Saturday, December 31, 2016

Christmas morning

Before sending the children to bed on Christmas Eve we had them pick "spots" for their stocking so that in the morning they'll know where to look for them. This year we hung our stockings from the TV armoire because when they hang on the mantle they get in the way of the piano, which has been experiencing rather heavy use this year now that both girls are taking piano lessons. Andrew took down the stockings and instructed the children to "find a place on the couch."

The girls each quickly claimed a corner while Benjamin compliantly chirped, "Okay!" before putting his stocking on the floor...

So in the morning, that's where all his Santa stuff was waiting for him.

Christmas Eve

We spent the morning cleaning the house and chilling in our pyjamas. I know this because that's what my friend Crystal did and when she sent me a photo of her kids doing just that I wrote back, "That's what we're doing, too!" 

I also know that when the Rogersons stopped by with cookies Andrew and I were still in pyjamas (but the kids had all changed at that point). 

But soon Andrew's whereabouts escapes my memory of the day. Neither of us can remember where he was. I honestly think it's possible he went to campus to work (because he's been making an index for his professor's book, which was more time-consuming than either of them thought it would be, and that was due to the publisher on Friday so I really think he spent part of Saturday at campus doing his own work...but I can't remember), but he went in on Friday (and took both their girls because accompanying Daddy to campus and sitting in a corner of his office reading quietly is their idea of a good time—party hardy). He could also have been out grocery shopping but I think he did that earlier because we dug into the veggie tray on Christmas Eve and I distinctly remember deciding to leave it on the counter overnight (minus the dip) because there was no room for it in the inn fridge. 

Friday, December 30, 2016

Greensboro and Stagville

I've been terrible about blogging the past couple of weeks. Instead I've been kept seriously busy reading all the stories, playing all the games, watching all the movies, baking all the cookies, and doing all the things. That has left very little time for writing, but I feel like I need to "put myself back in the narrative," if you will because telling my life story gives me a whole lot of joy for some reason.

I'm reading A Little Princess right now, which I frankly can't remember if I've read before or not (though I know I've definitely seen the Shirley Temple version of the screenplay (which I should probably put on the to-watch list for the girls)) but which has been a charming read. Sara is such a wise character (and nobody can pout as well as Shirley Temple can) and I just love so much of what she says. Today this quote stuck out to me (and reminded me to take some time to write some of my story down):
"Everything's a story. You are a story—I am a story. ..." (p. 149)
Today we headed to Greensboro to visit the International Civil Rights Center and Museum—and by "we" I should probably mention that my sister Josie is out visiting with us for the week so she's here, too! It was a bit of a surprise for the kids so I didn't say anything on the blog and even after she arrived and the kids knew she was here I still found myself talking around the fact that she was visiting because I was just so used to it by then.

Anyway, we'd taken her to the North Carolina Museum of History in Raleigh on Monday and upstairs was an exhibit of photographs by Spider Martin called Selma to Montgomery: A March for the Right to Vote. There was a sign warning that some of the pictures might be too graphic for children, but we took our children in anyway. Most of the pictures weren't too graphic and I was wondering why they had that sign up at all...but then we found photographs taken after the teargas had cleared, photographs of bloodied bodies strewn all over the road. Sickening.

"Have you watched Selma?" I asked Josie.

She had not.

Later on in the museum we saw a picture of the Woolworth lunch counter sit in and we were like, "That's here?!"

We had no idea. Well, maybe a little idea. Like, we knew about The Greensboro Sit-Ins, but we didn't quite know that it was our Greensboro...

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

It's Christmas Adam

We went out caroling on the 23rd, but before we did we waited (and waited and waited) for Santa to check in on us, verifying that everyone who should be on the nice list was on the nice list. Benjamin was so excited to see him. See?

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Race to Dad

Here's a little video we took during family scripture study of Zoë racing to be the first one to climb onto Andrew's lap.

And here's one that also features one of her newest words—ball—and shows off her excellent throwing arm. Unfortunately, I turned off the camera before she screamed, "MINE!" in Benjamin's face when he tried to climb onto Andrew's lap with her...

Poor Benjamin was getting rather frustrated by the time we'd finished filming!

Reading comprehension

Malala Yousafzai has been a hero of Miriam's for a long time. I'm not sure where she first heard of her, precisely, but I do know that she read and reread Who is Malala Yousafzai? last year, though we only got that book for her because she was obsessed with her story.

We picked up a copy of I Am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up for Education and Changed the World (the Young Reader's edition) at the library recently and she loved it. She kept coming to tell me something she found interesting or to read a sentence or two aloud to me. When she was finished she handed me the book and said, "You should read this next. I'm serious, Mom."

And so I read it next.*

I thought it was lovely. There were a lot of parts that I wanted to read aloud and remember for later, so many that I'm debating just buying the book so that I can look up passages again whenever I feel the need to.

I started the book last night—sitting on the floor beside Zoë's bed while she fell asleep—and I finished it this morning and put it into Rachel's eager hands.

"Have you gotten to the part where Malala gets shot yet?" Miriam asked.

"I'm past that part," I told her. "I already finished it and gave it to Rachel."

"Really?" Miriam was skeptical and started in on a line of questioning we've used on her dozens of times. "That's pretty fast to get through a book that thick. What movie did she choose to watch in her hospital room?"

"Shrek," I said.

"That's correct," she said, clearly taken aback. "I wasn't expecting that. Where does her family live now?"

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Sugar Cookies

We went to a friend's house to decorate sugar cookies yesterday morning and when we pulled up, the girls saw that their neighbour had put up a "little free library" in their yard, which was pretty exciting. We didn't borrow any books from it...but perhaps some day we will. 

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Christmas in Zarahemla

The theme for this year's ward Christmas party was "A Night in Zarahemla," and we were all instructed to come dressed as Nephites. We searched through our Tickle Trunk but everything kept turning up Middle Eastern, not Ancient American. 

Saturday, December 17, 2016

11th anniversary

It's our eleventh anniversary today and to celebrate we actually left the house and got a sitter. And by 'left the house and got a sitter' I mean I begged my friend—and fellow nursery leader—and her teenage daughters to spend their evening entertaining Zoë (she's a screamer) so that Andrew and I could go to the temple. It was a wonderful treat because we haven't gone on a single outing just the two of us since before Zoë was born because, well, she's a screamer. We haven't left her long enough to go anywhere, let alone the temple (which is about a five-hour excursion—to get there, do a session, and get back).

We took the kids over to the Green's house, which they were all super excited about. Benjamin was trying to get ready all day and the girls were ready to take off the minute they got home from school...but unfortunately for everyone I made them all wait until it was actually time to go.

When we got there, Zoë happily ran off with Benjamin to find Ethan. She didn't even notice that I'd slipped out the door until about half an hour after I'd been gone (according to the girls). Evidently that's the key—she needs a friend who's close enough to her age to be interesting but old enough to dote on her because she's a baby.

A five-year-old friend fills that need for her. A two-year-old friend does not.

She did not do too well in her own nursery class when we tried it out a couple of weeks ago. My theory is that's because the other babies in there are too young to care that she's The Baby so they treat her like a peer. But she doesn't want that. She wants everyone to give her everything she wants whenever she wants it.

Anyway, aside from a few "sad moments" she apparently did just fine this evening.

When we picked the kids up she started giggle-crying, "Momma! Momma! Momma!" and then wouldn't even let me put her down to put her shoes on.

It's nice to be so needed. But it was also nice to get away from her clinginess for a few hours. Now that we know she can handle it, maybe we'll be better about going to the temple...though finding babysitters willing to put up with her shenanigans will probably remain a challenge.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Disintegrating and pepper

Earlier this week Benjamin started throwing out the word disintegrated left and right. I can't remember the context(s), necessarily, but it just kept coming out of his mouth. 

"My lollipop disintegrated right in my mouth!" 

"If I shoot a laser at the bad guys they'll disintegrate!"

"I just smashed up my cereal and now it's all disintegrated!"

Sometimes he used the word correctly, sometimes he used it in place of dissolve, sometimes he used it completely incorrectly. But there he was, using it. 

"Where did you hear a word like that?" I asked him because I'm fairly certain that I don't go around talking about disintegrating things very often... He didn't know where he picked it up, but it's a pretty awesome word to be saying, I think. But unlike what I usually have to do when I utter the words "Where did you hear a word like that?" I tried to find a way to encourage the use of the word, rather than discourage him from ever saying it again. 

We decided to do a little experiment on dissolving solids into liquids. We chose four things from the cabinet—oil, pepper, salt, and sugar—and then guessed whether things would dissolve or not ('dissolve' meaning that they would 'disintegrate' and 'disappear' and 'not dissolve' meaning that they would stay the same). Benjamin guessed correctly for all four things, though his reasoning was way off (sugar and salt would dissolve "because they are white and white is the same as clear and clear is the same as disappeared"). He had fun mixing and stirring and writing down his observations (and tasting the sugar water).

Here's Zoë ready to take some notes while Benjamin watches the salt crystals disappear:

She learned a new word from this experiment as well: pepper!

It's rather hilarious to watch her say it because her P's are super plosive. She scrunches her face up and holds her breath while her "P" slowly builds up in her cheeks before finally letting it escape: "PEPPA!"

That's a good first word to have, right? I'm glad it made the ranks. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

A little bit of Christmas...

Last night we attended Rachel's winter concert. It was fun to get to see her perform again, though Miriam brought along some Christmas search-and-find books in case she got bored. When Rachel acted offended by this Miriam said, "Rachel, I've already watched you perform this concert twice."

"Good point," Rachel said.

Miriam watched her perform at the mall and at the school assembly yesterday afternoon. I suppose three times is a lot of times to watch the very same concert. Still, she only looked through the books before the concert, politely tucking them under her chair when the show began.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Luminaria 2016

Tonight was our neighbourhood luminaria. It wasn't quite as well planned as in other years—instructions weren't distributed so no one quite knew when to light their bags which meant Andrew and some other neighbours spent a good half hour lighting all the bags up the street. And then we got to the clubhouse, where the main party was, and there were no bags lit there, either! 

The effect was still beautiful, just not quite as magical as it has been in years past where we've only lit our own bags and the rest of the neighbourhood is already glowing. 

Zoë at 18 months

On the morning of her 18-month well-child check, Zoë woke up with a fever of 102°F. I decided to take her in anyway and though she was given an otherwise clean bill of health she did manage to get out of vaccinations (for now). With that high of a fever the doctor didn't want to add any symptoms to confuse a diagnosis, should the need arise (and didn't want to make Zoë more miserable than she already was). We'll take her back next month to get the shot she missed.

As it turns out, this was a gastrointestinal thing. Maybe...I dunno. It definitely involved a whole lot of diarrhea, so...

I can honestly say that yesterday the #1 thing I was thankful for was disposable diapers.

I'm a cloth-diaper fan, ordinarily, but there are some days I also appreciate having a stash of disposable diapers on hand. Yesterday was one of those days. I went through at least twelve diapers. It was like every time I turned around she was pooping. I can only imagine how she was feeling (especially since that wasn't the first day of was just the worst of it).

Today she seems to be better. She only had one messy diaper.

She's growing well, though, measuring in at 32.8 inches tall and 22 lbs. 14 ounces.

Getting her weight was rather tricky because she refused to sit/stand/lie on any sort of scale. I ended up holding her on the scale and then subtracting my weight from our combined total. She was going ballistic about everything (so it's probably a good thing we didn't try to give her any shots)!

I've been so bad at keeping track of her milestones. I think with the other kids I could definitively answer the doctor's questions about how many blocks they can stack or how many words they can say. But with Zoë I was like, "I'm pretty sure she can do all those things, yes."

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Zoë sleeps (finally)

Since that miraculous evening that Zoë discovered that going to bed at bedtime is an actual thing, we've been working hard at further developing her sleeping skills. She seemed to sleep just fine until I would go to bed, and then she'd be up every hour or so to nurse, which is basically what she's done since birth (nurse, like, every hour). She's 18 months old now, though, so at this point nursing every hour all through the night is ridiculous.

Because she proved that it is possible for her to sleep for multiple hours at a time until I am in the same room as her, we decided that proximity is the problem. She can smell me milk and when she smells milk she wants milk.

So a couple of weeks ago we took some austere measures and I began sleeping alone, in the living room, on the couch. This seemed to help quite a bit! She'd still get up to nurse once in the middle of the night, and would get up again when Andrew's alarm clock went off. But waking up twice is quite a bit different from waking up six or more times...

Yesterday we decided she was used to our new way of doing things enough that we took a big step and moved her bed back into Rachel's room. That's where her bed started out, but she never slept in it, not once, until we moved it into our room (and even then it took a while to get her into it).

I put her to bed around 9:00 last night. She cried for about five minutes before settling down, and then she was out for the night. It was so great! We cleaned our room, something we haven't done for approximately 18 months! We reassembled Andrew's desk—he's been working nomadically since Zoë was born! We put our Christmas boxes back up in the attic! We got ready for bed without tiptoeing around and leaping over squeaky floorboards! We chatted to each other with our voices above a whisper!

Zoë slept straight through the night until 5:00 in the morning!

And even then, by the time I walked to her bedroom she was back asleep!

She did get up at 6:00, but after nursing went back to sleep for a little bit.

We might just survive this child after all...

Monday, December 05, 2016

Heiss Holiday Humbug 2016

This is the earliest I've gotten this done since 2010 (and the second earliest ever). Evidently December has been busy the past five-or-so years. This year is no exception to that, though, so I don't know how I managed to pull this together this early. It's nice to have it out of the way, though!

A note (or two) on the artwork: The background is a photograph of some of the marbled paper that we made back in June. Miriam drew the rose on the first page during sacrament meeting a few weeks ago. Rachel drew the lighthouse on the second page—it's actually from the picture that was sent to the state fair. The wreath on the last page is the nature ring Benjamin and I worked on together the beginning of this month, with a watercolour filter of sorts. The "washi tape" patterns are from

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

Sunday, December 04, 2016

Trading Tables

This morning I hosted what could quite possibly be my second-to-last Trading Tables event. I have a replacement all lined up, so she'll be "shadowing" me as I set everything up and then I'll pass all of my supplies on to her (like the ratty old signs that were given to me five years ago by the last person in charge of organizing Trading Tables—they've still got a lot of life left in them and are basically laminated by now from being taped up so often).

Last time I did Trading Tables we had very little help setting up and even littler help (read: no help) taking down. It took us forever to clean up and by the time we were finished packing everything up we were both fairly well exhausted. We drove a load of stuff to the Salvation Army and then went back to the church to get a second load. It was a little irksome because I felt that so many people had trickled through to drop off stuff and/or claim a prize or two yet no one stuck around to help.

Knowing that we had Rachel's choir concert to get to I was really hoping we'd have a helpful crowd this time around—and, boy, did we ever!

When we arrived at the church the Elder's Quorum was playing basketball. They all knew Trading Tables was happening (their wives had sent them with boxes and bags of cast-offs) so they were planning on setting up tables for me, anyway. All I had to do was say how many tables I wanted and they had the tables set up in about five minutes (it takes Andrew and I at least a half hour to do it on our own).

The event itself went well. I always say I'm not going to pick up anything's like I can't help myself. Someone dropped off a Little Tykes Cozy Coupe!

I've been looking for (a second-hand) one for ages because (a) we had one when I was little and (b) Zoë and Benjamin would love one—and I know this because my friend Laura had hers out at ukulele practice earlier this week and the kids were all over it.

And then someone dropped off a Little Tykes Cozy Coupe! The only problem was that a kid was already in it, zooming around the gym like a maniac (sheesh; some people just can't keep their children under control), and one of the rules of Trading Tables is that once someone puts their hand on an item it becomes theirs unless they put it back into the fray.

So I said to Andrew, "Wow! Someone brought a little car!"

"Yeah it was [name has been retracted]," Andrew said. "I saw them drop it off."

"Bummer!" I said. "I seriously would have loved that, but it looks like we missed it. Some kid's already driving it around so it must be claimed. Oh, well."

"That kid is, "Andrew informed me, "Is our kid. So I guess if anyone's claimed it, you have. I can go put it in the van if you want."

Saturday, December 03, 2016

The best way to spread Christmas cheer...

This morning Rachel's school chorus sang at the mall, which meant that we had to hold Trading Tables an hour earlier than we usually do (because someone forgot to look at the calendar when she was scheduling stuff...I don't know who) so that we could get her to the mall on time. Everything worked out swimmingly.

Here she is waiting to go on "stage":


On Friday afternoon we spent some time making Christmas crafts. I'd been looking online at craft ideas for the girls' classroom "winter celebrations"so had a few ideas floating around in my head. We settled on a little painted collage because Benjamin got really excited about the idea of painting.

After we finished painting all the parts for the collage and set them aside to dry he spent some time painting some ornaments for our "Light the World" tree.

Friday, December 02, 2016

First time in nursery

Last night was our Relief Society Christmas Dinner. Andrew made sure to be home from campus in time for me to go, so that he could feed the kids dinner and get them to bed.

"Do you want to keep Zoë?" I asked.

"Well," he hemmed. "I was kind of hoping to get some writing done..."

"Well," I hemmed. "I guess I could take her..."

We love that girl—don't get me wrong—but she can be a little high maintenance. Therefore we've left her with a babysitter, like, never. She's a screamer and she doesn't sleep so basically she's loud and switched on all the time. I haven't felt like we could or should leave her with anyone until she settled down a bit on the neediness home-front. It wouldn't be fair to her and it wouldn't be fair to the sitter.

While I was rehearsing for Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Andrew would often watch her so I could dance baby-free. But it was torture for them both. She'd scream the whole time and he'd be a big ball of stressed-out Daddy by the time I relieved him. It was even worse when I'd try to send her to the nursery. So mostly I just kept her with me.

I've had her with me her whole life.

Someone to care for, to be there for

Every now and then I see others experience things that help me put my trials into perspective. For example, a friend from high school passed away last night—after a long struggle with various brain tumours and cancers—leaving behind an expectant wife and six (soon to be seven) children!

Though I'm sure she is distraught, she is handling things beautifully and admirably (you can read about their experiences here).

My heart just breaks for their sweet family (though, truthfully, I haven't kept up with him/them much since high school, so I don't know they're a sweet family...but, still...I'm fairly certain that they are) and I find myself feeling so grateful for the trials that I've been dealt.

Life is full of such hard things, but such worthwhile things.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

The Miracle of the Trash Bags

Our church put out an activity advent for Christmas this year, to help focus on ways that we can share Christ's light by doing things that He would do. Today's activity was to participate in a service project. 

We decided to pick up trash around our neighbourhood. The kids were rather excited to do this and even brought a friend along. Because what's more fun than picking up trash? Picking up trash with a friend! 

We grabbed a handful of old grocery bags and headed for the main road (because there's always a lot of trash along the main road). I woefully underestimated how filthy human beings can be, however, and we filled our pitiful supply of grocery bags incredibly fast. We still had a long way to go on our predetermined route, and we could see the path ahead of us was still, quite literally, littered with trash. Just when I began to wonder what we should do—because walking past all that trash without picking it up seemed awkward now that we were so far into the game—I saw in the grass yet another piece of trash: a thin, black tube of sorts. It took me a few seconds to process what, exactly, it was after I picked it up. A full-sized garbage bag?! What a find!

A few feet later I found another pristine, unused, tightly rolled garbage bag!

We filled them both—one on the way to the park and one on the way back home—as well as a few of our smaller grocery bags. We also picked up some campaign signs. 

Here are the kids at our halfway point (we did stop to play at the park for a bit before heading home):

Benjamin, Meadow, Miriam, and Rachel

An open letter to November

Dear November,

We definitely got off on the wrong foot. You were chaotic and stressful and scary and expensive and busy and lonely and angry and...not cool, November. Not cool. 

But we stretched and we grew. We did hard things. We learned to depend more completely on each other and, more importantly, on the Lord. We prayed a lot. We laughed a lot. We hugged a lot. We became a better family. We appreciated each other more. 

We saw a lot of kindnesses. Even in the very beginning, November, we saw the kindness of strangers, of family, of friends. We were truly succoured, truly blessed, truly ministered to in so many ways. 

You're lucky—we're lucky—that November is a natural time to be thankful anyway. It's difficult, sometimes, but crucial to count your blessings when you're feeling less than blessed because the truth is that we're always blessed—blessed beyond measure—if only we look around.

Look around, look around at how
Lucky we are to be alive right now!

It was—no joke—over 70°F today so the little kids and I took a walk to the park. Along the way we collected all the bits of colour that we saw: a handful of wild onion; some dandelions, henbit, and clover; a pinecone; a sweetgum ball; leaves; berries; sticks; grass that had gone to seed; lichen clinging to some bark. We arranged our treasures in a circle and the result was stunning

The beauty was not only the wreath we made or the picture we took, but what happened in our hearts because, you see, once we'd begun hunting for colour and beauty we could not stop. We left our creation at the park to blow away in the wind, or—perhaps—to be appreciated by unknown passersby (but more likely to blow away in the wind) but we kept seeing things—beautiful things—we would have liked to add to it. That bit of fuzzy moss, that smooth, round rock ("A moon stone," Benjamin called it), a clipping from our butterfly bush.

We saw things we couldn't capture as well: the warmth of the sun, a perfectly fluffy cloud, the delicious fall breeze. We felt things, too: love and happiness and peace.

So, thanks, November. Thanks for being hard. Thanks for being beautiful.

Thanks for today. You really nailed it.

— The Heisses

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Finally a terrific Tuesday

Last Tuesday, I took the trash can out from under the sink and noticed that everything under there was drenched. Our garburator was leaking from the bottom, which is basically a death knell for the contraption. But it was a Tuesday in November, so what else should I have expected?

Let's review our Tuesdays in November, shall we?

November 1: Our van was totalled in an accident
November 8: The election happened (and then Andrew flew out to Georgia the very next day)
November 15: Andrew left for ARNOVA (the day after we purchased a new van)
November 22: The garbage disposal broke

November really had it out for us—and that's just the Tuesdays!

On Monday night Andrew and I were chatting as we got ready ready for bed when he suddenly gasped.

"What?" I asked.

"Tomorrow is Tuesday again!" he gulped. "And it's still November!"

"Oh, dear!" I agreed.

But Tuesday the 29th came and went and I'm here to report that nothing terrible happened on Tuesday. (I concede that the 15th wasn't exactly catastrophic either but it felt hard because I was still feeling vulnerable and overwhelmed and didn't want to spend the week alone with the children and a brand-new-to-us van.) In fact, Rachel came home from school absolutely beaming and announced that she won the class spelling bee!

Her class had done a written spelling bee, which I think is a more humane way to conduct a spelling bee. The first round they were given 15 words and the top spellers moved into the next round, which allowed the children a few mistakes (Rachel only scored 12/15 on the first round). In the second round Rachel scored 15/15. In the third round she scored 9/10, in the fourth round she scored 4/5, and in the final round she was the only student to score 100% (5/5), making her the class representative for the school-wide spelling bee, an ominous appointment because now she'll have to study (something she neglected to do for the class spelling bee).

Photoshoot tease

On Friday afternoon we headed to downtown Durham to do an urban photoshoot, hoping to commemorate our time here in Bull City. But, uh, did you know that people hang out downtown? We literally parked the car, got all the children out of the car, and then promptly put the children back in. We decided we'd be much more successful at pictures on Duke campus, where we had a chance of seclusion. 

It might have been different if we had brought along, you know, a photographer. But we didn't. It was just us and the camera versus the children. We were unprepared to do that while innocent bystanders were trying to enjoy their dinners on the restaurant patio, or whatever it is one does downtown. We felt way too conspicuous to even set up our tripod—let alone push the timer button, run back into the frame, and chant, "Look at the camera! See the flashing light? That's pretty! It's going faster now! Three, two, one, smile!!" Not to mention how the little ones take every opportunity to run amok if we dare shift our focus off them for a split second (in all honesty, Rachel and Miriam are (mostly) beyond that, thank goodness).

So, yes, Duke campus it was. We hung around by the chapel and took our photos there (much different from the year we took them at Duke Gardens, right?). 

Here are a few I snapped with the point'n'shoot while Andrew was wrangling our Rebel:

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

On Saturday afternoon Rachel went into campus with Andrew (one of her favourite things to do) while I stayed home and put up Christmas lights (and trimmed the hedges and cleaned out the gutters). Miriam thought about going into campus as well (only the children well-behaved enough to sit quietly and read on their own without bugging him are allowed to go, which means Benjamin and Zoë have never been invited to chill in Daddy's office...ever) but the idea of stringing up Christmas lights with me was also pretty appealing. 

In the end she picked me!

Mostly she played with the neighbours, if we're being honest, but she did make it up the ladder a time or two and was a big help fetching things for me ("Garden gloves!" "Another clip here!" "Oh! Oh! Baby on the road!") while I was stuck up the ladder.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

No panda at the manger's side.

Yesterday we were going through Christmas things and I found the little magnet nativity that my mom gave us a few years ago. Benjamin loves playing with magnets so I called him over so that he could be the one to put it on our magnet board.

He happily pulled out piece after piece and put together a lovely scene. When he was so near to completing his task and could tell he was running out of pieces he scoffed angrily and demanded, "Where's the panda?!"

Alas, there is no panda in any of our nativity scenes (though I'm sure there's one with a panda in it somewhere).

Speaking of pandas, one of the children's favourite jokes right now is this:

Q: What's black and white and black and white and black and white?
A: A panda rolling down a hill.

Haven't even put my bags down yet...

Last night in the car, Miriam had a little existential crisis.

"I just don't know what I want to be when I grow up!" she cried (literally; she was crying). "I kind of want to be a scientist, like an inventor or something, but I also might want to play music in a band."

"It's okay, Mimi!" Benjamin chirped happily, as if he just solved all the world's problems. "I know! You can just be a ghostwriter."

"Like, I really like music," she sobbed, ignoring Benjamin. "But I also want to invent things!"

"You can be a ghostwriter," Benjamin said again.

"I don't even know what I would invent or what instrument I would play," she sniffed. "But I think I would want to do that—be either an inventor or musician."

"Be. A. Ghostwriter."

"I guess I could invent a new instrument to play," she continued. "Or, I don't know. Maybe I'll just focus on inventing and forget about music. But I really like music. So maybe I'll just do that and not invent anything at all."

"Or you could be a ghostwriter," Benjamin suggested...again.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Tomatoes, Tricycles, and Bomber Jackets

When Andrew went up to Washington DC last week he accidentally left his coat at home. It's an easy enough mistake to make on a November afternoon in North Carolina. It was quite warm when he left. But by the time he reached DC it was nighttime and it was cold. He went into a store close to the bus stop and found a jacket that was 50% off and bought it. 

"Are you sure that's a men's jacket?" I asked when I saw it.

It just looked like a women's jacket to me, that's all. But he said he found it in the men's section and that when he went to pay for it the cashier asked him if he wanted it in a bag or—probably noticing his lack of other outerwear—if he wanted to wear it out of the store.

"I'll wear it out!" he told the cashier emphatically.

"And she didn't even say, 'Is this for your wife?' or anything," he told me, equally emphatically after recounting his purchasing experience.

"It just kind of looks like a women's jacket," I repeated.

Christmas is going to be legen—wait for it...

Excitement is mounting at our house already and we haven't even got a single decoration up, because of course we don't! It's not even Thanksgiving yet (and you know how strongly Andrew feels about the sanctity of Thanksgiving). That doesn't mean other households aren't experiencing Christmas creep. Our neighbours across the street are completely decked out.

Last night as we were driving to church Benjamin noticed a Christmas tree lot that had sprung up on the roadside. They had Christmas lights strung up all over and beautiful wreaths on the posts of the fence surrounding a forest of pre-chopped Christmas trees.

"What's that?" he wanted to know.

"A Christmas tree store," Andrew informed him.

"What do they sell?" he asked eagerly (though technically he said, "What's lat?" and then "What do ley sell?" because he recently switched out all his voiced /th/ sounds for /l/ for whatever reason).

"What do you think they sell?" Andrew asked.

"I dunno," Benjamin shrugged and then, after pausing to see if we'd just tell him, ventured a guess. "Christmas...stuff?"

"Yup," Andrew said. "Specifically Christmas trees."

"For what reason?!" Benjamin huffed, seemingly miffed by the whole idea.


A few days ago Miriam came up to me and requested that I "Wikipedia" Santa Claus for her (because in our house "Wikipedia," much like "Google," is a verb).

"Miriam says he's not real," Rachel interjected. "But," she said meaningfully while pointing at Benjamin with her eyeballs, "He. IS."

"I'm just saying we should look it up on Wikipedia, that's all," Miriam said, throwing her hands up in the air innocently (because she would never try to stir the pot just for the sake of stirring the pot, not her).

"Fine," I said. I pulled up the entry and read, "Santa is a legendary figure of Western culture who is said to bring gifts to the homes of well-behaved children on Christmas Eve."

"Haha!" Miriam cackled triumphantly. "See?! I knew it! Legendary."

"Yes, legendary," I agreed. "But we don't have to tell everyone what legendary means, if you catch my drift..."

Rachel turned to Benjamin and, fulfilling her role of eldest sister beautifully, explained, "Legendary means awesome!"

"Well, it does!" she insists, every time we bring up this story now.

And speaking of Christmas, did you notice Miriam's new grin? She's nearly toothless!

All she wants for Christmas is her two front teeth
She came up to me one evening and asked me to wiggle her tooth, so I did.

"Yup, it's wiggly," I agreed. "It will probably fall out in the next few days or weeks."

I was the type of kid who left teeth in my mouth until they were dangerously dangling. Miriam, apparently is the polar opposite of that.

Now at least I know what to get her for Christmas!

Monday, November 21, 2016

Swan pose

Rachel went camping with her friend's church group on Friday night, so it was just me and the three younger kids at home. We had pigs in a blanket and s'mores squares (because we missed out on all the yummy camping food Rachel was bragging about) and watched Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (because Miriam recently finished the book (it was the 2005 version, but when we were finished I showed the kids a few clips from the original and now they want to watch that one because it's a musical and the 2005 film really isn't)). 

In the morning we did some yoga in our pyjamas while Rachel was having a pancake breakfast. I didn't make pancakes for the kids. When Andrew was gone to Atlanta I fixed yummy, wholesome dinners for the kids: apple pancakes and skillet lasagna and things like that. But they whined and complained so much about my lasagna (I put zucchini in) that this week when we went grocery shopping I said, "Hot dogs, chicken nuggets, frozen burritos...what else don't I have to cook?"

So we had cereal for breakfast. And then we did yoga.

While we were doing cobra pose, Miriam lifted up her feet and leaned back her head and discovered that she can execute a beautiful swan pose:

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Rock-a-bye baby

Zoë had a rough night last night. I can't isolate the factor that threw her off so it must have been a combination of things: I put her down asleep instead of awake, I forgot to put on her nightlight, when she woke up Daddy was home, she'd had a rough afternoon (face planted on the slide and gave herself a bloody nose). 

All she needs is a waffle
Whatever the reason, she just had an off night and decided she was going to party like it was...the time before she figured out that bedtime was a useful thing (so, like, last month).

Church, Scooter trouble, Ukulele performance

Our little ukulele choir was originally scheduled to play for a couple of nursing homes on November 6th, but on Thursday of that week we still hadn't gotten a rental vehicle figured out so told Laura I didn't think I'd be making it to rehearsal on Friday...and that getting anywhere over the weekend looked iffy. By the time we got our rental van (on Friday afternoon) I really had missed rehearsal and we'd already rescheduled our performance for today. 

Andrew's been out of town (yes, again) and last night the bishop picked him up at the bus station and brought him home after the children were in bed. Andrew was up and out of the house before anyone was awake this morning, which meant that the first time the children saw him was at church. 

I'll admit I was a little bummed that even though it was stake conference Andrew ended up being at church early for meetings and was supposed to stay late after for tithing settlement. Ordinarily stake conference is a bit of a "break" in the bishopric's schedule (right?) but due to a strange confluence of events (our stake conference was postponed because of Hurricane Matthew, so it wasn't originally supposed to bite into a tithing settlement Sunday, and our bishop recently returned from a two-month business trip overseas, which meant the bishopric is playing quite a bit of catch up in their meetings and...anyway...) we had meetings scheduled all over the place today. 

I was also stressed out about my schedule for the afternoon. I've been doing alright with being "back in the saddle" after the accident (though, admittedly, I've only driven to church, the school, and the museum) but this afternoon's itinerary had me sweating bullets. I was supposed to drive from (A) our house to (B) Laura's house to (C) the first nursing home to (D) the second nursing home to (E) the church for Parker's baptism and then (F) back home again. 

Driving from point A to point B is quite enough driving for me. Driving from point A, through points B, C, D and E, all the way to F seemed impossible. 

So I emailed Laura to suggest we rehearse at (A) my house instead, since it's much closer to (C) the first nursing home than her house is. She agreed—easier for everyone—so that cut out B. Then we (Andrew and I) looked at Andrew's schedule and mine and we decided that he could meet us at (C) the first nursing home in time to drive us to (D) the second nursing home, which is in an area of town I don't know very well, but if all else failed he could at least meet us at the second nursing home to help me get to the church from there because I really didn't want to drive that section of road. 

So that possibly cut out D, E, and F, which meant I was feeling a lot better about life. 

But when I woke up I had a text from Andrew.

"You will never guess what happened on my way here," he said. "Back scooter tire exploded. I had to push it to the Presbyterian church on the corner. Just got picked up. Rearranging meetings. I'll have to ride home with you."

So, Andrew ended up driving from A to C through F, which was just fine in my book, and the children were so happy to get to spend some time with him after church!

We're a little sad that we have to fix the scooter now (thanks, November) but of all the things that could have followed, "You'll never guess what happened on my way here," blowing a tire seems pretty mild. Or perhaps I just have an overactive imagination.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Not playgroup

I thought long and hard about going to playgroup on Friday morning. But...

A) playgroup usually starts at 9:00 and we weren't ready to go that early, so by the time we left the house we were already late. 
B) playgroup was at a playground a 15 minute—and slightly out of my bubble—drive from our house.
C) for whatever reason (spending half my life this month on the phone talking to insurance companies, perhaps?) I was craving solitude, not company.

So while I had (almost) every intention of going to playgroup, instead I found myself turning into the museum parking lot. We were right on time because there was no set time to be there, I didn't stress myself out on unfamiliar roads, and though the museum was quite crowded when we first got there, the crowd thinned by lunchtime—and I didn't run into a single person I knew, which meant I didn't have to talk to anyone but my children. 

It was lovely to spend the morning letting my children explore all on their own while I breathed in the warm smells of autumn. 

Wacky-Tacky Day

The girls both had Wacky Tacky day this week. Their school doesn't often do school-wide spirit days; rather they do classroom spirit days and sometimes grade-wide spirit days. Sometimes I understand this. Often I feel it makes life rather complicated.

Here's Miriam's Wacky Tacky outfit for Thursday:

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Sleep it off

Last night Zoë slept fairly well. She woke up around 1:00 and I fed her (because I'm a pushover) but then she went back to sleep in her own bed, so we'll call that a success.

Breakfast bandit

Usually Zoë eats her meals strapped securely in her high chair because she's a filthy eater and it's nice to keep that mess contained. But she's growing up and is starting to feel a little left out when we gather around the table so sometimes I let her sit on the bench to eat. Breakfast this morning was one of those times. She wanted to sit beside Benjamin so bad and was thrilled to bits when I let her.

It worked alright for awhile...

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Nothing to see here...

Sometimes my children make me feel like all I'm nothing but a big, ol' meanie. Truthfully, sometimes I probably am. But not always. 

And I know this now because Zoë accidentally recorded me (with my phone) while I was getting after her (for stealing my phone). When I started approaching her I didn't know what contraband item she was trying to hide from me, but I knew from her behaviour that it was definitely verboten.

I have a case/cover on my phone and I think it's made of leather. If I close the cover without first locking the phone, it sometimes won't lock on its own after x-amount of downtime because it seems to respond to the leather cover as if it was...human flesh. So a bit of a design flaw there. And now I really hope it's only cowhide. *shudder*

Anyway, I think that's how she was able to "unlock" the phone in the first place. There's no image to accompany the sound because she had the case open (thus covering the camera), but it's definitely evidence that even when I'm getting after my children I don't sound like a monster (at least...not all the time).

Here's the transcript:

"What are you up to, you...stealer-of-phones?" was said as I chased and tackled her.

"Oh, good!" was said as I realized she had been recording the whole affair.*

* Good thing we live in a single-party consent state or Zoë would have to lawyer up!

Motherhood, on repeat

"Can we go to the pool today?"

I have heard that question, bright and early, every morning since October 1st.

Every day my answer is the same: "No, buddy. The pool is closed now."

"But when will it open again?" Benjamin will invariably ask.

"In May."

"When's May?"

"In the spring."

Even after 46 days, he's always a little crushed when I tell him we can't go swimming.

Recently (you may have noticed), we ended daylight saving time. This worked well for Rachel whose clock, since March, has been an hour slow. I don't know how she was getting herself out of bed in the morning when the big, red numbers on her digital clock were telling her it was an hour earlier than it really was (she sets an alarm on her iPod rather than on her clock radio—and I don't blame her because I can't stand the bleeping of an old-fashioned clock radio either (clock radios are old-fashioned now, right? (because I'm old?)) so displaying the correct time wasn't important for alarm purposes).

But on the magical morning of November 6th, her clock suddenly began displaying the correct time since we'd fallen an hour back.

Every night for the past week and a half, before she goes to bed, Rachel has asked, "Is it still daylight savings?"

"Yes," I've been telling her (even though, technically, it's not, but the essence of her question is, "Are we still doing this weird time-change thing?" and, yes—yes, we are).

"When does that stop?"

"I'm not going to answer that question," I finally said a few days ago.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

There is beauty all around

Freshly dropped leaves littered our front walk. Bright red and dew-covered, glistening in the warm rays of the morning sun, they were mostly ignored as we bustled out of the house on our way to church. But...

"Stop!" Miriam commanded as we made our way down the stairs. "No one step on them!"

"No one step on what?" I asked. 

"The leaves!" she breathed solemnly. "Look how beautiful!"

So I looked. We all looked. And it was beautiful.

We stood on our front porch and we stared at the sidewalk like it was the first snowfall of the year—taking it in like a majestic rainbow after a storm—and let it speak peace to our souls. 

"I think November might be my favourite month," she said. 

Oh, November! You done us wrong, but we can't hate you because you're so beautiful. 

You can't really complain about autumn in the south—sunlight filtering through warm-hued leaves, baby bear temperatures for weeks (not too hot, not too cold, but juuuuuust right), Canada geese arriving by droves in tidy V-formation.

No, no. This Canadian girl can't really complain about autumn in the south. 

It's too wonderful. 

"I think November is one of my favourite months as well," I agreed. "Here—in this place—November is one of my favourite months."

Sad baby

Zoë's croup seems to be on the way out, thank goodness. We've had some rough nights around here. On Sunday I think I spent as much time sitting outside in the cold night air with Zoë as I did sleeping.

Lucky for us, that was the night of the supermoon—largest full moon since 1948!

Unlucky for us, it rained all night long so we didn't even catch a glimpse of the moon.

Thanks, November.

Monday night was better than Sunday but it was still pretty bad. After I managed to get Zoë down, I gave Andrew a haircut, and then he went to have a shower while I sat down to write for a little while. Soon I heard a tiny, hoarse voice squeak out, "Mama! Mama! Mama!"

"She'll go back to sleep," I told myself.

"Mama! Mama! Mama!" that pathetic little voice cried again.

But she hadn't come to find me (when she's serious about needing me she'll get out of bed to look for me) so I told myself there was a chance she would still put herself back to sleep. But then she called for me again.

"Mama! Mama! Mama!"

I opened the bedroom door to peek in at her. She wasn't in our bed (sometimes she is).

I walked into the bedroom. She wasn't on the floor (sometimes she is).

I peeked into her bed. She wasn't there either (occasionally she can be found there).

So, for family night...

For family night we discussed gratitude. We briefly told the story of Samuel, the boy prophet, using the back of the picture from the Gospel Art Kit. That synopsis leaves out any mention of Samuel's mother—which is mind boggling when you consider what a faithful, strong woman she was. Eli surely played a large role in Samuel's development, but I'm sure Hannah influenced him bigly* as well.

It was good for the kids to hear the story of Samuel—the boy prophet—because a few weeks ago we talked about Samuel the Lamanite, so that story was fresh in the children's minds. Samuel wasn't really what our lesson was about, however. I wanted to focus on Hannah.

We read 1 Samuel 1 and talked about how difficult life was for Hannah and how she had so many reasons to be miserable. She goes to the temple to pray and the priest there accuses her of being a little tipsy. When she says, "Uh, no. Actually, I'm legitimately upset," Eli responds by reminding her that Heavenly Father has heard her prayers and then she "was no more sad."

She had enough faith in prayer that knowing her Heavenly Father had heard her was enough to change her outlook on life. She didn't even have to receive an answer; knowing she'd been listened to was enough.

But then her prayer is answered, she ends up having Samuel, and then allows him to go live at the temple, and then is blessed with five more children. Her words exemplify humility and gratitude so perfectly: "For this child I prayed; and the Lord hath given me my petition which I asked of him: Therefore also I have lent him to the Lord; as long as he liveth he shall be lent to the Lord."

Anyway, we talked about how showing gratitude can help us to be "no more sad" and also how it is an expression of love. Elder Eyring spoke about showing gratitude in conference last month; he said, "what matters most is the love we feel for the givers of the gifts."

We made a list of all the hard things that have happened the past couple of weeks: the car crash, the broken oven, the broken toilet, Rachel losing some competition at school, a ludicrous presidential election, Zoë having croup, three of my mom's cousins dying over the weekend.

After we made our list the children quickly figured out what we needed to do for the other side of the column—turn the bad things into good things (and if that's not possible, then just listing any old blessing).

"For example," I offered, "Yesterday David Hardy died."

"That's a sad thing!" the kids pointed out.

"Yes, but yesterday was also his daughter's birthday," I said.

"That's even worse!" the girls objected. "Having your dad die on your birthday doesn't make anything better!"

"But," I said. "When my mom mentioned this sad time surrounding her birthday, Camilla responded with, 'I now share a birthday with my dad! It's been a beautiful day.' She was grateful that her dad had passed away peacefully and that he was having a spiritual birthday on her special day."

Camilla had taken a tragedy and turned it into a blessing. I guess a lot of tragedies are—often, eventually—blessings. Our blessings for the past couple of weeks are: a new van, popcorn & hot chocolate while at a dealership on Saturday, learning something new (about plumbing), getting new boxes to "live in" (from our new car seats), Zoë isn't sleeping well and I'm really feeling it because it's a break from her schedule (yes, she's been going to sleep around 9:00 every night for a few weeks now and it's amazing), art (I can't remember why this was on the list), the kindness of others (and specifically the Browns, who helped us get our new van today), and good health (because Benjamin was sick with a cold before Zoë got croup and he's feeling better).

We probably could have kept going but sometimes it's best to keep lessons short and sweet so we finished up by driving home the point that expressing gratitude fills you with feelings of love and peace.

And then we gathered round the table to sample some Bertie Bott's Every Flavour Beans that Andrew had brought back from London. The girls have been begging to get into them for weeks.

Here's Miriam discovering that the beans are as disgusting as they sound:

Saturday, November 12, 2016

A few more ups than downs

We went car shopping today and, as it turns out, we have no idea how to buy a car. We went to one dealership and they had either a terrible $6000 van or a rather-too-nice $30000 van but nothing in between. We looked at a few vans online, while sitting in the dealership parking lot, and found a decent van at a nearby dealership so we decided to drop by.

Unfortunately someone was out test driving it by the time we were able to speak with a sales associate and they ended up buying it, so all we ended up doing was wasting an hour or so in the lobby eating popcorn (which the kids rather enjoyed).

We had no idea that you're supposed to make an appointment with a sales associate (for real?) and the associate we spoke with at the second dealership told us that we're going about it all wrong because we're looking for a "unicorn" and are wasting everybody's time. Apparently we should be calling around to places and asking them if they have exactly what we want and then head over, ignoring what we see online.

But, we were this close to getting that unicorn in their lot. I would say that probably if we had called before coming over they would have said they did have that van for sale still. But I doubt that would have stopped them from selling it out from under our noses.

We have a few more to look at on Monday. We even called one place to ask about it and he said that it would probably still be there for us since they're closed on Sunday.

Buying used is cheaper...but it is rather difficult to find that perfect compromise between dollar and mileage.

In better news, we stopped by Lowes for another part for the toilet and while Andrew went to campus to "write like he's running out of time," I fixed the toilet.

So that's one thing off the list of broken things!

Also, our LullaDoll came in the mail today and we're trying it out tonight. It was rather expensive but I was willing to pay just about anything that promised to decrease the odds of waking up with a toddler screaming in my face several times a night.

It's basically a white-noise machine stuffed inside of a doll. It has eight hours of heartbeats and peaceful breathing. Heavy breathing is definitely a pet peeve of mine (don't breathe on me!) so I don't know if I'll be able to handle the white noise, but she seems to be enjoying (or at least she seems to have been lulled by) it thus far.

I don't know if it will work all night (though I'm really hoping that it will) but she's currently sleeping while holding it. Anything else we've ever offered her as a comfort item has been tossed over the edge of the bed: blankets, teddys, dolls, soothers, books, mama's shirt, anything and everything we could think of. The fact that she willingly went to bed with it (and didn't try to rip its head off before tossing it across the room) is itself groundbreaking.

Blossoming vocabulary

Zoë is a squawker. She'd much rather grunt (or scream) and point than figure out how to get the words in her mind to come out of her mouth. But I know there are words in there. Her comprehension is great. Case in point:

  • A few weeks ago I mentioned that I needed to get started on Miriam's birthday cake and Zoë dropped everything and ran over to me, insisting that we play pat-a-cake right that very instant. She was like, "Cake? I've got this!"
  • I was nursing Zoë one evening and Andrew mentioned something being "disappointing" and Zoë stuck her little index finger out and started jabbing it in the air. She was just a-pointin' as hard as she could!
  • Andrew once tripped over her and said, "Oh, no! Did I step on your foot?" She looked up at him, walked over and stomped on his foot, and then acted all proud that she had followed directions so perfectly. (Pronouns are hard).

Sometimes she'll mouth words, mimicking the shape of our lips but without making any sounds; and she'll randomly blurt out words (like "HAMILTON!" or "MEADOW!") if she's caught up in the moment and forgets that talking is hard.

She can sign "more" and "all done" and "please" (and chicken and duck for whatever reason*).

Her spoken vocabulary is slowly coming along, though.

Rainy days and Tuesdays...always get me down

I'm not even sure what to say. Tuesdays have seemed rather catastrophic the past couple of weeks and besides that I'm basically a ball of stress. But we'll get through this.

A sweet friend, knowing that I'd had a difficult Tuesday last week, stopped by on Wednesday morning with a frozen lasagna so that, at the very least, I wouldn't have to worry about dinner. We visited for a few minutes but then she let me go so that I could start working on untangling the gigantic knot my life has gotten itself into. As I closed the door I couldn't help but dissolve into a fit of laughter—the kind where you're so close to tears that if you don't laugh you're definitely going to break down and cry.


Our oven is broken!

Monday, November 07, 2016

Scripture study

After FHE tonight we pulled out the scriptures and the kids all sat on Andrew while we read 3 Nephi 26. It was an interesting arrangement, but I think that overall they behaved more reverent sitting this way than they do when we have them sit on, for example, the couch. It might have to become a regular thing.

Fun Run 2016

The girls had their fun run on Thursday morning. Benjamin, Zoë and I went to help out and cheer them on. Rachel's run was at 8:00 in the morning (it sure is a whole lot more difficult to make it to school in time for these first-thing-in-the-morning events than it was last year, that's for sure) and we helped at the water station. Rachel wasn't very excited about running.

She mostly just walked around the track, chatting with her friends. She completed 35 laps, which was quite a feat considering she walked the whole time. She's reached the age where she doesn't think I'm very cool to hang out with (but she's totally wrong on that front) and spent most of her morning pretending I wasn't there, so I didn't get (m)any good pictures of her...

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Cousin Carter (10/28/2016)

Jacob and Shayla had their baby on Friday! His name is Carter Noel and he's a real cutie—isn't his hair adorable?!