Saturday, February 25, 2017

FEMMES at Duke

Rachel spent the day at Duke, attending the FEMMES program (Females Excelling More in Math, Engineering, and Science). She knew a handful of girls there (Jordan, Marin, Carolina, Genevee, and Kate) but somehow they all ended up in different groups (it was probably good for them to have to mix things up and get to know new people).

She came home gushing about her experience. 

All these kids

Sometimes—like, for example, when Andrew's been out of town for a week—I begin to feel like Mr. Bailey...

Last cheer game

I know I already wrote about Miriam's last cheer practice, but today she cheered at her last game--a double header, at that! The basketball teams played all morning, but we only showed up in the afternoon for the semi-final and final matches.

Not very many girls from Miriam's squad showed up, but what they lacked in number they made up for in spirit.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Immigration – it has a face and a name – this one is Heiss

This is a story Aunt Stacey shared on Facebook that I wanted to be sure my kids got to read. Since they don't have Facebook yet (but do read the blog) Aunt Stacey gave me permission to share it here:

Oma, Opa, and my father on their first Sunday in San Francisco at Lands End,
before the Golden Gate Bridge was constructed.

Top 3 events of 2016

Miriam brought home a paper with her "top 3 events" of 2016:

1) We went to the State Fair with Grandma and my family.
2) Zoë learned how to say "quack" at the zoo. Ack! Ack! Ack!
3) I finished Harry Potter seven.

Obviously 2016 was a pretty good year.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Cheer and Teeth

Miriam had her last cheer practice on Tuesday. Instead of a regular practice they held a showcase for their families, so the girls dressed in their uniforms and cheered for us while we cheered for them. It was all rather cheerful.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Going, going, going...

From the moment my little ones get up in the morning to the moment they go to bed at night (and several moments in between (for example last night Zoë woke me up three times and Benjamin woke me up once)) these two are basically non-stop. 

I take naps when I can get them, but Benjamin hasn't napped in years and Zoë only naps under duress. Today, however, she fell asleep in the swing outside! 

A little bit of Japan

Today while we were walking we spotted this beautiful star magnolia and had to take a closer look. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Blood nest

"But how?" Benjamin asked this morning. "How do you make your blood nest?"


"You know—what we were talking about last night. Every month you make a blood nest. How?"

Oh. That.

Rachel had many, many questions regarding menstruation last night (why? how? does it hurt? do all women do it at the very same time?) so I broke out the book Cycling and we discussed the whys and hows for several minutes.

I explained that when an egg is ripened and leaves the ovary it needs somewhere to go. Where do birds and reptiles put their eggs? In a nest. They just happen to have their nest be on the outside of their bodies. We also make a nest for our eggs. We just happen to do this on the inside of our bodies.

Every month while that egg is ripening, it's sending signals to our body that we need to make a nice, cozy nest of blood inside our uterus. If that egg is fertilized then it burrows into that nice, cozy "blood nest" (I guess we're calling it that now) and starts sending signals to the mother's body to continue incubating. But if that egg is not fertilized, it will stop sending incubation signals. Our body will discard the nest and start the process all over again. That's why it's a cycle. It just keeps happening.

Evidently the most fascinating part of this for Benjamin was that Mommy can make a "blood nest."*

What's your super power?

* I'm not the first to take this approach. I probably should have read this post before talking to my children about it (not that this was our first time talking about it, but this was certainly the most in-depth we've gone, which was admittedly probably a little bit much for Benjamin to comprehend) because her conversation seems to have gone a lot more gracefully than mine.

Spilled milk and poopy carpets

Yesterday morning was a little bit rough, thanks in large part to this cute thing who is, quite literally, screaming into the terrible twos:

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Daddy-Daughter Dance

Last night there was a daddy-daughter dance at the elementary school. Evidently it was a lot more formal than I understood it to be and when my friends started putting up pictures of their daughters —dressed in beautiful, billowy gowns, hair carefully coiffed,  their dates dressed in stately suits, elaborately knotted neckties gracing their throats—I realized that I completely underestimated this dance. 

We're in the south so I should have known: Southern Belles gonna belle.

But not us, no.

We arrived home from ukulele practice at 5:30 and the kids rushed into the house with me barking at them to, "Eat a bowl of cereal! You have to leave in fifteen minutes! Go! Go! Go!"

Miriam made a bit of an effort to dress up. She put on a skirt and tights and sparkly shoes. 

Rachel only agreed to go to the dance in the first place if she could wear pants. Fine. 

I was actually surprised when Andrew changed out of jeans and a t-shirt and put on Sunday pants and a dress shirt. He looked nice.

I wanted to take a picture of the trio before they left for the dance, but we ran out of time. I was still scrambling to feed the little ones when they left. So while my friends have pictures like this: 

Class Library

At the beginning of the school year I volunteered to help organize Rachel's classroom library. After all, I like books.

My mom is a professional librarian. I worked in a library the whole time I was at university.* I have quite a bit of respect for a well-organized bookshelf (though our home-shelving system is currently more along the lines of "not on the floor, please" than an actual system).

The books had mostly been sorted by reading level, but her teacher had gone to a training meeting where they suggested sorting the books by genre (in addition to reading level) so she asked me to come up with a classification and labeling system for that. It's been pretty fun, but rather slow-going. The kids keep reading books and not returning them to their proper bins, which is probably my fault because I haven't been able to finish labeling them yet.

Rachel, bless her heart, will sometimes use her spare time to put things back where they belong. But really I need to just buckle down and finish labeling these books!

I meant to go into the school this week but Miriam ended up calling home sick the day I was planning to go in, so then I didn't. But I did pop in to Rachel's classroom to tell her that Miriam wouldn't be on the bus (they panic if one or the other is missing in either car or bus line; and rightfully so) and to apologize to Rachel's teacher for being so remiss in my volunteer hours. I don't think I've been in since before Christmas break—and I used to go in once a week!

My excuse is that Benjamin and Zoë have been so exhausting (and sick). Or it's been cold and rainy so Andrew takes the van instead of the scooter. It just hasn't worked out. And this week was no exception.

"So," I suggested to Rachel's teacher. "Would it be alright if I brought a few bins of books home this weekend so I can label them and bring them back?"

"You don't want to spend your weekend doing that!" she objected.

"Sure, I do," I said and I almost added, "You remember which kid is mine, right? The one who thinks organizing the TIME Magazine for Kids by date is an idea of a good time..."

Friday, February 17, 2017

Making waves on a Sunday

Benjamin wanted his hair combed "straight up the middle—fwoop" for church on Sunday but then he decided it was too edgy of a look and asked for it to be combed down on the side (but not before we snapped this picture to send to Andrew (who was already at church)):

Thursday, February 16, 2017

There are big, tall, terrible, awesome, scary, wonderful giants in!

One day not too long ago, Miriam came home from school covered in brown marker. First I asked her what she had all over her, then I asked her how she got it all over. The knees of her pants and her elbows were basically brown blobs. She had brown streaks from her fingers all over the rest of her clothes and hands and arm and even face. 

"Oh, we made a giant at school today," she said. "I was in charge of his hair."

She then proceeded to tell us how huge the giant was. 

"His head is two feet across, and each of his legs are three yards long!" she explained excitedly.

"Really?" we asked. No one quite believed her. This was shaping up to be a pretty big giant.

"Yes," she insisted. "I think he's six yards tall altogether!"

"Really?" we asked again. "Do you mean feet? Because yards are huge. Do you even know how long a yard is?"

She nodded and stretched her arms out. 

"And you made a paper giant six times that length?"

Another nod.

"Where did you even put it?"

"I dunno. Ms. G. is going to put it up somewhere."

"How? Where? That's, like, taller than the school..."

"I know!!!" Miriam squealed. 

When we went to pick Rachel up after chorus this week we encountered Miriam's giant and he really was every bit as big as she had been saying.

Zoë's language skills

Today was a pretty good potty day for Zoë. She likes to read books while she sits on the potty and today one of our books we had on hand was a Russian-English picture dictionary, which we've read a billion times before today but for some reason she decided today that Russian is wrong.

When she points to a picture I name the object in both Russian and English, usually varying which I say first because I'm not very good at continuity.

So, for example, if she pointed to a picture of a cucumber, I'd say, "Огурец."

"Uh-uh," Zoë would say, shaking her head.

"Cucumber," I'd say.

"Yeah," she'd say, and then point to a pumpkin.






"Noooo! Mop!" ("mop" means "stop").



Sick people, good people

Sometimes, although things aren't particularly going poorly, they aren't exactly going well either, and I've been finding myself waiting to for our chance to "catch a break," as it were. For example, my children have been sick for several weeks now. I missed a week of church to stay home with Zoë a couple of weeks ago, and though her fever soon broke, her cough and runny nose seemed to last forever (though I think she's finally just about over those symptoms as well).

The bishop's wife gave a talk (this week? last week? time is a blur) about how her reading of the scriptures is going. Our ward has a schedule we're trying to stick to this year in order to get through the Book of Mormon (or the D&C, or both). She remarked that she was managing to keep up with the schedule.

I chuckled to myself about how I am not keeping to the schedule (like, at all) and reminisced rather unfondly on how, just a few days before, I was lying in bed reading my scriptures while Zoë was nursing. But then some mucous got stuck in her throat and she started coughing and coughing and coughing and coughing...until she puked all over me and the bed. So I put my scriptures aside so that I could get the two of us into the shower, and I stripped the bed so I could put the sheets and things into the washing machine, and I never quite got back to finishing studying the scriptures that day.

I guess that's the way it goes sometimes.

Zoë hasn't been the only one to get sick. Benjamin also got sick. I suffered from a mild head cold (but nothing like what Zoë and Benjamin went through), the girls got mild symptoms as well. Andrew went to Utah and missed out on the worst of it (including the cough-til-you-vomit days), I think, though apparently there is still time for him to catch it because I just had to go pick Miriam up from school.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

FHE and some muddled thoughts

Last night for family night we talked about fulfilling our roles to the best of our ability. More specifically we talked about David O. McKay's mission experience encountering a stone at Stirling Castle which read, "What-e'er thou art, act well thy part," and how that became a life lesson for him.

We talked about how we can be good students, siblings, children, parents, [insert church calling here]. We talked about how we can be good cleaner-uppers, good going-to-bedders, good teeth-brushers. We talked about how we can be good listeners, good peacemakers, good friends.

We have so many opportunities to "act well" every day. Are we doing it?

Doing our best shows others that we love them (Happy Valentine's Day).

For the activity we made sugar cookies together. I handed out a strip of paper with an ingredient listed on it and in order to make the cookies we all had "bring something to the table," as it were. We all had to be fully invested, we all had to "act well" our part or else our cookies wouldn't turn out.

If you were supposed to be a cup of flour, we needed you to be a cup of flour—not half a cup of flour. If you were supposed to be one egg, we needed you to be one egg—not 5 eggs. Otherwise our cookies wouldn't turn out.

Likewise, in a family, it's hard to get a job done when one person refuses to help and it's hard for everyone to have a fun time when one person is trying to be the centre of attention.

We want our cookies—and our family—to "turn out," so we need to always be putting forth our best selves/ingredients.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Three-way freeway

On the drive home from the birthday party Benjamin attended Andrew had the nerve to get on the freeway. Benjamin is a noisy detractor of freeways—except "wall freeways." He likes the walls, but any other type of freeway is reason to moan and groan and flop around in his car seat.

"I hate freeways!" he'll say.

Yesterday was no different. "Why are we getting on the freeway?" he whined to Andrew. "I don't like the freeway!"

"Why not?" Andrew asked.

"Freeways are too fast!" Benjamin explained. "But one-ways are a little too slow. Two-ways are just right. I like two-ways best because they're not too fast or too slow. But freeways are too, too fast."

There are a lot of one-way roads here, so he's heard us talk about those plenty. And we've definitely mentioned "freeways" a lot. I'm not sure we say "two-way" very often (though perhaps we do since it's featured in rather famous idiom).

Evidently for his whole life Benjamin has been thinking that we've been talking about "three-ways" instead of "freeways." It's fairly logical I suppose. If you have one-ways, and two-ways, why wouldn't you also have three-ways?

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Laundry, campus, and Quiddler

Andrew took the girls to cheer and then they accompanied him to campus for the day. They love going to campus with him. Benjamin thinks going to campus with Daddy would be fun as well but, unfortunately, lacks the ability to sit quietly reading for hours on end. Taking Benjamin to campus would pretty much nullify the very reason for heading to campus on a Saturday.

Instead Benjamin got to help me with the laundry. 

Hmmm...I'm suddenly beginning to see why the girls love going to campus with Andrew so much. 

We're having such beautiful weather today, though, that we pulled out the clothes line and hung our clothes to dry in the sunshine. Late winter and early spring are so beautiful here. There aren't many bugs out yet; it's still too cold for them. Yesterday it was—literally—freezing. But today? Today was glorious: low 70s, slightly breezy. Just right.

Oh, and our pollen count is pretty low right now as well since spring hasn't quite sprung yet. (I can't hang laundry outside when spring is busting out all over because Andrew suffers from allergies quite terribly).

There's not a whole lot better in life than a row of freshly washed laundry flapping in the breeze. I really can't quite explain it—it mystifies even me—but somehow hanging out my laundry is a pleasure (whereas it would otherwise be a chore). I've written about this before, I know, but I was thinking about why it was so pleasurable once again today as I was hanging out the laundry. 

I always think about my family when I fold laundry, whether I'm doing it inside or out (whether it's a chore or not). I examine socks and pants for holes. I ask Zoë who owns various articles (and she usually knows; it's a bit of a game). I wonder about how and when the children got as big as they are (we recently purchased new socks for Rachel—the same size as my socks). I think about how blessed I am to have such wonderful people in my life, how thankful I am that I didn't have to hand wash all these clothes, how grateful I am to have these clothes (often I think about the kind people who handed them down to us), and so forth.

But when I hang the clothes up on the clothesline I get to think about those things longer

Thursday, February 09, 2017

M is for the way you...

My cousin (well, technically my second cousin (my mom's cousin's daughter)) just got a card from her daughter, which she shared on facebook. Inside was a lovely acrostic poem:

M is for "mad all the time" (← true)
O is for "one of a kind"
M is for "must do chores always"

I'm dying of laughter over here. The little "true" arrow was what really did me in.

It was just the confirmation I needed to know that I'm doing this motherhood gig just right because this particular cousin has motherhood down to an art. 

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Dishes and Daffodils

Sometimes motherhood is so very hard, so hard that I wonder if it was invented to drive me (or mothers in general) to the brink of insanity.* It's kind of funny that I'm saying this since just a few days ago I wondered if I could ever take my children for granted, but they drove me to—and beyond—tears Sunday morning. It wasn't their fault, entirely, because they were only being children, but children can be so overwhelming at times and I'd been alone with them for days on end and though Andrew was home from Utah by that point, none of the children really even saw him. He came home around midnight and left for church before any of us were up and moving.

Anyway, when Miriam said family prayer on Sunday evening she said, "And we're thankful that we can finally be going back to school tomorrow." 

I laughed a bit and after the prayer asked her, "Why are you so thankful to finally be going back to school? Was the weekend that so long?"

But inside I was like, "Hear, hear!"

Saturday, February 04, 2017

Pizza from Utah

I actually got Zoë to take a nap this afternoon. Of course, she napped on top of me so it's not like I was able to get anything done but I was able to send the kids outside with my "mother's helpers" while I held her (and maybe dozed off for a while, myself). It sure is nice to have a couple of nearly-ten-year-olds around (Rachel and her friend Meadow) who are willing to keep an eye on, well, Benjamin (that boy should always have at least two pairs of eyes on him at all times). 

When I woke up, Andrew sent me a message warning me not to make dinner because a "grandma-sponsored" dinner was on its way. I was literally busting out the pots and pans when I heard the notification so I'm glad I dropped everything to check it. Dinner not-made-by-me was just what we needed. With Daddy out of town I've been feeding the children things like homemade vegetable soup. 

The horror!

With their blossoming vocabularies I don't just get told my dinner is "gross." The kids tend to spring for heavier-handed words. Miriam once described my food as "vile." Yes, vile. 

It does wonders for my cooking confidence.

Furthermore a not-made-by-me dinner was just what I needed after flying solo for four days. 

Andrew's been in Utah, visiting his alma mater, giving presentations, meeting with professors, hitting up old bosses, probing for employment opportunities, networking, and, of course, visiting as many family members as possible (and hopefully getting some work done on his dissertation). 

Here he is with my parents; he enjoyed an evening of root beer floats at their house:


Fort building

I helped the kids build a fort in their bedroom this evening so they could have a sleepover in it. They wanted to do it in the living room (and had already constructed a fort there) but I made them take it down (sometimes I'm a mean mom, see?). Zoë always walks through the living room in the middle of the night, so have a fort in her way would confuse her. Also our house isn't very big and when the living room is a mess the whole house feels messy (because if the living room is a mess the whole house is messy). Anyway, we built a pretty awesome fort in their bedroom. 

Here's Benjamin in the "watchtower," also known as the top bunk:

Cheer (up)

Our plan for this morning was to go to Miriam's cheer event (I don't really know what to call it—it's a basketball game but that's not really what we're there for, so...) and then head to the church for her friend's baptism. It was going to be a tight squeeze fitting both activities in, and I knew that, but the school she was cheering at is close to the church. The game's half-time was at 10:30. I figured we would be out of there by 10:45 (10:50 at the latest), but the church is only a five minute drive from that school and the baptism started at 11:00. We'd be fine. 


Today was picture day and we were instructed to show up 15 minutes before game time for a team photo (which our sponsors require for some reason). That means we had to be at the school at 9:45, which is perfectly reasonable. But for whatever reason they didn't ever end up taking our team picture before half time. They had 45 minutes to take it and they just...didn't. 

They took pictures of the basketball teams. 

They lined our girls up. 

They dismissed the girls and started taking individual photos of them.

They lined the girls up. 

They decided to just head in to cheer and take the pictures after the game. 

Friday, February 03, 2017

Feeling hot, hot, hot!

Zoë is an explorer at heart. You can tell her something and she'll totally understand what you're saying. She just won't believe you until she checks it out for herself. I'm hoping she'll grow out of this at some point because I think learning through the experiences of others is a whole lot easier than learning through your own experience, which is why reading is such a great thing to do. I guess lessons are internalized a lot faster when you learn them firsthand, however, and now Zoë knows the word 'hot.'

I was making something in the kitchen a couple of weeks ago (January 17) and I had the oven preheating while I was using the stand mixer on the other side of the kitchen. Zoë walked into the kitchen and I warned her about the oven being hot. 

"The oven is hot. Don't touch," I told her, and then I turned my back on her to attend to whatever I was making in the stand mixer (it's a mystery; I can't remember what I was making). I don't think I'd even resumed my task before Zoë let out an ear-piercing scream. I spun back around to see her writhing on the floor, screaming her lungs out. 

I scooped her up and inspected her for injuries. "What happened, baby?" I asked. She clearly hadn't opened the oven door (she can do that, sadly) because I hadn't heard it slam shut. Had she fallen over? "Where does it hurt?" I asked. Had she stepped on something sharp? Had she...oh, no. The broiler drawer was open just a crack. 

I grabbed her hands and saw that the fingers on her left hand were covered in burns.