Friday, September 30, 2016

Here comes the general!

This trip was rather saturated by history and somewhere along our journey Benjamin decided not only that he admired George Washington; he decided that he was George Washington.* In fact, when we visited Mount Vernon on Saturday he would only respond to us if we called him—and referred to himself in third-person strictly as—"General Washington." 

"Hey! Wait up! General Washington want to climb that fence, too!" he'd call after his sisters. 

Or we'd end up begging and begging and begging with him to obey before we remembered that he was no longer Benjamin: "Don't touch that, Benjamin. Benjamin. Benjamin! BENJAMIN! (sigh) Don't touch that, General Washington."

"Yessir!" he'd suddenly snap to attention.

One of the easiest ways to get him to listen to us, actually, was just to call out, "Attention!" or even, harking back to our marching band days (which is as close to military training as I ever got), smashing the command into the two-syllable bark, "Ten-hut!"

Immediately he'd stop whatever he was doing, snap to attention, and salute us:

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Yorktown...1781 (September 21, 2016)

Visiting Yorktown was a bit of a dream come true for our Hamilton-loving children. To help stoke their excitement we started listening to Hamilton in the car. Andrew timed it, hoping we'd be listening to Yorktown as we arrived in Yorktown but happenstance one-upped him and as we thudded over a bridge offering us a beautiful view of the water Hamilton and Lafayette chanted, "Chesapeake Bay!"

At the time we thought that's what we were looking at, but now that I'm consulting the map I'm pretty sure it was only part of the York River. Still, the timing was phenomenal. 

Thanks to our newly-minted fourth grader, our family can visit national parks for free this year. We used Rachel's pass to get into the Yorktown Battlefield park. The kids all got junior ranger packets and everyone got a sticker to wear...except for Zoë who didn't need a sticker because she's young enough to get into the park for free. Unfortunately, Zoë loves stickers and she's young enough that this mean that out of everyone she needed a sticker.

I tried to help her forget about her lack of sticker—because at some point she's got to learn that she can't just scream until she gets her own way—but eventually I caved and went to the desk to ask if she could also have a sticker just to make peace. She was attacking her siblings (biting, clawing, tackling) to try to rip their stickers off their shirts and she wouldn't leave my sticker alone and she was screaming and throwing herself around on the ground. It was ridiculous. And no one could just give her their sticker because our stickers were our passport to visit all the sites around the battlefield (which was huge; we had to drive from site to site).

Fortunately the ranger took pity on us and gave Zoë a sticker, which she proudly wore on her shirt the whole day.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

We toad-ally had fun

We took a semi-spontaneous trip to Washington, DC this past week (thus the reason for the radio silence). The children have been begging to go (museums! history! road trip!) since spring break of last school year, I think. We tried to go over the summer but it just didn't pan out. This was our next opportunity and even it almost didn't pan out, thanks to the gas shortage.

Here's a picture a friend took of a gas station not too far from our house:

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Logan's birthday

Emily missed and had her baby on September 9th instead of September 19th, so although Andrew's a little disappointed he wasn't given a birthday buddy he's excited to have someone to share his birthday month with anyway. I guess technically he's shared September with Piper on my side of the family for quite a while but on his side of the family he's been all alone in the month of September.

But no longer because now there's Logan (Reid)!*

And isn't he just precious?

Usually I think I do pretty okay living far away from family** but at times like this I wish we lived a little bit closer because...would you look at all that cuteness?! I just want to eat him up. I mean, hold him. Ahem. I want to hold him.

And maybe nibble on his toes.

Congratulations, Auntie Emily and Uncle Morgan!

Andrew's birthday

Today we celebrated Andrew's birthday. It poured long and hard today so despite the gas shortage (a gas main broke in Alabama so we're running low here in the south) he took the van to campus and then got soaked walking to his office from the parking lot. While he worked on campus—in the quiet solitude of his office—I tried working from home, finishing up the last two chapters of that book I've been editing (a project of one of Andrew's advisors). Having all four kids at home was a little distracting, but they did their best to play nicely together. 

In the afternoon I helped them get ready to decorate Daddy's birthday cookie, which he made himself (something the children found shocking—but that's what birthdays are like when you're the parent) last night while I was scrambling to get Zoë's baby book finished before my coupon expired. 

The children had grand plans for how they wanted to decorate the cake cookie, but I've found that most of my ideas are turn out much better in my mind than during the actual execution of the project so I suggested the children draft up their ideas on paper first. Their designs were so complicated that even that task was daunting.

"I can't even draw this on paper! How can I draw it on a cake?!" Rachel cried out in frustration.

"We need to simplify," I said. 

Eventually we came up with a theme—Pokemon—and we sat down to draft our ideas about that. 

The kids wanted to draw a Rattata and a Pickachu and a Zubat. 

"How about a Pokeball?" I asked. My Pokeballs usually turn out pretty close to how I imagine them. 

The kids weren't quite sold on the idea, but we talked about it some more, adding grass and words and bounce marks to our design. When we had something everyone felt happy (enough) about, I set up some icing bags for the kids and left them to it. They pressed cookie cutters into the cake and traced the outlines for the letters, which worked out well.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Bach Cantata Series

After church last week we ventured to the Duke Chapel for the first installment of their Bach Cantata Series. You know, because three hours of church (plus an hour of choir) wasn't enough time to expect our children to act reverently and behave themselves for. We had to add another hour onto that!

The acoustics in the chapel are amazing and eagerly amplify the sounds of music and screeching of babies alike. Thus Andrew and I spent a lot of time in the foyer with wiggly children. Rachel and Miriam sat through the entire concert, however, and seemed to enjoy themselves, so perhaps we'll do it again sometime. We were quite proud of them for sitting by themselves so nicely (while Andrew was battling Benjamin and I was chasing the Zo-bird around). 

Here's a picture of Zoë sitting on the steps leading into the chapel just as the concert was ending:

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Primary program

Our schedule has been so swamped this week—with soccer and school stuff and church stuff and life stuff. We've hardly had a moment to breathe! Just yesterday, for example, we left the house at 9:30 and didn't get home until 6:00. That's a long day to be out and about with four little kids. 

First we had Miriam's soccer game, then we had Rachel's soccer game, then we had a practice for the primary program, and then we attended a baptism for a friend. 

And then we came home and worked until one o'clock in the the morning.

So today we're extra happy to have a day of rest—even if it involves wrangling children for three hours (for me) and several hours of extra meetings (for Andrew). Yesterday at the baptism we sat near the back (since we were stinky and dusty from soccer), which meant that I got to watch all the people. Usually we sit near the front of the chapel, so we miss out on a lot of that. 

It was fun to see the fluidity of children, who spread themselves out between the rows, transcending the familial bonds that so often tie them to their bench at sacrament meeting. We sat in the back with Zoë and Miriam, our little friend Lily sat next to Miriam. I eventually grabbed one of the twins, George, and held him on my lap to give his mom a hand (much to Zoë's consternation she had to hang out with Daddy (ew)). Beside Miriam and Lily were George's big sister and her friend Jada. 

In front of us Benjamin cuddled with Sister Newhart. He loves her so much. Earlier this week I told him we were going to the museum to meet up with the Harts—who have a bunch of little kids to play with—and he was utterly disappointed when we found them.

"But when will the Harts get here?" he asked.

"These are the Harts," I said. 

"Yes, but when will the other Harts get here?"

"There are no other Harts," I said. "These are the only Harts we know."

We were at the museum the whole afternoon (now that the kids are on an earlier schedule they get out of school around noon when they have an early release day) and the whole time he was whining about not getting to see the other Harts. I didn't even realize until we got home that he was talking about Sister Newhart! Her children are all grown up, but Benjamin just thinks she's great (and I do, too). 

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

The door is open, come on in!*

After a somewhat awful night with Zoë (because what else is new) I decided to sneak a little nap in on the couch yesterday afternoon while Zoë was (miraculously) napping and the kids were playing across the street. I was far too sleepy to entertain the idea of staying awake while the house was so blissfully quiet but I wanted to be available if they needed me/I wanted to stop them from bursting into the house and waking the baby, which is why I chose the couch.

As I expected, the door eventually opened and a child (two, actually) came stomping into the house, requesting a drink of water (not that that's something they have to ask permission for, but they do anyway (so that when they do something they shouldn't do without asking for permission they at least have a track record of asking for permission to fall back on, I guess)).

"Yes, get a drink," I moaned from the couch, trying not to allow myself to wake up too fully.

"Close the door, please!" I called to them on their way out.

"Okay!" Benjamin chirped and he slammed the storm door shut but left the house door hanging wide open.

I contemplated getting up to close the door-door, but I figured it was fine being open. The storm door makes a terrible racket when it's pulled open so it's not like anyone could sneak into the house. "Besides, no one usually comes to the door, anyway..." I said to myself as I drifted back to sleep.

Soon I was ripped from my sleep by someone rapping on the glass panel of our storm door. I jumped off the couch (which is in full view of the front door, by the way) and ran to answer the door, somewhat wild-eyed and disoriented, I'm sure.

Standing there was our home teacher. He was holding a big box.

"Do you have a stand mixer?" he asked.

"No," I admitted. "I don't."

"Well, this for you," he said. "Every woman deserves a stand mixer in her kitchen."

"Wow, thank you so much!" I stammered.

"Maybe in twenty years, you'll pull this out to make cookies and you'll think of me," he said.

Then he dropped the box off, bid me a good day, and left.

I collapsed back on the couch for another ten minutes or so (Zoë had woken up every hour the night before and then had spent the entire day screaming her head off; I was exhausted). I woke up when I heard Andrew's scooter pull into the driveway and chuckled over the strange dream I had—someone had stopped by to give me a brand-new stand mixer! Haha! How ridiculous...

Monday, September 12, 2016

How to win at carpool

Rachel joined the school chorus, which means we have to pick her up one day a week (instead of having her take the bus). There's another girl in our neighbourhood in the chorus so we're carpooling with her.

Week one: I picked Rachel up and M's mom picked her up (which is when we realized we should probably join forces).

Week two: My turn. Our van broke down. M's family did pick up.

Week three: M's mom had a parent/teacher conference so she said she'd do pick up again since she had to be at the school anyway.

Week four: No chorus due to Labour Day.

Week five: My turn. Chorus cancelled due to a family emergency (though I still picked the girls up from school because I'd scheduled a parent/teacher conference).

And that brings us to fall intercession. An entire quarter down and I managed not to contribute to the carpool at all! Easiest. Carpool. Ever.

(With any luck, we'll have more consistent practices between October and December).

So much soccer

It's a good thing soccer season is relatively short because I don't know how we'd manage if we had to do this long term. I'm almost soccered-out and it's only been two weeks. Overall it's a good thing, I suppose. The kids are having a blast and are learning good things. But, oh, man! It's crazy busy.

Swimming lessons haven't helped, but those should be over this week (phew). We've been rushing to the pool right after school, swimming, rushing home, and then leaving the house to:
  • pick up a friend from after-school care
  • meet Andrew at soccer field A, where Zoë, Benjamin and I get out to wait/eat/play before practice
  • drop off Rachel and aforementioned friend at friend's sister's dance studio so friend's mom can take the girls to their practice at soccer field B
  • shuttle Miriam off to soccer field C for her practice (she enjoys having "alone time" with Dad while they're driving)
The kids practices start at the exact same time in three different locations. We need a time turner or something!

After practice is over, Miriam and Andrew leave soccer field C to pick Benjamin, Zoë and me up from soccer field A. Rachel gets delivered to our door shortly after we arrive home.

It's a bit chaotic, but it works. 

Here's a picture of Rachel out on her soccer field:

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Caterpillar update

This morning I was doing some yard work while the babies played outside (Benjamin's doing one day of preschool per month (a "bonus" (kind of extracurricular) day at the preschool) while I watch little E.O., who is about Zoë's age). As I was pulling weeds I disturbed a little cocoon and was quite surprised to see it whip its tail-end around until it was comfortable again.

I had no idea cocoons could move (aside from when the fully formed moth is trying to emerge). But apparently it's a thing. I guess, technically, the cocoon is the casing for the pupa, which I suppose can wiggle if it wants to. 

What time is it?

On Monday night—at around 1:00 AM—Andrew and I were just getting ready for bed when we heard someone get out of bed. We figured they'd go to the bathroom (which they did) and then go back to bed (which they didn't).

"Someone's still walking around out there," I mumbled to Andrew over a mouthful of toothbrush.

"I'll go check it out," he offered.

He came back a few minutes later and could hardly tell me what was going on, he was laughing so hard. When he walked out of the bedroom, he found Rachel sitting at the kitchen table, reading a library book while preparing to pour herself a bowl of cereal.

She had all the lights on, the milk out, and evidently thought it was time to start her day.

"What are you doing?!" Andrew asked.

"Getting breakfast," Rachel answered.

"Rachel, look at the time," Andrew said.

"What?! It's already 1:00. But that's lunchtime. Did I miss school? But why's it dark?!"

"It's one o' the morning!" Andrew said. "You need to go back to bed."

Thank goodness he found her before she'd poured milk in her cereal. She abandoned her bowl at the table and obediently went back to bed. It's not every day you get up and learn you can sleep for five more hours.

Ironically (or perhaps not) when it was time to actually get up she slept through her alarm and woke up late.

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Miriam masters the two-wheeler

Any mention of bike riding has been sure to throw Miriam into a funk the past several months (maybe even years). She finally figured out how to ride a tricycle and probably would have been happy to ride that for the rest of her life, except that I told her it was time to pass it on to her brother (who, for the record, is as inept as both his sisters were in this department and cannot figure out how to pedal the silly thing*). 

A woman in our ward gave us a balance bike (last year) which Miriam refused to balance on. Oh, she'd walk around with it between her legs, but she'd never actually try coasting on it. I figured it was too small for her, so I took the pedals off one of our bigger bikes so that she could try balancing on it without the pedals getting in the way. She wouldn't.

There's been a lot of sulking, a lot of pushback about acquiring this particular skill. 

Today, however, we found ourselves with a relatively cool afternoon and nothing in particular to do, so I loaded up the kids and their bikes and we headed to a park that has a nice paved trail. 

Miriam hopped on her bike and actually tried coasting—pushing off and letting her bike carry her—right there in the parking lot, and then jumped off and said, "I'm ready! Did you bring my pedals?!"

I happened to have them tucked away in the diaper bag, so I put them on and, after a few attempts, Miriam was off riding her bike like a pro!

Sunday, September 04, 2016

So much stuff

I feel like I've been having a hard time keeping up with...anything...lately, including but not limited to this blog. It's so rare lately that I get any time away from the clutches of my children (and a certain child in particular (it's Zoë (holy cow—all night and all day she wants 100% of my attention))) but I have a few minutes right now, so it looks like it's time for another photo dump. 

On August 21 we had a beautiful storm roll through, which left us with a very rosy sunset. It was beautiful enough that we dragged all the kids out of bed. Also, there was a rainbow. The girls were all very excited about the sky. Benjamin kept begging to go back to bed (he'd been suffering with whatever sickness Zoë had, which, thankfully, no one else got).

Saturday is a special day, it's the day we...

We had a great day on Saturday. While Andrew worked and Zoë and I slept in (until 11:30 (because someone was wide awake until 4:00 AM)) the kids played LEGO together quietly and nicely. Then Andrew took Rachel, Benjamin, and Zoë grocery shopping while I worked and Miriam read. When they got home the big people played Settlers of Catan while the little people strung beads and played with dice. Then I took all the kids on a walk to the park while Daddy stayed home to work.

The mail truck finally came while we were out, so Andrew started on fixing that car window, and when we got home the girls helped change the brake lights while Zoë and Benjamin played with bubbles and chalk.

Thursday, September 01, 2016

Van update

When we were replacing our harmonic balancer, our neighbour pointed out that our brake pads need to be replaced. It's likely our rotors will need to be replaced as well. Apparently their "life" is around 70000 miles and we're well past that mark. So we've been looking into parts and labour costs (and debating whether it's something we want to tackle ourselves).

Speaking of that harmonic balancer, here's Andrew under the van, working away, under the direction of our neighbour (who actually knew what a harmonic balancer was before ours broke ("harmonic balancer" was news to me)):