Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Tiny friends

Benjamin and his friend Oliva are just about (but not quite) a month apart but Oliva's got a whole head and shoulders on that boy, not to mention a number of skills. But that's okay because he's slowly catching up to her.

Here they are on Thanksgiving Day 2012 when Benjamin was still 5 months and Oliva was 6:

I love how their limbs are all blurry. I don't think these two ever stop moving!

Today I met Olivia's mom at the library for story time (and to visit teach her since it's the last day of the month and I hadn't gotten to her yet). We stayed to chat after story time with a few other moms who were there and Benjamin and Olivia played "together" in the way that babies their age do (which means that they didn't play together at all; rather they were both exploring the environment they happened to share at the moment (which isn't exactly parallel play either)).

At one point, Olivia, who is still a full head taller than Benjamin and who pulls up on everything she can in order to cruise around the room, decided she needed even more height to play with the beads better, so she enlisted Benjamin as her footstool:

She's standing on his leg and has her knee on his shoulder. He growled at her a little but didn't show he minded too much otherwise. It was pretty funny.

Later Olivia decided she wanted to be on the other side of Benjamin and crawled right on over his lap.

Kathleen was quick enough to get these pictures but (rather unfortunately  was not quick enough to capture the shot of them sitting side by side with their arms around each other or the one where they were patting each other's heads.

It sure is fun to watch these two play together!

(Miriam was off looking at the turtles in the fish tank and playing hopscotch with a friend's granddaughter while I was watching the babies play; she had fun, too!)

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Temple Trip

Karen arrived on Tuesday evening and I was leaving on Thursday morning. Andrew had class on Wednesday night so Karen treated us to a Wednesday morning date—our first time going out together without any children since the one time we went out to breakfast at Kneaders after or before visiting Benjamin in the hospital.

We went to the temple and it was relaxing and wonderful and rejuvenating and very much needed.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

March For Babies

Today was the Durham/Raleigh March For Babies. Benjamin and I participated in it along with my friends Nicole (who was a preemie) and Heidi (whose preemie Andrea recently turned two). We raised a fair bit of money together—far more than we would have been able to donate ourselves—though I will admit that I could have tried a bit harder.

With everything I had going on this month I kind of put fundraising on the back burner. So last night is when I started asking for donations...and I raised $64 (with special thanks to Nicole, my mom, Auntie Emily, my cousin Tara, and Andrew).

Nicole was kind enough to drive our little team to the event, which was way over by the airport. I'm so glad she did because I was absolutely exhausted this morning—Benjamin stayed up partying until nearly 2 AM last night and then I had to wake him up at 7 AM so we could get ready to go. He was not a happy camper (and neither was I). He cheered up though once we were registered and began to explore all the booths they had set up.

We hit up the stroller decorating station before visiting the emergency response vehicles. Benjamin wore his Life Flight t-shirt his crew gave to him when he was transfered from American Fork Hospital to Utah Valley Regional Medical Center.

Leaving Utah

Wednesday afternoon my mom and I went to pick up Rosie from school—she's taking driver's education and has range after school—and to visit Josie at work—she's been working from 5–midnight every day this week—so that I could say goodbye.

Benjamin got acquainted with the driver's seat while we waited for Rosie.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Play dates

On Tuesday morning we went to BYU to visit Naanii at work. One of Uncle David's teeth broke so he had a dentist appointment; he dropped us off on his way and we walked up to the library. Naanii was surprised to see us because she was expecting us to be my friend Carrie (since she saw the stroller wheels first). We had missed Carrie by minutes!

My mom quickly escorted us to the PIVA room (which is where Carrie had been headed) but Carrie wasn't there, either. Fortunately, one of her violist friends was there and he had her phone number so he texted her to say that I was looking for her and she came back to visit for a few minutes with her son James, who went around shutting every door he could see (which reminded me quite a bit of Josie 17 years ago). She and her family live in Maryland, which for some reason I was thinking was far away (because Virginia is close...but Maryland...that's super far) but she then said, "I know, it's hot in DC already, too."

And I was like, "What were you doing in DC?"

And she was like, "We live there."

And I was like, "You live in DC?"

And she was like, "Well, in Maryland."

Right. So sometimes my geography's a bit off. Because DC is rather small, as far as geographical sprawl goes, and I know that it touches both Virginia and Maryland and if we can drive all the way through Virginia to get to DC, Maryland really isn't that far off.

It was fun to see her; we invited her to the BYU playgroup that afternoon but she wasn't sure she could make it (and she couldn't so I should have grabbed a picture when I had the chance; we'll have to rendezvous back east sometime).

David came back to get us after his appointment and he taught Benjamin how to play on this xylophonic instrument.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Slacklining and so forth

On Sunday I went to my parents' ward in the morning, at least for sacrament meeting and Sunday school. I went to Relief Society for a few minutes but Benjamin was so tired and I'd spent the last hour and a half bouncing him without getting him to take a successful nap and I was getting mighty tired of holding him. So we just went home and took a nap together.

That afternoon we went back to visit our old ward for the third hour, which was Relief Society. My mom came with me and took her afternoon nap while I bounced with Benjamin in the back (but at least I got to visit with some of my old friends).

We went for a walk in the afternoon while we were waiting for Grandma Sharon and Grandpa Frank to visit. It was a fairly uneventful until the very end when we heard a loud crunch. We all looked to where the noise was coming from and saw, to our surprise, a van driving into our neighbour's yard. It went up over the sidewalk and smashed their fence and then, to our greater surprise, backed out of the yard and just drove away.

Flabbergasted, we wondered what we should do. Call the cops? Tell the neighbours?

Saturday Evening

I am just on a roll with my creative post titles, aren't I? Anyway...

We took all the nephews home with us after the wedding (Rosie had prom to attend and the twins went to their dad's house otherwise we might have had all the nieces as well) and played around and ate leftover wedding cake all afternoon and evening.

Stephen, Matthew, and Andrew walked up to the park to play basketball while David, Benjamin and I headed for the swings because Benjamin loves swinging (almost as much as he enjoys bouncing).

Saturday Celebrations: Kelli's wedding

My sister got married on Saturday, which was the impetus for this little trip of mine. I was glad I could be there for her special day. She had a small wedding at Sandy Stake Recreational Center. We've had family reunions there in the past so it was a familiar venue. Instead of being involved in planning the wedding we were invited as guests; we didn't have to set up anything. It almost felt funny going to a sibling's wedding and not be stressing out about getting things set up properly, but Kelli threw this wedding herself--her boys "gave" her away instead of our dad. And I suppose that's as it should be at this point in her life.

We got to sit in the reserved seats up close but I think we sat on the wrong side accidentally because we had a great view of Allen from where we were sitting but a not-so-great view of Kelli.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Family on Friday

Benjamin surprised me on Friday morning by reaching out for Naanii. She took him and held him and he snuggled with her and everybody was very happy. He didn't even reach back for me once he'd realized he'd chosen to go to someone else (because quite often he'll chose to go to someone and then act like he made a huge mistake and do his best to get back into my arms).

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Thursday afternoon

We drove straight from the airport to my grandma's house. I'm not sure she knew we were coming but she's always home and was happy to have visitors--especially of the great-grandchild variety.

To Utah

Thursday was such a long day it could easily have been two or three.

We woke up bright and early to leave for the airport, expecting to sneak out of house before the girls woke up. However, Rachel's been anxious about me going away and has been crying at school over me even before I left. She managed to rouse herself and stumble out of her bedroom, quickly dissolving into tears on my lap. We had a nice little snuggle before I had to kick her off and tell her to go ahead and awake up grandma (even though it was an hour earlier than she needed to be up for school).

The flights were wonderful--or at least as wonderful as a flight with a 10-month-old could be.

Southwest doesn't do assigned seating. Instead you're called to board the plane based on priority and get to choose your seat on the plane. Families with small children have rather high priority when it comes to boarding planes (thank goodness) so Benjamin and I were in the second wave of people to board the plane.

As I walked down the aisle to find a seat, I decided that I probably shouldn't sit by anyone already seated. Those with first priority likely paid extra for the privilege of selecting their seat first and I figured they wouldn't want to sit by a potentially naughty baby. So instead I chose an empty row and grabbed the window seat.

Many, many people passed up the empty seats beside me until a kind, lovely woman sat down next me me gushing, "Oooh! I get to sit by the baby! Look at his tiny toes! What's that? You like my bracelet? Here you go, little sweetie!" And with that she relinquished her neon green bracelet.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Getting ready...

This week's been a busy one. We've been getting ready for Grandma to come visit, which has meant getting caught up on laundry:

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Dinner at Duke

After spending two hours at ballet—dancing for the girls, latch-hooking a Nana costume for me (if anyone in the area wants to come see Peter Pan, let me know!), doing homework for Andrew, and being a baby for Benjamin—we went to Duke for dinner. We had a decent break between each hour we spent at the studio so while we were home for lunch I went ahead and threw together a picnic as well.

I am so glad we visited the gardens last week because today most of the blossoms were gone. They've been replaced with bright green leaves. Spring has really sprung out here. I think if you sat outside long enough you really could watch things grow at the rate things are popping up around here!

In which I rant about mathematics

So, I am going to talk about math for a minute because I went ahead and clicked on a link on another blog post about Common Core that brought me here: an article that there was "no input from early childhood experts or educators" when the idea of Common Core was being brainstormed and that the Common Core "will lead to serious harm for the nation's kindergarten through third grade students."

First of all, I don't think it's possible to overhaul the educational system without at least a handful of childhood experts or educators behind your back. I'm just saying.

I'm supposed to believe that no early childhood experts or educators were involved in the process. No one sought the opinion of a single early childhood expert or educator. Not one?

I really just can't wrap my mind around that. Because there's this little thing called the Congressional Research Service—which, by the way, Andrew was hoping on working for before starting this little PhD stint (and they actually called to offer him an internship just weeks after we accepted a spot in the PhD program here and were too emotionally committed to back out). Basically what the CRS is is a service that does research for congressy stuff.

Andrew knows the Middle East and was hoping to land a post at the Middle East "desk." They have "desks" for anything under the sun that someone might want researched. I'm going to bet that their educational desk is manned by smart people with backgrounds in pedagogy. But I might be going out on a limb there.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Common Core: Literacy

Sometimes I get really frustrated with things. One of those things is Common Core.

I think I have every conservative's attention now.

But wait until I say this: I don't hate it.

The educational system in the United States has needed an overhaul. We've got to try something. Why not this? If it helps—awesome! If it doesn't—back to the ol' drawing board! But certainly sticking with the status quo is not going to get us anywhere. As the adage goes, if you're not moving forward you're moving backward; there is no standing still. Okay, so that's not exactly how the adage goes. I paraphrased. Forgive me.

I just read a blog post lamenting the Common Core standards for literature found in this (transparent and open) PDF. S/he said they found it appalling that technical readings were included because Language Arts is an art! It should be about literature and poetry and learning to love books and language.

It still is. Trust me.

Let's take a look at the title page of the document, shall we?

Benjamin "crawling"

So, he's not quite crawling yet, but he's certainly making great progress.

A few things to note in this video:

1) Miriam coming out to tell me something, namely that Benjamin can't have the container but can have the horse. She's always getting out of bed to tell me stuff like that. I'm halfway surprised she didn't get out of bed to "give" me that container. Or the horse. She likes to get out of bed to "give" me stuff, too.

2) Rachel getting out of bed to ask if she can turn the page in her journal. Why did she have to ask permission  I don't know. She was right at the end of the page so I have a hunch it was just an excuse to get out of bed.

3) Miriam getting out of bed again to praise Benjamin. And move the container all the way into the kitchen.

4) Both girls requested to see the video (probably to delay bedtime further).

5) Benjamin has some sort of magnetic attraction to that floor lamp. Our outlets are a little wonky (they have built-in covers which mostly means that any cord you plug in is easily jostled back out) so he's always "turning off the lamp" if we don't watch him close enough. He's usually headed over there. Or to play with the printer or receiver.

Benjamin is never more interesting than when it's bedtime. Rachel almost had a meltdown right before bed because we told her that she couldn't hold him because she had to go to bed (even though she'd done plenty of holding earlier in the evening). 

Thursday, April 11, 2013

A couple of firsts

When I hopped into the shower this afternoon (after Rachel was home from school...yup), the girls were playing "tea party" together at Miriam's request. I don't know how much water they spilled but I'm guessing it was at least two soggy-towels' worth. Miriam's always been the quintessential kid of our family—hitting her milestones exactly on time, sleeping like a normal baby, and behaving 100% like a princess. Ballet, tea parties, baby dolls, and make-up are all she needs in life.

Fortunately, she has her more rambunctious older sister to help even things out. By the time I was out of the shower, the tea party had ended and Rachel had started up a little game called "playing bugs." Rachel dressed up as a butterfly and was zooming around the house "tasting things with [her] feet!" Miriam had a bumble bee hat on and was twirling around the house with scarves trailing behind her (it was nectar, I am told).

Her face also looked like this:

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

90 degrees in April? Nice.

We went on a picnic to the park for dinner. Our house was in the seventies all day until right around 4:00 when it shot up into the mid-eighties. I don't know why. The only way to make our house seem bearable was to get out of it into the even hotter outdoors—that way when we came home it would feel cool again. We haven't switched over to the air conditioner yet because just last week the temperature was in the forties during the day (dropping into the twenties at night).

I checked today's weather almanac and the historical high for today ranges between 43 and 94 degrees.

Spring is obviously as spastic out here as it is other places (Alberta, Utah? I'm looking at you) so it kind of makes sense that the pool doesn't open until the middle of May. Andrew's on the HOA board and suggested that we open it in April but folks seemed aghast. "Do you want to freeze?" they asked.

I would just like to point out that we hit 90 degrees today. And it's supposed to cool off into the 60s tonight. I'm kind of assuming that at this point my risk of freezing is fairly low. And I'm fine with that because I love summer. But the pool!

Unfortunately, they've schedule the maintenance for the pool the last couple weeks of April so there's no hope of it opening early. But I really think they should consider it.

We had fun at the park, anyway, even if we did all end up red-faced and sweaty.

My kids are swingers so we did plenty of that. Rachel helped me push Miriam and Benjamin for a while.

Monday, April 08, 2013

I say hello

Yesterday we got on Skype to say happy birthday to my beautiful baby sister (who is now 19 years not such a baby anymore) and Benjamin went ballistic. That boy loves Skype. He jumps and squeals and does everything he can to show how delighted he is about the whole thing. He especially adores the little baby boy in the corner who jumps and squeals back at him but enjoys everyone else, too. Yesterday, though, our call with Josie was particularly special because when I prompted Benjamin to "Say 'Hi!' to Auntie Josie!" he waved at her.

He purposefully lifted his arm into the air and gave it a little shake.

It was so sweet! We of course tested it out on every subject we could find after that and it's pretty clear Benjamin understands the concept of waving as a greeting. It's fun to have him getting more and more interactive.

Here's what he sounds like on Skype (and much of the time not on Skype):

Rachel and Miriam both try to imitate him (which is loads more annoying than just having Benjamin do it all day long (which, although cute also gets old)). 

Conference intermission

Between sessions of conference we ran off to Duke Gardens for a little picnic and stroll. It was so beautiful with all the flowers blooming! It was rather crowded, too, which makes sense because it was the perfect day. I loved it! It reminded me of parks in Europe—like The Mall in Washington DC—like a town square of sorts. There were people walking dogs, people napping in the shade, people suntanning, people rolling down hills, people picnicking, people throwing balls—everyone was just out enjoying the day, all together.

We parked by the Asiatic garden this time; we've never been to that part of the garden because we've always walked the other direction. But the Asiatic garden is beautiful!

Andrew wants to go to Antarctica one day (my Auntie Colleen and Uncle LeRon took a trip there at the beginning of the year and Andrew was melting over their photographs) so I told him that I wanted to go to Asia one day.

"I don't care where, really," I said, gazing dreamily at a pagoda in the distance. "Japan...Korea...Thailand. Just...Asia. Y'know?"

"If you don't care where then we've done Asia," he said. "Turkey...Jordan..."

"But that's the Middle East," I said. "I want to see Asia."

"You mean the Far East."


"We can do that, too."

Or, you know, we can at least go back to wander around in this garden a few more times and dream of being elsewhere. Not that here isn't great. Because it is. But once you've been bit by the travel bug...

Anyway, the gardens were really beautiful! We stopped by this tree before we'd even gotten into the garden because Rachel wanted a picture, with Benjamin (and Miriam but Miriam wouldn't cooperate (and then this morning when she saw the picture asked, "But where am I?")).

Saturday, April 06, 2013

Pave Paradise and Pelican's

After our grand adventure at Stagville yesterday we started on our list of errands. Our first stop was Lowe's to pick up a few things for some projects. On our way back to the van Andrew was pushing Miriam in the cart and I was carrying Benjamin and holding Rachel's hand.

"Run Daddy!" Miriam urged. "Go fast!"

Andrew did a few running steps and then jumped on the cart so that he could coast with Miriam to the van. This was a very bad idea (as he soon learned) because the cart completely upended. He quickly jumped off but the cart and tried to stop it but it flipped completely over and landed so it was resting on the handle bars. It had so much momentum that it continued to hurtle through the parking lot, dragging Miriam with it!

I stopped walking and stared with my mouth open.

I don't know how far she was dragged but after what seemed like an eternity the cart came to rest and we all caught up with it, and peeled the cart (Miriam and all) off the pavement.

She somehow managed to keep holding onto the handlebars and was able to keep her face off the ground (thank goodness!). Her knees took the brunt of it, but she's perfectly fine (though she was upset that her pants got muddy (and that her knees hurt)).

Andrew felt so bad and I'll admit that I was a little angry for a few minutes (until I remembered that one time when Rachel was little and I pitched her out of the stroller and into a busy street and then I was all full of forgiveness (even Steven, right?*)) but Andrew made it all better for everyone by suggesting that we stop for snow cones at Pelican's—the neighbourhood snow cone joint.

In Utah there are Snow Cone Shacks or Shave Ice** Stands on every corner, it seems. That's not the case out here. Pelican's is very popular and, it seems, rather unique. They offer over 100 flavours, which was terrible for our indecisive family. The girls ended up choosing flavours based on their favourite colours (so Rachel had green/blue and Miriam had pink).

Here they are waiting for their snow cones (you can see Miriam's none the worse for the wear (and her pants aren't even that dirty)):

Friday, April 05, 2013

Historic Stagville

I'm pretty exhausted once again. Benjamin's got yet another cold and he's teething so he hasn't been sleeping well. We just went went three days in a row without a single nap (and nights haven't been much better either). But it's the "last" day of spring break (now we're just having a regular weekend (except that it's General Conference (so not regular))) and Andrew didn't have class today so we had to do something fun!

After having a horrible attitude yesterday, Rachel behaved perfectly today. She helped do chores this morning and then held her sad little brother while Andrew and I scrambled to get everything ready to go.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Benjamin's 10 months old...and got his first haircut

I'm not sure if it's because time is flying or if it's because Benjamin still isn't crawling, but I really am having a hard time believing he's 10 months old already. But the calendar says it's so; it must be true.

We spent most of the day outside again, though this time I remembered to cover up Benjamin (he got a tad pink yesterday). I even managed to dig out the hat I knew we had somewhere. It was his first time in a hat and he did fairly well. Over and over he pulled it off his head as soon as I put it on him until I sat him down on the grass because then there were better things to pull (ie: the weeds).

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Jump Rope

We spent the morning doing chores so that we could put together the jump ropes we got for Easter (these, though I believe ours had free shipping). "Work before play," I told the girls. I was surprised with how well they chipped in. Rachel, specifically, was bustling about doing her work. Miriam also did her work but with a lot more whining and lolly-gagging.

They were both so excited for their jump ropes.

Rachel made a Gryffindor-themed rope using red and yellow beads.

Miriam insisted that they weren't beads at all—they were noodles. Beads, of course, are much shorter than these. Rachel told her that they couldn't be noodles because they're made of plastic, so they must be beads. Miriam screamed, "Noodles!" and stuck her tongue out.

"She stuck her tongue out at me!" Rachel said.

"Girls," I sighed. "Just string your ropes and stop fighting."

They did.

Miriam strung her jump rope grabbing beads at random. She understands patterns but making an entire jump-rope-length pattern was beyond her grasp/patience.

Monday, April 01, 2013

April Fools

It's April already. The year is 1/4 over. Can you believe it? Neither can I.

Today the girls got up and wanted to watch Angelina Ballerina. I let them because, hey—it's spring break! And also, I wanted to sleep. Unfortunately, I couldn't really fall back asleep so I got up and did some laundry and then started getting ready to go to the park.

Sometimes seemingly low-impact activities for children have a huge impact on my role as a mother, like going to the park at lunchtime. Pack lunch, pack bikes, pack baby, pack baby hud, load everything into the car, return to house to print out a map because the GPS won't work... There's so much behind-the-scenes work that mothers do to make simple things happen.

I drove all the way to the park—Little River Regional—by myself. The speed limit on that road is 55 MPH and, in case you were wondering, that's the fastest I've ever driven.

When I showed up at the park my friend Kathleen's eyes got all big and she asked, "Did you drive here all by yourself?! Way to go!"

Kathleen's got one of those personalities I could bask in all day long, exactly the way a cat curls up in the sunshine. She's always pleasant to be around: happy, energetic, and genuine. And she drives on the freeway all by herself. One day I want to be like her.

We had a great time at the park. Rachel knew that her friend Aubrey was going to be there and was thrilled that Grace and Emily and many others were there, too.

My friend Kim brought a bunch of Diet Coke and Mentos for the kids to play with. Her son had gotten a "geyser tube" and wanted to share the joy of a Diet Coke and Mentos Geyser with his friends. We sent the kids off to the field to play with the little "serving size" bottles of coke, trusting the bigger kids to keep an eye on the littler ones, while the moms watched the littlest ones at the playground.

We were talking about book club and how May's book has a few naughty words in it but that we're keeping it as May's book and you can read it or not, when the kids returned, many taking swigs of mint-tainted diet Coke that was leftover from the eruptions.

"You guys aren't drinking that?!" Kim gasped. "Guys—I promise I didn't bring all this Coke planning on giving it to the kids! It's for the experiment. You guys—stop drinking that! I don't know about you but my kids were born caffeinated; they don't need to consume more!"

She seemed torn between explaining to the other moms that she didn't mean to be providing pop for all the kids and getting after the kids to stop drinking.

It was pretty funny. There we were, talking about naughty words in books while the kids were off drinking Coke in the woods. Talk about a risque afternoon. (See? I do sarcasm).

My girls, fortunately, weren't among the Coke drinkers (or they'd probably be up now), though they did enjoy watching the geysers. Kim got all the kids (both those that were "with" us as well as a couple of strangers) together to watch the big two-liter bottle reactions.

Here are the boys setting it up: