Wednesday, December 11, 2019

You'd better watch out...

I'm not sure if Zoë how been less able to keep her hands off Alexander lately or if he's simply gotten pickier about when she gets to touch him, but these two have been squabbling constantly lately and usually it has something to do with Zoë carrying Alexander around or Zoë stuffing her hand down Alexander's shirt to feel his soft baby skin or Zoë sitting on Alexander so he can't get into her toys or...Zoë touching Alexander in some way or another.

I don't blame him for not liking all this attention (that he's been battling since his birth). She just loves him so much that she can't help touch him. That or she's aggressively attacking him.

There is no middle ground.

A new phrase he's picked up on, and which he shouts regularly, is, "I'M IN CHARGE OF MY BODY, BO-BO!"

Because that's what I say when she's invading his personal space: "I know his skin is soft, but Alexander doesn't want you to touch him right now. Do you hear how he's squawking at you? That means he doesn't want you to do that. Alexander is in charge of his body and you need to listen to him."

She doesn't often listen to him, unfortunately, and yesterday when I found her sitting on him (after following the sounds of his muffled cries) I began chastising her once again.

"Zoë!" I said. "Get off of your brother!"

"But I don't want him in my room!" she said.

"Well, he can't get out of your room when you're sitting on him," I pointed out. "You need to use your words to communicate with him, not your body."

"Fine," she said, rolling off of him. "Alexander, get out!" she then said, giving him a little push to emphasize "out."

Does she really think I don't see these things? I am right here.

"Zoë, you've got to start being nicer to your brother. Santa's not going to be very happy when he sees how unkindly you've been beha..."

"Whoa, whoa, whoa!" Zoë interrupted. "You mean he can see us when we're awake, too!?"

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Scary ghost stories and tales of the glory...

Perhaps it's ambitious of us, but for our read-aloud book the next couple of weeks, I've selected A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. It's a little advanced for the children. Though they are familiar with the storyline from watching various movie versions of the story in Christmases past, Dickensian English still seems like a foreign language at times and I have to stop and explain things to them regularly.

Today as we read we were looking for similes and other metaphors, which Dickens sprinkles through his manuscript as if his readers are sitting in a restaurant booth while he, a liberal-handed waiter, grates parmesan cheese onto their pasta—more, more, and still more! Sometimes it feels like he leaves us with the entire block of cheese to gnaw on! Needless to say, we found a long list of examples.

Then, just at the peak of Marley's haunting, as he's floating out the window and Scrooge notices the world is filled with tortured souls doomed to wander on this eternal treadmill, watching mortals suffer, the electricity snapped off and we were plunged into an eerie, grey silence. It scared, you could say, the Dickens out of us.

Daylight filtered through our sheer curtains and when we opened them to let more light in, we found the world outside equally grey, shrouded in a similar translucent film. Whether clouds and mists or spectres and spirits, it is hard to say...

Monday, December 09, 2019

Our Thankful Tree 2019

While I was busy taking care of leaves all over the outside of our house, I decided I may as well de-leaf our Thankful Tree as well. Besides, we just got our first batch of Christmas cards and I needed somewhere to display all the wonderful people we know, so now our Thankful Tree is a Christmas Card Tree. It's beautiful!

We weren't very dedicated about writing on leaves this year, but we managed to get a good number on the tree. We'll do better next year, surely, when things aren't feeling so new and frenetic. Is cross-country culture shock a thing? If it's not, I suppose uprooting is stressful anyway—getting to know a new place and new people is difficult even without having to learn a new language or convert currency in your mind all the time.

Here's our tree in full foliage:

My little entomologist

Early this afternoon while the kids were doing some research on their chosen countries (Miriam is researching Thailand and Benjamin is researching Scotland) I went upstairs to clean off the roof over our back deck.

Here I thought we were all smart to move to the south—no shoveling snow, you see. But instead I find myself dealing with leaves. We ordered one of those telescoping roof rakes (for snow removal) so that we can use it...on the leaves! It's ridiculous, but the deciduous trees surrounding our house have almost finished dropping their leaves for this year so we should get a little reprieve soon.

Leaning out the bedroom window, I first used the leaf blower, but I could only reach so far with that so then I stretched out the rake and started pushing leaves over the edge of the roof. While I was awkwardly wielding this 20 foot pole, I noticed a horrifyingly huge bug calmly walking up the roof toward me. It was a suspicious-looking bug—some sort of assassin beetle, I thought—so I tried taking a picture of it so that I could identify it but I couldn't quite get the camera to focus on it (it camouflaged so well with the shingles). So I called for a jar.

Miriam came running up the stairs with one and I trapped it easily. This bug is rather ginormous I couldn't miss!

Geese and things

I've been hard at work on our annual Christmas poem (I'm nearly finished now) and as I was thinking about design, I kept coming back to the rocket-birds Zoë drew (to entertain Alexander, our resident bird-lover) and how much she loves the song Christmas is Coming.

Whenever she sings it she ends it with a little sneeze because, you know, the last line is "God bless you."

Anyway, as I was thinking about her drawing goose-like creatures and about her singing this song (all the time, guys, all the time), I thought her little Christmas goose-obsession needed to be immortalized in the Christmas newsletter, so I sprinkled her little geese throughout along with some lines from goose songs and poems.

I don't know if it's because I'm Canadian or what, but I'm aware of several. I chose three to highlight in this year's newsletter: Christmas is Coming (of course), Something Told the Wild Geese (by Rachel Field), and Wild Goose (by Wade Hemsworth).

Wednesday, December 04, 2019

Fungus experiments

We've been learning about fungus (among other things) in our classification unit in science and today's science experiment was that one where you use yeast to inflate a balloon. Only I didn't have a balloon because even though  the creator of our textbook so kindly compiled a list of supplies we'd need for each upcoming experiment, I don't often remember to look at that list and find myself scrambling at the last minute. So instead of having our yeast inflate a balloon, we just covered glass jars with saran wrap and got basically the same results.

The kids enjoyed watching the yeast activate (even without a dramatic balloon climax) and our saran wrap did inflate a bit (though it looks wonky in the picture from so many fingers poking it).

Tuesday, December 03, 2019

My silly guys

Not to make us seem totally accident-prone over here, but...

Alexander touched a hot pan this evening. I had just taken it out of the oven and put it in the center of the table (which Alexander cannot reach without climbing on top of the table itself), and cautioned Alexander not to touch it (which, again, would require him to climb on the table to do). Then I went about finishing up dinner and called everyone to the table and sat down.

"Hi, Mommy," Alexander, who was sitting serenely on his chair, said.

"Hi, buddy."

Then he stuck out his lip, held out his hand, and whispered, "I touched it."

The poor boy had a lovely little blister swelling up on his hand! But he hadn't yelled or cried or panicked at all. He just calmly informed me that he had burned his hand.

"Well, quick!" I said, pulling the pitcher of water over to him. "Put your hand on this. It's cold."

"Ooh!" he agreed. "That is cold!"

He and that pitcher became fast friends.

Christlike Service

Tonight for family night, Rachel suggested that she introduce the Light the World initiative to the family (over dinner because that's often how we've been doing family night this semester since Andrew's been teaching on Mondays (hey, everybody's sitting down)).

Today's challenge was to think of someone who is an example of Christlike service (and to then highlight that person on social media, which blogs are totally very much still in vogue (at least that's what I'm telling myself). The girls both though Sister Moody in our Spanish Fork ward was a good example of Christlike love because she's always looking for ways to serve others, and they're not wrong. Sister Moody is a wonderful person.

For me, though, the people who kept coming to mind (aside from perhaps the obvious answers within my family) were the Gillespie clan and my dear friend Crystal. When Karen passed away, all the Gillespies showed up for her funeral. They really walked us through that grieving process and let us cry and laugh and feel whatever we were feeling (and cried and laughed and felt things with us).

It made me feel terrible about not getting Andrew out to Utah for Dorothy's funeral (guys, we were so broke). The Gillespies came from Washington, Idaho, and Arizona (and Utah). The only one we were missing was Phillip (he was stuck in Wyoming (probably being so broke, guys). They gave us this beautiful little angel that has been sitting on our mantel since we moved in, and which I haven't sent a thank you card for because I'm still not a very reliable thank you card person...but every time I look at it I think about how that angel was meant to represent Karen but how it also represents those dear, dear friends.

And then Crystal!

She drove for six hours just to give me a hug after Karen died (and, I guess, to give my kids presents as well). And I was surprised, but I don't know why because she's always doing wonderful things like that (and not just for me; she does nice things for everybody). I'm so lucky her little family was brave enough to be flatmates with Andrew and me all those (13!) years ago. Somehow she never gets tired of my whining (and—totally not an example of Christlike love but just a strange thing that always makes my head spin—I had a baby about six months after she had a baby for her last four babies (Zoë was off-schedule, but that's alright), including (randomly) having a premature baby after she had a premature baby (I suppose this ends up being another example of Christlike love because she walked me through that whole NICU experience as well)).

Lastly, I have to call out my friend Susanne. She is so open-minded, so willing to listen, and so thoughtful. I wish we had been able to get together in person a few more time than we managed (but we're not so far; so perhaps one day we'll get to pay her a visit). I don't even remember how she found our blog, but she did (through Bridget somehow) and when she found out we'd be moving to North Carolina she swept in and took care of us, telling us fun places to visit, dropping off bags of hand-me-downs and fun things for the kids to do (beadwork and bubbles and so forth). Once she brought by a beautiful yellow chrysanthemum. And she came to support Rachel at her baptism.

I suppose when I think of Christlike service, then, I think of the times he mourned with those in mourning and how he's able to cater to us so individually. And I hope that I can learn to emulate that behaviour as well as my friends have!

Sunday, December 01, 2019

Benjamin's talk

The primary here has been absurdly on top of sending reminders about the children's assignments in primary...until this weekend! Usually I get a text message earlier in the week as well as the day before, in addition to an email. I'm often also caught in the hallway by one of the presidency members and the kids have come home with little bracelets detailing their assignment.

Benjamin was supposed to give a talk in primary today and I got no reminders at all! Luckily I read the church bulletin that was emailed out last night because Benjamin's assignment was listed there.

We worked together this morning to come up with a talk.

You'll find the transcript below. He read the full text of Janice Kapp Perry's poem/song I'm Trying to Be Like Jesus. It fit well with his talk and she's been on my mind quite a bit lately (years and years ago I took a Spanish class with her (and my mom), which was fun, but she's more a friend of my mom's than of mine). She's a wonderful, talented woman and I wish her the best with whichever path she's to take (recovering from her illness or meeting up with her husband in heaven).

Be my mommy

Today I got to help serve a post-funeral luncheon. Benjamin's nursery leader's mom passed away. I suppose her mom should have been in our ward—or would have been in our ward as of this week—but she's been in a home due to her various illnesses (Alzheimer's, among other things). They knew she was doing poorly, so had made the decision to bring her home this week—on Thursday—so she could spend some time surrounded by family before passing away...but instead she passed away on Sunday last week.

Still, the family had all been planning to be here for Thursday, so this sweet sister in my ward cooked a ginormous Thanksgiving dinner—all on her own—and that's what we served to her family this afternoon.

She must be one of those people who can do things like plan and cook a huge meal while under huge amounts of stress (like planning a funeral and so forth). But also this was a thing they've known has been coming for several years now.


I had to go off and leave my children (with their hobbled father) while I went to help with the luncheon (their hobbled father having not been in the cards when I volunteered to help; and with it being Thanksgiving weekend, finding a replacement volunteer would've been difficult, so I decided to go anyway). Alexander, my sweet, clingy baby, didn't want me to go and would hardly leave my side—not when he noticed I was getting ready to leave the house.

"Pick me up!" he demanded.

"I can't hold you right now. I've got to get ready to go!" I told him.

"Don't go!" he begged. "Stay here! Be my mommy!"

And I just about melted into a puddle right then and there, but I persevered and went to the funeral luncheon, and we all (ie: Alexander) survived the ordeal.