Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The year is dying in the night

Around this time last year we sat down and made a list of family and individual goals to work on in 2013. We did fairly well, especially on the goals we were able to break down into manageable chunks.

1) One of our goals was to go on 100 family walks together (and also swims and later in the year we started counting family grocery shopping trips as well). Andrew, our resident nerd, has made a graph of the walks we took throughout the year:

Monday, December 30, 2013

Just in time!

Last night Karen asked me a question I'd been dreading: "Have you put Benjamin in Andrew's old suit?"

Aunt Susan made Andrew a darling corduroy suit when he was a toddler and Karen kept it packed safely away until Andrew had a boy of his own. She pulled it out and gave it to us before we moved.

It's a tribute to her organizational skills that she knew exactly where to find it (even though no one had worn it for a quarter of a century). It's a tribute to my lack of organizational skills that I had no idea where it was for the year and a half we've lived in this house. I suppose that's not quite true because I remember seeing it (and a couple other outfits I thought might fit him) at one point early on but I haven't seen this suit in about a year and I had no idea what I did with it.

"No!" I moaned. "I can't find it! I know it's in a box in the attic but I don't know which one. I thought I went through them all but I still haven't been able to find it!"

This has been so frustrating for me, especially because I think that with Aunt Susan's death this suit has been on everyone's mind this past year (I know it's been on mine).

We'd already decided that when we put the Christmas stuff away (which we did today) that we'd get down all the boxes of clothes (which we did today) so we could do an overhaul on Rachel's wardrobe (which we're currently doing) and finally find that blasted suit (which we did today)!

It looks like we found it just in time! The jacket fits perfectly, though the pants are a little roomy.

He thought he was hot stuff and his sisters declared, "He is so handsome!"

And he is extremely handsome. I just wish Aunt Susan could've seen him wear it.

And also that I had a picture of his daddy wearing the same suit. Do you have one, Karen?

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Benjamin's words

Since I haven't done it yet, I figured I should attempt to make a list of words Benjamin says. After all, I did so for his sisters, and Benjamin has recently begun trying to talk enough that a list might be merited (finally).

So here are some things Benjamin can say:

  • Cheese (sounds like chiz (this is currently his favourite word))
  • Ball (sounds like baa)
  • Bowl (also sounds like baa)
  • Shoe (sounds like shh)
  • Cookie (sounds like a messy, drawn-out k: khhhh, sometimes duplicated khh-khh)
  • Baby (sounds like bebe)
  • Nurse (sounds like nuh-nuh)
  • Banana (sounds like naa-naa)
  • Mom/Momma (he actually says this correctly—of course, it's been the only thing he's said for the past forever, so he should say it right)
  • Dad (he says this correctly, too, though sometimes he says daa or daddy instead)
  • Rachel (sounds like rah-rah)
  • Miriam (sounds like mee-um)
  • Benjamin (sounds like ben-juh-muh (he has only said this once))
  • Dog (sounds like daw)
  • Water (sounds like waa-waa)
  • Amen (sounds like meh)
  • Bobo (sounds like Bobo (this is the name of the monkey in the book Hug))
  • Boo (sounds like buh)
  • Bye (sounds like baa)
  • Hi (sounds like hi)
  • Duck (sounds like duh-tee)

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Christmas dinner and beyond

For Christmas dinner we wanted to do something classy, memorable, and traditional. Andrew made potato pancakes (also known as latkes) and beef stew, we spread a table cloth over the table and set glass dishes for everyone but Benjamin. We had an assortment of beverages and a vegetable platter.

A boy and his alligator...or crocodile

Benjamin really loves this crocodile...or alligator. Whatever it is he loves it. He likes to make it bite his fingers. He likes to feed it its bottle. He likes to use it as a stool. He just loves it.

Here are some pictures of him feeding his alligator today:


One of the books we got from Sister Wood was Santa's Toy Shop. We read it and the girls went to bed wondering if Santa would choose their house as his last stop so he could take some time to play with the toys he was bringing for them. We told them he might.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The Christmas Swing Set

Yesterday Brother Brown (who had been "hiding" our swing set in his field) phoned to say he had the swing set loaded in a trailer and was ready to come to our house. This was a surprise for us because we'd been planning on helping to load the trailer ourselves. Brother Brown had enlisted the help of a couple of neighbours however, and instead of helping load a swing set I found myself hurrying to get out the door before they arrived.

Our neighbourhood has two entrances and I briefly considered turning left to go out the "other" entrance but I'm a creature of habit when it comes to driving so I turned right and went to our "usual" one. Just as I was pulling up to the stop sign, who do you think comes driving by in a big, shiny truck pulling a trailer burdened with a play set? Brother Brown, of course.

"Whoa!" Rachel gasped. "Is that for us?"

And thus I was faced with lying straight to my child's face in order to preserve a surprise. But I didn't lie. Not once.

"Why do you think it would be for you?" I asked her, deflecting her question with a question. "Didn't you see that huge pile of presents we have at home?"

"Well, I thought you wanted to order a swing set," she pointed out.

It's no secret in our house that (a) Rachel wanted a swing set and (b) that I'd been scouring Craigslist for one of decent price and shape.

"I didn't order a swing set," I told Rachel. And that's true—you don't order things from Craigslist. "There's no way we could afford a swing set like that!" That is also true.

"Well, maybe you just borrowed some of Dad's money without him knowing," she suggested.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Nativity 2013

The kids were just choosing their costumes to act out the nativity when Brother Brown came by with his gifts. I didn't catch Miriam in her original Mary costume...she ended up being an overly-dressed-for-the-occasion Mary, sporting an elegant gold ball gown and crown rather than a simple frock and headscarf.

Benjamin was a wise man. He wore his galabeya, a gold cape, and a pig hat (his choice).

Making Christmas

On Saturday morning Daddy went to Brother Brown's house to do some repairs on the swing set we'll be giving the kids tomorrow. Brother Brown was already hard at work when Andrew arrived. They worked on it together for a couple of hours. It's nice to know someone so knowledgable about fix-it stuff!

Brother Brown reminds me of Ron Swanson (only slightly more liberal and far less anti-social—he's even got the mustache). I don't think there exists a thing in the world that he couldn't fix!

While Daddy was off working on the swing set, we were at home lazing around. Rachel was coming down with whatever Benjamin's just getting over so she wasn't feeling too great. Miriam wanted to go to the playground but Rachel just wanted to stay home. She appeased her younger siblings by breaking out the face paints.

She turned Benjamin into Elmo:

Monday, December 23, 2013

A Magical Library

We went out caroling yet again this evening, but left the house so late that we only went to half the houses we planned on. It didn't help that we stopped by The Mangum Family Christmas Lights...

Rachel was so mesmerized she didn't want to leave. Miriam, on the other hand, had fallen asleep in the car and was super annoyed when we tuned the radio to the correct station and jazzy Christmas music started blasting through the speakers.

When we noticed the time we decided we'd skip our other stops (sorry other people we were planning on caroling to—my kids already ate your treats) and just go to Miriam's primary teacher's house since we knew they didn't have any little children to wake up with our obnoxious Christmas music (and we know how annoyed children can be when they are awakened by obnoxious Christmas music).

Visiting this sweet couple is always such a treat. Always.

They invited us inside to play (and took plenty of pictures of us doing so):

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Welcome to Christmas Break

We went to the museum (of life and science—what else?) yesterday afternoon. We spent most of our time outside (after walking through the Sprockets, Pulleys, Springs exhibit inside). It's too nice outside not to be there (except that some of us are battling colds—so we're indoors resting (unfortunately)).

Here's Benjamin enjoying the chimes outside:

Friday, December 20, 2013

Rachel's Class Christmas Party

Yesterday the kids and I spent the entire day at Rachel's school. It was both exhausting and exhilarating. Perhaps it's was mostly exhausting for the grown ups and mostly exhilarating for the children. At any rate, that's how it seemed at the end of the day!

Rachel's class is doing a unit on bears and are currently studying polar bears. I brought in supplies to do a "blubber glove" experiment with the kids, which was well-received. Then the other room-parent talked about snowflakes and the kids made snowflakes with much enthusiasm until lunchtime.

Christmas Cheer

At church a few weeks ago a friend offered us a couple of dresses her daughters had outgrown. One of those dresses was a fancy-schmancy, sparkly-frou-frou little red dress, just perfect for Christmas. Rachel was thrilled to have another Christmas dress (she's outgrown all of hers and passed them on to Miriam). On Sunday here's what my little brood looked like just after church (or perhaps just before...I can't remember):

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Spelling Bee

Rachel's school had a spelling bee this year. I guess it's something that they do every year. I guess it's also a relatively normal thing within the US education system (though, don't get me wrong because schools are state-run (they aren't federal so any attempt to ensure that children across the country are receiving the same learning opportunities should probably be stifled immediately (I jest; because I'm not actually all that against Common Core Standards (it's not a curriculum, people))). But seriously, spelling bees are a thing here.

When I was little we had a couple of games on the computer that I liked to play—Treasure Mountain  and Spellbound!—both by The Learning Company. You could incorporate your own spelling list in the Spellbound! game. I'm pretty sure it was the only time that I ever got to use the computer for homework as a child (this was back in the day when we had to handwrite all our homework—can I be admitted to a nursing home yet?) until I hit middle school and refused to ever set foot in school ever, ever again (and was subsequently enrolled into a "virtual" school and got my own computer (hello, digital age—you can cancel my nursing home application now)).

Anyway, I was an okay speller and I had fun playing Spellbound! but I considered the idea of a spelling bee rather foreign. And also the stuff of nightmares because...spelling...out front of an audience?!

See? Nightmares.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Nursing Homes

On Monday we went to a nursing home with some of our ukulele friends to do a little concert. The nursing home was decorated beautifully—with two gigantic Christmas trees in the lobby and a little bird-watching area for the kids to enjoy while they weren't playing. It was quite fun.

We played Jingle Bells, Away in a Manger, and Once There Was A Snowman. One of the girls also plays the violin so she played a couple of songs with her mom accompanying her on the grand piano (which was also just sitting there in the lobby). To finish off our concert we sang We Wish You A Merry Christmas with piano accompaniment once more. It was short and sweet and something that I really wanted our children to experience.

I remember going to nursing homes to perform throughout my childhood.

Once in grade three, our primary went and I remember that my mom made me sing O Tannenbaum all by myself, in the original German. My class at school had learned it for our school Christmas concert. It was one thing to sing that song on stage with my classmates. It was another thing to sing it standing all by myself in front of an audience of complete strangers. But I did it. And when I was finished and we were visiting with the patients at the nursing home, I remember someone asking me how I learned to speak German. So I said, "I don't speak German." And then the conversation dropped off suddenly into a long, awkward silence.

But overall it was a good experience, I guess.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Heiss Holiday Humbug 2013

The girls wanted to help make this year's Christmas newsletter, so I used some of their holiday doodles and managed to come up with [what I hope is] a cohesive design. The girls drew these on paper and later transferred them to cut-out pieces of cereal boxes—very professional—intending to give them to every single person in our entire extended family. We've since misplaced the ziploc baggy full of these unique ornaments. Rachel took them to school for show-and-tell and then...who knows.

If we find them before Christmas our family might be pleasantly surprised by some (rather rudimentary) homemade gifts. If not, they'll get a little taste of them with our newsletter. I took pictures of the girls' blueprints, manipulated them in photoshop, and stuck them in.

You can download the newsletter here.

Friday, December 13, 2013

What e'er thou art

I found this "LDS perpetual advent calendar" online (in a news "article," (or "news" article" (I'm not quite sure where to put those quotation marks) of all places) and printed it off so we could read a nice little story every day before Christmas. It's been nice so far but Andrew and I have already determined to make our own perpetual calendar for next year (or, at the rate I complete projects the year after (or even the year after that)). We'd prefer if the scripture/quote actually went along somewhat with the theme of the story. And we'd prefer if all the stories were...I dunno...fact checked.

The story for December 1st paid homage to a thoroughly debunked article claiming that The Twelve Days of Christmas was written as a way to secretly teach the catechism of the Catholic church to young English children after King Henry the Eighth caused the creation of a new church because he "wanted to sin and have a church justify his actions," which is a gross simplification of the whole situation. Catholics weren't banned from practicing their religion until after the death of King Henry, anyway, so I'm not sure why they're blaming him for that (as unsavory a character he may have been).

So, the story for December 1st annoyed me, and the story about candy canes, and Andrew skipped "The Three Trees," which I think is a sweet story (because it openly admits to being a folktale and makes no pretentious claims about being "the true meaning" of this or that) but is one that he just can't stand.

We also didn't like that they put the story of Joseph Smith's last Christmas on December 22nd rather than on December 23rd (which is his birthday). I mean, had they put it on December 7th I wouldn't have thought anything of it, but to put it the day before his birthday rather than right on it? That just looks like a mistake. There are rules for this sort of thing: if you're going to be off, be way off so that it looks like you did it on purpose. If you're so close but just a little off it looks like a glaring error.

And don't even get me started on the typesetting (crazy hyphenation all over the place).

I'm sure I sound rather picky now. But the truth is we have been enjoying reading the story each night. Most of the stories come from church magazines and are faith promoting and teach good lessons.

But the annoying ones are so annoying—some sort of theologic neologism. Take "The True Meaning of the Snowman," for example, which I saw in a catalogue once (and which you can see here). I find that sort of thing ridiculous. A snowman is a snowman. Ahem. Anyway...

Tonight's story was fairly interesting. It was called "Gifts for a Newborn King" by Geraldine A. Garretson, and was originally printed in The Friend in December 1992. While a little orientalist in nature, it was a well-researched article and was presented well for a young audience. Our girls were captivated, especially since we have a little box full of frankincense and myrrh sitting out by one of our nativities.

Our interest was piqued, however, when Andrew read this part: "'Myrrh, whose name means "bitter," comes from the Commiphora myrrha tree.' Myrrh means bitter?" Andrew asked. "Is that true? Are Miriam and myrrh from the same root?"

Turns out, they very well could be. We knew that Miriam meant bitter (and in fact battled with this knowledge for a while because who names their child 'bitter'? (Probably the same people who name their firstborn after livestock.)) we just hadn't linked the root of the word to myrrh (which does, in fact, mean bitter).

Miriam was thrilled to bits over this newfound knowledge, completely over the moon. Ecstatic, really.

She is in the Christmas story. She has her own tree. She was a gift for baby Jesus. Could her life get any better? Probably not!

"Big deal," Rachel said. "My name means sheep. Sheep are in the Christmas story, too."

And thus a gloriously hilarious scene unfolded in our living room, wherein Rachel bleated unceasingly while Miriam did her best to enact sap oozing out of a Commiphora myrrha tree.

What e'er thou art, kids, Act well thy part.

Bits and Pieces

Today we said goodbye to our Pop-Onz. We inherited them from some friends in Egypt. The toys were meant to be put in storage back in the States. Instead they got shipped to Egypt and a box of sheets was put into storage. Our friends gave us the toys and bought new sheets. We brought the toys with us when we moved back to the States a couple of years later.

Although we gave most of our toys away (and then I think they were subsequently stolen off the street, right Bridget?) before we moved, this particular set we felt was worthy to drag halfway around the world with us. Our kids have been enjoying it for five years now, in three different houses, in two different countries. But it's time to say goodbye...because the truth is that we're making room for Christmas gifts. Pop-Onz are fun(-nish) but we think that the "replacement" toy will be more fun. At any rate I hope it will stimulate more of a desire to construct things (Pop-Onz don't offer much in the way of creative building). We'll see.

Either way, this set of toys enjoyed its last romp around our living room this morning. We found a new home for it so it will continue to be played with, just not at our house.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013


Yesterday for Family Home Evening we baked some white-chocolate-chip-candy-cane cookies while Daddy was at his last HOA meeting of the year (and basically ever because he resigned (which we're all kind of happy about (not that it was hard; it was just another thing and we don't need another thing cluttering up our calendar right now (grad school is enough for us)))).

We were hoping to go caroling to deliver them to our neighbours but, honestly, baking cookies with three little ones was enough of a project for the evening. Rachel is, thankfully, old enough to actually be helpful, though sometimes she wants to help a little more than I'd like her to. She insisted on cracking the eggs, for example, which might've gone a little faster and been a little less messy if I had cracked the eggs myself (but I know it's important for her to do these things so I let her even if it means I have to back away and take deep cleansing breaths). Patience is one of those things I'm constantly working on and since mine was all used up by the time Andrew came home, we just read stories and got ready for bed instead of going caroling.

Today Miriam and I made up plates and printed out labels (so we'd remember who got which plate) and when Daddy came home from work/school we went out caroling. Our song of choice was "Jingle Bells" since both Rachel and I are pretty good at playing that on the ukulele.

We also made some little sleigh bell shakers for Miriam and Benjamin to jingle during the song since the bells that we ordered (three weeks ago, but who's counting) finally arrived.

When Rachel asked if she could bring her ukulele along, Andrew originally said no (even though I was planning on bringing them), and Rachel said, "That would be really dumb, Dad, to just go and sing at people's houses without any sort of instrument actually making music. Like, no piano or ukulele or trumpet or anything? No one does that."

"You can bring your ukulele," I told her. "I was planning on that, anyway, but when we go out with the Adamsons next week we probably won't bring our ukuleles. We'll just sing a cappella, which means without having any instrument playing along. It's a thing."

So, tonight we headed out with our ukuleles and sleigh bells and delivered 11 plates of cookies to various families in our neighbourhood and beyond.

I will admit that I felt a little awkward to ring people's doorbells and expect them listen to our family perform but I think that everyone we caroled to enjoyed it. It was fun to see their face light up with the surprise at having a five-person band appear on their doorstep (not that we're incredibly talented...just that it's fun to have music delivered to your door). A few families said they had never been caroled to (it's a dying art, apparently) and others shared some memories of caroling with us (our neighbour's family would drive their tractor around with a trailer on the back filled with hay bails for seating; they'd drive around collecting neighours to increase their caroling choir as they drove around their agrarian neighbourhood (he said he wished he had a tractor so we could do the same)).

Our home teacher invited us in for a chat, even though he'd been home sick all day. His wife had to put the dog outside because the girls were absolutely freaking out about it. But all three kids enjoyed the cats. Benjamin was playing peek-a-boo with one of their younger cats. It was slinking around the living room and he was chasing it, yelling, "Boo!" He had a great time!

They sent us home with a Christmas treat for ourselves, which Benjamin carried to the car for us. He fell asleep on the way home but was still clutching the little treat bag. I tried to remove it from his fist so that I could unbuckle his seatbelt but the minute he sensed it slipping out of his grip he woke up and snatched it back, declaring, "MY! MY! MY!"

It was certainly a fun evening and I hope the girls made some good memories. Caroling is something that I'd like to become more of a tradition for our family and whether or not Andrew is as enthusiastic about that idea as I am he's certainly being a good sport about it.

I don't remember ever going caroling in Alberta as a family, but I did think back to many years ago when my family once went caroling in British Columbia. We had just made it to the Anderson's house, I believe, and poor Patrick (who was maybe two) got sick and threw up all over the van so instead of merely caroling we ended up borrowing cleaning supplies so that we could get the interior of the van to the point where we could stand getting back inside.

I'm sure that memory surfaced only because of the situation I found myself in last night (ie. covered in vomit). I'm pretty sure Benjamin must've eaten a bad apple now because he was fairly fine all day (aside from being a grumpy boar) and no one else is feeling even remotely ill. With any luck it will stay that way!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

First time for everything

I've reentered one of the only stages of babyhood/toddlerhood that I never miss when over. Usually I miss things. I miss how fragile and dependent newborns are. I miss those first smiles. I miss head holding/rolling/crawling/walking before it becomes the new normal. While I'm excited about and embrace each new milestone, I miss, and mourn, each passing stage as my babies grow up because I love babies and when they grow up it means they aren't babies anymore. I love my kids, too, of course.

But...babies. I love them. Everything is fascinating to them all the time and they're so soft and cuddly and new. (And, you know, really, really exhausting, but still...)

There are some stages I could do without, however, and Benjamin has just entered one of those stages.

Around two o'clock in the morning, Benjamin started fussing. I told myself he'd just go to sleep, but he kept not doing it and instead got more and more worked up. Eventually I woke Andrew up to retrieve Benjamin for me because I simply could not get out of bed and Andrew's been blessed with the ability to sleepwalk. He can get up, get the baby, climb back in bed and be fast asleep again all within a minute and a half. I can't. Not that I fall asleep any faster if Andrew gets the baby for me but at least then I don't have to get out of bed, right?

As Andrew handed Benjamin to me I said, "Tsk. Why are you so fussy tonight? You're supposed to be sleeping, Baby! Ew! And you smell funny. Why do you smell funny?"

"Sorry," Andrew mumbled.

"I was talking to Benjamin," I clarified. "You're fine. Thanks for getting the baby."

"Yup," Andrew sighed, and with that he clocked out and was immediately fast asleep once again.

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Ukulele Christmas

We attended our ward Christmas party tonight, where our little ukulele choir performed two musical numbers.

Our first song was Away in a Manger (the arrangement from the Primary Children's Songbook). For this one we had the littlest kids (including Rachel and Miriam (who are on the front row, farthest left and farthest right)) focus on playing the C chord rather than switching to G7. There were so many changes in the song that it was just too frustrating for them. Rachel's been practicing and she's getting better.

When it's cold outside, I've got the month of...

I did no little housework today because we spent the entire day outside (or at least as much of it as we could). It's December 6th and it was—get this—77°F (25°C)!

We pulled out shorts and sandals and partied like it was summer hanging Christmas lights on the house (because that's totally what I do during my summer vacation) and gardening (because that's something that must be done year round here, evidently).

Actually, we spent the morning at playgroup and then spent the afternoon outside with the neighbour kids (at one point we had nine kids in our yard (which is pretty good odds considering how many kids live on our street (not many more than nine))).

The boys next door took turns helping me with the lights and corralling Benjamin away from the street while all the little girls played. When I finished putting the lights up they organized a round of hide-and-seek for everyone. They're very gentlemanly and call me ma'am and everything (which truthfully cracks me up a bit but I appreciate their manners nonetheless).

We were outside for about an hour before neighbourhood kids started coming home from school (two hours before Rachel came home from school) and stayed outside until nearly 5:00.


Last night we had our Relief Society Christmas Dinner, which was lovely. This morning they sent us all of the recipes, which was lovelier except that I'm not sure my family would ever eat the goodness we consumed last night (which is why it's sometimes wonderful to dine in a room full of grown women rather than crammed around the kitchen table with picky children (and husbands)).

Anyway, one of my friends was asked to give a message about simplifying Christmas. The essence of her message was that Christmas is about building memories and coming closer together as a family and drawing nearer to the Lord. I agree with that message 100%.

However, there was a little bit of her message that rubbed me wrong. She told a story of her mother's childhood. The family had had a difficult year financially and so for Christmas they really had to budget for things and instead of just getting whatever they wanted, the parents gave each of their seven children $10 to spend "on everyone—on each other, on their parents, on their friends."

"Only ten dollars!" my friend exclaimed. "Can you imagine only having $10 to spend on everyone for Christmas?"

And, actually, I can. But my friend and I come from much different backgrounds.

However, as I pondered this story it sat more and more uncomfortably with me. This evening it finally dawned on me why. The answer was a single word: inflation.

So I pulled up the CPI Inflation Calculator and gave a few numbers a whirl.

Now, I don't know precisely what year this story took place, but I can take a few guesses:

Having $10 in your pocket in 1960 would equal having $78.90 in your pocket in 2013.
Having $10 in your pocket in 1965 would equal having $74.14 in your pocket in 2013.
Having $10 in your pocket in 1970 would equal having $60.19 in your pocket in 2013.
Having $10 in your pocket in 1975 would equal having $43.41 in your pocket in 2013.
Having $10 in your pocket in 1980 would equal having $28.34 in your pocket in 2013.

I hesitate to go much farther delve farther into "the past" than 1960 or much farther into "the future" than 1980 since my friend is just a few years older than me and I'm fairly sure our parents are close-ish in age. I don't know how old her mother was when the story happened, however, only that there were seven kids at home ranging from high school to younguns.

I guess my point is that stories like this tend to feel a little hyperbolic to me—like walking to school uphill, both ways, in the snow, with no shoes! My point is that her mom wasn't given $10 today; she was given $10 decades ago (unless my friend accounted for inflation but didn't tell us—in which case 1980: $3.53; 1975: $2.30; 1970: $1.66; 1965: $1.35; 1960: $1.27 (and that would've been difficult to budget)). I think having only $10 to spend in 1980 would've been very difficult as well. But having anything between $50 and $70? That sounds fine to me—generous, even, since teenagers have the ability to make money on their own and little kids aren't expected to buy elaborate gifts for their siblings (is anyone expected to do that? I hope not...).

Granted, it would've killed her narrative a bit to throw in an "after accounting for inflation" clause, but I think it's a necessary part of the story because the question of spending $70 on your family for Christmas versus spending $10 on your family for Christmas is huge, at least in my eyes.

The point of her lesson wasn't entirely lost on me; I did appreciate her thoughts on simplifying Christmas. However, I just couldn't get that little detail out of my mind. Sometimes I can't stop myself from wondering about these things. Sometimes they make the lesson of the story less applicable to life (such as in this instance, at least for me). Sometimes they make lesson of the story more applicable, such as the story of President Monson misplacing a five-dollar bill during The Great Depression.

The story is good all on its own (you should read it), but what if I told you that:

Having $5 in your pocket in 1930 would equal having $69.92 in your pocket in 2013?
Having $5 in your pocket in 1935 would equal having $85.24 in your pocket in 2013?
Having $5 in your pocket in 1940 would equal having $83.41 in your pocket in 2013?

The "Five-Dollar Miracle" isn't a cute story about a little boy who lost a little pocket change. It's a story about a hard-working and now desperate young boy who lost nearly one-hundred dollars (I'm going to assume President Monson didn't have $5 in 1930 since he was born in 1927; it seems more likely this story would've taken place between 1935 and 1940).

That changes the story for me quite a bit because...inflation. It's mind-boggling.

Friday, December 06, 2013

A boy and [someone else's] dog

Benjamin's love of dogs is as intense as the girls's dislike. They see a dog, they scream (with fear), they run (far, far away from it), they cower behind me (and I...don't like dogs either). Benjamin sees a dog, he screams (with joy), he runs (toward the dog), and gives it a great big hug.

He's especially fond of Cody, who belongs to one of our friends. We were over there for playgroup today and he was waving at Cody from behind the sliding door. When Cody came inside Benjamin started panting and signing dog while running over to greet him. He just loves Cody!

Immunizations, Benjamin at 18 months, Miriam at 4 years

With the recent measles outbreak in Southern Alberta, as well as many reports of whooping cough outbreaks the past few years, vaccination has been a hot topic. Hotter than usual, at least.

We're pretty keen on immunizations at our house, having dragged our family around the world. For one thing, polio, a disease of the past in many places of the world, is still alive and well in others (which means, essentially, that it could potentially make its way back to places it has been eradicated from). Egypt—a place we called home for two years and where our second child was born—hasn't exactly eradicated polio yet. For another thing, we weren't nearly comfortable enough with the medical system to trust they'd be able to treat any horrible disease we could've contracted. I'm not sure I'm that confident in the medical system here to think doctors/technology can just "cure" us of these terrible diseases scientists have painstakingly created immunizations against in order to protect us from ever contracting the disease.

We plan on returning to lesser developed countries in the future so we need to keep our immunizations current. You probably want to keep your immunizations current as well because you never know what germs are stowing away in that airline passenger's cough. I'm just saying...

Anyway, having moved several times in the past eight years has meant relocating our medical records time and time again. This is kind of a hassle.

Different places have different immunization schedules and before a couple of days ago I didn't know there was a reason for this. But, honestly, that's because they are "different countries with different populations." The doctors within those countries do their best to create a schedule to ensure the best possibility for herd immunity and so forth.

I did question this once when we lived in Egypt. We were there on a student visa and were never granted permission to work so we were living off the savings that we'd managed to scrape up while Andrew finished his undergraduate degree. Having a baby there was relatively inexpensive—our insurance covered everything but our $50 deductible (yes, you read that right). However, they wouldn't cover "routine care" which meant well-baby visits would be entirely out-of-pocket (who dreamed up this insurance plan?). The vaccination schedule our doctor put us on was a little more rigorous than the one we'd seen in the States. Our doctor wanted us to come in every single month. Every. Single. Month.

The cost wasn't astronomical, but it would've ended up being about $100 per month just to see the doctor, not including the shots, since we weren't able/about to go to the "local" clinic and had to use a private doctor.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Decorating for Christmas (Bah! Humbug!)

This year we've been slowly decorating for Christmas, emphasis on the slow. I can't emphasize enough how Benjamin is into everything, always. Those of you who've had tiny tots probably understand.

We did drag our Christmas boxes down from the attic and hunted through them to pull out the most important and exciting decorations we own: the nativity and the advent calendar. We actually have several nativities. We put the Ghanaian one on a shelf in the living room, as well as the ones from Israel. One from Italy went on the mantel. And I still had two left to set up somewhere (and others that are still boxed away).

The two that I had left to set up were made up of so many little parts and I had so many little hands flying to "help" that I was looking for a way to get out of the mess, and quick. Then I spied the advent calendar and inspiration struck.

Our advent calendar is a little cabinet filled with drawers. Working quickly, I filled each drawer with a character from the nativity, told the girls they could take turns opening the drawers. Every day they'd find a piece to "their" set for the year and would be able to arrange it however they'd like.

Decorating time was over. It was now personal time.

Can you bake a pie?

Give me a week and I might just be able to—bake a pie, that is—because wasn't it a week ago that I finally cooked up our Halloween pumpkins and turned them into goo? Yes, it was.

On Monday I finally got around to making pie crust (using this recipe: grating frozen butter—genius). The kids "helped," of course, which might explain why this process took a week.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

For a minute...

Some moments in time are so very sweet. Just yesterday I had one of these moments in my house. I think we often have these moments in our house, but this moment was particularly sweet.

My friend Marian was over. She's the primary president. I'm the secretary. And we were trying to hammer out next year's budget. We were so absorbed in excel spreadsheets that we were mostly ignoring our children, who were running around the house playing. They were playing quite nicely together, which was part of the reason we were able to ignore them so well.

Suddenly, peals of laughter shattered our concentration. We turned to look at the children who were clustered around an air vent. The heat was on and Miriam had gotten out some feathers. They were setting the feathers on the vent and letting the hot air blast them up above their heads, and they were doing those sweet baby belly-laughs that kids seem to grow out of too soon.

Marcella is two. Benjamin is one. They're just old enough to find that sort of thing hilarious (or as Miriam would say, EL-arious). Miriam, at four, is just old enough to find that sort of thing fascinating and was working out all sorts of scientific methods and hypotheses to test before the air turned off.

It was one of those moments when you think to yourself, "There may be feathers all over the house and I'm sure I am going to regret that later (especially when Benjamin finds both the honey and the feathers and does his own experimenting)* but right now? This is perfect."

*Curse you ability-to-climb-on-the-table, and no-more-napping! A pox on both your households!

Monday, December 02, 2013

All she wants for Christmas is to lose a tooth

Yesterday morning Rachel woke us up to look at her teeth: they're loose. Finally!

Not all of them, of course, but her wee little central incisors are finally starting to wiggle around. A bit.

This girl has been waiting for this to happen since she started kindergarten. She's the last of all her friends to lose a tooth. Everyone in her school class, everyone in her primary class, everyone in the whole entire world has lost a tooth...except for her.

I remember feeling like that, too, and was acutely aware of everything going on in my mouth. I actually announced in the middle of grade one that I must've lost a tooth because I had new teeth growing in—my six year molars. My teacher said it was impossible but she wrote my name up on the tooth chart anyway. Turns out she was right. Those new molars weren't replacing anything; they were just coming in.

Rachel's pretty aware of her mouth, too—even though her class doesn't keep a chart of who and who hasn't lost teeth in any given month—and we've been putting teething gel on her gums where her molars are breaking through because she's been complaining about how terrible it is.

But this wiggling thing? This is new. And she's ecstatic!