Friday, February 15, 2019

Valentine's Day and Karen's Birthday

This was a busy (and rather dichotomous) holiday for us, abounding in revelry but not without sorrow.

I was in charge of three Valentine's Day parties this year, which was a lot and had me feeling rather stressed out. I knocked the preschool party out on the 13th. Since I had the preschool kiddos last week as well as this week, I was able to stretch a project out over two weeks. I had the kids cut some hearts out of salt dough last week and this week we painted them (we did that first thing in the morning so that they would have plenty of time to dry before it was time to go home).

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Orphan socks

Miriam's teacher assigns her class a chore to do at home every week. This week's chore is to do their own laundry, which Miriam said she informed her teacher she already does. But I wonder if she told her teacher why she does her own laundry.

Technically she and Rachel work together to do their laundry, which works out nicely because between the two of them they make a good sized load with a full week between washing days.

Rachel started doing her laundry last year when I decided that she was old enough to help fold laundry. So instead of folding her laundry for her, I'd just sort her clothes into a basket for her to fold on her own. The problem then became that she'd never get around to folding anything so by the time I came to collect laundry from her room I couldn't tell what was clean or dirty because it was all just thrown about her bedroom.

I told her that if I can't tell what's clean (because it's in your dresser put away) or dirty (because it's in your dirty clothes basket), I guess I don't have to wash anything because it's certainly not my job to sniff every article of clothing in her room to decide whether it needs to be washed or not.

And that's how Rachel came to be in charge of her own laundry.

Miriam joined her ranks late last year when she went on a rampage through the house, trying to find a pair of clean socks, a futile mission.

"You need to be better at getting the laundry done!" she snapped at me. "I don't have any clean socks left!"

Facial hair

I already wrote about how Zoë described a moustache as an "extra eyebrow" last month, but our questionable understanding of facial hair continues. We were reading a book the other day (Lyric McKerrigan, Secret Librarian by Jacob Sager, and which I found to be alright but not read-aloud-twenty-times-a-day good) and in it the antagonist threatens to string his henchmen up "by their nose-hair" if they don't do his bidding.

"Well, it looks like that middle guy got lucky," Benjamin said, pointing to the only un-moustachioed henchman in the bunch. "He doesn't have any nose-hair."

I explained to him that moustaches and noise-hair are two different things entirely. He seemed baffled by the idea that people have hair in their noses (because young children don't). I'm sure this idea will seem less baffling to him in a few years.

Today, Zoë asked me why men don't have "eye-flashes."

Animated characters typically have eyelashes when they are girls and do not have eyelashes when they are boys, which is ridiculous because very clearly males and females both have eyelashes.

Anyway, she asked me, while posing daintily and fluttering her eyelids, "Why don't men have eye-flashes? Can they not flash their eyes like women can? Watch me flash my eye-flashes! They're so flashy!"

I told her that sometimes artists don't draw eye(f)lashes on men because they're too busy drawing on their extra eyebrow. Because some misconceptions don't need to be corrected right away.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Writer's block

It's weird, and hopefully a phase, but certainly weird, that I feel like I have less to write about now that I'm taking this class. It's supposed to be inspiring and sometimes it is, but sometimes it's intimidating instead.

I'm already about a month into the course and I still don't know what I want to write. The trick, I suppose, is to keep doing it anyway.

I've been thinking lately about how my opinions of things have changed over the years. For example, when I was younger I enjoyed art, but was only ever really impressed when an artist could capture a realistic representation of their subject—when I didn't have to wonder what the artist was going for or whether the artist was in their right mind while creating their masterpiece.

Realism and impressionism—Monet and Manet—were both very comforting to me, depicting the world as it appeared, how it should be. People are people, chairs are chairs, everything is lovely and dependable and predictable. This was beauty. This was art. Clearly these artists had studied the world around them with a discerning eye to be able to so accurately transcribe life's details on canvas.

Van Gogh began interjecting his emotions onto the canvas, muddying the subject matter, which my younger self callously noted lessened the quality of his work. When I was first introduced to Picasso I remember being floored that he was even considered famous. His art was abominable.

(I should probably let the record show that these were my thoughts as an elementary school student).

Saturday, February 09, 2019


Late in October, Karen was on the phone with her sister Linda and Linda mentioned how she was just looking at tickets for Wicked. Karen enjoyed musicals and rather liked Wicked so she asked Linda to book a few tickets for her—because Reid doesn't particularly like Wicked Karen decided she'd invite Rachel and Miriam to join her.

She asked me in secret if it would be alright if she took them and I said that of course it would be! So she booked the tickets and was planning on gifting them to the girls for Christmas. Both girls love the musical and have been singing the songs since they could talk, basically, so I knew they'd be very excited when they opened them.

Karen wrote out the check to Linda on Thursday, November 1. And then, know.

We took her to the hospital that Saturday and by Thursday, November 8 we were all preparing to say goodbye to her, which we did in the wee hours of the morning on Friday, November 9.

We still gave the girls the tickets, but instead of going on an outing with Grandma, the girls went on an outing with me (and Aunt Linda and Aunt Dorothy and cousin Michelle and Aunt Dorothy's college roommate). We had such a fun evening together, though it was also tinged with sadness knowing the intended recipient of my ticket. It felt odd to be driving home in the middle of the night, feeling exhilarated by the wonderful performance when I thought about how incapacitated with shock we'd felt driving around in the middle of the night (to and from the hospital) three months previous.

It was an amazing grand finale of Christmas presents from Grandma, though! We had such an amazing time!

Linda drove us all into the city (us being me, Rachel, Miriam, and Dorothy; in our van). We parked at City Creek (in section D1) and then walked down to Mollie & Ollie where we met Michelle and Dorothy's roommate, a recently retired music educator (who plays the viola).

"We chose a very healthy restaurant," Linda told me. "Because you're with us. Dorothy's a little upset that we can't go to Cheesecake Factory but I wanted to make sure there was something on the menu that you could eat."

I told her that Cheesecake Factory would have been fine (though I don't know if I've ever been there, either (there are a lot of places I haven't eaten at (our motto is: eating at home saves money (and we've been pinching pennies since forever, sooo...))).

I have this weird reputation as the family hippy because I do things like eat vegetables. But I like desserts as well. And burgers. And stuff.

Anyway, since everyone else was already waiting for us at Mollie & Ollie's, that's where we went and my girls and I thoroughly enjoyed it (though I'm not sure anyone else did). Miriam and I both got the teriyaki chicken bowls and Rachel got a ginormous pulled pork wrap (which she ate up lickety-split, and then ate about half of Miriam's teriyaki bowl). It was just a quick walk from the restaurant to Eccles Theater.

Rachel's Science Fair

For the science fair this year, Rachel did a study on the fourth-grade classes at her school to test whether or not reading a story and doing practice math problems (from a book called Bedtime Math) would reduce math anxiety in the classroom. 

I'll admit it was one of my contributions during our "what in the world should Rachel do for the Science Fair sessions," inspired by some background research I've been doing for a story idea I had, which in turn was inspired by a late-night nursing session following a late-night math review session.

I've had math on the brain lately and my story idea is, I think, hilarious. I told it to the older girls early in January and they spent the entire morning watching the kids so that I could finish writing it down. They want to see it as a book right away, but it still needs some work. And I need to figure out how to pitch it. But this is all besides the point.

Rachel had the four grade four classrooms fill out a survey about their feelings toward math, and then had the classrooms read either a story from Bedtime Math (the test group) or a fairy tale (the control group), told them they were going to have a pop quiz, and then administered the same survey about math anxiety (and then gave them a pop quiz). 

She found that the classes that had read the math story experienced an 8.4% decrease in math anxiety, even right before a pop quiz! The class that read the fairy tale saw a slight increase in math anxiety. There was not a statistically significant difference in scoring, but with a long-er term study it's possible a change in scores could be tracked. Her study gave similar results to some more long-term studies done by actual scientists (which she talked about in her paper). She suggests that teachers get in the habit of doing math warm-ups in a risk-free environment, prior to a math lesson or examination, in order to allow math-anxious children to do their best work.

Thursday, February 07, 2019


Last night Andrew and I watched an episode of Madam Secretary together because he didn't have to teach last night. Classes at the Salt Lake center were cancelled due to the snow—the first snow day in Salt Lake in twenty years!

I've heard rumblings and rumours about teachers being more excited for snow days than the students, but I'm not sure this is true. While it was, admittedly, nice to have Andrew home on a Wednesday evening (we relaxed! we watched a show! we actually had the kids in bed on time which I just can't seem to manage on my own!), neither one of us could really enjoy the unscheduled down time because we were both dreading the make-up time.

Next week I will now have two evenings when Andrew isn't home at all to help with the kids and two evenings when he will waltz in just in time to scarf down some dinner before helping put them to bed. So instead of our usual T-W-Th marathon, it will be a M-T-W-Th marathon, and I will say to him on Sunday evening, "Nice knowing you. See you for dinner on Friday."

That sort of thing really puts a damper on any excitement snow days might elicit.

The time off is nice, I suppose. But making up the time? No, thank you. I'd much rather accomplish my tasks when they're scheduled to be completed.

But I guess safety and so forth are important as well.

Anyway, last night we were watching an episode of Madam Secretary together and a commercial for a new Star Trek show came on. There was a little trailer before the title of the show flashed on the screen—Star Trek: DISCOVERY.

My poor brain had trouble parsing the all-caps font.

"Star Trek...Disco...?" I wondered.

And then I burst out laughing and could not stop. I finally managed to tell Andrew about the difficulty I'd had in reading the word disco-very and he, too, began laughing.

This morning when I sent my boys out the door (Andrew took Benjamin to school on his way to work this morning because the girls had left for choir earlier and Benjamin is a little too young to walk to school on his own) I bid them farewell with a, "Looks like a great day for disco, very."

Adventure is out there

Winter has me feeling so bored that I haven't felt like I've had very much to write about (it's also been an insanely busy week; I've spent hours editing papers or helping with science fair projects that I guess I could have been writing), but then I saw these pictures on my computer and remembered that we actually left the house to do some adventuring this past week!

It got so warm, actually, that we even went on our first family walk of the year this week. We haven't managed to go on many (uhhh...any) because our schedule is kind of wonky this semester, with T/W/Th being a marathon of craziness. By the time Andrew gets home it's either hours past the kids' bedtime or late enough in the evening that it's too chilly to enjoy a walk outside (that isn't to say that we aren't ever walking, just that we haven't all been out walking together, which is the definition of a family walk). But we did manage a walk this week and, I suppose, we could count our Saturday outing as a walk as well.

We decided to hit up Patrick Dougherty's exhibit at BYU's Museum of Art. Dougherty is an artist from North Carolina whose work my little North Carolinian children know and love. In fact, they are huge fans of his! He is the man behind the twisted twiggy pathway in the Hideaway Woods at the Museum of Life and Science in Durham where my bigger kids spent many happy childhood hours. 

It was fun to get to watch this exhibit take shape last semester (as we'd walk through the MOA on our way to organ lessons) and we figured it was high time we take the kids to visit it just for the sake of visiting. It was like a little taste of North Carolina, right here at BYU! The kids had so much fun playing a little hide-and-seek in the structures (and it was nice to have such a child-friendly exhibit at the museum).

Here are far too many pictures:

Alex and Daddy

Light at the end of a sleepless tunnel

Alexander slept from 8:30 until midnight. I put him back in his bed around 12:30 and he didn't wake up until after 7:30 this morning! 

It was amazing, and certainly something I think we should make a habit. 

I had Alexander give me a fist bump over it this morning, so it's basically an unbreakable pact now. 

Sleep has been such a forgotten figure in my life for so long that becoming reunited with it sounds lovely, almost magical. Imagine, instead of snatching 40 minutes here and an hour or so there that it is possible to sleep for consecutive hours. Like, one right after the other! 

A person could get used to such luxury, but I'm not going to hold my breath over it quite yet, otherwise I'll be disappointed when Alexander wakes up fifty times tonight.

Monday, February 04, 2019

Zoë zoologist

This morning I took Alexander and Zoë to story time at the library. They were very happy to get to go because Alexander likes to go anywhere and Zoë was starved for story time (we've missed the last few weeks because of sickness). I feel like I've been so busy lately that I haven't really had time to listen to my kids and the funny things they say, so I was grateful a few quiet moments with the kids this morning.

When the librarian asked the kids what they knew about penguins, Zoë confidently raised her hand and when she was called on she said, "They wobble and they swim, but they don't fly."

She 100% cannot hear the difference between waddle and wobble, so she was wobbling around like a penguin all day. In her defense, the words also have rather similar meanings.

This reminds me of when we were sitting around waiting for Alexander to get his cast last week. I'd brought an alphabet book with us and Zoë insisted on reading it herself. She "reads" a lot of books by herself fairly well. I'm amazed by how many books/stories she has memorized, which she will read to herself as she turns the pages. She'll even pull out books we haven't read in months and "read" them, though usually with a few more errors than the book(s)-de-jour that she has me read to her over and over again.

Anyway, the R page of this alphabet book features a rabbit, but when she got to that page she said, "R is for bunny. Buh, buh, bunny."

So I corrected her and said, "You're right. Bunny begins with a buh-sound, but this letter is R and R makes a rrrrrrr sound, so on this page they want us to say, ' R is for rabbit. Rrrrr, rrrr, rabbit."

"Mom," she told me with the full force of her toddler-PhD voice, "Bunnies are rabbits, so this is a bunny!"