Friday, January 31, 2014

Frozen

We have listened to the Frozen soundtrack so many time on Spotify that we finally decided to buy it—support the industry and no more commercials (win, win). It's fairly safe to say that two-thirds of our children know most of the words to every song (there are still some lines they sing funny—for example, Rachel asked me yesterday why Elsa says, "Up here in the golden air I finally can breathe." The lyrics are "cold, thin air").

Even Benjamin will sing along with 'Let it Go' and 'Love is an Open Door,' though he only sings one word for each of those songs (go and door, respectively). His favourite song is 'Frozen Heart.' He has choreographed a dance for it. And it's adorable. And I took a video of it but if I post it YouTube will get mad at me for copyright infringement or something so you'll just have to imagine his adorableness (and that of the girls dancing and singing to the soundtrack).

At first Miriam was really drawn to Anna's character but since then she's converted to being an Elsa fan. She was invited to a princess-themed birthday party for her friend Lauren, who, incidentally, had a princess-themed birthday party that we attended last year.

Last year we arrived to the party wearing regular clothes and found the house full of pretty, pretty princesses. Miriam was mortified—even after Lauren's mom said it wasn't a problem and found an extra princess dress for Miriam to borrow. This year, Miriam was determined to be the belle of the ball. She hired Rachel as her designer and the two spent quite some time yesterday coming up with the perfect Elsa costume:


A Puppet Show: The Boy Who Cried Wolf

We had a full snow day yesterday and the kids played together wonderfully. They watched a Magic School Bus episode while I rode on the bike, then we all did ABC Yoga together. While I had a shower Miriam and Rachel made some sheep (they got the idea at the back of the Sheep in a Jeep book), turned them into puppets, made scenery, and planned a puppet show based on the story of The Boy Who Cried Wolf.



I won't deny they were likely thinking of this story because I likened calling snow days to crying wolf not too long ago (and, boy, is that ever a touchy subject down here).

Anyway, I thought their puppet show was cute, especially when Rachel said something about the wolf wanting to show the little shepherd boy "what it was like to have his sheep attacked by a wolf." So then the wolf started "straying the sheep."

When we were re-watching it together, Rachel was shocked by her bossy behavior.

Around the time she was hissing to Miriam about how "you're not supposed to see the fluffy side—the audience is supposed to see the fluffy side!" her eyes got wide and she let out a little gasp before muttering, "Why hello, Miss Bossypants!"

It was probably good for her to watch herself being so bossy since she doesn't usually believe me when I tell her she's turned into Miss Bossypants. I think being bossy (occasionally, not always) goes with the territory of being an older sister.

She was also shocked to hear her own voice. I remember thinking my recorded voice sounded funny (and sometimes I still do) because it sounds so much different when I hear myself speaking. Rachel needed to talk about that a lot.

"So, that's what everyone hears when I talk?" she wondered.

"Yes."

"But I don't hear that when I talk. I sound different to myself."

"Yes."

"But everyone sounds different to themselves, right?"

"Yes."

It was a fun snow day project for the kids, that's for sure!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

How's sleep training going?

Sleep training is going well. We've had a few nights where Benjamin's been in and out of bed like a yo-yo all night long. We've had a few nights where he's slept the whole night long.

Last night he woke up once but agreed to go back to sleep in his own bed.

Tonight he fell asleep in his own bed, completely on his own.

I put the kids to bed rather late tonight. Tomorrow's another snow day (no comment) and since both Benjamin and Miriam took rather long post-sledding naps they were in no condition to be going to bed when bedtime rolled around. Rachel's always willing to not go to bed. So we stayed up.

We coloured valentines and read stories and cleaned the house and played ring-around-the-rosie. It was a pleasant evening.

When I finally declared that it was bedtime the girls decided to have a sleepover and ran for the top bunk together. Benjamin followed right behind them.

The girls snuggled down in the covers together, each with a book in hand. Benjamin picked up Baby Norah (Rachel's very special baby doll) and cuddled her.

"Uh, Rachel," Miriam pointed out, "Benjamin's got Baby Norah."

"Meh. That's okay," Rachel said, shrugging her shoulders. "He'll give her back."

No tantrum or anything?! She's certainly growing up!

Snow Day

Here I go talking about snow again. It's like it's winter or something...

Benjamin woke up just as I was getting ready for bed last night. He was in a real panic because his door was closed all the way (I usually leave it open when I go to bed). I held him for a minute and then put him back in his own bed and stayed with him until he fell asleep. And then no one bothered me until nearly 9:00 this morning! It was wonderful!

The girls had already eaten breakfast and were on their way to head outside to play in the snow by the time Benjamin had finished nursing. They couldn't wait to get outside and were very excited about all the tracks they could see in the yard: deer tracks, rabbit tracks, bird tracks, squirrel tracks. We know our yard boasts a menagerie but we don't often see much solid evidence of that fact (so perhaps it's not so menagerie-ful in that sense of the word).


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Some serious snow...for these parts

School let out three hours early today due to the threat of winter weather and Rachel came home expecting snow to start falling any second. She was bouncing off the walls with anticipation. She kept checking forecast.io to see how many minutes until it was "supposed" to start snowing. Then she'd set the timer on the microwave and when it beeped she'd rush to the window to check for snow. She even had a theme song.

"No-flakes! No-flakes! No-no-no-no snowflakes!" she sang as she raced through the house checking windows on all sides.

I endured six hours of this before it finally started snowing. Six hours!

Rachel had Benjamin and Miriam in quite a tizzy, too! All three of them were racing around the house singing about no-flakes and snowflakes and screaming and bumping into each other and falling down.

Finally I told the girls to bundle up because they were going to head outside to wait for the snow (that I was beginning to lose hope in). And, boy, did I ever bundle them up! Sweaters, snow pants, scarves, boots, hats, mittens—the works! It was already below freezing so not only did I not want them to freeze I didn't even want them to notice that they were cold.

"And don't come inside until you're good and cold," I warned them as I sent them packing across the street to play in the neighbour's backyard.

Benjamin was so sad about being left behind in the house with boring old mom so I took pity on him, bundled him up, and wandered around in the yard with him until Andrew came home.

It still hadn't started snowing when the girls came home from the neighbour's. We made grilled cheese sandwiches for dinner (with soup and broccoli (raw, which everyone loves—or at least tolerates)).

Soon after dinner someone noticed that the weather report said it was currently snowing. We checked outside but couldn't see anything but then...but then we did! And there was much rejoicing (from everyone except Benjamin, who cried—because snow is awful).

We bundled up for a family walk. The girls pranced around the street pretending it was a slippery ice rink. It wasn't remotely slippery but they ended up falling several times anyway. When we got home from our walk they still didn't want to go inside so I told them they could keep playing on the back deck (where the snow had begun to stick). They didn't want to play outside in the dark alone so I took one for the team and played outside with them (I really don't like being cold). Andrew had tons of reading to do (that's always his excused—it's like he's in the middle of a doctorate degree or something).

Here are a bunch of pictures we took. Bear with us. This is the first time we've seen real snow since early 2012, which is the first time in memory for some of us. It was a little bit exciting.


Monday, January 27, 2014

A cardboard box

We got a package on Saturday. The kids couldn't have cared less about what was inside. They just wanted the box.


This boy!

There's never a dull moment over here with Benjamin around.

The other day he walked around with a metal bowl on his head for the longest time. It was quite entertaining.


Outside time

This afternoon we took advantage of the 60°F weather. We have another cold front moving in—promising several inches of snow according to the forecast, so already school is getting out early, people are scrambling for bread and milk and other comfort foods, as well as winter gear like sleds and gloves and things.

We're not going to buy a sled. Our kids can take apart that cardboard box they've been playing with for the past several days if they're desperate for a slide. Garbage bags work as well. We'll get creative. I think the only thing my kids want is to build a snowman.

We have a few pairs of hand-me-down snow pants that we've been holding onto for these "just in case" moments. As my friend Becky told me when she gave me her son's too-small snow pants, "I wouldn't recommend buying winter gear, necessarily, but it's nice to have sometimes—if you can get it for free."

I remain doubtful of the forecast, but I still don't like cold fronts. Avoiding the cold is the whole reason we moved here! You know, besides grad school and all that. Anyway, that's why we went outside—to soak up some sunshine before it's too cold to be pleasant.

Rachel wouldn't play with us after school. She came home with a headache. She stayed inside to read. She totally missed out.


Like Mother's Day in January

"How do you spell heart?" Miriam called from the kitchen table. "H...what? H-O?"

"Not H-O. It's H-E-A..." I tell her.

"But heart. Listen: huh-ah-ah. So, H-O..."

"Sweetie, it's H-E-A, I promise."

"H-O. What's next? Huh-ah-rrrr. R! T! I figured it out!"

She raced over to present this card to me:


I love you because I have a heart.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Talks in Church (and other things)

Yesterday Rachel attended a birthday party for one of her school friends...at the movies?! Is it crazy that I was a little nervous to let her go? I was. I must not be too crazy, though, because the mom of the other little girl who was invited emailed to ask if Rachel was going before she RSVP'd. We decided that if our little girls went together they'd be fine (they're rather good friends with each other...and another little girl who was invited but wasn't able to go). That trio of girls were the only girls invited. The rest of the invitees were a bunch of boys. I knew who all the little boys were. And I know a few of their parents. It was a good little group. But I did feel better knowing there would be another little girl for Rachel to glom onto, even though she's friends with all the little boys, too. 

Anyway, Rachel went to that birthday party; Miriam, Benjamin, and I attended a baptism at our ward building; and Andrew played chauffeur. (He's a good man.)

The baptism was wonderful. I haven't been to a baptism in ages (I think the last baptism I went to was my nephew Malachi's back in 2011). This baptism was beautiful. It was for a lovely grandmother as well as a little girl from our primary (whose mother was baptized last year), and because it was so beautiful we might start attending more baptisms as they come up. We've been missing out.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Sleep Training

It's time to do some gentle sleep training at our house. I came to this decision a couple of days ago when I was still rocking Benjamin to sleep at around 11 PM after he'd been up since around 8 AM and had been up a couple of times in the night, as per his usual.

He's nearly two years old. Children who are nearly two years old shouldn't need to be rocked to sleep (for three hours) anymore, right? I think so. And we really can't have him in bed with us.

Some kids are easy to sleep with. Miriam was one of those kids. She falls asleep and wakes up in the same place. She's fallen off the bed maybe five times in her life. She doesn't kick or toss and turn. She hardly even has to brush her hair in the morning because when she wakes up it's as if she hasn't even lain down.

Rachel hates this because when Rachel wakes up her hair is a complete rat's nest. She thrashes, kicks, tosses, and turns. She used to end up on the floor nightly (it was a brave, brave move to put her on the top bunk but it has a railing so she hasn't ever fallen off (yet)). She knocks things off the dresser and onto the floor. Perhaps worst of all, she talks in her sleep. When she was little we called her "ping-pong baby" because whenever we checked on her she'd be in a different position—a different corner of her crib. She'd always get her limbs tangled in the bars of her crib. She'd bump her head as she shifted positions. She was the saddest little sleeper...but we couldn't sleep with her because sleeping with Mom and Dad didn't seem to settle her down at all.

She was kicked out of our bed quite early in her life. Miriam, on the other hand, slept in our bed nearly 100% of the time until we moved to Utah (when she was eight months old). She'd fall asleep in the crook of my arm (or—get this!—she'd just fall asleep on her own) and wouldn't move the entire night (except to nurse, but only once, and always at 4 AM—her circadian rhythm is clockwork).

Benjamin falls between these two extremes, I think. He certainly isn't a sleep-lover like Miriam, but he's not as bad as I remember Rachel being. I'm not sure if that's because I've changed as a mother (I've spent the last few years building up an immunity to sleep deprivation) or if it's because he really isn't as spastic of a sleeper as Rachel was/is.

At any rate, he's spent most of his nights sleeping in our bed lately and although I enjoy cuddling with him I'm tired (in more than one way) of being punched in the face or kicked in the stomach as he flops around. By the end of the night he's taking up the majority of the bed, leaving Andrew and me clinging to the edge of the bed for dear life. It's time to reclaim our bed. I need to sleep for just a couple of hours in a row (that's all I ask).

Yesterday I took the front rail off of Bejamin's rarely-used crib and turned it into a toddler bed. Part of me was wondering if I was crazy for doing it because this meant there'd be no place to contain him but then I realized that we never used the crib for containment purposes anyway. Benjamin tweaked his screams and squawks until they're the exact pitch and timbre that drives me instantly insane enough that I will do anything to get him to stop. Usually picking him up will do it so I never let him just cry anywhere (because insanity).

Needless to say, the cry-it-out method isn't going to work for us—I can't stand the screeching—so we'll be going with a gentler method.

Both Miriam and Benjamin were excited to play in Benjamin's "new" bed and once the crib front came down and the toddler railing went up I let them play to their hearts' delight, hoping that such happy playtime would help improve Benjamin's relationship with his bed.


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

More snow stuff

True to their word, the girls got up early and got dressed to play in the snow. They did it so quietly that they didn't even wake up Daddy, who was sleeping on the couch because Benjamin is a major bed hog (seriously—he's a kicker), so when I got up at 8:30 Andrew was still sleeping away (even though he was supposed to be long gone).

I'll admit that it was kind of nice to see him in the morning and to have family prayer all together. This semester isn't too bad as far as his schedule goes (I say right at the beginning of the semester (we'll probably revisit that statement later)) but Tuesdays and Wednesdays are a little rough since he misses bedtime every other Tuesday (and on the days that he doesn't miss bedtime I have primary presidency meetings) and every Wednesday, so we basically don't see each other for 48 hours.

Still, he was feeling rushed. He grabbed a packet of instant oatmeal to take to school for breakfast while I made apple oatmeal for the rest of us (it's tradition, apparently).

The kids were thrilled that the snow had stuck around overnight (that isn't always the case down here).


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Snow Business

When I was eight or nine years old our family sat around the Christmas tree opening presents (as families are wont to do on Christmas mornings). My dad tossed me a present from my Auntie Arlene, who was mysterious—she lived all the way in California!—and beautiful and always sent the coolest presents. Everyone watched while I opened the package (since that was part of our tradition) to reveal...a nightgown that was far too big for me with the words There's No Business Like Snow Business trailing across the front. I think there was a dancing snowman and moose on it.

I tried to be so grateful for that nightgown. I remember holding it up with an awkward smile on my face and announcing, "I don't get it..." because I had never seen Annie Get Your Gun (and, actually, I still haven't seen that but I've at least heard enough of it to be familiar with it—twenty years earlier I was completely in the dark about it).

It took us a minute to get everything sorted out. My mom explained to me why the nightgown was funny but we didn't figure out until later that the nightgown was actually for her not me. I had gotten something completely different—I can't even remember what. The gifts had been mislabeled or something.

Twenty years ago, though, I still found snow exciting. We lived on the west coast where snow was rare and fleeting. It meant fun and games, not bitter cold and drudgery. I learned to dislike snow during the five years I spent in Alberta and that dislike carried into the years that I lived in Utah (though winter wasn't quite as cold or long) and continues to this very day.

That's why I'm so glad we live where we do because winters are so mild here that the lack of snow is beginning to rekindle some fondness for the stuff. Instead of seeing the first snow of the season and retreating into a pile of blankets with a book...



...I'm able to face the 'cold' and celebrate the snow with my kids. Or at least with most of my kids. Benjamin wasn't celebrating. In fact, he was quite traumatized by the whole situation. I mean, frozen fluff falling out of the night sky? It's unnatural. And terrifying.

"Why me?!"

Monday, January 20, 2014

The Quarry

It's Martin Luther King Jr. Day (and Rosie's birthday—Happy Birthday, Rosie!) so both Rachel and Andrew had the day off. We had a rather relaxed morning: the girls played in their room, Benjamin followed me around the house while I attacked the mountains of laundry waiting to be washed, and Andrew did some reading for his classes.

At lunch we had a discussion about what today means and what we can do to keep making the world we live in a better place for everyone. We've made some pretty good strides in civil liberty but we're still not perfect.

We filled our afternoon with a hike along The Quarry. We'd heard people talking about this place but had never been. It's a trail to an old rock quarry that was abandoned fifty years ago and has since filled up with water to create a four-acre waterhole. There's no wading into this waterhole—it's sides are sheer rock, jutting down nearly sixty feet deep—but it's become a rather popular place to do some cliff-jumping into the murky waters below.

With our little ones in tow, we weren't interested in cliff jumping (besides—it's January) and our girls were terrified of the prospect. We talked a lot about water safety while we were hiking (Andrew mentioned a time Uncle Matt was hiking in Zion National Park with a scout troop and they found a body of water and wanted to jump in and swim but they didn't know if it was safe or not so Uncle Matt volunteered to assess the situation...by jumping in. Turns out the water was only shin-deep and Uncle Matt broke both of his legs and had to be carried out of the canyon). People have died jumping into this quarry and I know of people who've had tragic accidents bridge-jumping in Alberta (our town had a train bridge that was a popular jumping spot, though it's being dismantled, thanks to damage sustained during the unprecedented flooding this past summer).

Anyway, it's January so the water's far from warm. Also, we're not about to toss our children off a cliff into sixty-foot deep water. We were just there for the hike, which was beautiful.

There were a lot of fallen trees along the way. The girls thought their roots were rather interesting.


Excellent

Rachel's has turned into a little chef lately. She made dinner a couple of times this week (Grandma Quesadillas (which are just regular quesadillas) and German Pancakes) with very little supervision. I helped flip some of the quesadillas and I helped get the pancakes into and out of the oven—but other than that she was on her own.

When we skyped with Grandma last Sunday Grandma was in the middle of making peanut butter cookies. Auntie Emily touched one (which meant she had to eat it). Rachel immediately wanted peanut butter cookies. She asked on Monday if she could make peanut butter cookies for a family night treat (we didn't have time). For her after school snack on Tuesday she spread peanut butter on nilla wafers. On Wednesday I had her skim through Kids Cooking: A Very Slightly Messy Cooking Manual. Thursday she divided her time alternately begging either Andrew or me to teach her how to make cookies. Friday night she wanted to make cookies...but we had a family movie night with popcorn instead.

Saturday morning was all hers. We found a recipe for The Best Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip (Oatmeal) Cookie and Rachel tried it out. She did a great job measuring and mixing. The dough was marvelous. The only thing she needed help with was getting that cookie sheet in and out of the oven. Ovens make her nervous (not that I can blame her).


Rachel was also nervous about burning the cookies. She set the timer on the microwave for ten minutes and then stewed about it the whole time, worried that it beeped without her hearing it. When it did finally beep she'd flip out.

"Mom! Mom! Mom! It beeped! They're done! Get them out of the oven now! Come on! They're going to burn! Quick!"

"I'm coming, I'm coming," I'd say.

"Mom! This is how cookies burn! Come on! Open the oven! Take them out! Quick! Quick!"

To her credit, none of the cookies burned.

I think it's going to be nice having another baker around here. I already signed her up to make cookies for our ward silent auction (the youth are earning money to make a trip to Palmyra). She was game for that but was worried about giving away all the cookies.

"Maybe I can double the recipe," she said. "Or thricel it!"

A thricel batch it is.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

My son Ben


Diddle, diddle, dumpling, my son Ben
Fell asleep on the couch again.
One foot shoe-out, one foot shoe-in,
Diddle, diddle, dumpling, my son Ben.



Saturday, January 18, 2014

Settled

We just scored a free bookshelf from some friends who are getting ready to move. Considering we filled our existing bookshelves when we moved in and we've had three semesters to acquire books ("tools of the trade," as Andrew calls them, a phrase he stole from Patrick Q. Mason (to think we used to sit around playing Settlers of Catan with this man (now that he's all grown up and has his own wikipedia page, quoting him seems much more fancy))) it goes without saying that our bookshelves were becoming overburdened so we happily claimed the bookshelf when it went up for grabs. Soon it will be filled with books too (Andrew's still hunting down books for this semester).

What's weird about this bookshelf is that it's our second wave of the seasonal friends-moving-away freebies that we've accepted. We've never lived in a place long enough to be at the receiving end of this phenomenon two years in a row. Usually we collect stuff our first year and pitch it the next because in the past we were busy planning either a cross-country or trans-atlantic move every two years (usually also with a newish baby in tow and another degree tucked into our pocket).

We've been here for a year and a half now so I feel like it's time to be house hunting or job searching or filling out applications or pricing moving trucks or buying plane tickets, but I'm not doing any of that. This year we're staying put. It's kind of a funny feeling. I hardly know what to do with myself.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Lookin' sharp

For most of Sunday I was on my own with the kids. Andrew was still out of town but was on his way back. He almost—almost—chose to give up his seat in exchange for a 1st class ticket and a $500 voucher but he didn't because he thought that if he came home at 10 PM rather than 4 PM that I'd go crazy.

He might've been right. But also...free plane ticket!! Oh, well.

I am so happy to have him home. The kids are, too!

Here's Benjamin parading around on the couch wearing his Sunday attire:



Play-doh stories

Play-doh has once again become a fascination in our house. We play with it at least once a day, which means that bits of play-doh constantly need to be cleaned up. You've seen those cleaning systems, I'm sure, that claim you can "clean your house in fifteen minutes a day!" just by assigning one chore to every day of the week. Like, you'd do laundry on Monday, floors on Tuesday, bathrooms on Wednesday, and so forth. I've tried to implement a system like that multiple times but I'm thinking it's something that just won't work with kids at home.

I sweep the floor three (or more) times a day and it's always covered in bits of...stuff. Food and dirt and paper and leaves, that kind of thing. It's never just a little bit, either. It's always massive—almost inexplicable—amounts of gunk. And now we've added play-doh to the mix. Let's just say the floor has to be swept several times a day (we'll not speak of the laundry).

When Rachel was home for the break she was really into play-doh, too, and we're just continuing it, I suppose. I have so many pictures of play-doh that Rachel took. This creation was particularly difficult for her to capture:



Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Lego

A little while ago I found a box of 130 Duplo pieces for sale on Craigslist for $5 (what I was actually searching for was landscape brick because all the logs holding back our gardens have somewhat decomposed and need to be replaced). I didn't find any landscaping brick but I did find some Duplo bricks.

We went ahead and got them because that was a really good deal. So now our Duplo collection is bounteous and our children have been enjoying creating. They've taken more pictures than I have this year so far. They want to take pictures of everything they build. I'm hoping they'll get over that soon.

I found some blueprints (for lack of a better word) of animals online and Rachel had a fun time going through and building them:


Monday, January 13, 2014

Sleepy

Benjamin was asleep by 8:30 this evening. I even successfully put him down in his crib. And I'm almost giggling with joy. Because I am so tired. He and I? We haven't been sleeping well.

My friend Kim (who used to live down the street but who doesn't anymore (and that still makes me sad)) wrote a tribute to her daughter, who just turned one:
My dearest little one, for one year I have been at your [beck and] call. You've been on my hip or within five feet [of me and] except for when you're napping, we've been apart for like two hours in 365 days!!! Whenever you've wanted to nurse, I nursed you. Whenever!! You've refused pacifier, bottle, soy milk, cow milk, juice, and anyone that isn't me. You wake up four times a night or stay up until 11:00. I shake my head and try to squeeze in a nap the next day. My lap is the world's smallest playground made just for you to play, drool, and tantrum in. There have been many pillow punching, tears flowing, questioning sanity type moments this year. I know this won't last forever. I'm grateful you're mine.
To all the mommas with harder than usual kiddos, keep up the good work. It won't last forever. 
This is exactly why Kim and I are friends, folks! She would sometimes just know to call in the morning when Benjamin had been up all night the night before. She'd take Miriam to her house so I could get in a nap. And sometimes I'd do the same for her, taking Claire for her so that she could squeeze in a nap while her other kids were at school.

Miriam still misses Claire terribly. We can hardly walk past their cul-de-sac without Miriam falling into despondence.

Anyway, Kim was my sanity-saver and while I can't say I'm glad she's going through the same thing that I am...it's kind of nice to have someone down in the trenches with you. Someone who gets it. Someone who doesn't say "...if you'd just..." because—let me tell you—I've just.

You don't get this sleep deprived without having tried just about everything. Before you try to give me advice on the matter, just try putting this boy down for a nap. I double-dog dare you.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Non-tornado

This morning we woke up to a wet, rainy, warm day. The temperature was forecast to reach 70°F. With those conditions in place we were put on tornado watch. In the early afternoon things got a little crazy outside and we were put on a tornado warning—seek shelter immediately, the weather service advised.

I had to look up the difference between tornado warning and tornado watch because I can never remember which is worse than the other (though I had already figured it out since we were moved from a watch to a warning just as things were picking up outside). Basically, it seems that if you're under a tornado watch the conditions are such that a tornado could possibly form. If you're under a tornado warning, a tornado (or at least a funnel cloud) has been detected so you're supposed to take cover immediately, etc., etc., etc.

Wind was blasting and rain was coming down in sheets so thick we could hardly see across the street. I was already gathering the children to "have story time in the closet" (which was bound to be super fun) when Andrew called to check on us since his phone is set up to receive weather alerts and mine, for some reason, is not. He told me about the warning to "seek shelter immediately" and I told him preparations were underway.

I was a little stressed but the girls obediently got their pillow and favourite blanket and waited in the closet for me while I finished turning off the computers and got Benjamin settled. He was quite panicked by the weather—he kept fussing and running to the windows so he could see what was going on outside—but eventually I convinced him to join us in the closet for story time (he was a little confused about that, first running to the couch and plunking down right in the middle, ready for anything...except a tornado).

So, with shoes on our feet and flashlights by our side, surrounded by pillows and blankets, we hid in the closet and read stories together until the warning passed.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Birds

This morning Benjamin and I woke up to some strange sounds coming from outside. It sounded like a creaking swing and a bit like a storm was blowing through but I could also hear birds chirping. I couldn't figure out what was going on so we went outside to investigate. When we opened the door to the back deck we startled an entire flock of (some kind of black) birds. They took to the sky at once, hopping the fence to the relative safety of the neighbour's yard.

We could hear their wings beating the air. It was amazing. They kept moving around the neighbourhood, roosting in this set of trees, investigating that yard, checking out those trees, and so on. Right in the middle of it all a flock of geese flew overhead in V-formation.

Benjamin was in awe. And so was I.

Here's a video of it that I took. I tried (and failed) to cut it down to a minute or so (I meant to cut out before I said anything...but I didn't...just know that I was talking to Benjamin, who was busy pointing at the birds).



Apparently it's relatively normal for blackbirds to travel in monster flocks like this. I didn't know this. All I could think about when I woke up this morning was Hitchcock. It was kind of a creepy way to start off the day.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

A cold day in Raleigh

We're experiencing a bit of a cold snap due to the 2014 North American Cold Wave. Yesterday we didn't even get above freezing, which is highly unusual for these parts ("yesterday" in 2013 we didn't drop below the freezing point). Due to the cold weather, Andrew's been taking the van to campus and while I like the thought of him arriving on campus warm and safe (and not a block of ice) it's meant that I'm stuck at home with three children who don't want to play outside because we've all morphed into southern wimps (and I say that with all love in my heart).

Today was Andrew's first day of his last semester of classes (but who's counting?) and Rachel goes back to school on Monday, so in spite of the cold weather yesterday we decided that we'd make it an adventure day and get out of the house. We'd talked about going up to Richmond earlier but heading north at a time like this sounded like torture, so instead we stayed local. We drove to Raleigh to visit three places: The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, McDonald's, and The North Carolina Museum of Art.

Andrew wanted to go to the art museum first since it was "on the way" to the museum of natural sciences but I said we should go to the art museum last since if it's on the way to the museum of natural sciences it's also on the way back from it. My reasoning was that Benjamin would be so excited by all the animals at the museum that he'd be running around screaming and pointing and giggling and basically going berserk. After lunch he'd feel worn out, yet satisfied and cozy, and would probably be bored enough in the art museum—a location that appreciates quiet, calm children—to fall asleep, if we were lucky enough.

I certainly didn't want the reverse to happen—to have a bored, whiney Benjamin at the museum of art only to have him fall asleep at the museum of natural science because he was wiped out by the morning's outing (even if it wasn't thrilling for him).

With a sigh Andrew let me have my way and the day played out exactly as I had expected it to. It's almost as if I spend every waking (and sleeping, if we're being honest) moment with that child.

Benjamin conversing with a turtle

Sunday, January 05, 2014

We're not violent at all

A couple of months ago we were all confused by the word "sock." Just yesterday we got all confused again, this time over the word "lick."

We checked out the book I Can Lick 30 Tigers Today! (and Other Stories) by Dr. Seuss, a book of his I've never read, from the library. He's fairly well known for silly stories, I think, so I figured this would be a silly story about trying to lick tigers...like...with your tongue. That's what my kids thought, too.

In fact, after we'd read the title together the girls chorused, "Yuck!" and stuck out their little tongues.

Spoiler Alert (but not really): This story has nothing to do with tongues and everything to do with beating tigers up.

Apparently we need to expand our repertoire of violent verbs.

We've got a pretty good handle on violent behavior, however, even if we have no words to describe it.

Miriam, in particular, has been turning violent lately—not out of anger or meanness, necessarily, but out of what seems to be curiosity. My mom might be able to chime in on this because I think my mom remembers going through a similar phase and actually thinking, "I wonder what would happen if..."

In the past month or so Miriam has punched Andrew in the face (hard enough to give him a fat, bloody lip), bit my big toe (I was just minding my own business when she somehow managed to get my entire toe in her mouth and clamp down before I could stop her), and just last night she gave Rachel a...uh...*cough* double purple nurple *cough* (Andrew's term, not mine; I don't know violent words) when they were supposed to be getting into their pyjamas.

She's typically gentle and quiet and calm so she has the element of surprise on her side. And she's quick, too! No one ever sees it coming!

When it's over she acts genuinely shocked that her victim is in pain and wonders why she should have to be punished when "she didn't mean to."

We've had more discussions about the phrases "on purpose" and "by accident" in the past few weeks than I'd care to detail here (or anywhere).

I'm hoping this phase will end before we're all black and blue!


Thursday, January 02, 2014

That parenting thing

A lot of Benjamin's clothes are hand-me-downs from the early 2000s...and the 1990s and the 1980s and possibly even the 1970s. No stranger to hard, scratchy tags (kids these days have it so easy with their decal tags), Benjamin is our hipster baby, unabashedly reviving the trends of the past.

Miriam picked out Benjamin's clothes for him today and even tried to help get him dressed. This was not as easy of a task as she had imagined.


Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Happy New Year

 Our New Year celebrations were fairly mild. We went on a family walk earlier in the day so that the neighbourhood luminaria could be our last walk of the year. When Rachel was getting ready to go she tried to zip up her coat but got all confused and ended up like this, with her bottom and top zippers connected: