Monday, June 18, 2018

At the dinner table

"Merci," Miriam said.

"De rien," I answered.

"Gracis," Rachel said a few minutes later.

"De nada," I replied.

"America," Benjamin said.

We all looked at him and blinked.

"What?" I asked.

"America," he repeated, patiently yet expectantly.

Murmurs of confusion swirled around the table.

"Ugh!" he said, throwing up his arms in great frustration. "Washington, DC, guys! Come on!"

And when still no one caught on he added quietly, "But aren't we playing Name That Capitol?"

In his defense, we've been playing that game at the dinner table a lot recently so I can see how he thought that we were perhaps playing that came, what with the call-and-response format my exchanges with the girls had taken.

In our defense, weren't playing that game so we had every right to be confused.

Those Durham days we used to know... (May 10–14)

After stumbling off the plane (red-eye flights with a baby in tow are a terrible idea, FYI) we took the shuttle to the rental car place where we picked up our economy car. Book an economy car online was a bit of a gamble because there wasn't really a way to request a four-door vehicle—we'd either get a two-door or a four-door—so when they handed us the keys and pointed to a tiny black car in the parking lot I panicked a little. We obviously had not scored a four-door vehicle.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Buffets and Bowling

Yesterday the kids and I played a game of bowling on the Wii (and—not to brag, but—I totally won; with a couple of turkeys my score was well over 200) and then they were talking about how fun it would be to go bowling in real life (you know, because clearly we're awesome at bowling (according to the Wii). So this afternoon the kids and I headed into campus to meet Andrew at work for a family date.

We went to the Cannon Center for dinner. The older three kids all chose to have the chicken-fried steak/mashed potatoes/mixed vegetables plate for their main course while we were lucky to get Zoë to eat "fruit poops."

Oh, you haven't heard the fruit poop story? Well that's because I feel like I hardly have time to sit down to write anymore because someone is always crying (stop crying, children, so I can write your histories). 

The short and sweet version of this story is that I do my best to avoid serving my children "sugar cereals," the exception being their birthdays when they get to choose whatever birthday cereal they want. Their most popular birthday pick is Lucky Charms (or whatever rip-off brand is available) so Zoë hasn't yet been exposed to a wide variety of sugar cereal. 

When we went up to visit Auntie Emily's family back in April, we stayed at a hotel that had free breakfast and their little buffet included Froot Loops (or whatever rip-off brand it was) and Zoë was 100% sure that she wanted those. But she was also wearing rainbow pyjamas so she was pretty darn cute with that bowl of Froot Loops. 

"Hey, Zoë!" Benjamin said good-naturedly. "You loop like a fruit loop!"

She turned to him in disgust and snarled, "I am not a fruit poop, Benny!"

April 29, 2018

Duke Graduation Ceremony (May 12)

Andrew defended his dissertation on July 21, 2017; we moved on July 24, and after arriving in Utah he had a couple of weeks to submit his revisions. He officially graduated on September 1, but his diploma didn't arrive in the mail until September 24 (which was quite a while ago).

September 24, 2017
So it felt a little odd to fly back to Durham to attend the graduation ceremony in May. We feel at once like we've just left (it hasn't even been a year!) and that graduate school was eons ago (it's been almost a year!); whichever way we happened to be feeling at any given moment, it was wonderful to go back to North Carolina (if only for a few days). 

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Little lies and language learning

"Benny peed in his pants!" Zoë tattled (somewhat triumphantly—because she really had him this time!) after flinging the back door open.

"He did what?!" I groaned.

He hollered at her to get back outside, "Zoë!"

She ran back outside and he told her a few things and she poked her head back inside to announce sheepishly, "Benny did not pee in his pants."

Clearly this was a matter that needed to be sorted out, but I certainly didn't want to be the one to do it. I was tired. It had been quite a trying day and—did I mention this?—my husband was no help (because he was in Sweden). I sighed heavily (it's yogic) and went outside.

"Hi, Mom," Benjamin said, meeting me at the door. "I'm going to tell you The Truth."

"Great," I said. "That's exactly what I want."

"The truth is: I didn't pee in my pants."

"Fabulous. Then tell me what you did do."

"I just did."

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

End of the school year

Benjamin had his last day of school on May 18—which means he's been out of school for nearly a month already! He was quite excited for the end of the school year, mostly because he thought he'd immediately move into grade one (he was obsessing about "practicing making [his] lunch" so that he could be ready for the big day). He was a little let down when he realized he had the whole summer to kill before he'd get to move up a grade.

Our rising first grader

Monday, June 11, 2018

No good can come from bad

I have a million other things to write about but I feel like today would be a good day for Flashback Friday to end its hiatus (it's Monday, though, so perhaps we'll call today Memory Monday) because I've been searching through the archives and though I referenced this story in passing I never really told the story.

Certain current events, however, have made this story seem even more harrowing than I think it felt at the time. I was terrified and angry at the time, yet also felt this sense of control because what was happening felt too ludicrous to be allowed. Surely the border control officer was joking. The very idea was laughable; no one in their right mind would allow it. So of course it couldn't happen, wouldn't happen.

And it didn't happen. Not to me.

But apparently it is happening!

And perhaps I'll talk about that a little bit, but first, the story:

In 2009 we were living in Egypt—a full-blown dictatorship at the time—and my friend Jaehee (a Korean citizen) had to exit the country in order to renew her visa. Since her husband and my husband were both in the middle of their master's degree programs and couldn't take time off of school right then (and, as American citizens, had the option to renew their visas without leaving the country), I told Jaehee that I would be happy to go on a trip out of the country with her. Though I didn't have to leave Egypt to renew my visa, either, I'm always up for an adventure!

We researched the safest/easiest/cheapest place for two women—and one toddler, because 21 month-old Rachel would also be joining us—to fly to and settled on Greece. So we booked our tickets, arranged some hotels, and jetted off across the Mediterranean Sea for a wonderful Hellenic holiday.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Benjamin is six!

Technically he's six years old and one week (and, frankly, we're simply happy he's made it this far into his seventh year because this week has been quite the week).

A true southern boy (who still asks nearly daily to return to North Carolina (and then Zoë will pipe up, "My old house is in Norf Ca-o-wina!")), Benjamin requested chicken and waffles for his birthday dinner, which was delicious for all and very messy for some.

Alexander was covered from head to toe in strawberry gunk, so while I gave him a bath and Grandpa did the dishes, Andrew took the big kids into the basement to play the Wii. "If you can help clear the table," he said as if it was a real sacrifice on his part, "I guess I can play a round of MarioKart with you guys."

Ordinarily Alexander isn't a huge fan of being cleaned off, but he did enjoy having the tub to himself. So maybe bathing isn't what he finds so awful. Perhaps it's his bathing companions...

Alexander in the bath (definitely not Benjamin; Benjamin had hair (glorious hair))

Tuesday, June 05, 2018

Millennial Falcon

This year Benjamin wanted a Star Wars cake. More specifically, he wanted a reprise of rainbow Darth Vader cake from his fourth birthday, but my cake stuff is still packed away so instead he settled on a Millennium Falcon cake. Andrew assured me it would be super easy—"It's just a circle with two points sticking out," he said, ignoring the finer details of the cake. 

I'm such a Star Wars luddite that my children kept calling me out for saying Millennial Falcon rather than Millennium Falcon. Apparently this is an important distinction. Rachel even pulled up a meme to mock me with:

Thanks for that, Rachel.

I keep calling it the Millennial Falcon just to make her roll her eyes at me and moan, "Moooooom!" in that exasperated way only a preteen can manage.

Sunday, June 03, 2018

This boy

Six years ago, on a beautiful Sunday like this one, my sweet little Benjamin came into the world in a flurry of excitement and panic. Far more panic than excitement, truthfully. In fact, I'm not even sure it was a beautiful day because I spent the entire day crying in the hospital. 

Andrew is reading over my shoulder as I type this and he assures me it was a beautiful day. From my memories it looked pretty okay through the window. The sun was shining, the sky was blue, birds were chirping, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. It was beautiful.

I remember.

Because I remember staring out the window and wondering how such an awful thing could be happening on such a beautiful day.

What I don't remember is how many times I said no.

"You're in labour," they told me.

"No, no, no," I insisted. "No. No, I'm not. No, no, no."

"Sweetie, you are going to have this baby today."

"No. No. No." I pleaded. "Please! Just make it stop!"

"You've progressed too far. Nothing is working. The baby is coming."

"No, please, no! It's too soon. No. No. No."

I hovered between shock and denial for what felt like hours, shivering uncontrollably beneath piles of heated blankets. Alas, no amount of begging or bargaining will stop the inevitable and I did go on to have a baby that day.

I had a beautiful baby on that beautiful day:

Benjamin on his literal birth day