.


Monday, November 25, 2013

End of the semester


  • We're having company over for dinner on Tuesday night. 
  • We're having the missionaries over for dinner on Wednesday night. 
  • I have to put together the newsletter for the International Viola Society.
  • I have to write our family's Christmas newsletter.
  • I have to make our family's Christmas newsletter pretty.
  • I have to edit a book about Metro Prystai.
  • I have to decorate for Christmas.

And that's all on top of holding the baby 24/7. I actually just put him down—in his own bed—and I'm kinda hoping he'll stay there for a little while. If he does, it will be the first time I put him down (basically—though Andrew did take a turn at Literacy Night tonight and there were a couple of times he permitted himself to stand on a chair beside me while I worked in the kitchen) since 2:00 yesterday afternoon.

So I'm feeling a bit frazzled. I'm feeling a bit like I was either kicked or screamed at all night (and day) long. I'm feeling a bit like my husband texted me five minutes before he was supposed to be home to say that he was just leaving campus. I'm feeling a bit like we had pancakes for dinner tonight, and not just any pancakes, either—we had Bisquick pancakes for dinner.

It's just one of those days. One of those days when you give the baby Benadryl before putting him to bed because he still has hives. Still. Which might explain all the kicking and screaming.

Anyway, I wasn't exactly feeling like company so I asked Andrew what he had in mind for dinner on Tuesday. I figure if he invites the company over he can at least pitch in with the cooking. Unfortunately, Tuesday is also the last day of class.

"What should we make for dinner tomorrow," I asked him on the way home from Rachel's school this evening. "I was thinking lasagna, but..."

"I was thinking lasagna, too!" he said. "But...you don't really have time to make lasagna, do you?"

"I don't," I said, shaking my head gravely. "Not if Benjamin is as clingy as he was today."

"Yeah. You have to hold a baby and write a poem and lots of stuff like that," Andrew agreed.

"Are you making fun of me?" I asked, unamused. I might get a little defensive when I'm running low on sleep.

"No!" he said. "Benjamin's been awful. You can't get anything done with him around!"

He knows this because it was finally his turn to take Benjamin the last two hours of church (and I miscalculated the calendar somehow and Benjamin's first week in nursery isn't until December 8th—for some reason I was thinking (hoping?) December 3rd was a Sunday—but I talked to the head nursery leader and she said we could go ahead and call December 1st Benjamin's first day in nursery because she's awesome).

"This is what I'm thinking," Andrew continued. "I'll just go to the store after we get the kids in bed and grab a frozen lasagna. We'll be super lazy."

"Sounds good to me!" I readily agreed.

"Oh, by the way... Can you edit the paper I have due tomorrow?"

So that's how it is. Butter me up before popping the question.

The end of the semester is always rough.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Is it Christmas yet?

Christmas is just one month away but it's not even Thanksgiving yet. With Thanksgiving so late in the month even Andrew has been lax about Christmas creep. By November 29th last year we'd already drunk up a full week's worth of Christmas cheer. Next year's Christmas forecast looks to be about the same. This year, though? This year's been a little dry so far and we've been sneaking in little tastes of Christmas here and there.

The easiest way to get Christmas music in our house was forming a little ukulele choir. Our home teacher is mostly responsible for this. He purchased ukuleles and gifted them to several families in the ward (there are, I believe, 21 of us (though I'm not sure where all the ukuleles came from)) and asked us to get together and learn some songs. We'll be playing at the ward Christmas party in a couple of weeks but we started practicing for that in October. Andrew can't really say no to practicing Christmas music like he can to simply listening to Christmas music for enjoyment.

However, he also allowed Miriam to select Jingle Bells to be sung during family home evening this past week—before the prayer, a time we usually reserve for reverent songs.

"You're getting soft," I told him.

"I'm not getting soft," he insisted. "It's just not worth the tears."

In other words...he's getting soft.

This evening Rachel and I played the songs we've been working on for our parents/grandparents on Skype and Andrew pulled out Miriam's ukulele and joined in—and we were playing Christmas songs! (Miriam wasn't playing because she's been refusing to practice so she doesn't know when to play her part (we've just been focusing on the C chord with her) and I wanted the music to sound...like music (because I'm vain/mean/whatever). She can play for her grandparents later. After she actually sits down to practice).

We've been reading Christmas stories for a while now and the girls have not-so-secretly been designing Christmas ornaments (especially after reading A Christmas Spider's Miracle (a beautiful book based on this legend)) and I've even gotten away with whistling Christmas songs.

Andrew has let each of these activities slide without comment, except perhaps the whistling of Christmas tunes (but he's even been lax about enforcing that rule).

I guess you could say we're ready for Christmas at our house. We're ready for some magic. We're ready for lights and music and childhood traditions. We're ready for focusing on the Savior.

The only thing we're not ready for is the tree. Oh, boy! That puppy is going up on Christmas Eve if I get my wish this year (Benjamin is seriously into everything and I'm not sure I can handle it). Chances are I won't get my wish but I can say with confidence that the tree is not going up immediately after Thanksgiving dinner (which is when Andrew swears it should be done). No, the tree will be going up much later than that!

And now that I finally have the baby in bed (is it 11:30? Why, yes. Yes, it is!) I'm going to settle down with my fuzzy slippers on to write some more of our Christmas poem.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Fist Bumps and other things

Today I have a couple of videos. The first is our family "getting ready for bed." Sometimes bedtime takes a long time.



This second one is specifically for Auntie Josie, who used to do a similar thing at the dinner table. We called it "The Hulk."



Friday, November 22, 2013

A busy day

Miriam was invited to a birthday party for her little friend Matthew this week and has been looking forward to it ever since I told her about it, which was nine days ago when she was originally invited. I know several moms who try not to tell their kids about fun activities in advance so that they don't have to deal with the children's mounting excitement while they wait for the day to come. I'm not really like that, though. Unless I specifically plan a surprise, I usually just tell my kids what's up. We talk about special events during family calendar time. And we say, "No, it's not Friday yet," way too often. But I like it that way because research shows that merely anticipating fun things can boost happiness.

Sure, it's hard when plans change. But "plans change" is almost a mantra in our house. Learning to deal with disappointment is probably healthy for kids, right?

This time, fortunately, our plans didn't fall through (unlike yesterday's playgroup fiasco) and we made it out the door by 9:30 in the morning! Miriam picked out a special outfit to wear.


Hand-me-down dress with a stain on the shoulder from that one time Rachel biffed it? Check.

Hand-me-down tights with a hole in one toe because Rachel wore them all the time? Check.

Razzle-dazzle headband that doubles as a pirate eye patch? Check.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Contemplative Time

What I really should be doing is cleaning my house because my visiting teachers are coming over and my house currently looks hey-at-least-the-kids-are-alive level rather than I'm-a-fully-functioning-responsible-adult level. I think that's because we've been clinging to sanity this week; but hopefully things are on the upswing.

Part of the reason our house is falling apart at the seams is because the kids have been digging in their heels about doing any chore. Our obedience bean system kind of fell apart, so we had a family night lesson on everybody pitching in (I feel like we do that a couple of times a year (at least)) and the girls seemed re-excited about helping out around the house. They want to keep the obedience bean system, but we're going to add another facet to the program (checklists for each room so they know what "clean" entails).

Unfortunately, their enthusiasm had dissolved by Tuesday (and since FHE is on Mondays that means they weren't excited about chores for very long) after school.

"Hayley didn't misbehave at school today, so can we go to the park with her today?" Rachel asked.

They'd arranged to play at the park on the bus yesterday but then Hayley's mom found a note in her backpack from her teacher that wasn't exactly positive so Hayley had to cancel, so we went to the park by ourselves.

"Unfortunately, I have dinner on the stove already and Benjamin is sleeping and has been so miserable today. I don't think we can go," I explained. "But even if we could go, there'd be chores we'd have to do before we could play."

At this Rachel slouched down into what we call "the gorilla" pose. She stomped her gorilla feet and rolled her gorilla eyes and moaned her gorilla groan.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Guys and Dolls

Miriam loves playing with Kit. Hardly a day goes by that she doesn't get Kit down/out to play. Both Kit and Rose (Rachel's doll) sleep in a doll bunk bed next to the girls' full-size bunk bed because now that Miriam has a doll all of her own Rachel's beginning to play with dolls more. I'm actually quite happy about this because I think playing with dolls is as important as engineering toys (which is why Benjamin is free to push the hot pink doll stroller around and why the girls play with hex bugs and toy trains).

Aside from her love of Baby Norah, Rachel hasn't ever shown an interest in dolls. Until now.

Still, Miriam (who, incidentally doesn't have a "favourite" doll that she can't sleep without) has always shown much more interest in the "nurturing" games that dolls inspire. She loves dressing, feeding, nursing, changing, rocking, and playing with baby dolls.

Yesterday Miriam, influenced by the American Girl Doll catalogue we received in the mail (addressed to the girl who lived here before us), picked out an outfit that she thought matched Kit's outfit so they could be twins for the day.

Kit accompanied us to the playground after school.



Oatmeal bath

Benjamin insured that bath time was eminent by smearing dinner all over his face (carrot/lentil soup).

Hives and carrots

We're still battling hives today. They've moved off his tummy and are now on his sides, arms, legs, and back. And he's a little less happy about them. I'm trying to get up the courage to try an oatmeal bath, perhaps before bed to help soothe his skin (because he hasn't been sleeping well).


Monday, November 18, 2013

Mystery rash

Thanks to our dear doctor friends (one of whom made a house call—on his day off, no less) we've determined that Benjamin is suffering from either eczema or hives. It's not too serious...though we'll have to be watching for triggers now to see if he's allergic to anything. I can't think of anything particularly out of the ordinary that he's come in contact with/eaten recently.


He doesn't seem too bothered by it.


My friend Addi suggested that it might be fifth disease (since that's going around) but he doesn't have a rash on his cheeks (other suggestions were roseola, which Miriam had, and which I think Benjamin has already had, and measles (which is rampaging around in southern Alberta) but I think we're pretty safe from that) and the rash was mostly confined to his stomach.

But another friend looked up fifth disease since her daughter had the bright red cheeks indicative of fifth disease and has come to the conclusion that not only is her daughter suffering from fifth disease—she, herself, has it! She was sick with a high fever last week and recently began experiencing joint pain and was worried she was developing rheumatoid arthritis or something. Now she's hoping it's just fifth disease and will go away...in 1–3 weeks to a few months. That's still a long time to suffer from constant joint pain, but I suppose it's better than always suffering from joint pain.

She said stumbling upon the conversation on facebook was an answer to prayer.

I love small miracles like that. Like finding an answer in a facebook feed. Or like having a friend volunteer her doctor-husband to make a house call on his day off because you're at home worried about your baby but just can't bring yourself to face the outside world (Miriam was not in the mood to leave the house and I wasn't in the mood to make her and because your baby desperately needed a nap and you needed to be home to meet the school bus) and because you didn't want to go into the clinic again (between our trip to the ER and the follow-up visit, I'm quite confident we spent eight hours at the hospital/doctor's office last week (so much of the waiting (which probably explains why Miriam dug her heels in when I asked her to get dressed so we could take Benjamin to see her friend's dad, the doctor))).

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Sundays

The semester is winding down, and that's why I'm feverishly writing at 11:45 PM (rather than at 10:30 when I finally got Benjamin in bed)—because Andrew's been feverishly writing and I've been feverishly editing his stuff for him and demanding that he rewrite what he's already written.

We went to church today, naturally, and I was stuck with Benjamin again. Not stuck with him in the sense that I mind being with him (because he's really quite a charming boy) but stuck with him in the sense that our ward does a pretty good job of only giving one parent (of a pre-nursery aged baby) an intense Sunday calling (such as working in the primary, as I do), while giving the other parent a weekday calling (such as working with the youth) or a less-intense Sunday calling (such as teaching a lesson once a month in Elder's Quorum (EQ), which Andrew does).

I tallied up the number of weeks I was "stuck" with Benjamin and got to five. Five straight weeks of tending Benjamin through two hours of church and doing all the stuff I usually do in primary.

Andrew taught EQ the week before he left for Utah.
Then he was in Utah.
Then Rachel was sick so he stayed home with her.
Then he taught EQ.
Then he taught EQ again (because they haven't gotten another co-teacher for Andrew after the last one was given a different calling)

Sundays have been feeling quite exhausting!

The good (and bad) news is that this was Benjamin's second to last week before he enters nursery. I'm at once thrilled to bits and torn to pieces over this because he'll be in nursery (finally, thank goodness!) but he'll be in nursery (which means he's morphing from baby to boy right before my very eyes).

I think the larger part of me is grateful to not have to chase after him for three straight hours, mostly because he's recently turned into a stool-pushing, furniture-climbing maniac and is always getting into everything.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Another walk

This afternoon we went for a little walk along the Eno and also checked off our last North Carolina adventure. The Mangum house and the photo museum were open, so we toured both of those before going on our walk. Unlike the mill, which had to basically be rebuilt after it was mostly swept away in a flood, the house is mostly original. They even have a lot of the original furniture. They have an old picture of the front room sitting in the front room and have the furniture arranged identically to how it was in the picture.

One of the Mangum sons was a photographer. He turned the second floor of the tobacco pack barn into a studio, complete with a dark room. It was neat to see his photographs. I've never seen so many old pictures of people smiling toothy grins before!

Here are Rachel and Benjamin in front of the tobacco-pack-barn-turned-photography-museum:


Christmas shopping—finished!

I just finished Christmas shopping for the kids and it's not even Black Friday yet! (Although I still might need to find some new pants for Benjamin since I think he's entering that age of boyhood where pants end up too thrashed to pass down. I just went through our box of awaiting hand-me-downs and found approximately ten thousand shirts that would fit him but only a handful of pants. So I might still have to do a little shopping...but not much (and certainly not on Black Friday)).

I've been diligently checking Craigslist for about a year now, trying to find a swing set that would fit our budget. Many of the ones posted are far too expensive for a second hand swing set ("We bought this swing set ten years ago for $700 and totally trashed it—we'd like to sell it for $600. This is an extremely good deal! You must dismantle yourself. It might need a little TLC, a few new boards, and a couple new swings. Don't pass up this opportunity!") and all the ones that were within our budget (that weren't junky) would be gone by the time I replied.

This morning I found a darling swing set posted in the free section! And the post was only six minutes old! I immediately replied, and then I held my breath and waited.

Eventually I had to exhale because there was no response.

I knocked off a couple of things on my to-do list before checking my email again. Still no response.

I checked the posting again to see if it was there and it wasn't. It had been removed.

"I guess we didn't get it," I said sadly to Andrew.

"Oh, well," he said. "We'll keep trying."

But then I saw a message pop up on my screen. It was the owner of the swing set, offering it to us!

I almost cried. Literally. There were tears welling up in my eyes.

"Andrew! We got it!" I squealed.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Rock, Paper, Scissors

After dinner Andrew and I started clearing off the table. He put away the leftover pancakes. I put away the milk and the juice and the water. He Cleared the plates. I washed the griddle. He started taking care of the bacon grease. I started loading the dishwasher, but then stopped. 

We had to take care of the thing we were ignoring/avoiding/dreading because it was beginning to squawk incessantly.



Me: Rock-Paper-Scissors? Loser washes off the baby.
Andrew: Deal. Best two out of three.

Round 1: Rock vs. scissors (+1 Nancy)
Round 2: Scissors vs. paper (+1 Nancy)

Me: Sweet!
Andrew: No! Best three out of five!
Me: Fine.

Round 3: Rock vs. paper (+1 Andrew)
Round 4: Paper vs. scissors (+1 Andrew)
Round 5: Rock vs. scissors (+1 Nancy)

Andrew: Four out of seven?
Me: Absolutely not.
Andrew: Oh, come on—it would be like the World Series.
Me: No.
Andrew: Please?
Me: No.
Andrew: But...
Me: No.
Andrew: I...
Me: No.
Andrew: What...
Me: No, no, and no. I won, fair and square.

As winner, it was my privilege to load the dishwasher while Andrew gave Benjamin a bath because when you're a parent sometimes simply loading the dishes actually sounds like a pretty good prize.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

World Book vs. Wikipedia

Rachel's class is studying bears right now. They've studied panda bears and now they're on koala bears which, as Rachel knows, aren't actually bears at all. They're marsupials.

She's been wanting to do some research on koalas so this afternoon when she came home from school (and both Miriam and Benjamin were still napping (still trying to kick this illness)) I helped her get started doing some research online.

Her school—and apparently the entire school district (though I don't remember knowing about this resource last year)—has a subscription to World Book Encyclopedia and we're able to sign in from home. We've been on a few times. Frankly, I don't think World Book has anything on Wikipedia, though for World Book Kids the articles are condensed and kid-friendly so I didn't think it would do any harm to give Rachel full reign of the encyclopedia while I made dinner.

She diligently took notes on what she learned—word for word (so completely plagiarism...of facts that are pretty well common knowledge because it turns out that the kid version of the encyclopedia is full of rather basic knowledge (so is it still plagiarism?)).

When she was finished, she handed me a paper full of all the information she thought noteworthy:

"A full-grown koala is 25 to 30 inches (64 to 76 cm) long. In addition, much of the koala population is infected by chlamydia. This disease that can cause blindness."

Chlamydia? What?!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

It's happening

Andrew came home from school and Benjamin said, "DAD!" and ran up to him and gave his leg a hug. So language is developing. Phew.

Holy Croup

Last night I wrote that "Benjamin is still rather croupy."

Let's change that to read, "Benjamin is moderately-to-severely croupy."

I woke up in the wee hours of the morning to the strangest sound. In my dream, the sound meant that a litter of kittens had been dropped off on our doorstep. The sound brought me out of my dream, however, and continued after I'd opened my eyes. The sound was real. The sound was in my house.

I got up to check on the kids and discovered the source of the noise in Benjamin's room. It was Benjamin, of course. He was crying and wheezing, trying to fill his little lungs with air. I picked him up and he went limp in my arms (which is the most horrible feeling) but continued to wheeze in and out—short, raspy gasps of air rattling his tiny frame.

I ran back to our bedroom and flicked on the light.

"Andrew, get up!" I cried with a note of panic in my voice that would have alerted the dead (which is just the tone you need in your voice to wake Andrew up).

He woke up and stared at my panic-stricken face. He stared at Benjamin's terrified round eyes. He jumped out of bed and dove into action.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Tuckered out

I feel like today was a productive day, for the most part. As Miriam said, "We're not having a boring sick day! We're doing lots of work!" She was excited to be working so hard after the ennui of taking things easy while trying to get over this cold.

She's still got a slight cough but Benjamin is still rather croupy so we aren't out of the woods yet.

Anyway, we decided it was time to winterize the girls' beds. We pulled out their comforters, washed their sheets, and got everything nice and fresh (and much warmer). Miriam was nervous about allowing me to wash her silky blankey (the one my friend Crystal made for Rachel, but which Miriam has claimed as her favourite).

"Please can we just not wash my silky blankey?" she asked.

"I think it would be better if we did. That way it won't smell funny."

"But it doesn't smell funny," she insisted. "It smells like..." She paused to sniff her blanket then asked, "What smells better than soup? Because I think my blankey smells like that."

In the end I convinced her to wash her blanket and she vigilantly listened for the washing machine to finish its cycle and then reminded me to get her blanket into the dryer so that it could be finished by bedtime. This was before lunchtime, so I was pretty confident that I'd be able to get it back to her by bedtime.

As it turns out, she had every reason to be concerned that she'd be missing her blanket at bedtime because I just checked on her and she didn't have it. It was still in the dryer!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Remembrance Day 2013

I'm always pleasantly surprised when Remembrance Day rolls around and Rachel has the day off from school. I suppose I'm not always surprised since she's only been in school for two years, but for each of those two years I've been pleasantly surprised. I grew up having a day off of school on Remembrance Day but then my family moved down to the States and—in Utah, at least—we no longer had the day off, even though it's Veteran's Day.

So after a decade of basically not ever having a day off for Remembrance/Veteran's Day we finally do, and it's nice.

This year was an exceptionally lame day off, unfortunately. Miriam is still sick. Benjamin woke up sick. And I haven't been feeling great, either. Rachel was sick last week, however, and, having shared her nasty germs with everyone else and already having acquired immunity to said germs, was able to bounce out of bed as chipper as a chipmunk this morning.


Sunday, November 10, 2013

Primary Program

This morning the primary put on their annual sacrament meeting presentation. Every year the church puts out a curriculum for the primary to follow during sharing time, with an overarching theme for the year (as well as themes for each month...and week). It includes concepts to cover, songs to learn, and so forth. This year our theme was I Am A Child Of God  and the children did a wonderful job presenting what they learned.

It takes a lot of courage to get up in front of an entire congregation of adults (since all the kids 3–11 are on the stand behind you) and speak into a microphone.

Miriam's line was: The word of wisdom helps us to have a healthy body.

What's funny about this is that she has a nasty cold right now. At the practice yesterday she got up to say her line and coughed all the way through it. Thankfully she managed to say her line today without coughing once (though she was coughed through nearly everything else).

Rachel's line was a bit longer and although she memorized it (as did Miriam) she read it when she got up there because "it was there." Her line was: Jesus Christ taught the gospel and set an example for us. Christ's atonement is a gift that has been given to us so we might repent and live with God again.

They had fun singing all the songs, too, but the best part, I think was that the girls' ballet teacher/Rachel's kindergarten teacher came to watch. We sent her an invitation in the mail and when she told me she was planning on being there I told her we'd save her a spot. We got to church ten minutes early and she was already there, saving us a spot. The girls were so excited to see her!

She is a remarkable woman.

Rachel also sent a few invitations out to her friends from school and a little girl in her class came (though Rachel will tell you that "she's not a little girl—she's seven!"). It made Rachel feel so special! She ran up to her friend after and gave her a big hug.

It's always fun to watch the kids deliver their lines. They're all so sweet!

As a member of the primary presidency, I'm certainly glad the primary presentation is over so that we can focus on Christmas and get ready for the new year. There's always so much to do this time of year!






Saturday, November 09, 2013

The Mill and the Amphitheater

At the beginning of the year we made a goal to go on 100 family walks. It's mid-November. We still have 24 walks to take. Andrew swears we'll be able to take them all. I am not so confident but I planned a family walk today (more than our usual up-and-down-the-street romp before bed or quick-jaunt-to-the-park) and we were able to cross one more thing off our list.

We were also able to cross off another "North Carolina Adventure." We aimed to do 24 adventures over the course of the year. We have one left to go on.

The adventures were fun to plan. Sometimes they were elaborate plans, like our trips to the beach and the mountains. Other times they were relatively simple, like visiting a splash pad or trying out a new hike or visiting a local museum. Each adventure had to be unique, but each adventure typically counted as a family walk (since most of our adventures were outdoor and included a lot of walking).

The only other rule for our walks and adventures were that everyone in the family had to go. I think that's what's made it so difficult to get all our family walks in. It's hard to get everyone out for a walk. I can't tell you how many times I've either taken all the kids to the park or pool while Daddy's been at school. Nor can I tell you how many times either Daddy or I have taken the girls to the park or pool while the other parent stayed home with a napping Benjamin. But those times don't count because not everyone participated.

Anyway, today's walk was a new trail that I saw while zooming in on West Point on the Eno Park on Google Maps. It looked like a paved path, heading toward the amphitheater and a pond (though we didn't ever see the pond).

We were excited to find the mill open when we got to the park. I'd all but forgotten about trying to get there (it's open on weekend afternoons from 1 to 5) but since it was open we moseyed on in and counted it as a family adventure prior to taking our walk.

The nice old man behind the counter gave us a tour. During the tour he kept opening various windows and doors and sticking his head outside. It took us awhile to realize this was because he had a mouthful of chewing tobacco (we're pretty sure he was spitting outside). The tour was fascinating though! He turned the waterwheel on for us, which was awesome. The turning of all the cogs in the building shook the floors and made the girls pretty nervous.

Above the shop counter they had a rack full of snake skins. The man said he collects them from wherever he finds them inside the mill. I shuddered but said, "They're probably after all the mice that live here, aren't they?" "You bet they are," he said.

In the end we purchased a bag of grits that was ground right there in the mill (Rachel's holding it on her lap while pretending to play a match of checkers with Miriam). We're planning on having stone-ground grits for dinner tomorrow night!



Friday, November 08, 2013

Musicals, Chocolate, and Love

Tonight we went to our stake's roadshow: Sing Down the Moon: An Appalachian Wonder Tale. No one from our family was in it, though the dress my mom took in for me to wear in the musical Steamboatin' (back in 1993) made an appearance on one of my friend's daughters. Part of me wanted to try out for it but...I can't drive to the stake center on my own. They found enough talent without us, of course. And it was a good (if not a tad long (over two hours!)) show, putting many unfamiliar spins to the fairy tales I'd grown up hearing (Jack Tales are a thing in Appalachia—he does much more than climb a beanstalk!).

We sat down next to an elderly couple. Benjamin's started to be really friendly to people so he immediately started trying to make eye contact with the woman beside me. He kept leaning across me and into her lap so he could peer right into her face and smile, as if to say, "Ignore me not!" She seemed to enjoy his company.

In the middle of the show, right after Jack earned a bag of money from the king and brought it home to his family, the cast came out and threw chocolate coins to the audience (which I imagine turned out much messier and more dangerous than they'd imagined it would be (but only because I saw how messy and dangerous it was (Andrew got hit in the face by a rogue coin and the coins that fell on the ground shattered so when you opened them up the chocolate inside crumpled all over the place))).

I let Benjamin eat one of the coins (while his sisters greedily devoured the rest) and he was in heaven. He went around begging for chocolate coins for the rest of the intermission, though I don't think anyone really understood what he meant when he came up to people with his hands outstretched, his face pleading for them to begin throwing that chocolatey goodness around again.

That was before he noticed all the bits of broken chocolate on the floor. I suppose he only spent half of intermission begging people for chocolate coins and spent the second half eating the unwanted bits that had fallen to the floor.

When I first spotted him pick something off the floor and pop it in his mouth I quickly went to investigate. Rachel followed me (Daddy and Miriam were in line at the bathrooms).

"What have you got in your mouth?" I asked Benjamin. I then pried his mouth open. He then reluctantly let me peek inside his mouth. "More chocolate! Where did you find that? On the floor, obviously. The floor's pretty gross. You probably don't want to be eating off of it..."

My prattling trailed off because just as I was telling Benjamin to beware the filthy floors that I spotted Rachel nonchalantly eating bits of chocolate off the floor. She was literally crawling on the floor, picking up specks of chocolate, and eating them.

"Rachel!" I said in surprise.

"What?" she shrugged. "I'm hungry."

But believe it or not, this post isn't about how two-thirds of my children were crawling around the cultural hall eating chocolate off the floor. It's about the woman I was sitting beside.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Star Student Rachel

Rachel came home with a certificate stating that she'd been selected as student of the month for November. We're not entirely sure how selections are made or what it even means, but she was sure happy about it!


She also brought home a motley collection of prizes that she got to pick out of a box. For herself she picked out a "Blockbuster Promotion" toy from 1998 (The Cowardly Lion) and for Miriam she picked out a book from Chick-fil-A called Aslan (which, curiously enough, was published in 1998)

They're absolute relics but she was so proud of her prizes—and most especially to present one to Miriam.

I love that my girls are usually pretty good about thinking of each other. They're pretty good at sharing when they get something special and when they don't split it 50/50 they're typically good at graciously receiving whatever they're granted. They enjoy picking things out for each other and sharing what they have.

I'll just sit back and enjoy this stage while it lasts because we've been through the selfish don't-touch-my-stuff stage before and I'm sure we'll be back there again. But for now they're at a sweet spot in their relationship and I'm going to relish it!

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Overcorrection

When we went camping in the Appalachian Mountains last month we learned that, if we wanted to blend in with the locals, we were in App-uh-LATCH-uh and not App-uh-LAY-shuh. Rachel really took this lesson to heart because she was genuinely terrified of someone spitting at her for saying it wrong.

During scripture study this evening, we read Alma 51 and Rachel happened to read verse 21, which happens to have the word 'appellation' in it.

"And thus Moroni put an end to those king-men, that there were not any known by the..." she trailed off, having come to her first difficult word. "App-uh-LAY-shun," she sounded out. Then she shook her and said firmly, "App-uh-LATCH-uhn. There were not any known by the app-uh-LATCH-uhn of king-men."

We tried gently correcting her but ended up laughing about it until everyone was in tears.

Eventually we all calmed down enough to continue and I was reading the next verse when Rachel broke into laughter again.

"...while Moroni was thus breaking down the wars and contentions among his own people, and subjecting them to peace and civilization," I read.

"Subjecting them to peace!" Rachel guffawed, and then I couldn't help but laughing, too, because I didn't expect her to pick up on that little paradox. In fact, the two of us were being so terribly irreverent that Andrew had to finish reading the verse for me.

In this instance of the word, however, I think 'subjecting' is less along the lines of 'forcing' and more along the lines of 'predisposing,' but I think that, typically, people automatically denote the verb 'subject' to mean force, just as I typically associate the noun 'sock' with cozy footwear and not with a violent punch.



Teething

I just put the baby down for (practically) the first time since yesterday morning at 8 AM. He did spend some time playing on his own. And he also spent about a grand total of two-and-a-half hours sleeping in his own bed. Other than that I mostly just held him, including all night long.

He's cutting the last of his one-year molars. And I'll be so happy when we can move on with life.

Rachel told Andrew last night that she was teething, too. He wasn't too sure about this. Anatomy is not one of his strengths.

I've been toying with the idea of taking a class to help me prepare for a future graduate program. Andrew suggested taking statistics since he figures it would come in handy regardless of what graduate program I one day hypothetically choose. Also, he could "help me." I said that I would take statistics when he could tutor me (which means I won't be taking it for a while because time is a precious commodity he does not have a lot of during the school year) and mentioned instead that I might take anatomy. I've toyed with the idea of doing a speech-pathology degree and anatomy would come in handy for that. Andrew thought anatomy sounded too hard. Statistics, though—that's a cake walk.

This is coming from the man who had to ask me what an Achilles tendon was. Not that I know anything about anatomy at all, either. I just happen to know more than he does.

Anyway, I told him that Rachel is probably getting her six-year molars, so he shared his newfound wisdom with Rachel this morning.

This evening as I was giving teething gel to both Rachel and Benjamin we laughed about having two kids teething at the same time. Who'd have thought that would ever happen!

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Artwork and Apology Letters

Now that Rachel rarely brings home paperwork, I rarely see any of her artwork. I must say, however, that the things she's been bringing home are fantastic!

Here's a sunflower she painted (everything else is crayon):

Monday, November 04, 2013

An Awesome Fire Safety Lesson

Last week at school Rachel had a lesson on fire safety that had a huge impact on her. She came home from school excited and passionate about the topic. She was so fired up (haha! a pun!) that I asked her to lead a family home evening lesson on fire safety.

I reminded her after school that she'd agreed to give the lesson and she immediately set about preparing all sorts of things. She made a little stack of pictures to hold up while she told us different thing. Miriam was her "helper," and is dressed as a firefighter. She's wearing the hat Rachel got at last year's fire safety presentation as well as a jacket that they figured looked rather firefighter-y (and, yes, she's wearing a flouncy skirt under her nightgown (and, yes, she's sleeping in it now)).



Gladioli

Shortly after Easter I planted 20 gladiolus corms in our garden and then waited anxious for them all to send shoots up through the ground. I nervously counted them every time I walked past the garden. Once all the leaves were out I nervously waited for each of them to blossom, inspecting the stalks each day for signs of flowers. They certainly staggered their entrances, probably trying to keep me antsy for as long as possible!

All of them bloomed, though, and they were beautiful while they lasted. Recently they've been doing much more withering than blooming so today while I was outside waiting for Rachel's bus to arrive I finally got around to digging them up.

In truth it took me quite a while longer than simply waiting for her bus. I was still digging when the sun went down (at 5:15 PM (thanks a lot, daylight saving time)). It was a lot of work, especially with Benjamin "helping" (by throwing clods of dirt and rocks, by upsetting my bucket of corms, by running off toward the street and making me dash after him, by stealing my trowel, etc.) but the sunset was beautiful!

I did a little research before I started digging because I'm still pretty new to this whole gardening thing. I knew that I was supposed to dig them up when they started to yellow but before they turned all the way brown and I knew that they'd grow a new corm on top of the old one and that I'd have to pull them apart so I could keep the new corm and discard the old one. Other than that I was clueless.

So, I pulled my first gladiolus corm out of the ground and was rather perplexed to find two corms beside each other. The new corm, you see, is supposed to grown on top of the old one. I was like, "How am I ever going to figure out which is the old one and which is the new one?"



Sunday, November 03, 2013

Sock it to me

Last night after Rachel went to bed it was still a little too early to put Miriam to bed so I let her stay up. I told her that we could do something together but she didn't know what so I suggested a reading lesson (since we've been slacking in that department the past couple of weeks). She thought that was a great idea and was so excited that Daddy would be home during her reading lesson so that he could listen to her read. When it was time to read the story, she ran and got him before sounding out the following story:
He said, "Give me a rock or a sock." So she gave him a sock on his nose.
He said, "I need socks on the feet, not on the nose." So she gave him socks for his feet.
Andrew praised her good reading and the went back into his office while she and I did a second reading of the story, this time with comprehension questions sprinkled throughout her reading.

My mind was blown when the book prompted me to say, "What did she give him?  She must have hit him on the nose. Is that what he wanted? Nobody wants to get socked on the nose."

Socked on the nose? Do people still say that?!

We don't at our house. I know that I, for one, thought that "she" must've put "a knitted or woven covering for the foot" on his nose. That's what automatically comes to mind when I think of the noun sock.

I suppose "a vigorous or violent blow" is also a valid definition for the word and I realize they were trying to throw a pun in there for comic relief but...really? My four-year-old didn't get your joke.

When I think of socking (as a verb "to hit forcibly") I think "1920s gangster," not "four-year-old child sitting on the couch next to me." She's never encountered that meaning of the word in her life. The closest thing she's heard is probably DST (Dirty Sock Treatment, a nasty little prank Grandpa Reid enjoyed playing on his children where he takes off his socks and dangles them in front of their faces (I think it also might be a jibe at Grandma, an Arizona girl who detests DST: Daylight Savings Time)). Actually, DST might explain why our household so readily made the connection between cozy footwear and delicate noses.

Interestingly enough, when she was doing her reading she'd sound out "gaaaaavvvvvve" and then say, "gived!" She just couldn't bring herself to use the proper past-tense of the word give, I guess, but I'm sure she'll work that out eventually.

Anyway...

Is it just me or does this story sound antiquated to you? When's the last time you heard 'sock' being used violently?

Nursery

Due to Rachel's 103°F fever, Andrew and Rachel stayed home from church today. Using your powers of deduction you probably know this means I went to church with Miriam and Benjamin, alone. I spent an hour trying to keep them reverent quiet during sacrament meeting. Our bishop issued a bit of advice that parents try to keep their children's feet off the floor and I was a bit skeptical of this advice (since the bishop hasn't had to deal with an unruly toddler in over a decade) until a friend wrote a blog post extolling the very same advice—and she's right in the thick of the young-parent gig herself—so I thought I'd give it a go.

Miriam was fine (though I did let her colour kneeling down on the floor rather than sitting on her seat (because I believe children can listen and colour at the same time)) aside from the few time she decided to snatch toys from Benjamin (eliciting some shrill cries from him). Benjamin, though, was a handful!

He's too little to be very self-sufficient in any quiet activity. He can't colour without help. He can't be trusted to flip quietly through the hymn book. He can't even be handed a board book (because he'll likely toss it at the people in front of us). This means that I have to constantly be guiding his activities, which takes my attention away from the speakers.

We did our best this week, though I must admit that I did let him wander up and down the bench a few times while I relaxed and listened to what was being said. Next week is sure to go better...maybe.

Next week is our primary presentation. Once a year the primary children (ages three through eleven) put on a program for the rest of the congregation. They sing songs and each say a little part. It's fairly adorable, though it's quite the circus getting it ready!

Saturday, November 02, 2013

NaBloPoMo

It's NaBloPoMo, that time of the year when you post every single day for an entire month.

I suppose I'll officially declare myself a participant. Andrew noted I was slacking this year—my average number of posts per month is down significantly compared to previous years.

I think there are a number of reasons for this:

1) I might be writing longer posts. I haven't really checked, but I do feel like a lot of my posts are lengthier than my earlier posts. (Andrew says he can get me a word count within half an hour; we shall see (because he also says he's pretty busy with other projects)).

2) We have three children. No explanation necessary...except that I always swore I would record my children's lives equally because my mom kept rather detailed journals for my older sisters. She made beautiful baby books for my older brother and me and kept slightly less-detailed journals for us. I think she may have even started a baby book for my younger brother. But my poor little sister? She has a box of unsorted pictures and a journal-thing half filled out. I don't blame my mother for this. Things get hard to keep track of.

3) We no longer live near family. When we lived in Utah (and only had two children) my mom would sometimes offer to take the girls to the playground so that I could write for a minute or two. Now all (or at least most) of my writing happens after the kids are in bed, which is when many other things are supposed to happen (such as the cleaning of the kitchen). Now we have three kids and only the two of us to provide for their every little need.

4) A lot of stressful things happened this year. Does anyone else feel like we got bombarded with bad news the past few months? Raise of hands? Yeah. We were busy dealing with other stuff and even though writing is my outlet sometimes there isn't even time for outlets.

5) I edited my mom's dissertation and a friend's book, which used up a lot of my writing time (but was also a lot of fun).

So, expect to hear more from me in November. A lot more, apparently, since I've already completed a third of my monthly average and it's only the first week...

Temple Date

Now that I know Benjamin will tolerate being left with a babysitter we're planning on going out a lot more often. We went to the temple again this morning to celebrate my friend's son's first birthday. He was born with half a heart and deemed too weak/little to be operable. My friend was told he'd die within a few hours of birth, but he didn't. He's been fighting ever since!

He had an operation a couple of months ago to put a stent in to help open his arteries. The doctors are hoping they'll strengthen/enlarge so they can do full-blown heart surgery.

So far, though, this little guy is going strong. He's a medical marvel. For some reason, against all odds, this little guy just keeps staying alive.

His mother attributes all his progress to faith and prayers. Prayers to heal the baby. Prayers to guide the medical experts. Prayers for their family unit to thrive despite all the stress of being in and out of the hospital.

Little moments

While Daddy was gone the girls were so good to me and to each other. Here they are colouring the puzzle Miriam got for her birthday (and, yes, Miriam has one dress on backwards with a jumper over top—it's sure to be the next big craze).

A bit about Benjamin

Benjamin likes to run his hands through his hair while he eats. I don't know where he gets that from. (Actually I do: From me. He gets it from me.) What's he wearing on his face tonight? Mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, and green beans. He didn't touch the meatballs. I think the only thing that made it into his tummy were the olives (and he ate a ton of them).


Miriam's first big haircut

Ever since she decided not to be Rapunzel for Halloween, Miriam has been talking about cutting her hair. But I just couldn't bring myself to do it...until it got long enough to sit on and kept getting caught in all the wrong places and she started to refuse to let me brush it for days at a time.

This evening when I was bathing Miriam and Benjamin her hair got all wrapped around his arm so he was freaking out trying to get it off and she was freaking out because he was pulling her hair and I said, "Maybe it's time for a haircut." And then her hair got tangled in the limbs of a toy alligator and she said, "Maybe after bath time we can have haircut time."

So that's what we did.

She wanted it "as short as Rachel's but not as short as a boy's." We went for ten inches (so that she could donate to Locks of Love) but ended up cutting off about a foot.


She is quite pleased with the results. And I suppose I am, too, though part of me wants to lock her inside a doorless tower for the rest of her life. Or at least until she's twenty.

Friday, November 01, 2013

Halloween 2013

Rachel's teacher has a "pumpkin day" in his class every year, embracing Halloween as an educational opportunity rather than trying to ignore it while also trying to keep the children's attention. He is such a great teacher. He even sent home a note inviting Miriam to come participate in pumpkin day as well. She was thrilled to bits and pieces; Rachel was equally excited.

Miriam wasn't the only preschooler there (though Benjamin was the only baby). The teacher had invited a few other future-students to participate. He says that he loves having the little kids visit his class because (a) it's good for the students to read to younger kids, (b) the teacher thinks it's fun to show current students pictures of themselves in his classroom from days of yore, and (c) he figures it's better to have the parents with little ones there rather than not have enough parent volunteers.

Visiting Rachel's classroom worked out really well for us this year because when Andrew came home on October 29th I had to tell him that we had no pumpkins and no candy because all we'd done while he was gone was cough, sneeze, b;ow noses, change diapers, throw up, and stay up all night screaming (while also managing to turn the house into a complete disaster). I was hanging onto sanity by a thread. Pumpkins? Candy? Ain't nobody got time for that!

So here was an offer to get two pumpkins (one for each child who cared about such things) for $4 and all I had to do was show up and help 50 kids measure and weigh their pumpkins (and then stand back and pray no paint splattered in my direction)? Deal.


Enos

Andrew's amazingly skilled at guessing scripture references. This always impresses me because I'm hopeless when it comes to scripture references. I can quote passages of scripture just fine...until it comes to remembering the reference. This probably stems from having an inadequate scripture marking system (Andrew's is far superior).

Sometimes I will read him a random scripture and then quiz him on where to find it, just for fun. He's usually spot on for the book and chapter, though his verse identification could use some work. But who am I to talk, really, because I use him as my living, breathing topical guide when I'm too lazy to look up a scripture on my own.

Last night I read to him a passage from Enos, which, by the way, is a single-chapter book of scripture.

"And after I, Enos, had heard these words, my faith began to be unshaken in the Lord;" I read, then asked him sarcastically, "Where's that scripture?"

"I dunno," he said.

"Wha-ha-ha-hat?" I laughed.

"You caught me," he said sheepishly. "I wasn't paying attention."

"Let me read it again," I offered. "And after I, Enos, had heard these words, my faith began to be unshaken in the Lord."

"Oh, that's embarrassing," Andrew said. "Could it be...Enos 1?"

"And the verse?" I probed.

"Ten?" he guessed.

"So close. Eleven, but I'm also going to read twelve. And I prayed unto him with many long strugglings for my brethren, the Lamanites. And it came to pass that after I had prayed and labored with all diligence, the Lord said unto me: I will grant unto thee according to thy desires, because of thy faith."

Out of gas

On Wednesday night we had our ward Halloween party, which started at 6:30. I knew we'd be crunched for time since we had to eat dinner and get all costumed up, especially since Rachel's had a substitute bus driver this past week—which means her bus has been running about half an hour behind schedule. She didn't walk off that bus until 4:30 in the afternoon and—did I mention that's awesome because that used to be her regular time but there was some kid on her route who gets car sick so they reversed the route and now she is supposed to get dropped off at around 4:00.

I think I did a happy dance when I got that letter from the transportation department.

Anyway...

She wanted to play with the neighbours when she got home, so I told her that she was welcome to...until Daddy got home because then it was going to be time for dinner. I expected him home on time because we had this party to get to. But he was late.

I watched the minutes creep by on the clock.

5:05...

5:10...

5:15...

5:20...

5:25...

5:30...

Where was he?! He's not exactly the best at communicating when he's going to be late (eek!).