Thursday, July 31, 2014

My boy watching bugs

In an effort to convince you that I don't just sit around feeling angry all day (I don't, I promise, but sometimes I just...ugh), here are some pictures of my boy watching bugs.

We found a dead hornet/wasp on the road. I this is the same kind that had a nest by the pool. They're rather huge and intimidating when they're alive. Look at the stinger on that thing!


A rant that didn't start out as one

I'm pretty sure we spent five hours at the pool today, which is probably why I feel simultaneously exhausted and like I haven't accomplished a thing. There are still piles of neatly folded laundry on my floor waiting to be put away. I suppose the bright side is that at least they haven't been disturbed...because nothing was touched in our house all day.

We met with some friends for swimming lessons this morning and then stayed and swam after. We came home and had lunch and then Miriam went to play with her friend Marcella, who has been so lonely since her brother's gone off to kindergarten. It worked out well because Miriam has been missing having Rachel to play with, too.

I put Benjamin down for a nap and then thought about putting the laundry away but ultimately decided that I could just take a nap, too, since there was no one around to bug me.

After we woke up, Benjamin and I went outside to play while we waited for Rachel to come home from school. Then we got ready to go to the pool again!

Miriam met us at the pool and everyone had fun swimming while I gave Marcella's brother some swimming instruction. And then we stayed to swim after.

Andrew was already home and making dinner by the time we soggily strode into the house. We studied spelling words over dinner because Rachel has her first spelling test tomorrow. She's never had one before but I think she'll do fine. Her teacher gives the kids a list of twenty words and they can choose to do the first ten, which are so easy Miriam was spelling them; or the first ten and next five, which are slightly harder; or the first ten, the next five, and the next five, which are the "challenge" words.

Aside from saying double-u every time she meant plain-ordinary-u, Rachel spelled them all flawlessly so I'm sure she'll do just fine.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Never were there such devoted...siblings

Today I walked out of my bedroom and the kids were waiting for story time on the couch. Well, they were almost waiting, but instead of only waiting Rachel was reading a little pile of books to Miriam and Benjamin, who were both enjoying it royally.


Rachel has her arm around Miriam because Miriam needed some extra love, which made the whole scene even more adorable.

If you keep on living you'll get glad again

As luck would have it—or, as Anne would say, as Providence would have it (because what is luck, really?)—I found myself in chapters 19–21 of Anne's House of Dreams tonight. They were chapters full of tragedy and grief, but also of recovery and faith. They were so sorrowful that I had to look ahead to make sure things turn out happily in the end (thanks Wikipedia (ever accurate source of all knowledge)), which was silly, really, because it's Anne we're talking about.
"Oh, Marilla, I don't see how I can EVER be happy again—EVERYTHING will hurt me all the rest of my life." 
"Time will help you," said Marilla, who was racked with sympathy but could never learn to express it in other than age-worn formulas.
***
"It won't hurt so much always, Anne." 
"The thought that it may stop hurting sometimes hurts me worse than all else, Marilla."
*** 
"Oh—dreams," sighed Anne. "I can't dream now, Captain Jim—I'm done with dreams." 
"Oh, no, you're not, Mistress Blythe—oh, no, you're not," said Captain Jim meditatively. "I know how you feel jest now—but if you keep on living you'll get glad again, and the first thing you know you'll be dreaming again—thank the good Lord for it!" 
I don't know how people make it through life without the wisdom of the written word.

One of my favourite scriptures is D&C 109:7, "And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom, seek learning even by study and also by faith."

I don't think that Anne of Green Gables amounts to scripture, but it certainly is a "best book." I'm not sure how I managed to get through so much of my life without reading it or having it be read to me, frankly. Anne has found a place in my heart right beside Laura Ingalls. Even if Anne is completely fictionalized, there is beauty and wisdom, knowledge and faith in her stories—in L.M. Montgomery's stories. There are nuggets of truth tucked away on every page and today my soul was lapping them up. My soul was gorging itself on the faith, hope, and wisdom that L.M. Montgomery prepared for me 100 years ago.

That's the magic of literature.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Topsail Island Again

We neglected going to the beach all summer (break) long and just had to sneak a trip in before things get really hectic for Andrew (who just finished his reading list for his comprehensive exam this evening, hallelujah—102 items: 32 books and 68 articles), so on Saturday morning we met up with some friends and drove out to Topsail.



It's really is simply the best beach to go to around here. And by around here I mean it's like a three-hour drive. But it's so worth it. We had a perfect day at the beach.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Don't worry: I'm not sick, I'm just crazy

There are times in my life when I think I'm weak. And there are times in my life when I think I'm strong. There are times when in my life when I think I'm weak and others think I'm strong. I'm sure there are times in my life when I think I'm being strong and others think I'm being weak. Sometimes I can't tell if I'm handling things well or not.

Life's rather paradoxical that way. 

The first instance that sticks out in my mind is when I was in labour with Rachel and I was having a hard time managing my contractions. I hadn't "been checked" and everyone (from the check-in desk lady (who told me to "have a seat" and I was like, "Pretty sure I can't because there's a human head between my legs!" only I didn't really say that) to my nurses, who lazily got the triage room ready for me) was telling me to gear up to learn that I was only "at the beginning stages of labour" and should prepare emotionally to be sent home until "real labour" started. I would certainly know when that was because things were only going to get "a lot worse." First time mothers usually are sent away the first time they come into the hospital, I was told. 

When I finally "got checked" (which was only like five minutes later—I had to have Andrew help me change out of my clothes and into a gown because I was shaking so badly I couldn't manage it myself) I was at a nine and the nurse was like, "Holy cow, so...you're going to have to push in probably ten minutes."

"I thought I was just being wimpy," I cried.

"You're not a wimp!" she said encouragingly. "You're strong! You're so, so strong!"

I thought I wasn't handling labour very well at all, but then the information changed and the perception I had of myself—and that others had of me—did, too. I went from wimp to warrior, just like that.

(And Rachel was born on a triage table, just like that.)

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Broken glasses and empty tallies

Benjamin is always eager to eat—always—and so it was that he found himself alone at the dinner table, which Miriam had set with care—glass dishes for Mommy and Daddy, plastic dishes for Rachel, Benjamin, and herself.

He sits at the head of the table since that's the only place a chair will fit (we have benches running down the long sides). Andrew and I flank him because sometimes it takes two caregivers to get through a meal with a toddler. Rachel and Miriam argue about who gets to sit by which parent. That was a long way of telling you that Benjamin was left all alone with glassware in his reach. 

I can't remember where I was or what I was doing when it happened. All I remember is that Benjamin was singing to himself about being strong. This is an obsession of his lately. 

Did you open a door? That's strong!
Did you lift something up? That's strong!
Did you operate machinery of any kind? That's strong!
Did you push really hard when you were going potty? That, too, is strong!
Did you say the word 'big'? If you did, you probably also meant to say 'strong'!

So, Benjamin's up at the table singing, "Shong! Shong! Shong!" when there's a tremendous smashing sound. 

In order to demonstrate his strength, Benjamin had slammed one of our glasses down on the table as hard as he could, it shattered, and glass went flying everywhere. It was all over the table, the floor, and his lap.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

All is well! All is well!

Before zipping ourselves into our sleeping bags last Monday night, we checked the weather forecast, which said Tuesday was going to be a rainy, rainy day. We'd already been rained on several times and our tent did a wonderful job of keeping us dry but we didn't really want to pack up in the rain so we planned ahead and set our alarm for 7:00 AM. The forecast called for rain at 9:00 AM.

At 6:00 AM I heard the first few drops of rain hit our tent and soon it was raining furiously, with no hint of ever letting up.

I couldn't sleep so I got up and started packing what I could, but only after taking pictures of my sweet sleeping children. Poor Miriam had been booted out of her bed by Rachel and was sleeping on the floor of the tent. It reminded me of the song There Were Ten in the Bed only in this instance it was the big one who said "Roll over!" and the little one who fell out!


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Niagara Falls (July 14, 2014)

If you can find a place to park you can gawk at the falls all you want—for free. We didn't know that before we arrived. The website was rather vague on this matter. We could not figure it out and weren't too keen on spending a hundred bucks to see the falls. Turns out, only they park attractions cost money. The park itself is free.



Monday, July 21, 2014

Rachel's first day of grade two...and other Monday tales

This morning Rachel woke up with her alarm and got herself ready for school so that she could sit and read for a while (she's already finished The Witches and is now halfway through The BFG—and she only got them yesterday).

We took her first-day-of-school pictures inside because it was raining cats and dogs.



Sunday, July 20, 2014

Niagara Falls, part 1

We were warned about Niagara Falls before we visited. We were told that they might be a little less impressive than we imagined them to be—rather like visiting Mt. Rushmore, which, let's face it, is kind of a let down. It's not that Mt. Rushmore isn't monolithic in proportion—because at 60 feet tall I'm fairly sure they're the biggest heads I've ever seen (for comparison, the Statue of Liberty's head (which I haven't seen except from an airplane, maybe) is only 8 feet tall)—it's simply that it seems like they should be bigger. You get there and you think to yourself, "Huh. I thought they'd be bigger."

I don't know if it's because you can't hike very close to them. Or if it's because films that feature them use photographic tricks to make them appear even larger than life than they are. Whatever the case, they're just a little disappointing.

Then again, I had heard so many disparaging remarks about Mr. Rushmore that by the time we could see the four presidents' faces I found myself rather surprised by how large they were—my hopes had been dampened that much.

So I wasn't quite sure what to expect when it came to Niagara Falls. I've been dreaming of going to Niagara Falls for a long time. When we were crossing one of Grand Island's bridges on our way to visit the falls Andrew turned to me and said, "Did you ever imagine you'd visit Niagara Falls with me?"

"I have done more things with you than I ever imagined I would," I said. "I was raised in a small town, remember? I'm not sure I ever realized how big the world was."

Because, frankly, Niagara Falls is small potatoes compared to some of the adventures Andrew's convinced me to embark on. Not that I didn't have any adventures before we were married, because I had some of those, too, but let's just say that the past 8.5 years have held more surprises than I would have guessed.

Anyway, when I was in grade 7 or 8 and my brother David was in grade 9 or 10 and we were living in that small town I mentioned, David got to go on a a band trip to Toronto. He has a picture of a squirrel attacking him in some park:

[David—picture or it didn't happen!]

And he told me all about Niagara Falls—how you could walk across a bridge to the States (for a toll; it's free to enter Canada, I'm just sayin'), how there was more water running over those cliffs than you could even wrap your head around, how he and his friends had such an awesomely amazing time.

I was so excited for band tour (technically I think we called it a camp? a retreat?) when I was in grade nine but...

We went to Banff.

Banff.

Two. Hours. From. My. House. BANFF.

(We also went to Red Deer later in the year for a competition—the day my grandpa died, actually—but that was also two hours away and it was only a day trip and we won a lot of awards but then I didn't even care because my grandpa died so that trip kind of stunk).

Not that I've ever been jealous of my amazingly talented, incredibly intelligent, and handsome older brother or anything, but come on—Banff?!

Banff was fun and all, but in the back of my mind I was hoping for something a little more exotic, a little less backyardish. And maybe a little less under five feet of snow. But I've been known to be picky.

Going into this trip I had in my mind two battling narratives of Niagara Falls: the "meh" versus the "legendary."

I have to admit, our entire family was pretty impressed (though less impressed with the visitor's center because that was a sketchy/scary mess). We parked in some random parking garage a short walk from the falls (because apparently the the official national park lot fills up quickly) and found our way to the park easily enough. We soon found ourselves walking beside the Niagara River, rushing along its way, frothing with white water, hurdling to its death-defying leap over the cliffs.

"This is already impressive," I said in hushed tones to Andrew. "That river is big. I don't think I've seen that much water in any river in Utah..."

(It was "because Utah" that our friend told us we wouldn't find Niagara that impressive—and Utah does have some spectacular landscapes Niagara, I think, can maintain its bragging rights.)

And then?!

And then we got here and the river disappeared.


Rachel's 7th Birthday

This morning I walked out of my bedroom to find Rachel at the breakfast table.

"Happy Birthday *clap* to you!" I sang (to the tune of "You've Had a Birthday"—our primary usually claps on the rest in the last measure).

"Thanks," Rachel blushed.

"CAKE!" Benjamin demanded. "Where-y go?"

"It's in the fridge," I said. "We're not going to have cake until after dinner."

"Oh," he said sadly.

"Do you like cake?" I asked.

"Es," he nodded gravely.

Rachel had a happy morning getting ready for church. Birthdays are quite exciting because you get to do everything for the first time as a seven-year-old (or whatever the case may be). So, she got to brush her hair for the first time as a seven-year-old and get dressed for the first time as a seven-year-old and do all other such menial tasks for the first time as a seven-year-old and that served to make even the dullest task at least slightly more exciting.

Birthday eves are equally exciting because you get to do everything for the last time as a six-year-old (or whatever the case may be).

We milk motivation for all its worth at this house.

Today was a long day at church again. We were supposed to be there early for choir and then, of course, we stay late for choir, too. I packed a lunch, got my things ready for class, helped get the kids ready, and got ready myself. We left the house in time to pick up a friend needing a ride but I noticed on the way that I'd forgotten to put my wedding ring back on yesterday after I finished with Rachel's cake.

No matter, one can survive without a wedding ring for the day. I mentioned it to Andrew but insisted we didn't need to go back home...until I realized that I'd also neglected to put deodorant on. While one can live without a wedding ring for a day, it's a little more difficult to live without deodorant for the day (while remaining friends with everyone). So we went back home after picking up our friend.

We missed before-church choir practice but were still plenty early for church. Sacrament meeting was fine—the kids were much better behaved on their own turf than they were last week while we were visiting in Palmyra—and so was primary. It was almost relaxing to be in charge of just one class!

Rachel got sung to, of course, and she was so embarrassed to have to stand up in front of everyone that she stared at me, wide-eyed, the whole time. So I made faces at her because what else is a mother supposed to do?

After church Rachel had fun playing with her friend Carolina (and Miriam and Benjamin) while Andrew and I were busy with choir. Poor Benjamin had an embarrassing moment when he was strutting across the stand, smiling at the lovely choir ladies on the first row. His head was turned to smile at everyone and he was clearly not watching because before anyone could stop him he smacked into a wall and fell over backwards. He was the saddest boy in the world.

I was rather flustered because I was holding one of my friend Magie's twins and I had hand him off suddenly (and didn't ever get him back—*sniff*—that's the danger of passing babies off!) and run to my own baby, who's more of a boy, I suppose.

It was rather comical once Benjamin stopped screaming. I keep seeing him run straight into the wall in my mind and every single time it's hilarious.


Anyway, Rachel was excited when it was time to come home because going home meant presents and cake and birthday dinner. She wanted pancakes for her birthday dinner but wisely suggested we have pancakes the night before her birthday (since she knows how I feel about having dessert after pancakes—no way, José) and we had tortellini for dinner today.

Presents were fun. Benjamin hasn't quite grasped the concept that other people have birthdays besides him. He kept getting in the way, trying to "help," while shouting, "And me! And me! And me!"


Saturday, July 19, 2014

Tom Riddle's Diary Cake

Sometimes I think my children think I am way more creative than I am. Like the time Rachel asked me to help her make a Magic Tree House costume (as in the actual tree house in a tree). Or like the time she asked me to make a birthday cake of Tom Riddle's diary with a basilisk fang sticking out of it.

Sheesh, children.

I spent quite a bit of time looking for inspiration on teh interwebz. There are a lot of Harry Potter cakes out there, but this was the site I found most useful. It shows how to make an old book. It was really quite simple. I followed the directions almost exactly as they are there: I used a strawberry cake mix to make a 9x13 cake, carved it into a book shape, and covered it with buttercream icing. Then I made some marshmallow fondant and let it sit in the fridge for a couple hours (not eight because who has that sort of forethought?). I rolled it out, flipped it onto the cake, trimmed it to size, and then marked out pages with the back of a butter knife. Using a pastry brush, I dusted it with cinnamon to make the pages look old (because I don't eat chocolate). I rolled out a second piece of fondant to make the top page all crumpled and dusted that with cinnamon, too.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Sunday Afternoon

It was raining cats and dogs by the time church got out. Benjamin had been running wild for most of Relief Society so I eventually moved into the hall with him where I found a nice comfy chair and wrestled with him until he gave up and fell asleep. That was about five minutes before classes started pouring into the hallways.

"Oh, that is the worst!" a woman said to me with pity when she came out of Relief Society. "That's like when you're on a long drive and your baby falls asleep five minutes before you pull into the driveway. Then you just have to wake them up to bring them into the house and then they figure they've had a nap so there's no sense in taking another one."

That woman certainly knew what she was talking about. And it really was about as bad as that. Benjamin woke up on the way to the car, of course, since he felt like he was suddenly thrown from a comfortable bed into a cold shower. As predicted, Benjamin woke up with even more energy than he'd fallen asleep with.

Andrew was feeling so sick (once upon a time (on Saturday) we had bagels and muffins for lunch—the kids and I were eating bits off bagels when I noticed some mold and began eating with more caution. Andrew, however, had scarfed a muffin, which he admitted tasted a little off after I discovered the mold, and was having some food poisoning symptoms). He wanted nothing better than to take a long nap.

But we were in the middle of a torrential downpour! We couldn't go back to camp! Going back to camp would mean being stuck in a tent with a riled up toddler for the entire afternoon. That simply wasn’t going to promote family unity so we determined we’d revisit the nearby church history sites.



Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Let me tell you 'bout the birds and the bees...

We hadn't even arrived in Palmyra when the neighbour we asked to check our mail for us sent me a message:
There are tons of these really big buzzing bugs in your yard. I didn't get close enough to see for sure if they were a kind of bee or not because honestly they were freaking me out. Just wanted you to know in case there is a hive somewhere near you.
I told her that we'd check it out when we came home (because what else were we going to do?) and in the meantime she was very brave and continued to collect our mail for us (or forced her children to, either way we're grateful).

We hadn't noticed any such creatures before we left on our trip, but sure enough, upon arriving home we noticed that our front yard was swarming with gigantic, buzzing, yellow-bodied insects. We observed them from a distance at first (because we didn't want to go poking around too closely in case we should stumble into a nest) and noticed that they seemed to be congregating around our tree. The funny thing was that once they were on the tree they seemed to be mingling amicably with some shiny green beetles that were sharing the vicinity.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Sunday Shenanigans

Sunday was kind of a crazy day. The kids had stayed up somewhat later than they were used to (we didn't get back to the campground until around 11:30 PM) and had gone to bed sniffling about having been condemned to die a fiery death in hell...over a loudspeaker. Then we had to wake up and get ready for church a few hours earlier than we were used to (the ward here meets at 9:00 AM while our home ward meets at 10:50 AM).

The church was packed. The chapel was filled and they had chairs set up in the chapel overflow, the cultural hall, the second cultural hall, and the stage in the very back. Andrew heard they set up 1200 chairs in the expanded chapel.

The meeting was also piped into the Relief Society room and the primary room.

It was fun to meet for a regular sacrament meeting with such a big congregation. Usually when we meet in numbers that large it's for a more unusual meeting like stake conference.

Benjamin continued his wild antics from the night before. Andrew and I took turns carrying him out. He's usually not too loud vocally but we were sitting on metal folding chairs and, boy, are those things ever fun to pound on! And then it's so terribly disappointing when your parents interrupt your pounding that your only choice is to howl about it. *sigh*

We were in and out a lot.

I Spy

Going to church history sites is fun because you never quite know who you'll run into.

This trip we ran into Larry Draper, one of my old coworkers from the Harold B. Lee Library at BYU. We worked in Special Collections together seven years ago (I quit the day (two hours before) Rachel was born). He recently retired and is now on a mission—here in Palmyra—with his wife.


Around Palmyra

Benjamin has finally agreed to settle down for the night (he's not sleeping yet but at least he's settled) so I will try to breeze through Saturday afternoon as fast as I can because I feel like I'm just falling further and further behind here.

When we were at the Hill Cumorah visitor's center Andrew picked up a pamphlet about things to do locally. Palmyra has five museums and you can visit them all for the low, low price of $7 per person (16 and older) or $14 per family (making it the same price for our family either way). We decided we'd give them a try and they weren't terrible, as far as museums go, but they were also terribly understaffed and many of the displays could be summed up as "lots of old stuff in an old room in an old house."

But we also go to do a few things you don't ordinarily get to do at a museum—like try on old firefighter helmets.



Sunday, July 13, 2014

Oh, How Lovely Was the Morning

We woke up Saturday morning and attempted to make pancakes for breakfast, realizing that we’d forgotten to bring a method of greasing the pan only after we’d mixed up the batter. 

We had oatmeal for breakfast. Then we headed over to the Smith Family Farm, where Joseph Smith spent his childhood. 

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Let the church history tour begin!

I'm a Mormon. My husband is Mormon. Our children are...wait for it...Mormons!

For our summer vacation we're doing a church history tour in Upstate (Western?) New York. Things are about to get pretty Mormon-y on the blog. Consider yourself duly warned. And, by all means, enjoy!

Before embarking on our journey I combed through my family tree to see if I had any relatives from New York. I know that I say that I feel rather Canadian but the truth is that my roots are very American. I've got them all: Pilgrim Americans, Americans-for-generations, moonshiners from the deep south, abolitionists from the north. I come from good (and sometimes not-so-good) American stock.

But I'm also a third-generation Canadian, so I'm totally justified in feeling Canadian since Andrew is only a third generation American (on one side) and he feels pretty American.

Anyway, I dug up some ancestors from the area. Naturally. This time on the Conrad side.

The ancestor I found was Joshua Conrad, who was born in Pennsylvania in 1775 and died in Waterloo (which is a village within Fayette (I think?)) in 1828. He had a son named Charles Ferdinand Conrad who, along with his wife, Sarah Adams Bitely, was our first ancestor (on that side) to join the church (though I believe they joined in Michigan...). Charles Ferdinand Conrad is my third-great-grandfather.

He had a sister named Sarah Heller Conrad and she is the ancestor of interest here (though, I mean, I am grateful to Charles Ferdinand for joining the church, even though he later left the church. His wife Sarah eventually travelled to Utah without him and it seems her children came with her because my Conrad line continues in Utah (for a while)).

Our first stop in our church history tour (and last stop of the day before finally getting to Palmyra yesterday) was the Peter Whitmer Farm in Fayette.


Friday, July 11, 2014

Watkins Glen

Even though we had warm comfortable beds to sleep in last night Benjamin was determined to stay up as late as possible, so it was a fairly rough night for me. 

Andrew fell asleep before anyone, probably. I put the girls to bed in the other room but then Rachel wandered back into the room Andrew, Benjamin, and I were in so she could read beside me while I helped Benjamin fall asleep. There wasn't room for Andrew, Benjamin, and me on the bed (it was a full bed) so I put Benjamin to sleep on the floor (because he was not going to sleep in the pack'n'play). Rachel eventually fell asleep beside him and Andrew was sprawled out all over our bed, so I did what any logical person would do. I scooped up Benjamin and climbed into bed with Miriam. 

Our night was still filled with plenty of tossing and turning and middle-of-the-night potty runs (Benjamin's been waking up and fussing when he needs to go potty instead of going in his diaper, which is both good and bad depending on whether I want to get up and take him potty or not (some nights it's just harder to get out of bed than others)) but I woke up feeling relatively awake.

Jenny's mom made pancakes for us in the morning, which our girls thought was amazing. Pancakes are a dinner staple at our house. We rarely have them for breakfast. 

We headed out only 45 minutes behind schedule and I can't tell you much about the drive because both Benjamin and I fell asleep soon after we got in the car. I can tell you that when we woke up we were in some kind of "targeted enforcement area" and there were big yellow warning signs every half mile (or something ridiculous like that). 

"Buckle up next million miles," we were told in bold letters.

"High DUI crash zone," we were informed.

"Beware aggressive drivers," the signs said. "Keep alert."

"Where are we?" I wondered. "And why does no one seem to know how to drive?"

The signs went on and on. It seemed as though we'd barely pass one sign when another one was ready to tell us what to do. Slow down. Be courteous. Keep a safe following distance. 

"These signs are getting awfully naggish," Andrew said. "What's next—'Change your underwear?'"

The kids thought that was pretty funny. I was happy to leave all those signs behind us when we got to the part of New York where people apparently know how to drive. 


Thursday, July 10, 2014

Durham to Hershey

Getting ready for a week-long camping trip is truthfully about the same amount of work as getting ready for a one-night camping trip. It’s both amazing how easy it was to get everything ready and how crazy things were at the last minute. I was up until midnight cutting bagels and muffins and peaches and watermelon after getting everything else packed up and then we were up early in the morning to finish packing everything into the van. 

Andrew wasn’t able to get both containers of watermelon into the cooler so we had to abandon one. Fortunately, our neighbors are early risers. I ran the extra container over to them and then we were off.

The children behaved impeccably well. We drove all the way to Washington, DC, before making a pit stop. Not a single one of them asked to go to the bathroom and the only fits we had were due to (a) me only being able to find the regular gummy worms when Miriam wanted the sour kind, (b) not having a truck visible out of Benjamin’s window every time he wanted to see one, and (c) allowing Miriam to choose the first DVD because even though she chose the movie Rachel was going to pick Rachel wanted to be the one to pick first. 

Other than that, though, our children were fantastic. And Benjamin didn’t have a single potty accident the whole day. 

I’m probably jinxing us for tomorrow, aren’t I?

(Hopefully not). 

At one point I was explaining (again) how I can't control when there are and are not big trucks driving beside us and I finished up by saying, "So I can't make a truck be there just because you want one to be there."

"Hmph!" Benjamin grumped.

"I love you!" I cooed.

"Okay," he said in the sweet little way that only he can. I seriously need to record him saying okay because the consonant he uses isn't quite a /k/ but it isn't quite a /g/ either. It's just plain cute. 

Anyway, our entire family spent the day repeating that little exchange. 

"I love you."

"Okay."

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Reasons today was fairly awesome

Benjamin fell asleep patiently waiting for me to find my Kindle and to show Miriam's latest and greatest sentence to the world. And I'm totally okay with that because today was not entirely as awesome as yesterday (though today did have its perks).

It started with Benjamin not sleeping last night. He was a bundle of negative energy today.

And, truthfully, that was really the only bad part about today. Everything else was great.

It was just the screaming. And the temper tantrums. And the crying. And the whining. And all that kind of stuff.

This morning when I woke up tired, with a toddler on top of me, I said, "Benjamin, you need to stay in your own bed."

He screwed his face up and pouted, "NO!"

"Then I guess we'll just have to throw your bed away," Andrew teased.

"Okay," Benjamin readily agreed.

"I don't know why we're even bothering trying to fix this now," I lamented.

"Because we're tired," Andrew pointed out.

"But we're planning on taking him camping for a week and that's just going to break his sleep habits all over again," I sighed.

"ME?" Benjamin smiled hopefully.

"Yes—you!" I said. "We're taking you camping!"

(Because we're crazy).

Anyway, we met my friend Emily and her kids at our pool and had a blast swimming with them. They're moving away for six months for her husband to do some medical training in another city. Thankfully they'll be back for another year (and then some) when they're finished because I'm not sure I'm ready to say goodbye to them yet!

Emily and E

Avcors i wel

So, I promised Benjamin that I would read in his bedroom while he falls asleep. But that's only because he's been screaming his guts out for over an hour and I can't stand it anymore (I stopped being able to stand it a long time ago, truthfully) so a deal had to be reached (he's patiently not crying while he waits for me).

When I walked to his room to make the deal, though, Miriam waved me over to her bed. She was reading some Fancy Nancy books but quickly pulled out her notebook to show me her writing.

I am not kidding when I say that everything this child does is magically adorable. Because avcors it is!


I showed it to Andrew and he was like, "What?"

"Read it out loud," I said.

"Avcors i wel," he said. "Of course I will!"

It's like a crazy secret code of pure bliss. I should have been a kindergarten teacher. Except that, uh, screaming children drive me crazy so I'd much prefer to spend my day with three of them rather than thirty.

Excited for preschool

It's probably no secret that I'm terrible at getting kids to go to bed. Or that my kids just don't sleep. Or something.

At this very minute, Benjamin is standing in his doorway with his cup and his bus and his car crying for me and I'm ignoring him because it's 9:00 PM and I've done the lullaby thing (more than once now) and he should be in bed. Andrew and I are playing good cop, bad cop with him.

The girls, on the other hand, are tucked into their beds. One is quietly reading the fifth Harry Potter book. The other is diligently practicing her handwriting. One will shut off her lamp at a decent hour and put herself to sleep (because she's my only child who enjoys sleeping). The other will need to be threatened and bargained with before she'll close her book for the night. But even though we sometimes have to end reading time with a fight (especially when I say, "Finish up that chapter and go to bed!" and Rachel happens to be just a page turn away from the end of the chapter because how dare I?!) I must say that literacy is one of my very best friends in motherhood.

Last night Miriam swaggered out of her bedroom with a fistful of papers. She didn't say a word, just held them up for me to see—first this side, then that side—a proud little smirk on her face the whole time.



Monday, July 07, 2014

Reasons today was awesome

Today I loved my children so much. I always love my kids but today I loved them so much. 

When I was little my mom used to say (usually when she was upset with either me or one of my siblings) that she always loved us but that she didn't always have to like us. It's a distinction I can honestly say I didn't fully understand until I became a parent. I love my kids so much but, uh, there's opposition in all things, right? 

Nobody can drive me bonkers like my own children can.



But today? Today they spent the whole day playing together. All three of them. Nicely.

Celebrating Six Years of ABC Yoga

We moved to Egypt when Rachel was thirteen months old. I was already familiar with Cairo (we'd visited there when we went on study abroad to Jordan a couple of years prior) and knew that I'd need ways to keep my energetic toddler busy inside our apartment. Even if going out as an unaccompanied woman wasn't frowned upon in some circles (I did go out plenty and it was usually fine) there really aren't many places to go with a baby (parks cost money and we didn't have a lot of that). Besides it was hot. And men stared. And everyone wanted pictures of my baby. Always.

I went out with some of my more adventurous friends (safety in numbers). I'd visit Maadi Club whenever a friend with a membership would invite us (they had a pool and a playground but we didn't qualify for a membership—not cool enough). Sometimes I'd sneak into Victoria College campus and play at their playground (but would usually end up getting kicked out). There was a strip of grass down the street from us (highly unusual) but only the second year we were there (the first year it was like...a big ol' construction site). And sometimes we'd even get kicked off of that.

To sum up: there were plenty of times when we'd go on adventures but there were also plenty of times when we were simply cooped up in the apartment.

I was fully expecting it to be this way so before we left we purchased some YogaKids DVDs: ABC Yoga and Silly to Calm.

We've been using them regularly for six years now. And when I say "them" I mostly just mean the ABC one because although I'd love for my kids to switch off with the Silly to Calm disc they just won't. They love ABC Yoga way too much.

When I was pregnant with Rachel I religiously practiced my prenatal yoga DVD. When I was pregnant with the other two I mostly skipped out on the prenatal yoga and instead did my prenatal exercises from memory while my kids did ABC Yoga.

Because that is the only yoga DVD that should ever be put on. Ever.

Today I didn't feel like taking the kids to the pool or the park (sorry kids—high of 93°F (34°C) and humidity of who knows what and we'll be at the pool all day tomorrow anyway) and they were getting wild in the afternoon so I asked if they want to do yoga. They excitedly got out the mats.

"Ogi! Ogi!" Benjamin squealed. That's what he calls yoga. It's like yogi but without the y (because Benjamin doesn't make that sound).

I took a few pictures of them doing yoga together when I realized that we've had this DVD for six years! We have every song memorized. We probably have every word memorized. I could probably just not put the DVD on and seamlessly lead the children through Yoga ABCs but that would defeat the point of the DVD in the first place (because Marsha Wenig has been saving my sanity 40 minutes at a time for six years).

Here are my little ones being caterpillars:


Sunday, July 06, 2014

Happy home-iversary

Two years ago on this day in history we were in the middle of Benjamin's 24-hour "request," a test preemature infants have to pass before they can go home—we had to "room in" at the hospital and Benjamin had to prove he could show us hunger cues frequently enough and we had to prove we could handle any crises that might arrive (like his apnea/heart monitor going off because he was in distress).

It felt like a date, to be honest. We had a "free" night in a "hotel" with no kids...except for, you know, Benjamin. Andrew went out and got hamburgers for dinner. We watched Sherlock together. We went to bed without having to sing anyone lullabies or get anyone a drink of water. It was a regular baby-moon.

One month old and almost ready to come home from the hospital (July 2, 2012)

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Fireworks

We had some friends invite us to a block party they were helping put on—with a barbecue and fireworks and everything. We thought we'd be brave and check it out. We walked all the way down there, noticed all the cars, saw all the people we didn't know, didn't see the people we did know, turned around and came home.


Friday, July 04, 2014

Planes, Planes, Planes!

Yesterday when we went to the library (and I promise I'll eventually stop talking about Philemon Sturges's vehicle books but...) we found a copy of I Love Planes! which we just had to check out. For some reason Amazon.com didn't recommend that book to me when I was checking out I Love Trains! and I Love Trucks! online. After reading it I understand why because while the books about trucks and trains were lovable, the book about planes was...meh. They kind of hit the wall with that one.

Benjamin liked it but no one else was very impressed with it. It seemed like they were trying too hard. They featured a dad in one story so they should probably feature a mom in this one, right? But they turned the mom of the story into an astronaut at the very end, which was fine because feminism. However, why didn't they just make the child in the story a girl obsessed with planes rather than a boy (who wants to visit his mom in outer space...)?

Each of the books features a little boy, which is interesting because Sturges raised a couple of daughters. Granted, that might be the illustrator's decision since the books never name the speaker by gender. Still, my little girls enjoyed the books when they were little. And I think that having a little girl loving trucks or trains or planes would be just as pro-feminist as having the mom be an astronaut.

Besides, we'd already travelled to the moon (in a hot air balloon(?) because that makes sense, though I do admit that much of the book is "wishing") so going back to outer space at the end seemed less climactic than it could have had we not gotten back from the moon a couple of pages before.

Anyway, it simply wasn't as charming as the other two books. Though Benjamin certainly enjoyed it and asked for it ("AGAIN!") as soon as we'd finished I don't think we'll be hunting the book down to add to our collection.

Bike Parade

As Alexa predicted we were the only bikes not decked out in red, white, and blue. Miriam rode her pink and purple unicorn tricycle with pride but Rachel felt a little silly about her Gryffindor-themed bike. Andrew said that the patriotic theme was implicit because it's Independence Day. And then I said, "Have you ever been to a parade?" because not every float is patriotically themed.

Regardless, we all had a lot of fun though.


Thursday, July 03, 2014

Bike decorating

While we were at the museum I got an email "reminding" me of the annual 4th of July bike parade in our neighbourhood. I say "reminded" because this was the first I'd heard of it. It was short notice for spectacular bike decorating but I told the girls about it because we have zero plans for the 4th. They went to work right away—like, we pulled into the driveway and they went into the house, grabbed the key to the shed, hauled their bikes out, and started taping paper all over their bikes before I'd even carted sleeping Benjamin into the house.

I'll leave Rachel's bike a surprise for tomorrow since she did it all on her own.

Miriam and I worked on her tricycle together. We turned her/her bike into a unicorn. She's super excited about it.


We went on an actual outing

Rachel was complaining about how tangled her hair keeps getting (because she goes swimming for hours everyday and never brushes her hair but she "thought that pool water was a detangler so it didn't matter if [she] didn't brush [her] hair") so I braided the front part and threw the rest into a bun.

She was so mad at me for giving her "fancy hair."

I was like, "Dude. I assure you that by the end of the day your hair will not have a single tangle in it, so what I actually gave you was tangle-free hair."

Miriam was like, "Do whatever you did to Rachel's hair to my hair but make it even fancier!"

This was how Miriam's hair ended up:


Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Trucks, Trucks, Trucks!

Shortly before dinner the doorbell rang. We opened the door to find a package sitting on our welcome mat. Inside the package was a copy of I Love Trucks. It was an instant hit. I think we've read it fifty times already today (and I'm not even kidding).

We halted dinner preparations to sit down together and read it—because it was just that exciting—and at the very first rhyme it got Andrew's head nod of approval. Rachel was less impressed with the rhyming scheme but that's only because she had no idea what a rhyming scheme was. (Now she does and is slightly more impressed.)

Benjamin was particularly enamoured with the page where you have to turn the book sideways to look at the truck the right way. It's thrilling, I tell you.

As soon as we finished the initial reading Benjamin said, "AGAIN!" so I read it to him again and again and again. And when I was tired of reading I told him to find someone else to read it to him. So he made Rachel read it to him over and over and over again. When she was sick of reading it Benjamin hit up Daddy.

When it was time to eat dinner we had to pry the book out of his hands. The only way we stopped his temper tantrum was to prop the book up where the dump truck could watch him eat dinner.

After dinner everybody read the book to Benjamin a few more times. We read it again at story time. And then I read it to Benjamin again after the girls got in bed. Benjamin took the book to bed with him.