Thursday, December 31, 2015

New Year's Eve, take 1

I'm sure we'll take more pictures of our late night festivities as well (then again, we might not), but here are some pictures of the day from before 9:30 (when we rang in the New Year with King Benjamin).

The first thing we did today was sleep in, big time. I woke up just before 10 am and everyone was still sleeping. It was eerie, but I'm not going to complain about it because I think we all needed a good wake-up-when-ready day.

Once we were all up and at 'em, Daddy took Benjamin grocery shopping while the girls and I took down the Christmas decorations. I had to take a picture of this branch:

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Miriam's 2015 Reading Report

Since we’ve had so much fun tracking all the books Rachel read in 2014 and 2015, this year Miriam decided to join in. At the beginning of the year, Miriam decided to read 100 books—an ambitious goal considering she was still in the middle of preschool and was only dreaming of kindergarten. After a few months, though, she realized that 100 books was too easy, so she changed it to 200 (twice as ambitious!). Because we put a sort of data dashboard on the desktop of our media computer, she was able to track how far ahead of Rachel she was throughout most of the year (and delighted in reminding Rachel that she’d read more books than her).

Starting kindergarten in July (and skipping to 1st grade in August), though, was rough on her—probably a little more difficult than we thought now that we can see the data. As you’ll see below, she curtailed her reading significantly once school started and has only recently (i.e. just this week) returned to pre-1st-grade levels (albeit with much more difficult books now).

Here’s how great she did this year:

Rachel's 2015 Reading Report

Continuing our tradition of quantifying and measuring all our children’s achievements, we once again tracked every book Rachel read this year. At the beginning of the year she decided to set a goal of 400 books (given her success last year at reading 382 books). However, we didn’t take into account the fact that the books she reads now are longer and more complex—she started 2014 reading 60-page Junie B. Jones and Cam Jansen books that she could fly through. She’s also taken to Doctor Who and spent nearly Friday night—and most evenings during school breaks—watching an episode or two (she finished all nine seasons from the modern show and has watched most of the older episodes available on Netflix). Because of that (and because we never got around to revising her goal), she didn’t come anywhere close to 400. But that’s totally okay because she read a ton of fantastic books this year and Doctor Who totally counts as literary acculturation so it’s all good.

Here’s how she did.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015


One of our favourite exhibits at the zoo, collectively, was the desert biome. I think part of the reason for that is because it seems so impossible to the children, especially lately. The hill leading to our backyard is so muddy that Benjamin was unintentionally using it as a slip'n'slide this afternoon (when it was, mercifully, sunny for a few hours). He slid down it so many times, always by accident.

"Now that's a slippery slope!" he kept saying.

I think he's only ever heard that term used metaphorically.

kookaburras inside the biome

Zoë at seven months

Zoë is now seven months old. Technically she's seven months and one week, which means she's quickly approaching the eight-month mark, which hardly seems possible. Time is, once again, moving far too quickly.

At seven months, Zoë is much more interested in moving than in staying still. Unfortunately, she hasn't quite figured out how to crawl yet and is stuck rolling and scooting and it's driving her bonkers. We catch her planking quite a bit and have spotted her rocking back and forth on her hands and knees a couple of times. So don't worry, Zoë! Crawling is right around the corner! I promise.

Clean your room!

 "Your room is a disaster!" I remarked last night when I went to tuck Benjamin and Miriam in. "We need to tidy up a bit before bed."

"We'll clean it in the morning," they chimed.

"Somebody's going to break their neck!" I said.

"We'll clean it in the morning," they insisted.

We went back and forth like this a bit until I decided that some battles aren't worth fighting. Going to bed with a disastrously messy room wasn't the worst thing in the world. And my kids were offering to go to bed, a rare scenario in our house.

"Fine," I said. "You can clean it in the morning."

I woke up this morning to the sound of Benjamin roaring. We doesn't really cry anymore. He roars. And I hate it so, so much. It's like crying but yelling at the same time and it's perfectly calibrated to push all my buttons at the same time. Except for my sympathy button. It's impossible for me to be sympathetic when he's cry-yelling these days. The first thing out my mouth is usually, "Oh, Benjamin! Stop that racket and use your words!" Never anything sweet and motherly like, "Oh, Benjamin! What's the matter, honey?" It's seriously the most annoying sound.'s the sound I woke up to this morning.

Nothing was really the matter. Miriam wouldn't let him get in her bed to snuggle and he was gravely offended. He still likes to snuggle in the mornings.

"You can snuggle with me," I said. Then I said, "But get off your sister! That's Zoë's spot. You can't snuggle on top of her. Come to the other side of the bed!"

We snuggled until he felt better and then he left to go potty and get dressed.

No more than one minute after he skipped out of my room he was roaring...again.

"Oh, Benjamin!" I grumbled. "That is the worst noise! Use your words to tell me what's wrong."

"I....WAAAAAAAAAAAH!" he roared, blood spilling out of his mouth.

"Oh, dear!" I said. "Hush, hush. Let's get that taken care of."

I got a wet wash cloth for him to put in his mouth and we eventually stopped the bleeding, though it took about fifteen minutes. He was in pretty good spirits, though, and helped Miriam clean their room (while sucking an ice cube wrapped in a baby wash cloth) because guess what happened. Your guess is as good as mine, really. Something about jumping, tripping, a pillow, his bed...biting himself... He didn't explain it very well but it was clear from his explanation that the messy bedroom was (at least partially) to blame.

I can hardly look in his mouth without shuddering.

I called the nurse hotline but no one was answering, so I sent a message to our office, but no one answered that either so eventually I tried the nurse hotline again. This time I got through. She said that from the description I should probably bring him in but that she didn't think they'd actually do anything.

Fortunately it's winter break and Andrew was able to come home from campus to take Benjamin in so that I didn't have to find a babysitter or drag in all the girls to the office.

They saw a resident first, who agreed that it looked pretty bad and told Andrew that they only bother repairing it if "it has flapping parts, is bigger than 2cm, or if it is at risk of getting food in" and that this particular wound is one that might be worthy of stitches. She call the attending physician in for a second opinion. She also thought it looked worthy of a stitch or two. However, because it's in his mouth he'd have to have undergo general anesthesia (or general-er than mere local anesthesia) to get those few stitches, and the doctors weren't sure it was worth it all the hassle.

So, he's left with a gaping hole in his mouth.

We're supposed to have him rinse it out frequently, to have him not chew on it, and to keep a close eye on it to make sure it's getting better, not worse.

It's seriously so gross.

At least I can say, "There is a reason we keep our bedroom clean!"

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Christmas 2015

This was Zoë, wide awake at 2:30 AM on Christmas morning. She watched as Santa filled all the stockings and she knows all his secrets (but she's not telling).

Obviously Mom and Dad and Zoë had a hard time getting up in the morning, but eventually there was so much excitement in one little bedroom down the hall that the entire house was buzzing with energy so we got up and let them through the magic curtain.

That's bear spit!

We went to the zoo today. Our dear home teacher gave us a pass to the zoo for Christmas this year (we already had purchased a pass but the zoo just tacked on his gift to the end of our original pass so now it won't expire until, hopefully, after Andrew has graduated...fingers crossed) and on Christmas Eve when we went to carol for him (we missed him when we went out on Monday night) he and his wife talked it up so much that we decided to take the kids today while the weather was dry because we're due for another full week of rain again next week.

I have several stories about the zoo (and Christmas as well) but I really ought to be getting to bed because Zoë is teething fiercely all day and all night so I was up with her screaming in my face until 3 AM again last night. I'm feeling not unlike this tired ol' bear we saw today:

Friday, December 25, 2015

Christmas Eve Devotional

Zoë fell asleep in the middle of It's a Wonderful Life and slept right through our Christmas Eve Devotional, which means she's up and peppy now! When we started It's a Wonderful Life there were many moans and groans about it being black and white but I assured them that they would enjoy it (and they did).

They have no concept of timelines though. My brother David played the role of Ernie (right?) in It's a Wonderful Life back in Orem so I told the kids that their Uncle David was "just" in this play and that he was the taxi driver. So the taxi comes on and Rachel goes, "Wait, where's Uncle David? I don't see him."

The movie came out in 1956—long before Uncle David was even thought of! It was pretty funny that they thought he'd show up in an old black and white movie.

This year I especially enjoyed the part where George Bailey says, "I want to do something big and important!" and his father replies, "You know, George, I feel that in a small way we are doing something important."

A few days ago I read an article by Elder Christofferson in the Ensign titled Be at Peace and it really resonated with me, especially this bit:
Just sit with the Lord and let Him warm you like a fire in winter. You don’t have to be perfect or the greatest person who ever graced the earth or the best of anything to be with Him.
I hope you will take time this Christmas season to sit for a few quiet moments and let the Savior’s Spirit warm you and reassure you of the worthiness of your service, of your offering, of your life. 
So is it really any wonder that the same message trickled through It's a Wonderful Life and into my heart?

Sometimes I forget that I don't have to be perfect or the best of anything and I start wishing to be those things—because I'm so far being perfect or the best—thinking that it would make me more worthy. More worthy of my husband, more worthy of my children, more worthy in the eyes of God. I, too, sometimes (proudly?) desire to "do something big and important!"

This week I've been reminded time and again that what I'm doing is a small way...and that sometimes the small things are the most important of all (even if it doesn't always seem like it).

I don't have to accomplish any grand thing to be worthy of God's love (or my husband's love or my children's love). I simply have to be the best me that I can be while trying a little harder to be a little better every day, because if I do my best the Lord will make up for the rest.

(How many clichés can I cram together in one sentence?)

Anyway, I'm incredibly grateful this day, and every day, for a Savior who is willing to pay the price for my sins, fill all my shortcomings, and bridge the gap leading home to our Father above.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Christmas Eve Day

We're having a tropical heat wave of a Christmas this year. Yesterday was Christmas Adam and the children spent half the day playing outside in the rain. We had the missionaries over dinner that evening and our dinner conversation was accompanied by pouring rain, punctuated by loud blasts of thunder. I made the kids start White Christmas with me while Andrew was running the Elders around, and the kids thought it was so funny when the train stopped in Vermont and someone remarks, "We're still in Carolina!" because it was a mild winter with no snow.

The kids loved the movie, though it was a bit long for them. Miriam wants to be a famous dancer like Judy, while Rachel was drawn to Betty's character. Benjamin loved both of the sisters. He did my hair up in a million barrettes and proclaimed, "You're looking pretty good, Mom! You're looking like a Haynes sister!"

Today it actually stopped raining for a while (miraculous, really, with the deluge we've been getting) so we went to the museum to burn off some of our cooped up energy. It's been pouring every day so Andrew's been taking the van to campus which means the kids and I have been stuck at home all day every day. We were happy to have an outing.

We played inside for a little while but eventually the kids were begging to play at the new Hideaway Woods (of course). Benjamin lost a "moon stone" this morning and was thrilled to find out that the bottom of the creek is literally lined with moon stones! He wasted no time filling his pockets with lunar rocks (aka regular ordinary gravel).

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Secret Santa

I was excited to sing with the choir on Sunday because we held our Christmas program. Last year I missed singing with the choir on Christmas Sunday because we were visiting family. I was a little sad about it because singing is such an important part of my worship. It's almost depressing for me to sit in the audience and listen to the choir sing on Christmas Sunday (although the choir I listened to was lovely); I much prefer to sing. I'm not the world's greatest singer, but I do believe singing is good for the soul—or at least for my soul. It's one way that I've found my soul communes with God.

Perhaps because of that I also don't like to deny the rest of the congregation the opportunity to sing their hearts out, and for that reason enjoy songs that require the congregation to join in.

For our closing song this past Sunday the congregation sang Silent Night while the choir sang Peace, Peace (by Sylvia and Rick Powell) and it was beautiful. I wish we could have sung it more than once because we never quite got the full effect while we were practicing it. It was so, so beautiful.

The other pieces we sang (as a choir) were Guard Him, Joseph (by Sally DeFord), which I was lucky to get through without tears (I have a hard time singing "when his mother's arms be weary / hold him gently as thing own / for thou has within thy keeping / God's own well-beloved Son") and King of Kings (by Betsy Bailey), which I mostly loved except that the music immediately made me think of the rhythm of, well, riding on a camel, but we cut the verse about the wisemen seeking (for time constraints) and also I wanted to sing a big swelling JOY, JOY, JOY to the world at the end and our director wanted us to sing it, like, staccato, which, mixed with the high pitch of the note made it a little squeaky *joy*joy*joy* which didn't sound joyful to me at all. But other than was great.

The bishop asked the congregation to sing two extra songs because we ended up not using all of our meeting time (should have kept that verse about the wisemen, eh?) and I was fine with that because more singing! He spoke about how there aren't many presents he remembers getting for Christmas; rather the memories he has are of his family giving. His family would choose a couple of families to dote on during the twelve days leading up to Christmas (yes, a little backwards from the actual twelve days of Christmas, which start of Christmas day, but a fine tradition notwithstanding) and would secretly deliver presents/necessities/treats. He spoke about how sneaky they had to get once the families had caught on and were expecting gifts.

Christmas vultures

I was much less ambitious today than I was yesterday. In the morning I suggested to the kids that we make some Christmas ornaments. "But before we do that..." I said.

"We have to get dressed, eat breakfast, clear the table, and tidy up!" the kids chanted.

And then (for the most part) they did all that stuff!

Benjamin did not but he's three so it's socially acceptable to make Christmas decorations in his underwear, right?

Cookies and Caroling

Sugar cookies are practically the bane of my existence. Is there a mother out there that actually enjoys making sugar cookies with her children? I don't believe it. Or maybe I'm just too uptight.

Yes, you may roll the dough.

Very nice. Now it's my turn again. 

You can choose any shape you want...of the Christmas cookie cutters. 

Don't put your cookie cutter in the middle of the dough (like Benjamin just did—Benjamin, stop)!

Work your way around the dough putting the cookie cutters as close together as possible.

Don't mangle the dough like that. Jiggle the cutter a little. There you go.

We're not going to fit very many cookies on the tray if you plop them all over the place. Three in a row, people. Three in a row!

Stop eating the dough.

Seriously. I need to take a mega chill pill before I can bake (sugar) cookies with my children. It's always an exercise in patience; and I didn't even have to make the dough this time because Andrew made it the night before (because mixing dough (with children) is another activity that takes a lot of deep breathing for me). Alas, rolled sugar cookies are the dream cookie for children to make.

I know because they were for me (and I'm pretty sure my mom hated making them with us) and they are for my children (and I'm not going to lie—it's not my favourite activity).

Anyway, here are the kids working on cookies on Sunday evening:

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Hot Pepper Jelly

Last Christmas my aunt Judy set out some hot pepper jelly to eat on crackers with cream cheese on the hors d'oeuvres table. She'd found it at Costco and it was really good.

This year my friend Ginny posted on her blog about her hot pepper jelly so I thought I'd try my hand at it.

Andrew took Benjamin and Zoë grocery shopping this morning while I slept in. Last night was awful. I knew it. He knew it. And probably half the neighbourhood knew it as well.

Sleep. What is it good for?

So after feeding Zoë at 8:00 in the morning, a perfectly decent hour to get up on a Saturday morning unless you've been feeding a baby the whole night long, I fed Zoë (again)and then pushed her over to Andrew's side of the bed. She batted his face until he woke up and took her out and I went back to sleep.

He came back with groceries and all the ingredients to make the hot pepper jelly, including three jalapeños in case I wanted to make it "a little hotter," as stated in the recipe. This evening I got busy and made hot pepper jelly for the first time while Andrew and Rachel watched Indiana Jones and Zoë fussed and Benjamin and Miriam went to bed.

It turned out fairly well and I was just putting everything into the canner when the movie ended (Ginny's recipe doesn't say to put the jars in a water bath but other similar recipes I found did so I did just to be on the safe side).

"Did you use two jalapeños or three?" Andrew asked.

"Three," I said.

"Wow. Going for hotter," he said, impressed.

"Well, the recipe is from a Canadian friend, so..." I started to explain.

"Ah," he said knowingly.

Can a woman forget her sucking child?

The answer is yes. At least for a little while.

On Thursday I did Rachel's class party and then cleaned up from the party and loaded all of the children and all of our supplies into the van: that's four children, a stroller, a diaper bag, two big bags of supplies, two backpacks, two big coats (because the mornings are "so cold" but the afternoons aren't), and maybe some other stuff that I can't remember. The trunk was pretty full.

Zoë fell asleep on the way home, which was a good, good thing because aside from a twenty minute catnap in the teacher prep room she hadn't slept the whole day. When we pulled into the driveway I told the children they could do the things that they had to do before coming back to help me. Some had to go potty so couldn't help carry stuff. Others had to carry in a single sheet of Very Important Paper so couldn't help carry stuff. You know—important stuff!

Everyone but Benjamin forgot to come back out to help me carry things.

I checked the mail and grabbed a few things and took them into the house, exasperatedly mentioning "How nice all the help was!"

The girls were like, "Oh, yeah! I forgot! Just let me find my shoes!"

While they were "finding their shoes" (c'mon—you just walked inside and kicked them off in the entryway so they were right there the whole time) Benjamin and I finished carrying stuff in. I closed the trunk and locked the van. Miriam held the door open for me and my load of stuff.

"Is that everything?" she asked.

"That's everything," I affirmed.

"Okay," she said, looking around the house in confusion. "So...what about the baby?"

"Oh, no!" I gasped. "I forgot about her!"

Nothing bad happened to her. The solution was as simple as unlocking the van and retrieving her. And I'm sure I would have realized she was missing on my own...eventually.

But that is just how easy it is to forget about your baby.

I'm lucky my memory lapse was only in my driveway, on a temperate (albeit drizzly) day, thirty seconds after I locked the van and walked away.

One little change in your routine really can make you forget your baby. Usually I put the diaper bag (with my purse and phone and keys) on the floor under her carseat. But I didn't because I had all that other stuff so I put it in the trunk. Usually I have to unbuckle Benjamin and then immediately run around to unbuckle Zoë. But I didn't because his sisters unbuckled him; I stood by barking instructions as my circus clowns piled out of the van all on their own and then opened the trunk to get my keys...and all of that stuff.

It is so easy to forget. I have such sympathy for mothers who've forgotten under worse circumstances (such as for a half hour on a blazing hot day rather than thirty seconds on a fine day) or under the gaze of unforgiving, judgemental monsters who jump at the chance to charge slightly-frazzled mothers with child endangerment even when their child was just fine (rather than that of my own ever-forgiving, sweet little monsters who are willing to giggle about silly mommy who forgot to unload the baby).

I'd link to specific stories, but I'm sure you've seen the ones I'm talking about...or similar ones. Maybe you have a story of your own. If you do, tell it to me to make me feel better about myself. I'll be nothing but sympathetic.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Gingerbread House

In the interest of not complaining about my two youngest children anymore today (today was a doozy)...look! We assembled the gingerbread house our neighbours brought by the other day!

Andrew put the actual house together while everyone else was finishing dinner (he wolfed down his food today) and then he kept an eye on Zoë while I helped the kids with the decorating.

Benjamin put just about as much candy into his mouth as he did onto the house. But who didn't see that one coming?

Nothing 'bout Star Wars!

Andrew took the big girls to see Star Wars VII on opening night (Thursday—a school night!) and they came home and told me all the spoilers to get it out of their system (so the world is safe; I don't mind spoilers and feel only so-so about Star Wars).

Benjamin, unjustly, had to stay home with Mom and the baby even though he's a big boy (he told me so himself) so we played some Star Wars "games" (really a preschool printable from here), which was just as much fun, I'm sure. We spelled some words with Bananagram letters and used some of the cards to play memory and did other super fun things before I sent him to bed (long before his sisters came home).

Christmas baby

I left Zoë in pyjamas when we went to the school for Miriam's party today because she was so miserable this morning that...let's just say we're lucky that I managed to put clothes on. I wasn't ready to press the issue with anyone else. Andrew had dressed Benjamin before he left for work, so at least he was taken care of. And babies can totally pull of pyjamas, so it was fine.

I slapped a bow on her head to make it look a little more intentional and we were off.

Someone actually asked me if she was a boy.

Her eyes are a little red from crying because I walked all the way to my desk to grab the camera—ABANDONMENT!

Winter Celebrations

I was in charge of planning Rachel's class's "winter celebration"; we decorated melted snowman cookies and made snowmen out of paint sticks. I didn't think those two activities would take very long but it turns out that herding nearly thirty children through those two activities filled almost two hours. Next party celebration will be simpler. It was fun though!

Here are Rachel and Benjamin with their cookies:

Merry (Stupid) Christmas

If you read the newspaper Rachel made, you'd know from her interview with Miriam that we have an advent calendar filled with candy and scriptures (printed off from this website). We're not very good at opening it every night because so sometimes we end up open two or three...or six or night and then nothing for a few days. Now that school's out I'm sure we'll be more attentive to details like advent calendars, but the past three weeks we've been busy focusing on other things (like making dinner and getting to bed on time).

Tonight was a five-scripture night, which meant we each got to read one. Miriam read hers first and then Benjamin asked me to help him with his.

"And the angel said unto them," I whispered.

"And the angel said unto them," Benjamin repeated.

"Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy," I said.

"Sear not: sor, behold, I bing you good tidings of gate zyoy," came the echo.

"Which shall be to all people," I said.

"Wish shaw be to aw peepuh," Benjamin said.

"For unto you is born this day..." I said.

Then, much to our astonishment, instead of repeating what I'd said, Benjamin went on to finish the scripture, boldly proclaiming, "In the city of David, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord!"

Thursday, December 17, 2015

A newspaper "for children"

Yesterday afternoon Rachel and her friend decided to make a neighbourhood newspaper. Rachel was super serious about it and published the very first edition last night. I love it so much. She printed nine copies, rolled them up, and tied string around them so that they can deliver them. I really can't get over how spectacular this is. The only thing she asked for help on was putting a caption under the picture and figuring out how to make her own word search.

I'm pretty sure this is my favourite newspaper in the whole world.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

A brief timeline to celebrate our decennial anniversary (with quotes from Andrew)

May 4, 2005

"Hey! It's me, your favorite Anziano Heiss! I finally got your e-mail address..."

This was the day Andrew skirted around the fact that I had written him a few times at the beginning of his mission but that he never wrote me back. And he only wrote to me at the prodding of his mother (she basically threatened to disown him if he didn't). I wrote back. And I wrote back again. And I wrote back again. And then finally (three weeks later) he wrote back again. And then we kept on writing (the world's most ridiculous emails) clear through...

October 12, 2005

"Wow—I'm home and am typing on an American keyboard.... If you want we can meet each other on campus somewhere around 5:30ish and eat something..."

Because "if she says yes, you're in. It's like a secret code girls have." That's a quote from the movie Elf, which, incidentally, we watched on our honeymoon. Anyway, I said yes. He'd just been released around 1:00 that afternoon and I was, in his words, "the first non-missionary, female contact" he'd had in two years, so it was a little awkward. He asked me if I had a scripture marking system. Because he has the best pick up lines.

October 15, 2005

"We're having a picnic at Rock Canyon park...with Ross, Anna, Beryl, Stormie, you, and me..."

In truth, Ross was trying to set Andrew up with his sister Stormie but when Andrew told him he'd rather go with me than with her they cajoled their roommate Beryl into coming along to be Stormie's date. And then Beryl didn't come! So it would have been the most awkward date ever...and probably was for Stormie...but I don't think Ross and Anna or Andrew and I even noticed.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Museum days

We've been pretending it's summer lately. It feels wrong because it should be colder than this, but I'm not going to lie: I'm totally enjoying it (even if it's really hard to believe Christmas is just ten days away). Today it was well over 70°F outside so we went to the museum to enjoy some outdoor exploring. I was excited to pull out this cute little outfit of Miriam's that I was afraid Zoë would never get the chance to wear. When Miriam was six months old it was April, and we were in living in Egypt. December in North Carolina is a little chillier than April in Egypt, typically. But today it was definitely warm enough to pull this look off.

Ukulele Christmas

On Saturday we went to our ward Christmas party, which was wonderful. My friend Rachel decorated for it and she did a spectacular job disguising the gym as a winter wonderland; I wish took a picture of the whole thing, but I didn't. I guess I was too wrapped up in containing the catastrophe known as taking four children out in public.

Zoë managed to have a blow out before the evening had really even started so I switched her into some pants I found in the diaper bag, which, as luck would have it, turned out to be just as festive:

Monday, December 14, 2015

Driving in my car

Please tell me she's not old enough for games like this yet! Her belly laughs and squeals of joy tell me that maybe she is. Benjamin had a blast pushing her up and down the street, she couldn't stop giggling, and I stood by about as nervous as I imagine I'll be when she gets behind the wheel fifteen years from now.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Heiss Holiday Humbug 2015

For once I have very little to say in my preamble, so we'll get straight to the good stuff: our Christmas letter is finally here!

You can download a PDF of the newsletter here or catch the text-only version below the jump.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Zoë vs. Cheerios

Zoë's really not great at eating Cheerios yet. She first tried them when we were in Utah and I was like, "Perfect! She can experiment with them now and be a pro by the time we fly home. That should keep her happy on the plane!" But, alas, we've yet to reach that "pro" zone. She gagged and choked and coughed at that first Cheerio and now, weeks later she still gags and chokes on her Cheerios.

On the plus side, though, she finds them wildly entertaining.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

A big catch up

I feel like the blog has been so neglected! I got sick (again) and have been very busy trying to get better while also tending to Benjamin and Zoë, who have also been sick. I don't know what happened. I was fine on Sunday. I even taught Rachel's primary class because her teacher was out sick.

We had a lovely lesson on The Golden Rule. I invented a character to use in hypothetical situations. His name is Oliben. He's a somewhat annoying three-year-old brother.

There are only two children in Rachel's class, you see? Our ward has a phenomenally large junior primary but, due to the peripatetic nature multitude of the student families that provide the majority of the children in the ward, the senior primary numbers dwindle. It's kind of an amazing process to watch. Rachel had a handful of wonderful girls in her class when we moved here. Now there are two; it's just Rachel and Callin. Miriam went into Sunbeams with fifteen other three-year-olds. Now there are only ten kids her age. I'm sure in a couple of years there will only be a handful. And then...who knows because we'll likely be one of the families leaving.

Anyway, it's just Rachel and Callin.

Callin's mom and I have synchronized childbirth schedules.

Callin was born in June of 2007. Rachel was born in July.

Miriam was born in October of 2009. Rhett was born in December.

Oliver was born in February (or was it March?) of 2012. Benjamin was born in June.

Elliot was born in January of 2015. Zoë was born in May.

It's almost eerie, really, but there you have it. Rachel and Callin have a lot in common. Not only do the have the exact same number of siblings all pretty much the exact same age, they also like building with LEGO and keeping their precious creations safe from the prying hands of their slightly obnoxious little brothers.

To simplify (and also to "anonymize) scenarios, I created Oliben. I seemed the best name.

Benjiver. Olimin. Benjoli.

Oliben worked. And Rachel and Callin thought it was hilarious.

Sunday, December 06, 2015

Ukulele, Room Rearranging, & Trading Tables

This end of our week was rather eventful, starting on Thursday and continuing through the weekend. I spent the morning practicing the ukulele for the Relief Society Christmas party. We didn't volunteer to play this time since we'd already volunteered to play at the ward Christmas party (and how much ukulele can one audience take, really?) but then we were asked to play so we said we would.

Unfortunately, since we didn't volunteer early all the songs that we'd been practicing had already been nabbed by other performers. Not even kidding. That's what we get for being recruited three days before the party.

This wasn't a huge problem for a seasoned ukuleleist, such as myself (*blows on fingertips, rubs on shirt*), but it was kind of a shock for the freshly minted ukuleleists in the group. I did my best to find songs that they'd be comfortable playing—because, let's face it, I'm not exactly an expert either—scrutinizing chords and simplifying arrangements I'd found online. We were all pretty stressed about getting things to a playable level for us all (because practicing at home is one thing and playing in front of an audience is another) and in the end we did alright.

We played Away in a Manger (tune by James Murray, which we hadn't played before), Christmas Bells (in the key of F, ignoring that surly B-flat), and Holly Jolly Christmas (we all played the verses; not everyone played the bridge (it was a little tricky)). Rachel and Miriam played handbells during Christmas Bells but other than that we let the children off the hook for this performance. I was having to give pep talks to the adults; had we involved the children I think they would have had a mutiny.

In the end things went smoothly enough and we've rededicated ourselves to preparing for next weekend when we'll perform—with the children—at the ward party as well as a couple of nursing homes.

Oh, we had a waffle bar at the party with regular (option to mix in crushed candy cane), pumpkin, and gingerbread waffles. The gingerbread waffles were kind of to die for so that might have to be a thing at our house.

On Friday I found a loft bed for Rachel so Andrew took the van to campus to take care of some things and then went to pick up the bed while Benjamin and I made a spot for it. We moved his little toddler bed out of the room (and washed the wall by his bed because yikes), then we shifted the furniture along the walls to make room for the loft bed since there was only one wall in the room that it would fit against. We washed walls as we went because, at that point, why not?

Andrew came home shortly before I had to leave to pick the girls up from school so we could go to ukulele practice. While we were gone Andrew put the bed together.

We had three very excited children when we explained their new sleeping arrangements: Benjamin on the bottom bunk, Miriam on the top bunk, Rachel on the loft bed, Zoë eventually in her crib.

Her crib has been far too dangerous of a place while room sharing with Benjamin.

Thursday, December 03, 2015

The shortest prayer

Benjamin said family prayer a little too soon after waking up this morning. This is what he said:

Dear Heavenly Father,


(long pause)

Sanky for day. Sanky...


(long pause)

Name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Everyone else was holding down giggles but Benjamin seemed to take things rather seriously. 

Keep it secret; keep it safe

Every time I turn my back Benjamin does something crazy with his baby sister. Let's be honest: crazy things happen often enough right in front of my face, but he tends to get a little crazier when I'm not right there watching him. I try to be there for every waking moment of his life because he's a little bit of a terror (Grandpa jokingly calls him a terrorist; you should see him with the baby (he's ridiculous)).

For example, the other day I heard a *glug, glug, glug* and started freaking out.

"What's that sound?" I said, running around the house. "Where's it coming from? Why do I hear water pouring out of something?"

"I don't know," Benjamin said sweetly.

Then I

"What's that smell?" I panicked. "Oh, no! Oh, no! Oh, no! You didn't!!!"

He did. He opened the spigot on our bokashi bin and ferment kitchen scrap juice was pouring out onto our kitchen floor. The smell was potently putrid. His punishment was sitting by me while I cleaned it up.

"Keep sniffing, young man!"

I didn't want him cleaning it up because this was a mess I wanted cleaned up (a) as quickly as possible and (b) without being made worse before being made better. Believe me, sniffing was enough punishment.

"It smells so yucky, Mom! Let me go away!"

"You leave and you'll be in even more trouble! Keep sniffing."

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Spritzgebäck are back!

My mom had a cookie press that I absolutely loved to use to make spritz cookies. I don't know why I thought of it this year but I realized that I hadn't made—or had—spritz cookies for an entire decade! I know this because I don't have a cookie press and we're coming up on our tenth anniversary. So, I researched cookie presses a bit and sent a link to Andrew, for a gift-buying reference.

My mom's original cookie press looked like this:

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Last moments in Utah (November 23)

I realized, just before leaving for the airport, that we were in a house populated entirely by fourth children. My dad was holding Zoë and said something about how she was Mommy's pride and joy, even if it was "the fourth time over."

"Fourth children are the best," I said snootily. "Isn't that right, Dad?"

"Hey!" my mom said, poking her head out of the bedroom. "That's true. Fourth children are the best! I'm the fourth child."

"And I'm the fourth child," said my dad.

"And I'm the fourth child and Zoë's the fourth child!" I said.

So we took a picture:

Fourth children for the win!
I suppose people in other positions in their families are pretty great as well (I guess) but it was pretty funny to suddenly realize that everyone in the house was a fourth child.

And, that was Utah. I'm finally caught up...I think...

So many babies! (November 22)

I went to my parents' ward on Sunday and got to go to primary with my mom. She's teaching the children "Could I Hold the Baby?" and used Zoë as a clue to introduce the song. It was fun to be back in primary again!

Here's my mom with Zoë on Sunday morning before we'd gotten ready for church. My parents have church at 1:00 so we had plenty of time for a lazy Sunday morning (we are so looking forward to 11:00 church next year):

Utah (more of November 21)

Karen was kind enough to attend both the funeral and viewing so that she could drive me and babysit Zoë a bit, but she went home before the graveside service so my mom drove me back to the Heiss's to collect my stuff. I was pleasantly surprised when Diana walked in on me giving Zoë a diaper change!

Look, Diana! You made the blog!