Sunday, December 31, 2017

Melting snow

Yesterday was so warm and lovely and my children so ridiculously full of energy that we took a little walk before dinner. The kids enjoyed climbing the "snow cliffs" left behind by snow shovels:

A white Christmas!

Getting snow on Christmas Eve was a bit of a surprise. If I hadn't noticed it out the window while singing to Zoë we would have woken up to a white Christmas the next day and it would have been a complete surprise. 

For whatever reason we've had a rather dry winter so far and for almost an entire week before Christmas our forecast has been "heavy snow," right up until it's supposed to start snowing and then the forecast would read "clear." So it never snowed.

There was no snow in the forecast for Christmas Eve and yet, here we are, hugging snowmen...

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Boxing Day Wizardry

The South Towne Mall is hosting an official Harry Potter pop-up store through the holidays. My sister Kelli had been working at a booth in the mall right in front of the display and told us that we just had to get down there. Unfortunately, the kids had school right to the bitter end, so we didn't make it to the mall until, well, yesterday. 

It was certainly cool to see the store windows of Hogsmeade. 

Junk food

My brothers both brought me junk food for Christmas, like good brothers should.

Patrick gave me some new Hershey's Gold bars (they're a caramel-creme base with peanuts and pretzels mixed in and they're delicious). When Patrick was explaining them to me I thought they were a chocolate bar with caramel, peanuts, and pretzels mixed in, but there's no chocolate in them at all. Thus the reason he gave me a few to try.

So I opened one and had some and then asked Andrew if he wanted to try some, and he did.

I broke off a square and put it in his mouth, folks.

Inside. His. Mouth.

He happened to be holding Zoë at the time, however, and before he could close his mouth her little hand shot up, snatched the candy and put it in her mouth.

I have never seen her move so quickly! Lightning fingers!

Andrew and I were dying of laughter, while Zoë acted like I had definitely meant to put the chocolate in her mouth in the first place.

"Mmmm! That's good!" she said. "Want more!"

Silly girl.

Talking to Auntie Josie

While my mom was burping him, Auntie Josie and Alexander had the sweetest little chat together on Christmas (Zoë only got between them a few times (and you can see Uncle David explaining a game to Rachel in the background)).


On Christmas Day in the Morning

Andrew's family always set up a sheet to hide Christmas morning from prying eyes, so we've done that as well. The girls were all up before us in the morning, just sitting in the dark in the living room (I don't know why they didn't just turn on a light). Eventually Alexander woke me up and while I was nursing him I heard Zoë yelling about something, so I poked Andrew awake and had him check on her. 

Then woke up Benjamin and made the kids clean up a bit before we let them go downstairs. We did a big Christmas train around the living room and then let Zoë lead the way to the Christmas tree.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

...On the Feast of Stephen

I haven't quite gone through Christmas pictures yet, but I have already gone through Boxing Day photos (at least some of them and I'm planning on taking more, so perhaps I'm not as on top of things as I think I am today). We took the kids up to Salt Lake today to see a mall display (more on that later) and while we were up there we decided we'd better drop by to visit Grandpa Frank.

We tried calling before we dropped by but he didn't answer the phone, so we just sort of showed up unannounced. He graciously invited us inside and took the kids over to his Christmas train. He said he hasn't set up a tree since Grandma Sharon passed away. She was always the one to decorate the tree; he always set up his Christmas train around it. So now there's only the train, but at least it's something special and festive.

The kids were mesmerized, of course.

It's Christmas Eve...

I really rather like it when Christmas/Eve falls on a Sunday. Perhaps one day I will join in my family's newish tradition of attending midnight mass, but that will have to wait until I no longer have a bunch of wee ones at home because, let me tell you, Benjamin cannot do anticipation. The safest place for him was tucked into bed for the night. He was so off the wall the entire day.

But, we got to go to church, so that was nice, if you enjoy taking totally hyped up five-year-olds to church, which, uh...ahem. I actually got to miss most of his antics because I sang with the choir and we sat up on the stand the entire time. I enlisted my sister Josie to come sit with my kids because I assumed Andrew would be out in the hallway with an incredibly grumpy two-year-old for the bulk of sacrament meeting (because that's where those two usually are).

I took Alexander up on the stand with me, to eliminate him from the mix. I'm sure he was much happier sleeping soundly in my arms than he would have been sitting with his siblings, being poked, prodded, and pulled upon the entire hour.

Zoë sang Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer at the top of her lungs during the sacrament hymn, so that was great. And I know Andrew took her out at least once before I went up on the stand, but from what I could see the kids were actually pretty good. Perhaps it was having Auntie Josie there (she downloaded a colouring app on her phone), perhaps it was the novelty of the Book of Mormon quiet book Grandma gave the kids for Christmas, perhaps it was simply a Christmas Eve miracle.

It was actually rather special to get to hold my sweet little boy, wrapped in swaddling clothes, while singing about a different babe wrapped in swaddling clothes so many years before.

Auntie Josie took a few pictures of our family after church. I think this was the best one:

Christmas poems by Miriam

First, an acrostic poem that she made at school as a Christmas present for us. She actually made Christmas present for everyone and left them anonymously under the tree (every gift said, "To so-and-so, from anonymous"), but we all knew who the giver was.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

A visit with Santa and chocolate tales

We meant to take the children to the Riverwoods yesterday so they could see Santa, but that ended up not working because we didn't end up finishing with dinner until 8:00 (which is when Santa turns in for the night). Some nights are like that. We made it out there, today, however, which was good because it was the last day to visit with Santa. It was also, perhaps, less than good because I think Santa was tired of seeing little kids after all of November and twenty-three days of December (he was not incredibly jolly) 

You'd think we could have managed to squeeze in a visit before the very last day, but no. We waited until the bitter end. Andrew insists he works better under pressure, so.

Anyway, here's Andrew with the four oldest kids at the entrance (or at least one of the entrances):

Friday, December 22, 2017

This has been sitting as a draft forever

Like, I think some of the pictures are from November even. So I'm just going to throw them up there, I guess, because I never did start writing any commentary about them...

They're mostly just pictures of how much craziness goes on with three little ones at home. More, I suppose, of how much Benjamin and Zoë love to love on Alexander.

Poor little guy. This was one of my favourite outfits for Benjamin, but I don't think Alexander liked wearing it all that much...

Heiss Holiday Humbug 2017

I actually finished this on our anniversary (which we celebrated with a bowl of ice cream and staying in; newborns will do that to you) and started sending it out to people. I know I haven't sent it out to half the people I've been meaning to. But I'm sure it will get there...

You can download the full size here or read the text below the jump. Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Sing, Sing, Sing!

Rachel and Miriam had their Christmas choir concert on December 11th. Andrew was out of town and Grandma wasn't feeling well, but Grandpa helped me walk all the kids to the school and Naanii, Uncle Patrick, and Auntie Josie met us there.

They had a good repertoire between their two choirs. The boy show choir sang the Animaniacs' Noël, which was quite entertaining. I don't think any of the kids singing it knew it came from an old a perfectly-reasonably-aged cartoon.

Neither of my girls are huge fans of doing silly actions while they sing, which is patently clear from watching them. If only they understood that by not doing the actions with everyone else they are the ones who end up looking silly. I totally get it though because I'm a little bit that way myself.

But I got over it, see exhibition A:

Christmas talent show in Cairo, 2009

Alexander at two months

Alexander's check up went well. He's now 10 lbs. 11 oz., which is quite a bit smaller than any of his sisters were at two months, but quite a bit bigger than his brother. It's hard to count Benjamin in on any sort of comparison because he was such an anomaly, but the girls were all 12+ pounds by two months. My kids tend to explode in the weight department for the first few months and then taper off. Alexander is still pretty small, but he's growing well.


Penny Patrol (Disbanded)

On Saturday morning, Zoë did a lovely number two and Andrew volunteered to probe it for that silly penny. We were beginning to give up hope by this point. From our research online, the penny should have made its appearance by day four, so on Friday at Alexander's check up I casually asked the doctor how long we should wait and what we should do if that penny never showed up. He asked if there was a chance we could have missed a bowel movement—and admittedly there was. Andrew was on penny patrol for the first couple of days, but then he went out of town so that meant I was on penny patrol. And then he came back from being out of town and I was still on penny patrol because, as it turns out, she tends to poop during business hours. 

I'm kind of losing my everliving mind with five children to worry about so, yeah, there is a chance that she may have pooped that penny out completely unnoticed. 

But I was also being hyper vigilant about her pooping habits so...I was pretty sure I caught them all. 

The doctor suggested we bring her in for an x-ray by the end of this week if we still hadn't seen a penny, just to be sure it wasn't lodged somewhere that might be problematic. But we got the okay to give her a few more days—even several more days—to let things work themselves out (things being pennies).

This brings us back to Saturday when we heard Andrew's jubilant cry from the bathroom, "We have a penny!"

There was much rejoicing.

"I pooped my penny out!" Zoë squealed with delight.

Here she is holding her slightly-corroded, scrubbed-to-death penny:

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Christmas preview

We had Andrew's siblings over for FHE tonight (or at least half of them (one is up in Idaho and the other...bahahaha...there's a long backstory there, to say the least)) since Reid and Karen leave for Mexico tomorrow and will be gone through Christmas. It was fun to get to see them and get the cousins together.

Andrew barbecued some smash burgers for everyone (in the freezing cold) and then we gathered around the Christmas tree for some music. Miriam and Rachel both played a piece they'd been working on. 

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Snow, snow, snow

This afternoon the kids and I went out to deliver some Christmas goodies to the neighbours and it started snowing the most beautiful snowfall in the world! The flakes were big and beautiful and perfect. The clouds weren't dropping huge globs of flakes or showering us with ice pellets. The snowflakes were just the right size for us to admire their beauty and uniqueness before melting away. 

It was a magical snowfall. 

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Sweetest stocking stuffers

It was overambitious of me to decide that I'd make stockings for our newly minted family before I'd even begun making babies. In all honesty, making stockings is a whole lot easier than making babies, but I've ended up making babies faster than I can make stockings for them. 

Babies, as it turns out, require quite a lot of time and attention. Go figure.

Eight years ago, I whipped up a stocking for Miriam and we shoved her inside because when you have a tiny baby at Christmastime you need a picture of the baby in a stocking (I think there's a rule about that somewhere).

This year I stuffed Alexander into Benjamin's not-quite-finished stocking (because Alexander doesn't have a stocking yet (and why would he? Zoë doesn't have one yet either)):

I still have to add Benjamin's name and the little hanger thing on his stocking. And I think I will try to knit one up really quick for Zoë this year as well because we only have one extra one (that Grandma Sharon made, and which we've always used for our babies when I've been too slow to make a stocking for them by Christmas, which has happened 3/5 times).

I think, judging from the size of the stockings (which should be about the same size since they follow the same pattern) and the sizes of the babies stuffed into them, that Alexander isn't quite as chubby as Miriam managed to be by this age.

 But he sure is a sweet little stocking stuffer!

O Christmas Tree

We decorated the Christmas tree...on December 3rd. We gave our tree away before we moved back to Utah so Grandma set up her tree for us. We used our own ornaments, however, because Grandma's ornaments are lovely, while our ornaments are got-a-handful-of-children worthy.

This picture didn't quite turn out, but here's Alexander smiling up at Daddy:


I've been meaning to write about Thanksgiving for quite some time, obviously, and probably would have had more to say had I written about it in a more timely manner. But I'm so far behind I hardly know where to begin. To borrow the words of my friend Lindsay, "You know in the movies when a rider falls from their galloping horse but their foot gets stuck in the bootstrap? Maybe that's happened to you, I don't know, but that's kind of how I feel right now. I'm the rider being bounced and dragged along against my will, and December is the horse."

Because it's seriously the middle of December already, which is just crazy!

At least Thanksgiving morning was pretty relaxed. We had little to do but play because we (Andrew and I) were in charge of pie and did our baking the day before. It sure was fun to have so many little cousins around to play with!

Here are the Benjamin, Gavin, Zoë and Maren enjoying some bubbles and chalk:

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Why shouldn't my goose sing as well as thy goose?

Here's a sampler of Alexander's breathing...

Here he is shortly after falling asleep for a nap:

Here he is, fast asleep in the dead of night:

Here he is that same night after changing position (creating a slight tune change):

And here he is attempting a conversation this morning after his bath:

Sometimes he breathes so quietly he almost sounds normal. Other times he's so loud I could swear there was a flock of geese flying over the house. We love him no matter how he breathes.

A Birthday Party

We had a surprise birthday party for my mom tonight, just with our local family members: my mom and dad and sisters and brother and some of the grandkids. It was fun!

Patrick came over a bit early to make dinner (he made pasta with a tomato-cream sauce, honey-roasted Brussels sprouts, and meatballs; Kelli brought some French bread; I made a salad and a (no-bake) blueberry cheesecake). I was glad that he took over making dinner!

It was fun to get to celebrate my mom, even though I lied to her for (probably?) the first time in my life in order to keep it a surprise. I asked her if she could come watch my little ones so that I could go to an activity with my older girls (but really there was no activity). 

One of the highlights of the evening was video-chatting with my sister's twins, who've been estranged from the family for the past few years since their father was awarded full custody. It would be great if we could start seeing them at family events again because they're only a year older than Rachel! But I suppose any contact with them is a Christmas miracle at this point.

Here's my sister, and niece, and daughter chatting with the twins:

Saturday, December 09, 2017


I just diagnosed Alexander with laryngomalacia.

I'm not a doctor or anything like that, but I am a mom and so I diagnose things all the time.

Second-degree burn.
Hand-foot-mouth disease.
Ingested penny.
Strep throat.
Pink eye.

Sometimes we go in for a formal confirmation of our diagnosis (mostly so we can get a prescription) but other times we simply don't need to. There is no course of action for laryngomalacia (unless it happens to be interfering with breathing or eating, which, in Alexander's case, it's not).

Find a penny...

One day (this morning), Zoë found a penny.

"I have money!" she said, holding up the gleaming, pristine old and tarnished coin proudly.

She carried it around with her all day to show the world how rich she was. She took it to the breakfast table, she took it on a walk to pick up her big brother from school, she took it downstairs when we went to play. 

This was our downfall.

I had invited a new family over for a playdate. They have a little girl Benjamin's age, a little boy Zoë's age, and a little girl Alexander's age. So obviously it was meant to be! 

And the mom is from Russia so I kind of pounced on her after she bore her testimony on Sunday, and she very patiently  allowed me to wade through my dusty knowledge of Russian to welcome her into the ward. 

Anyway, I let my guard down while the kids were playing so that we could chat. 

In the back of my brain I was aware of what Zoë was doing. She had her prize friend The Penny with her (because why play with the actual child her age, who was busy building a train out of LEGO) and had set out a tea party (she loves playing tea party).

Most of my brain, however, was occupied with nursing Alexander and chatting with my new friend. I believe we were just on the topic of Macey's versus Macy's because she'd asked about the best grocery stores nearby and I said, "Well, there's Macey's..." And she said, "They have groceries at Macy's!?" And then I had to explain about Macey's (the grocery store) versus Macy's (the retail store).

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Suffering the children

My second cousin's wife and I were due around the same time, she with her seventh and I with my fifth. Alexander came a few weeks early, but Sharalee had her baby on Miriam's birthday so her baby ended up being that much younger than my baby. Somehow, however, she's managing to keep up with the Light the World calendar (and her seven children) this year and so totally not.

I'm not keeping up with the calendar and I'm barely keeping up with my children.

Life has been just a little crazy lately.

On Saturday, for example, the scripture was "I was thirsty and ye gave me drink." It wasn't until I saw people posting on Facebook about donating towards clean water campaigns and delivering infant formula to their local food bank that I remembered that the Light the World calendar was even a thing. But my friend Alayna stopped by on Saturday to pick up some milk for her baby (I've been pumping for her) and I thought that was a happy coincidence. Usually she picks milk up on Friday, but she waited a day, and lo, it coincided with the scripture on the Light the World calendar. So that was fortuitous.

Other than that...I don't know that I've managed to do a single extra thing (we haven't had the children open any of the days on our advent calendars either; go our team).

But my cousin has been posting about the little ways she's trying to light the world, which I've appreciated because it helps remind me to go about my day more mindfully (she, for example, tried to remember how the Saviour fills her cup as she went about Saturday getting water for her children or nursing her baby, which is something I certainly didn't think to to do).

Anyway, earlier this week she wrote about how she'd failed to "love her neighbour." She had grand designs of making Chex Mix and delivering it to her neighbours with her children in one grand Yuletide Koombayah. But her plan for the day got completely derailed (I have no idea how that happened with seven children to take care of) and she failed to even make the Chex Mix, let alone visit with her neighbours.

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Thanksgiving Awkwardness

I have a bit of a penchant for making a perfectly normal conversation turn awkward really fast. It's not even always my fault. I mean, sure, there are days when I have no filter. Everyone has days like that, but this mishap was not my fault at all.

We spent Thanksgiving with Andrew's family since Emily was in town and all the little cousins were having so much fun together. But I did feel bad about not seeing my family at all during Thanksgiving so I hopped on Facebook and sent a group message to my family.

I typed their names into the "to" field: Dad, Mom, Kelli, Abra, David, Patrick, Josie

Then I composed my message: "Happy Thanksgiving! I'm thankful for all of you!"

Benign enough, right? Festive, even. Jovial.

But then I caught a glimpse of the previous messages on that thread:

And I just about died because apparently,* the last time we chatted together** was October 2014, before David and Shalise broke off their engagement. What a wonderful thing to bring up out of the blue, amirite?!

So I quickly wrote: "Awwwwwwwkward thread to hop on. Sorry about that."

My family responded with love, kindness, and laughing-so-hard-I'm-crying emoticons.

Pro tip: Sometimes when things aren't quite awkward enough you just have to stir the pot a little bit. With some practice you, too, can be as socially awkward as me.

* Or, as Benjamin would say, accordingly. While we were eating at Wendy's after our photoshoot on Saturday Andrew asked, "Who's happy?" and all the kids—except for Rachel, whose mouth was full—chorused, "ME!" And then Benjamin said, "Well, accordingly Rachel's not!" And I thought it was hilarious.

In situations like this, accordingly could work as well as apparently. Like, "accordingly the last time we chatted together it was about something that feels super awkward to talk about today. Because of course it would happen that way."

** Not that we haven't chatted together since; it's just always been with other people added in, I guess (spouses and children and things). So this was simply the last time we chatted with just my parents and siblings.

One day only

My brother David left his job in England for a new one in British Columbia, so he flew into Salt Lake City on Sunday evening, was here all day on Monday, and left early Tuesday morning to fly up to Prince George. A small part of me is jealous that he was able to secure a job in Canada—and in beautiful British Columbia to boot—but a much larger part of me is glad that I'm not moving that far north. 

To be fair, however, it's -7°C (20°F) here while it's only -1°C (30°F) there. So maybe it won't be that bad for him after all. We'll have to see. I'm sure I'll be comparing temperatures all winter (I already do that with High River all the time, anyway).

Yesterday was cold and snowy here. We were planning on meeting at BYU for dinner at the Cannon Center, but I wasn't sure that I wanted my first drive in the snow to be quite that long...and I knew I didn't want to drive in the dark on the ice on the way home. One day I'll have to drive in the snow, I'm sure, but yesterday was not that day. Instead everyone came to see me (because they're enablers)!

Here's Uncle David meeting Alexander:

Monday, December 04, 2017

The Lights at Temple Square

After family pictures we went to Temple Square to see the lights. We were a little too early so we toured around the visitor's center while we waited for the lights to come on. We even got in line to see the Christus statue (but thought better of it after standing in line long enough to drive the kids crazy; we'll go back in January or something when Temple Square isn't so busy).


Sunday, December 03, 2017

From generation to generation

While we were taking family pictures today I asked Andrew to take a picture of me holding Alexander. Rachel had been reading my grandma's history book this morning (I am so glad my Auntie Colleen did all the work to put it together; I need to get a copy of my grandpa's!) and in addition to coming up with all sorts of questions (Why did she need a license for a radio? Why was telephone operator even a necessary profession? Are you named after your grandma?), we found a lovely picture of my grandma (who I'm named after) showing off a new baby Myrna (my mom).

We did our best to recreate that picture today (from memory; I should have brought a picture with me to our location (and technically I did, but I left it in the car and it was cold outside and we had four kids running around plus a babe in arms and so no one wanted to go fetch it so we could do things properly). It's not perfect, but it will do:

Friday, December 01, 2017

Funny boys

This morning I asked Benjamin what his favourite part of Into the Woods was last night. Instead of answering my question, he started rolling his head around and around and said, "Do you know what the international symbol for 'I don't know' is?"

So apparently he doesn't know what his favourite part was (though his favourite character was Cinderella).

I was reminded, however, that little boys are hilarious. Benjamin has been fairly consistently hilarious the past few weeks, but I've been remiss about writing every funny thing down because, well, I've been busy with a baby. I need to get back in the habit, however, so that we can keep running into funny things Benjamin says because Patrick was also a rather hilarious child, always saying something ridiculous, and in his baby book my mom simply wrote down, "He's always saying the funniest things!" or something like that. When we came across that she said with much regret, "I should have written down more!"

When I thought of funny little boys, however, I didn't think of Benjamin first. I thought of Gavin!

When he was here at Thanksgiving, he and Zoë were having a bit of a fight over a toy phone. Uncle Morgan managed to convince Gavin that he should let Zoë have a turn with the phone because she's little and he's big (a rather tall order for a three-year-old, considering Zoë is only a year younger than him, but when it comes to screaming fits Gavin throws infinitely fewer than Zoë throws and we were just trying to get the madness to stop).

"Thank you for giving Zoë the phone," Morgan said to Gavin. "You're such a nice boy."

"Well, I'm not nice enough!" Gavin retorted.

He then spent the next several minutes stomping around with a grumpy look on his face, just to show us how not-nice he could be (to be honest, he's not very good at being not-nice).

"Are you mad about something?" Andrew asked when Gavin stomped past him (Andrew had missed the phone debacle).

"No!" Gavin said. "I'm frustrated!"

I know Gavin was feeling very frustrated (and not quite nice enough), but it was sure entertaining to watch him express his frustration and not-niceness!

Parent Teacher Conferences

I don't know what it is about me and the communication style of the administrators at my kids' school, but they seriously have me questioning my reading comprehension skills. Every form they send home seems to confuse me, at least a little. 

Most recently, we received an email about parent/teacher conferences:
Student Education Plan (SEP) Conferences will be held November 30th. We are excited to be using SignUpGenius in assisting us to create schedules for our December SEP conferences. (Our SEP Conferences in February will be our Student Led Conferences and will follow a different schedule.) 
5th and 6th graders do not need to sign up for a time. Their teachers will hold an open-house style SEP that night. It will be on a first-come first-serve basis in our school gym. (Just the same as it was this past September). 
The SEP schedules are the same time as our previous SEPs. You do NOT need to sign up again unless you missed the last SEP conferences. You may click on the link to view the time you scheduled for.
This was followed by instructions on how to sign up for a time slot. I read this and understood that (a) conferences were happening on December 1, (b) we're using SignUpGenius (huge fan), (c) 5th grade conferences are open-house (not a huge fan, but no worries because...), (d) I didn't have to sign up for a conference because I did not miss the conference in September. Boom.

So I made no plans to attend parent/teacher conferences. My kids all had tickets to go to Into the Woods at BYU that night, anyway.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

More Middle East friends

Speaking of good company and flat-sharing, when we lived in Egypt we heard a young couple was coming out for a program at AUC and they hadn't yet secured a place to live (it is (or at least was) virtually impossible to do so without having a swanky job—you have to (or at least had to) wander around the streets asking random boabs if there were vacancies in their buildings) so we offered to host them in our apartment until they could find a place of their own. 

We had some friends in common on Facebook—a friend from high school had married a former student employee of mine (from Special Collections), who'd happened to serve her mission with the wife of this couple—so we figured they couldn't be terrible people. 

And they weren't. They were great!

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Good company

Years and years ago, before there was a Alexander or Zoë or Benjamin or Miriam, or even a Rachel, Andrew and I went to Jordan for a summer to study Arabic. Technically Andrew was studying and I was simply a "trailing spouse" but I consider it "our" study abroad (just like I consider his PhD "ours"; I get that it's not but it certainly feels like I put in enough work to earn an honorary one).

It was a wonderful newly-wed adventure, but I probably would have gone completely stir-crazy had we not happened upon the most wonderful of flat-mates, another young couple and their super adorable two-year-old son. 

Crystal became one of my best friends that summer. We somehow managed to go from strangers to confidants in a matter of weeks (days?). We shared a bathroom, a washing machine, a kitchen, a house—all without driving each other too terribly crazy (at least, I hope not). Crystal taught me a lot about how to be a good wife and mother and friend. 

And then study abroad ended and we found ourselves back in the States, separated by thousands of miles. Harsh. So we've been stuck blogging (and instant messaging) to keep in contact.

At least we're both Mormons, so, naturally, have ties continuously pulling us back to Utah (though neither of us grew up there). We've met up in Utah several times over the past eleven years. The most recent time was just a few days ago (lucky us)! Her family was down visiting their extended family for Thanksgiving so they took some time to come visit us. 

We let our ten children play together:

Gingerbread turkey

On Thanksgiving morning we had the kids put together the gingerbread turkey kit Grandma got. Unleashing six small children seemed like a bad idea, so I tried to stagger their entry, but we ended up with six (well, five) small children working together anyway.

Here's Auntie Emily admiring their handy work; she was a pro at wielding the icing bag as well.

Zoë was rather protective of the candy bowls

Saturday, November 25, 2017

From Uncle Patrick's Baby Book

I'm going to get to Thanksgiving, I really will, but first I have to write a bit about this evening when we went over to my parents' house with leftover pie because, well, Uncle Patrick got out his baby book so that we could look at some pictures to see whether or not Alexander looks like him because my mom has been saying that he does.

And it's really kind of true; Alexander often has that same quizzical expression on his face (not annoyed, like Zoë's face always seemed...just perplexed (or like he's trying to withhold judgement)):

Uncle Patrick

Uncle Patrick (August 1989) and Alexander (November 2017)
(so about the same age)

So many pictures

A few years ago we brought these three little ones together for the first time:

Riley, Maren, and Zoë (July 2015)
Two and a half years later we got them back together:

Riley, Maren, and Zoë (November 2017)

Cheaper by the dozen

The last time we took Heiss family pictures (about three years ago (December 30, 2014)), there were five grandchildren. Rachel and Kayl were seven, Miriam was five, Benjamin was two, and Gavin was one. In the last three years we've added seven more grandchildren (like rabbits, I tell you) and for the first time ever we had all twelve grandchildren together (with seven children under the age of three) over Thanksgiving this year.

Friday, November 24, 2017

But...the tomatoes...

When Andrew was much younger than he is now, he and his sister Katherine were sent out to clear out the old tomato plants from the garden. Now, forcing siblings to work together can yield several results: they can turn the task into a game and have a lot of fun working together, they can fight with each other and get nothing done at all, or they can turn the task into such a fun game that they get nothing done at all. From my experience, the last two options occur most frequently.

Andrew's not a very high-conflict person, so on this occasion, like many times before, he managed to turn cleaning up tomatoes into a game. Unfortunately, this game fell into category three and instead of ridding the garden of tomatoes, Andrew and Katherine made things worse. They started throwing rotten tomatoes at the house.

And, boy, was it fun!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

We gather together...

"You can have Thanksgiving dinner at our house!" Benjamin called out, ever enthusiastic, to every person we ran into on our way home from school. "It's only two sleeps away!"

Most people ignored him.

His teacher said she would but she wasn't quite sure where his house is (then he reminded her of our address (because he had to memorize that last month) and gave her verbal directions ("You just turn at the stop sign and go straight down the road until...")).

His friend Lucy's dad mumbled an apology: "Oh, uh, well...thanks for the invitation but we've already got plans."

I have no idea how many people will show up for Thanksgiving dinner, but at least I know that my little boy is very friendly.

Would-be kidnapper

We headed to BYU for family night last night. We had to go to the library because—confession time—we hadn't gone since before Alexander was born. He's five weeks old now; it's fine.

The kids ran around like we'd released them in a candy shop, grabbing far too many books (we checked them all out), and then we decided we'd stop by the creamery on our way home since I hadn't yet been able to go and the kids felt sorry for me.

Herding a family of seven into The Creamery on Ninth on a Monday, of all days (hey, everybody–it's family night!), proved to be a little chaotic. Let's just say we weren't the only family with a handful of children to think of swinging by the creamery. There were also several FHE groups there. It was, in a word, pandemonium.

As we were heading into the creamery, with Benjamin and Zoë wildly skipping about in front of us (literally screaming for ice cream), we ran into a family on their way out, with their little ones bouncing around in a post-ice-cream frenzy, and soon found ourselves aswirl in a frenetic current of towheaded munchkins.

Parents began frantically grabbing at children, trying to stop their offspring from crashing into store displays, pulling over rope barriers, or running into innocent bystanders; trying to keep the children that should be in the store in the store while also shooing out the ones who were supposed to be leaving.

As I was reaching out to constrain a little boy, about Benjamin's age and about Benjamin's height—I swear he could have been his doppelgänger, I locked eyes with the other mother, who was also reaching out to constrain the aforementioned little boy.

I looked at her in surprise, but she just laughed, nodded her head toward Andrew and said, "He's got yours."

She was super nice about it, considering I was about to kidnap her child.

I guess she knew that with my arms all full of Alexander I wouldn't have been able to keep hold on her little boy, anyway. Plus, she probably counted up my children and figured I wouldn't purposely bring another one home! Who knows? Maybe she also made a mad grab for Benjamin?

It's been over five weeks since we've really tried going anywhere as a family; it's fine. But now that I think about it, maybe it was a little too soon for us all to take on the world...

And that's how I almost kidnapped a child yesterday.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Idaho and back again

The kids spent Friday night up in Idaho with Andrew's parents. They went swimming at the hotel and watched a movie on Friday night and spent Saturday playing with their cousins (at the Artitorium). The main event—Arwyn's baby blessing—was Saturday afternoon, shortly before they left to come home, so they didn't end up arriving home until it was bedtime.

"You might want to make them some dinner," Reid told me. "We didn't stop for dinner so all they've had is candy."

So I started scrambling some eggs.

"It's time for dinner," Andrew told Benjamin.

"We already had dinner," Benjamin objected, "And it was awesome!"

After eggs and toast and bath time we got the kids all tucked into bed—rather late. Still, we were surprised when we woke up this morning and all of our kids (five out of five) were still asleep. Granted, Alexander had just fallen back to sleep after being up, but having all five children asleep while we were awake felt like a grand (albeit eerie) accomplishment.

Zoë and Rachel were sleeping on the couch, so obviously they'd been up a bit earlier. Rachel said Zoë climbed into her bed around 7:00 and she had managed to convince her to cuddle.

Friday, November 17, 2017

First and Second Zoë haircuts (and other stories)

Since Alexander was born, Andrew's made an effort to stick around—at least for a few minutes—in the mornings to help get the kids up and ready for school. Quite often he's gone before they leave for school, but he'll usually have them all up and dressed and at the breakfast table by the time I get up, which really only gives me an extra fifteen minutes of sleep or so (but believe me, that fifteen minutes is so precious).

This morning, however, Andrew was in Michigan. That meant I was left to get all the kids moving on my own. And, because I'm a genius, I scheduled visiting teaching appointments this morning as well, which meant that in addition to getting the kids off to school on my own I also had to get Zoë, Alexander, and myself ready to leave the house. Smart, right?

So instead of getting an extra fifteen minutes of sleep, I woke up fifteen minutes before the kids got up so that I would (hopefully) have time to get everything done. And I did. I got all the kids out the door, I pumped, I fed the baby and changed his diaper (twice (for both the feeding and the diaper changing), I wrangled the wee ones into clothes, and I got out the door. And I was only, like, five minutes late to my first appointment. So...boom!

Here's Zoë saying good morning to Alexander:

Thursday, November 16, 2017

One Month: belly stickers and park pictures

Enfamil sent me some "belly stickers" for Alexander (because they love me, obviously (and they also want me to buy their products (which, I'm a milch cow, so...yup))) and he turned a month old on the 14th and they're sitting on my desk, untouched. 

I should probably give them to some other mother who can keep on top of that kind of thing. One who actually remembers to stick a sticker on her baby's belly on the same day, every month, for an entire year...and snap a picture of it.

I'm not that kind of mother. 

I'm not saying a mother who remembers to stick stickers on her baby's belly is a better mother than I am. Nor am I saying that I am above sticking stickers on my baby's belly. I'm not a Sneetch.

I'm just saying I'm not that kind of mother.

But, here is a picture of Alexander that I happened to snap on the 14th (his one month...birthday):

Sunday and Monday

As promised, I put Miriam's hair in rags Saturday evening. I didn't manage to get a picture of how lovely her hair looked on Sunday morning, but it did indeed look lovely and she was very satisfied with its sproinginess.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

1950s Daddy/Daughter Night

Last time the girls had a Daddy/Daughter Dance at the school I kind of bombed it and sent my girls to the dance wearing casual clothes when I should have had them gussied up. In my defence, I was newly pregnant and exhausted and had the worst morning sickness of all five pregnancies. So the fact that I got them out the door at all is to be commended. Still, I felt bad that they were so...plain...while all their friends were so fancy.

Thank goodness I got a do-over last night! 

This year their (new) school chose a 50s theme for the Daddy/Daughter Date Night (which involved more than just dancing—there were hoola hoops and other fun "stations"), so while we were waiting for Daddy to get home from work, the girls and I put costumes together. And we crushed it.

Miriam's costume was pretty easy because I'd made a poodle skirt for her school musical last year. Rachel's was a little more difficult because I didn't have (wasn't about to make) another poodle skirt. After looking through some "google images" results for "1950s fashion" we rolled her jeans, threw on a plaid shirt (of mine), and put her hair up in a handkerchief. 

After looking up hairstyles, the girls let me experiment with some pin curls. 

Friday, November 10, 2017


A week and a half past Halloween is a great time to write about carving pumpkins, right? Because they're still nice and fresh and sitting on our front porch and everything. 

Andrew went grocery shopping with the kids a few weeks ago (several weeks ago, if we're being honest, because it was before Alexander was born) and came home with an entire family of pumpkins: a daddy pumpkin, a mommy pumpkin, four little pumpkins, and a wee baby pumpkin.

Then a couple of days before Halloween, Jaker's Jack-O-Lanterns (by Harward Farms) came to the school and gave every single child in the school a pumpkin—and not just a piddly pumpkin, either; these were hard-to-carry-home size (but the kids did it)—so by Halloween we were basically drowning in pumpkins. 

Before we get to pumpkin carving, I'll show off Miriam's character pumpkin for school (which, if you're keeping track, means that she (1) carried her pumpkin home from school, (2) carried her decorated pumpkin back to school, (3) carried her decorated pumpkin back home so she could carve it—talk about a work out):

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Zoë talks

Recently Zoë has become rather interested in saying prayers, which interestingly enough coincided with a rapid increase in vocabulary and complex sentence structure. Her language skills made a huge jump around the time Alexander was born (coincidence or necessity?). So now instead of ending her prayers with "Jss. MORE!" she ends them with "name Jesus Chist. The end."

I'm pretty sure she doesn't think "amen" is a legitimate word.

On Sunday she was being a bit of a pill during sacrament meeting and kept telling me, "Gook me—nope!" (translation: "Look at me—nope!") because if I didn't look at her I couldn't catch her being naughty, right?

She also kept telling Andrew, "Call me—nope!" meaning that he shouldn't say, "Zoë," in a disproving tone, obviously.

Today Benjamin and Zoë were playing LEGO in Benjamin's bedroom when I went in to tell them that I was going to take a nap with the baby. Often (probably even usually) the kids jump to use this as an opportunity to ask for screen time and often (probably even usually) I will consent to turn on a show for them because...sleep.

Zoë surprised me, however, by quickly saying, "Me 'atch show—nope!"

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

First snowfall

We had the first flurry of the season today and we all survived it (though we may have been comically overdressed compared to the...locals).

Here, for example, is Alexander on the first snowy day of his life:

Must be...Zoë

There's a song we like to sing to Alexander, which I sang to Benjamin as well (because it really only works well for boys). It's sung to the tune of Must Be Santa so has the added benefit of getting on Andrew's nerves (when it's not the Christmas season (but it snowed today so I'm pretty sure we can count the Christmas season as on)).

"Who's my little baby boy?" I sing.

"Baby Xander!" Zoë will answer.

"Xander is my little baby boy!" I sing back. Then I ask, "Who brings our family lots of joy?"

The answer, of course, should be Xander (or Alex; we're still torn), but this morning Zoë smiled impishly and said, "No, Zoë! Zoë bings joy!"

That she does. But unfortunately, girl doesn't rhyme with I never sang this song to my girls.

I suppose I could sing it to her now because while girl doesn't rhyme with joy, it does rhyme with twirl (and while Zoë wasn't so great at twirling when she was a baby, she's a pretty talented twirler these days).

Who's my precious little girl?
Zoë is my precious little girl!
Who likes to run and jump and twirl?
Zoë likes to run and jump and twirl!
Jump and twirl! Little girl!
Must be Zoë! Must be Zoë!
Must be Zoë, Zoë Heiss!

The Longest Day

I found the mother's lounge on Sunday, not because I wanted a secluded place to nurse my baby (I'm totally cool with nursing in that when your baby has a poop-splosion while nursing in the middle of Sunday School it gets all over your lap and the chair you're sitting on (but you just keep on nursing while your husband uses a burp cloth to mop it all up because if you stop nursing the baby would start screaming, bringing more attention to your slightly disruptive, poop-covered family (not that I know from experience))) but because baby's big sister wanted a closer look at baby...but then lost her balance and face-planted on baby's face.

He was not happy about that so I fled the chapel before he could really start crying.

Big sister, likewise, was rather unhappy so Andrew scooped her up and fled the chapel as well.

Tears all around!

I ended up in the mother's lounge, rocking Alexander. Another mother was in there trying to nurse her baby (who had reached the curious stage and wanted to eat but explore (life's one big conundrum)). She ooohed and ahhed over how new and tiny Alexander was, but also mentioned not missing that stage.

"They grow so fast!" she said. "It's like you blink and they're six weeks old and out of that newborn stage. Of course, that could be because everything is a blur. It's like a six-week-long day where you never really fall asleep and never really wake up."

And that feels pretty true. Alexander has been up every two hours (at least) for the past three weeks. But last night? Last night he slept for four hours without a break. So we're both feeling pretty great this morning (but still, as always, ready for a nap).

Sunday, November 05, 2017

Baptism, A New Birth

Today was our double-whammy celebration of Miriam's baptism and Alexander's blessing and, continuing with the theme of our life recently, it sure was a whirlwind of a day! 

After convincing Andrew that making crepes for a party of 30 people would be altogether too much work for Friday evening, we decided on simple things like muffins and cookies from Costco and soup. Andrew wasn't entirely on board with the soup because he thought it was too early in the day for soup and this was going to be a brunch-type thing, but I pointed out that (a) it's fall so soup is a totally rational meal choice and (b) 11:30 is close enough to actual lunch that having soup wouldn't be frowned upon. Plus, Wikipedia categorizes soup as a brunch it's basically official.

Then, after convincing Andrew that we would certainly not have time to prepare everything in the morning (we have five kids to get ready—FIVE!), we stayed up late making soup, cutting up fruit, and deciding which tray would hold what food. This was a very good thing because the morning ended up being quite rushed (from my perspective). I was so busy doing hair and putting clothes on people and changing diapers and bathing children and nursing and so forth that I hardly even made it downstairs before we dashed out the door.

Alexander wore the same outfit that Benjamin wore on his blessing day (I used the word "whirlwind" for his blessing day as well...huh...maybe life is just always complicated). The kids really wanted him to wear a bowtie, but all of Benjamin's bowties look ridiculously huge on him so Rachel dug out a red hair bow and we clipped that on his shirt, completing his dapper look: