Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Benjamin takes charge

Yesterday was family home evening and Benjamin decided it was his turn to conduct. He proudly stood up in front of the armoire and shouted at the top of his lungs, "Sammy night! Sammy night! Sammy night!" over and over again (that's "Family night!" for those not fluent in Benjaminese).

The first thing we traditionally say when we play the part of conductor is, "Welcome to family night." Benjamin has picked up on this (and apparently only this).

When I prompted Benjamin to invite other family members to choose an opening song and say the opening prayer he did so grudgingly and then when those family members dared open their mouths he charged at them and yelled in their faces, "MINE TURN! MINE! TURN! MINE!" before returning to his place at the front of the room and yelling, "Sammy night! Sammy night! Sammy night!"

I think it's safe to say that the power went straight to his head.

We did manage to strip him of his powers calm him down eventually (though not before he buried his face in the couch to sob every last bit of grief out of his system—because how could we?!) and had a wonderful family night lesson by Rachel and Miriam.

Miriam wrote a talk about honesty for the first part of the lesson and then Rachel planned a little game about honesty to play after.

Here is a transcript of Miriam's talk:

Honesty is when you do a good thing and not honesty is when you do a bad thing with uot telling the truth. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

If that's not just as clear as mud, I don't know what is.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Snakey gross

While taking the garbage out this morning I found a fairly large leopard slug clinging to the side of the bin. I scooped it up on a piece of cardboard so I could show the kids. When I was little I used to collect slugs with my bare hands but those days might be over. We read a book called Boom Snot Twitty the other day—Snot is an aptly named snail. I don't know that I really want to pick up snot globs the size of my finger. Just sayin'...

The kids were equal parts fascinated and disgusted.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Busy Saturday

8:30 AM Leave house to clean church building

We had our first (of many to come) Harry Potter nights (it's fall intercession so Rachel's on a three-week break) so one wanted to get up this morning. But we did it. We left the house 13 minutes late (which was technically only three minutes to late because we told ourselves to plan to leave early or we'd be late) and arrived at the church five minutes early.

9–11 AM Clean church building

I have a hunch not everyone who was supposed to showed up because cleaning the church seemed to take forever. It was us, the "manager" (for lack of a better word), and one other family. The kids had a blast though. They cleaned all the windows, inside and out, they tidied the chapel, and Rachel helped Andrew clean the bathrooms while Benjamin and Miriam helped me with the kitchen.

11:00 AM Grab a quick lunch at Wendy's 

Poor planning = no packed lunch, no time to drive home = eating out. We didn't realize how full our schedule was for the day until it was too late to fix it. The kids didn't complain at all because we only do fast food burgers when we go to the beach (we've gone to the beach twice this year). Benjamin's a big enough eater now that we have to actually order him something now. He had chicken nuggets. Rachel's a big enough eater now that she's given up on kid's meals. She had a junior bacon cheeseburger. Miriam said, "Well, I'm getting a kid's meal. I'm a kid. And I'm not ever giving that up."

11:45 AM Picture day for soccer 

Around 11:30 we started getting panicked messages from parents, saying that the photographer was packing up to head home and that we'd have to go to a different location for pictures. But we convinced the photographer to stick around...for us, at least. The girls mostly ran around like crazy while they waited for the group picture (they did individual pictures first).

Friday, September 26, 2014

Ogi panes and monocles

When my brother Patrick was little he was a LEGO ninja. He could sift through the gigantic box of LEGO we inherited from the Looses and put together almost anything. I thought about young Patrick when Benjamin brought me a LEGO plane he'd built.

"Ogi pane! Ogi pane! Ogi pane! Zoomie!" he said, flying the plane toward the camera.

I drop down to earth with a thud

"You'll probably have a good many more and worse disappointments than that before you get through life," said Marilla, who honestly thought she was making a comforting speech. "It seems to me, Anne, that you are never going to outgrow your fashion of setting your heart so on things and then crashing down into despair because you don't get them." 
"I know I'm too much inclined that, way" agreed Anne ruefully. "When I think something nice is going to happen I seem to fly right up on the wings of anticipation; and then the first thing I realize I drop down to earth with a thud. But really, Marilla, the flying part is glorious as long as it lasts. . .it's like soaring through a sunset. I think it almost pays for the thud." 
"Well, maybe it does," admitted Marilla. "I'd rather walk calmly along and do without both flying and thud. But everybody has her own way of living. . .I used to think there was only one right way. . .but since I've had you. . . to bring up I don't feel so sure of it."
Anne of Avonlea, "Chapter XVII: A Chapter of Accidents" by L. M. Montgomery
DISCLAIMER: This post is entirely TMI (and uses words like "blood" and "infertility") but I don't even care because I'm grumpy right now. Reader discretion is advised.

That line by Anne—"When I think something nice is going to happen I seem to fly right up on the wings of anticipation; and then the first thing I realize I drop down to earth with a thud"—has been swimming in my brain for some time now. 

I tried so hard not to hope, and I did a good job, too...for a while. 

Every month I think this could be the month. But it never is.

 I'm coming to terms with that, slowly. 

Oddly enough it helps to say the words out loud, to say the things my brain is screaming but in a calm, deliberate way. 

I am not allowed to be tired or sick or emotional without anyone wondering aloud if I'm expecting. 

"You said on Facebook you were 'so tired' yesterday? What's got you so tired? What's that all about?" a well-meaning friend asked me this morning with a wink and smile and a quick glance at my abdomen. 

Not that. But perhaps that. Or at least the absence of that. 

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Passing Notes

The girls have been playing school after school every day which has yielded such gems as this unit on Egypt:

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Time is Money

Miriam has been working hard at understanding how time works. She knows the months of the year, she knows the days of the week, she knows her birthday comes last every year. September has been a tough month for her to get through. She's been counting down to October since the very first day of September because September is of no value to her. It's only in the way of her birthday month and she can't wait to start celebrating Miriam!

She also knows that her grandparents live in a different time zone, which only complicates things for her. Andrew and I will often use the phrase "our time or theirs?" while trying to coordinate Skype calls on Sunday afternoons. We'll also say things like, "I guess it's pretty early for you," or "I guess we should hang up and put the kids to bed so you can go eat dinner" and other things along those lines.

While we were Skyping with my parents on Sunday, Miriam asked, "Is it still September for you?"

I guess she was hoping that it was October somewhere!

Rachel, on the other hand, has been trying to figure out how money works. She still isn't quite sure which coin is worth what (and would probably figure this out sooner if she would handle money but she hates touching metal (she hates touching pie tins and cookie sheets (and buttons and hair elastics, even though those aren't always metal))) but at least they all look different so she understands that one kind of coin is intrinsically worth more or less than any other given kind of coin. Paper money is a little more difficult to understand because—let's be honest—it's all just paper.

Right now her school is having a book fair and she desperately wanted to buy a book, so on Tuesday morning when I took her to school for "grand-friend day" (the magical day when you invite a grandparent (or other your mom) to tour your classroom and then hopefully visit the book fair and spoil you rotten) I said she could take some of her birthday money with her.

She had a $5 bill from Grandma and Grandpa and a $5 bill from Naanii and Bumpa.

"I only have these two dollars," she said, "So I guess I can't get much. Do you think I need the rest of my money?"

"Probably not," I said. "These two dollar bills are worth five dollars each so altogether you have ten dollars and that's quite a lot to spend."

"But I have more money in my room!" she said and she ran off to find all the coins she's collected (either by finding them in the street or by trading in her baby teeth to the tooth fairy). She came out of her room carrying a kleenex. Inside were all her coins. "I hate touching these things!" she said.

I made her put them back in her room and we just took her $10.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Double Drink

I just can't bring myself to sit in the back of the chapel where the folding chairs are. I've had several friends suggest that this is the "proper" place for families with small, disruptive children but I disagree—and many families with small children also disagree since there's quite the collection of small, disruptive children near the front of the chapel. I guess I just had small wards growing up in the boonies of Canada, but we didn't even have an overflow section (at least not regularly, and at least not a section of the gym) so I always recall sitting in the chapel proper, whether we were misbehaving or not.

Rachel and Miriam behave just fine in sacrament meeting. It's Benjamin we have trouble with. He picks fights with his sisters, screams when he doesn't get his own way, and is loud in general. As my mom pointed out last night while we were skyping, he seems to like the sound of his own voice. He'll holler about this and that for no reason whatsoever. Keeping him quiet is nearly impossible, especially when he's in a room with such wonderful acoustics!

At least we always seem to come away with a few good sacrament meeting tales every week.

This week he was as excited about the sacrament as he always is—can't complain about free bread and water!—but was insistent on getting more than one serving. Once his "gink" was finished he asked for another one.

"You only need one," I said. "Remember—it's not a snack. It's to help us remember Jesus."

"Okay," he said and then turned around, stood up, and lunged over the back of the bench toward the tray being passed down the row behind us.

"Benjamin!" I whispered. "Sit down!"

"Duh-boo gink!" he said over and over again, increasing his volume each time. "Duh-boo gink! Duh-boo gink! Duh-boo gink! Duh-boo gink!"

What was he begging for? A double drink.

He loves doubles.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Andrew's 30th birthday

On Thursday night we discussed The Phantom Tollbooth at book club (because we think it's fun to review some childhood classics from this side of childhood and/or to see what we missed in English class because we were simply too young to understand) and I was responsible for supplying treats.

While Miriam was at preschool Benjamin and I made some sugar cookie dough together. It has to sit in the fridge for a few hours so it was good to get it out of the way in the morning.

Bad Hair Days

This morning the girls got dressed and then came to me to have their hair done at exactly the same time and I almost burst out laughing.

Friday, September 19, 2014

End of the swimming season

We had a now-rare 80°F day on Tuesday so I took the kids swimming for what might well be the last day this year. It's just too chilly anymore. And we're wimps.

Somehow the kids are willing to brave the cold pool in May but not in September. It's probably because we got so used to the water feeling like a warm bath all through June, July, and August! And now we just can't stand it. Next May when it's as cold as it is now (or even colder) I'm sure the kids will be begging to go swimming again.

I made Rachel swim a couple of laps (and she made me swim a couple of laps, too) even though the water was cold. "This pool feels like Canada!" she said.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Writing Stories

We usually put the girls to bed at 8:00 (or 8:30) every night and then let them stay up doing pretty much whatever they want until 9:00. Sometimes they read. Sometimes they practice math. Sometimes they play hair salon. Sometimes they write stories. I don't really care what they do, but they have to be in bed.

They're not very good at following that rule, though, and will often get out of bed to shoot the breeze or ask me questions (like, "Do you think Johnny Appleseed was a real person?" or "Do you know where my ballet book is?") and I attempt to be firm and answer their questions with, "I don't answer questions after bedtime," even though it kills me a little inside.

The other night Rachel, after asking me about Johnny Appleseed, walked in to where Andrew was and said, "So, Dad, what'cha reading?"

He started explaining to her and then caught himself.

"Aren't you supposed to be in bed?" he asked.

"That never works," Rachel sighed.

Rachel will do almost anything to be allowed to stay up longer. Miriam's usually pretty good about staying in bed unless she's working on a story. Then she either wants help or wants to show me her progress.

She was trying to write the story of The Three Little Pigs and the Big Bad Wolf a few nights ago, but I didn't know that. She came out of her room to ask me to help her find her ballet book. I told her that I couldn't help her with that because it was past bedtime—and that book was probably on the shelf in Benjamin's room so she couldn't even look for it herself.

"But I need that book!" she said.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Out of Work

All summer long we've been talking about how wonderful things will be after Andrew finishes his comprehensive exam. It was this little black rain cloud following him around. He could hardly enjoy doing anything but work on it because at the back of his mind he knew he should be working on it. And it's kind of a big deal—if you pass you get to stay with the program, if you fail you get kicked out, so...

Anytime I'd mention doing anything (swimming with the kids, plans for fall break, watching a movie) Andrew would say, "Once I'm finished with this exam we can..." relax, have fun, plan that trip, not be so stressed out, play games on Saturday night, and so forth.

Last night before going to bed Andrew asked me (jokingly) if this tie matched this shirt:

Technically, maybe it does. If you're Harrison Wright from Scandal it definitely does. But excluding Harrison (and these Moroccan hipsters) I think that this tie and this shirt just wouldn't work. So I laughed at Andrew and shook my head no.


**TRIGGER WARNING: This content deals with an account of bullying and may be triggering to some people.**

When I was eleven years old I was bullied constantly by a group of girls who, I'm sure, have all grown up to be perfectly reasonable adults but who made my life so absolutely miserable that I eventually refused to attend school. My mom enrolled me in St. Paul's (Virtual) Academy—an online Catholic school based in a neighbouring town.

These girls would shove things in my locker through the air vents. The most humiliating item was a boy's comb, which I'm assuming they stole. When he couldn't find his comb (he was constantly combing his hair, I swear) the girls told him that I had stolen his comb and he told the teacher. I denied everything but was told to open my locker—that its contents would reveal the truth. And what do you think we found inside? Oh, his comb. Of course.

The idea that the girls who "saw me put it in my locker" could have shoved it through the air vent was too far fetched of an idea to believe, I suppose. Even though I was the class goodie goodie. But whatever.

We had an assignment where we had to write an introductory essay about ourselves that were then posted in the hallway along with a photograph. My photograph was graffitied on. When I asked that it be taken down I was told that it would look funny to have a picture missing from the wall—everyone would wonder where my picture was. But no one would wonder why my picture had a mustache and devil horns and a rude name scrawled beside it.

Monday, September 15, 2014

September Antics

I'm starting to get more nervous about something that I've been nervous about since June. Andrew's been making fun of me about that long, too, because he doesn't think preparing an hour-long lecture is a big deal. I'm teaching a class at our stake women's day this coming Saturday and I'm petrified. So I've been spending a lot of my blogging time working on that instead of writing about my children. But I've hit a stopping point again so now I guess I'll blog about my children again for a little while.

Miriam is still happily obsessing about being Mary Poppins. This is a picture Rachel took of her when they did a little photo shoot in the yard (and by little I mean they took two pictures and then left the camera on the front porch while they ran off to play):

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Benjamin Pidgin

Last night my aunt in San Diego called me at around 7:00 PM.

"Is this a bad time?" she asked. "Are you three hours ahead of me? I hope you're not getting kids ready for bed."

"This is a great time," I said. "We're actually just folding laundry together so if I sneak away to talk to you then I get out of folding laundry!"

"This was a good time to call then," she agreed and I left Andrew and the kids folding laundry together.

She wanted to talk about the Hancock Hummer, a family newsletter I put together twice a year (and so far I've received zero submissions so if any family members are reading this—get on it!) and also just get caught up. She asked how the kids were doing and I said they were doing well (this was before Benjamin let us know he had croup) and that Benjamin had recently started talking up a storm, which I was so relieved about because he wasn't even babbling at 18 months. I was quite worried about it, but here we are nine months later and he's just fine.

Auntie Arlene could relate. My cousin Lance was a late talker as well, especially when compared to his older sister (who, like my girls was talking in complete (and complicated) sentences by 18 months).

My cousin's daughter (and Arlene's granddaughter) Kitty (not her real name, but the name she gave herself when she was first—and finally—starting to talk) suffers from childhood apraxia and it's been a long, hard road for her. She also wasn't babbling at 18 months and everyone (even doctors) kept telling them to wait but they shouldn't have waited as long as they did to seek help because Kitty had a real problem.

She's not the only little cousin in the family to suffer from apraxia, either (there's one more), so I feel like my worry was justified (even though in my case Benjamin really did start talking and all I really had to do was wait (but that's not always the case and that early intervention is crucial)).

That got me thinking about the Benjamin Pidgin we've all been learning to speak in our house and this morning when the girls were packing snacks to eat after church and Benjamin ran to get a granola bar, shouting, "Monkey bar! Monkey bar! Monkey bar!" I knew it had been far too long since I made a list of words that are special to him. Here's a short dictionary to help you learn Benjamin Pidgin:

Croup and Pie Holes

Benjamin and I are staying home from church today. He was none too happy about this decision. He threw himself on the floor hoarsely screaming, "Turch! Turch!" I told him that he and I would watch church movies together and that helped him feel happier, but he still scowled as he watched his sisters finish getting ready to go.

As Miriam was trying to put on her shoes he yelled at her, "Stop! Daddy's shoes! Stop it, Mimi! Daddy's shoes!"

"Ummm, I'm pretty sure these are my shoes," Miriam said. "See how small and girly they are? They are black like Daddy's but they are not Daddy's. They are mine."

"Daddy's shoes," Benjamin huffed.

"But why can't Benjamin go to church?" Rachel asked.

"He has croup," I said. "He can't go to nursery because he might get the other kids sick and he sounds like a donkey braying so he can't really go to sacrament meeting and he and I hardly slept at all last night so we simply can't miss nap time today."

"Why don't I get croup?" Rachel asked.

I explained that kids usually grow out of getting croup. When you get sick your throat swells and that hurts but usually it doesn't swell so much that it keeps you from breathing—because as you get older your throat gets bigger. Benjamin's throat is still so small that if it gets swollen it can make it hard for him to breathe. That's probably not the most medically sound explanation, but whatever. The kids bought it.

"So, basically," I concluded, "His breathing hole is all filled up."

Miriam blushed.

"They didn't fill up my breathing hole!" she said. "They filled up my pie hole!"

Saturday, September 13, 2014


I finished reading Rainbow Valley last night as the sun was setting and fireflies began blinking on and off and my children frolicked around the yard, telling not-so-scary tales, picking figs and eating them, and playing leap frog (and occasionally misjudging exactly how far they had to leap, ending up sitting on each other's heads (but I just ignored those cries and they managed to solve the problems on their own)).

This is the stuff childhood memories are made of. And I think it's part of the reason I'm still enjoying the Anne of Green Gables series so much. L. M. Montgomery seems to be such a romantic in her writing and I'm really enjoying that right now—Anne's attitude toward childhood and growing up and finding love and motherhood.

I particularly appreciated the love story of Mr. Meredith (a widower) and Rosemary West (an old maid by virtue of her fiancé drowning at sea). In light of a secondary love story blossoming in real life (in short, our friends' dad is getting remarried), I enjoyed the sneak peek into the secondary love story of Mr. Meredith and Ms. West, how they still love their original love but somehow found room in their heart for more love, the quibbles they had accepting this, and how cute the children were bringing it all about.

Rainbow Valley was published in 1919, shortly after the end of World War I, and L. M. Montgomery weaves a lovely analogy of the Pied Piper into her story. Walter Blythe makes several mentions to the story. "Some day," he says, "the Pied Piper will come over the hill up there and down Rainbow Valley, piping merrily and sweetly. And I will follow him...away from you all. I don't think I'll want to go—Jem will want to go—it will be such an adventure—but I won't. Only I'll HAVE to—the music will call and call and call me until I MUST follow."

It's clear by the end of the book that this is a foreshadowing of the boys being called off to war in a few years' time—specifically the very last bit of the book when Jem "[springs] up with a gay laugh...tall and splendid, with his open brow and his fearless eyes. There were thousands like him all over the land of the maple." And he says, "Let the Piper come and welcome....I 'll follow him gladly round and round the world."

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Attempting Mary Poppins

My mom inspired us to give the "fancy" version of Mary Poppins a go. We used the white dress and hat from the dress up box and some ribbons we keep with the hair stuff. It definitely needs some work. I think we some white material in the attic that would help fancify things (and I think we have some red to make a better waist band as well). I'm not quite sure what to do for a parasol (put my feelers out for a broken umbrella, I suppose). I think we'll keep the green parrot head regardless of what we do because I don't really want to make another one!

This is Miriam's Mary Poppins face, in case you were wondering:


I caved and bought an umbrella on Amazon. It was $7. And it's "just an umbrella," which is something she's been asking for anyway. Another bonus is that perhaps she'll stop asking to play with my umbrella (which cost more than $7). Guess what Miriam will be getting for her birthday (hint: not a hand-sewn Mary Poppins coat)!

I'm not sure the parrot-head handle will fit, but perhaps we'll find some way to make it work...

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Mary Poppins Umbrella

This morning Miriam and I were practicing the ukulele together and Benjamin was pulling everything out of the "music cabinet." I didn't stop him until he pulled out the handbells. I love our handbells but they can only be used when I'm feeling patient. When Benjamin pulls them out he wants to have a free-for-all bell-ringing session and I just can't stand that, so when we use them I'm a little...controlling.

He settled for pouring over the book of Disney songs Auntie Emily sent us and I soon found myself playing songs for the kids while they danced and sang (the Disney song book is a little too advanced for Miriam to play along with). When we got to Supercalafragalisticexpialadoshus Miriam exclaimed, "I know what I want to be for Halloween!"

With that sort of a hint it's probably no surprise that she's decided on being Mary Poppins. We're currently reading Marry Poppins Comes Back (and so far I'm enjoying it more than the original story). Miriam found it at the library and requested that we read it instead of Princess Academy (which is "boring because there aren't any pictures! A book's got to have a few pictures!"). Rachel was okay with this because she'd already informed me that her "classroom has a copy of Princess Academy so [she] can just read it at school as fast as [she] want[s]. It's not that [she doesn't] like [me] reading to [her] but [she'd] kind of like to read it faster than, like, two chapters a night."

So we're reading more Mary Poppins and Miriam adores her.

Mormon Culture

My friend Bridget recently wrote a post for The Exponent about her experience as a Mormon expat, which I rather enjoyed. Susanne asked me for a follow up and I'm more than happy to do that!

In 2007 then-President Gordon B. Hinckley said, "the Church has become one large family scattered across the earth. There are now more than 13 million of us [more than 15 million now] in 176 nations and territories [184 in 2011]. A marvelous and wonderful thing is coming to pass. The Lord is fulfilling His promise that His gospel shall be as the stone cut out of the mountain without hands which would roll forth and fill the whole earth, as Daniel saw in vision (see Daniel 2:31–45; D&C 65:2)."

Truthfully, that scripture from Daniel popped into my head all on its own (thank goodness for scripture mastery) and I used it to find that quote by President Hinckley—but I just love the idea that we are one large family scattered across the earth. I think that sums up my experience as a member.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints considers itself a global church, "teaching principles and doctrines that have power to benefit and uplift people of every nation, race, and culture" (here). While I think that is a true statement—that the principles and doctrines of our church can benefit and uplift any person anywhere—we tend to mix up those principles and doctrines with what Bridget refers to as Intermountain West cultural baggage* or IWCB for short.

Monday, September 08, 2014

Discovering Selfies

Miriam has been using the camera to take pictures of all her little projects (and I do mean all of them—she made ten flowers out of DUPLO that were identical except for colour and she took a picture of each one of them, just for one example).

When I uploaded the pictures from today I found that Miriam has also been working on her selfie skills.

Ample evidence suggests her selfie-taking skills are improving.

Pictionary FHE

Family night was a huge hit. We did pictionary for the lesson and that was all—Rachel was a little surprised. "That's it? That's the lesson?" I explained that playing pictionary helped them think about things in a different way (especially when they had to draw a scripture from a reference), which will help keep them on their mind.

One of our favourite drawings is the one of the man and woman on the right of this picture.

Miriam drew them upside down, which is quite an amazing feat for a four-year-old (admittedly she's almost five, but still). I think this was the start of a family she was drawing.

One of our favourite answers was when Rachel was drawing a temple (same paper, I just flipped it for you) and Miriam got really excited and said, "Oh! Oh! I know! That's the devil!"

Snake Pictures

To get out of a Costco store you must show your receipt. There's a gatekeeper with a highlighter who reviews your receipt and the items in your cart and then marks off that they've done so. If you happen to have children with you, Costco gatekeepers are in the (sometimes annoying) habit of drawing a picture on the receipt to please the children and mark off that they've checked your cart all in one go. Depending on how much of an artist the gatekeeper considers themselves, this activity can really put a backlog in the line of customers wishing to get out of the store.

We've had simple smiley faces, balloons, sunshines, that kind of thing.

Once someone attempted quick caricatures of our three children.

As much as it slows us (and everybody else) down, I do have to admit that the children look forward to the picture they'll get on the back of the receipt.

If, however, you are deemed too mature (or too young to notice) all you'll get is a careless squiggle down your receipt—a streak of florescent pink or yellow, nothing more.

One day we went shopping and even though we had all three kids in tow the gatekeeper didn't draw us a picture. He just squiggled the marker down the paper and handed it back to us.

Benjamin was very upset about this.

"A simey face?" he asked. "Where's the smiley face?"

It had been a long day of running errands and Benjamin was running out of steam. He was getting ready to get really angry about being denied a smiley face on the back of our receipt.

"No smiley face today," I said. "But look! It's a snake! How lucky are we to get a picture of a snake?"

"Oooh, 'nake!" he said. A smile crowded out his donkey-on-the-edge look and he held his snake picture the whole way home.

Andrew took Benjamin to Costco on Saturday and it happened again, but this time Benjamin knew right away that the squiggle was really a picture of a snake (and it was exciting because usually all we get are boring old smiley faces).

Daddy's nose

The more I read of the Anne of Green Gables series the more I'm convinced that if we lived in that time and that place our family would have quickly be cast out of any congregation as heathens. And I'm mostly okay with that.

I don't know if seriousness was a valued trait in society in general (I'm leaning toward: it probably was) or if L. M. Montgomery simply thought it was a trait all women (in particular) should possess. Her characters (female characters in particular) tend to always be stifling their laughter in front of children, so as not to encourage bad behavior. Later Anne or Marilla will sneak behind a door to let out a little giggle, but in front of the children they put on a veneer of seriousness.

I am missing that ability. I just don't have it. Oh, I've tried to pull a Mary Poppins and affect an air of serious superiority while Bert and the children are busy giggling themselves up to the ceiling. Sometimes I can pull it off but usually I end up giggling, too.

And so we found ourselves, once again, heaving with laughter in our pew in the middle of sacrament meeting.

On the whole, church went a lot smoother than last week. Benjamin was better behaved and the girls didn't pick a single fight. Several families who ordinarily sit around us were absent so it was unusually quiet, which kept the decibel level to a minimum for most of the meeting. It also had the undesirable effect of letting everyone around us know that the children making all that noise were undeniably ours.

But, like I said, they were at least better behaved than they were last week.

In the middle of the meeting Benjamin climbed up on Andrew's lap and looked up into his face. From that vantage point he had an excellent view into Andrew's nose.

I can't remember which friend told me this story, but I will share it with you anyway because it is hilarious.* Her family was playing pictionary for family night (look at that—I just planned FHE for tonight) and she was so little that instead of assigning her an item to draw she just got to think of whatever she wanted. She came up with something like this:

Friday, September 05, 2014

This week

There's a palpable aura of stress surrounding Andrew.

He has to turn in his comprehensive exam on Tuesday. He's also been busy teaching microeconomics, TAing for another class, participating in committee meetings, and attending his own class. For some reason I thought this semester would be more laid back. I'm starting to think that I may have been wrong about that.

Sunday was our usual day of worship. We had to go to church early to run through our choir number, spent the next three hours in meetings, and had an hour of choir after. And although I remembered to pack the kids a lunch I conveniently left by the front door. I can't remember what we did for dinner.

Monday was Labour Day but Duke doesn't celebrate that holiday so it was business as usual for Andrew. It was hot and the kids were unruly so at about 4:00 I sent him a message to say that we were headed to the pool (and by the way I have no plans for dinner (hint, hint)). He told us to come home at 6:30 and when we did he was in the backyard cooking some hamburgers on the grill. He also provided the family night lesson for us. We watched The Shiny Bicycle and talked about it (after laughing about the spray paint dealer in the trench coat). The scripture at the end (Isaiah 1:18) is one that we've been working on memorizing this year so the kids were exited to hear it and Rachel gave a fabulous explanation of how repentance can be difficult to do but that it's still a good gift from God. I mentioned Matthew 7:7—how the Lord is always waiting to help us but we still have to do the knocking. And then we laughed about how sometimes we act like Anna on Frozen and we hesitate to knock, meanwhile the Holy Ghost (aka Olaf for our purposes) is standing by us whispering, "Knock... Just knock... Why isn't she knocking? Do you think she knows how to knock?"

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Daddy's home!

On Saturday it was boiling hot but Miriam insisted on dressing up as Queen Elsa. She had on a t-shirt and skirt, a floor-length slip, a dress down to her wrists and ankles, and a cape. The girls played outside all day.

Holding a picture of Elsa that Rachel drew

Monday, September 01, 2014

Sleep talking and (ALL NEW!) sleep walking

9:30 PM (a rather boring tale)

"Please-y, Mommy!" Benjamin called from his bed. "Please-y. More. Please-y."

I went into his room to see what the problem was.

"What's wrong, Benjamin?" I asked. "What do you need?"

He was huddled against the wall with his back to me, so I flipped him over to see what he was doing. He was fast asleep, sucking on two fingers of one hand, both hands held tightly up to his mouth.

"What are you doing, Benjamin?" I asked. "What's wrong?"

"More nurse-y, Mommy," he said when I pulled his fingers out of his mouth. He quickly—ravenously—put them back in his mouth as soon as I let go of them.

He might still develop a thumb-sucking habit. I'm not sure.

He's really been pretty good about being weaned, but every few weeks he has a moment of weakness when he'll ask to nurse again. Tonight's moment was when he was fast asleep.

10:45 PM (where it really gets good)

Rachel stumbled out of her bedroom with wild eyes, never a good sign.

Flowing with Milk and Honey

There is a 2 lbs. 10 oz. jar of jam sitting on the top shelf of our fridge. Miriam asked for help getting it down so she could make a peanut butter and jam sandwich "in the shape of a heart" (a quote from this book) for lunch. Rachel quickly volunteered to get it.

"Oh, please be so careful," I said. "It's a big jar and I don't want you to drop it."

"Why?" Rachel asked.

"Because it would smash on the floor and make a huge mess," I said, doing my best not to envision that scene.

"Oh, not because of the honey incident?" Rachel asked impishly. "Not so you could tease me about how bad I am at making sandwiches? I think I will drop the jar! Then we could tease me about the honey and the jam!"

What's the honey incident, you're wondering? I'll tell you.

On Saturday afternoon the kids wanted to have a picnic outside. I love when they eat outside because it typically means they don't drop any food on the floor...because they drop it on the ground instead, and then who cares? Not me.

Miriam and Benjamin wanted cream cheese and jam sandwiches. Rachel wanted peanut butter and honey. She got to work making her sandwich while I helped Benjamin and Miriam with theirs.

We have a quart-sized jar of honey that we've been working on for quite a while. There's about an inch left in the bottom of the jar. Rachel was having a hard time scooping out the honey but I was so busy that I didn't notice and since one of our parenting mantras is "think of a solution" she decided to think of a solution. Her solution involved tipping the jar over so the honey would run off the bottom of the jar so that she could scoop it out easier. Unfortunately, the honey was much runnier than she was expecting and instead of slowly creeping along the sides of the jar it came flowing freely out of the jar.

Honey pooled onto her bread, flooded onto her plate, and started dripping onto the table.

"Oh, no!" Rachel screamed.

I glanced up from what I was doing and saw the mess.

"Oh, honey!" I moaned.

Them Sobbin' Women

Sacrament meeting was so awful yesterday. Benjamin was a holy terror. The only parts of the meeting I heard were the parts when Andrew was out in the hall with Benjamin. The only parts of the meeting Andrew heard were the parts when I was wrestling with Benjamin in our row.

He coloured on a hymn book (Who does that?! The girls always seemed to be able to restrain themselves from graffiti-ing church property. Not Benjamin.), he yelled about wanting bread and water, he ran up and down the row gathering all the hymn books into a huge pile, he pushed his sisters, he came up with the choir and ran up and down the row behind the altos and sopranos, he ran out of the chapel yelling, "PUSH!" as he pushed open the door, he scattered our crayons everywhere (twice), he ripped some paper, he kicked Miriam off of my lap repeatedly, he...

At least Benjamin wasn't the only unruly child.

I don't ordinarily get annoyed with children who act up during sacrament meeting (because you read the description of my son, right?) but I was almost grinding my teeth by the end of yesterday's sacrament meeting. It was out of control, folks.

Not only was Benjamin being his charming two-year-old self but two rows back his little friend Rosie was making herself known. Directly behind us Marcella was acting up and Baby Jay was fussing loudly. In front of us my friend Magie's twins decided they'd had enough at exactly the same time, but her daughter wanted to sit on her lap, and her husband was out with their two-year-old. And the speaker? The speaker was talking so loudly that it seemed to me that she was trying to speak over all the noise around me.

The cacophony was deafening. I was having an almost irrepressible urge to stand up and to stop the meeting—like I stop my primary class when things are getting out of hand—and say, "Before we continue I need to know you are all paying attention! Hands to yourselves. Quiet mouths. Eyes on me."

Instead I whispered, "Magie!"

She didn't hear me. She put the twin she was holding (I can't tell those little dears apart) down in his carseat so she could pick up the other one. The one she picked up promptly stopped crying. The one she put down promptly started crying. Magie looked frustrated.

I scooted closer to her and tapped her on the shoulder.

"Magie, give one to me," I whispered, holding my arms over the back of the bench.

You lose

"Rabbit, rabbit, rabbit," I said this morning.

"What?" Rachel asked.

"Rabbit, rabbit, rabbit," I repeated.

"What's rabbit, rabbit, rabbit?" Rachel asked, her face contorted with confusion.

So I more or less explained this, "But," I said, "In the Gillespie household it's kind of a game and the first person to say it on the first day of the month wins, so—haha—I got you!"

"Yeah, you did," Rachel said. "But I didn't know it. I guess you were just getting even for that time I got you."

On Saturday night when we were having dinner, Rachel excused herself to go to the bathroom. As she was walking back to the dinner table her eyes locked on mine.

"One," she challenged seriously.

"Two?" I guessed, not sure what she was doing but assuming she was doing something like the sandbox game.

"You lose," she shrugged.

"Excuse me?" I asked.

"You're supposed to say 'buzz.' You lose."

"What? What kind of a game is that?" I laughed.

"We play it at school all the time. We go around the classroom trying to count to 100 but we can't say any even numbers so we go one—buzz—three—buzz—five—buzz—six—bu...oh! See? I just lost. If someone messes up then we have to start all the way back at zero again."

"I see," I said. "This game probably would have been a lot more fun to play if I had known about it before we started playing."

So, you see, I did get her back at her, though Rabbit, Rabbit, Rabbi is less of a cooperative game and more of an element-of-surprise/quickest-on-the-draw kind of game.