Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Christmas afternoon with the Laytons

Our first stop in Utah County was my Auntie Judy's house for a family lunch.


I'm dreaming of a...

Since we bought our plane tickets...in October...the girls have been dreaming about snow because we'd be going to Utah (greatest snow on earth, right?).

It snowed the first morning Miriam, Benjamin, and I were there, but not very much. And then it was super warm. Ridiculously warm. Light jacket warm. Warmer than it was at home in North Carolina warm. So obviously there was no snow.

But on Christmas morning we woke up to a decent (by southern standards) blanket of snow. After opening presents, the kids bundled up with Daddy and Gampy-dad and headed out into the snow (I didn't bundle up and snapped a few pictures, but then I went back inside).


Christmas morning with the Heisses

I think the plan was that Grandpa and Grandma were going to get up and go downstairs to wait with the girls--who undoubtedly would be excited for Christmas morning--while Andrew and I slept soundly on waited for Benjamin to wake up and then we'd call it Christmas morning. That's what I thought the plan was. Instead what happened was this...

Grandpa got up and went downstairs. Miriam was the first one to wake up. In her words they, "watched Bible videos" while Grandpa read his scriptures (I believe he put on some videos depicting the nativity for her). She started getting a little bored and wound up in my room, shaking me awake.

"Oh, no! Miriam!" I said. "You're awake! You must have gotten up earlier than we bargained for. Is Rachel awake?"

"Yes," she said.

"Oh, dear! She's not in the living room, is she? You guys need to stay out of the living room until we can all go in there together. Go downstairs; I'll be there in a minute."

I got up and went to the bathroom. Because pregnancy.

And while I was in there, my girls tromped up the stairs. Miriam--and Grandpa, from what Miriam tells me--woke Rachel up and dragged her out of bed. She was not happy about it. But there were presents to be had and now the girls were upstairs, one excited, one grumpy, and both ready for some Christmas cheer. So we woke up Andrew and Benjamin just as Grandma was getting out of the shower.

Benjamin's usually pretty cheerful about being woken up because he thinks sleep is evil. His attitude is usually along the lines of, "Oh, did I drift off there? Thanks for rescuing me from my nemesis, Sleep." Also, there were presents.

We opened our stockings before breakfast.



Monday, December 29, 2014

Christmas Eve: The Krampus Strikes

We spent a relatively quiet Christmas Eve day at Andrew's parents' house. My mom, David, Josie, and Grandma Layton joined us for dinner, along with Grandpa Frank, Katharine, Todd, and Kayl. We had the traditional beef and green chili burritos (Karen's family tradition) for Christmas Eve dinner and then my grandma was ready to go home.

She's been going downhill relatively fast the past couple of years. She's spent her whole life taking care of everyone else--raising her seven children, helping to run the family business, and then taking care of my ailing grandfather until his death. After he died it's like she hasn't know what to do with herself. She's suffering from dementia quite badly now and after my mom and I got her inside her house (it took a few minutes to convince her to go through the proper door because she's was sure she could open the garage with the code--but, of course, she couldn't remember the code) and helped her settle into her living room (finding light switches and showing her where my mom'd left Christmas presents) we turned to go and Grandma said, "Thanks for coming to see me."

"You're welcome," we smiled. 

We hadn't come to see her at all. We'd only been in her home for a couple of minutes. It had been she who'd come to see us.

Grandma Layton with me, my mom, Josie, and my kids

Christmas Adam at Discovery Gateway

Our pass to the Durham Museum of Life and Science grants us access to a whole slough of other science museums around the country. The only caveat is that the museum has to be at least 90 miles away from your home address, so museums in Raleigh aren't included but museums in Utah? Those definitely are.

That means we've been able to do a bunch of things here that we ordinarily wouldn't be able to afford to do, which has been fun.

On Christmas Adam (the day before Christmas Eve, of course) we took the train from Daybreak into downtown Salt Lake to visit the Discovery Gateway Museum. Benjamin was so excited the entire train ride. He loved when we'd pass other trains, he loved when the doors opened and closed, he loved spotting buses and trucks and buildings from the windows. He was having a grand old time. He almost didn't want to get off, but get off we eventually did.

We walked from the train station to the old train station, which is now just a venue for parties and things. It's open during the day and there're bathrooms inside (that's the main reason we went inside). I don't think I've ever been in there--it was pretty neat.


Tree of Life (December 22)

We went to church at Naanii and Bumpa's ward before packing up to head back to Grandma and Grandpa's house. Rachel cried. Benjamin went to nursery willingly. And Miriam was a socialite, of course.

When I picked the kids up from their classes Rachel was fine. Miriam was being a socialite. And Benjamin was crying.

"What's wrong, buddy?" I asked.

"Me turn baby nursery," he explained. "Me cry."

He was just miserable. Usually he says "me turn baby night" because that gives him "permission" to fuss and carry on at bedtime. This is the first time he's "turned baby" anywhere else.

"Mine 'spenders fall off! Mine pants fall down!" he sniffed.

"I can help you with your suspenders," I offered.

"Me not 'ike a nursery guys," he continued.

I'm sure he'd like them just fine if he took the time to know them. But they weren't his "nursery guys" and everything was different and he found that frustrating. He hasn't been so happy about being picked up from nursery since he started enjoying it (about six months ago).

I think this picture was actually from Monday, not Sunday, but here's what the kids look like all squished in the backseat together. Having them all sit this close together has been interesting; there's been a lot more fighting on car rides!

The Poker, The Thumb-sucker, The Grumper

Temple Square (December 20)

In the evening we head up to Salt Lake to see the Lights at Temple Square. My sister Kelli wanted to meet with the kids before Christmas but it's been hard to get our schedules to collide. This evening worked.

It had been so warm during the day but started to get a little colder (than we were used to) at night, so we bundled up and headed out. Uncle David joined us again and the kids enjoyed riding on his shoulders. I'm not really sure what Miriam's doing in this picture...but...uh...it needed to be included here:

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Bean Museum, take two (December 20)

On Saturday morning we returned to the Bean Museum for another go. Benjamin recognized it right away, which I thought was rather impressive for a two-year-old who'd only been there once (granted it was just the day before). "Bean moo-see-um!" he shouted. "Me 'ike a Bean moo-see-um!"

This time Rachel and Uncle David came along. I didn't take many pictures, but I did take a few of the kids goofing around in the play area.


Gingerbread Houses

I was quite relieved when Grandma mentioned on Skype on day that she was planning on making gingerbread houses with the kids because I wasn't feeling up to Christmas baking this year. So I didn't bake anything. Not a single thing. And the kids still got to make gingerbread houses!

Benjamin spent most of his time stuffing candy in his mouth as fast as he possibly could.


Friday, December 26, 2014

Benjamin meets Santa (December 19)

I'm still a week behind, it seems, so I very well may never catch up. We had a quiet day at my mom's house today because Benjamin was running a fever (I'm really hoping it's only because he's teething) so I suppose having little to tell about today will help me catch up overall.

We last left you at the Bean Museum and I wondered what else we'd done that day (last Friday). We went home and made dinner and waited for Andrew and Rachel to drive down after their movie. I was following their progress on my phone and noticed that although Andrew's little dot was moving closer to my little dot, his estimated time of arrival kept getting later and later.

"They probably hit some traffic," I said, right as the phone rang. It was Andrew. "Hello?"

"Hey--we hit some traffic. You should just eat dinner without us. Maybe we'll meet you there if we're stuck too long. I'll let you know what we decide to do."

Our plan was to go to the Riverwoods Shopping Center to visit Santa Claus. Benjamin has been dying to meet him because he "uvs" Santa and Santa "uvs" him and he's going to come to his house and bring him "prezzies" and it was all so very exciting. It was also rather warm, so we didn't mind meeting Santa at an outdoor plaza.

We didn't ever hear back from Andrew and Rachel though, so I pulled out my phone to see where they were just in time to see their dot collide with mine.

"They must be here," I said, and someone went to the door to let them in. Rachel ate some quick dinner (Andrew was too full of movie theater popcorn to eat) and then we left.

Riverwoods was pretty crowded but the lines moved relatively quickly. Benjamin was so, so excited the whole time we were waiting for Santa. He could hardly contain himself. But when we got up there he, of course, chickened out and had to sit on my lap instead of Santa's.



Santa looked a bit of a character. He had peppermint-swirl earrings.



Santa asked the kids what they wanted and I listened in intently even though we were pretty well finished Christmas shopping at that point.

Rachel said she wanted books and origami paper. Miriam asked for more princess dolls. Benjamin said he wanted presents ("prezzies"). That is the beauty of children who never see actual commercials. They have no idea what's out there.



When Rachel brought home her list from school she had on there (besides books, origami paper, and a soccer ball) "rubber bands" with "for fights with Dad" erased. We thought that was a pretty humorous request...but she ended up with a rubber band ball from Santa and was awfully excited about it.

As we were leaving Santa's little hut Benjamin called out over my shoulder, "Oh, 'ook! Santa! Me uvs Santa!"

He got over his shyness just a minute too late.

Since it was so warm we decided we could also wait in line for the carriage ride.




The girls were most excited to see the horses but Benjamin was most excited to see our driver. He had a long white beard, so he must be...

"Santa!" Benjamin squealed, pointing at the driver. "Nuzzy [another] Santa!"

The driver turned, winked at me, and drawled to Benjamin, "You callin' me fat?"



He took us for a brisk stroll around the Riverwoods parking lot. We learned he was from Alabama and was hungry enough to eat chitterlings.

"But I bet no one here knows what those are!" he said. "You ever hear of chitterlings?"

"Actually, we have," we answered.

"Well, where are you from?" the driver asked. "Can't be from around here!"

"We're visiting from North Carolina," Andrew informed him.

"Uh-huh! Then you'd know what chitterlings are alright!"

Not that we'd ever eat them on purpose.

It was a fun--and not too cold--evening. And as an added bonus we ran into Lacy née Nay and her new husband! It's also fun to see Josie embracing aunthood. She's been an aunt her entire life--since before she was even born--but is just starting to enjoy having enough of an age gap between her nieces and nephews and herself to enjoy it. I guess there's a different feeling to being an aunt at age 20 to being an aunt at age 3.


We once lost Josie at my grandpa's funeral (or was it grandma's?) because we'd accidentally sent her off to play with "great-grandkids" while the grandchildren rehearsed a musical number. We kept counting cousins and coming up one short--and then we realized that it was Josie we were missing!


Although she still hasn't gained many years on the older nieces and nephews, she's definitely older than my kids and it's fun to see her enjoying her role.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Bean Museum, take one

Grandpa and Rachel have had a longstanding plan to go to the new Hobbit movie the day after she got here, so she was busy on Friday afternoon (along with Grandpa and Grandma and Daddy). I, however, needed to get down to Provo to visit with my friend (and famous author) Shallee before she moved that weekend, so my mom came to pick me and the little ones up.

We spent a few minutes at their house so Naanii could eat some lunch. Bumpa and Auntie Josie set up the ball pit for the kids to play in and they went wild playing "microwave popcorn" and "swimming" and doing all the other fun things you do in a ball pit.


Monday, December 22, 2014

Snow!!!

Grandpa Frank asked me how the weather was in North Carolina. "Well," I said. "It's been unseasonably cold...but Utah's been unseasonably warm...so I guess the weather's about the same in both places!"

It's been weirdly warm here (until tonight...). We've had jacket weather, rather than coat weather. It's been raining rather than snowing. And it's just a lot warmer than we thought it was going to be (but there's a storm coming so I'm sure that will change).

On Thursday morning, however, while we were anxiously awaiting the arrival of Andrew and Rachel, it started snowing while we were eating breakfast. Benjamin and Miriam could hardly finish their cereal before heading outside (if I remember correctly we had to drag them back in from the porch because looking out the window wasn't good enough). As soon as they'd gulped down the last of their milk they were begging for hats and mittens.

Grandma and I got them bundled up and sent them outside to play. It was no big surprise that they were the only kids out there enjoying it. Anyone looking out their window at them probably thought they were crazy for being so excited over a little skiff of snow.


Kayl's Concert

Most of the day Wednesday was pretty quiet. The kids woke up fairly early in the morning (their little bodies being two hours ahead of Utah schedule). We had breakfast and then lounged around in our pyjamas, exploring all of Grandma's toys before starting our day. She took us out to run a few errands. We went to the library to check out some books because my children always want more stories. Then we went to IKEA to pick up a few things (outlet covers and some small chairs) and to have lunch.

Both Miriam and Benjamin had macaroni and cheese (and were as pleased as punch about it--they think we should have macaroni and cheese for every meal).

When we got home Benjamin and I went down for a nap and Miriam hung out with Grandma. Grandma found a new Frozen game for her iPad and that kept Miriam occupied for quite some time.

In the evening we headed down to Pleasant Grove for cousin Kayl's Christmas concert. He's attending Spectrum Academy, a charter school for children with autism, and has been loving it! He's doing so well there. He's in grade one this year (he's only three months younger than Rachel but since he has an October birthday like Miriam he's a full year behind Rachel in school) and his class sang a cute called Reindeer Twist. All the students were dressed in a little reindeer costume with bells on their antlers and they'd shake their heads around while they were dancing. It was pretty cute.

After his number was over we left to go to dinner at The Purple Turtle.


And then, because we were in the area, we swung down to visit my parents. The kids had fun exploring Naanii and Bumpa's new house (both my parents and Andrew's parents have downsized since we moved to North Carolina so we went "home" to strange houses) and seeing where they would sleep when we'd spend the night. Auntie Josie got out some volleyballs and stuffed animals for the kids to play with while everyone visited.

Miriam was completely convinced her ball was a soccer ball and she knows that you only use your feet for those, but Benjamin wanted his ball to be a "throwing ball."

"Keep it on the ground," everyone kept telling him. "It's a kicking ball. Put it down."

"Not kicking ball!" he'd say, lifting the ball over his head. "Shrowing ball!"

"No, no! It's a rolling ball. Put it on the ground and roll it around."

It was an ongoing battle, but I thought we'd finally gotten the message across and made the mistake of taking my eyes off of him to say something to my mom.

That little boy came right up to me with that ball raised above his head and wailed the ball at my face. It hit me square on the nose and--boy, howdy!--it hurt! I spent a couple of days with a very sore nose and the next time we visited Naanii's house those volleyballs were no where in sight (but some other toys had been brought out). 

Airport Pictures

Here are a few pictures of the kids at the airport playground:


Flying to Utah (December 16)

Needless to say, the past few days have been a complete whirlwind. I stayed up way too late packing on Monday night--after a wonderful FHE (a carol sing-along) with the Adamsons (and Greens and Doyings and Schmutzes)--and then between getting up to use the bathroom (because pregnant) and being so nervous about sleeping in that I couldn't sleep at all, 3 AM on Tuesday morning came far too quickly.

Obviously we were able to wake up in time to get to the airport. Andrew dropped me off with Miriam and Benjamin and we made it through security with all our carry-on luggage. Andrew flew Southwest so he brought all the checked baggage (since that's free). I flew minimally with the kids--two backpacks, a stroller, a diaper bag, and a suitcase. I was so happy when they announced that they'd most likely be running out of room in the overhead bins so if anyone wanted to check their carry-on suitcase through to their final destination free of charge they could. I jumped at the chance. Because I'm whiny...and being pregnant and pushing a stroller with a diaper bag on it while wearing a backpack and pulling a suitcase and backpack-laden five-year-old behind me was just too much of a burden.

It's times like these when I realize I would make a terrible pioneer.

My life just seemed so much easier without that suitcase to pull along. I almost wished the other things I was toting could have been packed, too, but food, extra changes of clothes, and Miriam's little bag of tricks were deemed necessities we could not be separated from.

The kids were pretty great on the flight, to tell the truth. There were a few fights over the iPod, but the ear buds don't really fit in their little ears so they really weren't very interested in it for long. Miriam's backpack was full of surprises and activities and they mostly occupied themselves.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Happy Anniversary

I'm on a plane right now, but I thought I should tell the world that it's our anniversary!

Nine years ago on this day in history, Andrew and I got married. How did that ever happen? Well...

October 12, 2005: Andrew was released from his mission. Hours after taking off his name tag, he met me in the Harold B. Lee Library and we went on our first date (to the Cougar Eat—soooo romantic).

October 14, 2005: We went our second date (a picnic in the canyon—much more romantic). From that point on we saw each other every single day until we got married.

October 18, 2005: Andrew asked me to be his girlfriend. He said he was finished "dating around" (having gone one one date with one other girl *begin fist shake* Stormie *end fist shake*) and wanted to "be official." We held hands for the first time. By accident.

October 21, 2005: We kissed for the first time. On purpose.

October 26, 2005: We got engaged. By accident.

December 16, 2005: We got married. On purpose.

*****

We "officially" dated for 1 week and 1 day. We were engaged for 1 month and 3 weeks.

In our defense, we had known each other for five years, so I suppose we knew—a little—what we were getting into.

A few stories should be shared in greater detail, like how we accidentally got engaged. I think I mentioned this story once in passing and I think someone (Amy?) asked me to share more about it...but I don't think I ever did.

We were just starting a tradition of going to the temple once a week (a tradition we kept going until Rachel was born (except for a brief hiatus during our semester in Jordan)—and then such frequency wasn't manageable anymore). We met young Italian man in the baptistry. He and Andrew were talking in Italian in the locker room and they continued their conversation as we walked out of the temple. The young Italian man was unaware that I had been taking an Italian class.

"Quando stai sposi?" the young man suddenly asked Andrew ("When are you getting married?").

"Che cosa?!" I sputtered ("What?!").

"Lei parla italiano!" Andrew gasped out ("She speaks Italian!").

The young man broke away from us at a run. "Ummm... It was nice to meet you. Good-bye!" he called out.

Andrew and I walked on in silence for a few paces before he stopped and turned to face me.

"Hypothetically speaking, could that ever happen?" Andrew asked.

"Yes!" I said. "I think so. Do you think so?"

"Yes!" he said.

And just like that we were engaged. We went ring shopping soon after that but then the ring had to be sized so I didn't get it until much later. Rings aren't necessary for an engagement, right?

*****

Since getting married we've...
  • lived in 2 states
  • lived in 3 countries
  • had 3.5 children
  • moved 6 times (plus a couple more, maybe)
  • competed 9 years of school
  • visited 14 countries (collectively)
  • visited 26 states and 2 provinces (collectively)
  • spent 12 years serving in primary (collectively)
  • started a handful of small kitchen fires
  • held down an uncountable number of odd jobs
  • had a really great time
Nine years down. Infinity to go!

I'm hoping the next nine years will bring...
  • at least .5 more children
  • another graduation followed by
  • an actual job, which will probably entail
  • another move
  • more travel
  • more good times

Monday, December 15, 2014

Kicking Guacamole

I've almost been holding my breath waiting for this moment—quickening—and I'm pretty sure I can now feel our baby moving around! This being our fourth baby you'd think I'd be all calm, cool, and collected. It's routine by now, right?

Instead I think I've been the most stressed out I've ever been, worrying constantly. Constantly.

Right now these little kicks are assurance that the baby's still there (though I definitely reserve the right to complain about them later when they progress from little kicks to huge wallops).

I've been feeling what I thought might be kicks for about a week now but I wasn't quite sure they were what they were until a few nights ago. So, I suppose technically I started feeling kicks at 14 weeks, but we'll call it 15.

Here's when I was positive about my babies moving:

Rachel: 19 weeks
Miriam: 16 weeks
Benjamin: not sure because I didn't write about it, but Andrew was already feeling kicks at 17 weeks
This baby: 15 weeks

When I told Andrew that I could feel the baby moving he said, "How big is it now?"

"About the size of an avocado," I said.*

"Maybe it's making guacamole," he quipped.

"Thanks. Now I'm hungry," I said.

"Gross," Andrew said. He hates guacamole.

So, there you have it.

*15 weeks is technically an apple. 16 weeks is an avocado. I was a little off with my fruit comparison. I don't really understand the fruit comparison thing anyway. I think it mostly has to do with length....? I usually start rounding up quite a bit, too, as in, "Oh, I'm 16 weeks, 1 day. That's like 17 weeks!" So I'm usually pretty confused about how far along I actually am at any given moment.

Make your own ball!

Years and years ago—I can't find the post—I wrote about how Rachel once found a ball in the diaper bag in the middle of sacrament meeting, yelled, "BALL!" at the top of her lungs, and chucked that sucker across the chapel. It was a learning moment for me as a mother: make sure there are no balls in the diaper bag when going to meetings that are intended to be quiet and reverent.

Check. Lesson learned. Got it. Thanks.

(But let's take a moment to appreciate a new word! My baby can talk! (I'm pretty sure that was in the post, too)).

Now, it's been said that raising boys is different from raising girls, that they're intrinsically different from each other. I don't disagree with this entirely, although I always point out that my girls are polar opposites so I've found that raising girls is different from raising girls. Still, boys have their fun little boyish traits that just pop out every now and then.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Ukulele Videos

Here are the videos Andrew took of our little ukulele choir:







Saturday, December 13, 2014

Ukulele Choir

Our ukulele choir has shrunk a little since last year, but we still managed to meet together throughout the year to practice. It's possible we've even improved since last year. I'll be uploading some videos tonight, so stay tuned... Until them here are some "stills" from the video. I'm not sure anyone took any pictures.


Luminaria 2014

I was afraid we were going to miss out on the neighbourhood luminaria this year but then, much to my happy surprise, they started advertising that it would be this weekend! We still didn't get to participate fully because we went to our ward Christmas party instead, but once we got home from that we went for a lovely (slightly chilly) walk around our neighbourhood. And the luminaries are still burning brightly!

There was one luminary by our house that didn't have a candle in the bag so it was "broken," which perplexed Benjamin to no end. He had to stop and check every single paper bag to make sure it was "working" as we made our way through the neighbourhood (so obviously we didn't make it through the entire neighbourhood because we had to go super slow).


Friday, December 12, 2014

For your enjoyment (by "your" I probably mean "grandparents'")

Here's the video of the beginning of the nativity:



And here's one of the end:

Preschool Pageant

A couple of nights ago I asked Rachel to retrieve "the best Christmas story ever" for story time. She looked at me a little strange, then went to our box of Christmas books and rifled around.

"Here?" she said, holding up a story.

"Umm...that's not it."

"Okay, here," she said, holding up a different one.

"That's not it, either, Rachel. There's only one. It's not that hard to find."

"Well, which one is it?" she asked.

"The one called The Best Christmas Pageant Ever," I said.

"Oh," she said. "You said 'the best Christmas story ever.'"

"Pretty sure I said pageant."

"You said story," Andrew confirmed. "Even I was wondering how she was going to magically pick out the right one."

Okay, fine. This has been happening to me a lot more frequently. I call it brain fog. And, yes, I blame it on my children—specifically on the littlest ones (like the ones the size of avocados). Anyway, we eventually did get out The Best Christmas Pageant Ever and now we're nearly through it. And last night we got to go to Miriam's Preschool Christmas Pageant!


The Strummer

Rachel's doing a unit on sound in school right now and the culmination of the whole thing is a "sound parade" where each brings in a homemade instrument and they march around the halls playing them. Parents were not invited and I'm really not too shaken up about this because I can only imagine how cacophonous this parade will be.

The instrument Rachel designed and created is called a strummer.



Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Heiss Holiday Humbug 2014

I finished writing this poem on Thanksgiving Day. And then I had to rewrite part of it and was left stewing over my broken stanza for quite a while. But I finally fixed it!

I also had to wait for Rachel to finish her reading goal for the year and then for Andrew to write about it. He totally geeked out and made all these charts and things "for me" to use as props in my post and I was like, "I don't even really know what to do with these and I don't think you've written a post since you blogged about Ghana in 2012, so I think it's about time you made a contribution."

He did a wonderful job and even used words like "quadrimodal," which I don't think I could have managed unless I needed to rhyme it with anecdotal or something.

Speaking of anecdotes, this poem is full of them!

(You can download a PDF of the newsletter here or catch the text-only version below the jump).

And now, without further ado...Merry Christmas to you and yours from me and mine!


Rachel's 2014 Reading Report

As we were making up New Year’s resolutions back in January, Rachel decided to make an audacious goal—read 365 books in 2014. She had just finished every book in the Magic Treehouse series and was determined read enough to be able to understand all seven Harry Potter books.

She totally smashed that goal.

Just for fun, we meticulously tracked her progress. Here’s how she did.

Cheers!

Miriam's been dying to take dance lessons again. She absolutely loved ballet and I thought it was the perfect fit for her. It was not, however, the perfect fit for our budget...but the same sports association that organizes Rachel's soccer league also has a cheer squad. My friend Suzi is in charge of it and kind of talked me in to signing Miriam up.

Tonight was the "first" night. All we did was have a meeting and try on uniforms, which was probably for the best since it's Miriam's turn to be sick. The poor thing can't stop coughing. Anyway, despite feeling terrible she was excited about the uniforms and pompoms and the list of cheers they handed out.


Sunday, December 07, 2014

Before it gets better it's got to get...

Benjamin had a fever on Wednesday night and a fever on Thursday night, but other than a lingering cough (lingering from his three weeks of croup) he seemed fine all day Friday and Saturday. Saturday night, though, he kept waking up and crying, which is rather uncharacteristic for him (the crying, not the waking up). He was a grumpy little monster in the morning, but we got him dressed and ready for church, anyway.

He did fine through sacrament meeting—aside from purposely kicking and hitting his sisters whenever he could manage it—but I took him to class with me instead of sending him to nursery because his cough was sounding a little too nasty.

I'd love to be (and occasionally try to be) the kind of mom who stays home with her kids when they're sick, but, uh, when they have a cough for a month you start just ignoring it and going out anyway.

Right in the middle of the lesson, I looked over to see Benjamin gagging. He'd been munching on a motley assortment of crackers: Angry Birds graham crackers, cheddar penguins, gold fish, and crasins (those aren't technically crackers). I wasn't sure if he was choking or what, so I said, "Are you okay, Benji?"

Saturday, December 06, 2014

Christmas at Historic Stagville

I know we were just at Stagville last week for family pictures, but we decided to head back again this Saturday for their antebellum Christmas celebration (after forcing the kids clean the house).

We got to see a meal being cooked over an open fire...


A bit of catch up

I feel like I've been lagging behind a bit, so here's a picture dump!

We started setting up for Christmas. Andrew magically got all the Christmas boxes down from the attic by himself. Benjamin thinks they make wonderful toys.


Friday, December 05, 2014

Benjamin Update

Aside from being sick again (no, not croup, a new one!), and aside from still being small, I'm pleased to announce that Benjamin is practically perfect in every way!

We had our 6-month follow-up to our well-baby check in June today, but with an attendant instead of a resident. I've rarely (never?) had a follow-up visit with a resident. Is that normal? I don't know.

But, basically, this doctor said that the resident was probably being a little overzealous.

Benjamin's not on the chart, but he's hugging his own little curve right below the the 0th-percentile line. He's growing at a normal rate...he's just on the small side. But he was displaying his two-year-old boy energy and vocabulary for the doctor and the doctor said he looks healthy and happy, so as long as he keeps putting on weight and getting taller, he doesn't see any problem.

Then, of course, I had to tell him all about my weight (because I can't set foot in a medical facility without them asking about my weight). I had to swear that my family consists of a bunch of beanpoles.

Evidence? Me with three of my siblings (this picture was taken when Benjamin was, like, two months old so I think I look like I just had a baby, but it does show that my siblings are similarly thin):


Wednesday, December 03, 2014

More from yesterday

Yesterday morning, of course, I had to drag my children out of bed to leave the house—because we actually had somewhere to be. This morning, Benjamin woke up early—because we have no where to be. That's just the way the world works, I guess.

Miriam is still sleeping though...maybe.

When I went in to wake her up yesterday, I flipped on the light and said, "Time to get up, sweetie! You have preschool this morning!"

She bolted out of bed and said, "Oh, yeah! I forgot! I wasn't sleeping. I was just getting my thumb-sucking in!"

So apparently she sometimes wakes up but stays in bed to suck her thumb—because no one's there to remind her not to do it. During the day I will remind her if I catch her (she is five, after all, and should be kicking this habit) but I haven't been saying anything about nighttime...yet.

I have a feeling that her thumb sucking habit is what's helped her be such a good sleeper all these years. Her dentist keeps assuring me that it's not a problem until she starts losing her baby teeth so we probably have a few years to get her to quit, but she loves her thumb.

Some people say that a thumb sucking habit is the worst but I, frankly, think the trade off was beautiful. Would you rather have a self-soothing thumb-sucker or a refuses-to-put-anything-in-their-mouth-but-breast scream-all-the-timer? The choice is clear to me, even if we're still battling thumb sucking years down the road.

Rachel lost her first tooth when she was 6.5 and the second tooth followed soon after but she hasn't lost any others, so Miriam still has a good two years, probably, before we really have to worry.

I told Andrew about Miriam last night and he thought it was pretty funny. But not as funny as he found this little exchange...

"I went to the post office," I said.

"What?! You packed up the kids and left the house for the express purpose of going to the post office?" he asked.

"Well, no," I said. "I stopped by on the way home after dropping Miriam off at preschool."

"Ah," he said. "That makes more sense. You never just run errands."

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Today I...


  • Got up and got Miriam to preschool only five minutes late.
  • Went to the post office and mailed some international letters.
  • Told everyone (yes, everyone) in the post office how old Benjamin is. And when he said, "Pick me up, Mommy!" and I said, "Not right now," they reminded me that they're only small once. I didn't tell them that I have two children bigger than him or that I have another one in my belly because sometimes sharing those things in public is like walking around with two heads. When I said that I couldn't hold him because he's too heavy he said, "Me not heavy. Me teeny tiny boy!" He squeaked out the last part. And everyone almost died of cute. And I squatted beside him in line because that's almost the same as holding him.
  • Went home and didn't shower like I was planning to because showering requires standing and I just stood in line at the post office. Standing can be exhausting. 
  • Read Benjamin a bunch of stories. He says, "Eat me dis book," and it always takes me a minute to remember that he's really saying "read" and not "eat."
  • Started going through my grandparents' biographies to find Christmas stories while Benjamin brought me more books to "eat" and I kept telling him to look at the pictures on his own.
  • Picked Miriam up for preschool...on time! Though I may have barked at Benjamin to "Step outside the house!" because he wanted me to carry him again but I was holding the storm door open, carting the diaper bag (which I guess is mostly my purse at this point—gee, it's a big purse), juggling keys, and trying to close and lock the front door. Even if I had a spare hand I'm not supposed to lift him, so... "Walk out the door. Just take a step. Benjamin. Move your feet. Fine I will carry you to the car just step outside the house. Go out of the door. Benjamin."
  • Came home, made, lunch, fed the children. 
  • Discovered Benjamin knows what N-A-P spells. Miriam spells everything now. Everything. In the car on the way home she said, "I-S B-E-N-J-A-M-I-N G-O-I-N-G T-O H-A-V-E A N-A-P T-O-D-A-Y?" That's code for "Can I selflessly volunteer to watch a highly educational show so that you, also, can take a nap?" I told her that what she spelled happened most every day. Benjamin said, "No. Me not M-I-N. Me not I-N-G. Me not N-A-P," the whole time she was spelling. So I'm not positive he knows what N-A-P means, but he does understand that spelling means bad news. And he spelled nap several times throughout the afternoon, including saying, "Me not N-A-P. Me just play!"
  • Took a nap. And Benjamin took a nap. And Miriam watched a show. Or two.
  • Went outside to play and wait for the school bus. Benjamin and Miriam are always so excited for the bus to bring Rachel home. They jump up and down for joy and run around in circles like puppies. Rachel was a little slow coming off the bus today and so the driver shrugged his shoulders, winked at me, and said seriously, "I guess your sister's not on the bus today." And Miriam and Benjamin just about died. But then Rachel appeared and they were happy again.
  • Helped Rachel with her homework and supplied after-school snacks.
  • Made dinner.
  • Put laundry into the dryer.
  • Helped Rachel make a cardboard ukulele. Now she'll "sleep much better tonight" because she's at least started on her project for the 2nd grade musical parade for science class that she's been stressing out about since October (at least) and that's not due until December 12. "I won't have to cry about it anymore," she said. "That's part of the reason I've been crying at bedtime." Well, glad to have remedied that. All Andrew could say was, "She's your daughter." Oh, and Miriam made a "shaker" out of beads and a toilet paper roll. She wrapped the whole thing up in construction paper like a Christmas present. It's gloriously hideous but she did it all by herself.
  • Helped children brush and floss and pyjamafy themselves.
  • Read scriptures and stories, said family prayer, sang lullabies, put the kids to bed.
  • Greeted husband.
  • Sat on the couch with a snack and watched a show while he worked until midnight.
  • Wrote this blog post.
Some days I spend most of my time wondering where my time actually goes. I think I spent 95% of my time today trying to make children do things while not actually doing things myself. Not that I didn't have things to do...just that I couldn't make them MOVE today. And then I was so exhausted from trying to make them do stuff that I couldn't do anything myself. 

Maybe tomorrow will be better. 

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Thanksgiving and beyond

On Thanksgiving morning Rachel made a pistachio pudding salad and I started pulling out things to make an actually healthy salad with. Unfortunately when I pulled out the tomatoes they were all moldy so Andrew ran to the grocery store on Thanksgiving Day just to pick up tomatoes.

I suppose it wouldn't have been as big of a deal if it was just our family that we were serving but we were having dinner at a friend/colleague/mentor/ward member's house (it's a multi-faceted relationship; let's just say we had dinner with the Rogersons) and we were only in charge of one thing. We had one job! So off for tomatoes Andrew went.

Benjamin flipped out a little when he saw Andrew getting ready to leave.

"Where mine Daddy go?" he asked.

"I'm going to the store," Andrew answered.

"Daddy miss me?" Benjamin asked.

"Yes, of course I'll miss you while I'm at the store for five whole minutes," Andrew said, rolling his eyes a little. Benjamin's very good at missing people.

Andrew's answer shattered Benjamin's spirits. He started to cry.

"Not mine Daddy miss me! Not me miss mine Daddy! Me miss mine Mommy! Me go wis Daddy. Me miss Mommy. Daddy, me go? Me go! Me go! Me go! Me go!" he pleaded.

Benjamin was clinging to Andrew's leg. Andrew really had no other option.

"Sure, you can come with me. Let's find a jacket for you," he said.

"Yay!" Benjamin cheered. "Me go Daddy! Me miss Mommy!"

They had a lovely adventure at the store together. The cashier offered Benjamin a balloon and came back with a big mylar balloon in the shape of a piece of pumpkin pie that had been on one of their displays (Andrew was expecting a dinky latex balloon). I guess they figured they didn't have any further use for it.

Benjamin sang about his "punky-pie boon" all the way home.


Saturday, November 29, 2014

Family Pictures 2014

One year to the day from the last time I dragged my family out into the wild for family pictures...I did it again. We didn't manage to leave the house until 2:30 PM, but this time I double checked to make sure Historic Stagville was open (because it was closed last year (even though I checked to make sure it was open)) so we didn't have to find an alternative location at the last minute.

Things turned out pretty well.



Friday, November 28, 2014

Who does Benjamin love?

Due to the Thanksgiving break Andrew's been home a lot more. Benjamin has really been enjoying this. Just this morning I woke up face-to-face with Benjamin, who said, "Hi, Mommy. Sunny day outside. Me love Daddy."

"Then wake Daddy up," I suggested.

"Okay!" Benjamin said, pouncing on Andrew.

It's pretty rare for Andrew to still be in the house when Benjamin wakes up and those two have been palling around all week. Benjamin wants Andrew first thing in the morning. He wants Daddy to get him breakfast. He wants Daddy to get him dressed, take him potty, and to pick him up when he's sad. When Daddy's trying to work, Benjamin will drag a stool over and sit beside him and just watch (and, you know, to bug him a bit).

I'm not complaining because it's been a really restful couple of days, but it has been quite a change from our normal routine (the one where I do everything for everyone, always). 

Benjamin still needs his nightly lullaby and when he wakes up in the middle of the night it's Mommy he wants to snuggle with, but all day, every day, it's been nothing but Daddy, Daddy, Daddy.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Turning Point?

After two solid weeks of croup-induced sleepless nights, Andrew and I were ready for a change. He'd spent most of those two weeks sleeping on the couch while I'd been sharing the bed with Benjamin, waking up every hour or so to help him through a coughing fit or to find his sippy cup or to go to the bathroom. When I wasn't waking up with him I was being kicked at because he's a fitful sleeper like his sister Rachel.

Co-sleeping with those two was never easy.

Co-sleeping with Miriam was a dream. She doesn't climb in bed with us very often anymore but when she does she lays perfectly still and we hardly even notice she's there.

I'm hoping baby #4 will sleep like Miriam.

I could use another infant who sleeps all day and all night, a toddler who takes at least one nap a day until they turn three, and a preschooler who insists on getting at least twelve hours of sleep per night (and will put themselves to bed and/or sleep in, if necessary, to get those twelve hours). It's bliss compared to how the other two were/are. I mean, I love all my children dearly but when I look back on Miriam's babyhood I can actually remember and smile about it. Most of what I remember from Rachel and Benjamin's babyhoods is being desperately exhausted. And a lot of screaming. Oh, the screaming.

Yeah, let's model baby #4 off Miriam.

In Benjamin and Rachel's defense they both had terrible, terrible reflux (which, frankly, I'd be happy to do without this time around) and Miriam didn't. So perhaps those two were justified to be up and screaming all the time.

Anyway, Rachel's fine now but Benjamin's still not a great sleeper. I told Andrew last night that we shouldn't even bother trying to get him back on a schedule until we get back from Utah because our trip is only going to throw him off again. But then he wandered into our bedroom at around midnight last night and I just couldn't even imagine trying to sleep one more night with him in my bed (I'm pretty sure I have bruises from sleeping with that child—and I'm not kidding).

"Oh, Benjamin," I sighed.

"Me seep Mommy bed," he asked, reaching up for me.

"No, Benjamin," Andrew said. "You need to go get into your own bed."

Surprisingly, Benjamin obeyed.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Mt. Occoneechee

Benjamin's had a hankering to get into the wild lately. Possibly due to the fact that I've taken him outside like three times since my pregnancy symptoms really kicked into gear, but also because he found a boogie board at Trading Tables last week and it's been kicking around the living room until...yesterday, I think, when...I finally put it in the shed with the rest of the boogie boards.

Every day—every meal, every snack—he mentioned that his favourite "part-a-day" was "Go beach—mine boogie board! Swim beach! Boogie board! Beach!" Or some variation of that.

He's dying to go to the beach. But it's a little cold for boogie boarding, in my opinion. So today we took the kids on a hike instead. Andrew had one of those weeks where he'd be gone from the house before anyone woke up (except for Rachel—who he'd put on the bus (so obviously we're not getting up very early)), then he'd come home, go directly to his office, and work until midnight or so. It was an exhausting week and I think the children had almost forgotten what he looks like. But it was also the last week of the semester—hallelujah!

So, today we took the kids on a hike. And it really couldn't have happened any other way because I probably would have collapsed somewhere along the way. I fell asleep on the way home as it was, so...

Anyway, we headed out to explore the highest mountain in Orange County—Mt. Occoneechee. With a staggering 350 ft. prominence (and overall elevation of 867 feet) you really can't miss it tell that it's a mountain, but the sign says it is, so I guess it is.

Andrew and I grew up in the shadow of Mt. Timpanogos. To give you an idea of why Mt. Occoneechee seems like a hill to us you should know that Mt. Timpanogos has an overall elevation of 11,752 feet and a prominence of 5, 270 feet.

The kids wanted their picnic lunch right when we got there, so that's what we did. All the picnic tables were in the shade and it was "so cold" (50°F (we're really going to freeze to death when we go to Utah)) that the kids were quite fussy.



Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Busy or not busy, that is the question

A few days ago I started a post like this: "Phew! Trading Tables is over! I seem to only be able to manage one..."

But I never finished it because then I got "busy" again.

So today I think I will start my post like this:

Phew! I finally finished my brother's wedding invitation and then it was decided that they'd hold a second reception in Utah County so I had to fiddle around with it again. I seem to only be able to manage one project at a time these days.

It's not even that I'm incredibly busy because I don't think I am. But if you went through every blog post from the past couple of months that uses the word "busy" and replaced it with "exhausted and pregnant" I think that would come pretty close to the actual truth.

I'm pregnant. And anemic. And that is a fabulous combination (just kidding).

So, as you recall, I wrote a post lamenting not being pregnant again in September. The truth was that I had every reason to believe I was not pregnant. And by "every reason" I mean "a whole lot of blood," which is usually a pretty good sign of not being pregnant. So I legitimately thought that I wasn't pregnant; it was a pleasant surprise to find out that I, in fact, was pregnant. It was even more happy when we saw the heartbeat on the ultrasound because bleeding in early pregnancy raises risk of miscarriage up to about 50% but if you see a heartbeat via ultrasound early on your pregnancy is considered "viable" and your risk of miscarriage drops to about 5%. I like those odds a lot better.

I'm a heavy bleeder when I'm not pregnant and I've been anemic through two pregnancies so far so it was no shock to have my doctor tell me that I was already anemic with this pregnancy (I was not anemic with Benjamin and when I got the results I was shocked; "Are you sure?" I asked the doctor incredulously).

I've been trying to plan our meals around iron-rich foods and I'm actually starting to feel a bit better now that I'm nearing the second trimester.

Anyway, Trading Tables was a nice thing to check off my list. My kids are always very excited about going "shopping." The night before Trading Tables we were having dinner and Miriam said, "So, have we decided if I'm going to attend Trading Tables?" When I told her that we didn't exactly have any other option she squealed with excitement.

She found a mermaid Barbie doll, which she was thrilled about, and a pair of boots that she loves.

Benjamin was in heaven. I think he found every car in the place. He kept bringing me things and saying, "Me 'ike 'is car. Me 'ike 'is."

"Do you like that?" I'd ask.

"Es. Me 'ike 'is."

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Fun times with potty time

Benjamin earned his train set today!

Not only did he fill up his sticker chart, he also finally told someone that he needed to go potty and then managed to hold it until we made it to the bathroom. I was practically bursting with pride...or relief. One or the other.

Andrew and I were in choir practice in the chapel and Benjamin was playing with his sisters in the cultural hall. The curtain was open a crack so that totally counts as supervising them. We were in the middle of rehearsing a song when Miriam rushed through the chapel doors and onto the choir stand.

"Mom!" she whispered. "Benjamin says he needs to go potty!"

I jumped up, ran for the diaper bag (because if he says he has to go that usually means he's already gone), and then rushed out to find him. He wasn't in the cultural hall anymore so I embarrassingly ran around the church calling, "Ben! Benji! Benjamin!" until I ran into my friend's husband, whose name, of course, is Ben.

"Oh, hey, Ben," I said awkwardly. "Have you seen my Ben?"

Friday, November 14, 2014

Telling Siblings

Do you want to know what my idea of torture is?

Calling every single family member to inform them of my pregnancy. Or anything.

I'm simply not a phone talker.

My cousin Elizabeth called me to announce her pregnancy for Bridget. She said she was calling everyone. Everyone?! Do you know how huge our family is?

I don't have that kind of stamina, so we've never announced that way.

For Rachel we made a video of a Santa turning into a pregnant lady. But the video link is broken, so...we'll have to find it. I'm sure it's somewhere? We also wrapped up bibs for our parents as a Christmas gift. We were 10 weeks along.

For Miriam we made a crossword puzzle and posted it on April Fool's day because there's really no better way to announce. I think we emailed it to our families the day before we posted it to the blog. We were 10 weeks along.

For Benjamin we wrote a little riddle. We were 9 weeks along.

For this baby we posted a series of YouTube videos for the public, along with a note saying "3.275 kids and counting" on Facebook. We're 11 weeks along (so it looks like we're getting better at keeping secrets).

We also did up a little something extra for our families since we accidentally offended a few members by not telling them before we told the world at large (we'd already told our parents so we figured our bases were covered). So, this is what we made up and sent out to our families (divided up into Heiss side and Layton side—this is them all jumbled together):


Telling Rachel

It was the night of November 2nd and all through the house
Only two creatures were stirring—me and my spouse.
The children were nestled all snug in their beds
Trying to sleep, counting sheep in their heads...

But not all of the children were asleep yet, of course, because my children are notoriously bad at sleeping. I had been working on our Christmas newsletter for this year, which is in poem format, as usual, when I felt the need for a potty break (something I feel the need for quite frequently nowadays). I had been working on a couplet announcing this coming babe and just left my draft sitting on my screen when I went to the bathroom—because the kids were in bed, so...

When I came out of the bathroom, Rachel was staring at the computer with her mouth hanging open.

"Is it true?" she asked.

"Is what true?" I asked.

She pointed at my screen.

"What?" I asked again.

"Are you really having a baby next year?” she asked.

“Yes,” I said.

And her mouth fell open again. She looked really excited.

Telling Miriam

If there's one thing I will regret in my life it's not having the camera ready to record Miriam's reaction when we told her we were having another baby.

We went public yesterday and so we decided it was probably time to tell the rest of the children. Rachel, sneaky girl that she is, had already found out (read about that in the next post). We were casually, secretively, talking about this at the dinner table when Andrew said, "Huh. I guess we can tell the other kids now since we've told everybody else."

"Rachel," I offered. "Why don't you tell them?"

"Are you...are you sure?" Rachel stammered.

The poor girl has been bursting at the seams with this news and has been dropping hints left and right (read about that in the next post) but has somehow managed to hold it in.

"Sure," Andrew said. "It's public knowledge now so you can tell people. Go ahead and tell your sister, tell your friends, tell whoever."

"Oh, I've already told some friends," Rachel said.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Shoot for the stars

Miriam's bridge (in gymnastics) or wheel (in yoga) is coming right along. Her form isn't quite right but she's only recently figured out how to lift her head off the ground, so I'm sure her form will improve. But look at how flexible she is! I don't think I've ever been that flexible (even when I was five).


Tonight at the dinner table Miriam asked if she could be a pop star when she grew up. I told her that she might if she practiced singing and ukulele and piano a lot. A pop star needs to know how to read music and how to play chords and how to dance and how to write nice poems for song lyrics. It's a lot of work.

"And can I have a microphone?" she asked.

"We'll see," I said.

I don't know that she'll ever become a pop star (or a world-famous gymnast) but if these dreams can get her to practice music now and if it can get her to work on her flexibility now then perhaps she'll grow up to not be an untalented adult.

That's basically my goal as a parent.

Becoming world famous? Not so much. Not being talentless? Definitely.

Oh, and pictures

Before we left the park (after lunch and playing) I made the kids sit still for a picture.

They smiled beautifully.


Especially that one kid in the middle...


Potty training (literally)

Before Benjamin was even born we made a trip to IKEA and picked up a wooden train set. I don't think that's what we went to IKEA for but I saw it and I loved it and we knew we wouldn't have an IKEA close by out here so we got it. And it's been sitting in my closet ever since, waiting for the perfect moment.

Holidays have ticked by and my little baby has finally grown into a little boy and like many little boys he loves all things that go. Planes, cars, trucks, buses, boats, trains...doll strollers (there's definitely an older-sister influence at our house, so, yes, he also loves pushing dolls around in strollers). Still, we haven't yet given him that train set. 

I decided around his second birthday that we'd wait until Christmas. I wasn't sure he had the fine motor skills needed for putting the tracks together at that point and thought it would be better to hold off until he did. That way I wouldn't be stuck putting together train tracks all day every day for the next however long. So we've been working on puzzles and things and his fine motor skills have improved and he still loves trains and it was going to be the perfect Christmas gift.

But now we're not going to be home for Christmas. We're going to be in Utah. And I don't want to cart all our gifts out there so we'll either be doing Christmas before we go or after we get back. Either way we won't be doing Christmas on Christmas...

So when I needed a really good bribe I went ahead and brought the train out. I showed it to Benjamin and that boy went berserk. He was crazy excited about it. He wanted to play with it right then

And then I dropped the bomb on him.

"This is only for little boys who go potty on the potty," I said. 

Sunday, November 09, 2014

That one time we lost the van

This morning Andrew opened the front door—with car keys in hand—while instructing the children to get into the van, get into their own seats, and buckle up. He stopped mid-sentence, the remote poised in the air, mouth hanging wide open.

"What...?" he sputtered. "Where's...? Whaaa? The van is gone!"

For a minute our calm household dissolved into chaos, confusion, and panic.

"The van's gone! The van's gone!" the children chanted.

My heart also leapt to my throat when I glanced out the door and saw the empty driveway.

But then...

"Oh, there it is!" someone pointed out (I can't remember who).

There it was, parked right across the street. Andrew had moved it yesterday afternoon so the birthday party kids could draw on the driveway with sidewalk chalk. We just forgot to move it back when we were finished, that's all. Phew!

It's the little things that keeps life interesting.

Saturday, November 08, 2014

Falling Leaves

My friend/cousin Heidi just emailed me to catch up on life. She saw my story in The Friend and though she'd write to me (which is probably the best benefit of being published in The Friend—I've been contacted by more than one friend I haven't heard from in a while because of it). She asked about our leaves and whether I'd taken any pictures of the pretty colours.

I must admit that I'm mostly failing on that front this year. We really ought to get a hike under our belt but things have just felt so busy lately. Maybe we can do something on Tuesday since it's a holiday.

What falling leaves mean to us regardless of busyness, however, is yard work and yesterday afternoon we all worked together to clean up the yard (except for Rachel who was still at school). Miriam and Benjamin had a blast helping rake up piles so they could jump into them.


Miriam's Princess Party

This morning Benjamin and Miriam were the first two up. They closed our bedroom door and put on Wild Kratts (I was just informed that it was Miriam and Rachel who woke up first; Benjamin joined them only after they turned on the show; and apparently it was still dark when Rachel woke up—the sun rose at 6:46 AM). I was 100% okay with that but eventually we had to get up anyway. We had many party preparations on our docket. We had to clean the house and bake cupcakes and finish getting all our games ready.

Here's Miriam dressed up as Rapunzel, playing in her balloon-filled castle. Andrew helped me make it last night after we put the kids to bed. At first he felt daunted by the task until I showed him what I had in mind (this, not this).


Thursday, November 06, 2014

Halloween

This evening at Relief Society some friends were RSVPing for Miriam's birthday party, which is this Saturday. I sent out this invitations this morning. We're going for low-key fun this year. I figure that since we ask friends to not bring presents they don't need a lot of notice about the party—they just come, play, eat a cupcake, and go home. Easy, peasy.

Mickie was the first to RSVP—a no. They're going out of town this weekend—spur of the moment birthday party for her niece—but if they had been around they would have totally been in.

"Wasn't her birthday a while ago?" Heidi asked (she didn't get the email but I think her daughter will be coming now that she knows about it).

"Well, yeah," I admitted. "But it's right before Halloween and that was busy and then all of a sudden it's November and everything's crazy. There are too many holidays this time of year. I'm falling behind already!"

"Speaking of Halloween," Mickie said. "Miriam's costume was darling. She was so beautiful in that dress!"

"Oh, that was all my mom," I said. "When Miriam said she wanted to be Mary Poppins I was fine with the idea until she said she wanted to be the white and red Mary Poppins and then I was like, 'Oh, no!' But my mom found that dress at Savers and mailed it to us—she was so excited for Miriam. She said she just must miss having little girls around to spoil. Most of my nieces and nephews are in high school already...and then there's my kids."

"But David just got engaged!" Mickie squealed. "I'm so excited for him!"

And then Mickie and I both squealed and talked about how excited we were (Mickie and her husband both served in David's mission so they're tight) because we're seriously really, really happy about this.

Anyway, the point is that I'm about a week behind and still need to post about Halloween. So, without further ado, I give you the Day Before Halloween...

Miriam had her Halloween party at preschool. Benjamin and I went for the last half hour or so. They had a costume parade and then recited some poems and songs they'd learned.


Sunday, November 02, 2014

Fall Festival 2014

I'm officially not doing NaBloPoMo this year. I have too many projects going on to commit to blogging every day this month. I already feel like the holidays are upon us and it's only November 2nd. So much to do, so little time to do it.

It got cold here quick this year. We sat down to dinner last night and I was trying to put my finger on why it felt so...wintery...all of a sudden. And then it dawned on me.

"Silence!" I said. "Listen! That's why it feels like winter all of a sudden."

No crickets were chirping. No frogs were croaking. No birds were chattering. Outside, everything was deathly quiet.

Like the trees—that start dropping leaves the second the thermometer drops below 80°F (Oh, no! It's fall!)—the animals here sure get into hibernation mode fast and it was their silence that made the turn of the seasons so obvious.

Part of me is sad we'll be going to Utah for much of Christmas break because I love me a nice, mild North Carolina winter. Utah winters means icy roads all the time, shoveling drive ways, and frozen feet. But it could always be worse—we could be going to Canada (except that Andrew vowed to never go to Canada during the winter ever again after that one time I dragged him up to Alberta in November—it was the coldest he'd ever been and he does not wish to repeat that ever (and I don't blame him)).

I suppose I should share a few thing about Halloween before I start talking about Christmas too much.

On Wednesday last week we went to the ward Trunk-or-Treat (after dropping Grandma off at the airport and then racing back home to eat dinner and change into our costumes).

Benjamin and Miriam's costumes took the longest to make (I crocheted the hat for Benjamin; hemmed Miriam's dress, attached the outer-dress to the under-dress, sewed some ribbons on it, crocheted the parrot head for the umbrella handle, tied ribbons on the umbrella, and fashioned her hat) but Rachel's —by far—took the longest to put on.



I felt like I was winding that child up forever and then by the time we made it to the church she was already coming undone all over the place.

There are reasons I never became an ancient Egyptian embalmer. Just sayin'...



Saturday, November 01, 2014

Finally Published

When we lived in Egypt I wrote a story and submitted it to The Friend Magazine.

It just came out in this month's issue, heavily edited (mostly "dumbing down" the vocabulary, I suppose) (which I might have cared about if I had any emotional attachment to the story left at all—but when they contacted me about it earlier this year (nearly five years after I wrote it) I just said, "I wrote a story? Oh, yeah. Uhhh, go ahead and make whatever changes you want.").

They kept the original song she learned through the door (not the wall) in place—I Know That My Savior Loves Me—which just happens to be the song we'll be learning next year in primary so I suspect they kept it on the back burner for so long in part because they knew they'd be revisiting this song. Maybe. They didn't exactly tell me why it took so long for them to publish it. I was rather surprised to be contacted after so much time had gone by.

I even forgot to look for it this month, but Andrew just sent me the link to it.

So now I'm practically famous. 

You can find the story here. Because I know you're dying to read it.

Hymn-spiration

So, there's this song we sang in primary this year and I'll admit I'm kind of torn over it. On the one hand the chorus makes me cry almost every time and verses 1 and 4 are beautiful. On the other hand, verses 2 and 3 are a little difficult for me to swallow—especially with the gender-role stereotype sharing time lessons we had while we were learning them. Not that the sharing time lessons in the manual were explicitly stereotyped; but our teacher's interpretations of them were.

It made me uncomfortable to hear about Daddies going to work and holding the priesthood while Mommies did all the cooking and cleaning and kissing of boo-boos.

I'm a stay at home mom but my husband spent the entire afternoon cleaning the house today and when I tried to help with dinner he shooed me out of the kitchen and told me to take a nap. So be it. Because once I was a stay at home mom and I worked in the evenings to earn just barely enough money to pay for his (second) master's degree.

Not that I'm keeping score. I'm just saying that those lines between gender roles are a little more fuzzy than we make them out to be sometimes.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

A few days with the Grandparents

On Sunday morning we got up and actually went to church! With General Conference and Stake Conference and a trip to DC and being sick one week our family felt a tad displaced in October. It was good to be back.

I had to take some silly dress ups for my lesson so I grabbed my goofy sunhat. It matched Andrew's tie beautifully...


Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Gampy, Gampy-Mom, Super-Mom

Benjamin was beyond excited for "Gampy" to visit. He happily helped get things ready and was so proud to be giving up his bed for Gampy. "Gampy seep my bed!" he'd say whenever we talked about Grandma and Grandpa coming.

When we went to pick them up at the train station on Friday night, Miriam raced to Grandma at lightning speed and jumped into her arms. Benjamin tore off after her but stopped dead in his tracks when he realized Grandpa wasn't there. "Ere Gampy at?" Benjamin asked.

"He went inside to check on our suitcases," Grandma said.

"Oh," Benjamin said.

He waited patiently for Grandpa to join us outside.

"GAMPY!" he squealed as soon as he saw him.

Those two immediately became buddies. Grandpa didn't have much choice in the matter. It had been decided upon before he'd even arrived. When I asked Benjamin what he was going to do when Grandpa came to visit he said, "Me give Gampy big hub, pick him up, put him on mine head!"

He got as far as the hug. Grandpa was a bit too heavy for Benjamin to pick up.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Happy Birthday, Miriam!

Miriam had a pretty quiet birthday but she loved every minute of it because Grandma and Grandpa are here! The girls woke up bright and early (7:30—on a Saturday, after staying up late due to picking up the aforementioned grandparents at the train station and then getting all hyper because they're here!) and had breakfast with Grandpa and then hung out with him while everyone else slept.

We went to the library after everyone got up since we'd run right out of stories.

Then we got ready to go to Rachel's penultimate soccer game for the season. Her team creamed the other team—the final score was 6 to 1—but the other team only had four players and our team had seven, so while we still only played four at a time we were able to give the girls plenty of breaks. The other team was exhausted. But I think everyone had fun.

Here's Rachel and Rose in their soccer uniforms:


DC Trip, Day 5 (October 14)

We spent the morning playing in Caitlin's awesome basement. She's a Southern California girl and although she's experienced wintery weather on vacations she has never had to live in a place with winter. She asked me about winters out here and I told her that they weren't that bad—it snows every now and then but it's not, like, the North Pole. I told her she'd be fine.

And then we had the 2013–2014 North American Cold Wave and everything I'd told her about winter in the northern southern States was completely invalidated.

She was going crazy trying to figure out how to keep two little boys inside and entertained all winter long, but luckily had an unfinished basement to fill with fun things: a bouncy house and a mini roller coaster among them.

The kids had an absolute blast!


Birthday Spotlight

Miriam got to celebrate her birthday at school on Thursday, which meant she got to bring in a few of her favourite things to show to the class and they "spotlighted" her. She had no trouble finding things to bring in but she did have a little trouble understanding exactly what spotlighting was—she took it quite literally.

They're going to put a spotlight on me!" she said excitedly.

"No, no," I said. "They're going to spotlight you, which means they'll talk about you and share reasons why you're important."

"Yeah. With a spotlight!"

"Not an actual spotlight. There's not going to be a spotlight shining on you."

"Yeah, okay, Mom."

"No, really. I just want you to know there's not an actual spotlight. It's figurative. They're just going to talk about you. They're not going to shine anything on you."

"Right... Mom. It's a spotlight. So..."

When we were walking out to the car I asked her if she enjoyed her special day and she kind of shrugged her shoulders dejectedly and sighed, "They didn't even bring out the spotlight, Mom."

I think she understands now but it was a steep and disappointing learning curve.

The first thing Miriam pulled out of her bag was a little container of LEGO minifigures: