Thursday, October 30, 2014

A few days with the Grandparents

On Sunday morning we got up and actually went to church! With General Conference and Stake Conference and a trip to DC and being sick one week our family felt a tad displaced in October. It was good to be back.

I had to take some silly dress ups for my lesson so I grabbed my goofy sunhat. It matched Andrew's tie beautifully...

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Gampy, Gampy-Mom, Super-Mom

Benjamin was beyond excited for "Gampy" to visit. He happily helped get things ready and was so proud to be giving up his bed for Gampy. "Gampy seep my bed!" he'd say whenever we talked about Grandma and Grandpa coming.

When we went to pick them up at the train station on Friday night, Miriam raced to Grandma at lightning speed and jumped into her arms. Benjamin tore off after her but stopped dead in his tracks when he realized Grandpa wasn't there. "Ere Gampy at?" Benjamin asked.

"He went inside to check on our suitcases," Grandma said.

"Oh," Benjamin said.

He waited patiently for Grandpa to join us outside.

"GAMPY!" he squealed as soon as he saw him.

Those two immediately became buddies. Grandpa didn't have much choice in the matter. It had been decided upon before he'd even arrived. When I asked Benjamin what he was going to do when Grandpa came to visit he said, "Me give Gampy big hub, pick him up, put him on mine head!"

He got as far as the hug. Grandpa was a bit too heavy for Benjamin to pick up.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Happy Birthday, Miriam!

Miriam had a pretty quiet birthday but she loved every minute of it because Grandma and Grandpa are here! The girls woke up bright and early (7:30—on a Saturday, after staying up late due to picking up the aforementioned grandparents at the train station and then getting all hyper because they're here!) and had breakfast with Grandpa and then hung out with him while everyone else slept.

We went to the library after everyone got up since we'd run right out of stories.

Then we got ready to go to Rachel's penultimate soccer game for the season. Her team creamed the other team—the final score was 6 to 1—but the other team only had four players and our team had seven, so while we still only played four at a time we were able to give the girls plenty of breaks. The other team was exhausted. But I think everyone had fun.

Here's Rachel and Rose in their soccer uniforms:

DC Trip, Day 5 (October 14)

We spent the morning playing in Caitlin's awesome basement. She's a Southern California girl and although she's experienced wintery weather on vacations she has never had to live in a place with winter. She asked me about winters out here and I told her that they weren't that bad—it snows every now and then but it's not, like, the North Pole. I told her she'd be fine.

And then we had the 2013–2014 North American Cold Wave and everything I'd told her about winter in the northern southern States was completely invalidated.

She was going crazy trying to figure out how to keep two little boys inside and entertained all winter long, but luckily had an unfinished basement to fill with fun things: a bouncy house and a mini roller coaster among them.

The kids had an absolute blast!

Birthday Spotlight

Miriam got to celebrate her birthday at school on Thursday, which meant she got to bring in a few of her favourite things to show to the class and they "spotlighted" her. She had no trouble finding things to bring in but she did have a little trouble understanding exactly what spotlighting was—she took it quite literally.

They're going to put a spotlight on me!" she said excitedly.

"No, no," I said. "They're going to spotlight you, which means they'll talk about you and share reasons why you're important."

"Yeah. With a spotlight!"

"Not an actual spotlight. There's not going to be a spotlight shining on you."

"Yeah, okay, Mom."

"No, really. I just want you to know there's not an actual spotlight. It's figurative. They're just going to talk about you. They're not going to shine anything on you."

"Right... Mom. It's a spotlight. So..."

When we were walking out to the car I asked her if she enjoyed her special day and she kind of shrugged her shoulders dejectedly and sighed, "They didn't even bring out the spotlight, Mom."

I think she understands now but it was a steep and disappointing learning curve.

The first thing Miriam pulled out of her bag was a little container of LEGO minifigures:

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Benjamin Talks

This little boy has the sweetest voice and he always tilts his head to the side when he asks a question which just makes things that much sweeter. He's talking more and more every day and I just can't get enough of the things he says.

Yesterday he was chattering away to me the whole time we were driving to pick Miriam up from co-op preschool.

"Mom! Turn 'ound!" he demanded. "Turn 'ound! Me see park! Mom—me see Sasa's schoo. Sasa's schoo's park! Mom! Turn 'ound!"

"We can't stop at the park," I told him. "We have to pick Miriam up from preschool."

"Mimi pee-schoo Inky 'ouse? Me 'ike Inky 'ouse. Me go 'side Inky 'ouse? Me go pee-schoo a Mimi. Me big boy. Me pee-schoo a Mimi, Inky 'ouse."

"You might be able to come inside Lincoln's house for a minute but you're still a little bit young for preschool."

"No. Me big boy," Benjamin insisted.

"I know you're a big boy but you still have some growing to do."

"Me see Inky 'ouse! Mom! See? Inky 'ouse—punkies! Big punkies Inky 'ouse!"

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Stake Conference Sunday

This morning as Rachel was getting into the van she came head to head with a ginormous German shepherd. She quickly closed the van door and waited for everyone else to join her. The dog ran around the side of the house and disappeared "into the woods," as Rachel told us.

I asked her to say the prayer (because sometimes we forget to say family prayer on Sunday mornings until we've already piled into the van) and she promptly began even though Andrew said, "Wait a minute!"

Since Rachel was praying I was trying to listen to what she was saying. The line "please bless Mommy and Daddy to enjoy listening to the talks at conference..." stuck out in my mind.

Andrew, however, was completely ignoring her. He backed out of the driveway and kept backing up until he got to the neighbour's house. Mr. Lee was out with his three dogs (that my kids love) who were all barking wildly at the woods.

"Is there a big dog back there?" Andrew called through his window.

"HUGE!" Answered Mr. Lee, whose dogs I consider to be on the large size. "Looks like a German shepherd."

"He was in our yard earlier," Andrew said. "We need to find out where he belongs to."

"He's pretty timid for his size," remarked Mr. Lee. "He's terrified of my dogs!"

We bid Mr. Lee a good day, Andrew rolled up his window, and we headed off to church.

"Why don't you try again, Rachel," I said, giving Andrew a chiding look since he'd clearly misbehaved during the prayer.

"Alright," she said, and she began to pray again saying almost word for word what she'd said before until she got to the part about conference. "And please bless us all to enjoy listening to the talks at conference," she said with emphasis.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

You should see the other guy

It was a day much like any other day, though a little heavy on the alliteration.

Upon completing the primary presentation practice, we had a party with pizza, punch, and pumpkin pastries in the gym. After pigging out on pumpkin pastries, the primary was a pretty peppy pack, pelting and prancing pell-mell around the place as they played. Our adult parley was (partially) unexpectedly punctuated by the piercing, plangent puling of a preschooler in the pangs of pain.

"He's probably not crippled; just panicking," his mother proclaimed.

A purplish splotch appeared on his perspiring brow. He and a playmate had walloped pates.

The other person spoiled by this mishap was a perplexity until I spotted my own offspring sporting a proportionate purplish protuberance.

Seriously, though.

Rachel collided with a four-year-old and left him screaming on the floor while she continued running around playing tag with everybody else. He's a pretty big guy for his age—rather tough—and was soon comforted. All he got was a little bruise. Rachel, on the other hand, developed quite the goose egg.

We'll have to compare their battle scars tomorrow at church. 


Despite our attempts at remaining germ-free, Benjamin has acquired a stomach bug. He was as happy as could be all morning while we were at the primary presentation practice. We went straight to Rachel's soccer game after the rehearsal. Benjamin and Miriam wanted to play at the playground for a while before heading over to watch the game so I sat with them and we discovered two things: first, that Miriam can cross the monkey bars all on her own, and second, that Benjamin has explosive diarrhea.

"Hey, Mommy!" he said cheerfully, as he waddled over to me from where he'd been playing—actively playing—with a steering wheel.

"Oh, no," I said, taking in his unusual gait. "Did you go potty?"

He nodded and hummed "Um-hmm!" in assent (that's his new thing).

Usually if he's going to go potty without telling me he'll slink off to a corner somewhere and covertly squat down—which gives me time to catch him before too much damage is done. This time he didn't even stop playing so it was obvious it was going to be bad. And it was.

"Miriam," I said. "I need you to get the van keys from Dad. I can't move Benjamin like this. I need you to find Dad and get the keys and bring them back to me all on your own."

"All on my own?" she gulped.

Friday, October 17, 2014

DC Trip, Day 4 (October 13)

Are you getting burned out from hearing about our DC trip? I know I am. But I will forge ahead anyway...

On Monday morning we had an appointment for a tour at the Capitol Building. Getting there was a bit of a pain...for some of us. We rented a parking spot online and walked from there to the Capitol Building. We were crossing one of several streets when the walk sign turned to a flashing hand. "Oh, no!" Rachel said as she took off running. She sprinted the rest of the way across the street and jumped onto the marble-ish sidewalk and (thanks in equal part to her crocs and the rain) completely biffed it.

She slid and landed—hard—on her rear end, and immediately started crying.

Miriam, who was running right behind her also slipped but managed to catch herself without doing too much damage. She sure was angry though. "Rachel could have at least warned us it was slippery!" she said indignantly as she peeled herself off the sidewalk.

"Rachel did warn us that it was slippery," I said. "Remember that part how she slipped and fell. That was the warning."

Poor Rachel was so sore she could hardly stand up straight. She's still quite bruised (and we're—what?—four days later now), poor thing.

The instruction on our tour booking told us to arrive at least 45 minutes early during peak season and 30 minutes early during non-peak season. We're  pretty well in non-peak season here and even with Rachel hobbling along we arrived plenty early but there was still a long line waiting to go through security. We were at the very top of the stairs and managed to get inside with five minutes before our tour time, which left us just enough time to run to the restrooms (which were the most impressive restrooms my kids have seen—they kept commenting on how pretty everything was and how nice everything smelled).

Here we are waiting in line to see the movie before the tour:

Andrew and Benjamin with Philo T. Farnsworth behind them

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

DC Trip, Day 3 (October 12)

Sunday was a better day...for us. Unfortunately, Caitlin's boys decided to have another go-round of the stomach I'm fairly certain that it wasn't a great day for her. We did our best to stay out of their hair, which meant we spent most of the day running around (when all I wanted was an afternoon nap). Still, it was a good day.

We went to church in the morning but only stayed for sacrament meeting because their ward was practicing for their primary presentation the whole two hours and we didn't want the kids to have to sit through all of that. So after a yummy lunch of chicken noodle soup, courtesy of Caitlin (and a lovely change from the PB&J we had on the menu every day this week), we headed downtown once again. We parked in the Jefferson Memorial parking lot and visited the memorial there.

Andrew is named after Thomas Jefferson (Thomas is his middle name) and so, in extension, is Benjamin since he shares Andrew's middle name. Here they are with their namesake:

DC Trip, Day 2 (October 11)

This was by far the roughest day of our trip. We had two goals: go to the zoo and attend the landing of Air Force One. You know, simple things. We decided to take the metro, which was our one big mistake because the metro only runs every twenty minutes or so on the weekends. This basically added an hour onto a regularly 45 minute trip. We spent so long waiting for trains!

When we got to the zoo we called our friends to tell them we wouldn't be able to make it back in time to attend the landing. Not if we had to count on spending two hours getting back home!

The zoo was the one thing the kids had asked to do while we were in DC. We haven't been to a zoo since we lived in Cairo. So basically the children had never been to a zoo. They were pretty excited about it.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

DC Trip, Day 1 (October 10)

So, surprise! We went to Washington DC this weekend!

Our plans were a little up in the air until the night before we left because the friend we'd been planning on staying with has two little boys and those two little boys got sick with a stomach bug and she didn't know that we wanted to be there in the throes of, well, throwing up. We very nearly went camping at the Outer Banks (where we could have seen a shark feeding frenzy—too bad we missed that) instead but after much discourse we decided to postpone our trip for a day and still head up, so on Abra's birthday we loaded up the car and headed north.

Washington was clearing out for the weekend so we took our chances and headed straight into the city center. There was plenty of (free!) parking at the Arlington Cemetery so we wandered around there for awhile before walking from Virginia to DC proper.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Frankenstein's Monster

I finally finished Benjamin's hat for Halloween. He's pretty cute in it, I must say, but now I don't have any excuse to put off working on Rachel's costume (so she's been harassing me about getting to work on it all day). His full costume will involve...clothes.

Museum day

I got an email from a friend on Tuesday evening, saying that she'd be going to the museum on Wednesday morning to break up the monotony of the break. They planned on being there by 9:30. We got there at...oh...2:30. So obviously we didn't meet up with those friends, but we still had a good time!

We ran into the missionaries and the kids wanted to "follow them all day long!" I explained that that would be awkward and insisted that after the farm, when the missionaries went right to visit the butterfly house, we turned left to visit the dinosaurs. The kids were happy about that because the climbing dinosaur was off limits the last time we visited (Friday)—it was getting some repairs. Today it was open to visitors and the kids happily climbed all over it.

Monday, October 06, 2014

Cinna-messy and sugar

Our house doesn't have a pantry so our food kind of just sits around here and there. At first we tried to devote a cupboard or two to food but it just wasn't sufficient to hold enough food for a family of five. Especially a Mormon family that feels the need to always have five jars of peanut butter on hand.

This was fine until Benjamin realized the world was his to explore.

Now soup cans double as really heavy blocks and our bin of flour is a puzzle that Benjamin is constantly trying to figure out how to crack (I will live to rue the day, I'm sure) and cereal and crackers are whispering to Benjamin that it's snack time all the time.

And the applesauce. Oh, the applesauce.

I make my own, that's true. And that stuff goes up on an unreachable shelf because it's all in glass jars, which make less handy blocks than soup cans. But we also buy it from the store because my kids love applesauce and go through it fast and I don't have enough jars to keep them satisfied. The store applesauce comes in a plastic jar and is stored within reach of Benjamin's ever-searching fingers and he pulls it out several times a day.

"Appy-sauce?" he'll ask.

I usually let him play with the jars because compared to other things he gets into, plastic jars of applesauce is nothing.

Well, the other day he'd gotten out the applesauce again. He even got out a bowl and a spoon and sat at the table. "Appy-sauce?" he asked.

"Not right now," I said. "We just finished breakfast. I need to do a few things before I get you a snack."

A few minutes later I noticed he was actually eating—because he started choking.

"Benjamin!" I exclaimed, rushing over. "What are you eating?!"

"Appy-sauce," he explained hoarsely before he started chewing again.

I could hear whatever it was gritting in his teeth and he was covered from head to toe in fine brown powder. Then I noticed the shaker that houses our cinnamon and sugar mixture on the floor, along with a healthy pile of the stuff. There was cinnamon and sugar sprinkled all over the table, all over the bench, all over Benjamin. His bowl was filled with cinnamon and sugar and he was eating it by the spoonful.

My two-year-old was attempting a sugar-downed version of the cinnamon challenge!*

Finally a good day

Benjamin was awful last night—just plain awful—so it's really a wonder he woke up (after finally falling asleep) so...cheerful. I actually woke up before the kids this morning because when my alarm went off it didn't wake up Benjamin for once (probably because he'd only fallen asleep about an hour and a half before it went off—and when Andrew's alarm went off an hour before mine you'd better believe I growled, "Don't hit snooze. Just get out of bed. If you wake Benjamin up you're toast.").

Five minutes into my shower, however, the shower door flew open (scaring me half to death) and there stood Benjamin.

He glowered at me.

"Me. Wake," he said.

"I see that. Good morning," I said. "I'm almost done. Close the door and go out."

He stomped out of the bathroom. Obviously this isn't the part where he was cheerful yet, but some switch went off in his head between his stomping out of the bathroom and my following him a few minutes later. He'd been a little upset that instead of opening the bedroom door he'd only managed to lock himself in, but he was happy I was out of the shower and quickly chose a "stripy" shirt for me to wear.

Once the bedroom door was open he ran to the cereal and chose some peanut butter Cheerios (or the knock-off brand, but whatever) and started opening the box (or ripping the top into unrecognizable shreds, but whatever).

"I take it you want some of that cereal," I observed while he ran to get a bowl and spoon.

He sat down on the bench, bouncing with anticipation, while I carefully started opening the package.

"Oh, no! Mommy!" Benjamin said. "Stop. Don't. More pea-bee see-ee-ah! See?" He pointed to the shelf of cereal. "More pea-bee see-ee-ah!" He was pointing to an already-open box of peanut butter cereal. "Sin-it? Pea-bee see-ee-ah?"

Finding Your Own Sacred Grove, Part II

So many beautiful comments were made during my class. I really felt more blessed and edified as the instructor than I'm sure many of my "pupils" felt being instructed by me.

At the very end of the class a sweet woman—who I wouldn't classify as old but who had already raised her brood—came up to me, patted my arm, and said, "You know, I think motherhood is a Sacred Grove."

I haven't been able to stop thinking about that since.

Motherhood is a Sacred Grove. But that's probably another post for another time.

Another comment that I loved came from my friend Kaitlan, who pointed out that all these people we discussed felt that element of surprise—that God was actually talking to them, that He cared to answer their prayers, that He wanted them to do a great work. None of these people particularly felt up to the task. They felt a little unworthy, like they weren't good enough (perhaps a bit of "whom the Lord calls, the Lord qualifies"). And just maybe, she said, since we're all here, we're also feeling like we need to improve. And maybe that means we're doing better than we think we are.

I loved the challenge of preparing to teach this class (even though it stressed me out for months). In a way it became a Sacred Grove for me as I had a reason to hone in on one gospel topic (not that you need a reason for in depth study—but a reason is a good kick in the pants). It's kind of what prompted us to take our trip up to Palmyra (and I'm so glad we did). I learned a lot.

Another friend in the Relief Society presidency in our ward—I had a bunch of friends from various Relief Society committees show up (I think out of pity since they're the ones who submitted my name for this assignment)—said after that she loved my lesson and that she had asked to have me as a Relief Society teacher because she knew I'd be great but was told no because the Primary wanted me. Part of me was like, "Aw, how sweet!" and part of me was like, "Dodged that bullet!" because, frankly, teaching five-year-olds is way less intimidating to me than teaching a room full of grown women (even though Katie whispered from the front row when I admitted to my class that I was nervous, "You're giving us way too much credit if you think we're thinking on a higher level than five-year-olds.").

All in all, a good experience that I'm glad is behind me!

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Finding Your Own Sacred Grove, Part I

These are the notes I made for the class I taught at Women's Day a few weeks ago.

I feel a little uncomfortable posting this because I don't feel like it's fully polished. It's hard to make a beautiful written document of something you want to discuss fluidly. I didn't want my class to be just me standing up and talking in front of everyone for an hour; instead I wanted the class to engage in gospel discussion and have me kind of mediate it. At the same time, I really wasn't sure if anyone would say anything or how much anyone would say and I didn't want to run out of things to say myself so I wrote down quite a bit so that I wouldn't be stuck trying to pull thoughts out of my brain on the fly. I didn't use even half the stuff here. But this is what I wrote down in preparation:

General Conference Weekend

I don't know if the last session of General Conference was really better than all the other sessions or if was simply that Benjamin napped through half of the last session so we actually heard what people were saying. Either way, the last session of General Conference was the best session.

The girls sat down to play conference BINGO, which meant they were quiet and paying attention (whereas they coloured or played LEGO through the other sessions (making them sit quietly through eight hours of church in one weekend seems like a bit much)). Rachel remarked that she quite enjoyed it. And thus we learned that boredom is a self-made problem because when you really try to pay attention there's surely something interesting to be heard.

When Benjamin was awake he immediately started bouncing off the walls again. It probably didn't help that he stole the candy his sisters were using as BINGO markers and started shoving them into his mouth as fast as he could.

"Benjamin, take a break!" I said after watching him for a few minutes.

He turned to me, with liquidized sugar oozing out of his candy-corn-stuffed mouth, and said, "Want double candy!"

Friday, October 03, 2014

Dentist fail

Soon after returning stateside from Egypt, Rachel had her very first dentist appointment. It did not go well at all. And every other dentist appointment since then has also been rather terrible until Monday. On Monday I explained to Rachel that she had to be brave and go in by herself. I had the two littles ones with me and we couldn't all cram into one of the little dental stalls.

She was great. She went in and endured everything, even though she was nervous.

Then I was called in while the dentist did her exam (and it was crowded with six people in there: me with three kids, the dentist, and hygienist). The dentist revealed a couple of cavities, which Rachel was mortified to hear about because since she was three years old and the dentist first admonished her to always brush well and to floss every night she had brushed well and flossed every night.

She wouldn't dream of ever skipping, like some children do. In fact, once we went overnight somewhere (camping, I think) and—horrors!—we forgot to grab the kids' toothbrushes and Rachel cried and cried and cried (worrying about getting cavities from one night of not brushing). We had to do something to placate her. I think we rubbed her teeth with toothpaste or something.

I also hate flossing my teeth and used to consider a vacation away from home a vacation away from flossing—who packs that stuff, anyway? Well, Rachel does. So I started packing floss specifically for her whenever we go anywhere because she has to floss every night.

Having Rachel in my life has probably only improved my dental hygiene because she's so strict about it herself. She has taken oral hygiene very seriously since she was tiny. Because one time (when she was three) a dentist told her that was the best way to avoid ever having to see him again.

She's always had in-and-out visits with the dentist and has had several sets of bite-wings done over the years, always revealing pristine, cavity-free teeth. So on Monday, Rachel's eyes welled up with tears at the mere mention of "small cavity."

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Week of contention

This first week of intercession hasn't been my favourite. Maybe it's my fault for not planning a million activities to keep the kids entertained 100% of their time. But I honestly don't feel like planning a million activities to keep the kids entertained—that's what they have each other for (and their books and toys and yard and billion other things we're blessed with). I especially don't feel like taking them anywhere or doing anything with them when they're on the brink of fighting 100% of the time.

You know those cartoon fight clouds that completely obscure the actual fight from innocent viewers?

My children have been stuck in one of those clouds all week—only their cloud is invisible.

It's also not soundproof. Definitely not soundproof.