Friday, July 29, 2016

Benjamin at 4 years

Approximately four years ago, Benjamin said goodbye to bottled oxygen and apnea monitors and we unplugged him for good. It was amazing and thrilling and a little bit nerve wracking, but he's done pretty good at remembering to breathe these past four years so obviously everything turned out just fine.

Today I took him in for his four-year-old well-child check and I'm pleased to announce that this once-slow-growing child has taken off like a weed. He measured in at just over 40 inches today, plopping him in the 40th percentile for his age. FORTIETH!*

Last year he was only in the 5th percentile (and practically forever before that he was in the 0th percentile) so this was a huge leap for him. We're quite pleased to see him finally making an effort to catch up (kidding, obviously; we're still pleased but realize kids just grow when they grow).

Zoë wasn't too pleased to be back at the doctor's office; she was reimmunized last week and that was fresh enough in her memory for her to completely lose her handle on life when the nurse—the very one who'd administered Zoë's shots—called Benjamin's name. She started crying the minute she realized we were following her (the torturess) and didn't stop until she realized it was Benjamin's turn and she was safe (though she waited to really relax until the nurse was gone completely).

Benjamin was given a clean bill of health, but started to get nervous when shots were mentioned. He'd fished out a package of fruit snacks from the diaper bag and asked if he could have it.

"Not until we're done," I said. "I brought it as a treat for you to have after your shots."

"SHOTS!?" Benjamin cried.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Missing money

Rachel and Miriam are participating in a hearing study at UNC, which pays participants $15 each session. The girls had their first session after school today, so Andrew picked them up and then sat in the waiting room while they completed their hearing tasks (I stayed home with the little ones).

When they came home they proudly brandished their hard-earned money. They each had two crisp dollar bills: a five and a ten.

"Very cool," I said. "Put it away and get ready for dinner."

Rachel immediately started calculating her tithing. She has a jar for her own money and jar for tithing. She counted out $1.50 for tithing jar and stuffed today's $15 into her piggy bank.

Miriam went into her room and didn't come out for a long while (chances are she'd started to play with something; she's rather distractible these days). We had to remind her that it was time for dinner and she dilly-dallied her way to the table.

After dinner, while Miriam was taking a turn loading dishes into the dishwasher, Benjamin was floating around like a boy who needed an assignment so I asked him to tidy up his bedroom (which he shares with Miriam) since he'd been playing hard in there today and it looked it! He obediently skipped off and started putting things away. Miriam finished up with her share of the dishes and then went off to help him.

That's when she noticed that her money was missing.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016


Last night Grandma Pat's life partner, Dave, passed away after suffering a massive heart attack. A very reserved man, Dave always had an air of mystery surrounding him. This was, perhaps, due more to my not asking many probing questions than to any actual mysteriousness. He was always quietly present at family functions, open for a friendly chat. Both interesting to talk to and completely interested in hearing from you. He was definitely one of my favourite people to sit beside at the dinner table. We had several wonderful conversations crowded around the table at family dinners.

Thanks, Dave!

I don't have many pictures of Dave because, while he always seemed to have his camera with him (and was always sneaking off to take photography walks), he wasn't one to willingly pose in front of the camera. I'm certainly grateful that I was able to snap a few over the years.

Dave and Grandma Pat with Benjamin in April 2013

Pioneer Day

On Saturday we attended our stake's Pioneer Day celebration. On July 24, 1847, the first group of Mormon pioneers entered the Salt Lake Valley (not counting the trailblazers who first reached the valley two days prior, I suppose), and we've been commemorating the day ever since. It's a state holiday in Utah, but I think a lot of places worldwide celebrate the day to some degree or another. There aren't fireworks and city-wide parades or anything like that, but people gather to share stories, eat food, and celebrate together. 

Here we meet at the institute building to play pioneer games. The past few years it's been a pancake breakfast in the morning. This year we switched things up a bit and had a pig pickin' pot luck and Dutch oven dessert cook-off. 

Miriam thinking about sampling some Dutch oven dessert

Saturday, July 23, 2016

First day of school assignments

Today the girls brought home their first bundle of take-home papers. I could lie to myself and vow to go through them right when they come home instead of hanging onto them all year,  but considering I have a piece of artwork from May 2015 sitting on my desk right now I think I'll play it safe and promise myself only that I will never let two years' worth of school papers build up on my desk.

The first few days of school are filled with such excitement as you settle into your new classroom and routine and make new friends. You have a whole year's worth of curriculum to plow through, which is thrilling and daunting. It's fun to see their papers/projects at this point in their journey.

Miriam's first assignment was to collect five items that represent her and bring them to school in a brown paper bag. She had to pull them out one at a time and tell the class about them—and, by extension, herself.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Rachel's birthday: the cake and things

For her birthday cake Rachel requested either a Hamilton cake or a Star Trek cake. There was a lot of pressure from everyone else in the family to try my hand at a Hamilton cake, so that's what I went with. We're a little obsessed over here and I'm not even sorry (Crystal, you know our catching obsession has only made your life better, right?).

Side story: Yesterday Benjamin, Zoë and I watched Michelle Obama's carpool karaoke with James Corden (which was awesome, by the way). I said to Benjamin, "Do you know who that is? That's President Obama's wife. Her name is Michelle Obama."

"Hmmm," he acknowledged briefly and then said. "Why does The Baker have a car? The Baker doesn't have a car!"

It took me a minute to realize that he was talking about Into the Woods.

Later when we were working on the cake (read: when I was working on the cake and Benjamin was getting in the way helping) he wanted to know if Alexander Hamilton was black. At the time I was using black icing to draw Alexander Hamilton, and he's seen various videos and pictures from the musical production so he knows it's a very diverse cast, so his question was justified.

"Well," I said. "The actual Alexander Hamilton was white. The actor who played Alexander Hamilton's name is Lin-Manuel Miranda. He is also white, I think, but he's from Puerto Rico."

"What?!" Benjamin gasped. "Is he from West Side Story? Puerto Rico is from West Side Story, not Hamilton. Is Hamilton in West Side Story?!"

This little boy cracks me up! He's always wandering around the house botching musical lyrics, singing his own little mashups. "I want to go to the festival! The king's festival? Hahaha! I'm not throwing away my shot in San Juan!"

I suppose there are worse things he could do. 

But, anyway... This is a post about Rachel's birthday. So back to her. And her cake.

I whipped up her cake (à la boxed cake mix) on Tuesday evening and then sat down to make a frozen buttercream transfer. It looked amazing!

Thursday, July 21, 2016

A Scheduling False Alarm

I must have been imagining things when I thought I set my alarm for a good sleep-in time of 8:00 because I didn't wake up until Benjamin started trumpeting through a paper tube outside my door at 9:30 this morning.

On Sunday evening we rushed through bedtime and had the kids in bed, with lights out, by 8:00, so the girls would be well-rested for their first day of school. Zoë, Andrew, and I somehow managed to be in bed by 11:00, which was probably the first time the baby and I had gone to bed before 2:00 in the morning in a couple of weeks (she and I have been sending Andrew to bed and then have been partying it up until 3 or 4).

I woke up to help do the girls' hair and make sure they had everything before sending them off to school with Andrew.

Then I woke Zoë up thinking, "This is it! Our chance to get her on a decent schedule!"

On Monday night Zoë again was in bed by 11:00. What wizardry was this? Maybe all that talk I've heard about "just putting the baby to bed" was true! Maybe it was "just that easy" to get a baby on a schedule! Why had I been suffering through unruly bedtimes for the past year when I could have "just" been putting the baby down at a decent hour (not that she was sleeping through the night, but still...I can handle a couple of nighttime feedings if only the baby would settle down for the night by 11:00).

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Rachel: nine years old

She's passionate, clever, quick-witted, hilarious. Like all kids, she went through an annoying knock-knock joke stage but now her puns are on point. She makes me laugh all the time. 

She's curious, determined, responsible, and kind. She loves new experiences and challenges. She worries about the future. She wants to do everything right and will work hard until she succeeds. She is not one to give up. This past week she was complaining about one of her piano songs, how she didn't like it, and never wanted to play it ever again.

"Well, then!" I said, frustrated by her attitude (coaxing kids to practice isn't my favourite thing). "Practice it until you can play it well enough to pass it off and then you never have to!"

"Fine! I will!" she fumed, frustrated by my attitude (being coaxed to practice isn't her favourite thing).

She passed off the song during her lesson—with flying colours—but the next day when it was time to practice she opened her book to that song and started playing it.

"What are you doing?" I asked. "I thought you never wanted to play that song ever again!"

"I like it now," she said sheepishly.

Flashback...Wednesday: Cycling

Rachel's been asking a lot of questions about human biology lately, specifically about female human biology. With any luck she has a few (to several) more years to go before her menarche, but we've begun talking about it openly anyway so that by the time it arises she'll (hopefully) be comfortable

Perhaps not comfortable because of it, but comfortable with the idea of it.

WARNING: Much discussion of blood/menstruation've been warned.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Early Mornings, Day Two

Rachel wanted to take the bus this morning, so she was up and ready to go by 6:30 this morning and got on the bus. Miriam did not want to take the bus this morning and woke up for the day around the time Rachel left. Andrew took Miriam to school.

He's sticking around this morning because I accidentally double-booked myself and am supposed to be teaching swimming lessons and taking Zoë to get revaccinated at the exact same time this morning, which is fairly impossible to do as one person. So Andrew will be taking Zoë to get her vaccinations.

I feel a little bad about having to have her be revaccinated, since she was just vaccinated at her twelve-month appointment, but her MMR shot leaked out all over the place. And we're not talking, like, a drop or two leaked out. We're talking the needle wasn't screwed onto the syringe properly so although the needle got plunged into Zoë's thigh the vaccine did not follow that path and instead oozed out all over the place. The nurse said it was fine and not to worry about it, but I worried about it anyway, and after talking to a couple of doctor friends decided that it was a big enough issue to formally bring it to the attention of my doctor.

It turned into a much bigger thing than I had expected and after several phone calls I was informed that, while their policy used to be to not worry about spilled vaccines, because I'd asked about it they looked into it and found that spilled vaccines actually are a concern and they'll be changing their policy to match the Immunization Action Coalition's, which is to count it as a missed dose and revaccinate.

So here we are, a few weeks later, ready to re-dose Zoë. Poor girl. But I suppose an extra poke or two is worth not suffering through measles, mumps, or rubella.

All that is to say that Andrew's home this morning, so he was around for Benjamin to ask questions to. One of those questions was whether Benjamin could finish up a bag of cereal that was "almost gone," because at our house finishing up something is a huge honour.

Cheaters never prosper

I volunteered to teach Rachel's primary class this past Sunday, but then I was informed that somehow two substitutes had been scheduled for this week so I was off the hook. So although I didn't have to teach the lesson I'd already gone through all the work to prepare the lesson, which was a little disappointing because I thought it would be a fun lesson to teach.

Honestly, teaching Rachel anything used to be my worst nightmare. I taught Sunbeams the year before Rachel was due to become a Sunbeam herself and literally begged the primary president to give me a different class because I could not teach that child. I could love that child, but I could not sit in a classroom for an hour and teach her. It would not have gone well.

Our relationship has mellowed over the past five or six years and now I think teaching her is just fine—maybe even fun. I've substituted for her class before and she didn't scream or cry or try to bite me or anything so I'd say it went fairly well. I was looking forward to teaching her class again. But then I didn't have to.

So guess what we did for our Family Home Evening lesson!

Part of the lesson I prepared, of course. We had to keep it short because we're still working on that whole early-to-bed principle, which means that I'm already ready for next week's lesson as well. Ba-da-boom!

Anyway, we read from Ephesians 6 and then played a matching game to review The Armour of God (which is actually what Rachel learned about last week; part of this week's lesson was reviewing that). I printed out the matching cards and debated whether or not to mount them on construction paper or something, but ended up not. This meant that they were the teensiest bit see-through, which wasn't a problem until it got to be Andrew's turn. He cleared the whole board, making matches without even hesitating—even for cards that had never been flipped over.

He was accused of cheating, which he denied, but the girls were like, "C'mon, Dad. We know you're lying! You can see what's on the other side of the cards."

And there was no more denying it. We could all see the faint outline of whatever was on the other side of the cards.

We had to play a few more times because Benjamin wanted to win. And then Miriam wanted to win, too. And it's always good to go over things several times—to really let them sink in.

Unfortunately, I think, rather than how to "stand against the wiles of the devil," the lesson that sank in the most was how to cheat while playing memory with slightly see-through cards...

Monday, July 18, 2016

First Day of School

Not only were the girls up and ready for school on time this morning (so early!) but they also managed to practice the piano and get some reading time in as well! Miracles never cease.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Shopping for school

Last night was "Meet Your Teacher" night at the school, so we went to meet the girls' new teachers and say hello to their old teachers before heading out to buy school supplies. Fortunately this year's "Meet Your Teacher" night was held indoors. Last year they tried having it outside, which I heard was miserable. I wouldn't know because I missed it (I was still in Utah), but Andrew took the kids and I heard it was hot and miserable. Apparently so many people voiced their complaints that it was moved back inside this year—and a good thing, too!

It was like a sauna outside yesterday—90+°F with humidity up to 90%—so I don't think anyone had any desire to wander around the school's field meeting new people.

Benjamin was a little overstimulated or something and spent the whole evening yanking on my arm, trying to get me to move on to the next thing. He yanked on my arm while we were meeting Miriam's new teacher, Mrs. G. He yanked on my arm while we were chatting with Miriam and Rachel's first grade teacher, Mr. A. He yanked on my arm while we were chatting with Rachel's third grade teacher, Ms. W. And he yanked on my arm while we were meeting Rachel's new teacher, Mrs. G.

This yanking continued at the store.

Granted, it was getting late and the kids were getting tired and no one really wanted to be shopping...

Splish! Splash! I was taking a...

This afternoon we were practicing music a lot. Miriam practiced the piano, and then I had the girls practice the ukulele, and then Rachel practiced the piano. Meanwhile Benjamin and Zoë were having fun on the drum pad and chimes (which Benjamin calls a zaxophone (his own little mixture of xylophone and saxophone, I guess)). When we were finished playing we had to then put everything away, obviously, and while I was tucking the drumsticks into their case I noticed that the house was eerily quiet.

Not silent—because our house is never silent—but disquietingly quiet.

I sat for a moment trying to figure out what was missing from the cacophonic atmosphere of our home. And then it struck me. What was missing was the pitter-patter of little feet, the constant tugging at my pant leg, the yammering of, "Mamamamamama!" What was missing was Zoë.

"Where's the baby?" I called to no one in particular, springing up and spinning in a couple of wild circles to see if she was hiding in plain sight. That baby's favourite spot is right underfoot, so the fact that she wasn't underfoot at the moment was disconcerting.

"Zoë!" I called, but she didn't respond.

"Where's the baby?" I asked again, and again no one responded (it's like they can't hear me, but I know they definitely can; our house is not large) but I did hear a faint squelching sound.

"The baby's in the bathroom!" I gasped, sprinting down the hall along with everyone else in the house (suddenly everyone was intrigued with what was going on).

We caught her halfway into the toilet (she had one leg inside and the other on the ground) and when she saw us she squealed and quickly finished climbing in before we could stop her.

"I guess I'll be needing the camera," I said.

There wasn't much else to be done at that point, so I took a few pictures of her before transferring her to the bathtub. The good news is, I suppose, that quite miraculously the last child to use the toilet actually remembered to flush!

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Softball on a Saturday

We went to a ward activity on Saturday morning and enjoyed some good food and company before the heat of the day got to us. We still left dripping with sweat, but it wasn't as bad as if we had been out there in the afternoon!

One of the biggest draws of the morning was a big game of softball. I didn't participate because...softball. Well, that and because I had to hold the baby (Zoë is not a fan of any activity where she has to be held by someone other than me). But Andrew and Rachel played!

Here's Rachel hitting her very first ball:

Saturday, July 09, 2016


On Sunday we were chatting about Miriam's newfound fascination with sticking bugs in her mouth when Grandma told us a story about how when Grandpa Frank was a boy he left a glass of orange juice sitting on the counter for a while and when he returned to drink it found that it had been infiltrated by ants. Only he didn't find out about the ant part until his mouth and throat were full of them and they started biting him all over.

The kids thought this story was hilarious, so hilarious, in fact, that they brought it up while we were video calling with my parents later on. Stymied by fits of laughter, the girls managed to tell the story, picking up the narrative wherever the other would take a break to laugh or breathe.

This story of Grandpa Frank reminded me of a story about my Grandpa Conrad, who one day came in from working in the fields to find a tall glass of lemonade sitting on the kitchen counter.

"How nice!" he thought. "Pearl made up some lemonade for me."

And he chugged that lemonade, but found that instead of refreshing it was revolting. As it turns out, they were running low on water (they had potable water brought to the farm on a truck) so my grandma had saved the dishwater to use again later! My grandpa had noticed the floaties and things when he glanced at it but figured it was just pulp. So gross!

After my mom and I had finished telling that story, Benjamin jumped in with his version of Grandpa Frank's story.

"Once Grandpa Frank left orange juice on the counter for three days and some super bad bugs got in it—TICKS!" he said. "And he drank it and the ticks bit him and then...HE DIED!"

Thursday, July 07, 2016

Emerald Isle, take 2

Summer break is almost over, though it feels like it's just begun. That's kind of the downside of the year-round schedule—which, for the record, I'm very glad we got to keep this year!—because the upside is that the girls have already been begging to go back-to-school shopping and they won't even have to wait until August or September for those shiny new no. 2 pencils because we'll be going out to get them next week!

Anyway, we decided to squeeze in one last trip to the beach before school starts again, and we decided to do that squeezing today because we could. We had a few mishaps, like, someone forgot to pack bread for sandwiches (I'm not going to mention any names (fine: it was me)), my sweet little baby got a little too much sunshine, and the cable for one of our sliding doors snapped, rendering it mostly useless. But other than that we had a great time!

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Zoë's birthday poster

When we moved in once of the first things we hung up were the pictures of our kids, on the wall behind our couch. We had a collage of Rachel and her birthday poster, a collage of Miriam and her birthday poster, a collage of Benjamin and a frame proudly boasting its dimensions: 11×14!

He was so little when we moved here that I hadn't made up a birthday poster for him yet. I had high hopes of getting that done in a timely matter...and about three years later I finally finished it. One month before Zoë was born, we took down that "11×14" frame and put Benjamin's poster inside, completing our wall. But our victory was short-lived because one of our first purchases after Zoë was born was a set of 11×14 frames, one for her collage and one for her birthday poster.

"This time I'm going to leave this big picture of this random kid in the frame," Andrew said. "To motivate you to finish faster."

And yet again our wall was left with an awkward gap, this time filled with a mystery child rather than a paper stating the dimensions of the frame. I'm not sure which was worse, frankly. I mean, the dimension-paper was clearly a blank frame, but the random child model tends to really throw people off...


This morning I took the kids to see a (free) summer movie at the theatre. Rachel had mentioned something about wanting to see Minions and I remembered seeing that title on the list of summer movies, so decided we'd be sure to put that movie on our calendar. I'm not sure how many others we'll make it to, considering we missed the first three movies and next week is our last week off school...

I'm not big into the whole movie theatre experience. Movie theatres are dark and loud and filled with strangers and have sticky floors. Besides, we have too many babies and not enough money to be regular cinema attenders.

Anyway, this morning when I woke the kids up to get ready they very happily complied. Rachel put on the minions t-shirt Naanii gave her for Christmas a couple of years ago and asked, "Is this at a real theatre?"

"Yes, it's at the regular theatre you've been to many, many times," he answered.

"Twice," she corrected him.

"Okay, twice," he said.

But later we figured it out and we think she's actually been to the theatre at least four times. That's like once a year. Not bad!

We enjoyed the movie, except for Benjamin (who tends to not like either loud sounds or feature-length films) and Zoë (who was also bothered the sound and the length). It was fun to be in a theatre packed with children though (because you know all the families with tons of kids flock to the theatre for these free movies, right). So much giddy laughter at every silly joke!

In the afternoon, once our seemingly daily thunderstorm was over, we headed to the pool where Zoë decided to take a pair of goggles for a spin.

Pathetically adorable

Zoë's little bed is in our room. She hardly ever uses it, but it's there and we've been practicing getting used to it. We took the side off the crib because she thought being all caged in there was a form of cruel and unusual punishment. It's better with the side off, but she still doesn't like it. 

A couple of nights ago she went down at a somewhat decent hour and stayed asleep for, like, a chunk of time (that's rather unusual for her, truthfully). She started fussing but then settled down again (which is rather unusual for her, truthfully) and when I went in to check on her I found her halfway out of bed, which was pathetically adorable.

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Benjamin swimming

You may recall that first time I took Benjamin to the pool this year he screamed his head off the whole time. It was ridiculous and embarrassing and so very lame. Well, he still can't swim, per se, but he has turned in to quite a little fish. He can get into a front float and a back float by himself, he can do a front glide, and while his front crawl is a little sloppy he can move through the water.

He's also always up for a cannon ball. In fact, did I write about the one time when he was jumping into the 3-feet, which was fine because I was standing right there and because he can recover on his own in water that depth (meaning he can get his face out to breathe and can make his way to the side of the pool on his own). Well, he climbed up the stairs and announced, "I'm going to go again!" so I said, "Go for it!" and go for it he did! But instead of coming back to where he'd been jumping before he ran off to the deep end and plunged in.

I was standing in the 3-feet holding Zoë and just about had a heart attack!

Have you ever tried to cross a pool in .2 seconds while holding a baby?! It's not easy!

We made it to him, though, and fished him out (crazy kid) and now he has a deeper understanding of the phrase "sink like a rock."

Anyway, here are some pictures of him swimming today:

My countries 'tis of thee...

This first week of July is full of all sorts of celebrating for a couple of countries we call home. Canada had its birthday on July first. We celebrated by lighting a few sparklers...