Thursday, December 31, 2015

New Year's Eve, take 1

I'm sure we'll take more pictures of our late night festivities as well (then again, we might not), but here are some pictures of the day from before 9:30 (when we rang in the New Year with King Benjamin).

The first thing we did today was sleep in, big time. I woke up just before 10 am and everyone was still sleeping. It was eerie, but I'm not going to complain about it because I think we all needed a good wake-up-when-ready day.

Once we were all up and at 'em, Daddy took Benjamin grocery shopping while the girls and I took down the Christmas decorations. I had to take a picture of this branch:



Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Miriam's 2015 Reading Report

Since we’ve had so much fun tracking all the books Rachel read in 2014 and 2015, this year Miriam decided to join in. At the beginning of the year, Miriam decided to read 100 books—an ambitious goal considering she was still in the middle of preschool and was only dreaming of kindergarten. After a few months, though, she realized that 100 books was too easy, so she changed it to 200 (twice as ambitious!). Because we put a sort of data dashboard on the desktop of our media computer, she was able to track how far ahead of Rachel she was throughout most of the year (and delighted in reminding Rachel that she’d read more books than her).

Starting kindergarten in July (and skipping to 1st grade in August), though, was rough on her—probably a little more difficult than we thought now that we can see the data. As you’ll see below, she curtailed her reading significantly once school started and has only recently (i.e. just this week) returned to pre-1st-grade levels (albeit with much more difficult books now).

Here’s how great she did this year:

Rachel's 2015 Reading Report

Continuing our tradition of quantifying and measuring all our children’s achievements, we once again tracked every book Rachel read this year. At the beginning of the year she decided to set a goal of 400 books (given her success last year at reading 382 books). However, we didn’t take into account the fact that the books she reads now are longer and more complex—she started 2014 reading 60-page Junie B. Jones and Cam Jansen books that she could fly through. She’s also taken to Doctor Who and spent nearly Friday night—and most evenings during school breaks—watching an episode or two (she finished all nine seasons from the modern show and has watched most of the older episodes available on Netflix). Because of that (and because we never got around to revising her goal), she didn’t come anywhere close to 400. But that’s totally okay because she read a ton of fantastic books this year and Doctor Who totally counts as literary acculturation so it’s all good.

Here’s how she did.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Vinegaroon

One of our favourite exhibits at the zoo, collectively, was the desert biome. I think part of the reason for that is because it seems so impossible to the children, especially lately. The hill leading to our backyard is so muddy that Benjamin was unintentionally using it as a slip'n'slide this afternoon (when it was, mercifully, sunny for a few hours). He slid down it so many times, always by accident.

"Now that's a slippery slope!" he kept saying.

I think he's only ever heard that term used metaphorically.

kookaburras inside the biome

Zoë at seven months

Zoë is now seven months old. Technically she's seven months and one week, which means she's quickly approaching the eight-month mark, which hardly seems possible. Time is, once again, moving far too quickly.

At seven months, Zoë is much more interested in moving than in staying still. Unfortunately, she hasn't quite figured out how to crawl yet and is stuck rolling and scooting and it's driving her bonkers. We catch her planking quite a bit and have spotted her rocking back and forth on her hands and knees a couple of times. So don't worry, Zoë! Crawling is right around the corner! I promise.



Clean your room!

 "Your room is a disaster!" I remarked last night when I went to tuck Benjamin and Miriam in. "We need to tidy up a bit before bed."

"We'll clean it in the morning," they chimed.

"Somebody's going to break their neck!" I said.

"We'll clean it in the morning," they insisted.

We went back and forth like this a bit until I decided that some battles aren't worth fighting. Going to bed with a disastrously messy room wasn't the worst thing in the world. And my kids were offering to go to bed, a rare scenario in our house.

"Fine," I said. "You can clean it in the morning."

I woke up this morning to the sound of Benjamin roaring. We doesn't really cry anymore. He roars. And I hate it so, so much. It's like crying but yelling at the same time and it's perfectly calibrated to push all my buttons at the same time. Except for my sympathy button. It's impossible for me to be sympathetic when he's cry-yelling these days. The first thing out my mouth is usually, "Oh, Benjamin! Stop that racket and use your words!" Never anything sweet and motherly like, "Oh, Benjamin! What's the matter, honey?" It's seriously the most annoying sound. Anyway...it's the sound I woke up to this morning.

Nothing was really the matter. Miriam wouldn't let him get in her bed to snuggle and he was gravely offended. He still likes to snuggle in the mornings.

"You can snuggle with me," I said. Then I said, "But get off your sister! That's Zoë's spot. You can't snuggle on top of her. Come to the other side of the bed!"

We snuggled until he felt better and then he left to go potty and get dressed.

No more than one minute after he skipped out of my room he was roaring...again.

"Oh, Benjamin!" I grumbled. "That is the worst noise! Use your words to tell me what's wrong."

"I....WAAAAAAAAAAAH!" he roared, blood spilling out of his mouth.

"Oh, dear!" I said. "Hush, hush. Let's get that taken care of."

I got a wet wash cloth for him to put in his mouth and we eventually stopped the bleeding, though it took about fifteen minutes. He was in pretty good spirits, though, and helped Miriam clean their room (while sucking an ice cube wrapped in a baby wash cloth) because guess what happened. Your guess is as good as mine, really. Something about jumping, tripping, a pillow, his bed...biting himself... He didn't explain it very well but it was clear from his explanation that the messy bedroom was (at least partially) to blame.

I can hardly look in his mouth without shuddering.


I called the nurse hotline but no one was answering, so I sent a message to our office, but no one answered that either so eventually I tried the nurse hotline again. This time I got through. She said that from the description I should probably bring him in but that she didn't think they'd actually do anything.

Fortunately it's winter break and Andrew was able to come home from campus to take Benjamin in so that I didn't have to find a babysitter or drag in all the girls to the office.

They saw a resident first, who agreed that it looked pretty bad and told Andrew that they only bother repairing it if "it has flapping parts, is bigger than 2cm, or if it is at risk of getting food in" and that this particular wound is one that might be worthy of stitches. She call the attending physician in for a second opinion. She also thought it looked worthy of a stitch or two. However, because it's in his mouth he'd have to have undergo general anesthesia (or general-er than mere local anesthesia) to get those few stitches, and the doctors weren't sure it was worth it all the hassle.

So, he's left with a gaping hole in his mouth.

We're supposed to have him rinse it out frequently, to have him not chew on it, and to keep a close eye on it to make sure it's getting better, not worse.

It's seriously so gross.

At least I can say, "There is a reason we keep our bedroom clean!"

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Christmas 2015

This was Zoë, wide awake at 2:30 AM on Christmas morning. She watched as Santa filled all the stockings and she knows all his secrets (but she's not telling).


Obviously Mom and Dad and Zoë had a hard time getting up in the morning, but eventually there was so much excitement in one little bedroom down the hall that the entire house was buzzing with energy so we got up and let them through the magic curtain.

That's bear spit!

We went to the zoo today. Our dear home teacher gave us a pass to the zoo for Christmas this year (we already had purchased a pass but the zoo just tacked on his gift to the end of our original pass so now it won't expire until, hopefully, after Andrew has graduated...fingers crossed) and on Christmas Eve when we went to carol for him (we missed him when we went out on Monday night) he and his wife talked it up so much that we decided to take the kids today while the weather was dry because we're due for another full week of rain again next week.

I have several stories about the zoo (and Christmas as well) but I really ought to be getting to bed because Zoë is teething fiercely all day and all night so I was up with her screaming in my face until 3 AM again last night. I'm feeling not unlike this tired ol' bear we saw today:

Friday, December 25, 2015

Christmas Eve Devotional

Zoë fell asleep in the middle of It's a Wonderful Life and slept right through our Christmas Eve Devotional, which means she's up and peppy now! When we started It's a Wonderful Life there were many moans and groans about it being black and white but I assured them that they would enjoy it (and they did).

They have no concept of timelines though. My brother David played the role of Ernie (right?) in It's a Wonderful Life back in Orem so I told the kids that their Uncle David was "just" in this play and that he was the taxi driver. So the taxi comes on and Rachel goes, "Wait, where's Uncle David? I don't see him."

The movie came out in 1956—long before Uncle David was even thought of! It was pretty funny that they thought he'd show up in an old black and white movie.

This year I especially enjoyed the part where George Bailey says, "I want to do something big and important!" and his father replies, "You know, George, I feel that in a small way we are doing something important."

A few days ago I read an article by Elder Christofferson in the Ensign titled Be at Peace and it really resonated with me, especially this bit:
Just sit with the Lord and let Him warm you like a fire in winter. You don’t have to be perfect or the greatest person who ever graced the earth or the best of anything to be with Him.
I hope you will take time this Christmas season to sit for a few quiet moments and let the Savior’s Spirit warm you and reassure you of the worthiness of your service, of your offering, of your life. 
So is it really any wonder that the same message trickled through It's a Wonderful Life and into my heart?

Sometimes I forget that I don't have to be perfect or the best of anything and I start wishing to be those things—because I'm so far being perfect or the best—thinking that it would make me more worthy. More worthy of my husband, more worthy of my children, more worthy in the eyes of God. I, too, sometimes (proudly?) desire to "do something big and important!"

This week I've been reminded time and again that what I'm doing is important...in a small way...and that sometimes the small things are the most important of all (even if it doesn't always seem like it).

I don't have to accomplish any grand thing to be worthy of God's love (or my husband's love or my children's love). I simply have to be the best me that I can be while trying a little harder to be a little better every day, because if I do my best the Lord will make up for the rest.

(How many clichés can I cram together in one sentence?)

Anyway, I'm incredibly grateful this day, and every day, for a Savior who is willing to pay the price for my sins, fill all my shortcomings, and bridge the gap leading home to our Father above.



Thursday, December 24, 2015

Christmas Eve Day

We're having a tropical heat wave of a Christmas this year. Yesterday was Christmas Adam and the children spent half the day playing outside in the rain. We had the missionaries over dinner that evening and our dinner conversation was accompanied by pouring rain, punctuated by loud blasts of thunder. I made the kids start White Christmas with me while Andrew was running the Elders around, and the kids thought it was so funny when the train stopped in Vermont and someone remarks, "We're still in Carolina!" because it was a mild winter with no snow.

The kids loved the movie, though it was a bit long for them. Miriam wants to be a famous dancer like Judy, while Rachel was drawn to Betty's character. Benjamin loved both of the sisters. He did my hair up in a million barrettes and proclaimed, "You're looking pretty good, Mom! You're looking like a Haynes sister!"

Today it actually stopped raining for a while (miraculous, really, with the deluge we've been getting) so we went to the museum to burn off some of our cooped up energy. It's been pouring every day so Andrew's been taking the van to campus which means the kids and I have been stuck at home all day every day. We were happy to have an outing.

We played inside for a little while but eventually the kids were begging to play at the new Hideaway Woods (of course). Benjamin lost a "moon stone" this morning and was thrilled to find out that the bottom of the creek is literally lined with moon stones! He wasted no time filling his pockets with lunar rocks (aka regular ordinary gravel).


Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Secret Santa

I was excited to sing with the choir on Sunday because we held our Christmas program. Last year I missed singing with the choir on Christmas Sunday because we were visiting family. I was a little sad about it because singing is such an important part of my worship. It's almost depressing for me to sit in the audience and listen to the choir sing on Christmas Sunday (although the choir I listened to was lovely); I much prefer to sing. I'm not the world's greatest singer, but I do believe singing is good for the soul—or at least for my soul. It's one way that I've found my soul communes with God.

Perhaps because of that I also don't like to deny the rest of the congregation the opportunity to sing their hearts out, and for that reason enjoy songs that require the congregation to join in.

For our closing song this past Sunday the congregation sang Silent Night while the choir sang Peace, Peace (by Sylvia and Rick Powell) and it was beautiful. I wish we could have sung it more than once because we never quite got the full effect while we were practicing it. It was so, so beautiful.

The other pieces we sang (as a choir) were Guard Him, Joseph (by Sally DeFord), which I was lucky to get through without tears (I have a hard time singing "when his mother's arms be weary / hold him gently as thing own / for thou has within thy keeping / God's own well-beloved Son") and King of Kings (by Betsy Bailey), which I mostly loved except that the music immediately made me think of the rhythm of, well, riding on a camel, but we cut the verse about the wisemen seeking (for time constraints) and also I wanted to sing a big swelling JOY, JOY, JOY to the world at the end and our director wanted us to sing it, like, staccato, which, mixed with the high pitch of the note made it a little squeaky *joy*joy*joy* which didn't sound joyful to me at all. But other than that...it was great.

The bishop asked the congregation to sing two extra songs because we ended up not using all of our meeting time (should have kept that verse about the wisemen, eh?) and I was fine with that because more singing! He spoke about how there aren't many presents he remembers getting for Christmas; rather the memories he has are of his family giving. His family would choose a couple of families to dote on during the twelve days leading up to Christmas (yes, a little backwards from the actual twelve days of Christmas, which start of Christmas day, but a fine tradition notwithstanding) and would secretly deliver presents/necessities/treats. He spoke about how sneaky they had to get once the families had caught on and were expecting gifts.

Christmas vultures

I was much less ambitious today than I was yesterday. In the morning I suggested to the kids that we make some Christmas ornaments. "But before we do that..." I said.

"We have to get dressed, eat breakfast, clear the table, and tidy up!" the kids chanted.

And then (for the most part) they did all that stuff!

Benjamin did not but he's three so it's socially acceptable to make Christmas decorations in his underwear, right?


Cookies and Caroling

Sugar cookies are practically the bane of my existence. Is there a mother out there that actually enjoys making sugar cookies with her children? I don't believe it. Or maybe I'm just too uptight.

Yes, you may roll the dough.

Very nice. Now it's my turn again. 

You can choose any shape you want...of the Christmas cookie cutters. 

Don't put your cookie cutter in the middle of the dough (like Benjamin just did—Benjamin, stop)!

Work your way around the dough putting the cookie cutters as close together as possible.

Don't mangle the dough like that. Jiggle the cutter a little. There you go.

We're not going to fit very many cookies on the tray if you plop them all over the place. Three in a row, people. Three in a row!

Stop eating the dough.

Seriously. I need to take a mega chill pill before I can bake (sugar) cookies with my children. It's always an exercise in patience; and I didn't even have to make the dough this time because Andrew made it the night before (because mixing dough (with children) is another activity that takes a lot of deep breathing for me). Alas, rolled sugar cookies are the dream cookie for children to make.

I know because they were for me (and I'm pretty sure my mom hated making them with us) and they are for my children (and I'm not going to lie—it's not my favourite activity).

Anyway, here are the kids working on cookies on Sunday evening:


Saturday, December 19, 2015

Hot Pepper Jelly

Last Christmas my aunt Judy set out some hot pepper jelly to eat on crackers with cream cheese on the hors d'oeuvres table. She'd found it at Costco and it was really good.

This year my friend Ginny posted on her blog about her hot pepper jelly so I thought I'd try my hand at it.

Andrew took Benjamin and Zoë grocery shopping this morning while I slept in. Last night was awful. I knew it. He knew it. And probably half the neighbourhood knew it as well.

Sleep. What is it good for?

So after feeding Zoë at 8:00 in the morning, a perfectly decent hour to get up on a Saturday morning unless you've been feeding a baby the whole night long, I fed Zoë (again)and then pushed her over to Andrew's side of the bed. She batted his face until he woke up and took her out and I went back to sleep.

He came back with groceries and all the ingredients to make the hot pepper jelly, including three jalapeños in case I wanted to make it "a little hotter," as stated in the recipe. This evening I got busy and made hot pepper jelly for the first time while Andrew and Rachel watched Indiana Jones and Zoë fussed and Benjamin and Miriam went to bed.

It turned out fairly well and I was just putting everything into the canner when the movie ended (Ginny's recipe doesn't say to put the jars in a water bath but other similar recipes I found did so I did just to be on the safe side).

"Did you use two jalapeños or three?" Andrew asked.

"Three," I said.

"Wow. Going for hotter," he said, impressed.

"Well, the recipe is from a Canadian friend, so..." I started to explain.

"Ah," he said knowingly.

Can a woman forget her sucking child?

The answer is yes. At least for a little while.

On Thursday I did Rachel's class party and then cleaned up from the party and loaded all of the children and all of our supplies into the van: that's four children, a stroller, a diaper bag, two big bags of supplies, two backpacks, two big coats (because the mornings are "so cold" but the afternoons aren't), and maybe some other stuff that I can't remember. The trunk was pretty full.

Zoë fell asleep on the way home, which was a good, good thing because aside from a twenty minute catnap in the teacher prep room she hadn't slept the whole day. When we pulled into the driveway I told the children they could do the things that they had to do before coming back to help me. Some had to go potty so couldn't help carry stuff. Others had to carry in a single sheet of Very Important Paper so couldn't help carry stuff. You know—important stuff!

Everyone but Benjamin forgot to come back out to help me carry things.

I checked the mail and grabbed a few things and took them into the house, exasperatedly mentioning "How nice all the help was!"

The girls were like, "Oh, yeah! I forgot! Just let me find my shoes!"

While they were "finding their shoes" (c'mon—you just walked inside and kicked them off in the entryway so they were right there the whole time) Benjamin and I finished carrying stuff in. I closed the trunk and locked the van. Miriam held the door open for me and my load of stuff.

"Is that everything?" she asked.

"That's everything," I affirmed.

"Okay," she said, looking around the house in confusion. "So...what about the baby?"

"Oh, no!" I gasped. "I forgot about her!"

Nothing bad happened to her. The solution was as simple as unlocking the van and retrieving her. And I'm sure I would have realized she was missing on my own...eventually.

But that is just how easy it is to forget about your baby.

I'm lucky my memory lapse was only in my driveway, on a temperate (albeit drizzly) day, thirty seconds after I locked the van and walked away.

One little change in your routine really can make you forget your baby. Usually I put the diaper bag (with my purse and phone and keys) on the floor under her carseat. But I didn't because I had all that other stuff so I put it in the trunk. Usually I have to unbuckle Benjamin and then immediately run around to unbuckle Zoë. But I didn't because his sisters unbuckled him; I stood by barking instructions as my circus clowns piled out of the van all on their own and then opened the trunk to get my keys...and all of that stuff.

It is so easy to forget. I have such sympathy for mothers who've forgotten under worse circumstances (such as for a half hour on a blazing hot day rather than thirty seconds on a fine day) or under the gaze of unforgiving, judgemental monsters who jump at the chance to charge slightly-frazzled mothers with child endangerment even when their child was just fine (rather than that of my own ever-forgiving, sweet little monsters who are willing to giggle about silly mommy who forgot to unload the baby).

I'd link to specific stories, but I'm sure you've seen the ones I'm talking about...or similar ones. Maybe you have a story of your own. If you do, tell it to me to make me feel better about myself. I'll be nothing but sympathetic.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Gingerbread House

In the interest of not complaining about my two youngest children anymore today (today was a doozy)...look! We assembled the gingerbread house our neighbours brought by the other day!

Andrew put the actual house together while everyone else was finishing dinner (he wolfed down his food today) and then he kept an eye on Zoë while I helped the kids with the decorating.


Benjamin put just about as much candy into his mouth as he did onto the house. But who didn't see that one coming?

Nothing 'bout Star Wars!

Andrew took the big girls to see Star Wars VII on opening night (Thursday—a school night!) and they came home and told me all the spoilers to get it out of their system (so the world is safe; I don't mind spoilers and feel only so-so about Star Wars).

Benjamin, unjustly, had to stay home with Mom and the baby even though he's a big boy (he told me so himself) so we played some Star Wars "games" (really a preschool printable from here), which was just as much fun, I'm sure. We spelled some words with Bananagram letters and used some of the cards to play memory and did other super fun things before I sent him to bed (long before his sisters came home).


Christmas baby

I left Zoë in pyjamas when we went to the school for Miriam's party today because she was so miserable this morning that...let's just say we're lucky that I managed to put clothes on. I wasn't ready to press the issue with anyone else. Andrew had dressed Benjamin before he left for work, so at least he was taken care of. And babies can totally pull of pyjamas, so it was fine.

I slapped a bow on her head to make it look a little more intentional and we were off.

Someone actually asked me if she was a boy.

Her eyes are a little red from crying because I walked all the way to my desk to grab the camera—ABANDONMENT!

Winter Celebrations

I was in charge of planning Rachel's class's "winter celebration"; we decorated melted snowman cookies and made snowmen out of paint sticks. I didn't think those two activities would take very long but it turns out that herding nearly thirty children through those two activities filled almost two hours. Next party celebration will be simpler. It was fun though!

Here are Rachel and Benjamin with their cookies:


Merry (Stupid) Christmas

If you read the newspaper Rachel made, you'd know from her interview with Miriam that we have an advent calendar filled with candy and scriptures (printed off from this website). We're not very good at opening it every night because so sometimes we end up open two or three...or six or seven...one night and then nothing for a few days. Now that school's out I'm sure we'll be more attentive to details like advent calendars, but the past three weeks we've been busy focusing on other things (like making dinner and getting to bed on time).

Tonight was a five-scripture night, which meant we each got to read one. Miriam read hers first and then Benjamin asked me to help him with his.

"And the angel said unto them," I whispered.

"And the angel said unto them," Benjamin repeated.

"Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy," I said.

"Sear not: sor, behold, I bing you good tidings of gate zyoy," came the echo.

"Which shall be to all people," I said.

"Wish shaw be to aw peepuh," Benjamin said.

"For unto you is born this day..." I said.

Then, much to our astonishment, instead of repeating what I'd said, Benjamin went on to finish the scripture, boldly proclaiming, "In the city of David, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord!"

Thursday, December 17, 2015

A newspaper "for children"

Yesterday afternoon Rachel and her friend decided to make a neighbourhood newspaper. Rachel was super serious about it and published the very first edition last night. I love it so much. She printed nine copies, rolled them up, and tied string around them so that they can deliver them. I really can't get over how spectacular this is. The only thing she asked for help on was putting a caption under the picture and figuring out how to make her own word search.

I'm pretty sure this is my favourite newspaper in the whole world.


Wednesday, December 16, 2015

A brief timeline to celebrate our decennial anniversary (with quotes from Andrew)

May 4, 2005

"Hey! It's me, your favorite Anziano Heiss! I finally got your e-mail address..."

This was the day Andrew skirted around the fact that I had written him a few times at the beginning of his mission but that he never wrote me back. And he only wrote to me at the prodding of his mother (she basically threatened to disown him if he didn't). I wrote back. And I wrote back again. And I wrote back again. And then finally (three weeks later) he wrote back again. And then we kept on writing (the world's most ridiculous emails) clear through...

October 12, 2005

"Wow—I'm home and am typing on an American keyboard.... If you want we can meet each other on campus somewhere around 5:30ish and eat something..."

Because "if she says yes, you're in. It's like a secret code girls have." That's a quote from the movie Elf, which, incidentally, we watched on our honeymoon. Anyway, I said yes. He'd just been released around 1:00 that afternoon and I was, in his words, "the first non-missionary, female contact" he'd had in two years, so it was a little awkward. He asked me if I had a scripture marking system. Because he has the best pick up lines.

October 15, 2005

"We're having a picnic at Rock Canyon park...with Ross, Anna, Beryl, Stormie, you, and me..."

In truth, Ross was trying to set Andrew up with his sister Stormie but when Andrew told him he'd rather go with me than with her they cajoled their roommate Beryl into coming along to be Stormie's date. And then Beryl didn't come! So it would have been the most awkward date ever...and probably was for Stormie...but I don't think Ross and Anna or Andrew and I even noticed.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Museum days

We've been pretending it's summer lately. It feels wrong because it should be colder than this, but I'm not going to lie: I'm totally enjoying it (even if it's really hard to believe Christmas is just ten days away). Today it was well over 70°F outside so we went to the museum to enjoy some outdoor exploring. I was excited to pull out this cute little outfit of Miriam's that I was afraid Zoë would never get the chance to wear. When Miriam was six months old it was April, and we were in living in Egypt. December in North Carolina is a little chillier than April in Egypt, typically. But today it was definitely warm enough to pull this look off.


Ukulele Christmas

On Saturday we went to our ward Christmas party, which was wonderful. My friend Rachel decorated for it and she did a spectacular job disguising the gym as a winter wonderland; I wish took a picture of the whole thing, but I didn't. I guess I was too wrapped up in containing the catastrophe known as taking four children out in public.

Zoë managed to have a blow out before the evening had really even started so I switched her into some pants I found in the diaper bag, which, as luck would have it, turned out to be just as festive:

Monday, December 14, 2015

Driving in my car

Please tell me she's not old enough for games like this yet! Her belly laughs and squeals of joy tell me that maybe she is. Benjamin had a blast pushing her up and down the street, she couldn't stop giggling, and I stood by about as nervous as I imagine I'll be when she gets behind the wheel fifteen years from now.


Sunday, December 13, 2015

Heiss Holiday Humbug 2015

For once I have very little to say in my preamble, so we'll get straight to the good stuff: our Christmas letter is finally here!

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

Friday, December 11, 2015

Zoë vs. Cheerios

Zoë's really not great at eating Cheerios yet. She first tried them when we were in Utah and I was like, "Perfect! She can experiment with them now and be a pro by the time we fly home. That should keep her happy on the plane!" But, alas, we've yet to reach that "pro" zone. She gagged and choked and coughed at that first Cheerio and now, weeks later she still gags and chokes on her Cheerios.

On the plus side, though, she finds them wildly entertaining.


Thursday, December 10, 2015

A big catch up

I feel like the blog has been so neglected! I got sick (again) and have been very busy trying to get better while also tending to Benjamin and Zoë, who have also been sick. I don't know what happened. I was fine on Sunday. I even taught Rachel's primary class because her teacher was out sick.

We had a lovely lesson on The Golden Rule. I invented a character to use in hypothetical situations. His name is Oliben. He's a somewhat annoying three-year-old brother.

There are only two children in Rachel's class, you see? Our ward has a phenomenally large junior primary but, due to the peripatetic nature multitude of the student families that provide the majority of the children in the ward, the senior primary numbers dwindle. It's kind of an amazing process to watch. Rachel had a handful of wonderful girls in her class when we moved here. Now there are two; it's just Rachel and Callin. Miriam went into Sunbeams with fifteen other three-year-olds. Now there are only ten kids her age. I'm sure in a couple of years there will only be a handful. And then...who knows because we'll likely be one of the families leaving.

Anyway, it's just Rachel and Callin.

Callin's mom and I have synchronized childbirth schedules.

Callin was born in June of 2007. Rachel was born in July.

Miriam was born in October of 2009. Rhett was born in December.

Oliver was born in February (or was it March?) of 2012. Benjamin was born in June.

Elliot was born in January of 2015. Zoë was born in May.

It's almost eerie, really, but there you have it. Rachel and Callin have a lot in common. Not only do the have the exact same number of siblings all pretty much the exact same age, they also like building with LEGO and keeping their precious creations safe from the prying hands of their slightly obnoxious little brothers.

To simplify (and also to "anonymize) scenarios, I created Oliben. I seemed the best name.

Benjiver. Olimin. Benjoli.

Oliben worked. And Rachel and Callin thought it was hilarious.

Sunday, December 06, 2015

Ukulele, Room Rearranging, & Trading Tables

This end of our week was rather eventful, starting on Thursday and continuing through the weekend. I spent the morning practicing the ukulele for the Relief Society Christmas party. We didn't volunteer to play this time since we'd already volunteered to play at the ward Christmas party (and how much ukulele can one audience take, really?) but then we were asked to play so we said we would.

Unfortunately, since we didn't volunteer early all the songs that we'd been practicing had already been nabbed by other performers. Not even kidding. That's what we get for being recruited three days before the party.

This wasn't a huge problem for a seasoned ukuleleist, such as myself (*blows on fingertips, rubs on shirt*), but it was kind of a shock for the freshly minted ukuleleists in the group. I did my best to find songs that they'd be comfortable playing—because, let's face it, I'm not exactly an expert either—scrutinizing chords and simplifying arrangements I'd found online. We were all pretty stressed about getting things to a playable level for us all (because practicing at home is one thing and playing in front of an audience is another) and in the end we did alright.

We played Away in a Manger (tune by James Murray, which we hadn't played before), Christmas Bells (in the key of F, ignoring that surly B-flat), and Holly Jolly Christmas (we all played the verses; not everyone played the bridge (it was a little tricky)). Rachel and Miriam played handbells during Christmas Bells but other than that we let the children off the hook for this performance. I was having to give pep talks to the adults; had we involved the children I think they would have had a mutiny.

In the end things went smoothly enough and we've rededicated ourselves to preparing for next weekend when we'll perform—with the children—at the ward party as well as a couple of nursing homes.

Oh, we had a waffle bar at the party with regular (option to mix in crushed candy cane), pumpkin, and gingerbread waffles. The gingerbread waffles were kind of to die for so that might have to be a thing at our house.

On Friday I found a loft bed for Rachel so Andrew took the van to campus to take care of some things and then went to pick up the bed while Benjamin and I made a spot for it. We moved his little toddler bed out of the room (and washed the wall by his bed because yikes), then we shifted the furniture along the walls to make room for the loft bed since there was only one wall in the room that it would fit against. We washed walls as we went because, at that point, why not?

Andrew came home shortly before I had to leave to pick the girls up from school so we could go to ukulele practice. While we were gone Andrew put the bed together.

We had three very excited children when we explained their new sleeping arrangements: Benjamin on the bottom bunk, Miriam on the top bunk, Rachel on the loft bed, Zoë eventually in her crib.

Her crib has been far too dangerous of a place while room sharing with Benjamin.


Thursday, December 03, 2015

The shortest prayer

Benjamin said family prayer a little too soon after waking up this morning. This is what he said:

Dear Heavenly Father,

*burp*

(long pause)

Sanky for day. Sanky...

*yawn*

(long pause)

Name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Everyone else was holding down giggles but Benjamin seemed to take things rather seriously. 

Keep it secret; keep it safe

Every time I turn my back Benjamin does something crazy with his baby sister. Let's be honest: crazy things happen often enough right in front of my face, but he tends to get a little crazier when I'm not right there watching him. I try to be there for every waking moment of his life because he's a little bit of a terror (Grandpa jokingly calls him a terrorist; you should see him with the baby (he's ridiculous)).

For example, the other day I heard a *glug, glug, glug* and started freaking out.

"What's that sound?" I said, running around the house. "Where's it coming from? Why do I hear water pouring out of something?"

"I don't know," Benjamin said sweetly.

Then I smelled...it.

"What's that smell?" I panicked. "Oh, no! Oh, no! Oh, no! You didn't!!!"

He did. He opened the spigot on our bokashi bin and ferment kitchen scrap juice was pouring out onto our kitchen floor. The smell was potently putrid. His punishment was sitting by me while I cleaned it up.

"Keep sniffing, young man!"

I didn't want him cleaning it up because this was a mess I wanted cleaned up (a) as quickly as possible and (b) without being made worse before being made better. Believe me, sniffing was enough punishment.

"It smells so yucky, Mom! Let me go away!"

"You leave and you'll be in even more trouble! Keep sniffing."

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Spritzgebäck are back!

My mom had a cookie press that I absolutely loved to use to make spritz cookies. I don't know why I thought of it this year but I realized that I hadn't made—or had—spritz cookies for an entire decade! I know this because I don't have a cookie press and we're coming up on our tenth anniversary. So, I researched cookie presses a bit and sent a link to Andrew, for a gift-buying reference.

My mom's original cookie press looked like this:



Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Last moments in Utah (November 23)

I realized, just before leaving for the airport, that we were in a house populated entirely by fourth children. My dad was holding Zoë and said something about how she was Mommy's pride and joy, even if it was "the fourth time over."

"Fourth children are the best," I said snootily. "Isn't that right, Dad?"

"Hey!" my mom said, poking her head out of the bedroom. "That's true. Fourth children are the best! I'm the fourth child."

"And I'm the fourth child," said my dad.

"And I'm the fourth child and Zoë's the fourth child!" I said.

So we took a picture:

Fourth children for the win!
I suppose people in other positions in their families are pretty great as well (I guess) but it was pretty funny to suddenly realize that everyone in the house was a fourth child.

And, that was Utah. I'm finally caught up...I think...

So many babies! (November 22)

I went to my parents' ward on Sunday and got to go to primary with my mom. She's teaching the children "Could I Hold the Baby?" and used Zoë as a clue to introduce the song. It was fun to be back in primary again!

Here's my mom with Zoë on Sunday morning before we'd gotten ready for church. My parents have church at 1:00 so we had plenty of time for a lazy Sunday morning (we are so looking forward to 11:00 church next year):


Utah (more of November 21)

Karen was kind enough to attend both the funeral and viewing so that she could drive me and babysit Zoë a bit, but she went home before the graveside service so my mom drove me back to the Heiss's to collect my stuff. I was pleasantly surprised when Diana walked in on me giving Zoë a diaper change!

Look, Diana! You made the blog!

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Merry Christmas (but really Thanksgiving and things)

I'm still so far behind. Thanksgiving is over. November is almost over, too.

My entire family has moved onto Christmas. 

Miriam made a Christmas tree out of LEGO yesterday and asked that I take her picture and "put it up on the blog with the title Merry Christmas," so here I go:

Friday, November 27, 2015

Grandma Layton's funeral (November 20 and 21)

My grandma's viewing went well. It was nice to get to mingle with relatives I haven't seen in a while, including my sweet little niece and nephews. See how cute we are?

Andrew, Rosie, me, Josie, Matthew

Utah (November 19 & 20)

I went up to spend some time with Reid and Karen while I was out in Utah visiting. They hosted a little family dinner with Uncle Jacob and Aunt Shayla, Aunt Katharine and Kayl, Grandma Pat and Dave, and Nicki. It was so nice to see everyone!

Here's Zoë getting reacquainted with Uncle Jacob and Aunt Shayla:

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Utah, day 1 (November 18)

Well, I was going to say that the massage worked well and that Zoë really was sleeping better but she just woke up screaming bloody murder at 4:30 after sleeping unsoundly for only a few hours (like, seriously, I got her down after eleven and she was up at two). So I dunno. But that reminds me...

...that Zoë didn't sleep our first night in Utah. She screamed and screamed and screamed and screamed. My mom got out the walker and Zoë, still screaming, lunged at it with interest, so I plopped her in it and Zoë, still screaming, explored the toys. She screamed and twisted this toy. She screamed and twirled that toy. She screamed and tugged at the other toy. It was ridiculous. It was also two o'clock in the morning.

Eventually we all decided we'd go to bed. Zoë, however, screamed for a few more hours before she was good and ready to call it a night.

She was a lot happier when we got up...at ten...which was like noon for us.

We had breakfast, were reintroduced to people who love us, and started working on things for my grandma's funeral.

Here's Zoë with Auntie Josie:

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Benjamin, breakfast, bumps

When we told the kids that I'd be leaving for a week—without them—the girls cheered and said, "Now we can watch Star Wars as loud as we want!" Benjamin took things a little harder.

Breakfast a week ago

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Flight sandwich

When I last left you I'd just arrived in Utah. Yesterday I flew home. Stuff happened in the middle, I promise and I'm sure I'll get to that but in the meantime life keeps happening (we've already been to the doctor this morning, for example).

The night before I left my mom's visiting teacher came over to show me some baby massage techniques, which people have sworn help their non-sleeping children sleep. Zoë did fall asleep after her massage, but only for about 20 minutes, which is an ordinary nap length for her. Then she was up and wired for the rest of the evening.

The lady said Zoë might've been upset because we only did the colic routine once (to learn it) and you're supposed to do it three times. She's not sure why but for some reason numbers are important—counting strokes and repeating sequences the right number of times.

Anyway, our first flight went okay but not great. There were a lot of babies around to look at, so they were all mostly entertained by making faces at each other. Zo hit herself in the head with a toy at one point and started howling but beyond that she was pretty good.

We had a three-hour layover in Houston which meant we had plenty of time to stretch and forget that we'd been sitting on a cramped airplane at all. It also meant that I had time to give Zoë a little massage before we boarded. I gave her the colic massage (all three times) and she slept the whole flight! The guy I was sitting beside said, "That is the best baby I've ever sat by!" He even got my backpack down from the overhead bin for me instead of running away in a dead panic (because babies are terrifying).

Andrew was a little late picking me up because Benjamin fell off the bench just before it was time to go. He hit his noggin pretty hard and quickly sprouted a big goose egg so Andrew was busy fussing over him—getting ice for his head and worrying about concussion. Benjamin still has a big bump on his head but he's acting just fine.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

To Utah we go

After drafting up a mental list of pros and cons, it was Andrew who convinced me that I should fly out for my grandma's funeral. My spontaneity has really taken a hit the past eight years or so but I managed to pack everything Zoë or I could possibly need (and more), putting on my pants straight from the dryer thirty seconds before walking out the door.

I feel like I spent all day Tuesday doing laundry (and, in my spare time, writing an obituary) and I left the house a complete mess, but Andrew's a superstar and is staying home with the kids this week and doing a much better job at keeping up with the housework than I ever do, I'm sure.

Zoë and I flew out of RDU less than 24 hours after deciding we would go. It's kind of been a whirlwind trip and I've hardly slept at all, but I guess it's been worth it.

Our first flight was great. The plane wasn't full and the people sitting around me were appreciative/ambivalent about sitting by a baby. In fact, at the end of the flight someone came up and told me that my baby had behaved better than some of the adults on the flight, which was true.

This guy in the row ahead of me had balanced his laptop/tablet on his tray, leaning it against the back of the seat in front of him. His cup of apple juice was resting on his table in front of his computer. He was watching So I Married An Az Murderer and I was happily watching along, having seen it enough times in years past I knew enough of the lines by heart that it was still entertaining.

But then the guy in front of the guy watching the movie put his seat back, upsetting the precariously balanced computer, which in turn knocked the cup of apple juice into the man's lap. Oh, was he livid! He hopped out of his seat cursing and ran to the back of the plane where I'm assuming he tried to get cleaned up a bit before sheepishly making his way back to his seat, his pants wet with apple juice, to hastily retrieve his things. He sat in an empty seat somewhere else for most of the flight but came back to his seat during landing so that he could tell off the guy in front of him again.

Now, I think he had every right to be upset (no one wants to go around with apple juice stains on their pants and there's some sort of unwritten code of conduct among frequent flyers that you ask (or at least inform) the person behind you before you put your seat back) but I also think he was partially to blame. Airplanes aren't exactly predictable--turbulence can occur at any time--so should one really be balancing their computer like that?

It made for interesting people watching, that's for sure.

We were the spectacle on the second flight. Zoë can be an uncontrollable screamer in the most usual of circumstances and, evidently, also in the most unusual of circumstances. My seat companion was probably the grumpiest lady on the face of the planet and she was not happy about having to sit by a baby (we flew American Airlines this time so we had assigned seats) when Zoë was happy. She was certainly not happy to be sitting by a baby when Zoë lost it halfway through the flight.

I spent the second half of the flight bouncing Zoë in the back of the plane, but we survived.

Our plane touched down at midnight.

My mom and Josie picked us up from the airport. Zoë screamed most of the way home (she accidentally fell asleep but then woke up determined to make up for lost time). Then Zoë screamed until 4:00 in the morning, which--may I point out?--is 6:00 in the morning EST. We slept until around 10:00 but she didn't even sleep soundly.

The poor thing has developed a cold and thinks stuffy noses are the worst. She likes to tell everyone about it. Loudly.

David, Josie, my mom, dad, and I worked like busy bees on Wednesday getting things ready for the funeral. My niece Rosie stopped by to visit and my mom, Josie, and I took a little break to go to the hymn sing in the HBLL, but other than that we just worked, worked worked. Oh, and David baked cookies and I ate them all!

My mom drove me up to Andrew's parents' house this morning and we had a little get-together with Grandma Pat, Dave, Katharine, Kayl, Nicki, Jacob, and Shayla early this evening.

It's been a good but busy couple of days.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Gladys Evon Duggar (1932-2015)

My grandma passed away this morning at 7:00 MST so I've spent the morning calling my siblings, chatting with my great-uncle, feeding my children, remembering and writing.

My grandma grew up in Hosford, Florida. Here's a picture of my grandma (the girl in the dark dress) with her four brothers and her parents:

Charlie Wilson Duggar and Mary Gladys O'Neal Duggar with their children: Joseph Wesley (Buck), Willie Leonard Leonard, Edward Glen, Gladys Evon, and Charles Thomas (Tom)
(I think my cousin Shannon looks a lot like our great-grandmother. But anyway...)

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Koshari, Chéri

Andrew made a lovely Lebanese dinner tonight: hummus, mana'eesh (topped with za'atar), and falafel. He's already planning on making zeit wa za'atar for dinner on Monday, but if he can find fava beans so he can make ful to go with it, "otherwise I'm making koshari," he said.

So while I was loading the dishes I started singing, "Koshari-shari! Whatever will be, will be! The future's not ours to see. Koshari-shari!"

Because I'm a nerd.

The more I sang it—because I consider children shrieking with laughter and saying, "Mom, what are you singing!?" to be calls for an encore (and thus sang it several times because I don't actually know much more of the song...Will I be pretty? Will I be rich?)—the more it started sounding like koshari, chéri.

I guess French—France—Paris—has been on my mind. But not just France.

My mind has been very busy lately.

In December 1980, President Spencer W. Kimball published an article in The Ensign about keeping a journal. In January 1981 my grandpa opened a notebook and at the very top of the very first page he wrote, "Our prophet Spencer W. Kimball asked each of us to keep a daily journal." He kept a record for the next several years—not a daily record but a record nonetheless. This simple action expressed his testimony of the gospel quite clearly to me.

Recently my facebook feed has been ablaze with chatter about the change in church policy regarding the baptism of children living with parents in a same-gender relationship (ie. it shouldn't happen). Based on the clarification of the policy, the original wording wasn't really well-written. Still, it wasn't exactly intended for public consumption—at least, not right away—it was leaked.

(Side note: This afternoon Benjamin came into the house crying, "Miriam leaked my secret!" and I was quite puzzled about his choice of words because he's three and he's talking about "leaked" secrets. What?! But now I'm thinking that perhaps we discussed the word leaked at the dinner table some point in the past two weeks, so maybe it makes sense. The secret, in case you're wondering, is that she's a witch. Not in real life. Just in the game. But she said, "I know I'm a witch!" and now everybody knows and it was Benjamin's secret and the world is over. Clearly.)

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Bouncing Baby Boy

Benjamin, drawing the Winged Fargle from Josh Schneider's Bedtime Monsters
Last night Andrew was out late (helping with a youth temple trip) and I had a headache, brought on by non-stop Benjamin, but it was time for family scripture study. The kids wanted to pull down the scriptures and, you know, actually read, but I've allowed Andrew to be the rememberer of our place for the past several months because I've been juggling Zoë (so sometimes I don't quite finish reading along).

"No; let's do memorized scriptures," I said. "I don't even know where we are."

Benjamin looked at me solemnly and said, "Mom, we're in North Carolina."

Though completely irrelevant (we're in Alma somewhere) his statement is 100% accurate.

Tonight Andrew was saying late on campus to listen to a speaker (Orhan Pamuk) so once again I faced bedtime alone. And once again I had a headache. If only I could record Benjamin all day long; then I could give you a headache, too! I'm constantly reminding him about "inside voices" and begging him to quit screaming. He's not usually upset about things, but he's always passionate.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Whatchu feedin' me, Willis?

I pureed our little pie pumpkins today. Poor Harry Potter was quite shocked when, channelling my inner Voldemort, I told him he was next...

Rachel made the Harry Potter pumpkin for a school assignment

One small step for man

You might not believe it from the way things look tonight (Benjamin wet the bed and Zoë is sitting on my lap playing with her toes) but we've made some giant leaps around here lately. I know I've "called it" several times before but I think Benjamin's oh-so-close to being fully potty trained. Like, I just did laundry today (after not doing it all weekend) and there was no pile of stinky underwear in the bathroom, which is pretty miraculous.

And as for Zoë, well, she has started sleeping for hours at a time. Literally hours. She'll go between four and six hours before waking up now and it looks like we're finally leaving colic behind because she doesn't often stay up to just scream for the heck of it anymore. We might just survive her babyhood after all!

She's starting to enjoy her exersaucer:

Zoë at 5 months (November 5, 2015)

Sunday, November 08, 2015

First foods

The other day Zoë was fussing in her exersaucer but I was busy (I occasionally try to do things like laundry and stuff) so I left her there for a few minutes. When I finished what I was doing I went to pick her up crooning, "What's wrong, baby? Are you hungry? Do you want to eat?"

"No! Don't feed her again!" Benjamin commanded.

"What do you mean 'again?'" I asked. "It's been a few hours since she last ate. She's probably hungry again."

"She's not!" he insisted. "I already fed her!"

"What?!" I asked. "What did you feed her?"

"Paper!" he beamed. "She loves it!"

So the list of random first (non-)foods continues: leaves, wild onion, paper...

Then last night I was eating dinner with Zoë on my lap when she hijacked my fork, quickly diverting it to her mouth rather than mine. She sucked that piece of cantaloupe dry and enjoyed every second of it; she was rather furious when I took it away.

She had a death grip on this fork and did not part with it willingly

Saturday, November 07, 2015

BTW

My grandma is dying, my very last grandparent. She has cancer throughout her body and doctors have given her weeks (potentially months) to live. On the whole, I'm rather excited for her. She's been ready to die for a long time. She went downhill fast after my grandpa died. Her memory has gotten so bad and she doesn't seem to enjoy much of anything. Death will be a sweet release. For her, I mean. Not necessarily for us, but for her.

So, I gave this lecture about family history at Relief Society meeting on Thursday.

Look at me using the word "lecture." Really I put some slides up and blathered on and on and on about nothing in particular. Well, family history, specifically personal history, specifically on journalling. Anyway, I spoke briefly about an article in the New York Times about a study done on the relationship between knowing your family history and your overall psychological well-being called The Stories that Bind Us.

On my slide I used the final quote, "The bottom line: if you want a happier family, create, refine and retell the story of your family’s positive moments and your ability to bounce back from the difficult ones." I told about my Hancock side of the family—about how they are really good at creating, refining, and retelling their stories and how it's easy for me to identify as a Hancock even though I never carried that name and my mom never carried that name. It's my grandma's maiden name and hasn't been in the family for three generations now; my children never met my grandma, yet my children know her name. They know they are Hancocks. The Hancocks recorded their narrative so well that it's easy to tell and retell and retell again.

Now that my other grandma is dying, I'm realizing what a big hole there is in family history work. There are few memories posted on my dad's side of the family tree. My mom's side of the tree, on the other hand, has so many "memories" shared by various relatives that it's not even funny.

I suppose it's my job to strengthen that narrative.

Friendly Bloke

Benjamin'd been playing on the playground while I was working the water table and the girls were running, as I mentioned. There were other children playing there, siblings of other children running, and since the fun run lasted a full hour (times two, but some children were only there for one hour or another (though some; like us, were there for the full hour plus time before, between, and after each round of the fun run)) he felt like he got to know these new little friends quite well.

I was cleaning up at the end of the run—picking up discarded cups, taking pictures of classes for teachers, things like that—and he was still playing at the playground with another family that was still sticking around.

When that family started getting packed up to go, the mom was sitting down to put shoes back on her own little boy and Benjamin came up, put his head in her lap, and said, "My mom left. Can I come home with you?"

She pointed to me and told him, "Your mom's right there!"

I didn't see this exchange go down; the mom told me about it before she left. I thought it was hilarious because that's so Benjamin! He probably would have been perfectly happy to go home without me (for a while) but he was also perfectly happy to go home with me, though on the way to our car he fussed about not being allowed to play on the kindergarten playground. I was like, "You just played at the playground for three hours."

"But not that playground," he said.

I rolled my eyes, hefted him into his carseat, and drove home.

We had leftover waffles for lunch and I made the mistake of leaving him at the table with his food while I went to the bathroom. He helped himself to the syrup. All of it.


At least he didn't make too much of a mess.

Fun Run

The girls had their school fun(draiser) run today. I volunteered to work the water table since I knew the girls wanted me to be there to watch them run, anyway. Benjamin had a blast playing on the playground with the other little siblings for three glorious (and mostly unsupervised) hours. Zoë was more than happy to snuggle in the front carrier. And I literally poured water for three hours.

Running children consume a lot of water, or as our super pumped-up fun run hosts called it—H2...O yeah!

The atmosphere was electric with energy. Elementary schools typically are. But then, oh, but then there were the hyperactive hosts calling cheers into their microphones and music blasting over speakers and parents cheering and so forth.

Zoë typically gets sleepy when she's in the front carrier but this morning she was ridiculously sleepy. People kept commenting on what a good sleeper she is and I was thinking, "Dudes—she's totally stress sleeping." She was trying to tune the whole world out; poor dear was completely overstimulated, as was I. We all went home for an afternoon nap when we were finished—including Benjamin.

But anyway...the fun run was...fun.

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Crickets come and crickets go

It wasn't raining and nobody was throwing up so we decided to go to the park this morning and on the way home Benjamin begged to "stop by the izzer bank." The river isn't exactly on our way home; in fact, it's a little out of the way. But there's a little stream on the way to the river and in Benjamin's mind this little stream totally counts as a river, lucky for me.

The rest of the trail was extremely muddy and I wasn't really wearing appropriate footwear for a muddy hike. Benjamin wasn't either, really, but I'm boring and old and care about things like that. Benjamin on the other hand, was happy to be wading through the "izzer" wearing his crocs...and socks...

In all honesty we could have skipped the park in favour of throwing rocks into the water all day long because it made this little boy so happy (and a little bit muddy, but mostly just happy).


Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Grade Three: Just fine

I was putting some finishing touches on my presentation for Relief Society Meeting on Thursday, which included taking some pictures of my old journals. It also included me reading entries to Andrew from my very first journals and laughing until I couldn't talk anymore. And hyperventilating because I'm supposed to talk for fifteen minutes and how am I supposed to do that?!

In my journal from grade two I was blathering on about something and mentioned that I was writing a whole lot and even went so far to accuse myself of being a chatterbox. "You're not," my teacher (Mrs. Matsumoto) had written back. Man, I spent half that year counting down how many pages I had left until I filled the book. It made reading consecutive entries rather humorous.

But then I found my journal from grade three and it's a little less funny. There was a lot of serious stuff that happened this year. I suppose there was some serious stuff that happened the previous years, but I was oblivious to a lot of it.

Mon. Sept. 27th

On Sunday my sister left for albrta. Yesterday she got to my grandma's and grandpa's house. And she gave me her room until she comes back, wich is in December. My brother David said that I got the biggest good-bye present. On Sunday morning she left at five o-clak, so my mom got me up at five o-clak to say good-bye. And now I have three choses to sleep. In my (both) brother's room because they have a bunk bed and they both sleep on the botom bunk. And my sister Abbi's room because she has a bunk bed and in my other sisters room because she gone unil Dec.

And then I talk about big life problems like conflicting birthday parties and football games (I guess we went to one of my cousin's football games?! I have no recollection of this) and how tragic it was that Halloween fell on a Sunday and we couldn't go trick-or-treating because my mom said "thier is getting to much vilins." But, phew, it was okay because we ended up having a ward party at the church where we had supper at 5:00 and stayed up until 8:00 playing games and watching movies.

Mon. Nov. 15th

On Thursday I got a wiggly tooth. And I backed cookies. My big sister had her baby but she gave it up. And the poeple who adopted the baby told my sister a story. She said, "When I found out I could not have a baby I cryed. I said a prayre and asked that sombody might come and vist me and your baby was that girl, only she was a grown up. The frist time I went to go adpet a baby it was not her. The secondt time it was your baby and it was her."

In response my teacher, Mrs. Robertson, wrote, "It must have been hard for your big sister."

I must say, Rachel has better handwriting and spelling than I did when I was her age. Seriously. I was a terrible speller. But I think my teacher let it slide because she thought my family was crazy because wait until you hear this next entry...

(click bait)

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Throwing up

Around 5:59 AM, Miriam wandered into our room and whispered, "I just threw up all over my bed!"

She has this nasty habit of keeping a pile of books on the foot of her bed (a habit I scorned just last night as I was tucking her in), so I groaned and said, "On the books?" picturing the worst.

"No. Just on my bed."

Andrew's feeling a little sensitive about his mornings lately (I wonder why...) so he actually beat me out of bed (also I was snuggled up against a sad, sick baby, so I had to untangle myself from her grasp) and immediately started stripping Miriam's bed, which meant I got stuck with the much more favourable task of settling our newest invalid on the couch (and gathering up the last batch of stuff used to clean up Zoë's throw-up).

It seems this stomach bug is going to slowly creep through our household. It's already been a week and a day since Benjamin first got sick. Usually these things spread like wildfire and we're all sick on top of each other.

I'm really not sure which way is better...

 At the rate things are going we could be sick in this house for a month or longer.

That's okay; throw-up laundry is my favourite activity, second only to mopping up puddles of throw up from various household surfaces. 

Blowing out

So, the reason we got up so early this morning was that Zoë threw up all over me and herself and the bed. But did I mention the part where I gasped and swatted at Andrew until he was awake enough to turn on the bedside lamp for me? 

"What's wrong?" he slurred. "Did the baby spit up?"

"Yes," I sighed.

"Do you have a burp cloth?"

"No," I said. "I never have a burp cloth. She doesn't spit up, like ever."

"Huh," he grunted, turning over to go back to sleep. "You should get one then."

Although we have a long-standing pact that nothing he says before he showers counts (because he is a slow waker-upper (and approximately 9 years, 10 months, and 2 weeks ago he called me stupid one morning while I was waking him up (as in "Go away, stupid!"))) I'll admit to feeling a little angry about this response. My excuse will be that my cumulative "forced awakenings" the past few months/years have caused an overall "reduction in positive mood," as well as decreased "feelings of sympathy and friendliness."*

I left the baby screaming beside him and, grumbling a bit (and with baby vomit dripping down my front), made my way to Benjamin's room to grab a wad of burp cloths. I tried to mop up the mess on the bed but it was really messy and Zoë was screaming uncontrollably, so I went out to the living room, closing the bedroom door not-so-softly behind me. Because maturity.

Monday, November 02, 2015

Bowing out

It's November second and already I'm bowing out of NaNoWriMo. Technically, I bowed out yesterday when I realized it was 10:00 PM, I had just put the baby down for the first time that day, the children had been in bed for less than an hour, I could hardly keep my eyes open, and I hadn't written a single word.

Now is not the time.

Andrew made a program to calculate how much I've written on the blog the past 9.5 years to prove to me that I have the ability to write a book. I've written over 2.5 million words (not particularly well-written words, but words nonetheless). To put that in perspective, the entire Harry Potter series is approximately 1 million words. Obviously, if I wanted to, I could sit down to write a book.

And I do want to. But now is not the time.

I got up with the baby a 5:00 this morning (Benjamin got up, too; it was a party). Granted, we're still suffering the shock that is the end of daylight savings, but 5:00 is pretty early, especially when the baby was still getting up every couple of hours. Like, come on, children.

I did some laundry, because Zoë did a tremendous spit-up, completely drenching me, herself, and the bed. I made muffins for breakfast. I folded some laundry that sat in the dryer over the weekend (oops). But I didn't write one word towards my novel.

So it's pretty clear that now is not the time to write a novel in one month.

I'm simply more passionate about food and sleep than I am about writing right now.

Is it so terrible that we're coming on six months with our newest addition and I'm still in survival mode? When I get everyone fed and clothed for the day I feel pretty successful, so who needs to write a book?

If there's one thing I learned from Maslow it's that self-acctualization is not that important.

Eat. Sleep. Breathe.

In other news, evidence from Zoë's diaper this morning suggests that her first solid foods were wild onion and old leaves. I'll tell her paediatrician it was rice cereal or applesauce or something (once I get around to feeding her any of that stuff). But really it was wild onion and old leaves.

That might have contributed to her fussiness through the night. Pooping out solids is hard work.

Even I don't know why I'm putting this stuff in my mouth...

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Halloween 2015

Rachel had a soccer game this morning, which she said was her "best ever!" Her team scored two goals (and lost 2 to 10 or something like that). They've had a rough season. But it's over now because with daylight savings ending it'll be pitch black outside by the time practice begins.

I stayed at home with the little ones and we video-chatted with Uncle Patrick so he could wish her a happy birthday. He wanted to call last week but he ran out of internet. He's in wee Riviere, South Africa, doing a conservation internship right now. I guess he prepays for internet and when he uses all his "data" then he has to go buy a new plan. Or something. Anyway, we got to talk to him today, which was lovely!

We also did a lot of raking. When Andrew and Rachel came home he said, "Oh, I was just going to get the leaf blower out and do that." So he did. That was a much faster way. We made the biggest leaf pile in history and spent a lot of time jumping into it before we managed to fit it all into one yard waste bin (I stood in the bin and acted as the leaf compactor while Andrew piled the leaves in).


Trunk-or-Treat

The trunk-or-treat was a fun this year. The most popular addition was the Photo Booth. We had someone take our picture for us but I forgot to check to see if it turned out until we were on our way home and, sadly, it didn't turn out well. It's the thought that counts, right? I think I see us all in there.



Friday, October 30, 2015

What's wrong with Zoë? Oh, she was dropped on her head as a baby.

We went to the park this afternoon after the girls got home from school. Miriam was most interested in playing with Zoë, which is usually fine. Sometimes, though, Miriam forgets that Zoë is a person, not a doll that can be cast aside on a whim. I spend most of my days harping at Benjamin about treating the baby kindly. This afternoon all that energy was focused on Miriam.

"Don't swing so high."

"She can't sit up on her own yet."

"Don't just leave her there."

"Sit down to hold her."

Yadda, yadda, yadda.


Haunted Hike

This evening we headed to Little River Regional Park for their Haunted Hike. The first half was lit by friendly milk jug jack-o-lanterns and CLAWS inc. had people stationed at pavilions around the trail with various birds of prey for us to visit with. Most of them were look-only animals, but the African raven, Grip, was greeting the crowds.

Here's Benjamin taking a turn petting Grip:


Pumpkin Day

Benjamin threw up on Tuesday morning. He had requested eggs for breakfast (after I gave him applesauce to "test" his stomach) and I decided to indulge him—by actually cooking breakfast—since he hadn't eaten much on Monday and also hadn't thrown up in a while. This was a mistake. He threw up after he ate half his eggs. He just turned away from his plate, threw up all over the bench and the floor...and then turned back to his plate.

"No! Benjamin!" I said. "You can't eat more! Your tummy needs a rest! Let's wash you off and get you a little drink."

"I want to finish my brekky!" he protested.

"You are still sick," I said.

"I'm not!"

"Well, you're finished eating."

"But my tummy's not full."

"I can actually see that. See all this stuff on the floor? That's from inside your stomach. And I have to clean it up. And I don't want to have to clean it up twice so you're finished eating. You need to have a lie-down. You can have a little drink, but that's all."

This sickness has been the weirdest. He's insisted the whole time that he feels fine. And it has been driving me crazy. Most people slow down a bit when they're feverish and vomiting...but not him.

He also threw up during story time on Monday night. I finished a book, he hopped off my lap, threw up in the bowl that was on the floor, and then jumped back up on my lap.

"Anuzzy story!" he chirped.

It all happened so quick it took me a minute to figure out what had happened.

Anyway, he didn't throw up for the rest of the day on Tuesday so on Wednesday morning he insisted he was all better. He wanted to go to school with Miriam for Pumpkin Day. There's a 24-hour "rule" at their school—once a child has been clear of vomiting and fever for 24-hours they're welcome to return to school. We were about at 22 hours by 9 AM, so I decided that was close enough. We went to school.