Saturday, January 18, 2020

Matchy kids

This morning when they heard we'd be making a trip to the park the kids were all very excited. Benjamin was so excited that he got right down to business on his math work (no small miracle). Alexander was so excited that he attempted to get dressed on his own, which is always entertaining.

Today he stuck his waist through the neck hole of his t-shirt and put one leg through an arm hole and the other leg through the tummy hole.

Chaos theory

Our little neighbour boy says y'all all the time and every time he says it I find it both shocking and adorable. He is so polite and articulate—as a southern gentleman should be—and then throws in that y'all and it so adorable. I have to squeeze my lips together to keep from laughing.

Today when I tried to send him home so we could have dinner he turned the tables on me and invited Benjamin to accompany him to dinner at his house.

"Y'all can come have dinner at my house!" he said. "Ask if y'all can have dinner at my house!"

"Are you sure it's alright with your parents?" Benjamin asked, knowing full well that his little friend had not been home to check on the matter.

"Oh, sure!" his friend said. "It's okay with them if it's okay with y'all's parents! You're not allergic to pizza, are you?"

I had to really work to stifle my laughter after that remark. In the end, both Benjamin and Zoë raced up the street to see if they could share a pizza dinner at their friend(s)' house (this friend has a little sister Zoë's age) because, said Zoë, "he said y'all, Mom, so I'm invited, too!"

As soon as they left I rushed to find my phone in order to text this little boy's parents.

"My kids are on their way to your house. They are under the impression they are invited for dinner. If this is alright without, it's alright with me. If it's an imposition, send them on back!"

The kids were all so excited that they got their little pizza party and they had a fabulous time from what I hear. They raced home together—in the dark!—thrilled by their taste of independence and happy to have missed out on leftover night, which is what we'd done at home.

So our dinner tonight was unusually quiet, just me, Andrew, Rachel, Miriam, and Alexander.

"Phew!" I said. "Three kids is easy!"

Everyone agreed.

After dinner we cleaned up in half the time, with half the whining, and then sat down to play a round of "hand and foot" while the baby did some puzzles by himself (...on an iPad app, but it still counts as puzzle time, right?). It was an insanely peaceful evening, but we were happy to have our little chaos agents home.

They really had quite the busy day, those two! We managed—somehow—to sandwich all our schoolwork between various social engagements. We hit up playgroup at the park (mostly for Alexander and Zoë), which ended with us breaking from the group of sane, well-behaved preschoolers (my children were not in this group; my children were running around using garbage can lids as shields and being altogether wild) to take a chilly stroll down to look at the chilly river. But of course my kids hopped right in!

They had just been looking at the water but then I took my eyes off them for a split second as I leaned the diaper bag up against a tree and...

Friday, January 17, 2020

A new family alphabet

As if I didn't have enough projects to work on this week, Shutterfly sent me a "free book" promotion. Y'all know I can't say no those things, right?! I feel like I just finished one (I just checked and I did—I ordered it on December 30!) but I went ahead and made up another one because we enjoy having them around.

Luckily, Miriam and I had begun brainstorming a new idea for a Shutterfly book before I'd even finished the last one. My very first Shutterfly book (this is beginning to sound like an advertisement, but it's not) was an ABC book of my kids for my kids, but it's woefully outdated (Alexander and Zoë aren't even featured (because they weren't even thought of when I made it)), so they've been wanting me to make an updated alphabet book. But thinking up a new alphabet sounded hard.

Plus we were silly and ended up with an Alexander and an Andrew and a Miriam and a Mommy so I didn't really know where to put everybody. If I put Andrew under D for Daddy, it would be weird to put myself under N for Nancy, wouldn't it?

I've been told I overthink these things.

But whatever.

Because I was dragging my feet on the project, Miriam went ahead and made up a new family alphabet, which she put on the bookshelf beside our ABC book. So I pulled that out a couple of days ago and Miriam and I have spent quite a bit of time revising the items on her list, picking out pictures, and laying out pages. And we're finally finished!

I won't share the whole book here, but I will share the poem because sometimes I'm a little vain and think what I write is terribly clever, so clever that perhaps someone else will think it's entertaining, touching, witty, or valuable in some way.

First of all, you should know that the title of the book is Heflabet: A Heiss Family Alphabet.

Because what do you get when you cross the Heiss family with the alphabet? A real party!

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Not-so-super Sleepers

The other night Zoë was yelling from her room, with great disgust, "No! Rachel! Stop it!" before tapering off into incomprehensible mumblings.

Eerily enough, in the morning, Miriam disclosed to me that Rachel had been yelling at Zoë in her sleep. "Cut it out, Zoë..." she grunted.

Too funny, these kids!

Late on Monday evening, I heard a bunch of noise downstairs, but Andrew was down there so I didn't think to check it out. Besides, I was being held hostage in Alexander's doorway, waiting for him to fall asleep for the second time that evening.

Andrew, likewise, figured it was me puttering around...until he went to see what I was up to and noticed some odd evidence left behind.

He padded up the stairs and when he saw where I was—lying in Alexander's doorway reading a book—he whispered, "Did you get yourself a bowl of cereal?"

"No," I said. "I've just been here."

"Weird," he said. "Someone got a bowl of cereal. I thought it was you making all that noise."

"Huh. I thought it was you."

Alexander was just about out at this point so I slithered away from his room and followed Andrew downstairs. There was a box of cereal on the table along with a container of almond milk—as well as the little plastic milk from opening the milk for the first time (so this person had been super dedicated and had gone out to the garage fridge to fetch a new carton of milk)—on the table. They'd also spilled—and left—a bit of milk.

There was a bowl and a spoon in the sink.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Super sleeper

When I was growing up I had a couple Berenstain Bear books (and always wished we had more), one of which was Read, Set, Go! I can still quote the opening lines: "Hooray! Hooray!" their friends all say. "The bears' olympics start today!"

Once inside the story the Berenstain Bears compete to see which bear is the best at a number of different things: running, jumping, I can't remember what else. Then they get awards for who was good, better, best or fast, faster, fastest. Poor Papa can't outdo the cubs in anything until, at the end of the book—spoiler alert—he takes an epic nap that wins him first place in sleeping.

Well, it's a new year, obviously, so we've all been working on our goals over here, trying to figure out how to be healthier, kinder, smarter, better people. To that end, Andrew decided to get a FitBit.

I tried one years ago but didn't like how it fit and quickly returned it because I knew I wouldn't be able to stand having something like that on my wrist. But Andrew was once a watch wearer and seems to be comfortable with having something on his wrist again even after so many years of not having a watch (it broke when Rachel was tiny and we tried to fix it but failed and he's been without a watch since then).

Besides tracking his activity in general, and buzzing angrily at him if he's been too sedentary any given hour of the day, it claims to track his sleep patterns. Obviously all measurements must be taken with a grain of salt, but the data has been fun to look at. And it's really proving that our own Papa Bear is a champion sleeper (something we've long suspected).

His record, in case you're wondering, is crashing from "awake" to "deep sleep" in...30 seconds!


I dropped Alexander off at nursery on Sunday and for the first time ever he didn't put up much of a fight. He's been a very big talker lately, when it comes to going to nursery.

"And we play toys! And we have snack! And we blow bubbles! And we have singing time! I love nursery!" he's been known to boast. Of course, he'd never actually stayed in nursery by himself, but ever so slowly (over the past nine months) he's been learning that nursery is alright.

Last week was a huge turning point, when I left him for a full half hour and he didn't (hardly) cry.

This week I went into the room with him and he said, "Mom, tan oo 'tay?"

"I can't stay, remember?" I said. "I have to go to Rachel's class this week."

To my surprise he said, "Okay. Bye!" and then ran over to his favourite nursery leader, who was beckoning him over to see all the little puppets she had. 

It was a truly bizarre moment in my life. 

I was like, "Oh. Okay. I guess I'll just go...? then. Like. Okay. Bye." 

I didn't really know how to leave him, like...

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Extraordinarily ordinary

I'm starting to feel better about things. Not great because I still have to organize my manuscript, but better because I still have several months to do so. But as I'm re-reading my poems I'm realizing that they aren't terrible. They might not be great and are by no means phenomenal, but they're good.

Ever so slowly, I've been reading Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg. A piece of hers from this book was shared in the writing class I took last year and I liked it so much I decided to get the book and read the whole thing. Some of the advice has been helpful, some has been less helpful, but that's just how advice is—you just take what you need, right?

Well, I put this book down quite a while ago and it got lost on my desk under a pile of books. My desk could probably be described as a "chaotic good." The only clear space is where my keyboard sits (and even that is covered with my keyboard). I have seven books on my desk (including one book of family history), an embroidery hoop (from making Andrew's Christmas present), a packet of stickers (for potty training purposes), a clipboard (which doubles as my homeschool planner), a little dress that needs to be mended, various artwork by my children, notes to myself, records from our last doctor visits, my camera (and its case), a CD and cassette tape (from my grade four teacher), an envelope full of old envelopes (acting as a "list" of people who sent us Christmas cards)...and so on.

Nothing bad is on there. It's just...definitely not lawfully good.

My nightstand looks similarly. There are four books over there.

And two at my reading/nursing chair.

There's one in the hallway by Alexander's room (so I can read it on the floor while he falls asleep), and one by Zoë and Benjamin's door (our read-aloud novel).

Then there are books downstairs...

Friday, January 10, 2020

Getting dressed

Speaking of vulnerability, here's Alexander who tried to put his pants on by himself today and is now wondering what to do with that second pant leg (since he managed to stuff both his legs into a single hole):

Sometimes you just gotta try stuff.


I've had a "book deal" for ten days now and I haven't quite managed to celebrate that because instead of feeling happy, I feel gripped with anxiety. I mean, I did feel happy, I think, though perhaps shocked is a better word for it. I got the email while we were in downtown Atlanta at the playground outside of the MLK museum and I just walked over to Andrew with my phone to show him what the email said. So he hugged me and congratulated me, while I just felt dazed.

Poetry is weird.

Thursday, January 09, 2020

A boy in green pyjamas: staring out the window for a year

On December 6, 2018, Alexander couldn't yet walk but he could climb and he managed to get onto the fireplace ledge so that he could stare out the window and daydream. I captured this photo of him, which isn't anything particular but which, for some reason or other, comes to mind whenever I catch Alexander staring out the window (which he has ample opportunity to do in this house). 

Alexander, December 2018