Thursday, March 06, 2014

Monday: Duke and FHE

A couple of weeks before my mom came out I was complaining about snow days (brace yourself; more complaints are coming) and she commented the following on one of my pictures:

How jealous am I? 0%. Two weeks from now...none of the white stuff, okay?

And I told her not to worry. She'd coming out in March. It doesn't snow in March. Snow in March would be ridiculous.

Famous. Last. Words.

We had a grim forecast this week, starting with sleet, freezing rain, and snow—something dubbed a "wintery mix"—on Monday. We headed to Duke campus on Monday morning, anyway, determined to see the chapel, the library, the gardens, and so forth. Unfortunately, when the forecast said rain it meant rain and it poured on us.

We sought refuge in the chapel where we were lucky enough to meet up with a high school choir that was touring from Delaware. They'd made it to the chapel a little early so left to tour some other places before returning to the chapel to sing so we followed their lead and left to visit the library.

Unfortunately, the library is under construction so the cool gothic-style entrance wasn't accessible so we had to go in another entrance and I...don't really know my way around the library because I don't usually frequent there. We wandered around and looked at some artwork and did our best not to disturb any studying students.

Then back to the chapel we went—through the rain, through the sleet, through the wind, through the snow! We were just in time to catch the tail-end of the choir performance, which was beautiful. We learned that it takes seven seconds for the sound at the front of the chapel to reach the back of the chapel and that the chapel has four different organs (as well as a grand piano).

It was still storming when we left the chapel and since running from building to building had left us soggy, dripping, and cold, we didn't feel like even trying to explore the gardens so instead we went to the Divinity Cafe (in the divinity school next to the chapel) for a mid-morning snack.

"What will your kids eat?" my mom asked.

We ended up getting a hummus/veggie/pita tray, a fruit salad, and a lemon-blueberry bar to share. I knew the kids would be excited about that—they love hummus and fruit and dessert.

Benjamin was super excited about the hummus. I got a nice big scoop of it on a carrot stick and shoveled it into his mouth. My kids will usually eat hummus by the spoonful but Benjamin refused it this time.

"BLAH!" he gagged (like my brother Patrick, Benjamin will often say things exactly as they'd be spelled out in a comic book) and spat out the hummus. "Blah, blah, blah!" he said.

He grabbed a napkin and started wiping off his tongue, all the while making gagging sounds. He asked for a drink of water. He hesitantly accepted a grape, unsure if it would taste good or not.

It was the strangest reaction ever because he usually enjoys hummus. Later on in the meal he did end up eating quite a bit of hummus. I think he just had to get used to the idea that it was hummus. It had been served up in a cup with an ice cream scoop of sorts so when he saw that nice round golden scoop he must have figured it was ice cream and it really shocked his system to wind up with the taste of garlic and tahini in his mouth when he'd been expecting...peanut butter or caramel or something (I don't really know what he was expecting).

After our snack we bundled back up to face the cold again. By now it was sleeting but we still had to make our way to the Sanford building to meet Andrew. Miraculously, I was able to guide my poor, soggy, freezing family there without getting lost and we found Andrew and braced ourselves for the long walk back to the car. This time we put Miriam in the stroller and I carried Benjamin—they were both exhausted. In fact, Benjamin was so worn out that his head started bobbling uncontrollably as I was walking and he had already closed his eyes by the time I'd finished buckling him into his car seat.

We had to rush home to be there for Rachel, who had a three-hour early release due to the forecasted snow. We made it home in time to have a little (more) lunch before her bus arrived. She was so excited to spend the afternoon with Naanii and—even better—the neighbours brought over the mail they'd collected for us while we were away, including a package from Naanii, herself.

Naanii had unloaded her suitcase of goodies when we'd arrived home the night before. She had a new winter coat for Rachel, a couple of outfits for Benjamin, some new winter gloves and ear warmers, as well as some books and a little outfit for Miriam that Grandma Karen found in Grandma Sharon's stuff. Oh, and some little puppets. And some conference SWAG (stuff we all get).

The kids were all excited with what they got and didn't complain about or compare their gifts (which impressed my mom (and, if I'm being honest, it impressed me as well)).

The deal was only sweetened for them when we opened the package my mom had mailed and found some "dolly'n'me" dresses inside. Miriam peeked inside, saw a blue dress, handed it to Rachel, said, "This one is yours!" and then took out the second dress—a red and black one.

"How did you know that dress was for Rachel?" my mom asked.

"Because it's blue and blue is Rachel's favourite colour!" Miriam said. She wasn't even upset that her dress wasn't pink. She was just thrilled to have a pretty new dress, firsthand. She wanted to stay in it for the rest of the day but we convinced her to save it for Sunday.

Look at those smiles...*sigh*

Miriam had to dig through the shoe box to find some shoes that kind of matched Kit's shoes. She's always happy to match Kit!

By the late afternoon ice pellets were dropping from the sky, making a tinkling sound on the deck as they landed. By bedtime we had a nice 1/16 to 1/8 inch coat of ice pellets on everything.

"What do you think?" Andrew and I mused. "Three-hour delay tomorrow? A full snow day?"

"A full snow day?" my mom rolled her eyes. "For this?!"

We went ahead and put the kids to bed, unsure of when we'd be getting ready for school in the morning, but soon the phone rang. It was Durham Public Schools announcing that due to inclement weather school would be cancelled on Tuesday, March 4th.

Rachel was still reading so I told her she could just keep on reading since she wouldn't have school in the morning.

"They cancelled school again?!" she exclaimed.

It is a little ridiculous. But, yes, they cancelled school again.

"At least Rachel will get to use the new coat I brought her," my mom said.

My mom can always find the positive in any situation.

Oh, speaking of my mom—that was the other thing we did on Monday night! We had family night and for our lesson we interviewed my mom.

Rachel wanted to know about the pets my mom had growing up. My mom said:

We always had pets. We had a dog before I was born but I was born afraid of dogs, I guess, because I was always afraid of it. They couldn't keep the dog because I was so afraid of it so my dad said he'd just shoot the dog. My brother and sisters said, "Why don't we just shoot Myrna and keep the dog!" At least, that's the story they always told.

We had a cat named Susan who was in our family a long time—she was the same age as Colleen—but we had a lot of other cats, too. They'd just built the highway and people would drop off animals—puppies and kittens—that they didn't want and we'd find them on the farm. That's how we got Susan. She was a white cat with orange spots—not a calico cat, because she didn't have any other colour—she was just white and orange. She lived to be about thirteen and then my uncle shot her.

She kept getting into Uncle Clyde's chickens so one day he just shot her and when he phoned my dad up to tell him what he'd done my dad was really angry.

We had many cats named Sugar-toes. At first we kept track of them: Sugar-toes the First, Sugar-toes II, Sugar-toes III, and so on, but eventually we lost count. They all had white paws but were mostly black.

Then we asked about who her friends were growing up:

My best friends were my sister and cousins. I lived on a farm and we didn't have close neighbours. My cousins lived a quarter-mile away, which felt really close (it doesn't feel so close when you live in the city but when you live on a farm that's very close). They moved to the farm when I was 5 or 6. Marie was 5 months younger than me, though she was a grade below me in school, and Margaret was the same age as Arlene. 

And because we didn't discuss animals enough when we were asking about pets, the girls were curious about what animals were kept on the farm:

We had chickens but my dad didn't like taking care of them. We had cows, which Dad didn't like taking care of. We never had horses because Dad used to have to plow fields with the horses when he was a boy and he didn't like them at all. We had cats and rabbits. My brother Bruce used to pay us a quarter a rabbit to rescue them from the cats. Sometimes we'd rescue them and they'd be fine but sometimes it would be kind of messy but it was an easy way to earn a quarter!

What was your favourite holiday?

I wasn't very good at holidays. I was always throwing hissy fits about something.

But really all holidays were fun! We would do a unit in school about upcoming holidays. We had a program at school with songs for every holiday—songs or choral speech/poetry.

Choral speech was really fun. We had to audition for parts. In grade three we did a program about flowers and it had solo lines. I wanted a part. 

Mrs. Odland recorded us auditioning and I didn't get picked because my voice was too high pitched and squeaky. I was upset that I didn't get a part and didn't believe her that my voice was too high pitched so she played the recording back to me and it was! I had a teeny, squeaky voice! No wonder I didn't get a solo!

Now that I'm a grown up I realize those programs were a lot of hard work, but they sure were fun!

What was your favourite food?

It was probably hash browned potatoes. My mom had a grinder-thing and I loved helping her make hash browns. You'd put the potato in the slot and turn the handle and the potato would grind up. Sometimes a little piece of potato would be left over and I'd eat i raw. 

Raw potatoes are so good! I could eat them like apples! My dad grew Pontiac potatoes—much better than the Russet potatoes so common in the States. 

My mom got that grinder in the 1940s and they just don't make them like that anymore. I wish that I had it! I do have my mom's pots though. She got them for a wedding gift in 1949 and I'm still cooking in them!

That was the end of the interview because the kids were getting antsy to move on to the next activity—a rousing round of Don't Eat Pete! Even my mom was excited because she'd found that Andrew had packed a package of Reese's Pieces in the snack box in the car and we never even opened it!

Rachel and Miriam made the board themselves and were excited to play with it. They both had their turns and then we sent Naanii out for her turn.

She left the room and we selected a square to be "Pete." My mom came in, reached her hand out, and headed straight for Pete.

"Don't eat Pete!" we all yelled.

My mom jumped and yanked her hand back. We told her she could have another turn because she didn't get any candy at all. So she left the room and we chose a new square. She came back in, reached her hand out, and headed straight for Pete—again!

"Don't eat Pete!" we screamed in unison.

My mom said she could wait for her next turn, so Benjamin, Andrew and I all took our first turn. Then Miriam and Rachel took their second turns and then it was time for my mom's turn. She left the room, we chose a square, she came back in, and...

"Don't eat Pete!"

We let her try again. She left the room, we chose a square, she came back in, and...

"Don't eat Pete!" we all laughed.

Andrew had tears streaming down his face by this time. He was laughing so hard.

"What are the odds?!" he laughed. Then he said, "I'll tell you the odds," because he's a nerd like that.

She had a 0.015% chance of doing that!

On her fifth try she was able to clear the board (and she was very happy with her nine Reese's pieces).


  1. Be careful with the red and black dress. I've heard they can stain the doll. Someone said if you wash them in water with vinegar it will set the colors.

  2. I love the dresses! The girls look so happy with them.

    I enjoyed reading the interview with your mother, and the way she made y'all laugh playing "Don't eat Pete."

  3. I don't remember saying that my dad didn't like taking care of the cows--he didn't mind them. Even bringing calves inside the house to warm them up if they were born at a particularly cold time. However, he did always warn us that having lifestock ties you down--his argument against pets of any kind, from budgies to kittens!

  4. Also, Susan was the same age as Arlene, not Colleen.