Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Spelling Bee

The school-wide spelling bee was last Thursday and since Rachel was participating I figured we should go support her. Usually I go to things during the day because I'm the stay-at-home parent; Andrew has commitments all day, like writing and research and meetings and stuff. I have commitments, too, like diaper changing and nursing and child-wrangling but my commitments are a lot more mobile. 

Still, getting my commitments up and fed and clothed and out the door in time to drop the kids off at school (7:45 in the morning!) and then making my commitments behave (sit quietly!) through the entire spelling bee seemed like a huge burden. I mean, huuuuuuuge.

"You're going to help me get the kids ready to go before you leave, though, right?" I asked Andrew the night before.

"Yeah, I can do that." He paused to think. "Wait a minute. What if I go to the spelling bee?"

"Like, just you go to the spelling bee or, like, you go to the spelling be as well?"

"I'll just go. You stay home with Benjamin and Zoë and I'll go to the spelling bee to cheer Rachel on and then I'll go to work."

"That...makes sense," I said. "I can't really imagine Benjamin and Zoë sitting still through this sort of thing anyway."

So that's what we did. And it turns out that leaving the little ones at home was a wise choice because the teachers were flipping out about noise levels all the time, apparently (and I totally believe it because (and I don't know if it's just a southern thing but...) the kids aren't allowed to talk at school, like, ever; not during class, not during lunch, quiet, quiet, quiet—I guess their 15–20 minute recess lets them chat a bit, but I seriously don't remember being shushed so much when I was in elementary school (except, perhaps, at Alice M. Curtis in Calgary)). 

Rachel made it to the fourth round before getting nervous and misspelling vacation (which is a relatively easy word for her—you should have heard her spell the words we were practicing). She spelled it V-A-C-T-I-O-N.


Miriam's doing cheer right now, or so I'm told. I haven't been to any of her practices or performances yet; Andrew's taken on that responsibility/joy. I was really going to make an effort to go this Saturday since she was having her game followed by a Duke Cheer Clinic, but Zoë was sick so I stayed home with her (because while Miriam will accept Andrew as a mom-substitute, Zoë will not). I made Andrew promise to take pictures though, so he did.

The poor girl forgot her pom-poms, unfortunately, so she had to cheer without them:

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Bordering insanity

Quizzically, these are not evaders of the system being detained in airports for "invalid visas"; these are not undocumented immigrants. These are people who went through the red tape: they filed paperwork, paid their fees, checked off every box. These are people whose visas are in their passports—signed, sealed, delivered. The system failed them. And it is an outrage.

Imagine you're a trailing spouse, riding on your husband's student visa, and you leave the country with a friend—so that she can renew her visa because she's required to leave the country before renewing her visa while you (as luck would have it) are not—accompanied by your small child. You spend a few days seeing some sights but mostly you're just leaving the country so you can go back in again, so your friend can purchase a new visa.

The border control officer takes your passport, flips through the pages, nods, stamps your passport and hands it back. Next he takes your child's passport, flips through the pages, then says, "She does not have a valid visa."

Your stomach drops to the floor.

"Excuse me?" you stammer.

"She has no valid visa."

"No," you insist. "She has a visa."

 "She has no visa. You may go through. She stays here."

"She is 18-months old!" you protest. "She is a baby! I can't just..."

Friday, January 27, 2017

恭喜发财 (Gōngxǐ fācái | gong-hey faa-chwhy)

Miriam's class has been studying the Chinese New Year this week (last week they did a unit on Sweden's May Day celebrations—complete with learning a dance and some phrases in Swedish (Miriam's teacher is Swedish)) and she has come home gushing about the holiday every day this week.

On Wednesday while we were hiking she was rambling on and on about the twelve zodiac animals. She'd looked everyone in the family up. Daddy's a rat. She and I are oxen. Rachel is a pig. Benjamin is a dragon—that's the very luckiest! And Zoë is a goat. And the New Year celebration lasts fifteen days. And there are firecrackers and lion dancers and sometimes dragons. Do you think we could make a dragon? We could just use an old sheet and paint it red. They're usually red. Apples and oranges are eaten to bring good fortune.

"And you'll really like this part, Mom," she said. "They make the house spotless, clean it from top to bottom!"

"That part does sound pretty good," I said (though I'm rather fond of the dancing lions and dragons, myself).

"Why did you have to say that?" Rachel glowered, imagined chores souring her attitude.

"So do you think we can celebrate? I'll make the dragon if you'll make the fortune cookies! And..."

She was off again, making holiday plans faster than I could put a lid on them.

So we planned to have a Chinese-themed dinner tonight. We made orange chicken and ate with chopsticks. We had oranges for good fortune, and Andrew stopped to pick up some fortune cookies on his way home from work.

On Apathy

On Monday we (all of us) wrote postcards to our state senators about some concerns we had regarding public education and medical coverage. I don't know if it will do much but, as Andrew said, "Pressure is pressure." When I went to buy stamps at the post office they couldn't find any in the back. I swear we were waiting for more than half an hour while an employee was searching around in the back, trying to come up with some stamps for me (waiting at the post office that long was no small feat for Benjamin and Zoë, but really they did just fine).

"All I can find is a roll of 100 postcard stamps," the employee said helplessly. "I can't find the individual stamps."

"That's exactly what I'm looking for," I said (and exactly what I asked for, but thanks for having me wait around anyway).

"Really? You must be planning on mailing a lot of postcards."

"Yes," I answered, "I am.

Because I am. Because I refuse to allow apathy be my passion. Because I'm bothered.
"Let me alone," said Mildred. "I didn't do anything."
"Let you alone! That's all very well, but how can I leave myself alone? We need not to be let alone. We need to be really bothered once in a while. How long is it since you were really bothered? About something important, about something real?" Montag (Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451: 60th anniversary ed., p. 49)

Wednesday, January 25, 2017


This morning I went to a lovely brunch with some ladies from church. The invitation was a little spur-of-the-moment, but I don't think it could have come at a better time. Benjamin had his special preschool day, which he attends once per month, and I had his teacher's (Annie's) little boy in his place. It was nice to get to visit while the little ones played. When preschool was over I went to drop off E and pick up Benjamin and who should walk down the street but E's older brothers.

"They're home already!?" I gasped. "I've got to get home!"

"Yup. Half day today," Annie said.

"That's right!"

How could I have forgotten? Well, I have a million things on my mind. But still. How could I have forgotten?!

Annie's kids ride the same bus my kids ride, except my kids are at the end of the route and Annie's kids are at the beginning of the route so while my children's to and from school commute is around an hour Annie's children are only on the bus for about five minutes. I had plenty of time to get home.

It was such a glorious sunshiny day that we decided to go hiking "to the purple slide park."  Now that their early release time is, like, noon we have plenty of time for such adventures.

Monday, January 23, 2017

March on Raleigh, part II: the temple

I've heard stories about people believing that Satan is doing everything in his power to keep them from attending the temple. The first I heard this was from my neighbour across the street when I used to babysit her boys (who no longer need babysitting) quite regularly—often so that she and her husband could go to the temple. They had some sort of code word for talking about the temple, as if they could trick Satan into thinking they were going somewhere else and thus he wouldn't stir up chaos to keep them from getting to the temple. I've heard similar stories since then.

But what if there's a greater power paving the way to the temple, clearing obstacles, sending out a homing beacon, calling us home (or at least to His house).

Side story, yesterday in nursery we were talking about prayer, specifically about things we could be thankful for in our prayers. The kids were taking turns pulling items out of a bag to figure out what we could be grateful for next. When the picture of the temple was pulled out a little girl said, "That's the temple! Mommy and daddy live there!" What a sweet misconstruction of the facts. But, yes, the temple is The House of the Lord and we should feel welcome there. (I'm assuming that this little girl was talking about a wedding photograph of her parents, probably standing in front of a similar temple).


All he can see is himself

He doesn't speak for me.
His tremendous words of emptiness
And pat-yourself-on-the-back rhetoric
Only inspire me to fill my life with substance
By reaching out, speaking out, carving out
A safe place. Yes, a safe place.

He doesn't act for me.
His thumbs-up, smile-and-wave gimmick
Will be met with my kitten-throated roar
Because ideas that belittle are little
No matter how winningly, bigly, and hugely terrific
They tell us they are. Yes, they tell us they are.

Oh say, what is truth?
His alternative truth: glass diamonds
Fool's gold, smoke-and-mirror stylized lies.
Trumpet-played puppets aren't out to spin facts.
It's a bald-faced attack, a normalization of the death
Of liberty and justice for all. Yes, for all.

Oh say, can't you see?
This is bigger than me/you/she/he/xe/it or them.
We're all on this plane but the pilot can't fly!
He's at the controls but he has no window.
His cockpit is covered in spit-polished gold
And all he can see is himself.
Yes, all he can see is himself.

March on Raleigh, part I

Millions of people around the world participated in the Women's March on Washington. It is the largest protest in American history. And yet, somehow, people are still asking me what it's about. As if they hadn't heard nary a rumbling about if Google isn't a thing (Pssst! Google is a thing).

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Pussy cat, pussy cat, what did you there? I frightened a little mouse under the chair.

I don't quite remember when I started thinking about participating in the Women's Marches, but somehow my thoughts went from, "That might be something I might do if I were into that sort of thing," to "I might be into this sort of thing," to "Okay, so we're doing this."

So we made plans and we made signs and when the day came we loaded the kids into the van and headed out to Raleigh. We weren't even out of the driveway before we ran into our first co-marchers—our nextdoor neighbours went as well! When we were parking we ran into another neighbour (Crystal, who organizes the MLK trash pick-up day) who just happened to have a few extra hats to hand out, which she offered to us.

Thursday, January 19, 2017


My children are the messiest eaters on the face of the planet. You might think yours are the messiest eaters, but you're wrong. Because mine claim that title.

I spend a good chunk of my time wiping down table tops, sweeping food off the floor, bathing children smeared head-to-toe in dinner (and so forth). And I know that mothers are supposed to be the pinnacle of patience—don't cry over spilled milk!—but sometimes the continual mess gets to me so when the fiftieth blueberry falls off their fork, bounces off their plate, skips across the table, and rolls across the floor, and the culprit smiles at me and shrugs their shoulders I growl, "You'd better go find that," instead of sweetly reminding my child to look after themselves. Because if I find one more forgotten (and smashed) blueberry (or anything else, for that matter) I'm going to lose my mind.

We must not cry over spilled milk, true. But how many times must we not cry over spilled milk? Until the seventy and seventh time? Say it ain't so.

This morning Zoë put her elbow in her cereal bowl before I'd even given her any milk (thank goodness) and dry cereal went flying across the table.

"Just sit and eat your breakfast," I reminded the kids as I scooped up the spilled cereal. "Eat and then play. Do not play and eat."

Monday, January 16, 2017

Thing I'd never thought I'd say #2239

"Rachel, there's a vertebra under the trampoline. Come take care of it."

She found a (partial) skeleton of some sort of critter while we were out picking up trash on Saturday and it was too interesting to leave alone so she brought it home (in a plastic bag) and somehow one of the vertebrae found its way out of the plastic bag and under the trampoline.

Because why shouldn't we have random animal parts scattered around the house?

When is the pool going to open?

Yesterday the kids were playing LEGO before church and Benjamin insulted Rachel's creation, which spurred on a huge fight because she took his criticism extremely personally. There was quite a bit of mud-slinging and even a little bit of physical contact and it was all completely ridiculous.

"I want you to say three nice things to each other," I instructed when I had pulled them apart. "Rachel you go first."

"Fine," she huffed before snarling, "I like your roof. The green part on top is nice. You build cool things."

Benjamin didn't think this qualified as kind because for family night last Monday we'd had a lesson about saying nice things nicely—and how if you say nice words in a mean way they don't really count as nice words. Rachel did not say her nice words nicely. But she was in too much of a snit to fix this so I asked Benjamin to let it go and take his turn saying nice things.

"Fine!" he echoed Rachel, but then said very calmly, "Your LEGO house isn't ugly."

She shot him a withering look.

"When is the pool going to open?" he said next, his words waxing saccharine.

Don't throw your trash in my backyard...

This weekend the kids and I participated in our second annual litter collection event, in honour of MLK day. As you can see from the pictures the turnout has been phenomenal (or not):

Saturday, January 14, 2017


Late Wednesday afternoon we got the news that the girls would be having a full day of school on Thursday morning. I had them pack up their backpacks so we'd be prepared in the morning. Andrew and Rachel went to church in the evening for a meeting and an activity, respectively. I stayed home with the littles, as per my usual, and gave Miriam her piano lesson.

We'd had scriptures and prayer before Andrew and Rachel left, with the hope that I'd have the other kids in bed by the time they returned—and we were right on track for that. We'd cleaned up from dinner and had story time and everything! And then Miriam got out of bed to announce that she'd forgotten to do her "Sunshine Math," an extracurricular math program (that seems to be rather widely used in the States...I dunno).

I was like, "You've had this worksheet sitting in your backpack for over three weeks and now is when you decide to do it?!"

Seriously. She'd been at home for twenty-six days in a row—and there had been several outbursts of "I'm bored!"—and she was just sitting on this worksheet the whole time?! Kids!

The girls were happy to be back at school for a couple of days before our long weekend (because, yes, that's just what we need after being home for twenty-six days and going back to school for two days—a long weekend). It's probably a good thing, really, because we need to reenter our schedule slowly. This 7:45 AM start time. Boy. I dunno.

In other news, Zoë, who suffered somewhat of a sleep regression over our month-long break (meaning she doesn't just go to bed when she's put down anymore...and has stopped napping pretty much addition to still not sleeping through the night...but that's fine), fell asleep with a soother in her mouth tonight!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Snow, snow, snow

We tried to cobble together a snowman of sorts yesterday, but our results were rather sad. How sad?

This sad:


Sunday, January 08, 2017

Snow Days in Carolina: A poem accompanied by way too many pictures

I hear the tinkle, tinkle
Of freshly falling snow
It's not composed of fluffy flakes
But ice pellets, you know.

Of course there'll be a snow day
(Or seven, eight, or nine)
While we wait, quite helpless,
For wintry-warm sunshine.

We rummage the entire house
For clothes to keep us hot,
Then run outside in rain boots—
The only sort we've got.

Thursday, January 05, 2017


The forecast calls for snow this weekend and so yesterday the city started panicking. It was 60°F outside and people were panicking—salting the roads and buying up bread and milk—because it's supposed to snow on Friday. Yes, people were panicking. Meanwhile, my little boy was crawling around—fully clothed—in the creek, pretending to be a beaver. 

Monday, January 02, 2017

Happy New Year!

After binge-watching some Fuller House* we tuned into the Fuller House New Year's Eve countdown (because it's midnight somewhere) so we could put the little kids to bed. They were quite shocked when DJ broke the fourth wall and said, "And you need to get to bed. Yes, we can see you, too!"

Then we gave them some glow sticks for our traditional First Walk of the Year. We went up and down the street and then came back home for some sparkling cider (or, as Miriam kept calling it, "Sparkling wine"). 

Here's Zoë giving Daddy a New Year kiss:

Reading, writing, spelling

A few weeks ago I was finishing up piano lessons with Miriam and decided that she didn't have quite enough to work on, but I also knew that no one in the house had patience for any more time spent on piano lessons so I said, "And just do page 59 as well. We won't go over it now; it's bedtime. You can figure it out on your own."

Miriam has a good ear for the piano. She recently taught herself how to play The First ear. She likes me to go through her songs with her so that she knows how they sound and then she'll work them until she basically has them memorized for her next lesson. Not knowing how the song sounded was frustrating for her.

"I will never get it right!" she lamented during one of her practice sessions. "How am I even supposed to know how it goes if I've never heard it before?!"

"You're supposed to read the music," I said. "You know how each note is assigned a line or gap on the staff?"

"Yes," she admitted.

"Alright. And you know how the different kinds of notes receive a different number of beats? For example," I said, pointing to a quarter note, "How many beats does this note get?"

"One," she sniffed.

"That's right. So all you have to do is put that together. It's like a secret code. It's like reading."

"I can do that!" she said, placing her hands on the piano. A little apprehensive at first, her fingers haltingly managed to get through the song. She had it memorized by her next lesson. Because that's how she rolls. (note to self: put kids in actual lessons one day because I have no idea what I'm doing)

New Year's Eve's Eve

I already wrote about our excursion to Greensboro, so all that's left, I guess, is to write about Auntie Josie's last day with us and our trip to the Museum of Life and Science. We thought about going to Duke campus instead of the museum, but ultimately the idea of making the children behave appropriately in an adult-centric environment once again seemed too overwhelming so the museum won out because there they are free to act like kids.

It was rather chilly (compared to the rest of the week) so we spent most of our time inside, going outside only to make our way from the main building to the butterfly house (and, you know, stopping at the music-making station and the farm and the playground on our way).

Here's Auntie Josie and Benjamin outside of the butterfly house:

Hiking on the Eno (December 27)

Last Tuesday we took Auntie Josie for a little walk down by the Eno River. 

Boxing Day

Almost half of Auntie Josie's suitcase was filled with presents for our family—which was a big surprise since we'd just had Christmas. Here are the kids in their new hats from Naanii and Bumpa:


Sunday, January 01, 2017

Christmas Day: Opening Presents

The kids were pretty excited to get back to their presents after church on Sunday! I didn't put any presents under the tree this year until Christmas Eve because of this little one: