Wednesday, February 28, 2018

All the birthdays

There are a lot of birthdays in our family this week: my brother David, my nephew Andrew, my Grandma, and Grandpa Frank. Did I miss anyone? I probably missed someone. It's a busy week for birthdays!

David's birthday was on Monday. He was always such a good big brother. He's been there for me from the very beginning...

My dad, my brother, and me

Play and dough

Every morning after the kids leave for school, Zoë requests play-doh time (at least, that's her activity of choice this week). Her specialty creations are pizza and bouncy balls, but she makes other things, too.


She was using some of the little cookie cutters in her dough and announcing what she was cutting out in the moment. "I'm making a pineapple!" she said. "I'm making a flower!"

Then she grabbed a little cookie cutter shaped like an "old fashioned" telephone—one with a receiver that sits on top of the base, with a rotary dial, and...I'm pretty sure we had one in my house growing up (the kind that sits on a table), at least for a while (if not, I know my aunt had (and perhaps still has) one that was mounted to the wall). Those phones don't seem so old to me, but to Zoë they are ancient history.

"I'm making a..." she paused and then exclaimed, "I don't even know what this is!"

A mixed bag day

I gave Benjamin a haircut yesterday because he was one shaggy boy. He tends to get that way in between haircuts because, well, he hates haircuts. He hates when I use scissors to cut his hair because that takes way too long. He hates when I use the clippers to cut his hair because the buzzing and vibrating makes him nervous. He basically just hates having his hair cut.

But, like his daddy, Benjamin also hates doing his hair. He hates getting it wet and combing it down. He especially hates putting gel in his hair. A good day for him is a day that he can roll out of bed and not bother with his hair at all.

Unfortunately—and perplexingly—this means that in order for him to have a run of good days he needs a haircut and haircut days are very bad days. Or, as I tried to impress upon Miriam this evening, bad moments. Most days are really a mixed bag: some good, some bad. And that's fine; you enjoy the good moments and work through the bad moments.

Anyway, I cut Benjamin's hair yesterday and it was certainly a difficult moment for him.

He cried, he screamed, he scrunched his shoulders up to "protect" his ears, he wiggled, he squirmed...

It was difficult for everybody involved. Alexander started crying because he doesn't like it when his siblings are loud (so he went into the front carrier). Zoë was be-bopping around trying to cheer Benjamin up. Benjamin just kept on carrying on no matter what we did to reassure him (I even rubbed the clippers on the palm of my hand (and his) to show him that he was in no danger of having his head chopped off by mistake—all it is is a tickle).

His haircut took probably twice as long as it should have and it's a little crookedy, but it's done.

Until the next time.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Today

Today Rachel finished building the Lego set we gave to her for her eighth birthday, I believe, which Grandma had purchased to harvest mini-figures from when she made Rachel's Hogwarts birthday cake for her fifth birthday. That thing had been kicking around (half-opened) for a long time and though we'd encouraged her to put it together multiple times, she'd never gotten around to it.

Because reading is the only activity that exists in Rachel's world, probably.

On Saturday Andrew threatened to incorporate all the pieces into the big bin of Lego but I insisted that she build it first. So yesterday she started putting it together.

We had to find the instructions online because those had been lost and we had to dig through the big bin of Lego to find a few odd pieces that had somehow been misplaced, but she made some good headway before bed last night and after school today she put the finishing touches on Hagrid's Hut.

She was so proud, and, honestly, so was I!

I don't believe I've ever put a Lego set together, either (I was the main helper in this endeavour) and it was a pretty cool process. I've never been much of a "master builder," if you will. Everything I make is incredibly boring. But Andrew insists, and I've come to agree, that building from a set of instructions can help foster your creativity (especially for those of us who are creatively challenged when it comes to engineering).

*****

Sunday, February 25, 2018

This post is 233 words long*

School Activities: 830 words
Little look a-likes: 124 words
In which I fail to meet my quota: 534 words
So much writing: 1326 words

That's a grand total of 2814 words* within a 24-hour period!

It's highly unlikely it will ever become my average but I did it. So that's something.

As Sir Arthur Conan Doyle once said, "Anything is better than stagnation."

My life is, at times, fairly mundane. I am not a queen, it's true. Quite the opposite, in fact. I do my own laundry, catch my own mice, and sometimes I even have to do the dishes (among other things). Lately I've been so caught up with feeling distraught about the future that I've forgotten that the adventure is now. So in an effort to appreciate the now, I'm going to try to write more (although I do have a few things children vying for my time as well so I'm not sure how much more I'll write because I also have to remember that they are my now; but I don't want to forget our nows then so I still resolve to write more).

After all, "the world is so full of a number of things, I'm sure we should all be as happy as kings" (Robert Louis Stevenson).

* Including this footnote and post, my actual grand total of words for the day is now 3048! Eat it, Victoria!


School activities

As I mentioned, like, three weeks ago, Benjamin's kindergarten class had their "Kindy 500" on Groundhog's Day. I already feel a little bit like I'm drowning in life so I didn't feel like making a big fancy car for Benjamin and, frankly, he wasn't terribly into the idea of making a big fancy car, either. 

Evidently I scarred him for life when he decided he wanted to be Thomas the Train for Halloween. How did that scar him for life? Well, I said sure and made him a train costume to wear, like a monster! 

He absolutely didn't want to be stuck carrying around a cardboard vehicle with suspender straps again and made his opinion very clear on several occasions. So we kept putting off the construction of his car until one day I walked into the pantry and saw that one of the snack boxes (from the trip to Grover back in September, I believe) was already a school bus.

Benjamin loves school buses and was kind of crushed when we moved here because practically no one rides the bus, including him. Riding the bus was something he was very much looking forward to after spending the first five years of his life (that's his entire life, by the way) waiting for the bus to bring his sisters home from school every day. 

I showed him the box and asked him if he'd like to personalize the bus a bit for his Kindy 500 car (by putting people in the windows instead of pictures of chip bags) and he said yes. So that's what we did. And he had a blast. And even if his car wasn't as fancy as some (because some families went all out) and even if he was wishing for shoulder straps by the end of the day (I told him we could put some on but it wasn't until the walk home that he agreed they would have been nice), he loved his bus. 

Here he is during their little parade:

Maybe those shoulder straps aren't all they're cracked up to be because he's the only one smiling in this parade...

Little look-alikes

My mom sent me some pictures of my dad as a baby so that I could compare their looks—and they do certainly look to be related, don't they? Alexander's face is a little rounder, but their eyes and noses (and even their smiles) are very similar, I think.

Here they are sitting up:

 

In which I fail to meet my quota

Just to show Queen Victoria that I can do it (not that it's a contest or anything), I'm going to write a little bit more. Not that I know what I'm going to write about. My life is drastically less interesting than hers, I'm sure. Plus she had nine children to write about while I only have five (ha, only).

Still, five children should provide plenty of story fodder (especially since I'm with them all day and night (nursing right now as a matter of fact) and never employed a governess or anything (not that it's a contest, Queen Victoria, but, uhhh...yeah; it's on)). And so I will do what I usually do and fall back on my charming, witty, and attractive children to meet my writing quota:


So much writing

An average of 2,500 words!

That's how many words Queen Victoria* wrote daily. Her journals span nearly 70 years (from age 13 to 81) and total 43,000 pages in 121 volumes!

That's simply amazing to me (especially since I feel I've been slacking in the writing department lately). Journaling is something I've always been rather passionate about.

It's something church leaders have encouraged us to do:
I urge all of the people of this church to give serious attention to their family histories, to encourage their parents and grandparents to write their journals, and let no family go into eternity without having left their memoirs for their children, their grandchildren, and their posterity. This is a duty and a responsibility, and I urge every person to start the children out writing a personal history and journal.
President Spencer W. Kimball, April 1978 
President Kimball was an avid daily journaler, though he himself admitted that he only had "thirty-three large, well-filled journal books" in his library by the time he was 85, so it would appear that the queen out-wrote him!

Friday, February 23, 2018

Under the weather

All five of the kids are sick with a cold right now. It's Alexander's first full-blown cold and he's a little perplexed by the way his body has seemingly turned on him. His nose is stuffy so eating, his one true joy in life, is considerably more difficult than it's been in a long time. I imagine that, like the more verbal children have been complaining about, his head aches and his throat is sore. While his siblings have been, for the most part, carrying on with life, Alexander has never been in pain like this before and has been acting like he's dying.

Nearly every time I put him down he curls up in a little ball and starts screaming as if to say, "Don't leave me alone to die!"

I keep telling him that he's going to be fine but he doesn't seem to believe me. So we're just nursing every half-hour like it's going to be his last meal (or maybe he just feels thirsty because his throat hurts (probably that)).

Hopefully they'll all be back to themselves in the next couple of days (just a little bit fatter in Alexander's case (oink, oink)).

The other day Zoë was sneezing all over creation, including Alexander.

"See, this is why your brother is sick," I chided.

"He's not sick!" she denied.

"He is," I insisted.

"Why?" she asked. "I always just 'choo on my arms! I never 'choo the baby!"

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Snow Business

Before Andrew left for work this morning he shovelled the driveway, but it kept on snowing so by the time I was sending the kids to school we had to wade through a couple more inches (Grandpa ended up shovelling again later in the morning). I sent Benjamin waddling along with his sisters, dressed in his entire snowsuit. 

I'm pretty sure I was the only mom in the whole school that made her kids walk to school today (in the snow, both ways). 

When we were walking home from school, Benjamin asked me if I'd help him build a snowman, so I said that I would...after lunch, if I could get Alexander to go down for a nap and squeeze in a nap myself then, yes, we could build a snowman.

Unfortunately, although we had both lunchtime and nap time, by the time we got outside the conditions just weren't right for a snowman. While I could pack a good initial ball of snow, rolling it around did nothing to increase the size of the ball. It just wouldn't pack. So a snowman was out. 

Instead we started building a snow fort. Benjamin, Zoë and I worked together until Miriam came home from school (and then Miriam joined us). It was tough work!

Monday, February 19, 2018

Snow!

We finally got a decent amount of snow—somewhere between eight and ten inches overnight (depends on where you step)! And, as luck would have it, it's President's Day (or, if you're me, Family Day) so there was no school today, which meant we got to enjoy the day playing in the snow together.

As much as I complained about missing school every stinking time it snowed when we lived in North Carolina, I do think that having a day (a day, mind you, one solitary day; not wait-until-there-is-no-snow-anywhere-before-going-back-to-school number of days (I swear this particular snowfall would have been a good two weeks' worth of snow days in North Carolina)) to frolic in freshly fallen snow is a wonderful thing. It would have been a real shame if the kids had been in school all day, pining to get out into the snow!

So one day off was nice, but I'm super glad they'll be going to school tomorrow.

 Here are the kids playing out on the swing set together:


Sunday, that one day

Emily and Morgan's original plan was to stay overnight on Saturday and Sunday, but then a big winter storm was due to roll in (the most significant storm of the season) so they decided to head home on Sunday afternoon instead, which was a little bit sad for everyone. We had a fun time playing together on Sunday after church, though!

We played Pie Face and had tickle wars and held lots and lots of babies.

Here are some pictures of us together:

Zoë and Grandma got in a bit of a tug-o-war over Logan

Four-month pic

I neglected to take a picture of Alexander on his four-month birthday (is anyone really surprised?) so Zoë and I spent Friday morning trying to get him to smile for a picture. He wasn't really into it, which is weird because he's a pretty smiley guy. This was our best shot:


I have a feeling that Zoë was being a little too enthusiastic about trying to get him to smile and was making him feel nervous...

Grandma's Party

We had a birthday party for Grandma on Saturday. Auntie Emily drove down from Idaho with her family and Auntie Katharine and Uncle Jacob came with their families as well. Grandpa Frank and Grandma Pat, Aunt Nicki and Aunt Becky represented the Heiss clan. Aunt Linda and Uncle Trevor represented the Andersons. Reid also invited a few friends—the Zanders, Roberts, and James & April Gillespie. Oh, and my mom came, too!

It ended up being about 35 people (though we maybe set up enough seats for 54). We made tamales and enchiladas for dinner and had Texas sheet cake and flan for dessert. It was a little chaotic trying to plan and prepare dinner for that many people, especially because we did our best not to involve Karen in the planning and preparation—and she's always the hostess with the mostest. We're just amateurs. 

Here's a little picture of Zoë helping Maren get ready for the party (while watching Olympic figure skating). Zoë loves brushing hair. She always enjoys brushing other people's hair (often that's how we keep her entertained during family scripture study—she'll happily (and quietly) sit while brushing someone's hair) and sometimes even enjoys having her own hair done (though not as much as when she's the hairdresser). Anyway, here she is brushing Maren's hair:


Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Valentine ground rules

Dear other parents,

Although I still think it slightly cruel, I can tolerate your sending home Fun Dip packs with my eight- and ten-year-olds. I used to enjoy an occasional Fun Dip pack back in the day myself. But can we agree that sending Fun Dip packs home with my kindergartener is just wrong, wrong, wrong?

Fun Dip packs are the kind of candy that you sneak off to the store to buy without your parents' knowledge. They are not the kind of candy that parents purposely give to their children, especially to their five-year-olds.

While we're on the subject—slime. Let's not send my five-year-old home with slime either, okay?

I mean, on the one hand he loved it. It was pink and sparkly and gooey (three of his favourite things).

But on the other hand, he's five years old and his mind is on fire. I haven't met anyone with so many bad ideas in a long time. He has his share of good ideas, it's true, but so many of his ideas leave me wondering, "Whhhhhhaaaaaaat?!"

Alexander at four months

Alexander had his four-month well baby check today, so I know exactly how big he is: 25 inches tall and is 13 lbs. 11 ounces. That's double his birth weight! No wonder he seems huge.

At four months, Alexander is getting to be rather social. He smiles and giggles and coos both when he's given attention and when he wants attention. He initiates play by making eye contact with someone and then cocking his head to one side (repeatedly until they copy him) and grinning. It's super adorable.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

A post about depression (don't freak out)

Yesterday wasn't a fabulous momming day for me, or life-ing day, for that matter. Lately I've been feeling like I'm stuck in a hydraulic press or something, like my whole self is being squeezed. I'm positive I'm suffering from a little PPD or PPA, because I've been there before so why not go there again? Depression and anxiety aren't exactly strangers in my life. 

After a week of Zoë being sick, I am ridiculously behind in laundry because I spent the whole week washing sheets and blankets and towels and pyjamas that she threw up on (technically she was only throwing up for three days, but it felt like longer). Andrew was sick over the weekend, which I can't really blame him for but it meant that he wasn't present to co-parent, which felt overwhelming even if it shouldn't have been. Andrew's current contract will be over at the end of the semester and then...who even knows? It feels just a little bit like we're heading full-steam ahead to the edge of a cliff. 

Alexander hasn't been sleeping well lately. He sleeps until I go to bed and then—I don't know if it's because he can smell me or what, but—he wants to smorgasbord all night long, which is fine except, like, I'm the smorgasbord. It's been exhausting. But  then when I can sleep, all I have are nightmares of my children dying. Often it's due to a car accident (which has done wonders for my driving anxiety—ha!) but there are other ways, too. I heard Rachel's bed creaking in the middle of the night; she was probably just switching positions, but I dreamt she had hanged herself from her bed frame (she has a loft bed) and I found her in the morning when she didn't get up for school (she's usually the first one up). Just a reminder that that was a dream. It didn't actually happen. 

Benjamin, though, actual-factually started choking on a piece of meat at dinner the other night, so I went ahead and dreamed that instead of coughing it back up (as he did in real life), he died. And I kept dreaming it over and over again and every time I would try something different to save his life but every time I would end up hovering over his limp, lifeless body on the kitchen floor. 

I can usually chase that kind of thought away during the day (thoughts which I realize aren't entirely normal to be bombarded with), but I can't quite control them in my dreams. 

So sleeping is pretty much...fabulous...right now.

Anyway, yesterday I just felt like far too much was piled on anyway and then...I went to fill out this survey for Alexander's well-child check tomorrow. It's a pretty easy survey and I was flying through it.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

On Campus

On Saturday I took the kids to BYU to meet up with my mom and sister for the Family Concert Series, which how did I not know about until now?!? I think it's such a great idea—a matinee musical performance geared toward children. 

This month's theme was "Pictures in Sound" and we learned about how composers paint a picture with sounds rather than paint. The first song the orchestra played was the Star Wars theme song and the minute they started playing Benjamin went all slack-jawed (and didn't manage to close his mouth until they had finished playing). The first question of the lecture was something about what the music made us see/imagine/think about. The answer, for most (including Benjamin), was Star Wars.


Saturday, February 10, 2018

Teeth

Benjamin bit into his dinner tonight and his tooth popped out of his mouth. 

"Wow!" he said, and then put his hand up to feel his freshly barren gum. He was quite shocked to see his fingers come away bloody and cried, "Whoa! Blood. Blood. Did not expect blood!"

Soon, though, the bleeding stopped and he was left to revel in the joy of having lost his very first tooth. 

I wanted to take a picture of him with Rachel, who lost a tooth yesterday. They insisted that Alexander be in the picture with them because he is also quite toothless.


Friday, February 09, 2018

Stories from this week

This evening we were watching the opening ceremonies for the Olympics while chowing down on pizza when I noticed that something was wrong with Benjamin's mouth. He was chewing funny and his teeth looked all wonky. It took a minute of staring at him to realize that he must have a wriggly tooth.

"Benjamin!" I said excitedly, "Do you have a wriggly tooth?"

"I wish I did," he sighed forlornly. "Everybody else has had a wriggly tooth."

"Come here, let me see," I said.

He came over and obligingly opened his mouth for me. He has a wriggly tooth, alright! It's so wriggly it's almost ready to pop out of his mouth. He showed it off to everyone. Grandma teasingly offered to pull it out and then Daddy genuinely offered to pull it out (what is it with Daddies and wanting to pull teeth out?). He let Andrew give it a few good yanks before I convinced Andrew to let it fall out organically, or at least give Benjamin a little while to enjoy wriggling it now that he's aware of it. How that boy managed to go this long without realizing his tooth was wriggly is beyond me!

(Side note: Rachel just lost a tooth (on a piece of popcorn, no less), though it's her...ninth (I believe)...which is much less exciting than a first.)

It does explain his lack of appetite. I've been a little worried about him because Zoë has been so sick this week, but he hasn't acted remotely ill. He's just been refusing to eat quite a bit of what we've been offering him at mealtimes in favour of things like yogurt and applesauce. So his appetite isn't suffering, per se. He simply is having a hard time biting and chewing.

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Every day I'm....

Every morning and every evening, I sit down to express milk for a friend's baby. It's actually kind of fun to do a direct transfer because I get to see her sweet baby every couple of weeks when she comes to pick up milk. A baby can change a lot in just a couple of weeks! Seeing her baby reminds me that I'm not just growing my own baby at this point; I'm helping hers grow, too. That's two babies that I'm feeding (and two babies is a whole lot of babies to feed and feeding babies is work and sometimes I just need to be reminded of that). 

I pump off 12 ounces in the morning and 12 ounces again in the evening (which totals approximately how much milk a baby consumes any given day). It can be tiresome and time consuming, but it's worth it for me (because, as I've explained before, I tended to get mastitis (or was constantly battling clogged ducts and was a cantankerous old milk cow because I was always overflowing with milk) when I didn't pump (I didn't pump with either Rachel or Miriam)). 

The mornings can be difficult, especially if I have to leave the house very early (I won't say how early is too early; I'll just say that getting the whole family out the door for 9:00 church is a challenge). But even if I don't have to leave the house early it can still be a challenge. Sometimes I end up nursing Alexander on one side, pumping on the other side, all while snuggling Miriam, who is likely demanding that I read her a story ("Okay, now turn the page," I'll prompt her every few sentences). 

Now that Alexander is getting bigger and older and more interactive, pumping in the mornings can sometimes go swimmingly well (when he is happy to kick around on the floor or takes a nicely timed nap in his bed) or he can fuss and demand to be held, which is cumbersome. Or he'll do a big poop in the middle of pumping and I'll have to stop and change him, and so on. Really pumping doesn't take that long, but when you factor in all the interruptions...time adds up.

Here he is, snoozing across my lap while I finish up pumping:


That one time we went to the museum...

On Martin Luther King Jr. Day we went to the Bean Museum with my mom, brother, and sister. And then I didn't ever write about it because I'm so far behind in life that it's not even funny. But Josie wanted to see the pictures I took with her and Alexander. Unfortunately, none of them turned out great, but that's alright because they're both cute anyway!


Sunday, February 04, 2018

Cognizance

Lately the kids have been asking questions about cognizance, like, "When did you tell me my name was Rachel?" and "When did you tell me my birthday was June 3?" And it's been driving us all a little crazy because there is no satisfactory answer to these questions. I don't know when my children first became aware of their name or birthday or whatever, and they don't consider the answer, "It's just kind of something you grow up knowing," satisfactory.

At dinner tonight (a lovely NC BBQ, per Benjamin's request, accompanied with roasted green beans and banana puddin') Rachel asked me when I "found out" about WWII.

"Okay, so," I began, "This is another thing that I just kind of know. It is so much a part of our culture that I can't really separate it out as a memory. It's entrenched in movies and literature, we learn about it at school, it was always mentioned at Remembrance Day, we have relatives who served during WWII. I feel like I've just always known about it."

"Just like there was no moment I told you what your name is or when your birthday is," I continued. "Unless, like, maybe at your birth I was like, 'Hello, Rachel! Today's your birthday! Welcome to the world..."

"...Germany invaded Poland in 1939..." Andrew added, using the same singsong baby voice I had been using.

That is exactly the fourth thing we say to our kids when they're born. Like, verbatim.

Friday, February 02, 2018

Groundhog Day

This morning Benjamin participated in the Kindy 500 (like the Indy 500, only for kindergarten). Each student made a car out of a box, which they "drove" around the school for all the parents and classes, and then they spent the day (or 2 hours, as it were) driving around the school to various American landmarks/symbols and having a mini lesson about them. There was the Statue of Liberty, Mount Rushmore, an eagle, a flag...that kind of thing.

They had fun. And I have a few pictures of the initial parade, which I will eventually get off of the camera (but our card reader is no longer reading cards so that will have to wait), but that's not really what this post is about, anyway.

This post is about how I walked home from the school this morning with my friend Gulnaz, who is from Russia. She remarked how beautiful the weather was, and that it was more like spring than like winter, which is totally true.

So then I told her that today was Groundhog Day and that the principal had joked during morning announcements (she missed those) that Punxsatawney Phil had seen his shadow, dooming us with six weeks of winter, though if the six more weeks of winter we're in for are anything like the weather we've had so far this winter we'll be quite comfortable until spring.

She was like, "Groundhog...Day...?"

So I tried to explain Groundhog Day to her, which was...difficult.

Have you ever wanted to sound like a crazy person?

Explain Groundhog Day to a foreigner unfamiliar with the concept.

Gamelan with Benjamin

My mom is in Oregon at a conference this week (for the Music Library Association, I think) and Andrew's mom is in Arizona at a funeral (for a family friend), so with my two most dependable babysitters absent I ended up taking multiple children to gamelan this week.

Yesterday I took Rachel and Alexander, specifically so that Rachel could help watch Alexander during class. She also got to play a bit on the jublag for a bit during our break, though I didn't take her picture or anything (so she'll have to come another time).

Tonight I took Benjamin and Alexander, specifically to remove Benjamin from the equation at home. The kids had given Andrew a pretty rough time on Thursday evening, so I thought an outing would do Benjamin some good, and it did. The only fit Andrew had to deal with was the one Zoë threw when we told her (yet again) that she wouldn't be coming with us.

I put Alexander in the front carrier during class, where he had a lovely little snooze out of Benjamin's reach. Benjamin read books and drew on a whiteboard and ate a few snacks. During the break Dr. Grimshaw invited him to test out the gongs and Benjamin, though a little shy about it at first, really quite enjoyed striking the gongs (what five-year-old wouldn't?).



Thursday, February 01, 2018

Getting a handle on things

It's been so warm out that instead of putting Alexander in the front carrier and zipping him inside my big winter coat, I broke out our two-kid capacity stroller. Zoë has been dying to try this out since we got it (used) but at first Alexander was too tiny and then the weather was too frightful (and it should still be frightful; I can't get over how mild this winter has been!) so Alexander has been bundled up next to me since he was born, basically.

But for the past few days he's been riding in the stroller and he seems to enjoy it (or at least not hate it). He's a pretty clingy guy. He already holds onto people when they hold him and he has his favourite little handhold in his car seat, so I wasn't at all surprised when I saw his little hand squeezing the life out of the side of the stroller. I texted this picture to show Andrew that Alexander had found a handle.


"He's all set," Andrew wrote back.

You could say he's really getting a handle on life...