Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Story time

Andrew snapped a few pictures of Zoë's story time last night. We've had a graduated routine of sorts ever since we've had more than one child to cater to. We start with what's interesting to the littlest one first and then work our way up. This means that we start with a board book or two, and then read a few full-length picture books, and then a chapter from a novel...if we have time. Finally, the kids are put to bed for their individual reading time.

Sometimes the biggest kids skip story time altogether in favour of longer individual reading time. *sniff, sniff*

Anyway, here's what our story time looked like yesterday. Zoë and I both get full marks for lifting our torsos during tummy time (go us!) and, I might add, Miriam gets full marks for doing my hair for me (she figured out how to braid a few days ago and has been dying to try out her new skill on a human head so I let her have a go and she did great)!

Hideaway Woods

It's been rainy here lately. Rain for days. And now we have this hurricane approaching, which means more rain. We've been feeling a little cooped up, especially with school out for intercession. We're in each other's hair all the time.

Yesterday—on day two of their break—I printed out a list of activities and told them that if they approached me saying they were bored I would pick an activity for them to do...and they probably wouldn't like they should probably just think of something to do on their own. The list had enjoyable things on it, like "play a board game" or "colour a picture" or "build with LEGO." It also had less enjoyable things on it like "make your bed" or "mop the floor" or "clean the toilet."

This was a very effective tool. We'll see how long it lasts.

Today, though, we had a break from our autumnal deluge. The sky wasn't exactly blue, but it also wasn't dripping, so when we got out of the doctor's office we headed straight for the Museum of Life and Science.

Unfortunately, when I turned down Murray Avenue the street was blocked with police cars. They were just finishing up though, it seemed, so they let me (and a school bus) past. I turned into the extra parking lot and was stopped by an employee who informed me that there was an "emergency situation" and that the museum had been on lockdown but that they were just resolving the situation so I was welcome to park and they'd be reopening the museum in about five minutes.

I parked the car, got out and walked around to Zoë's side of the van and rummaged around for the front carrier. I had just tied it around my waist when the attendant bustled over.

"I've just been informed that the situation is actually not over. You'll need to wait in your car until we get the all clear."

We got back in our van and waited for about ten more minutes and then the attendant came over to tell us that it was officially over and we were free to visit the museum.

I don't know what was going on, but the K-9 unit was there, multiple other police cars, an ambulance. It was kind of crazy. People were pouring out of the museum when we got there—they'd all been on lockdown inside and were sick of being there, I guess. It was relatively unoccupied when we went in, which was surprising since it's only the second day Hideaway Woods was open.

Hideaway Woods was fantastic. We spent the rest of our afternoon there—we didn't visit a single other exhibit. The kids were in heaven. We spent a little while exploring together and then ran into some friends and spent the rest of the afternoon playing (the kids) and visiting (the moms).

These pictures are courtesy of Rachel:

Zoë at four months

I took Zoë in for her well-baby visit today and I took Rachel in for her well-child visit today and I dragged Benjamin and Miriam along with me. The girls were great; Benjamin was a handful. That's just how things are lately.

Zoë seems so big to me but I think that's because my expectations are skewed, having not had a regular-sized baby in my arms for years upon years. Miriam was my baby six years ago. Benjamin was my baby three years ago. It's him I remember when I heft my regular-sized baby and think to myself, "My goodness! She's ginormous!"

While it's true that she's growing beautifully, it's not true that she's ginormous. She's actually not even my biggest baby at four months (that title still belongs to Miriam). She weighed in at 14 lbs. 8.5 oz this afternoon, which is the 53rd percentile. She's a middle-of-the-road kind of girl for height, too, just squeaking past the two-foot mark at 24.8 inches long (58th percentile).

She's doing fine and is just the right size. She simply seems huge because she's following right after Mr. Zeroth Percentile.

Rachel's also the picture of health, though she's probably getting close to the age where she doesn't want me speaking openly about her weight—she's turning into a beautiful young woman. Let's just say that I'm about double her weight but am not, thankfully, double her height. She's 4' 3" tall.

Zoë cooed at the nurse while she prepped the vaccinations that were due today. She made eye contact, smiled, and said, "Ooooh! Oooh! Oooh!"

"I can't do this!" the nurse said.

But she did.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Goodbye Co-sleeper

When Benjamin was five months old we moved him from the little co-sleeper to the bassinet part of the pack'n'play. Zoë's only four months old (which really is the equivalent to his five months because he was premature) and she's in the process of transitioning to the pack'n'play as well. Rolling just isn't compatible to a little sleeper like this.

We took a few pictures today so that we can put it away (sniff, sniff). Here's sweet little Zoë-girl, showing how big she is in her bassinet. Sure, she could still sleep in there easily (and she did during dinner) but she also gets annoyed by it when she's flailing her arms and they keep hitting the side and when she's trying to roll over and can't and so forth, so it's got to go.

General Conference FHE

General Conference is coming up this weekend and I'm pretty excited. I've been listening to conference talks in the morning while I pump and usually I can fill both bottles by the end of one talk. I'm used to this routine and Benjamin is used to this routine, which is nice because I feel like my life gets turned upside-down when a baby is born and it takes me awhile to get back into the swing of things like consistent scripture study.

Before Zoë was born I'd been reading/listening to the scriptures while I did my blood sugar biking. But then she was born and I wasn't about to hop on a bike. Plus there was the new baby to take care of. And then we went on vacation and our schedule got hammered further. So while I'd been reading things here and there, I didn't have a dedicated time to study anything. But now I do.

Sometimes I laugh at myself for listening to conference talks because it's something my Aunt Judy always did and I always thought, "Why does she submit herself to such torture?! Isn't it bad enough to have to sit through conference twice a year?"

And that just shows how immature I was when I was a teenager. But that's okay. I'll give myself license to be an immature teenager because who wasn't? I'm sure I'll look back in fifteen more years and think about how immature I was as a thirty year old. That's just the way life goes.

Anyway, conference is coming up and so I planned a little FHE lesson to review the apostles and we had so much fun with it. I made a little cards and hid them around the house as a scavenger hunt. We started with President Russell M. Nelson, which worked out great because I couldn't think of a clue for his name. He was the card we started with. After we talked about how he's the new president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, I shared a few facts from the "Special Witness" cards that were in the September 2014 issue of The Friend and then read the clue for the next apostle on the back of the card.

"This apostle's name grows..." I read.

Everyone stared at me. Crickets chirped. I fretted my game was a bust.

"What grows?" I prompted.

"Ah," Andrew said (at least he got it).

"PLANTS!" Benjamin screamed.

Friday, September 25, 2015

The Olden Days

Andrew suggested we have a family movie night tonight, which meant we needed a living-room-friendly meal. It couldn't be pizza because we had that on Wednesday night with the Elders. It couldn't be chicken nuggets because apparently we're out (that's what Andrew suggested when he got home and I was in the middle of baking cookies instead of making dinner (priorities, people)), so I suggested sandwiches, which was a good idea.

We watched Doctor Who, which was a less good idea.

The girls loved it.

Benjamin stood behind Andrew the whole time, peeking out every now and then to see what was going on. He didn't touch his dinner. And when it was over he said, "I didn't like that."

Anyway, we had sandwiches for dinner. Andrew was leading on the sandwich front while I was either feeding Zoë or working on those cookies (they're for an activity tomorrow and our Saturdays have been so crazy lately and tomorrow's no exception so I knew I wouldn't have time to bake then).

"Everybody needs to make a sandwich!" he called out. "Because we always finish each other's sandwiches."

"That's what I was going to say!" Miriam sang and then everyone sang, "I never met someone who thinks so much like me. Jinx! Jinx again!"

Miriam, still belting out the lyrics at the top of her lungs suddenly forgot all the words. "Our muh-luh-luh-luh-luh-luh," she fudged.

"Our mental synchronization can have but one explanation," I sang for her.

Little Bookworms

The girls ran into the house from the school bus rejoicing about fall intercession. No school for three weeks! Free at last! Wahoo!

The first thing they turned to with their newfound freedom was...books.

Here's Miriam with some Little Miss books that I dug out for her. Grandma Pat sent them to us years ago, when Miriam was a baby, and we used to read them all the time, but soon the children lost interest so they've been gathering dust on the shelf the past few years. But Miriam's teacher loves to read Roger Hargreaves' books to his class and Miriam has been writing a story about Little Miss Map. She was overjoyed when she saw these.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Benjamin behaves

Warning: The incidents I'm about to describe might shock you.

I took all four kids to school this morning for grandfriends day. Our goal was to leave by 8:00 and we were in the van by 7:59. That's shocking already, right? It meant I was able to pull into my favourite parking spot ("This is a good spot, by the grass, Mom, because there's no cars by it!" Benjamin observed) and get to the classroom in time to set things up before everyone got there.

We made it through the breakfast, where I was engaged in conversation with a young man who desperately needed conversation. His first question was, "Whose grandparent are you?"

"I'm not a grandparent," I said. "I'm just a regular parent."

"I thought you might be," he said. "Because of the baby. And because you don't look that old yet. Can I ask you a question?"

"Sure," I said.

"Do you live in a tobacco-free environment?"

"I do," I said.

He sighed. "I wish I did!"

He didn't. I could smell tell. And there was no one there to take him to the book fair support him on grandfriends day. I didn't up and volunteer to do that like my friend Suzi, who took another little girl from her daughter's class to the book fair and let her pick out a book. But Suzi and her husband both have magical things called jobs, so that kind of generosity will come later, I'm sure. I also didn't want to even try to hit the book fair on double grandfriend day.

Word on the street is they managed to sell $4000 worth of merchandise in about an hour.

Yup. Glad I missed that craziness. But I'm also glad I got to talk a bit with that young man in Rachel's class, whose desk is a solitary island in the classroom. He's a bit of an acter-upper, I can tell. But sometimes I think those kids need a bit more attention, not seclusion.

Anyway, Benjamin kept wanting to go to Miriam's class but I told him we had to wait to clean up first so he walked up to a sweet grandma, grabbed her plate, and hustled to the trash can.

"There!" he said triumphantly. "Let's go!"

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Buyer's remorse

This morning Andrew went to the girls' school for "grandfriends" day, which coincides with the book fair. What the school is really hoping is that grandparents, unfettered with the day-to-day business of raising children, will accompany their grandchildren to the book fair and spoil them. But we don't have grandparents here, so year after year we attend grandfriends day and so far have restrained from spoiling our children.

Last year Rachel bought a really cheap book (it was $2 or something; the cheapest thing there).

This year the girls had saved up their pennies (literally) and were aching to buy some books.

So we told them they could.

But then Zoë didn't sleep well and I was a wreck in the morning so Andrew ended up taking the girls to school for grandfriends day by himself. He had the girls count their money and then told them that he would pay for the books with his credit card and have the girls pay him since he didn't want to deal with the girls counting out pennies at the cash register.

Miriam knew exactly what she wanted to get: Who was Mother Theresa? and Who is Malala Yousafzai? Both books cost $5.99 (a bit steep, in my opinion (Scholastic books are such low quality (again, that's in my opinion)). Miriam only had $9 and some change to spend. Andrew advised her to buy one book but she started getting weepy right there in the stacks so he told her he'd "gift" her two dollars so she could get both, telling her that this meant she would spend all her money.

She was cool with that.

Rachel had birthday money to burn. She set aside $15 to spend, which I thought was a bit much, and then Andrew "gifted" her $2 as well. She ended up buying three books. And she's already finished one. Which is why libraries are awesome because what are the odds of her having purchased a book she's going to want to read over and over again? Pretty slim.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Knock, knock

"Knock, knock," Benjamin said.

"Who's there?" my dad asked.

"Boat!" Benjamin said.

"Boat who?" my dad asked.

"Boat! Can you come out to play?" Benjamin squealed with laughter.

The poor child cannot tell a joke.

Rachel had to clarify that he meant to say 'canoe,' which is, of course, a type of boat. Canoe come out to play?

"Knock, knock," said Benjamin.

"Who's there?" answered my dad.

"Salad!" Benjamin giggled.

"Salad who?"

"Salad! Um, can we come in?"

Again Rachel had to clarify that Benjamin meant to say 'lettuce," as in "Lettuce in! Lettuce in!"

This naturally set off an unstoppable slew of increasingly ridiculous knock-knock jokes. Benjamin ran out of actual jokes quite quickly (though he did manage to get the boo-hoo and whoo-whoo jokes in there) and started making up his own.


"Couch who?"

"Couch, please open your mouth so I can look inside!"

Soon his jokes devolved into simply answering "Who's there?" with anything and then dissolving into giggles.

"Knock, knock," he'd say.

"Who's there?" my parents would say.

"Baby Zo! Bahahahaa! Knock, knock!"

"Who's there?"

"Mine eye! Hahahaha!"

It took several minutes for us to convince Benjamin (and his older sisters, if we're being honest, because there was a lot of joke telling going on) to end their knock-knock jokes so that we could have a decent conversation. It's always nice to Skype with my parents, even if the kids are being silly the whole time.

I'm Nobody. Who are you? Are you—Nobody—too?

Overall I enjoy motherhood. Sure, it has its ups and downs. It has its perks and its abysmal trenches of fluid-filled agony (anyone who's ever had the stomach flu pass through a household of children knows this). It can bring laughter, it can bring tears. It's rarely ever easy, but it's a station in life filled with so much joy. And I love all my children dearly.

But sometimes I wonder, "What am I doing with my life?"

And what will I do when they're all in school?

And what will I do when they all leave home?

Because goodness knows I'm not going to buckle down and organize my house.

I'm something—someone—beyond a mother. I realize that being a mother isn't something that ever goes away, but I was a person before I became a mother. I did things—cool things—before I took on a full time role of "walking kleenex" and "carrier of goldfish."

I like to think that I've done things—that I do things (cool things!)—as a mother as well.

But sometimes I feel like the "me" inside has been swallowed up by caring for others (or, more likely in my case she drowned in milk, because let's be honest...) and I don't necessarily think that's a bad thing because I've stretched and grown so much since becoming a mother and I don't think I would ever chose to go back to being who I was before. But, still...I'm more than "just" a mother.

I had the privilege of lunching with a group of women from my ward. Some of us were young mothers. Some were newly weds. Some were divorcees. Some were on the road to being empty nesters. There was quite a range of experience at the table. Someone mentioned that a grown child was having a problem and they wished they could just put a bandaid on it and kiss it better...but that they couldn't because the problem was real and complex. Their child had outgrown momma's magical fixing powers.

Another sister (who raised quite the brood of children herself) said, "Let's keep things in perspective, though. Grown up children have more complicated problems but small children have constant problems. They need you all the time. They don't even let you go to the bathroom by yourself. And that's just exhausting, to be honest."

"It's funny," said another nearly empty-nester. "You devote years of your life trying to raise your children to be independent adults, and then they leave and you say, 'Now what?' You're just lost. You want to say, 'Wait! Come back! I don't know what to do without you!'"

And so, what am I doing with my life?

Not with my childrens' life.

I don't even know.

I went to that writing class today because I like to write and the idea of writing a book has always been jumping around in my brain. I enjoy writing. But I don't know how to write a book.

Anyway, I'm so glad I went to that class. The woman who taught it has six children and she didn't really start writing—with the goal of being published—until her youngest was two and she knew there wouldn't be any more babies coming along. She said she felt so addled by children that she couldn't do anything with her time but then she had that last baby and there wasn't another coming to further addle her brain and her head began to clear and she began to be able to...focus on things.

Part of me feels like that's really a thing that would happen because these sleepless nights—I tell you!—they really do addle your brain a bit, and while I think it would be nice to wait until that point in my life, I'm not sure that I need to necessarily. I mean, there's no harm in trying something now.

But the other part of me—the part of me that wants to curl up in a ball and sleep for a thousand years—is happy to know that if I fail I can always pick up again later when there isn't a tiny being 100% dependent on me draining away all of my brain power.

So, one day perhaps I'll write something more than the ramblings of my sleep-deprived brain, but until then at least I know I'm working toward my 10,000 hours of required writing practice.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

All the way to Andrew's birthday

This little lady has been rather crabby lately. I feel like all I've done this week is try to make her stop fussing. I know that's not entirely true because we went to soccer on Tuesday, where, admittedly I spent my time trying to make her stop fussing (and I succeeded because she eventually fell asleep (and look how cute she is)).

I'm the crazy one

Recently Benjamin has begun starting a conversation of utter nonsense, insisting that we participate in the conversation, and then turning things on its head by acting like we're crazy for bringing up whatever random thing he brought up in the first place.

For example, we were driving to church last Saturday when Benjamin said, "Today is Valentine's Day! Look at the sky! It's filled with valentine hearts because it's Valentine's Day!"

"Oh, is it?" Andrew said.

"Yes, it is!" Benjamin said.

"Well, Happy Valentine's Day, then!" Andrew said.

"What?" Benjamin asked in a very offended manner. "What are you talking about? Why are you even talking about that, Dad?"

Because he's the crazy one, that's why.

For lunch one of the days this week Benjamin wanted a peanut butter and honey sandwich. No, jam. No, honey. No, jam. No, honey. No, jam. No, honey. No, jam. For sure jam.

I got out the peanut butter and jam.

"Aw, why that?" Benjamin whined. "Where's my honey?"

"You decided on peanut butter and jam, remember?"

"No, I decided on jam and honey. No peanut butter. Just jam and honey."

"I'm not making you a jam and honey sandwich," I said.

Because I'm the crazy one, that's why.

He ended up with a jam and peanut butter sandwich that day, but later on in the week when I was feeling much more generous I made him two half-sandwiches, one with peanut butter and jam and the other with peanut butter and honey (a compromise I will likely forever regret).

Halfway through the meal he picked up the rest of the sandwich and turned his plate upside down.

"Oh, Ben!" I sighed. "No! Don't do that!"

"Why not?" he asked innocently.

"Because now your crumbs are all over the table. I want them to stay on your plate."

Eager to please, Benjamin flipped his plate back over and started whacking it with his sandwich.

"Don't worry, Mom!" he assured me. "I can put more crumbs on it!"

And I'm the crazy one?

Monday, September 14, 2015

A package! A package!

We got a package in the mail from my mom this afternoon, which I opened so I could sort out what was to be given now and what was to be given later. I brought out the costumes my mom had sewn during family night. While I was getting them I had the kids sit on the couch and close their eyes. I put a little bundle in each of their hands and then told them to open their eyes.

While Benjamin and Rachel were still trying to figure out what they were holding, Miriam leaped off the couch squealing, "Snow White! Snow White! I've changed my mind! I'm being Snow White for Halloween!"

Tiny Trekkers

We made it to Tiny Trekkers at Little River Regional Park this morning and were only about ten minutes late, which is pretty good for us. One of these days we'll start making it to things on time again. Maybe.

Here's Benjamin enjoying hearing the park ranger tell us about hummingbirds.

Chicken Cereal

We had a coupon for Corn Flakes so we got some. I don't know why we don't usually get corn flakes, but we don't. Cheerios, yes. Chex, yes. Corn Flakes, no.

We used to though. We lived off corn flakes when we lived in Jordan. It was a sad, sad day when the war in Lebanon cut off the import of said corn flakes to Jordan. I don't remember what we ate for breakfast when—get this—the entire country ran out of corn flakes. We probably had to make oatmeal or toast or something. War is a terrible thing. And all I've experience firsthand is a lack of corn flakes. Sometimes I try to imagine how hard it would be to lose, like, my family or my entire house but that's hard to do because I've lived such a blessed life that just knowing that an entire country can run out of corn flakes kind of breaks my brain.

When we lived in Egypt we, again, survived on corn flakes for breakfast. It's the only decent cereal Temmy's makes (in my opinion). We tried other stuff, like Bran Stars, but, thanks. The Rice Krispie knock-off was pretty good, too. Rachel always called that "Rabbit Cereal" because there was a rabbit on the box. Naturally, the corn flakes knock-off had a rooster on the box, so Rachel called it "Chicken Cereal."

Sometimes we still do call it chicken cereal.

Once we got a Temmy's Corn Flakes bowl with one of our boxes of corn flakes. It has been a favourite in our house for years but its status is elevated whenever there are actually corn flakes in the house—for obvious reasons.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Very Saturday

6:30 is too early to wake up on a Saturday morning, but wake up we so we could go clean the church. Our kids weren't too happy about waking up early on a Saturday but they were quite excited to clean the church. In fact, "cleaning the bathrooms at the church" was what Miriam and Benjamin both declared was their very favourite part of the day.

We cleaned the church from 8:00 until 9:40 and then we started setting up for Trading Tables. We didn't quite have the tables and signs up when people started showing up, but everyone who showed up pitched in to help and we got things done.

I felt like this was a pretty busy Trading Tables for us:

Thursday, September 10, 2015

A bit about the littles

I got down the next bigger box of Zoë's clothes down from the attic this weekend and found a bunch of gems we almost weren't able to use (I forgot that the 3M label doesn't always mean "wear me at three months," because sometimes it means "wear me until three months").

Luckily, she was able to try on this cute outfit Grandma got for Miriam:

What are you eating up dog?

Sorry so truncated. I just thought I'd throw this down before scriptures and prayer. We were all dying with laughter during dinner. Also, sometimes we have meaningful conversations, too. Just not tonight.

Andrew: Does it smell like 'up-dog' in here?
Rachel: Ummmm...under where?
Andrew: No. I said, 'Does it smell like 'up-dog' in here?'
Me: Here, do it to me.
Andrew: Does it smell like 'up-dog' in here?
Me: What's 'up-dog?' See how that's the logical question. Under where. Pffft.
Andrew: Okay. Does it smell like 'up-dog' in here?
Rachel: What's up dog?
Andrew: Hahaha. Got you.
Me: No! You're supposed to say, "Nothing. What's up with you?" Come on, Dwight!
Andrew: Oh, no! Hahaha! I can't believe I did that, but you know what? The first time I heard the underwear joke was in the Barenaked Ladies song.
Rachel (scandalized): The WHAT?!
Me: The Barenaked Ladies. They're a great group.
Rachel: Bare. Naked. Ladies?
Me: They're Canadian.
Rachel: Well, of course they are.
Me (singing): We could hide out under there.
Andrew (giggling): Under where?
Me (singing): I just made you say underwear.
Rachel: You really haven't heard that before? It's been going around the school for ages.
Andrew: Yeah, I've heard it before...just not before that song.
Me: How did you get through childhood without ever hearing that? That was my life.
Andrew: I'm the oldest child.
Me: How did you not pick up on it so you could tease your siblings?
Andrew: Because I'm nice?
Me: My brothers and sisters would tease me with that joke all the time! Hey, Miriam...
Miriam: *looks up*
Me: What are you eating under there?
Miriam (confused): Under where.
Andrew (laughing (until crying)): Bahahahaa! That's even better! Eating your underwear!
Miriam: Hey, Dad! What's up dog?
Everyone: *laughs*
Miriam: No! I mean... Dad—what are you eating over there.
A: Over where?
Miriam: No! I mean... Hey, Mom! What are you eating?
Me: A quesadilla.
Miriam: No! I mean... Why can't I say it?!

But seriously how had he never heard the "eating your underwear" joke until this evening at dinner. HOW?!

And later during scriptures...

Me: Benjamin, what are you eating under there?
Benjamin: I'm eating mine unda-wears!

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Why I pump

I got a letter from the milk bank inviting me to share my story so I spent the morning writing up a short story, just over 500 words, which I thought would be fine because the form had a 2000 word count limit. Most stories seemed to be on the short side, though, so I tried to keep mine short as well, and then I noticed that it actually said 2000 character limit! 

I took a hacksaw to my story and cut it way down but when I tried pasting into the form a window popped up telling me that it was actually a 1000 character limit so I had to cut my story in half once again. How do you tell a complete story with only 1000 characters (that includes spaces!)?

My submission ended up being 182 words:
Our little girl was born healthy and right on time—such a relief after the difficult pregnancy I’d had. We were discharged together, which was elating; but I couldn't help reflecting on the birth of her brother. He came 2 months early & spent 5 weeks in the NICU. 
I thought of the families we'd met in the NICU, of the tears shed in the pump room by mothers struggling to produce enough milk (an experience I'm grateful to have avoided), and of the sweet preemies, helpless and fragile, but so full of fight. 
I wanted—and needed—to help those babies! I was excited to find a non-profit milk bank (I donated 15 gallons from our premie to a for-profit milk bank). My littlest one is now 4 months old and I've donated 14 gallons of milk, and plan to continue donating as long as I can. 
I've always wanted a large family but my recent pregnancies have me convinced that will never be, so I love knowing that I'm helping other children and families. I'm a mother to few, but a milk-mother to many.
Andrew said that I should post the long version, too, so here's that:

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Bleeding heart

Trading Tables is next week and I've already got five garbage bags full of stuff to get rid of. Five!

That's what living in a house for three full years will do for you. I'm going through cupboards and closets and drawers and saying to myself, "Self, we haven't used this ever in this house. It's been sitting here for three years taking up space." And into the giveaway bag it goes.

I saw a post on Facebook last night about a charity accepting baby slings and carriers to send to Greece to help outfit Syrian refugees. I'd put two baby carriers in the giveaway bag. I love wearing my babies, but after eight years of baby wearing I've certainly developed "favourite" carriers so I decided to ditch the ones I never use anymore. They're in the Trading Tables bag but I thought I'd dig them out to send to Greece (actually to Colorado where another person would send them to Greece (international shipping is quite expensive)).

But then a friend—who I met in Egypt but who now lives in Jordan—hopped on and said, "Just send them to me and I'll take them directly to the Syrian refugee camps here!"

So that's what I'm going to do (since I can ship to her without paying international shipping prices).

And, frankly, Jordan's dear to my heart and they've taken in so many refugees (1 in 13 people in Jordan is a Syrian refugee (when we were living there I feel like there were more Iraqi refugees)); they could use the help.

We won't speak about how Israel is building a fence to keep refugees out, but I will say that I just finished reading Rose Under Fire and, wow. It was no Hogan's Heroes, I'll tell you that much. Of course, Hogan's Heroes was about life in a POW camp (and was a comedy) and Rose Under Fire is about life in a concentration camp (and was anything but a comedy).

Finishing that book and then reading Netanyahu's little blurb about being unable to take in refugees made me smirk and think, "Nice."

Israel's gross domestic product is $36,051 per capita, nearly seven times the GDP of Jordan ($5,214), and yet Jordan can help with refugees and Israel can't?!



Miriam was so sweet today when I was talking about this—the war in Syria, etc—with the kids.

She immediately started ticking off extra sleeping spaces on her fingers.

"We have the single air mattress," she said. "And the double air mattress. That's three. Then I guess someone could sleep on the couch. So we could take three, maybe four, refugees!"

Monday, September 07, 2015

Labour Day Hike

I was going to take the kids hiking on my own today, at least that was the plan but Miriam had this list of fourteen "Monday Chores" she wanted to get done and who can argue with that. We started out the morning making beds, unloading the dishwasher, and picking up sticks in the yard.

Zoë decided she was starving so I skipped most of the stick picking up so that I could feed her, but I told the kids to leave the poison ivy alone while I was feeding the baby, and that I would take care of it when I came back out. Most of our poison ivy is in the back-back yard—behind the fence and in the woods—but we'll occasionally get sprigs of it popping up in the front yard (thanks a lot berry-eating birds for pooping poison ivy seeds in our yard) and I recently noticed a young ivy plant by our front walkway.

I came outside from feeding Zoë, armed with plastic grocery bags, ready to dispose of the plant myself, and was horrified when I looked down to see poison ivy leaves scattered across the front walk.

"Who did this?!" I asked.

"I did," Rachel said.

"What were you thinking?!" I asked. "There's poison ivy everywhere! This is going to be fifty times harder to clean up than if I could've just yanked one poison ivy plant out of the ground!"

"I was trying to take care of it," she said.

"How?" I asked. "Did you touch it? You didn't touch it, did you? Did anybody touch it?"

Rachel shook her head. "I just whacked it with a stick," she said.

"Gah!" I said. "Rachel! I said not to touch it—that meant at all! The oils in the plant leak out when it is disturbed. Now there are oils on the stick and who knows where else!"

She was pretty sullen about it. I got more plastic bags to use for gloves to pick up the leaves and pull the plant out of the ground. I hope I got everything. And I hope no oil got on anyone. So far, so good. I guess we'll see how everyone's looking in the morning.

We still weren't very far into our stick-picking-up project when Alexa came over to play with the kids, so I let them play. It's their holiday, after all, and goodness knows it's easier for me when Alexa's entertaining them all. Alexa is eleven (and is probably one of my favourite people in the world because she comes over to play with my kids). They played "chalk house" for a few hours before coming in for lunch ("chalk house" is where they draw a bird's-eye view of a house (like a blueprint, I guess) all over the street and then designate rooms for this and that—the library, the family room, the kitchen, bedrooms, and so forth—and then decorate each space with furniture and then play the middle of the street...because that's safe (good thing we live on a cul-de-sac)).

After a while I called them in for lunch. And then Zoë was having such a good nap that I decided to have a nap, too, so the kids turned on Robin Hood and watched that, and drew pictures of the characters, and played sword fighting all at the same time. It wasn't exactly a quiet nap time but I think I fell asleep for about twenty minutes in spite of it all.

Here's one of Miriam's pictures:

Robin Hood and Maid Marian in front, Little John in the back

Saturday, September 05, 2015

Ackland (not New Zealand) and Gimghoul Castle (not haunted)

Our original Labour Day weekend plan was to go hiking but by the time we were ready to go a big thunderstorm was looming overhead so we scratched that plan and went to UNC's Ackland Art Museum and had a great time there.

This little piece is an indoor version of "The Unsung Founders," both by Do-ho Suh. Both represent the work of enslaved people in building up the Carolinas. For the indoor exhibit he designed little plastic figurines that he had a toy company manufacture. They're all working together to hold up the plexiglass floor the kids are standing on. It was amazing to see (and shameful to think about what inspired it).

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Benjamin bit me! (And that really hurt...and it's still hurting)

Today wasn't all terrible but it was an incredibly frustrating day and I was ready to throw the towel in by dinner time. It was so bad that I eventually shut Benjamin in his bedroom and told him he had to sit there until Daddy got home. And then I messaged Andrew to tell him so. So he decided to come home, which was fair enough since I messaged him at 4:57 PM.

I'll let Miriam fill you in on a few details:

How Miriam got to grade one

I started worrying about Miriam starting kindergarten years ago. She's got a fall birthday, which meant she missed the kindergarten cutoff last year. And I knew in advance that she would miss it so I started worrying about it before then. Because worrying is one of my talents.

We considered getting her tested for "early entrance" to kindergarten but that testing would have had to come out of our own pocket and it wasn't cheap, so instead we kept her home, doing her own thing, and going to Miss Annie's preschool one morning a week for fun. She hated knowing that all her little friends were off to kindergarten and she was stuck at home, though I think we enjoyed each other's company for that "extra" year.

When she started kindergarten this year she was just so excited to go to school but I could see within a few days that her passion was being stifled. She'd say things like, "Kindergarteners don't write," or, "I don't have to read chapter books because kindergarteners can't," and things like that, which drove me a little crazy because of course they can! If you're in kindergarten and you can do those things then kindergarteners can. There aren't any rules about stuff like that.

I don't think it was coming from the teacher, really, but from the students.

Anyway, the girls were in soccer last spring and so was one of Rachel's friends from grade one, who I knew had been moved up from kindergarten. I spoke with his mom about how that worked for them, but she openly discouraged me from trying when she found out Miriam wasn't at an all-day, prestigious preschool (because apparently prestigious preschools exist). I had a few other people try to dissuade me (a friend who's a kindergarten teacher and thinks that foundation is invaluable) but almost everyone who knows Miriam at all was super supportive.

Rachel's grade one teacher came to her baptism, which happened to be on the second day of school, so I spoke with him about it and he said to go for it, with one condition—that Miriam come to his class. That, really, was certainly one of our biggest wishes because Rachel had had such a positive year in his classroom, and Miriam had spent so much time there as well that she knew the environment and everything, but I really had no control over what classroom she'd be assigned to.

So, that week I sent an email to Miriam's teacher asking if we could have Miriam accelerated to grade one. She forwarded it to the principal who forwarded it to the AIG (Academic and Intellectually Gifted...or something) coordinator, who each wrote back to me to explain that their AIG programs would be integrated in the classrooms this year (they used to pull students to do enrichment activities and now they're doing a "differentiated model," so the teachers will have students of different levels working on different projects but no one will really know if they're AIG or not (which I like better to tell the truth)) and that perhaps that would put my mind at rest.

I insisted I still wanted her to be tested, so they said they would.