Friday, June 28, 2013

Let's start at the very beginning

My birthday this year was a million times better than last year! Let's list the reasons why, shall we?

Last year: NICU

This year: Florida

Yup. That just about sums it up.

We had a relatively tame day, just relaxing by the pool while Grandma and Grandpa went to the temple for a wedding. The pool is pretty awesome, though the bottom of it is made of a gigantic emory board or something. The upside is that my feet have been stripped of dead skin and are silky smooth. The downside is that all of my skin junk (and everybody else's) is just floating around in the water. Yum, yum.

But the water was warm and wonderful so I put my thoughts of swimming through people's foot gunk aside and enjoyed the pool. It's mostly about 3 feet deep, with a zero-entry side (Miriam's favourite), a water slide (Rachel's favourite), a splash pad (Benjamin's favourite), and a "deep" end (4 ft. 10 inches) where the grown ups didn't have to be all hunched over to be completely in the water (our favourite).

We spent all morning at the pool.

Cue pictures...

Here's Benjamin at the splash pad:

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Kennedy Space Center

Our first stop yesterday was the Kennedy Space Center, which ignited a desire in both our girls to become astronauts. The space center is huge. It's basically the entire island—and whatever they don't use as launch pads or runways is a conservation zone so there's a lot of wildlife around. We saw a little inlet swarming with alligators and manatees. Since the space center is a no-boat zone the manatees are safe from boat propellers at the island; however, I can't say how safe they are from alligators. Apparently they are second only to the Everglades for the number of alligators (thousands!) in one area and are second only to Alaska for the number of bald eagles (they have 41 nests, if I remember correctly).

Considering everything within a 3-mile radius of any given launch pad is burnt to a crisp, I have to wonder how conservative their conservation is, but I suppose they have things pretty well figured out.

Cocoa beach

I wasn't going to blog tonight, and really I probably shouldn't because we had a long day and I'm exhausted. But I'm going to post anyway because there are too many good pictures to share. I just love the beach.

Technically we split our day between the Kennedy Space Center and the beach. The space center was neat but the beach was wonderful. I'm sure if you asked other people who had been with me today which activity was their favourite they would have answered completely opposite. I think space exploration is fine and interesting but I happen to think the beach is wonderful.

What can I say? I'm a mother. Space exploration for me is when I go one night without a child climbing into bed with me. And NASA is cutting (or has already cut) their low-level space exploration and is focusing on how to do "deep space" exploration. I don't know what that equates to in motherhood. Maybe not smelling like spit up anymore? That's a far out idea.

Anyway, after spending the day at the Kennedy Space Center, which I'll write about tomorrow, we headed to Cocoa Beach. We walked from the parking lot (which was free at the pier—and we couldn't believe it ourselves) to the beach without our swimming gear. A big thunder storm had just rolled through and had cooled things down considerably and we weren't sure if we'd be getting in the water and blah, blah, blah...

But we had Rachel with us.

I mentioned that to Andrew. She's not going to test the water. She's incapable of testing the water.


Miriam enjoys drawing a lot and has impeccable fine motor skills for someone her age. I'm not sure if she draws well because she draws a lot or if she draws a lot because she draws well. However it works she draws all the time and so it was that she was in the car, drawing pictures for Grandpa.

First she drew a picture of a bumble bee and a butterfly dancing through the sky together. The bumble bee was striped yellow and black, it had six legs, two wings, and two antennae. The butterfly was blue and yellow. There was a sunshine in the sky and all in all it was a fairly accurate picture. She wrote "MiRiAM?" in big letters (with the question mark at the end because she thinks question marks are fancy) and handed it up to Grandpa.

Next she drew a picture of a beautiful princess with big puffy sleeves and ribbons all over her dress, blowing in the wind. She wrote "MOMY" on the picture and handed it to me.

"Oh, thank you," I said.

"That's not for you," she explained, rolling her eyes. "It's for Grandpa. Pass it up."

"But it says mommy on it."

"It's a picture of you for Grandpa."

Well, of course it is. What else would it be?

Miriam announced that her next picture would be a self-portrait. I assumed, when she began digging through the container of crayons, that she was hunting for a pink crayon (since that's been her favourite colour since birth, basically) but she surprised me when she started grumbling about yellow.

"Yellow, yellow, yellow. Where is that yellow? I need yellow!"

"Oh, do you like yellow now?" I asked.

"Uh, no. That's just the colour of my hair. Come on!" she said, as if it were blatantly obvious.

Her 'come on' was perfectly reminiscent of Gob from Arrested Development, if you've ever watched that show. We have. And apparently we've also quoted it a little too much around the children (who are sometimes actually respectful, believe it or not).

Wednesday, June 19, 2013


This morning we danced around on our new deck and found a few butterflies were equally happy about the new addition to the yard. I helped Rachel catch one, which she kept for a few hours. When she went back outside to let it go it flew out of the cage and sat on the lid for a while. Rachel tried to get it to climb onto her finger but it flew away after tasting her finger with its legs (butterflies taste with their feet—ask Rachel, she'll tell you).

She comes bearing gifts

I don't know how long our girls have been counting down the days until Grandma comes but I'm sure it's been months. The day finally arrived (on Tuesday) and the girls could hardly contain themselves. They made welcome signs and bounced around the house while trying to get things tidy for Grandma.

We were a little late getting to the airport so instead of going inside to puck up Grandma we just did a curbside pickup. The girls were a little disappointed about not getting to use their signs but Grandma raved over them appropriately and the girls felt better. We stopped at Cook Out on our way home for dinner. It's a little drive-thru restaurant we've been wanting to try since our final shindig with the Wellings when we were introduced to the artery-clogging joy known as hushpuppies.

"They're like onion rings without the onion!" Andrew exclaimed.

In other words they're his new favourite food. He's always had a love/hate relationship with onion rings because he loves the batter but hates the onion. Fried batter's right up his alley.

Dinner was good but the girls could hardly eat, they were so excited to discover the surprises Grandma had in her suitcase. She brought birthday presents from Auntie Sarah (late for Benjamin and Miriam and early for Rachel) and from Naanii (though we have most of those on hold, except the books we gave to Benjamin), as well as some surprises of her own.

Here are the kids enjoying their new stuffed animals from Auntie Sarah:

Summer reading

This past Saturday we went to the summer reading program kick-off, which was a carnival of sorts. We got all signed up for the reading program and would have potentially had a lot of fun, had the lines not all been so long. There were booths for all sorts of things: face painting, balloon art, caricatures, and crafts.

We chose the caricature line and stood there for ever. We didn't ever make it to the front of the line, but while we were waiting in line Rachel went off and took a couple of turns on the bouncy castle/slide. Miriam was too afraid to try.

A clown came and visited us and let the girls hold a spinning plate on a stick.

Old news is good news

Not this past Saturday but the Saturday before, the girls had their last ballet lesson of the school year.

Everyone in the studio is constantly raving about Miriam, who apparently has beautiful feet and "lines" (which I think refers to her "poses"). She's certainly got a little ballerina in her. She lived Saturday to Saturday this last semester, always looking forward to her next ballet lesson.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Tropical Storms and Fireflies

With tropical storm season comes firefly season. We're equally excited about both for different reasons.

Storms can be exciting. After living for two years in Egypt, we were excited to move back to Utah where they have these things called "weather" and "seasons." Egypt cycles from hot to not-as-hot and back to hot without hardly a change in precipitation (unless you count the dust storms as precipitation). It hailed once the two years we were there. And it rained a handful of times. Maybe.

Utah was more interesting. North Carolina, though, is even more interesting because we get tropical storms with lots of rain and thunder and lightning. I love watching a good long as it's not too close (because only 50% of me enjoys storms; the other half is terrified (kind of like Rachel and the deep end)).

Anyway, we had our first tropical storm roll through here last Friday—Tropical Storm Andrea—and she brought a lot of rain with her. I had to go outside to move my potted plants to the front balcony (since some of my pots don't have adequate drainage and because we had to clear off the back deck anyway). Miriam came outside with me and enjoyed splashing in the puddles all around our yard:

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Strength of a small tornado

Showing much restraint we only spent two hours at the pool this morning. Rachel had her lessons with me while the Alder children had their lessons with Clarissa (and Daddy watched Miriam and Benjamin).

Rachel made fabulous progress—she can now float (though probably not to save her life since she still occasionally thinks she’s drowning in the shallow end). I think we’ll be making fairly steady progress through the summer; she’s so motivated that she even noted that we can continue our lessons in Florida since there’ll be a pool at the hotel.

Miriam has been making progress as well. She climbed into the deep-end and scuttled along the wall (with Andrew near by, of course) and walked tiptoe along the shallow-end wall and practiced blowing bubbles all on her own accord. I think that will count for her lesson today.

After lessons Lindsay and I let the kids play while we bounced the babies.

I’m looking forward to going back tomorrow; hopefully it will go just as well.

There’s something a little different about teaching your own children something that you used to teach billions of other children. It takes a different kind of patience and a different kind of energy from what I use ordinarily at home or what I used when I taught swimming lessons at the Orem Fitness Center. But it’s a fun challenge to find a good balance between Rachel’s personality and mine.

Andrew told her that she needs to treat me just as she treats Miss Reeves—and so far I think she’s succeeded in that. She would never dream of saying “no” or “I can’t” to Miss Reeves and would never ever throw a fit for her. I don’t usually get that same treatment but at swimming lessons Rachel has been a gem.

Perhaps our new obedience system has played a part. We have three jars sitting on a shelf in our home: one is Rachel’s, one is Miriam’s, and one is Mommy and Daddy’s.

We had a Family Night lesson about obedience, discussing Jonah and Nephi and a few other quintessential role models of obedience, but without ever telling the girls what the theme of the lesson was. At the end we asked what we were trying to teach by sharing all the scripture stories we’d shared.

“Obedience,” Rachel sighed gloomily.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Little fuzz head

On Saturday, Benjamin figured out how to clap his hands. On Sunday he woke up pointing with one finger instead of two. On Tuesday he had his first encounter with stairs at the playground (we don't have stairs in our house) and by this afternoon he had figured out how to climb onto the dishwasher door.

Swimming lessons

It’s possible we overdid it at the pool today. We spent three (and a half) hours swimming this afternoon without even realizing it!

I first gave Rachel a half-hour of swimming lessons while Andrew played with Miriam and Benjamin. Then we switched things around and I gave Miriam a fifteen-minute lesson while Andrew played with Rachel and Benjamin. And then we swam and swam and swam. And then some friends showed up so we swam some more.

Rachel can do cannonballs off the side of the pool. She can turn summersaults in the water. She can dive down to the bottom (of the shallow end) to retrieve sinking toys. But she can’t float to save her life. Literally. We’re working on that part.

With Miriam, my main goal has been to get her to get into the pool at all. If she could have her way she’d splash around in the baby pool all the livelong day and when I make her get into the big pool she’s happy to just sit on the top step. So today we worked on bobs and kangaroo jumps. Miriam got quite good at rhythmic breathing and learned that if she stands on her very, very tiptoes (which she loves to do because it’s like being “on pointe” and what could possibly be better than that?) and bounces a bit, she can keep her face out of the water while she hops her way to the edge of the pool.

We also worked on our spider-walks (or monkey-walks, depending on our mood) along the edge of the pool.

Slowly, but surely, my children will be comfortable enough in the water to brave the deep end on their own—and live to tell the tale. Technically Rachel’s old enough to brave the deep end now. However, we’re trying to impress upon her the hard (but true) fact that she can’t swim.

“I’m a good swimmer!” she told me. “Can I please go into the deep end with my friends?”

“I love you. And I love everything about you. That’s why I’m going to be honest with you: you’re not a good swimmer. You can’t go into the deep end.”

“But, Mom! We just had lessons and you said I did a good job!”

“And you did. But you still have a lot of work to do. And you can go into the deep end by yourself once you can swim across the pool, I promise.” 

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Internet black hole and lots of reading

Our decrepitated deck was demolished this morning and with it went the internet and with that went all access to the outside world: our telephone connection dropped to a single, wavering bar; our television is basically defunct (though we still have our DVDs, I suppose); no Facebook; no email. Poor us, right?

Fortunately, my phone was able to pick up the call of some new friends inviting our girls to play at the park so we spent the morning there, getting to know one another.

Rachel went over to her new friend’s house for lunch and a prolonged play date while I took Miriam and Benjamin home for naps that didn’t happen.

All three children were terribly grumpy today.

Yesterday was terribly stormy and so we were stuck in the house with each other all day long and by the end of it were getting on each other’s nerves. We went out to Barnes & Noble’s to pick out a book for Rachel—she’d completed their summer reading program (on the first day out of school). Granted, she only had to read eight books to earn a book but half the books she read were novels.

She picked Nancy Clancy, Super Sleuth—it’s Fancy Nancy all grown up.

Miriam, of course, wanted to choose a book but we took her to Wal-Mart to do that because Barnes & Noble isn’t really within our price range. We knew she’d also want a book, though, so we grabbed one of our gift cards and searched everywhere for the book section which is puny. Most of the books had some sort of electronic gizmo on it and in the end we were left with three 5-minute-fairy-tales to choose from, the only books free from noise-making implements (not that there was a great selection otherwise). Miriam chose the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears.

We also got a mirror to attach to Benjamin’s seat, hoping it would help him be happy in the van. He hates riding in the car. The mirror proved magnificent—I don’t know why we didn’t get one earlier. He likes being able to look at himself and we enjoy being able to look back there and see his face. It was almost like turning his car seat around. Almost.

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Rachel's Kindergarten Graduation

Rachel "graduated" from kindergarten today. I'm not sure how I feel about making a huge deal over finishing kindergarten, but since there was a huge deal over finishing kindergarten we went to support Rachel. It would have been devastating if we hadn't. After the ceremony we were invited to check our children out and spend the afternoon with them. Rachel's entire class got checked out except for one boy. And...he was devastated. I almost suggested to Rachel that she stay at school just to hang out with him. I felt so bad. And he's the sweetest kid.

Anyway, it was fun to watch her walk across the stage to receive her certificate of advancement but, boy, was that audience ever raucous!


This morning we were surprised to find a rather large package blocking our doorway. It's not that we were surprised to find a package on our doorstep—because we were, in fact, expecting a package—it's just that we weren't expecting to receive such a large package.

We knew that it was from Grandma and that it was for Benjamin. We just didn't know what it was.

I have to admit that I was a little frightened when I saw the box. Where was I ever going to find a place to fit anything that large?!

I opened it up and saw...nothing but paper.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Kids are so fun

Last night we got some fabulous news: a new baby cousin is on their way! Emily is expecting a baby in January and just had an ultrasound done yesterday to firm up her due date. We're thrilled! After momentarily thinking Emily was announcing that I had another baby in my tummy (those ultrasound pictures all look the same) but then realizing that it would have been ludicrous for Emily and Morgan to be making that kind of announcement, Rachel quickly pieced things together and started jumping up and down, screaming with joy (she wants the new cousin to be a boy and hopes that he'll enjoy Star Wars) so loudly that she scared Benjamin, who started to cry.

Miriam would have joined in the fray except that she was on her deathbed: fever close to 104F, rolled up in a ball, complaining of an aching tummy, an aching head, an aching body.

After speaking with Auntie Em (who, incidentally, is feeling quite similar to Miriam, only on a daily basis for several weeks now) we called Grandma to let her know that the cat was out of the bag. We figured she knew long before us (and she had). We got all our excitement about Auntie Em's baby out of the way and then settled down to tell Grandma what was new...since Sunday, which is when we last spoke with her.

Not a lot happens in two days, so we shared a lot of mundane information.

"I ate the first pea!" Rachel exclaimed loudly.

"No," Miriam objected from the couch.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

One Year Stats

Benjamin's 1 year statistics are in:

He's just barely 18 lbs. and is 26.5 inches.

I was thrilled with his numbers but his nutritionist was...not so thrilled.

"He's a good weight for his height," she said. "But when I put him on the chart for his age he's short and underweight. When I adjust for his prematurity his numbers get a little better but he's still short and underweight."

I can't find a calculator right now that will tell me exactly where he stands on the growth chart—it just says that he's "less than the third" percentile. But you know what? He started out at 4 lbs. 13 oz. and 16.5 inches so he's gained over 13 lbs. and 10 inches this past year. That's not too shabby.

Miriam went from 7 lbs. to 19 lbs. and from 18.9 inches to 28 inches. She only gained 12 lbs...and, granted, grew a whole foot. Quite frankly, though, Benjamin doesn't have that much on her. She wasn't a huge one-year-old either.

Rachel was 7 lbs. 7 oz. and 19.5 inches at birth and at one year she was 19 lbs. 12 oz. and 30.5 inches. She was definitely my biggest baby. No contest. She gained just over 12 lbs and grew only eleven inches.

Anyway, the nutritionist pointed out that it's odd that he's super short because I'm pretty tall. I told her that we have short people in our family. I don't know how tall I was at age one but I'm sure I wasn't very tall because Miriam's also short—she's 38 inches right now—and I was only 39 inches at 4 years old (Miriam will probably be about that tall, too). My sister Josie, on the other hand, was super tall as a toddler and preschooler but now that she's full grown she's...short. You just never know how these things are going to pan out.

I was 18 lbs and 12 oz. when I was a year old, so I weighed more than Benjamin but less than the girls.

Seriously, though, I don't know why we're always plopping people on charts as if there's a perfect body out there to achieve. Some people don't fit on the charts.

"You're very, very, very, very, very underweight for your height," the nutritionist pointed out to me.

"I know," I told her. "It's very, very, very, very, very genetic."

I can only take so many comments about my size before I begin to talk back. Besides, we weren't there to talk about my weight but about Benjamin's. I've never registered "properly" on a BMI chart, unless, of course, I happened to be around 36 weeks pregnant. Is it any wonder my children don't register on their curves either? Probably not.

"You do eat though?" the nutritionist asked me. "I mean..."

"Yes. I eat. I eat a lot. I just don't gain weight. Ever. It's not just me. My little brother is well over six feet tall and he only weighs like fifteen pounds more than me. Honestly, we can't gain weight if we try. I know because we do try...and we can't."

Seriously. My mom said that some of her cousins started keeping on baby weight after baby number four. So I've got a couple of kids to go before I stop dipping below my pre-pregnancy weight post-pregnancy.

Rachel, in case you were wondering, is currently 42 lbs and 46 inches. She's always been my middle-of-the-chart child (instead of the very bottom (or below the very bottom) child). She's at the 35th percentile for weight and the 67th for height.

Perhaps one day I'll be able to say something similar about Benjamin—instead of saying "He's a little short for his age," I'll be able to say, "He's doing just fine!"

He is doing just fine...but he's also a little short.

Monday, June 03, 2013

Benjamin's first birthday

We didn't wrap a single present for Benjamin this year and I don't feel guilty a bit. I'm happy to not have a bunch of new baby stuff floating around the house. By the time Rachel was one year old we had filled half a milk crate with toys. Over the past five years those toys have multiplied and we now have toys coming out our ears (almost). Benjamin's perfectly happy with those toys.

Miriam put it upon herself to present Benjamin with wrapped presents. All throughout the day she was wrapping toys in blankets and bringing them to Benjamin so that he could unwrap them. It kept them both happy.

The only "new" thing Benjamin got was a little baby walker. We got it secondhand from our friends, the Alders. Benjamin's the fourth baby to "own" it. And he loves it.

We brought it home from church with us yesterday and I was meaning to put it away, wash it off, and present it to him on his actual birthday (today). Instead what happened was that we walked in the door, Benjamin was immediately propped up against the walker, and he went to town.