Saturday, December 31, 2016

Christmas morning

Before sending the children to bed on Christmas Eve we had them pick "spots" for their stocking so that in the morning they'll know where to look for them. This year we hung our stockings from the TV armoire because when they hang on the mantle they get in the way of the piano, which has been experiencing rather heavy use this year now that both girls are taking piano lessons. Andrew took down the stockings and instructed the children to "find a place on the couch."

The girls each quickly claimed a corner while Benjamin compliantly chirped, "Okay!" before putting his stocking on the floor...

So in the morning, that's where all his Santa stuff was waiting for him.


Christmas Eve

We spent the morning cleaning the house and chilling in our pyjamas. I know this because that's what my friend Crystal did and when she sent me a photo of her kids doing just that I wrote back, "That's what we're doing, too!" 

I also know that when the Rogersons stopped by with cookies Andrew and I were still in pyjamas (but the kids had all changed at that point). 

But soon Andrew's whereabouts escapes my memory of the day. Neither of us can remember where he was. I honestly think it's possible he went to campus to work (because he's been making an index for his professor's book, which was more time-consuming than either of them thought it would be, and that was due to the publisher on Friday so I really think he spent part of Saturday at campus doing his own work...but I can't remember), but he went in on Friday (and took both their girls because accompanying Daddy to campus and sitting in a corner of his office reading quietly is their idea of a good time—party hardy). He could also have been out grocery shopping but I think he did that earlier because we dug into the veggie tray on Christmas Eve and I distinctly remember deciding to leave it on the counter overnight (minus the dip) because there was no room for it in the inn fridge. 

Friday, December 30, 2016

Greensboro and Stagville

I've been terrible about blogging the past couple of weeks. Instead I've been kept seriously busy reading all the stories, playing all the games, watching all the movies, baking all the cookies, and doing all the things. That has left very little time for writing, but I feel like I need to "put myself back in the narrative," if you will because telling my life story gives me a whole lot of joy for some reason.

I'm reading A Little Princess right now, which I frankly can't remember if I've read before or not (though I know I've definitely seen the Shirley Temple version of the screenplay (which I should probably put on the to-watch list for the girls)) but which has been a charming read. Sara is such a wise character (and nobody can pout as well as Shirley Temple can) and I just love so much of what she says. Today this quote stuck out to me (and reminded me to take some time to write some of my story down):
"Everything's a story. You are a story—I am a story. ..." (p. 149)
Today we headed to Greensboro to visit the International Civil Rights Center and Museum—and by "we" I should probably mention that my sister Josie is out visiting with us for the week so she's here, too! It was a bit of a surprise for the kids so I didn't say anything on the blog and even after she arrived and the kids knew she was here I still found myself talking around the fact that she was visiting because I was just so used to it by then.

Anyway, we'd taken her to the North Carolina Museum of History in Raleigh on Monday and upstairs was an exhibit of photographs by Spider Martin called Selma to Montgomery: A March for the Right to Vote. There was a sign warning that some of the pictures might be too graphic for children, but we took our children in anyway. Most of the pictures weren't too graphic and I was wondering why they had that sign up at all...but then we found photographs taken after the teargas had cleared, photographs of bloodied bodies strewn all over the road. Sickening.

"Have you watched Selma?" I asked Josie.

She had not.

Later on in the museum we saw a picture of the Woolworth lunch counter sit in and we were like, "That's here?!"

We had no idea. Well, maybe a little idea. Like, we knew about The Greensboro Sit-Ins, but we didn't quite know that it was our Greensboro...

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

It's Christmas Adam

We went out caroling on the 23rd, but before we did we waited (and waited and waited) for Santa to check in on us, verifying that everyone who should be on the nice list was on the nice list. Benjamin was so excited to see him. See?

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Race to Dad

Here's a little video we took during family scripture study of Zoë racing to be the first one to climb onto Andrew's lap.



And here's one that also features one of her newest words—ball—and shows off her excellent throwing arm. Unfortunately, I turned off the camera before she screamed, "MINE!" in Benjamin's face when he tried to climb onto Andrew's lap with her...



Poor Benjamin was getting rather frustrated by the time we'd finished filming!


Reading comprehension

Malala Yousafzai has been a hero of Miriam's for a long time. I'm not sure where she first heard of her, precisely, but I do know that she read and reread Who is Malala Yousafzai? last year, though we only got that book for her because she was obsessed with her story.

We picked up a copy of I Am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up for Education and Changed the World (the Young Reader's edition) at the library recently and she loved it. She kept coming to tell me something she found interesting or to read a sentence or two aloud to me. When she was finished she handed me the book and said, "You should read this next. I'm serious, Mom."

And so I read it next.*

I thought it was lovely. There were a lot of parts that I wanted to read aloud and remember for later, so many that I'm debating just buying the book so that I can look up passages again whenever I feel the need to.

I started the book last night—sitting on the floor beside Zoë's bed while she fell asleep—and I finished it this morning and put it into Rachel's eager hands.

"Have you gotten to the part where Malala gets shot yet?" Miriam asked.

"I'm past that part," I told her. "I already finished it and gave it to Rachel."

"Really?" Miriam was skeptical and started in on a line of questioning we've used on her dozens of times. "That's pretty fast to get through a book that thick. What movie did she choose to watch in her hospital room?"

"Shrek," I said.

"That's correct," she said, clearly taken aback. "I wasn't expecting that. Where does her family live now?"

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Sugar Cookies

We went to a friend's house to decorate sugar cookies yesterday morning and when we pulled up, the girls saw that their neighbour had put up a "little free library" in their yard, which was pretty exciting. We didn't borrow any books from it...but perhaps some day we will. 


Sunday, December 18, 2016

Christmas in Zarahemla

The theme for this year's ward Christmas party was "A Night in Zarahemla," and we were all instructed to come dressed as Nephites. We searched through our Tickle Trunk but everything kept turning up Middle Eastern, not Ancient American. 


Saturday, December 17, 2016

11th anniversary

It's our eleventh anniversary today and to celebrate we actually left the house and got a sitter. And by 'left the house and got a sitter' I mean I begged my friend—and fellow nursery leader—and her teenage daughters to spend their evening entertaining Zoë (she's a screamer) so that Andrew and I could go to the temple. It was a wonderful treat because we haven't gone on a single outing just the two of us since before Zoë was born because, well, she's a screamer. We haven't left her long enough to go anywhere, let alone the temple (which is about a five-hour excursion—to get there, do a session, and get back).

We took the kids over to the Green's house, which they were all super excited about. Benjamin was trying to get ready all day and the girls were ready to take off the minute they got home from school...but unfortunately for everyone I made them all wait until it was actually time to go.

When we got there, Zoë happily ran off with Benjamin to find Ethan. She didn't even notice that I'd slipped out the door until about half an hour after I'd been gone (according to the girls). Evidently that's the key—she needs a friend who's close enough to her age to be interesting but old enough to dote on her because she's a baby.

A five-year-old friend fills that need for her. A two-year-old friend does not.

She did not do too well in her own nursery class when we tried it out a couple of weeks ago. My theory is that's because the other babies in there are too young to care that she's The Baby so they treat her like a peer. But she doesn't want that. She wants everyone to give her everything she wants whenever she wants it.

Anyway, aside from a few "sad moments" she apparently did just fine this evening.

When we picked the kids up she started giggle-crying, "Momma! Momma! Momma!" and then wouldn't even let me put her down to put her shoes on.

It's nice to be so needed. But it was also nice to get away from her clinginess for a few hours. Now that we know she can handle it, maybe we'll be better about going to the temple...though finding babysitters willing to put up with her shenanigans will probably remain a challenge.



Friday, December 16, 2016

Disintegrating and pepper

Earlier this week Benjamin started throwing out the word disintegrated left and right. I can't remember the context(s), necessarily, but it just kept coming out of his mouth. 

"My lollipop disintegrated right in my mouth!" 

"If I shoot a laser at the bad guys they'll disintegrate!"

"I just smashed up my cereal and now it's all disintegrated!"

Sometimes he used the word correctly, sometimes he used it in place of dissolve, sometimes he used it completely incorrectly. But there he was, using it. 

"Where did you hear a word like that?" I asked him because I'm fairly certain that I don't go around talking about disintegrating things very often... He didn't know where he picked it up, but it's a pretty awesome word to be saying, I think. But unlike what I usually have to do when I utter the words "Where did you hear a word like that?" I tried to find a way to encourage the use of the word, rather than discourage him from ever saying it again. 

We decided to do a little experiment on dissolving solids into liquids. We chose four things from the cabinet—oil, pepper, salt, and sugar—and then guessed whether things would dissolve or not ('dissolve' meaning that they would 'disintegrate' and 'disappear' and 'not dissolve' meaning that they would stay the same). Benjamin guessed correctly for all four things, though his reasoning was way off (sugar and salt would dissolve "because they are white and white is the same as clear and clear is the same as disappeared"). He had fun mixing and stirring and writing down his observations (and tasting the sugar water).

Here's Zoë ready to take some notes while Benjamin watches the salt crystals disappear:


She learned a new word from this experiment as well: pepper!

It's rather hilarious to watch her say it because her P's are super plosive. She scrunches her face up and holds her breath while her "P" slowly builds up in her cheeks before finally letting it escape: "PEPPA!"

That's a good first word to have, right? I'm glad it made the ranks. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

A little bit of Christmas...

Last night we attended Rachel's winter concert. It was fun to get to see her perform again, though Miriam brought along some Christmas search-and-find books in case she got bored. When Rachel acted offended by this Miriam said, "Rachel, I've already watched you perform this concert twice."

"Good point," Rachel said.

Miriam watched her perform at the mall and at the school assembly yesterday afternoon. I suppose three times is a lot of times to watch the very same concert. Still, she only looked through the books before the concert, politely tucking them under her chair when the show began.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Luminaria 2016

Tonight was our neighbourhood luminaria. It wasn't quite as well planned as in other years—instructions weren't distributed so no one quite knew when to light their bags which meant Andrew and some other neighbours spent a good half hour lighting all the bags up the street. And then we got to the clubhouse, where the main party was, and there were no bags lit there, either! 

The effect was still beautiful, just not quite as magical as it has been in years past where we've only lit our own bags and the rest of the neighbourhood is already glowing. 



Zoë at 18 months

On the morning of her 18-month well-child check, Zoë woke up with a fever of 102°F. I decided to take her in anyway and though she was given an otherwise clean bill of health she did manage to get out of vaccinations (for now). With that high of a fever the doctor didn't want to add any symptoms to confuse a diagnosis, should the need arise (and didn't want to make Zoë more miserable than she already was). We'll take her back next month to get the shot she missed.

As it turns out, this was a gastrointestinal thing. Maybe...I dunno. It definitely involved a whole lot of diarrhea, so...

I can honestly say that yesterday the #1 thing I was thankful for was disposable diapers.

I'm a cloth-diaper fan, ordinarily, but there are some days I also appreciate having a stash of disposable diapers on hand. Yesterday was one of those days. I went through at least twelve diapers. It was like every time I turned around she was pooping. I can only imagine how she was feeling (especially since that wasn't the first day of it...it was just the worst of it).

Today she seems to be better. She only had one messy diaper.

She's growing well, though, measuring in at 32.8 inches tall and 22 lbs. 14 ounces.

Getting her weight was rather tricky because she refused to sit/stand/lie on any sort of scale. I ended up holding her on the scale and then subtracting my weight from our combined total. She was going ballistic about everything (so it's probably a good thing we didn't try to give her any shots)!

I've been so bad at keeping track of her milestones. I think with the other kids I could definitively answer the doctor's questions about how many blocks they can stack or how many words they can say. But with Zoë I was like, "I'm pretty sure she can do all those things, yes."

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Zoë sleeps (finally)

Since that miraculous evening that Zoë discovered that going to bed at bedtime is an actual thing, we've been working hard at further developing her sleeping skills. She seemed to sleep just fine until I would go to bed, and then she'd be up every hour or so to nurse, which is basically what she's done since birth (nurse, like, every hour). She's 18 months old now, though, so at this point nursing every hour all through the night is ridiculous.

Because she proved that it is possible for her to sleep for multiple hours at a time until I am in the same room as her, we decided that proximity is the problem. She can smell me milk and when she smells milk she wants milk.

So a couple of weeks ago we took some austere measures and I began sleeping alone, in the living room, on the couch. This seemed to help quite a bit! She'd still get up to nurse once in the middle of the night, and would get up again when Andrew's alarm clock went off. But waking up twice is quite a bit different from waking up six or more times...

Yesterday we decided she was used to our new way of doing things enough that we took a big step and moved her bed back into Rachel's room. That's where her bed started out, but she never slept in it, not once, until we moved it into our room (and even then it took a while to get her into it).

I put her to bed around 9:00 last night. She cried for about five minutes before settling down, and then she was out for the night. It was so great! We cleaned our room, something we haven't done for approximately 18 months! We reassembled Andrew's desk—he's been working nomadically since Zoë was born! We put our Christmas boxes back up in the attic! We got ready for bed without tiptoeing around and leaping over squeaky floorboards! We chatted to each other with our voices above a whisper!

Zoë slept straight through the night until 5:00 in the morning!

And even then, by the time I walked to her bedroom she was back asleep!

She did get up at 6:00, but after nursing went back to sleep for a little bit.

We might just survive this child after all...

Monday, December 05, 2016

Heiss Holiday Humbug 2016

This is the earliest I've gotten this done since 2010 (and the second earliest ever). Evidently December has been busy the past five-or-so years. This year is no exception to that, though, so I don't know how I managed to pull this together this early. It's nice to have it out of the way, though!

A note (or two) on the artwork: The background is a photograph of some of the marbled paper that we made back in June. Miriam drew the rose on the first page during sacrament meeting a few weeks ago. Rachel drew the lighthouse on the second page—it's actually from the picture that was sent to the state fair. The wreath on the last page is the nature ring Benjamin and I worked on together the beginning of this month, with a watercolour filter of sorts. The "washi tape" patterns are from vecteezy.com.

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

Sunday, December 04, 2016

Trading Tables

This morning I hosted what could quite possibly be my second-to-last Trading Tables event. I have a replacement all lined up, so she'll be "shadowing" me as I set everything up and then I'll pass all of my supplies on to her (like the ratty old signs that were given to me five years ago by the last person in charge of organizing Trading Tables—they've still got a lot of life left in them and are basically laminated by now from being taped up so often).

Last time I did Trading Tables we had very little help setting up and even littler help (read: no help) taking down. It took us forever to clean up and by the time we were finished packing everything up we were both fairly well exhausted. We drove a load of stuff to the Salvation Army and then went back to the church to get a second load. It was a little irksome because I felt that so many people had trickled through to drop off stuff and/or claim a prize or two yet no one stuck around to help.

Knowing that we had Rachel's choir concert to get to I was really hoping we'd have a helpful crowd this time around—and, boy, did we ever!

When we arrived at the church the Elder's Quorum was playing basketball. They all knew Trading Tables was happening (their wives had sent them with boxes and bags of cast-offs) so they were planning on setting up tables for me, anyway. All I had to do was say how many tables I wanted and they had the tables set up in about five minutes (it takes Andrew and I at least a half hour to do it on our own).

The event itself went well. I always say I'm not going to pick up anything but...it's like I can't help myself. Someone dropped off a Little Tykes Cozy Coupe!

I've been looking for (a second-hand) one for ages because (a) we had one when I was little and (b) Zoë and Benjamin would love one—and I know this because my friend Laura had hers out at ukulele practice earlier this week and the kids were all over it.

And then someone dropped off a Little Tykes Cozy Coupe! The only problem was that a kid was already in it, zooming around the gym like a maniac (sheesh; some people just can't keep their children under control), and one of the rules of Trading Tables is that once someone puts their hand on an item it becomes theirs unless they put it back into the fray.

So I said to Andrew, "Wow! Someone brought a little car!"

"Yeah it was [name has been retracted]," Andrew said. "I saw them drop it off."

"Bummer!" I said. "I seriously would have loved that, but it looks like we missed it. Some kid's already driving it around so it must be claimed. Oh, well."

"That kid is, "Andrew informed me, "Is our kid. So I guess if anyone's claimed it, you have. I can go put it in the van if you want."

Saturday, December 03, 2016

The best way to spread Christmas cheer...

This morning Rachel's school chorus sang at the mall, which meant that we had to hold Trading Tables an hour earlier than we usually do (because someone forgot to look at the calendar when she was scheduling stuff...I don't know who) so that we could get her to the mall on time. Everything worked out swimmingly.

Here she is waiting to go on "stage":

Painting

On Friday afternoon we spent some time making Christmas crafts. I'd been looking online at craft ideas for the girls' classroom "winter celebrations"so had a few ideas floating around in my head. We settled on a little painted collage because Benjamin got really excited about the idea of painting.

After we finished painting all the parts for the collage and set them aside to dry he spent some time painting some ornaments for our "Light the World" tree.

Friday, December 02, 2016

First time in nursery

Last night was our Relief Society Christmas Dinner. Andrew made sure to be home from campus in time for me to go, so that he could feed the kids dinner and get them to bed.

"Do you want to keep Zoë?" I asked.

"Well," he hemmed. "I was kind of hoping to get some writing done..."

"Well," I hemmed. "I guess I could take her..."

We love that girl—don't get me wrong—but she can be a little high maintenance. Therefore we've left her with a babysitter, like, never. She's a screamer and she doesn't sleep so basically she's loud and switched on all the time. I haven't felt like we could or should leave her with anyone until she settled down a bit on the neediness home-front. It wouldn't be fair to her and it wouldn't be fair to the sitter.

While I was rehearsing for Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Andrew would often watch her so I could dance baby-free. But it was torture for them both. She'd scream the whole time and he'd be a big ball of stressed-out Daddy by the time I relieved him. It was even worse when I'd try to send her to the nursery. So mostly I just kept her with me.

I've had her with me her whole life.

Someone to care for, to be there for

Every now and then I see others experience things that help me put my trials into perspective. For example, a friend from high school passed away last night—after a long struggle with various brain tumours and cancers—leaving behind an expectant wife and six (soon to be seven) children!

Though I'm sure she is distraught, she is handling things beautifully and admirably (you can read about their experiences here).

My heart just breaks for their sweet family (though, truthfully, I haven't kept up with him/them much since high school, so I don't know they're a sweet family...but, still...I'm fairly certain that they are) and I find myself feeling so grateful for the trials that I've been dealt.

Life is full of such hard things, but such worthwhile things.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

The Miracle of the Trash Bags

Our church put out an activity advent for Christmas this year, to help focus on ways that we can share Christ's light by doing things that He would do. Today's activity was to participate in a service project. 

We decided to pick up trash around our neighbourhood. The kids were rather excited to do this and even brought a friend along. Because what's more fun than picking up trash? Picking up trash with a friend! 

We grabbed a handful of old grocery bags and headed for the main road (because there's always a lot of trash along the main road). I woefully underestimated how filthy human beings can be, however, and we filled our pitiful supply of grocery bags incredibly fast. We still had a long way to go on our predetermined route, and we could see the path ahead of us was still, quite literally, littered with trash. Just when I began to wonder what we should do—because walking past all that trash without picking it up seemed awkward now that we were so far into the game—I saw in the grass yet another piece of trash: a thin, black tube of sorts. It took me a few seconds to process what, exactly, it was after I picked it up. A full-sized garbage bag?! What a find!

A few feet later I found another pristine, unused, tightly rolled garbage bag!

We filled them both—one on the way to the park and one on the way back home—as well as a few of our smaller grocery bags. We also picked up some campaign signs. 

Here are the kids at our halfway point (we did stop to play at the park for a bit before heading home):

Benjamin, Meadow, Miriam, and Rachel

An open letter to November

Dear November,

We definitely got off on the wrong foot. You were chaotic and stressful and scary and expensive and busy and lonely and angry and...not cool, November. Not cool. 

But we stretched and we grew. We did hard things. We learned to depend more completely on each other and, more importantly, on the Lord. We prayed a lot. We laughed a lot. We hugged a lot. We became a better family. We appreciated each other more. 

We saw a lot of kindnesses. Even in the very beginning, November, we saw the kindness of strangers, of family, of friends. We were truly succoured, truly blessed, truly ministered to in so many ways. 

You're lucky—we're lucky—that November is a natural time to be thankful anyway. It's difficult, sometimes, but crucial to count your blessings when you're feeling less than blessed because the truth is that we're always blessed—blessed beyond measure—if only we look around.

Look around, look around at how
Lucky we are to be alive right now!

It was—no joke—over 70°F today so the little kids and I took a walk to the park. Along the way we collected all the bits of colour that we saw: a handful of wild onion; some dandelions, henbit, and clover; a pinecone; a sweetgum ball; leaves; berries; sticks; grass that had gone to seed; lichen clinging to some bark. We arranged our treasures in a circle and the result was stunning


The beauty was not only the wreath we made or the picture we took, but what happened in our hearts because, you see, once we'd begun hunting for colour and beauty we could not stop. We left our creation at the park to blow away in the wind, or—perhaps—to be appreciated by unknown passersby (but more likely to blow away in the wind) but we kept seeing things—beautiful things—we would have liked to add to it. That bit of fuzzy moss, that smooth, round rock ("A moon stone," Benjamin called it), a clipping from our butterfly bush.

We saw things we couldn't capture as well: the warmth of the sun, a perfectly fluffy cloud, the delicious fall breeze. We felt things, too: love and happiness and peace.

So, thanks, November. Thanks for being hard. Thanks for being beautiful.

Thanks for today. You really nailed it.

— The Heisses